BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Government and business leaders met at City Hall Wednesday to discuss the possibility of enforcing and changing policies relating to blight in the parish, according to a report from the Baton Rouge Business Report.
The meeting was the first of manly for the newly created Metro Council Blight Committee and part of a multipronged effort to address the widespread and enduring problem of light in East Baton Rouge Parish.
According to the Baton Rouge Business Report, the group will evaluate local policies, look to other cities for best practices. The new committee will also work on the issue with Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and her Blight Strike Force.
Representatives from local law enforcement attended the meeting, along with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Congressman Garret Graves' office. Officials pointed to the impact blight has on crime, economic development, property values, and quality-of-place.
Local business owner Claire Herthum, who owns Artvark, Ltd. Art and Interiors criticized the current blight situation surrounding her businesses near downtown. She told the committee the blighted properties are one of the reasons she is negotiating a lease for a new location for her business.
"People have a choice about where they want to do business," said Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker. She led the meeting along with Councilman Matt Watson.
Watson and Councilman LaMont Cole recently passed a measure that increased fines for blight to $1,000 for the first offense, $3,000 for the second offense and $5,000 for each additional offense, according to the Baton Rouge Business Report.
However, at Wednesday's meeting, participants discussed increasing penalties and threatening jail time for blight violations.
One of the first issues the Metro Council Blight Committee plans to address is the illegal dumping of tires. Wicker said the tires have been a growing problem. The committee also plans to eventually develop recommendations for ordinance changes for the Metro Council and administrative changes for the mayor's office.
The local business magazine points out that blight is not a new problem to Baton Rouge and the new Metro Council Blight Committee reviewed previous attempts by past mayors to address blight.