BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council met Wednesday night to debate several important issues, including Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's MOVEBR plan and a tax to fund a new Bridge Center, among others.
Council members voted 8 to 3 to approve a property tax to fund the new Bridge Center, a mental health facility. Voters will now see the item on the ballot in December.
East Baton Rouge Coroner Beau Clark, DA Hillar Moore, and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux all spoke in favor of the Bridge Center tax.
Mayor Broome was present at Wednesday night's meeting to discuss her MOVEBR traffic plan. She's been holding public meetings with each district to discuss the plan.
The council voted 10 to 2 to approve the mayor's road tax plan.
It's a campaign promise that's one step closer to reality as the metro council approved Mayor Broome's plan to tackle traffic problems in Baton Rouge. "I'm very excited and thankful about the outcome tonight," said Broome.
She has spent the past two weeks canvassing every council district to drum up support. Choosing a sales tax over a property tax this time around is what she believes made the difference, but the mayor admits she has only won half the battle. "We've worked hard on this, but the work is not over we still have work to do," she added.
Dwight Hudson, one of the two council members who voted no on the plan, says part of that work needs to be fiscal responsibility. He says voters are not convinced the city is in a good place to ask for more.
"We've got to look at some of these dedicated taxes and we've got to look at some of our long term retirement costs and minimize the burden on the taxpayers," he said. "I don't think we've done that. I don't think the voters trust us yet and that's where my issue comes in."
Supporters of the tax, like Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, say the economic impact is there and the benefits of this proposal far outweigh the consequences of inaction. "You're talking about we haven't done fiscal responsibility and we haven't done this and we haven't done that, but yet again, we still have projects that everybody's going to benefit from this," said Collins-Lewis.
Councilman Trae Welch agreed a failure to act is part of the problem now. "We don't really plan for the future as much as we plan for right now and we say we're going to alleviate this problem," said Welch.
In the end, ten council members signed on to send to plan to the voters, though some believe a new tax will be a hard sell to voters.
"It's going to be incumbent on the administration to sell this to my constituents," said Councilman Matt Watson.
Mayor Broome says she's confident she's up for the challenge.
"We want to touch a lot of people throughout the city to share the vision, share the plan, and show how this will make our city stronger," said Broome.
The council also gave the mayor the go-ahead to accept grant funds to pay for BRPD body cameras.