BR mayor’s office scolds council over St. George ‘gridlock’

The Metro Council rejected a measure Wednesday that would codify the city-parish’s local revenue sharing agreement, citing concerns that it was designed to sabotage the incorporation of the proposed city of St. George.

But after the vote, Mayor-President Kip Holden’s top aide scolded the council for allowing St. George to divide them to the point that they’re unable to conduct regular city business.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, called the measure benign and maintained it had nothing to do with St. George.

“This has nothing to do with St. George,” he said. “I understand it’s very emotional, it’s emotional on both sides, but it shouldn’t shut down the government.”

Despite being a consolidated form of government, the city-parish budget has for years contained “local service agreements” between Baton Rouge and the unincorporated parts of the parish to jointly fund local government.

The measure before the Metro Council on Wednesday would have updated the agreements and put them into an official ordinance.

Some council members have speculated the measure is intended to prevent St. George, which is made up of the unincorporated parts of the parish, from being able to access sales tax dollars in the event voters there decide to form their own city.

However, Daniel has repeatedly stressed that the measure would have no impact on St. George.

He said the failure of the measure ultimately would not affect city business, but said the perception that the council is in gridlock over St. George could hurt the city’s bond rating.

“The bond agencies when they come to town, they read the headlines in the paper, and if they see we’re not doing business as usual then that sends a red flag,” Daniel said.

A bond rating affects the interest rates a governmental entity can get when borrowing money. Baton Rouge has a AAA rating from Standard and Poor’s, which is the highest possible rating.

The Metro Council voted 5-5, with two absent, to approve the ordinance. Seven votes were required to pass it.

Council members who represent unincorporated areas of the parish voted against the item. Those voting against it were Scott Wilson, Chandler Loupe, Buddy Amoroso, Joel Boé and Ryan Heck.

Council members who represent larger portions of the City of Baton Rouge voted in favor of it. Those voting for it were Ronnie Edwards, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle Tara Wicker and John Delgado.

Trae Welch and Chauna Banks-Daniel were not present.

Some council members including Loupe and Amoroso have previously said they don’t believe the mayor’s office’s assertions that the measure is unrelated to St. George.