Our Views: A new day for the council

With eight of 12 members of Baton Rouge’s Metro Council returning to office, several of those members might want to be chairman of the council.

At the council’s first meeting today, after taking the oath of office, the members will likely look to elect a mayor pro-tem to replace Mike Walker, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor-president in November.

We hope that the new council seeks a leader who will try to defuse what we have seen as sometimes needless confrontations between the mayor’s office and the council, and often enough among council members themselves.

Having been re-elected with 60 percent of the vote over Walker and two other candidates, Mayor-President Kip Holden is in a strong position to lead during this third four-year term. But leaders need colleagues, not rubber stamps, and we hope that the council and its new leader will seek to strike that healthy balance.

Holden has pledged to keep council members better informed about issues. For their part, we hope council members reach out to the administration.

In selecting a pro-tem, the council should look for someone who is independent, but not spoiling for a fight with the mayor.

A member of the council is a part-timer, with a real-life profession and a pile of pre-meeting reading that some members do more diligently than others — often making meetings more difficult for everyone.

Throw in a sometimes-combustible temper of the mayor, and council meetings in the past couple of years have seemed like the U.S. Congress on one of its bad days.

Of course we don’t expect the mayor and members of the Metro Council to agree on everything. Representative government is supposed to accommodate — and even encourage — a wide range of views. But we think people in Baton Rouge expect elected officials to find common ground and compromise in a spirit of tolerance and civility.