The presence of Gov. John Bel Edwards at the inauguration of Baton Rouge’s new mayor-president, Sharon Weston Broome, was a useful reminder that the city is important to the rest of the state. In a regional economy that depends on strong urban centers such as New Orleans, Lafayette and Baton Rouge as its linchpins, everyone in south Louisiana should have an interest in helping Broome succeed. If she can make Louisiana’s capital city better, we all win.
Edwards can take heart that Broome, a fellow Democrat, will be leading Baton Rouge the next four years. Her victory is among the bright spots for Louisiana Democrats in a state dominated by the GOP. Broome joins New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as one of the state’s few high-profile Democrats.
Broome and Landrieu have something more significant in common. Like Landrieu, who led his city’s recovery after Hurricane Katrina, Broome will be faced with the ongoing challenges from last August’s floods, which damaged thousands of homes in the Baton Rouge area. Landrieu’s experience could be a valuable resource for Broome in coming months. Broome, whose own house flooded, has promised to make the recovery a top priority of her administration.
Traffic congestion looms as another headache for the new mayor. The city’s transportation grid hasn’t kept up with growth, and that’s made getting around in Baton Rouge a pain. Broome has offered few specifics for easing the logjam, other than a promise to convene a panel of experts to study the problem. We hope they schedule plenty of time to drive to their meetings.
In her inaugural address, Broome, who is African-American, promised to heal the city’s racial divisions, which were highlighted last summer after the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling, an armed black man, during a struggle with Baton Rouge police.
“I want to be clear that I will be an active opponent to any and all efforts, actions, agendas that serve to divide us by race, socio-economic status or geography,” Broome told listeners gathered at the Raising Cane’s River Center. She promised to require members of her administration to participate in Dialogue on Race sessions so that they will recognize the experiences of residents who are different from them.
For most Baton Rougeans, the call to common purpose should already be clear without a consciousness-raising seminar. Last August’s flood did not reserve its wrath for white homes or black homes. Baton Rouge residents sit behind the wheel and fume each day, regardless of the color of their skin.
We wish Broome well. She has her work cut out for her.