BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted, 8-4, to overturn Mayor Kip Holden's decision to veto a plan that would have promised economic development in North Baton Rouge.
The council spent five months discussing the topic before passing the measure, which would have provided tax credits to future developers who choose to locate north of Florida Boulevard.
There were plenty of fireworks at the Wednesday night's meeting, but in the end the council did get the two-thirds vote necessary to go against the mayor, allowing the economic development district to move forward as planned.
The mayor's decision garnered quite a bit of controversy last week after he used his first veto since he has been in office to halt the plan. He said the proposal had good intentions but needs to be adjusted before he can support it.
"It says you can have a piece of property. You can go and build on that property if you're in certain areas and you can then virtually lease that property out to somebody else and not pay any taxes whatsoever so therefore it's not fair," Holden said.
The council spent close to an hour debating the measure after hearing from members of the community. Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis pushed for unity among the council and said she hopes the plan will bring much needed success to North Baton Rouge.
"I don't want to see North Baton Rouge getting prostituted and I feel like some of this is going to result in that," she said.
Councilman John Delgado authored the plan. He said he sees no problems with the proposal.
"What are you scared of that all of a sudden businesses are going to start moving to North Baton Rouge and that all of a sudden jobs are going to develop out there," he said.
Delgado said the council's decision to override the mayor's veto is a step in the right direction.
"At the end of the day, this is creating opportunities for jobs, for economic development for North Baton Rouge that are very much in need," he added.
During debate, council members asked more questions despite approving the plan two weeks ago, and some admitted the measure still has areas that need to be addressed.
"I don't believe that we should let the veto stand, but I believe that we should continue to work and that we should continue to make things better," said Councilman Trae Welch.
Holden stood by his veto saying the plan opens the door for corruption, which he said could have fueled the push for this economic district in the first place.
"There's an agenda that's being played out here for a developer and that is something that some people don't want brought out," Holden said. "You know when you have one council person pushing specifically for one area then I think some eyes and ears should be opened."
Delgado brushed off the mayor's comments saying his agenda is only about one thing, supporting a part of town he said is desperate.
"This is not complicated and I don't understand how anyone would try to make it complicated," Delgado added. "This is about bringing jobs and opportunities to North Baton Rouge. It's as simple as that."
Holden said he was never against economic development in North Baton Rouge but just the way in which this plan calls for it. He said until it is fixed, the measure will be plagued with challenges.
"It's going to be a lot of chaos," Holden warned. "There's going to be a lot of name calling from different people who are left out of the system and somebody's going to have to deal with it. Let them deal with it, but I'll be right here sitting on the sidelines saying I told you so."
Council members said they will begin work immediately to iron out some details of the plan.
The mayor said his office will still have a say when it comes time for developers to start applying for bids.