The Metro Council will have at least two new faces beginning next year after two newcomers drew no opposition in the November election.
When qualifying ended earlier this month, it set the stage for several Metro Council races, but it also secured the seats for Ryan Heck in District 11 and Buddy Amoroso in District 8, both Republicans.
The two seats were left open by their incumbents. Mike Walker, the District 8 councilman, is term-limited and running for mayor-president. Alison Gary, the District 11 councilwoman, opted not to seek re-election.
Two incumbents, Chandler Loupe and Scott Wilson, also were unopposed.
Heck, 34, said he wants to use his business and infrastructure background to ensure the city-parish is getting the most for its money.
Heck said when he pays his property tax bill at the end of the year, he doesn’t feel like he’s seeing the value of the money he’s putting into the community.
“I do contracts for a living,” said Heck, a procurement specialist at Albemarle. “Going through the budget right now is exactly what I need to be doing to find largess and waste. I’ll be looking to maybe put some things out to bid and make sure taxpayers are getting value.”
He cited downtown construction, the $19 million downtown library and the bus tax as examples of unwise uses of taxpayer dollars.
He acknowledged that downtown “looks better than it ever has,” but he said it’s time for private enterprise to take over.
He said he likely wouldn’t support any local general fund dollars being used for downtown projects.
He also said the Capital Area Transit System property tax passed in April has “poisoned the well” for residents who will probably not approve another local tax for infrastructure to support crime-fighting needs.
“Things that we do need maybe more than a bus system will pay the price for the way that was handled,” Heck said. “People are upset because they feel like the wool was pulled over them.”
Heck said he considers himself a Tea Party Republican, adding that he was first drawn to politics in 2007 when the national Tea Party movement first organized.
He said he subscribes to their “enough is enough” attitude when it comes to spending and identified with their frustration with both political parties.
He also said he strongly believes in limited government and will be looking for services that can be privatized.
Heck said he expects that he’ll be on the “short side of a lot of votes” as a Metro Council member.
“If there’s an 11 to 1 vote, you don’t have to see who that ‘one’ is,” Heck said. “I’m a fiscal hawk and at the end of the day government revenue is taxpayer money.”
Heck is a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, and he and his wife, Loredana, have two children.
District 11 includes portions of Government Street and the Jefferson Highway corridor to Siegen Lane.
Amoroso, 55, began campaigning for the post early in the year.
“I started walking subdivisions in January,” he said.
He delayed the official announcement of his candidacy because of LSU’s loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game, he said.
“It was such public depression,” he said.
During his campaign, Amoroso used new technology that allowed him to link his Twitter account to two billboards in his district: one on Sherwood Forest Boulevard and another on Coursey Boulevard. The billboards displayed his tweets soon after he posted them.
Amoroso said fighting crime will be his “number one priority” when he takes office in January.
“There is a lot of concern about crime and home break-ins,” he said.
Amoroso said he didn’t know much of the specifics of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE, but he liked its “out-of-the-box” approach and hopes it will be expanded.
He advocates the “broken glass theory,” which he described as a method whereby small problems such as graffiti and litter are addressed in order to prevent more serious crime.
“Crime operates as a hidden tax on the citizens of Baton Rouge,” he said.
The former member of the parish Republican Party and a founding member of Taxbusters described himself as a fiscal conservative who is generally anti-tax.
Amoroso, who serves on the Baton Rouge Metro Airport Commission, praised the city’s Green Light Plan but said he wished more of the money was devoted to upgrading the city’s aging bridges.
“I think it’s been a wonderful program for the city of Baton Rouge,” he said.
On several other issues, Amoroso said he was aligned with the council’s conservative members.
Like Heck, he opposed the CATS tax, he said, because the vote to pass the tax was in a “gerrymandered” district, and he would have liked to have seen the bus system services bid out to a for-profit company who could run it more efficiently.
He also said CATS should use smaller buses, something that is being done in Lafayette.
He called mass transportation “vitally important” to the city.
Amoroso said he enjoyed downtown, but he did not want to see funds from other areas diverted to fund downtown projects.
“Baton Rouge goes past Seventh Street,” he said.
He does not support the $19 million downtown library project, he said.
Amoroso is the owner of property management business Prime Properties. He and his wife, Denise, have three children.
District 8 is a south Baton Rouge district bounded on the north by Old Hammond Highway, on the east by O’Neal Lane, on the south by Tiger Bend, Jefferson Highway and Airline Highway, and on the west by Sherwood Forest Boulevard.
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