Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome managed to flip voter sentiment for her roads improvement tax during Saturday's election in a lot of places where a similar plan from the previous administration failed in parishwide elections two years ago.
Had it not been for the timing of her tax proposal, public fatigue over traffic and a well-executed campaign for the half-cent MovEBR sales tax, Broome probably wouldn't have picked up the support in Baker, most of Zachary and a large portion of the precincts in the southeast part of the parish which in 2016 overwhelmingly voted against a property tax to improve roads proposed by then Mayor-President Kip Holden, said political analysts, city-parish leaders and supporters of Broome's tax.
The MovEBR sales tax, set to raise $912 million over 30 years, was only narrowly defeated in seven of the precincts in southeast East Baton Rouge, while voters in Central showed the same staunch opposition they did in 2016, according to precinct-by-precinct data the city-parish released on Monday.
East Baton Rouge voters have agreed to shoulder another half-penny sales tax to improve the parish's much-maligned traffic.
"I think people were energized because it was led by citizens with a great passion to make their city great," said Jim Bernhard, a prominent businessman and one of the top donors of the political action committee supporting MovEBR. In the days leading up to the election, Bernhard campaigned alongside the mayor, with support of many in the business community.
Broome picked up endorsements from mayors in Zachary, Central and Baker — support that also contributed to the tax's success.
John Couvillon, president of JMC Analytics and Polling, on Monday charted double-digit increases in support for Broome's road tax compared to Holden's Green Light Plan, with the largest increases coming from majority-black precincts.
MovEBR pulled in 61 percent of the vote on Saturday, with nearly 40 percent voting against it, according to complete but unofficial results.
In the December 2016 election where Holden's Green Light Plan appeared on the ballot, 53 percent of the voters rejected it while 47 percent voted in favor of that proposed 5-mill property tax.
Holden's two-pronged Green Light tax proposals were designed to fund the expansion of the city-parish's road-building and transportation infrastructure efforts.
The failed 5-mill property tax would have generated more than $600 million over a 10-year period. Some of the projects expected to have been funded by it included widening Lee Drive, Hoo Shoo Too Road and Mickens Road.
The revenue from Broome's roads sales tax, with collection beginning on April 1, will go toward adding turning lanes, shoulders and drainage along Thomas Road between La. 19 and Plank Road, improvements at the Harding Boulevard/Interstate 110 intersection, and upgrades on Scenic Highway between Harding Boulevard and Swan Avenue.
The MovEBR project list also includes widening and adding capacity to Hooper Road, Old Hammond Highway, Perkins Road, Tiger Bend Road and Wax Road/Magnolia Bridge Road. And the plan has numerous locations to build sidewalks, including Drusilla Lane, Elm Grove Garden Drive, Mullen Drive, 72nd Street, Sherwood Forest Boulevard, Siegen Lane and South Harrell's Ferry Road.
So why did Broome's proposal win more favor than Holden's?
Couvillon said Broome's tax proposal fared better because the MovEBR sales tax wasn't on a ballot crowded with four other new tax proposals and seven tax renewals — which is what happened with Holden's Green Light Plan.
The Green Light Plan proposal also showed up on the ballot four months after flood waters swamped much of the parish, which probably had voters feeling overwhelmed when they went to the polls.
"I think people were in a better mood economically this year than in 2016, when roughly half of the parish was impacted by floods," Couvillon said. "Folks were trying to recover personally and you put a tax on the ballot, they're probably not going to support it."
Couvillon said voters this time probably felt that the more than 70 projects outlined in the MovEBR proposal better addresses the issues that drivers attribute to their daily traffic woes, which appear to have escalated since 2016.
The parts of Zachary and Central where Broome's tax proposition failed had the least amount of proposed road work.
Woody Jenkins, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party, said Broome also did a better job of explaining her proposal to voters, presenting traffic solutions in her plan that were based on needs and not politics.
The fact that MovEBR is a sales tax and not property tax, Jenkins said, also made it an easier measure for him to support.
But Jenkins and others share the same belief that the public had reached its limit when it comes to traffic and were more willing to support something to fix it.
"The longer it goes I think all of us realize we have to address this traffic problem," Jenkins said. "It has started to affect everything we do."
City-parish leaders on Monday said residents should not expect to start seeing orange cones and street widening work anytime soon.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has gotten notable buy-in for her proposed MovEBR road tax from business leaders and elected officials pa…
Broome said the city-parish will first need to hire a program manager who will be in charge of using traffic data and gathering public input to prioritize all the projects outlined in the MovEBR proposal.
One of the first improvements drivers can look forward to is the synchronization of traffic signals along major corridors, city-parish Director of Transportation and Drainage Fred Raiford said Monday. That project will cost approximately $35 million, he said.
"We want to get the traffic timing set so that when you're driving down a corridor at the right speed, you can expect to continue moving through without any stops," Raiford said. "That's going to be a big deal, aside from widening streets. Traffic movement is a very important component in all of this."