Incumbent Espouses Plans for EBR
Kip Holden is in pursuit of a third term as Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish.
In the last of the interviews with the mayoral candidates, WRKF's Amy Jeffries questions Holden on crime, traffic, and his involvement with the public school district.
JEFFRIES: In 2004, which was the year before you took office -- the year you were elected for the first time into the mayor's office -- there were 47 homicides in Baton Rouge. And so far this year there have been more than 80. What is the mayor's role in dealing with that? Do you think there's a change in tactic, maybe, that's required to get it going back in the other direction?
HOLDEN: As we deal with public safety, what I want people to know is, the 86 homicides are in East Baton Rouge Parish, and, yeah, I'm the parish president as well, but there's only one law enforcement agency that I have direct authority over, and that's the Baton Rouge city police. But even there, yes, there are a lot of things we're doing to try to deal with crime.
No. 1, the BRAVE unit that we put together has been absolutely outstanding. I don't know why we didn't get any publicity on it, but all of those major arrests that are being made in 70805--
JEFFRIES: The 15 indictments that were made in October--
HOLDEN: Yes, ma'am.
JEFFRIES: They were all men (indicted) on drug charges and on weapons charges.
HOLDEN: Most of those are made by the city police.
JEFFRIES: Are you measuring that program on arrests and indictments, or is there some other measure that you see as potentially being more important for that particular program?
HOLDEN: You measure it by the number of shootings that have stopped, murders that have stopped. What the residents are saying in the area. You look at cocaine dealers and other dealers moving out. There are a number of factors you have to look at to evaluate whether or not the program is working.
JEFFRIES: And you were talking to about just putting cops on the street -- although you are putting more on the street, that is part of your plan -- but, just putting more on the street doesn't necessarily do anything.
HOLDEN: One person is advocating that you almost have a police officer on every block. That is not a crime-fighting tool.
JEFFRIES: You're talking about Councilman Mike Walker's stance.
HOLDEN: Without a doubt. He also in his nine-point plan wants to tell where the officers should be placed. Excuse me, unless you want to be police chief, you cannot go out here and begin to tell people where to place officers.
JEFFRIES: A close second, perhaps, to crime on people's minds as we're heading into this mayoral election, is traffic and infrastructure. I think you could probably safely say that the passage of the half cent tax for the Green Light plan in 2005 was one of your biggest accomplishments of your first term, certainly. And at this point 22 road expansion and improvement projects--
JEFFRIES: --28 now have been completed. Is the Green Light plan the continuing solution to addressing congestion?
HOLDEN: The Green Light Program is not designed-- it is designed in part to take traffic off the interstate. But, you can't solve the traffic problems you have here in Baton Rouge by just widening the interstate, you know, making new lanes. So you have to look at some other things.
For example, I'd like to see taking the track that runs along Choctaw that goes all the way downtown by the arts and science museum, goes all the way to Livingston, and putting light rail, or using the existing rail, in order to run a passenger train from Baton Rouge to Livingston in the evening and Livingston to Baton Rouge in the morning.
But the other thing that I think, right now, if you go on your GPS system, and you're stuck in traffic, a lot of the roads that are on the Green Light Program do not show up on your GPS system today as alternatives to the interstate when the interstate is bogged down. So now I've got to get with all these techno geeks, and say, "help us, somebody!" Because we have to have that information readily available so somebody can see other routes that they can take in order to get off interstate.
JEFFRIES: How quickly do you think any of these solutions could come to fruition that drivers and commuters in Baton Rouge would actually be able to experience?
HOLDEN: I can't tell you the time because you're talking about money, and you've first got to talk about how am I going to get the money. All I can do is tell people what's out there.
For example, we have some dangerous bridges out there. If a bridge goes out, you're impacting commerce, you're impacting people's regular travel, you're impacting the safety of children and others. And I'm just saying that, look, we will have to cough up some more revenues in order to get this done, because there are no more earmarks in Congress and the state is already backed up by billions of dollars. We're going to have to step forward and take control of our own destiny.
JEFFRIES: You're talking about taxes.
HOLDEN: You're going to have to pay for it, yes.
JEFFRIES: Certainly, we got a preview of what it would be like if a bridge were out or a road closed quite dramatically back in August when I-10 was shutdown in both directions. Does that scare you, I mean, as the mayor, what were you thinking on that day?
HOLDEN: Well, I had to think about a number of things, because, number one, we had a truck that could explode and then all of us were right there out there were it was -- that's the second thing.
Traffic was not directed, it was directly poorly. You'd have to have a diversion effort put together by the sheriff's office, the state police and city police: if there is a problem that happens at this point here, here are the alternative routes that we will immediately let the public know what those routes are.
JEFFRIES: Are plans in motion to do that? To both create the plan and make the public aware of what it would be?
HOLDEN: The plans will have to be decided by law enforcement.
In other words, I can tell the chief, "Chief, go ahead and schedule a meeting with the sheriff and also (State Police) Col. Edmonson. And y'all need to come up with a plan as to how we deal with alternate routing if we have a situation like we had at Essen Lane the last time." And that's my role in it.
JEFFRIES: Have you given that direction?
HOLDEN: No ma'am. But I will have to do this in order to make it happen.
JEFFRIES: The board of education and the school district exists as a separate jurisdiction from the mayor's office, but I wonder if with the incoming of a new superintendent you're working any more closely together?
HOLDEN: I've worked as close with him as I have for all of my life, before I even became a politician. Me and the superintendent had a talk within three weeks of the time that he came to Baton Rouge.
JEFFRIES: So what are those conversations with the superintendent like?
HOLDEN: What we talk about is how our offices can work jointly and what I can do to help him and what other things that I've been doing in the community?
JEFFRIES: So what are those things?
HOLDEN: We're doing, in our own office, internships for children in high school. We give out scholarships to children. We go into schools. Frankly, one of the programs that I had, if you were an employee of our government, I would allow you off 8 hours a month paid leave, but you had to go and work at your child's school or another school. You've got places like BMI, Big Buddy. All of these of these programs are out there. ... He's already aware, because this superintendent here has his hands on the pulse of the people.
JEFFRIES: Mayor Kip Holden, thank you very much for joining me.
HOLDEN: Yes ma'am. Thank you.