The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council chose two new members Wednesday who will serve out the terms of former councilwomen who were elected to the state House of Representatives.
Baton Rouge educator and former NAACP President LaMont Cole and attorney Erika Green were both appointed to replace the vacant seats of former council members C. Denise Marcelle and Ronnie Edwards, respectively.
At the same meeting Wednesday evening, members debated and ultimately deferred a vote to create an economic development district in north Baton Rouge.
While the process to fill council seats is typically noncontroversial, with the exiting council members designating their replacements, this time, the appointees faced some competition.
Green took some heat from local publisher Gary Chambers, who sought the seat, because she wouldn’t commit to not running for the post in November. Chambers said he could fill the seat for the remainder of the year and not seek election in the fall.
Chambers, who runs TheRougeCollection.com, an editorial website that targets local black issues, said if the appointees ran in November after holding the seats for this year, they would have an unfair incumbent-like advantage.
Asked directly by Chauna Banks-Daniel if she would run, Green told the council she hadn’t made up her mind, but she asked the council to respect the wishes of Edwards, who recommended her.
Ultimately, Green secured the votes of a majority of council members, excluding Banks-Daniel, John Delgado and Ryan Heck. Scott Wilson, Donna Collins-Lewis, Trae Welch, Chandler Loupe, Joel Boé, Tara Wicker and Buddy Amoroso supported Edwards’ choice.
Cole secured his seat with less fanfare, and no council members pressed him on whether he would run for the office in November.
Sandy Lemoine, a retired Exxon worker who lives in the Capital Heights area, sought the seat. But Cole secured the votes of the full council excluding Banks-Daniel and Amoroso.
The Metro Council slowed down plans on Wednesday to create an economic development district in north Baton Rouge, with many council members saying they needed more information before voting for it.
Delgado proposed the district in December. It would allow developers in north Baton Rouge to pay the lower property taxes when they buy land as opposed to the higher property taxes once they develop it.
Delgado’s district would start north of Florida Boulevard and continue north up to the city limits of Baton Rouge. Some council members said at the meeting Wednesday that they needed to see maps before signing off on it, while others questioned why “north Baton Rouge” could not also include land above Interstate 10/Interstate 12 and land outside of the city limits.
The council members deferred a vote on the north Baton Rouge district for 30 days. Despite the deferral, many council members agreed that north Baton Rouge needs revitalization.
“North Baton Rouge recognizes anything that wants to come into north Baton Rouge and make it look like Mr. Delgado’s area, District 12,” said Tyronn Thomas, who lives in north Baton Rouge.
Delgado warned that the economic development district is not a cure-all but said it could be a step in the right direction.
Banks-Daniel complained that Delgado asked to remove to the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport from the boundaries of the district. The airport has its own property tax incentives, which means it would be unaffected by Delgado’s economic district for better or worse.
“It’s selfish and it’s horrible that the airport wants to be excluded from being part of the north Baton Rouge economic opportunity zone,” Banks-Daniel said.
She unsuccessfully asked for the council members to approve Delgado’s zone as written — without provisions excluding the Downtown Development District and airport.
Delgado’s district previously has come under fire from councilwomen who represent the inner city who claim he is pandering for black votes in his mayoral campaign.
In other news, the Metro Council appointed former Councilman Mike Walker and the Rev. Shelton Dixon, of Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, to the BREC Board of Commissioners.
Banks-Daniel had asked to be appointed to the board but withdrew her request after receiving an attorney general’s opinion that said Metro Council members were prohibited from sitting on the board. Banks-Daniel has been opposed to relocating the Baton Rouge Zoo, and the BREC board will have the final vote on such a move.
Walker replaces BREC board Chairman Kenneth Riche, who had asked to be reappointed for another term. Dixon will take the spot of East Feliciana Parish Superintendent of Schools Carlos Sam.