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St. George organizers planning next fundraiser

Organizers behind the proposed City of St. George are planning their next fundraiser, intended to help raise money for their final push to get signatures to put the city to a vote.

The event is August 24 at 6 p.m. at Louisiana Lagniappe Restaurant. Tickets are $125 each. 

In January, the group had similar fundraiser at the same location and raised about $18,750.

Until the proposal reaches a ballot, the campaign is not legally required to disclose its donors or finances.

Organizers have about 17,500 signatures on a petition, but are aiming for 20,000 before they submit it to be verified.

Parish Attorney takes jabs at Metro Council via Twitter

Parish Attorney Mary Roper’s days as the chief legal officer for East Baton Rouge are numbered — but she’s not leaving without some parting words for the Metro Council members who are seemingly pushing her out the door.

On Wednesday, she posted some scathing tweets to her account.

roper tweetsRoper has served as parish attorney since 2008, but she’s worked for the office for more than 20 years. In recent months, a faction of the Metro Council,  said they’ve lost confidence in her and attempted to remove her from her post.

The council was expected to hold a public hearing where she would contest her removal, but she struck a deal where she would resign from the post in exchange for another city-parish job providing legal counsel to the City-Parish Employee Retirement System.

But Roper hasn’t hidden her feelings on the matter. She’s accused the lawyers sitting on the Metro Council, specifically Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe, of trying to remove her so the job can be given to a friend.

Roper is expected to start her new job on Aug. 11, but she has not officially accepted the position. However, her office is holding a going away party for her this week.

Roper’s Twitter feed for the past month has been a window into her feelings about leaving her job and her relationship with the Metro Council.

roper tweets2

Trae Welch confirms he will vote against anti-discrimination ordinance

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Trae Welch has managed to miss two controversial council meetings dealing with LGBT issues — a resolution to support striking unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws from the state statutes and a local ordinance that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

AX096_24D7_9Because the vote on the latter issue was bumped to the Aug. 13 meeting, Welch will now have a chance to weigh in on the matter and he said he would definitely be attending the meeting. He also said he would be voting against the ordinance.

For him, he said, the issue has nothing to do with fairness for the LGBT community and everything to do with being against additional regulations for businesses.

He said he watched the arguments made by proponents of the previous council meetings who said the change was important to economic development. Welch said, by the looks of things, business is already booming in Baton Rouge.

The ordinance has garnered significant attention from both religious and business leaders. The July 23 Metro Council meeting to consider the law was so well attended that public comment ran out the clock and the council didn’t have time to vote.

The Metro Council, however, is almost certainly expected to reject the ordinance. Welch, who was a registered Democrat until 2012 when he switched to Republican, was considered a possible swing vote.

He now joins Ryan Heck, Joel Boe, Buddy Amoroso, Scott Wilson and Tara Wicker as confirmed no votes.

Only C. Denise Marcelle and John Delgado have publicly committed to supporting the measure. Chandler Loupe is also expected to vote in favor of the ordinance.

Welch, 42, is currently running against longtime 19th District Court Judge Mike Erwin, who is seeking his fifth term in office this November.


Website shines light on ‘offensive’ anti-fairness ordinance arguments

There were 27 speakers who urged the Metro Council last week to vote against an ordinance that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

One proponent of the ordinance was so offended by their statements that he wanted to shine a light on their arguments, which he thinks will compel others to rise in support of the so-called Fairness Ordinance.

logan-560cfe34Logan Leger, a local web developer and a member of the Baton Rouge library board, launched the website on Thursday.

He writes:

“As I sat in the Council Chambers for the duration, listening to the passionate debate, it struck me how negative, vitriolic and plainly offensive some of the opposition comments were.

I believe Baton Rouge is filled with reasonable people—many of whom are of devout faith—that would be as horrified as I was at the hatred that was on display.

I knew that if I made it easy for my fellow citizens to read what was being said on their behalf by their religious leaders and breathren, they would be left as aghast as I had been.”

