EBR Metro Council parks BTR tax plan in split vote

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Metro Council members chose to park Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's Better Transportation and Roads (BTR) plan in a 5-5 vote Wednesday night.

The decision came after more than an hour of passionate debate and comment. Moments after the vote, the mayor told the media she was obviously disappointed by the outcome.

"It's unfortunate that folks did not feel the need to just allow people the chance to vote on this new initiative," said Broome.

The mayor has spent much of the summer trying to get people in her lane on the issue by hosting public meetings and forums on her idea to improve roads and traffic conditions but ultimately it was not enough to sway council members to allow voters to have the final say in November.

"I feel like we laid a great foundation but it's just a matter of choice," said Broome.

"My constituents are overwhelmingly telling me that they don't want the opportunity to vote on this," said Councilman Dwight Hudson.

Judging by those voters who spoke at the meeting, it seems the plan would have likely been shot down in November at the ballot box. Five out of six people spoke against the item.

"We do need to do something. We do need to address these roads, but I think that we need to do it in a different fashion," said Jeffery Welsh.

"I think we scrap this and we come back with something that's more comprehensive and something that meets the needs of everybody," Gary Chambers added.

With six shootings in the last six days in Baton Rouge, many residents and some council members believe the capital city has bigger concerns. While traffic is a big issue in the city-parish, the rash of recent killings has pushed crime prevention above those hassles behind the wheel.

"Public safety must come first," said Donald Johnson. "Economic development, I'm all for it. Road improvements, I'm all for it but I've got to be safe first."

While her first major initiative failed to become more than an idea, the mayor says she is not taking the negative outcome as a defeat.

"We will continue to come up with some bold and innovative ideas to continue to take our city and our parish to the next level," she added.

When asked whether she would take the feedback into consideration and introduce a revised version of the plan at a later time the mayor said it is too early to say for sure.

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