Mayor Holden pulls plug on NBR economic venture, sparks controversy

Mayor Holden pulls plug on NBR economic venture, sparks controversy
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mayor Kip Holden made a big move that could be considered controversial concerning money for one area of Baton Rouge.

Holden said he used his first veto ever as Baton Rouge mayor to kill a plan intended to spark development in North Baton Rouge.

"We don't have a chance to gamble with the future of the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish," Holden said.

He called the Economic Opportunity Zone ordinance a gamble. The measure which took close to five months to finally gain approval would have provided tax breaks for future developers looking to call areas north of Florida Boulevard home.

Holden said there simply was not enough conversation for him to fully support the plan.

"Contrary to what anybody may say there was no discussion whatsoever because we could have put our finance department together with the author of this bill. We could have brought other people in to say there are some real concerns," he added.

Holden said it is not the plan that worries him. He called EBR Metro Councilman John Delgado's proposal well intended.

However, with cuts to city-parish government and the statewide money crisis, Holden said the plan was not well thought out.

Holden believes the district is too large and the city-parish would miss out on too much money in the venture. Councilman John Delgado disagrees, saying he is shocked at the mayor's action.

"A mayor who is from North Baton Rouge has vetoed the chance to bring jobs and business development and opportunities to his own community. I am outraged and I think the people of North Baton Rouge should be equally outraged," Delgado said.

Delgado added that the mayor has not once reached out to discuss the district and he feels some politicians have forgotten about North Baton Rouge.

Holden pointed out that the government would be giving tax breaks and property cuts to developers who build in North Baton Rouge without knowing the root causes for the decline in the area.

Holden said rebuilding North Baton Rouge should happen not as a cosmetic fix but permanent. He said he has not forgotten any portion of the city, but his concern is about the entire city-parish, not just one section.

"Let's move together. Stop the bickering and look out for the betterment of all the city and the parish," Holden said. "I'm willing to sit down with anybody to make those moves and move forward altogether but not just a carte blanche approach when we don't know what the ends and whether the ends will justify the means."

The mayor's decision came as a shock to many, but he said he is doing what he feels is right for the entire city-parish.

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