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City-Parish introduces new 3-1-1 app

The Baton Rouge city-parish government has released a new app to allow residents to report issues and request services from their smart phones.

Red Stick 311 uses geolocation services to alert crews to the exact spot where a pothole may need to be filled or a traffic sign may need to be replaced, according to a Wednesday news release.

After making a report, users can follow the progress on their complaint using the app. Residents can still call 3-1-1 to speak with dispatchers, but city-parish officials are urging the use of the new technology because it can show the precise location and allow complainants to send photos of the problem that needs to be addressed.

The app also allows the city-parish to share general announcements and information on traffic and emergencies.

Baton Rouge 311 is available on Apple and Android devices. More information, including download instructions, is at 311.brla.gov/.

State Sen. Bodi White says he will not make decision on running for mayor until after special session

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- State Sen. Mack 'Bodi' White Jr., R-Central, speaks to members of the Senate Finance Committee on his bill, Senate Bill 199, on Monday, April 29, 2013, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. White may run for mayor in 2016.

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON — State Sen. Mack ‘Bodi’ White Jr., R-Central, speaks to members of the Senate Finance Committee on his bill, Senate Bill 199, on Monday, April 29, 2013, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. White may run for mayor in 2016.

State Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central, is mulling a mayoral run but said Tuesday that he will likely not make a decision until after the legislature’s special session finishes on March 9.

White said he has been approached by many people over the past year who have asked him to consider running for mayor. He said he will weigh the decision with his family and close friends and that he should have an answer a few weeks after the special session ends.

“There’s a lot of people that want somebody in the race that is conservative and that brings those points of view,” White said.

The East Baton Rouge current mayoral candidates are democratic former State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome and progressive republican Metro Councilman John Delgado.

White represents the Central in the Louisiana Legislature. He has a lengthy history in politics, and he was first elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2003.

“I’ve lived in this parish for almost 60 years and I know the parish very well and I know some of the problems we’ve always had,” White said.

White easily listed off education, crime and infrastructure as the three topics of most concern to people in the city-parish. He said improving schools and K-12 education in particular is a major concern of his constituency.

White added that the St. George movement sprung out of dissatisfaction with public schools, and he said the frustration with them must be addressed.

“That’s monumental to help keep the middle income people in this parish,” White said.

MORE COVERAGE:

Broome, Delgado have similar amounts in campaign accounts as they gear up for this fall’s Baton Rouge mayoral race

Metro Councilman John Delgado makes it official; he’s planning to run for mayor-president to succeed Holden

Sharon Weston Broome off to early start in 2016 Baton Rouge mayoral race as others have yet to declare

Chandler Loupe will not run for mayor, will seek another term on Metro Council

Metro Council Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe will seek another term as a councilman rather than running for mayor-president. ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO.

Metro Council Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe will seek another term as a councilman rather than running for mayor-president. ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO.

The Metro Council’s lead councilman — Mayor Pro Tempore Chandler Loupe — announced Monday that he will not run for mayor-president but seek another term on the Metro Council instead.

Loupe, a lawyer, said in January that he was 75 percent sure he would make a mayoral run. He said he was setting up an exploratory committee to determine his success as a mayoral candidate.

“While the opportunity of serving the entire parish as mayor president, and the outpouring of support to do so was sincerely a blessing, ‘sometimes we must find our happiness where we are,'” Loupe said. He said he made the decision with his wife and three sons.

Loupe will be running again to represent district three, the southernmost portion of the city-parish. He supported efforts to have residents vote on whether they could create a separate city, St. George, in the southeastern part of the parish.

He has been one of the more quiet council members in the past year, but was previously a loud voice on contentious issues.

As a freshman council member, Loupe often clashed with Mayor-President Kip Holden on the city-parish’s budget. And in 2014, Loupe led the firing of former Parish Attorney Mary Roper after claims of mismanagement in her office.

Loupe has also pushed for the addition of sidewalks to the low-income Gardere neighborhood in his district. The Metro Council allocated nearly $1.3 million toward the project a year ago, though construction has not started yet.

“Having the opportunity to serve the families I have been blessed to help and the opportunity to finish projects I have started with the opportunity to serve an additional four years is where my happiness lies,” Loupe said.

