Crime issue bedevils Holden in election year
In politics as in war, to borrow a phrase from a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, there are known knowns and known unknowns.
Kip Holden will be dealing with the latter as he seeks a third term as mayor-president in the November election, and the known unknowns involve crime.
It's yet unknown how many people will be shot to death in a long hot summer in Baton Rouge. But it is a known unknown, because it's going to happen. Newspaper stories and television reports about crime will punctuate the summer months of the mayor's re-election campaign.
In his official campaign kickoff recently, the mayor told supporters that homicides in Baton Rouge decreased in the past two years and overall violent crime is down.
"These are the official statistics collected by the F (pause) B (pause) I (stress, pause)," the mayor said.
Nevertheless, Holden acknowledged that violence in city streets is an issue in the campaign. It is the issue most often focused on by the mayor's major opponent, the term-limited head of the Metro Council, Mike Walker.
Walker is a Republican and Holden is a Democrat, but they were allies for most of the mayor's eight years in office.
However, an ongoing split between the mayor and many members of the Metro Council has provoked dissension in city hall at levels not seen in years.
Still, Holden was elected to a second term in 2008 with 71 percent of the vote. While he almost certainly won't reach that level next time, he remains the favorite in the election.
The mayor's discussion of his first two terms addressed issues other than crime.
But the city's first black mayor, who personally rose by his bootstraps to community leadership, talked about the scourge of crime in the black community with particular fervor.
Four out of five victims of homicide in the parish are black males under age 30, and most of the perpetrators young black men of an average of 23, the mayor said.
The mayor defended his record, noting new initiatives to combat crime in neighborhoods and to create more effective anti-truancy efforts, to deal with juveniles in trouble before they cause trouble.
"Without education, we are back in that cycle of crime," Holden said.
In political terms, being an incumbent mayor gives Holden advantages over challengers, in that he can put specific programs on the table.
Holden said that 93 percent of a recent supplemental budget request to the Metro Council would be for public safety, including the second police academy class to be held in the last 12 months.
Public safety is the administration's top priority, Holden said.
"Always was, always will be," he added.
The known unknowns of summer crime surely will have some effect on the mayoral race. But the coiner of that phrase, former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also famously said that a nation goes to war with the army that it has.
A mayor seeks re-election on a schedule, every four years, with the record that he has.
Holden clearly plans to make the most of the record that he has.
Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.