July 26, 2012
We never cease to be surprised by the degree to which elected officials can treat public assets as private property.
The latest case in point is Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, whose office received 30 tickets, collectively worth about $9,000, to a luxury suite at the Bayou Country Superfest in May. Holden refused to name the recipients of those tickets, saying it’s his “privilege” not to disclose who benefited from the mayor’s generosity.
Some $200,000 in funds given to the city-parish by BP’s Louisiana Tourism Recovery Program were used to subsidize Superfest. Visit Baton Rouge, the city-parish’s tourism agency, also provided a $200,000 subsidy to the festival.
Holden’s office got the luxury-level tickets because of his official role as mayor. The public should be able to know who is enjoying these public assets. They are, after all, useful perks that a public official can use to reward friends and court new ones. Holden said “some” of the tickets were given to people to encourage business development in Baton Rouge.
We see no reason why the names of those who benefited from these tickets should be kept secret. Holden noted that Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to make public the names of people who sit in his suite at Mercedes Benz Superdome events.
We’re dismayed that Holden is looking to Jindal as a model to follow in matters of government transparency. Jindal has successfully supported legislation to shield more documents from public view. His administration has acted in other ways to hide its activities from public scrutiny.
Holden’s mention of “privilege” to defend his secrecy seems more like the comment of a king, not a public servant.
We expect a higher standard of transparency from the mayor of Baton Rouge.