BR.mayor.adv_HS_072

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome in her office, Thursday, December 13, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

Riding high after voters agreed to support her roads improvement tax measure, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome on Wednesday counted the decline in Baton Rouge's murder rate, more than 1,000 new jobs, and her healthy living initiatives among the highlights that peppered her second year in office. 

In her second State of the City address, Broome also pledged to keep her past promise of "peace, prosperity and progress" for East Baton Rouge Parish residents through new efforts aimed at reducing blight, improving infrastructure, increasing pay for city police and city-parish employees and implementing programs she hopes can improve financial stability for the parish's impoverished households. 

"What a difference a year makes," Broome said in her opening statement Wednesday before the Baton Rouge Rotary Club, her acknowledgement of the tumultuous first year she had in office before taking an energetic dive into her outlook of the city-parish. 

The mayor-president said the bipartisan support that has been credited for convincing voters to support the half-cent MovEBR sales tax has left her optimistic about finding solutions to advance the city and parish in the coming years. 

Broome's MovEBR tax is set to generate more than $900 million over the next 30 years to finance infrastructure, road improvement and traffic measures across the city-parish. The tax's approval in December was pegged by parish leaders and political analysts as the mayor-president's first significant win since taking office in 2017. 

Broome said she hopes to hire a project manager by April, when collection on the half-cents tax will begin. The manager will prioritize the nearly 70 projects in the MovEBR plan that officials hope will ease daily traffic congestion that tax supporters previously said has crippled economic development and the parish's quality of life.  

In addition to her MovEBR projects, Broome said the city-parish will soon benefit from more than $2 billion in infrastructure investments through partnerships with local, state and federal agencies. Those include widening Interstate 10, completion of the Comite River Diversion Canal and upgrades to the parish's sewer system and major tributaries. 

"We are prioritizing infrastructure, and leaving behind a legacy for this parish whose positive effects will touch generations to come," Broome said. 

She credited Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul's leadership and improved relations between the police department and the community as contributing factors in the 18 percent decrease Baton Rouge experienced in its homicide rate last year.

The mayor expects that number to continue to drop due to advancements in the police department's new Real-Time Crime Center, a surveillance and communications hub that went online last last year, and a continued push for officers to engage more with the communities they serve. 

Baton Rouge police officers have already participated in more than 300 community events over the past few years, she said.  

Broome also pledged to do everything in her power to increase police pay in the near future, something many Metro Council members are pushing for as well.  

"We recently received the preliminary results of the police officer pay study," Broome said. "We know that our officers are not being compensated in line with their peers in similar cities." 

She also promised to increase pay for city-parish workers.

The mayor-president urged Rotary Club members to financially support her efforts to employ 500 youth this summer through the Mayor's Summer Youth Program. 

"With your help, we can make that happen," she told the audience.

Broome said more than 1,100 new jobs were created in 2018 through several major economic development projects, industrial expansions and new businesses. The mayor-president said she's also implementing a blight boot camp this summer to galvanize residents to aid in the city-parish's fight to eliminate blight through what she called "evidence-based training." 

The city-parish demolished 125 dilapidated structures in 2017, Broome said. That number increased last year to nearly 300. 

And based on the results of a study that assessed the community's health needs, Broome said she will lead four task forces on healthy living, behavioral health, HIV/AIDS and access to care.

Broome said her administration is also partnering with EmployBR and other community stakeholders to develop a master plan to help individuals living in poverty achieve some financial stability. 

"If we are going to have a community of harmony, unity and peace, we must remove the walls of 'us' versus 'them' and build on principles of equity," she said.          


Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.