The saying is that the third time is a charm. But in the case of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s third try at a capital bond issue, he will need to lay on the charm — or at least a strong effort to communicate the value of the projects he wants taxpayers to authorize.
The mayor will ask the Metro Council for approval to lay before the voters a $748 million bond issue and capital program. Holden will need some charm, or at least better communication, to pass it after two failed attempts. But he also needs to apply charm at the very first step in the process, at the council level.
Most of the projects are to be paid for with borrowing, which will be paid for with an increased sales tax and property tax over about 20 years, although there are some pay-as-you-go elements in the package. The bond package will not be an all-or-nothing proposition. It would be split into three parts — a jail and law enforcement package, drainage and roads package and a small part to expand the River Center for conventions and trade shows.
Left out is the controversial “Alive!” project for a riverfront museum/attraction focused on the Mississippi River. That drew a lot of flak in the two earlier proposals by the mayor.
The first stop is the Metro Council, where relations with the Mayor’s Office have left much to be desired in the past year or so.
We agree with Metro Council member Tara Wicker.
“I know there has been difficulty with communication,” she said. “But I hope that failure to communicate doesn’t cause us to not make good decisions for the community as a whole.”
It’s easy to grumble about new taxes. None of us is happy about paying our tax bills on the best of days. But the Holden proposal embraces many fundamental projects that Baton Rouge has failed to fund in the past.
And after all, it’s not as if the council is being asked to vote on final approval of the Holden package. That is for the voters to decide.
But the council has a real responsibility to inspect this package carefully and ask questions about its details. These kinds of big proposals have many moving parts, and the public expects them to be closely vetted — even if most of us are pretty familiar with the overall package because of two earlier elections.
If Holden and the council have a good discussion, and the mayor is receptive to legitimate questions and concerns, the chances are improved for passage at the polls.