MORE COVERAGE:

Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe eyeing possible run for mayor-president

Chandler Loupe’s journey for his son’s sake

Construction on Gardere Lane sidewalks, bike lanes to begin within two years

‘Walk with a doc’ coming to Baton Rouge parks

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Bryson Agnew and Jodi Faught walk "Cooper," a black lab mix at BREC's Perkins Road Park while taking advantage of warmer weather in 2014. A "walk with a doc" program will kick off on March 5, 2016 at the Perkins Road Community Park. A doctor will lead a group of walkers while dispensing medical advice.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Bryson Agnew and Jodi Faught walk “Cooper,” a black lab mix at BREC’s Perkins Road Park while taking advantage of warmer weather in 2014. A “walk with a doc” program will kick off on March 5, 2016 at the Perkins Road Community Park. A doctor will lead a group of walkers while dispensing medical advice.

A program that encourages walking while talking is coming to Baton Rouge.

“Walk with a doc” will have Baton Rouge doctors leading walks through BREC parks as they promote the benefits of walking and exercise. The people who show up to take a free walk with the doctors will be able to chat with them and receive medical advice as they do so.

The first of the walks will be at 9 a.m. on March 5 at the Perkins Road Community Park. The walks will continue throughout the year and they will take place at other parks across the city-parish.

“What I love about this program, is that doctors across our community are not just encouraging their patients to get out and exercise, they will be leading the way and providing and educational experience as well,” said BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight in a statement.

People can register for next Saturday’s walk at the Louisiana State Medical Society’s website.

MORE COVERAGE:

BREC naturalist shares love of nature on ‘Woods Walk’ excursions

Optimism and enthusiasm for new BREC trails

Keep it clean: BREC officials hold the line on vandalism, say Perkins Road skate park won’t reopen until someone removes graffiti‘

Library visitors, checkouts, downloads all increased in 2015

The East Baton Rouge Parish library system saw more visitors and more checkouts in 2015 when compared to the previous year. Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS.

The East Baton Rouge Parish library system saw more visitors and more checkouts in 2015 when compared to the previous year. Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS.

The city-parish’s library system released an annual report Wednesday that says all of the library’s measures of success — like the number of visitors, checkouts and downloads — increased between 2014 and 2015.

The system’s 14 libraries saw 2.3 million visitors who checked out 2.8 million items during 2015.

Visitors were up by 4 percent from 2014, and checkouts including print and digital material were up by 7.7 percent.

Library users became much more digitally connected to the libraries in the past year.

Logins to the library’s digital network soared by 54 percent, usage of the library’s digital databases climbed by 52 percent and downloading the library’s e-offerings jumped by 32 percent.

“These statistics reflect that we a have a population that makes good use of the library and the opportunities it presents,” said Library Director Spencer Watts in a news release. “We’ve listened to what people have asked for and they have responded to the new services and new spaces with enthusiasm. We will keep working hard to improve, by offering better collections and better services in better designed spaces.”

The annual report also notes that demand for meeting rooms and group study rooms exceeded expectations. Meeting rooms were used more than 6,600 times in 2015 and more than 32,000 visitors used collaborative study rooms at the Main and Fairwood Branch libraries.

The library system is planning to tear down and rebuild the downtown River Center Branch Library this year into the “library of the future.” Library Board members are also scouting sites for a south branch library as they prepare to start renovations to the Jones Creek and Greenwell Springs Regional Branch libraries.

MORE COVERAGE:

New, modern teen room opens at Bluebonnet Branch library; it’s just one of the changes as renovations begin at parish branch libraries

East Baton Rouge Parish library tax approved by voters; money likely going to ambitious improvements

EBR library system earns five-star rating

Sarah Holliday-James contemplates mayoral run, blames current leadership for problems in north Baton Rouge

Former Planning Commissioner Sarah Holliday-James is considering running for mayor-president in 2016.

Former Planning Commissioner Sarah Holliday-James is considering running for mayor-president in 2016.

Sarah Holliday-James — who has already sparred with one mayoral candidate — is considering a mayoral run herself, she announced on Monday.

Holliday-James, a republican, is a former city-parish planning commissioner. She lost a bid to be the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court in the fall of 2015, and has also ran unsuccessfully for an East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council seat in 2004 and 2008, the state House of Representatives in 2007 and 2011, and the Louisiana Public Service Commission in 2012.

