Metro council discusses several hot ticket items; defers several to later date

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Parish metro council had 130 items on its Wednesday, June 28 meeting agenda. Among them were a handful of topics the community weighed in on.

First, the council introduced a measure on outdoor shooting ranges within the parish. It's specified to say the measure would allow outdoor ranges though a conditional use permit in the rural zoning district.

The council is tasked with coming up with the legal verbiage for the measure. The public will be invited to comment on this measure at a public hearing on July 19.

Wednesday was also the day citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish could provide input on a potential ordinance that would expand smoke-free zones to bars and casinos.

This is not the first time a measure of this sort has come up in metro council. There was an attempt to pass this measure last year, but it deadlocked in a 6-6 vote among council members.

Most of the meeting was dominated by discussion on smoking ordinance. Despite more than two hours of testimony, the item eventually fizzled out, being deferred to the council's August 9 meeting. Councilwoman Tara Wicker made the motion to defer rather than let the item die due to enforcement concerns.

"The group has done a really good job in answering our questions, so we're hopeful that after the deferral we come back in August and we'll have an opportunity to really get this issue passed," said Wicker.

"We would like to know when you're going to stop messing around and handle the Alton Sterling situation. We are ready for you to handle the Alton Sterling situation," community activist, Silky Slim, questioned during the meeting.

It's becoming almost routine for speakers to be kicked out of the meeting, frustrated the council has not taken up certain items and others disgusted in how they say speakers at the meetings have been treated.

"It was acceptable for a white man to use the reading of Green Eggs and Ham as his justification for opposition on an item, but not acceptable for a black man to stand opposed on an item because Alton Sterling was killed by police on July 5 of last year, then that is also an example of institutional racism by this body," said Jennifer Harding.

While the smoking ordinance matter still needs to be handled, in recent weeks, the council is seemingly in a pattern of deferment.

Just one week before the anniversary of Alton Sterling's death, two items, including an update from BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie on the investigation into the officers involved in the deadly July 5, 2016 encounter and a report for EMS on the 911 call from that night, were held off for a second time. The council ran out of time allotted for the meeting.

Some folks in the community and even council members are expressing frustration over the delay. "It's like we're kind of kicking the can over and over, but I think that just as a point of courtesy, if we have an issue and an item that's on the agenda, and I think my colleague councilwoman Banks eluded to, that is that we take that up first," said Wicker.

After being delayed two times now, Wicker says it is time to address the Sterling-related items and have the conversation many in the community are asking for.

"You have individuals out there that really feel like they need to be able to express themselves and have their voices heard, and so when that goes on and on and they're not having that opportunity, people get more and more frustrated," Wicker added.

Also on the agenda was an item that would authorize Mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome to enter into a contract with a body camera company, Axon Enterprise, to equip each BRPD officer with a body camera. The contract would last five years and the issue now would be to try to find the funds to acquire the body cameras.

This item was passed unanimously.

The metro council meeting began at 3:30 p.m. in downtown Baton Rouge and lasted until 8 p.m. The full meeting can be watched below:

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