|Mayoral candidates give feedback on our “Ideas Issue”|
Our May cover story, “11 Ways to Improve Baton Rouge,” sparked a lot of discussion on how best for the city to move forward in a positive direction. We heard from moms and teachers, students, grandfathers, engineers, architects, entrepreneurs and artists—just about all walks of life except for politicians, specifically, the three men vying to be mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish for the next four years.
In July, 225 caught up with each of them to get their feedback on our “Ideas Issue.”
Following is the punch list we presented each and the highlights from what they had to say.
#1 Build the city's brand on sports and fitness.
#2 Create a boomerang fund to attract top latent by paying off student loans.
#3 Build a weeklong Southern music and movies festival around Bayou Country Superfest.
#4 Ban smoking inside bars.
#5 Create an apps development competition using city data.
#6 Launch a citywide sixth grade mentorship program.
#7 Build a facility for artists-in-residence and art walks.
#8 Utilize the river for new communal gathering places and transit like water taxis.
#9 Sponsor a food truck that sells fresh produce to those living in areas of poverty and lack grocery store access.
#10 Start a citywide art project for charity (like the famous “Cow Parade”) with a pelican-themed combination sculpture and bike rack.
#11 Focus more on multi-use developments rather than single-use.
KIP HOLDEN (D)
Mayor-President, East Baton Rouge Parish
We've launched the HealthyBR initiative, built walking paths, and our new health fair includes health screenings for all city-parish employees and their children and a wellness program for those in need. That will benefit them physically and will correspondingly reduce the amount in health insurance they pay through the city. We're going to buck the trend [of Louisiana's low health rankings].
I think this is a great idea. One thing about our city is we have too many 'dead weeks.' We need more activities that attract lots of people, especially during the summer: barbecue cook-off challenges, antique car shows, science fairs for kids, wine tastings. We now have an Irish Film Festival, Jewish Film Festival, the Louisiana International Film Festival group, the Manship Theatre. We have so much talent, but need to focus on the writing, production and acting ability in this city. I don't see it as an obstacle to get everyone at the same table at the same time. You can meet individually with the heads of organizations and groups working on these things and get things going. You just want to approach it in a way that you don't over saturate the market and keep the interest of the people going.
During my days in the legislature it was a hot topic and it still is. As a former asthmatic, I'm not a big fan of cigarette smoke. And you have two very staunch groups fighting over this, but I have to say health concerns have to trump the enjoyment someone gets out of smoking.
Right now, we don't have much of an impetus to encourage this type of application development. This idea would be like a challenge to the minds of our young people, and I'd want to see the winner's app be marketed by the Chamber, LSU, Southern and our office's resources for a media roll out. We should rush toward getting this set up virtually immediately. When you talk about apps, its hear today, gone tomorrow, so we need to act quickly.
We've talking about an artist space a good bit, but its time to move past the talking stage and do it. That will set us apart from a lot of cities in the nation. This will be another way to bring in the community people together, just like the North Boulevard Town Square.
Buying locally, keeps those profits local, so I'm a huge supporter of farmer's markets. We have a long way to go. We need to do more in Old South Baton Rouge and Eden Park, and start a movement to talk small groceries into carrying more fresh produce. For the city-parish to donate a bus [like Chicago's Fresh Moves] you have to figure out the logistics and who's going to manage the effort. I'd suggest BREADA be the consulting agency, and the mayor's office supports that organization financially.
Hopefully we can get the Children's Museum at City Park and hook that up to the green trails Davis has been pushing. One problem is we have people who don't respect bikers. They have the right to be on the road. But, some bikers don't even obey traffic signals, but it's more with the motorists. We need to do more education on safety and emphasis on wearing helmets.
Owner, Garden District Nursery (I)
“As a 'hack musician' myself, I'm a big fan of the blues, and most people in the parish don't realize we are the home of the blues, so that can be promoted and developed more. We need to look at what we are and take stock in that. We are a blue-collar town, the seat of government, a college sports town and a creative town. We need to be the best version of who we are.”
“I like this one and agree with Adam Knapp. This could be a very popular idea. There are enough big companies here that you could actually get a fund like that set up quickly. I think the Exxons and Shaw Groups of the world would like the write-off, and if it helps them bring talent here, then it's a great idea. In terms of acting like a big city, this would actually attract people.”
“As a former smoker, I've noticed a lot of smokers doing this anyway, stepping outside to smoke, then coming back in. Not everyone, but it is a trend. There are also bands that come in and request non-smoking shows. A total ban would offend a very small portion of the populace. But if it's not done by an ordinance, it'll end up happening on its own. So I could go either way on it. Certainly, if a place serves food, smoking should not be allowed.”
“I'd like to see a city-owned combination promenade and entertainment development on the river with boutiques leased out to private companies. The city would provide the space but get a percentage of sales so the city's investment could be paid back in the long term. I'm of the view that you have to spend money to make money.”
“Certainly City Park could use improvements to bike paths and something built out onto the lake, maybe a snack bar where you hang out and can rent kayaks. But, as a landscape architect, I don't think the golf course needs to be done away with. Just seeing that amount of green space and using it passively, biking or driving past it has a positive effect on people.”
Mayor Pro Tempore, East Baton Rouge Parish Metro-Council (R)
“With the success of athletics at LSU and Southern, it makes total sense to brand Baton Rouge on sports and fitness. It wasn't long ago that both schools won the national championship. Overall, we need to do a better job of selling Baton Rouge to Baton Rougeans. Certain segments of the parish don't know what else is going on in other parts of the parish. Baton Rougean's aren't sold on Baton Rouge.
“This incentive would be best used to keep our brightest minds in Baton Rouge here at home. We have a lot of talent here, so why not help them in this way? A lot of people surround themselves with young people, but they hold them back a bit, and I don't agree with that. They need to be supported all the way and allowed to be the best they possibly can be.”
“Fairness and consistency are the main issue with this one. If there is a ban, it has to be fair and consistent across the board. These places' customers are not going to be there if they are not healthy enough to walk through the door. "
“I substitute taught for two years, mostly at Southeast Middle School. They definitely need our support, improved education and discipline, but my mother was a second grade teacher, and one thing she taught me was that you have to take care of children in their formative years, so kindergarten and earlier. By middle school they are formed in many ways. So we have to reach them sooner.”
“Everyone loves art and the value of culture, but we have major needs here like preventing crime and improving infrastructure that must to be addressed first. If the private sector wants to step up and make this a reality, then great.”
“We have to make areas attractive so business will locate there and invest—that includes incentives. The permitting process for this must be fair and simple. We need to stop throwing hoops in the way of small businesses and surprising them with excess fees.”
It's in the cards
We asked Baton Rougeans to contribute their own ideas about what they'd like to see improved in our fair city. Click here to see a photo gallery of their ideas.
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