East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said Tuesday she hasn't given up hope of passing an infrastructure tax at some point, while she and New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said they want to work together for regional goals.
Broome, Cantrell and Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker explained how they see their roles in transforming communities during a panel at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s Economic Development Summit. Each said they want to beautify their cities, train a workforce and gain the trust of the people in their communities.
While Walker shared his success in passing an infrastructure sales tax in 2016 in Ruston, both Broome and Cantrell said they need to build buy-in from their communities before they can reach similar milestones.
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Broome referenced her failed bid last year to pass a Better Transportation and Roads tax, which the East Baton Rouge Metro Council blocked before it reached ballots. She said the failure has forced her administration to come up with alternative ways to pay for infrastructure projects, such as using tax credits from the state that the city-parish received through a road transfer program.
She said she hopes to eventually return to the Metro Council and to voters with what she described as “robust” initiative for traffic and infrastructure.
“We build the trust of the citizens and hopefully the tax fatigue will end,” Broome said.
Cantrell, who does not take office until May, said cleaning up communities is one way local government can show it does not take its taxpayers for granted. She said it’s low hanging fruit that can make a major difference in neighborhoods.
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“Definitely getting the trash out of people’s eyes will be my top priority,” Cantrell said.
In addition, Broome said she will soon tour Baton Rouge’s industrial corridor and petrochemical plants to talk to representatives there about their roles in workforce development and ways the city-parish can help. She said Baton Rouge Community College’s process technology program is one of the most important workforce training programs in Baton Rouge.
Broome and Cantrell said they are open to working together in the future and coming up with regional projects, though neither offered specifics that are in the works. Cantrell said New Orleans’ recent win in attracting DXC Technology should also help to create work for people in Baton Rouge.