‘I’m tired of the doublespeak of politicians’: Business owner looks for drainage solutions after constant flooding at restaurant

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 12:29 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Frustration from the owner of Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine has reached a breaking point.

This is the fourth time in the last five years that floodwaters have been inside the dining area.

“It’s time for action now,” said Jim Urdiales, owner of Mestizo. “People are tired. I’m tired of going through this.”

Urdiales is furious after his business was once again filled with water in a matter of hours Monday night.

“You can see that we’ve already pulled up the carpet. It went about two and a half feet in the restaurant. We’re going to have to re-do pretty much everything in the restaurant,” Urdiales explained.

The sheetrock in the restaurant will also have to be replaced, the food is thrown away, and the place is now forced to close for a few days.

The sheet rock in the restaurant will also have to be replaced, the food thrown away, and the...
The sheet rock in the restaurant will also have to be replaced, the food thrown away, and the place is now forced to close for a few days.(WAFB)

“I’m tired of the doublespeak of politicians. I’m tired of this whole crap that, ‘Hey, we’ve got the money. Show me where the money went and I guarantee that it’s time for those questions to be answered by people right now,’” Urdiales added.

So, where is this money for flooding?

Congressman Garret Graves (R) said that’s actually an easy answer.

“We literally have a billion-dollar, excuse me, billions - plural - billions of dollars that’s in the bank today and it is for old projects that should have been built decades ago, like Baton Rouge or flood control, cleaning and clearing out a lot of our drainage canals,” said Graves. “And it is for prospective projects, meaning ones that we hadn’t even come up with yet. That all this money in the bank, billions and billions of dollars, and so, at this point, it’s really more of an execution issue than it is breaking through the bureaucracy or trying to find the funding, which are normally the holdups. Those things have all been eliminated in this case.”

East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome admitted things have taken too long. She said projects are on the way to help reduce all of this flooding mess. But people and businesses are suffering during the waiting process.

“Progress is taking place,” said Broome. “But the truth is you’re absolutely right. It’s not taking place soon enough for the citizens that are being impacted.”

She said city-parish officials are cleaning culverts regularly and the pumps and drains are working. But that’s still not enough to handle all of that rain at once.

“All of our equipment is working. It’s the fact that we are having a deluge, a downpour, showers on steroids, whatever you want to call it, in a short amount of time, as we’ve never seen it historically,” Broome explained.

While the mayor said better days are ahead, business owners like Urdiales want solutions, instead of more plans and studies.

“We’re not going to be ever a forward city until we address this. This is a big issue. You can’t have major businesses flooding or houses flooding on just a normal occurrence like this. This is not something that should be normal,” said Urdiales.

Some homeowners in Baton Rouge have blamed new construction for a lot of the flooding. Urdiales is hopeful his restaurant can open back up Thursday or Friday.

He actually sits on the mayor’s Business Roundtable but he and many others are frustrated with elected leaders.

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