The four Mayoral Candidates of Baton Rouge shared with area Black journalist some of the biggest problems facing the city and how their platforms will solve them.
Mayor-President Kip Holden (D) who is seeking reelection and his challengers : Councilman J. Michael “Mike” Walker Sr. (R), Gordon Mese (I) and Steve Meyers (I) shared, how they plan to improve economic development,downtown and lower the city’s crime rate.
One big problem facing the city of Baton Rouge is crime and Councilman Walker explained his plan for solving the problem that the city has received national attention for.
“The wrong people are living behind bars, citizens are living in homes with bars on their windows while criminals are outside running free.” said Walker
Walker said that has taken more of a should have more of a reactive approach toward elimination crime instead of a proactive one. More Police officers need to be placed on the city’s streets. Baton Rouge is currently 60 police officers short and the is expecting to loose another 30 the following year.
“People wonder at times why Police officers bypass certain calls thats because they only have so many hours in their shift and during their shift they are trying to do their job and someone else’s because they are short handed”said Walker
Walker said one way to make the city proactive in fighting crime is to create a misdemeanor jail. The city jail currently has 125 beds that are used rarely. Last year in August and July the sheriff and the constable in established a temporary misdemeanor jail at the city jail downtown.
“All law enforcement agencies were combined and placed on the street to go after those with misdemeanor warrants.” said Walker.
Walker said from those arrest made during that time 191k was made by the city. He was told by the sheriff during the search 247 people with felony warrants were also apprehended.
Current mayor President kip holden said he has made many positive changes to the city and if reelected plans to continue to do so.
“Other mayors will tell you if you want your city to succeed you have to have a vibrant downtown.”, said Holden
Holden said he is currently working to secure IT company Murtaugh’s move to Baton Rouge that would supply the with 300 jobs and is also reaching out other companies to do the same. He is not only focusing on the bringing more business to the city but also highlighting the arts so that downtown is also more attractive to the citizens as well.
Gordon Mese believes the city is plagued by an Urban and Regional planning problem and a lack of transparency from the local government.
“City parish money has spent on developments that are not in the city’s best interest” , said Mese
Mese said unified development codes have been a long problem for the city. This code is contract a city parish signs with developers that allow them to build in the city. He recently worked very hard stop half a million dollars from being given to Walmart to help its infrastructure needs instead of the city’s.
“If we would have told the first developer no we don’t want to build something that would cause us to build roads and sewer lines we cant afford then we wouldn’t have abandoned smaller projects that would’ve made the city better.” said Mese
Mese said the money from these codes is not benefiting the people. This code and the process followed by planning office follow is the reason residents have a sewer fee , garbage fee, and why it had to pass a CATS tax. Those taxes were needed to overcome years of developmental favors that financed campaigns.
“ I am running Independent and I’m not taking a penny and I will have the political will to eliminate this code that holds us back.” said Mese
Mese said the basic taxes citizens are paying do not cover their basic services and because of this citizens are being double taxed to try to solve city the city’s problems.
“We do have the money and we should start building a city that people love to live in. We have a lot of great things going on the city and it is very close to becoming something great. “ said Mese
Steve Meyers, who has ran for and lost the position eight times, is taking a different approach to campaigning for this election.
“ I trying not use as many pictures on any campaign materials so people can look beyond that and not form immediate opinions”.
Meyers said instead of focusing on “selling” himself his campaign will focusing on promoting his message. Campaigning for Mayor is similar to that of a job interview and should not really about the candidate, but how they plan to handle the problems the city is facing. All of his campaign materials will mainly focus on the Meyers Messages.
Meyers said people need look more at the issues and not the person .He chose to run his campaign this way because he believes once people see certain images or hear certain parties they automatically create an image in their head.
“ I think that in 10 to 15 years fifty percent of the people in this country will have no party affiliation and focus more on the issues than party affiliates.”
Meyers said he doesn’t have the money ,as the election gets closer, or time to buy mass media. His team will focus on creating a website that will give prospective voters an insight to his goals. He is trying to get voters to look beyond the candidates as people and at the issues themselves and plans to raise issues that citizens have not thought about.
“We have ordinances and laws in this city that are discriminatory towards certain groups and most people don’t know these laws and ordinances exist.”said Meyers
Meyers said that for the last 40 days leading up to the election to gain more votes he plans to send out emails to those who sign up through his website that is currently under construction. The emails will contain videos , no longer than a minute, of Meyers discussing his stance issues plaguing the city ranging from animal control to education.
“Asking voters to do their research and give me one minute out of their day to give you one minute out of your day is not too much to ask.” said Meyers
Meyers said he chose the number 40 because of the significance in the bible. He hopes voters select a candidate with the ability to do long term strategic planning for the city as well handle problems it is facing currently.
The elections for mayor of Baton Rouge will be held on November 6th.