The website includes the full transcripts of every opponent of the ordinance, including Family Forum President Gene Mills, and Jere Melilli, who incited groans from the audience when he gave a detailed scientific explanation of anal sex.

The Metro Council ran out of time before they could vote, so the issue was kicked to the next council meeting on Aug. 13.

Full text of Mayor Holden’s rambling Fairness Ordinance speech


Mayor-President Kip Holden broke his silence Wednesday night about his feelings on the proposed “Fairness Ordinance” that bans discrimination against LGBT people in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

Asked in previous weeks, Holden said he was keeping his comments to himself until the meeting.

On Wednesday, Holden opened the public hearing with a 10 minute speech that took the religious arguments against homosexuality head on. Generally speaking,  his — frequently rambling — speech expressed that all people are sinners, not just LGBT people, and it’s only God’s place to judge.

He often started telling stories in the Bible without finishing them. And he reminds people that one day their health could be in the hands of a person whose lifestyle they disagree with.

He ends with a quote by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty.

It’s worth a read.

Here is a full transcript of his speech:

You can watch it here. Item 9F. It starts around the 9 minute mark. 

“Mr. Pro Tem and members of the council and also audience — we go back to this ordinance when I was elected around October. Let’s go to 05-06 and a few other years in between. And I have to speak from just logic.

I stand here in no way as someone who knows every aspect of the Bible. My daddy was a preacher, and believe me my dad taught me some new words as a preacher when I brought the car home one hour late. But what I’m saying here and I  left my Bible there.

But if you look at the Bible, virtually the Bible is normally referred to as  broken down into two parts: the new chapter and the old chapter. And sometimes people want to take arguments of this kind of nature and simplify them and then throw out sin.  And that’s all you see: that person is sinful, that person sinful, that person in sinful.

Yet, when you go back and look at the Old Testament, like I said, it talks about sin and the New Testament talks about sin. Then you look at the fact there were laws governing what happened in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And there are lot of complicated things said in both of those books.

But here, what’s disheartening, is we find ourselves trying to interpret the Old Testament and the New Testament and telling people exactly how they should live.

But let’s go and look at some things that happened in those books. For example, the woman at the well - and what happened there.

For example when you heard the words, “He who is without the first stone,” and then you go on and on and on.

There were rules that said if an animal was in a ball on the weekend, let that animal stay there until it was the regular week.

And there were a lot of different things that came up in this whole force called the Bible, and the Bible is not a clearly written piece of paper right now. Because you even hear ministers ponder over some of the words that were used in the Bible.

But let me make this very clear: regardless of what category you want to put on somebody, lay on somebody, what name you want to give somebody, I am still very much assured of this fact – that we all have sinned and come short of God.

But now we find out that people want to judge sin, where there’s a judgment book called the Ten Commandments.

So then let’s take that for example.

If I stole a banana, is that a two or is that a six? If I broke into a house, is that a seven or is that a three?

So all of a sudden, other than the Ten Commandments and blaspheming God, we’ve turned into a group of people who choose by our own rules to label people sinful and where they are.

And I suggest to you — the further and further you go into labeling somebody, in some cases you are shying away from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

And you just go and look at how much sin was committed in the Bible.

David had a concubine and he had so many concubines he couldn’t get around to all of his concubines in one year. But David was yet a beloved member of the Christian family.

And there many many more cases that can come about.

But I want to talk about just a couple more things and I don’t want to buy the time.

If you by chance, in this room right now, and there’s no EMS here, but you pass out and you need to be resuscitated, if that person who comes to your knee to necessitate you and bring you back to life – would you refuse to be brought back to life or just lay down and die?

And that’s a question, fundamentally, that we all have to answer.

We are quick to call people sinners, but there are a lot of sins being committed by people in this room. I raise my hand. I have sinned. I have fallen short of God.

But I don’t go around trying to present or acting as if I’m higher than somebody else because they committed a sin that may not be the one that I committed.

And when you look at it — last statement I’ll make, we all have fallen short and some people want to base this argument just on Jesus Christ.

