Heralded as the "conservative counterbalance" to mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome, Scott Wilson, the new head of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council, was outspoken in his support of Police Chief Carl Dabadie during an address Tuesday to the parish Republican party.
Broome, a Democrat who took office this month, has said she wants to replace the chief, although she'll have to clear significant civil service hurdles if Dabadie refuses to step down.
Mayor-President-Elect Sharon Weston Broome said Thursday that she has started searching for replacements for two longtime fixtures of outgoing Mayor-President Kip Holden's administration.
Wilson, who is entering his third term on the council representing the Central area was recently elevated to the position of mayor pro-tem, essentially serving as chairman of the Republican-majority legislative branch of local government.
He called Dabadie "a man of integrity" for whom he has "complete respect." Should Broome try to replace him, Wilson added, he "will have a lot to say." He does not, however, support making the police chief an elected position, as is the case in some Louisiana municipalities.
Baton Rouge police chiefs enjoy job protections from dismissal under state civil service laws, though mayors may appoint a chief when the position is open. The Metro Council wields powers of its own, notably over the city-parish budget. When asked in an interview if he would consider pushing for changes to the budget to influence who serves as police leader, Wilson was non-committal.
During her hard-fought election campaign, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome repeatedly pr…
"It's so early in the game. We don't know what's going to happen," he said.
Wilson drew another contrast between himself and the new mayor. He told fellow GOP members that Broome has conveyed a message of optimism for the next four years, but following a year of floods and shootings "we have to be clear-eyed and realistic. ... I'm a realist."
In addition to the city-parish's acute problems, Wilson said, residents have to contend with poor infrastructure. He talked about the unfinished Comite River Diversion Canal, insufficient roads, government debts and unpopular taxes, such as a new tax that voters approved in December for the troubled East Baton Rouge Council on Aging.
Some in the audience wanted to know if there would be a chance to defund the Council on Aging, which is under investigation by the state legislative auditor over allegations that it improperly spent money on campaign expenses.
Wilson obliged the crowd but was nonspecific.
"I don't think that one's over with yet. That's all I'm gonna say," the councilman remarked.
The newly-inaugurated Metro Council will meet Wednesday for the first time with Wilson at the helm. He promised to foster spirited but civil debate and said he would not put up with political grandstanding.
In recent months, the Metro Council has expelled a person from chambers, pushed off votes, run out of time, argued over rules and debated whether members of the public could stand in their cramped temporary chambers during meetings, particularly on votes related to police reform.
Though the parish Republican party identified Wilson as the "conservative counterbalance" to Broome, Wilson said he preferred being identified as the "common-sense" counterbalance.
Other important issues he identified were moving forward with the diversion canal, addressing blight, especially post-flood and overseeing disaster recovery.
He also expressed general frustration that federal grant money is often tied to specific projects, such as the downtown-LSU tram, which he has criticized.