At the end of the day, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome is usually fast asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow. But her most fretful waking hours are spent thinking about Baton Rouge's public safety and ongoing flood recovery, the mayor-president said Wednesday.
Over lunch with the local Rotary Club she gave Part Two of her "State of the City" remarks. Part One was delivered on Tuesday evening at the Old State Capitol. At Wednesday's event, Broome also introduced a pair of new senior staff members and fielded a few questions including one asking what keeps her up at night, prompting her response about crime and the flood.
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 e…
Broome emphasized the need to collect data, formulate plans and conduct studies to ensure the city-parish is running in the most efficient way possible, though she did not always offer concrete action plans to Rotarians who asked about particular policies she'd like to pursue to address policing, education, infrastructure and economic development.
A few months ago Baton Rouge became a “What Works City,” among a collection of mid-sized municipalities working with partners of Bloomberg Philanthropies to better use data to meet the needs of residents.
For example, by teaming up her information services and maintenance departments, the city-parish last month cleared its backlog of pothole complaints. Staffers have said they mapped out a strategy to make repairs systematically rather than bounce around the parish complaint by complaint. Broome said she wants to take a similar approach for mowing, litter and other municipal services in the coming year.
In other areas, it not yet clear where all the fact-finding will lead.
The Rotarians asked Broome to discuss various issues facing East Baton Rouge, such as what can be done to lower the murder rate, prevent future flooding, ease traffic congestion and improve schools.
Broome was open-ended.
Of crime, she pointed out that a small number of residents are responsible for criminal behavior, often related to domestic violence, drugs or retaliation.
"The reduction of crime is not a very simple equation," she said.
City Hall is closing out the books on 2017 by spending its extra cash on public safety and on major repairs to the Raising Cane's River Center.
Broome is interested in looking at ways to better serve domestic violence survivors and in policing programs that can be effective in curbing gun violence. Now that Broome has hired Police Chief Murphy Paul, the new top officer can begin implementing his own strategies, she continued.
As for flood prevention, she said consultants are at work developing a stormwater master plan that will inform future drainage decisions. East Baton Rouge must also continue to collaborate with other regional government agencies to address flooding on a large scale.
City-Parish staff, meanwhile, will present new traffic calming measures this year. Asked if East Baton Rouge would be in a position to put up matching funds should President Donald Trump follow through on his promise to make more federal infrastructure funding available, Broome was circumspect. She said the city-parish must be ready to consider all options and take bold steps, though she did not elaborate.
The second phase of the Cradle to K early childhood education initiative will roll out soon with more features than the limited current version which connects peers online, Broome said. A Rotarian commented on the connection between quality public schools and the St. George incorporation movement, which could resurface before the next state of the parish address. On the campaign trail and early in her term, Broome painted herself as an education leader, though Wednesday she described herself as more of an "advocate in chief" for families looking to school leaders like the superintendant for quality classrooms.
The mayor encouraged members of the audience to keep in touch with her office to promote three values Broome frequently invoked: peace, prosperity and progress.
"This is a collective effort that requires all of us," she told the Rotary Club members.
Broome will be aided by two new staffers. Wednesday she introduced new assistant chief administrative officer Veneeth Iyengar, who fills the spot vacated last year by James Gilmore. New chief communications officer Rachel Haney will be the face of the administration following the departure of Janene Tate.