But go back again, on Christmas, I’m sorry, on Easter, Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday — one of the most joyous days celebrated in the religious circles is dealing with the fact that on that Friday there was a sinner. And Jesus was on this cross and two sinners. There was one guy who was unrepentant of his sins. There was another guy wondering why should this man be tried here, because he didn’t see anything wrong that man had done.

But God had mercy on that person, who asked him this simple question: remember me when you come into your kingdom.

The debate from this point on should be how we can mend the differences between each other, not whether a person is gay lesbian or whatever title you choose to put on that person.

Because you do not know what will happen in the future. But know you may be at the hands of same person you choose to criticize now and that could be there person who could save your life.

I’ll go one more, let’s say a doctor has assembled his whole team to provide open heart surgery. Tell me what person is going to turn around and order the doctor or ask the doctor before he or she is about to go under –hey doctor, is that person gay is she lesbian or what?

No, nobody. You know what you want to do? You want to live. You want the best person who can apply the surgical techniques for you to live.

So I ask you and I will stay in favor of this because I think sometimes we overstep our bounds. I will stay in favor of this and ask us to pray for one another, to begin to look and see exactly who we really are and what our roles.

There are some ministers here he would tell you that they have sinned.

But always be that Statute of Liberty of life and regardless of the condition that you think that person is, let God continue to be the final arbiter.

And you reach your arms out and say give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

God Bless you.”


How will the council vote on the Fairness Ordinance? Here’s a prediction.

On Wednesday, the Baton Rouge Metro Council will vote on the very emotional and hugely controversial Fairness Ordinance, which bans discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations.

For those keeping count, the only confirmed affirmative votes in favor of the ordinance are its sponsor C. Denise Marcelle and John Delgado.

Confirmed no votes are: Ryan Heck, Buddy Amoroso, Scott Wilson, Tara Wicker and most recently Joel Boe.

Trae Welch is not expected to be in attendance, which means he will be an absent vote that counts against a yes vote.

Chandler Loupe is an expected, but unconfirmed, yes vote.

Donna Collins-Lewis, Ronnie Edwards and Chauna Banks-Daniel are on the fence, but Collins-Lewis is also considered likely to support the measure.

Minds have been known to change on the floor of the council, but today it looks as though the ordinance will lack the necessary 7 affirmative votes to pass the resolution.


Loupe files public record request for annexation documents

Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe appears to have some questions about the way the city-parish is handling the annexation lawsuit filed by former legislator Woody Jenkins.

He recently filed an official public record request with Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who was hired by the Mayor’s Office, asking for “any and all documents in the matter of Louis “Woody” Jenkins v. City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Council.

Jenkins is challenging the recent annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge General Hospital. He said the boundaries of the annexed land were drawn unreasonably because they are filled with holes and not compact. He said the procedures to annex the land violated state and local laws.

Loupe, whose district is fully encompassed by the proposed new city, has expressed support of the new city and concerns about attempts to hurt the effort. Asked why he filed the formal record request, he said “no comment.”

Pierson responded by sending him 45 pages of mostly court filings from the case.


Less than a week in, Uber is violating local laws

UPDATE: Here is an emailed response from Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett:

“We look forward to working with city officials to finalize the registration process and getting all the paperwork out of the way.

While we finish crossing our ‘T’s and dotting our ‘I’s, Uber will continue moving Baton Rouge residents and visitors around town with the safest, most reliable ride on the road.”

Uber has come to Baton Rouge, but it’s already gotten off to a bad start.

The Taxicab Control Board met Tuesday morning because Uber has not yet filed registration with the city-parish or paid any of the required fees.

The board is sending a letter to Uber to comply with the regulations, but stopped short of sending a cease and desist letter.

Ride-share programs operating in Baton Rouge are required to pay a $250 application fee and a $250 yearly permit fee. Additionally, they have to pay $75 for each vehicle registered to drive in East Baton Rouge.

Uber announced it had launched service in Baton Rouge on Friday with $5 rides for the first two weeks. Regular fares will likely be higher. Uber charges a base fare of $2.50 plus 35 cents per minute and $1.60 per mile.

