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East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome speaks on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 at the Rotary Club's luncheon at Drusilla Place.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome on Wednesday promised to work toward decreasing flooding potential in the parish, predicted $25 million in revenue gains for the city-parish in the next four years, and expressed hope that new law enforcement initiatives will further decrease Baton Rouge's homicide rate. 

Those were among the goals Broome highlighted in her 2020 State of the City address Wednesday before the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge. She also noted that at least one grocery store could be headed to one of the city's struggling neighborhoods this year, that her administration will work toward flipping more vacant and blighted properties back into commerce this year and that her team is hoping to increase the number of people booking flights at Baton Rouge Metro Airport by offering more direct flights to other destinations. 

"The truth is since I assumed office the vision of peace, prosperity and progress has been very clear to me. My commitment to this ideal remains steadfast," Broome told the crowded room of community leaders and business movers and shakers. 

Following her speech, Broome told The Advocate she does intend to seek a second term as mayor-president during municipal elections this fall, touting the accomplishments her administration has made as a strong foundation for her re-election campaign. 

Many of those accomplishments were among the triumphs the mayor highlighted in her speech.

Broome credited the $300,000 efficiency study she had a third-party firm conduct last year for identifying $7 million in savings and additional revenue through streamlining certain departments and services, increasing permit fees, and competitively bidding for health care benefits for city-parish employees.

"We're now in the implementation phase of those cost-saving measures," she said.  

Those improvements will net anticipated revenue gains for the city-parish of $25 million over the next four years, she predicted. 

Another goal of Broome's is to decrease flood potential for every household in the city-parish by 2 feet by 2025. 

The focus on flood mitigation has become more pressing among residents with flash flooding during heavy rainfalls.  

Achieving that, Broome said, would come though completion of the $334 million Comite River Diversion Canal and the city-parish's pending Stormwater Master Plan, which involves compiling local hydrology data city-parish officials will use to prioritize infrastructure projects related to reducing flood risks across the parish.

There's also the $225 million Flood Control Project she announced funding for last year to dredge and widen 66 miles of waterways along five main drainage canals in the parish. 

And even though the city's homicide rate experienced a year-to-year decline recently — 78 homicides in 2018 to 69 in 2019 — Broome said the number of people who were killed last year were "too many," citing public safety as a continued challenge in the city. 

"In 2020, I believe that number will continue to decrease," Broome said. 

She cited the crime prevention strategies the Baton Rouge Police Department has implemented and is in the process of rolling out this year, one being the use of real-time police cameras and license place readers in the Sherwood Forest area. 

Broome said the pilot program will give the police department the ability to record and observe live video feeds of every vehicle and pedestrian entering and leaving the Sherwood Forest neighborhood. 

"I look for months in 2020 when I do not receive a call from dispatch notifying me of a homicide in our city," she said.

During a brief question-and-answer period after her speech, Broome was challenged to drop the lawsuit against the organizers of the proposed city of St. George. 

Lawrence Koenig, a resident in the proposed city in the southeast corner of the parish, told Broome she needs to accept the results of last year's election for the incorporation of St. George rather than trying to stop it through litigation. 

The lawsuit asks the court to deny the incorporation, given the negative implications they claim it would have on the city-parish, or order that a parishwide election take place if the court determines the incorporation is valid.

Under state law, only registered voters living within the proposed boundaries of St. George could vote in the incorporation election. 

"When I ran for mayor I never said I'd support a breakaway city," Broome told Koenig, who attempted to interrupt the mayor but was stopped when Broome said she refused to debate with him on the topic. 

"I want what's best for everyone in the city," she said. "I'm concerned about every citizen in this parish and I can tell you that there are many who are mad about not getting to vote also on such a significant matter."     

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