Baton Rouge has a lot of work to do before the capital city embodies the look and feel Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome outlined Tuesday evening in a "state of the city" address.
Broome described her goals to make Baton Rouge a place where art adorns public spaces, where everyone feels safe in their neighborhoods and where young progressives are won over by the business climate. But blight in the city has grown alarmingly widespread after the August 2016 floods; the homicide rate reached a new high in 2017; and economic development experts continue to cite traffic as a reason why some businesses eschew Baton Rouge.
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The mayor-president looked back Tuesday on her first year in office as she addressed a crowd of more than 200 local leaders, nonprofit partners, public safety officials and others at the Old State Capitol. She acknowledged her first year in office had rocky moments but said those have better prepared her for her job going forward.
"I seek to be effective more than popular," Broome said. "I am committed to progress not partisanship. I will not be distracted by the naysayers and those who live in a world of blogs and social media. My commitment is to the great people of this community."
When they crunched the numbers, the map of blighted property in Baton Rouge looked like another map the District Attorney's office already had…
Broome spoke in mostly broad strokes about what her administration accomplished in 2017 and has planned for this year. Among the most tangible wins she mentioned from 2017 were filling every pothole of the more than 3,000 logged in Baton Rouge's 3-1-1 complaint system when she took office.
Though City Hall is playing a smaller role in flood recovery than state government as the recipient of federal money, Broome touted the $11 million the city-parish has received to rebuild. The money is being split among three areas: a program to rebuild affordable rental housing, a plan to help those in the city's "first-time homeowner program" and an initiative on homelessness prevention.
She highlighted a forthcoming stormwater master plan, and she said City Hall has a "disaster recovery framework" to come in 2018 that would help Baton Rouge be better prepared for future disasters.
The mayor-president recognized her newly hired police chief, Murphy Paul, a veteran of the State Police. Broome, who receives a phone call each time someone is killed in Baton Rouge, said both she and the families of those lost to violence received too many of those calls last year.
Louisiana State Police veteran Murphy Paul will take the helm of the Baton Rouge Police Department as the new chief, selected by Mayor-Preside…
When she was newly elected as mayor, Broome spoke of the need for reform within the Baton Rouge Police Department. She previously cited the BRPD killing of Alton Sterling in 2016 as an example of the need for change and the divide between the Police Department and the community.
Broome took a different approach in her speech Tuesday. She did not mention the police and civilian unrest from 2016 nor did she mention an early accomplishment when she added new use-of-force provisions to the BRPD policy manual.
Instead, she boasted the "call to action" and "meet the beat" meetings her office held in a number of neighborhoods last year to try to bring law enforcement and the community closer.
"Better public safety means more than just increased law enforcement activities," Broome said. "It also involves participation and input from our community."
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced the reworking of the Baton Rouge Police Department's policy guiding how officers can use force …
She said the public can look forward to similar meetings next year. And she touted two grants the city-parish will have in 2018, one focused on substance abuse and mental health and the other meant to bring "collective healing" to Baton Rouge despite recent trauma.
Broome said she is convening a "blight strike team" this year and said the city-parish will unveil "a neighborhood strengthening and development initiative."
Her plans for solving the city-parish's traffic gridlock were also vague. Broome said she instructed her staff to develop a "traffic remediation plan," and made a quick reference to voters last year not having the chance to weigh in on her first proposed tax plan.
Broome proposed a property tax for a Better Transportation and Roads bond issue that would have raised $445 million for traffic fixes in Baton Rouge, but Metro Council members in September refused to put it on the ballot.
Seven is the magic number on the third floor of City Hall, but Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome wasn't able to conjure it up this week.
In her speech Tuesday, Broome cited Plank Road and the College Drive/Perkins Road intersection as two areas primed for beautification and cleanup improvements this year. She also said she will hold an arts summit this year, and her administration will conduct a review of all public spaces and buildings to determine how they can best incorporate art.
The mayor will deliver a second "state of the city" address at noon Wednesday to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club, which will meet at Drusilla Place Catering.