Walker, Holden taking credit for same programs
The East Baton Rouge mayor-president’s election isn’t until November, but the campaign is heating up.
Mayor-President Kip Holden and his toughest opponent, Councilman Mike Walker, are attacking one another’s records and competing for credit on a number of law-enforcement initiatives.
Walker is building a campaign around promises that focus almost entirely on reducing crime, while aggressively attacking Holden’s record.
“Recently (Holden) was quoted in The Advocate as saying he was ‘happy’ that homicides have shown a slight decline in the past year. Happy? We cannot ignore the fact that a murder a week or more are far too many for our community,” Walker wrote in a letter sent to registered voters.
In the Feb. 18 Advocate article, Holden was responding to statistics that homicides in the Baton Rouge city limits dropped from 69 in 2010 to 64 in 2011.
His full quote was: “I’m happy, but you know there are some who do not believe that crime is really down in Baton Rouge. All we can do is continue our best efforts and put our best foot forward so they can see and understand we are doing things to make the community safer, although we still have a ways to go.”
Recently, Holden accused Walker of taking credit for Holden’s law-enforcement initiatives.
For example, in the weeks surrounding Walker’s announcement for mayor-president, Walker strongly advocated for the creation of a Truancy Center for juveniles.
Holden reminded constituents at his 2012 State of the Parish Address, which fell on the same day as Walker’s campaign announcement, that he introduced the Truancy Center idea in 2008.
“We have partnered with the DA, sheriff and school superintendent and are expected to open in August of this year,” Holden said during the Feb. 15 address.
Holden and Walker have been sparring over credit for Operation BRAVE, a violent-crime intervention plan in the city’s 70805 ZIP code, home to a large portion of violent crime.
In April, Walker placed an item on the Metro Council agenda to appropriate $150,000 to launch Operation BRAVE, formerly referred to as Operation Ceasefire, from the council’s discretionary fund.
John Carpenter, the mayor’s chief administrative officer, said the mayor-president was planning to allocate $250,000 to the same anti-violence program. Carpenter instead asked the council to use the discretionary fund dollars for a lobbyist contract, which was what the money was originally budgeted for.
Both the police chief and the district attorney confirmed that Holden had been working with them to secure resources.
The council rejected Carpenter’s request and unanimously agreed to fund Operation BRAVE with its own funds.
Since then, Holden has held two news conferences to announce the start of Operation BRAVE and its members. Walker was not invited to or acknowledged at either event.
Walker recently criticized Holden in a radio ad for not budgeting a police academy this year. Holden responded that he had already informed Walker before the ad came out that he was preparing to unveil this year’s police academy.
Walker dismisses accusations that he is undeserving of credit for the programs.
“I put (Operation BRAVE) on the agenda with my name and my name only,” Walker said. “I did something. He talks about getting it done and I did it.”
Holden says Walker’s taking credit for his work is “a tactic they’re going to try to keep doing between now and election day.”
Rebekah Allen covers city-parish government for The Advocate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.