“It is time for leadership that will actually put words into actions to get things moving, instead of telling us about 20 years of being an elected official that did absolutely nothing but watch their community decline for their own political gain,” Holliday-James said in a statement about forming an exploratory committee to run for mayor-president.

She called out mayoral candidate Sharon Weston Broome and Louisiana State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, at a north Baton Rouge town hall meeting on Feb. 18.

“What do you think that the leadership you have provided contributed to North Baton Rouge looking as impoverished as it looks?” she asked the two longtime state legislators.

Broome listed some of what she has done for north Baton Rouge — like securing funding for BREC’s Anna T. Jordan Community Park. Broome then countered by saying she had four community meetings a year as state senator and she did not recall seeing Holliday-James at any of them.

“I’m just being transparent like she was transparent,” Broome said.

The next day, Holliday-James sent out a photo of herself that she said was at one of Broome’s meetings, and she called on Broome to apologize.

Holliday-James also stirred the pot during her unsuccessful run against East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court Doug Welborn. She requested credit card statements from Welborn’s office and she provided them to The Advocate.

The Advocate independently requested the credit card statements and confirmed that Welborn’s office spent $93,000 on government credit cards since 2011. An audit released Feb. 15 concluded Welborn’s office spent $102 in public funds a day on going out to eat in 2015 while the Clerk of Court’s office was running a deficit.

Welborn is being investigated by the the Inspector General’s Office, according to the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Holliday-James said public officials need to be accountable for their actions and that she’s tired of broken promises.

MORE COVERAGE:

Clerk of Court Doug Welborn faces lone challenger on Oct. 24 ballot

Baton Rouge Zoo, health care access among hot topics at testy north Baton Rouge town hall

$188 at Stroubes, $177 at Twin Peaks, casino hotel rooms: records detail Clerk’s Office spending on meals, wheelbarrows, more

Baton Rouge hospitals join push to ban smoking in casinos, bars

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- A bar patrons smokes while enjoying a beer, Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at Phil Brady's Bar & Grill on Government Street in Baton Rouge, La. Area hospitals have joined a movement to ban smoking in bars and casinos.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK — A bar patrons smokes while enjoying a beer, Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at Phil Brady’s Bar & Grill on Government Street in Baton Rouge, La. Area hospitals have joined a movement to ban smoking in bars and casinos.

A movement to ban smoking in Baton Rouge’s casinos and bars has gained favor with the city-parish’s healthcare community.

The hospital leaders who have pledged their support for an upcoming ordinance to ban smoking in casinos and bars are from Our Lady of the Lake, Lane Regional Medical Center, Woman’s Hospital, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Ochsner Health System and Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

“We see the devastating effects of second hand smoke on our citizens every day,” reads a news release signed by the six hospital heads. “We share in the heartache, the suffering and the expense of treating the illnesses directly related to smoking.”

The smoke-free campaign has been underway since the end of January, when a coalition of doctors, public health officials, musicians and others launched a smoke-free Baton Rouge initiative.

Councilwomen Tara Wicker and Chauna Banks-Daniel said they plan to bring an ordinance to the Metro Council to ban smoking in all workplaces once the campaign raises more awareness.

On Thursday night, advocates of Smoke Free Baton Rouge pushed their position at a north Baton Rouge town hall meeting.

“It’s just so harmful…you don’t know the effects, when you start feeling the effects you can’t get another job,” said former casino worker Tiawan Thompson.

Baton Rouge’s casino managers have said they will not respond to the smoke-free campaign until an official ordinance is brought to the Metro Council.

MORE COVERAGE:

Group pushing bar, casino smoking ban in East Baton Rouge includes doctors, musicians, public officials

Metro Council members begin to weigh proposed smoking ban for bars and casinos

Baton Rouge Zoo, health care access among hot topics at testy north Baton Rouge town hall

Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, to celebrate Black History Month Friday in Baton Rouge

This Feb. 9, 1965, file photo, shows activist Malcolm X at London Airport. His daughter will celebrate Black History Month on Friday, February 19 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. AP PHOTO.

This Feb. 9, 1965, file photo, shows activist Malcolm X at London Airport. His daughter will celebrate Black History Month on Friday, February 19 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. AP PHOTO.