For example, the 9-mile trip from The Chimes on Highland Road to The Chimes East on Coursey Boulevard is $21, according to Uber.

Uber does not disclose the number of its drivers because that information is proprietary.

Uber is offering two types of service in Baton Rouge: UberBlack, professional drivers with commercial driver’s licenses and insurance and black sedans, town cars and SUVs that seat four people; and UberX, mid-size or full-size four-door vehicles in excellent condition, with drivers who are at least 21, with a personal license and auto insurance. UberX launched Friday.


Les Miles says he’s going to be Uber’s first rider

LSU Football Coach Les Miles has announced via Twitter that he will be Uber’s first rider. But no other details about when or where the ride will take place were immediately available.
les tweet

Last month, the Baton Rouge Metro Council opened the doors for ride sharing companies to operate in the city. Uber has been the first company to express its interest in the area, but council members say they have talked to other companies like Lyft and Carma.

Heck says he won’t vote for LGBT fairness ordinance

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Ryan Heck has firmly announced he will not be voting in favor of the proposed “fairness ordinance,” which would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people in Baton Rouge in areas of housing, employment and public accommodations. The Metro Council is expected to vote July 23.

He publicly posted his position on Facebook, responding to a post by Legislative staffer Chris Frink who wrote: “Please vote for the non-discrimination ordinance. It’s the right thing, the libertarian thing, the CHRISTIAN thing to do.”

Here’s Heck’s response:

“I have strong objections to the proposed language as it specifically relates to the burden it places on business owners here in EBR, and the dangerous precedent it sets for the rest of the state.

Sexuality and Gender Identity are very subjective topics that are not physical characteristics like gender, age, race, and the other federally protected classes.

As you know, I am personally very sympathetic and accepting towards the LGBT community and want them to be welcome and prosper in society; however, I am not in favor of creating additional protected classes based upon such subjective material. As written, the proposal leaves it up to law enforcement and the courts to decide if an individual and business owner is a bigot. I’ve met quite a few judges over the past few years and I can tell you they all share something in common: the inability to look into a persons heart and make a real determination if there is bigotry in someone’s soul.

This ordinance is being touted by BRAF, BRAC and others as good for economic development and good for Baton Rouge. I couldn’t disagree more. This ordinance, if passed, opens the door for lawyers and serial victims to seek retribution against good (and bad) people in the community. This is a job killer, not a job creator. The very act of being accused of bigotry in today’s society is enough to put someone out of business.

BRAF and BRAC tout that 62% of Baton Rouge of Baton Rouge are for equality, fairness, and tolerance of one another’s differences. I think that’s a fantastic statistic and only likely to improve over time. I include myself in that 62%. In fact, it speaks rather loudly that this ordinance is unneeded and only is being presented to further the political agendas of certain members and entities here in Baton Rouge, one that doesn’t coexist with the real engines of economic growth here in Baton Rouge, ie the small and medium sized business owner. For the life of me, I don’t understand why BRAC specifically doesn’t take issue with some of the proposed language and its potential harm for business owners.

I recently challenged a friend at BRAC to provide ONE example where we missed out on a project because we don’t have a law similar to the one being proposed on the books. He couldn’t. But I bet we can all name several organically grown businesses here in Baton Rouge that are owned by members of the LGBT community, and they are thriving.

I do believe there are some substantial things that can be addressed to show that Baton Rouge is a tolerant community; a community that acknowledges our differences, similarities, uniqueness, and special God given gifts that bind us together to make BR a great place to live. But bringing forth additional burdensome laws ain’t my bag, baby. I’m for less government involvement in nearly every facet of our lives, especially when it comes to the bedroom, as witnessed by my support of repealing the archaic anti-sodomy laws still on the books.

I will absolutely sit down with any diverse group of stakeholders in this conversation and consider alternate proposals. As it is currently is written, I’m a firm no, as would most libertarian minded individuals be.

On a side note, I’m really looking forward to the day when we cast groups and labels aside and just be individuals. Those are the rights we should be protecting.”