BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
October 25, 2012
“The government can’t fix this, the police can’t fix this, it’s going to take all of us. There is no magic pill.” Gordon mese, candidate for Baton Rouge mayor-president, on poverty
Mayor-President Kip Holden on Tuesday denounced as deceptive a campaign ad being run by his best-financed challenger Metro Councilman Mike Walker and said Walker was acting “in desperation.”
Holden commented on the ad after a forum for political candidates Tuesday hosted by the Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Walker did not attend the forum, which was held at the sorority’s chapter house on the campus of Southern University.
The ad, in which a video is shown of Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan thanking Baton Rouge’s mayor, police chief and police personnel for having met him in New Orleans and “shepherded me to Baton Rouge,” began running recently on local television stations.
“Mayor, our police and taxes are for fighting crime, not for limoing Louie,” a voice over intones as a limousine passes by City Hall.
Holden issued a written statement, which was handed out at the forum, saying Farrakhan did not ride in a city police vehicle or a State Police vehicle when he traveled from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
“Neither I, nor the police chief was present in New Orleans nor did he or I attend the event at Southern University,” Holden’s statement said. “Furthermore, Minister Farrakhan did not go to City Hall nor was there a limousine at City Hall.”
Holden said in a brief interview after the forum that the ad was “unfactual” and came from a candidate “in desperation.”
In his written statement, Holden said the security measures during Farrakhan’s visit are no different from those normally taken when a high-profile public figure visits Baton Rouge. He said the ad is “an insult” to both State Police and city police.
When asked about Holden’s comments after the forum, Walker’s campaign manager, Chris Boudreaux, responded in an email, “If Mayor Holden has a problem with this ad, he should call Minister Farrakhan. I’m sure he has his number.”
Boudreaux’s also called the use of public tax dollars to escort a private citizen “bad policy.”
Neither the ad nor Farrakhan were mentioned during public comments made by the candidates at Tuesday night’s forum.
Rather, crime and poverty were the focus of questions presented to Holden and businessman Gordon Mese during the 20 minutes allotted to the mayoral debate. Walker and the race’s other candidate, attorney Steve Myers, did not attend. The forum also included candidates running for Metro Council districts 2 and 10 and some candidates for the judiciary.
Mese said it would take time — maybe one or two generations — to properly address Baton Rouge’s poverty problem.
“The government can’t fix this, the police can’t fix this, it’s going to take all of us,” Mese said of poverty. “There is no magic pill.”
He said education is the key to solving the problems of poverty.
Holden said job training and bringing businesses into poor areas was key.
“Unfortunately, the poverty rate is almost 40 percent,” he said. “We are trying to get grocery stores into neighborhoods and have Baton Rouge become a healthy city.”
Both also said that poverty leads to crime, which must be addressed by the community as a whole.
“Get into mentoring programs,” Holden encouraged the crowd. “Work with one child to see if you can make a difference.”
Holden pointed to a program in Kansas City, Mo., where he said families of juvenile offenders are prepared to accept the offender back into their homes and the offenders, while still in jail, are trained to transition back into society.
“These programs will have to be initiated here,” he said. “We must look at those employers through the chamber and say give these individuals a chance.”
Mese advocated tax breaks for businesses that hire offenders trying to transition back into society.
“We also need to work with families to make sure they have a safe place to land when they get out,” he said. “It will take an entire community working together on this.”
Both candidates said the forum’s format — one minute each for opening, to answer each question and for closing statements — made it difficult get their message out.
“It’s tough to get into it and explain your position in one minute,” Holden said.