Baton Rouge mayoral candidates debate crime, traffic at first forum

Baton Rouge mayoral candidates debate crime, traffic at first forum

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A number of candidates seeking to run East Baton Rouge parish pitched their solutions for traffic, crime, and community development during a forum Friday, Sept. 18.

It’s among the first opportunities candidates have had to debate ideas in the same room. The American Institute of Architects Baton Rouge chapter hosted the event.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Uncle Earl’s bar owner Jordan Piazza, Rep. Denise Marcelle, metro councilman Matt Watson, and attorney E. Eric Guirard participated. Former state Rep. Steve Carter and attorney Frank Smith, III did not attend.

A moderator asked different questions from each candidate, though a common theme emerged in each candidate’s answers. Broome’s challengers were quick to note that Baton Rouge is set to break its homicide record in 2020.

“You can’t attract businesses if you’ve got crime,” Watson, a republican, said.

“We have got to stand up to crime,” Marcelle, a democrat, said. “We cannot act like it’s not happening.”

Broome, a democrat, noted that the bulk of Baton Rouge’s homicides happen in two zip codes. She lobbied new investment in those communities as a potential remedy.

Piazza, a republican, said he would identify and trim fat in the BRPD budget and re-allocate that money for $10,000 officer pay raises.

“Not just to give money out,” Piazza said. “If we’re going to recruit better-quality candidates, we have to pay for that quality. Everyone knows that’s how it is in business.”

Guirard, the race’s lone independent but a self-proclaimed conservative, said his education plan could reduce violence and unite the parish.

“You take all the money devoted to the parish school system and divide it by the number of kids in the parish,” he said. “You give each kid a credit stipend to spend on the education opportunity of their choice.”

Piazza and Watson each noted that the movement to incorporate St. George began as a partial product of Baton Rouge residents' frustration with the local school system.

Candidates each lamented Baton Rouge’s traffic woes, though Broome noted that her MOVEBR traffic program is the largest infrastructure investment in parish history.

“We have sowed the seed to build on,” she said. “We have sowed the seed in good ground. Baton Rouge is a good city.”

Election day is Nov. 3. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two will advance to a December runoff.

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