Eight north Baton Rouge residents are running for the District 2 East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council seat, and all of them have said they want the job so they can help bring jobs to the Scotlandville and Baker area.
The District 2 seat is up for grabs because longtime District 2 Metro Council member Ulysses “Bones” Addison has reached the term limit.
The eight Democrats vying for the Metro Council position are Corey B. Alfred, Chauna Banks-Daniel, Steven Cook, Leroy Davis, Hillery Johnson, Joseph Plummer, Edward Roberts and James Slaughter Jr.
When asked about the most important issue facing District 2 residents, almost all of the candidates said the lack of jobs and economic development in the north Baton Rouge district.
Alfred, a former St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy and former state attorney general investigator, said crime is a huge problem in north Baton Rouge and is directly related to a lack of businesses that want to set up in the Scotlandville area.
“How do we attract them? We need to send a message that we are safe here and that they will be safe,” Alfred said.
Alfred said his experience in law enforcement would help him foster relationships between the police and the community.
Almost all of the candidates said District 2 lacks a major grocery store.
Banks-Daniel said the lack of a major store limits the choice of healthful food for District 2 residents and cited U.S. Department of Agriculture data that shows Scotlandville is the largest “food desert” in Baton Rouge.
“I am very much in support of having a major grocery store serve as an anchor store for a shopping center that will draw residents in the area to shop for a variety of needs and wants close by,” Banks-Daniel said.
Cook said he wants to reach out to big stores, such as Kroger, and help create a program between businesses and schools that would include training so graduates could go straight to work after graduation.
Davis, a former mayor of Baker, said his prior experience of attracting economic development to a north Baton Rouge community would make him the perfect person to create jobs for residents in District 2.
“I was able to get a Walmart Supercenter and 20 other businesses to come to Baker when I was there,” Davis said. “I have the corporate contacts.”
Davis also said he wants to set up an economic development commission in Scotlandville that could promote the area to businesses.
Johnson said Scotlandville would be a great place for a development similar to Perkins Rowe that mixes commercial and residential properties. He also said the Parish Prison should be moved away from the Baton Rouge Metro Airport because that would attract more hotels and other businesses to the area.
Plummer said economic development will not grow in north Baton Rouge until the mindset is changed in the community and in the business world.
“I’ve watched Scotlandville evolve over the years from a community that is viable to one that is not viable anymore,” Plummer said.
Plummer said part of the way to help change things in north Baton Rouge is for the new District 2 Metro Council member to have a “clear, level head” and to be someone “people trust.”
Slaughter said District 2 has so many attributes to attract businesses including the Mississippi River, Southern University, the airport, the railroad and plenty of land to develop.
“And we have people here who want to go to work,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter said north Baton Rouge already has big companies, such as Coca-Cola and ExxonMobil, that could assist with setting up incubators to help businesses get started in the area.
Although Roberts agreed with the other candidates about the importance of bringing more jobs to north Baton Rouge, he said the most important issue facing the community are the chemical plants and dump sites polluting the area.
“I want to work to make sure new sites like this don’t come here,” Roberts said. “From Scotlandville to Alsen there are 12 plants or dump sites. What they put out is 10 times worse than second-hand smoke.”
All eight candidates also agreed that a good, solid working relationship with the mayor-president is another key to leading District 2 successfully.
The candidates all said they were aware of the sometimes frosty public relationship between Mayor-President Kip Holden and Addison.
“My district has suffered adversely as a result of the feuding that have arisen occasionally between the current mayor and District 2 Council member,” Banks-Daniel said.
“I believe the residents have been the causalities as a result of the negative relationship that the entire city-parish has witnessed. My goal is to work with any and all persons that will assist me in making District 2 a better community,” she said.
Alfred said he was assigned to work for months as a bodyguard for Holden.
“I can’t do the job without the support of and a good relationship with the mayor-president, whoever it turns out to be,” Alfred said.
Cook said the District 2 Metro Council member and the mayor-president have to work together because “everyone is in the same city.”
Davis said when he was a councilman in Baker, he had a different political philosophy than the Baker mayor at the time, Bobby Simpson.
“But we had a good working relationship,” Davis said. “I’m experienced in having a cooperative spirit with others in the process.”
Johnson said if he is elected he will operate his Metro Council position as “a mayor of the district.”
“You have to be the top person in your district. There’s too much for the mayor-president to handle. He has to worry about the entire parish. I would be the mayor of District 2,” Johnson said.
Slaughter, who grew up around Southern University because his father was a professor there, said both he and the mayor-president could work together to reach out to the private sector.
Both Plummer and Roberts said District 2 residents should vote for them because they act as a voice for the community.
“I think I have the most positive attitude toward the well being of the people in the district,” Roberts said.
Plummer said he will be the candidate who listens.