The climax of the state’s 2018 election cycle has finally been reached, with a runoff statewide for secretary of state and local offices also being settled in different parishes on the Dec. 8 ballot. We have taken a position on critical issues on the ballot in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette.
Here's a recap of our positions, and we urge voters to cast an informed ballot on Saturday.
New Orleans charter amendment: No
In response to the flooding of 2017 and the Sewerage and Water Board’s poor response, a charter amendment would make changes in the membership of the SWB board. It reverses the 2013 decision of voters to remove New Orleans City Council members from the board, intending to limit politics in management decisions.
Now, the new proposal is for a single City Council member to join the board, although as an alternative, an engineer appointed by the council could take that place.
We agree with the Bureau of Governmental Research: “Direct participation on the board by a council member would create a conflict of interest with the council’s regulatory oversight role and potentially increase political decision-making at the board level. While this risk would be reduced by the appointment of an engineer to fill the new seat, there is no guarantee that this will occur.”
Baton Rouge roads and bridges tax: Yes
With Baton Rouge’s chronic traffic problems, a major change is needed. City-parish government would borrow more than $900 million for long-delayed projects throughout East Baton Rouge Parish. The bond issue would be paid for by a new half-cent sales tax, not our preferred method, over 30 years.
Unfortunately, state government cannot be counted upon for more transportation investments. It is up to local voters even for state highways in the city that are critical to traffic flow.
The “MoveBR” package of projects includes roads, bridges, sidewalks and long-sought synchronization of traffic signals. The plan is backed by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and others concerned about traffic choking future growth in the region.
Baton Rouge mental health: Yes
One of the best investments, at a reasonable cost, that a community can make in law enforcement is the diversion of the mentally ill from jails and busy hospital emergency rooms. A new 1.5 mill tax would fund a diversion center to relieve one of the day-to-day burdens of police and sheriff's deputies.
Research funded by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of similar facilities across the nation. This plan is backed by law enforcement and the medical community.
Lafayette council split: Yes
A complex charter amendment deserves study from voters, but it would replace the joint City-Parish Council with city and parish councils. The plan would not compromise the efficiencies of earlier consolidation of parish agencies, but would allow councils to better focus on issues in the respective areas.