The daughter of activist Malcolm X will speak Friday at BREC’s Independence Park Theatre during a Black History Month celebration.

Ilyasah Shabazz, who wrote the memoir “Growing Up X,” is one of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz’s six children. She travels nationally and internationally with youth empowerment programs and humanitarian delegations to carry on her family legacy.

Her father once famously said, “a man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

The Black History Month program will feature an interview with Shabazz, along with musical and theatrical performances.

“We hope that by offering programs like this, we can honor those who played such important roles in the Civil Rights movement while reflecting on the progress that has been made over the past few decades,” said BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight in a statement.

Shabazz was just two years old when her father was assassinated in 1965 in Manhattan, and her family was present when he was killed. She is a devout Muslim.

The Black History Month celebration will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Friday at 7800 Independence Boulevard. It’s free and open to the public.

MORE COVERAGE:

Staging of Malcolm X’s life examines complex personality from many sides

Baton Rouge bus boycott that provided template for civil rights protests memorialized at McKinley Alumni Center

Magnolia Mound presents annual black history event

Former PAR leader Jim Brandt named CATS board president

Jim Brandt, former president of the Public Affairs Research Council, is the new president of the Capital Area Transit System Board.

Jim Brandt, former president of the Public Affairs Research Council, is the new president of the Capital Area Transit System Board.

Former Public Affairs Research Council president and longtime activist Jim Brandt became the new president of the Capital Area Transit System board on Tuesday.

Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis had been leading the board since February 2014. She will remain on the board though she will no longer be its leader.

She said at Tuesday’s CATS meeting that she’s certain Brandt is ready to step into the role.

Brandt runs a consulting firm and he was the president of PAR from 1999 to 2010. Before that, he led the Bureau of Governmental Research in New Orleans, adding to his resume of good government activism.

Brandt showered Collins-Lewis with compliments after being appointed to the leadership position.

“You have certainly guided us through some challenging issues,” he said, noting that Collins-Lewis has always been respectful and fair. “The good news for us is that you’re not going away.”

MORE COVERAGE:

Three years into CATS tax, bus service receives mixed grades — ‘A’ for trip times, ‘F’ for lack of signs

Struggling to attract ‘riders of choice,’ CATS proposes cutting O’Neal Park and Ride, Mall of Louisiana to downtown Baton Rouge routes

CATS to buy 8 new buses, to spend $50,000 for PR firm

LSU student eyes Metro Council run, wants to legalize marijuana

The Metro Council elections are coming up in the fall of 2016, and many people are already putting their names in the race. Advocate staff photo.

The Metro Council elections are coming up in the fall of 2016, and many people are already putting their names in the race. Advocate staff photo.

An 18-year-old LSU freshman wants to do more this year than make good grades and enjoy college — he wants to run for Metro Council, legalize marijuana and fast-track his political career.

Malcolm Dunn, from St. Charles Parish, was originally going to try to mount a run for mayor-president before he settled for the Metro Council District 5 seat. Erika Green temporarily stepped into the seat once councilwoman Ronnie Edwards was elected to the Louisiana Legislature in the fall of 2015.

Despite never having attended an East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting before, Dunn said he’s confident that he can pick it up quickly. And that confidence extends to his lofty ideas for the city-parish, because he said “it shouldn’t be too difficult to pave roads.”

As for how to pay for those road improvements, given the city-parish’s tight budget, Dunn said the money will be found.

“If you’re the capital city of Louisiana, there should be plenty of money to go around,” Dunn said.

Dunn is a marketing major, and he said he’s sure that legalizing marijuana would be popular among Baton Rougeans. He said upper-class people might be hesitant to acknowledge the benefits of legalizing the drug, but that middle-class and lower-class people would lobby for it.

“The majority of people realize weed, it’s just an herb, it doesn’t really do much,” Dunn said.

Dunn brushed off politicians who don’t “represent the real people,” and he said he wants to help people and that he has good ideas.

MORE COVERAGE:

Baton Rouge faces political shake-up with all 12 seats on Metro Council up for grabs this fall

Metro Council may consider bucking tradition in appointment of new council members, could look at outsider candidates

Supporters wanting to decriminalize marijuana meet at Louisiana State Capitol