The Advocate Blog Network

Search
Banner image

Tyronn Thomas announces District 7 Metro Council run to advance North Baton Rouge

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Tyronn Thomas, who lives in north Baton Rouge, addressed the Metro Council in January 2016 asking for consideration for north Baton Rouge economic development.  Thomas said he will run for Metro Council later this year.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Tyronn Thomas, who lives in north Baton Rouge, addressed the Metro Council in January 2016 asking for consideration for north Baton Rouge economic development. Thomas said he will run for Metro Council later this year.

Tyronn Thomas, who has slammed local leaders for their lack of interest in north Baton Rouge, has announced that he will run for the District 7 Metro Council seat in the fall of 2016.

The seat was occupied by C. Denise Marcelle until she was elected to the Louisiana Legislature this fall. The Metro Council appointed former local NAACP chapter leader LaMont Cole in her seat until next fall’s elections.

“I represent the taxpayers and the public right now is dependent on me to move north Baton Rouge forward,” Thomas said about his intentions to run for the seat.

Thomas has been an outspoken critic of the Metro Council members who currently represent north Baton Rouge, and has praised south Baton Rouge councilman John Delgado for trying to bring an economic development district to the north.

“The mayor don’t give a damn about us,” Thomas said.

He has also criticized the city-parish’s recreation and parks system for closing the Howell Park golf course and demolishing the Gus Young Swimming Pool, both of which are in north Baton Rouge.

The golf course will remain open until BREC builds new amenities at Howell Park that will replace it. Controversy over the pool’s demolition led to a coalition of local leaders and residents calling for a public-private partnership to rebuild a new Gus Young Swimming Pool.

Thomas said his complaints about north Baton Rouge go back to pre-Hurricane Katrina days, but he has not been met with results.

MORE COVERAGE:

Metro Council appoints Cole, Green to serve year remaining on terms of two departing council members

BREC approves compromise on historic Gus Young Pool — volunteers will raise funds to build a new pool

BREC approves closing Howell Park Golf Course, replacing it with lake, boathouse, fields

Antoine Pierce makes early announcement for Metro Council District 8 candidacy

Antoine Pierce has announced that he will run for the Metro Council's District 8 seat, which is currently filled by Buddy Amoroso. Amoroso is also seeking re-election. Photo from Antoine Pierce campaign website.

Antoine Pierce has announced that he will run for the Metro Council’s District 8 seat, which is currently filled by Buddy Amoroso. Amoroso is also seeking re-election. Photo from Antoine Pierce campaign website.

Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso has already drawn a challenger many months before the November 2016 Metro Council elections.

Antoine Pierce, a democrat, has announced that he will run for Amoroso’s council seat next fall. Pierce unsuccessfully ran to be a state representative for the Louisiana Legislature’s 66th district in the fall of 2015.

Amoroso, a Republican, said in December that he enjoyed his work as a public servant and that he would run again for his seat representing southeast Baton Rouge. He was elected to his seat without opposition in 2012.

Pierce describes himself as a registered agent who works a liaison between businesses and the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. He said he is supporter of the arts and is a musician, writer and actor.

“I don’t view Baton Rouge in terms of your district or my district, your neighborhood or my neighborhood,” Pierce said in a news release. “I view Baton Rouge as our city, our community, our home.”

Amoroso and Pierce differ based on more than just party lines.

Pierce is campaigning on his support for a government ordinance that would prevent discrimination against people regardless of sexual orientation. The Metro Council voted against a similar ordinance in 2014 that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Amoroso was a vocal denouncer of the so-called “fairness ordinance.” He said he was worried after reading reports from around the country about Christian business owners running into legal trouble when they denied wedding cakes, photos and more to gay couples looking to wed.

“It’s a violation of religious liberties,” Amoroso said at the time.

Pierce listed his other priorities as reducing crime, fixing inequality throughout the city-parish, finding new ways to address traffic problems and adding environmentally friendly initiatives to Baton Rouge. He considers himself pro-Second Amendment, pro-limited government and pro-free market.

He said he backs the campaign to make Baton Rouge bars and casinos smoke free, which Amoroso has not taken a concrete position on yet.

MORE COVERAGE:

Baton Rouge traffic problems, education, state budget key issues in five-candidate race for House District 66 seat

Baton Rouge councilman Buddy Amoroso stands behind Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, controversial ‘The Response’ prayer rally

St. George proponent Buddy Amoroso begins campaign for seat in Louisiana’s House of Representative

Airport director: ‘We all know we want Southwest Airlines,’ but airport also seeks business development

The Baton Rouge Airport continues to hunt for economic development opportunities despite difficulty luring new airlines. Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG.

The Baton Rouge Airport continues to hunt for economic development opportunities despite difficulty luring new airlines. Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG.

The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport director said this week that the airport wants to become a hotbed for economic development in the wake of difficulty recruiting airlines and adding flights.

“We all know we want Southwest Airlines, we want direct nonstop service to every community, so does every other airport in the United States,” said Airport Director Anthony Marino. “That doesn’t mean that the airport doesn’t have an impact.”

Marino cited a study from November that said the airport had $1.1 billion in economic output in Baton Rouge. That statistic is being highlighted in new television and radio advertisements that encourage people to fly out of Baton Rouge.

Within the airport itself, airport officials have recently increased WiFi speeds to make it friendlier to business travelers.

And on airport property, Marino said he continues to eye development opportunities in aviation business park, where the Coca Cola bottling plant and All Star Chevrolet North are among some of the tenants.

“It’s not only new airline service, we have 2,500 acres of land,” Marino said.

Plans are in the works to build an access road to make the aviation park businesses north of the airport more accessible. The road would serve properties south of Blount Road.

Marino said the airport is ready to go to the final design phase for the road, and the Airport Commission approved a $210,649 contract this week for the designs.

“Having that road makes that site even more attractive,” said Airport Commission Chairman Jared Smith.

MORE COVERAGE:

Baton Rouge airport sees flight decline, but not as bad as other airports

Study: Baton Rouge airport loses huge chunk of passengers to other airports, mainly New Orleans

Baton Rouge airport IDs No. 1 priority as master planning is set to begin

Downtown Baton Rouge receiving plethora of bike racks this week

Bike Baton Rouge safety advocate Mika Torkkola, fifth from left, leads cyclists up a hill on Myrtle Walk Street Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Downtown Baton Rouge will receive a plethora of bike racks this week. Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING.

Bike Baton Rouge safety advocate Mika Torkkola, fifth from left, leads cyclists up a hill on Myrtle Walk Street Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Downtown Baton Rouge will receive a plethora of bike racks this week. Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING.

People riding their bikes through downtown should not have to spend too much time trying to find a place to park their pedals by the end of the week.

Downtown Baton Rouge is about to receive more than 70 bike racks, with a contractor installing most of them this week.

The racks will be sprinkled throughout downtown, with groupings of them on street corners, sidewalks and even on the Mississippi Riverfront once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves them.

The bike rack additions come as part of a partnership between the Capital Region Planning Commission and the Downtown Development District. The money for the bike racks came through the partnership and from a grant.

The following downtown locations are receiving bike racks:

Coming this week:

-150 Third Street (three racks)

-200 Third Street (three racks)

-236 Third Street (three racks)

-260 Third Street (three racks)

-320 Third Street (three racks)

-358 Third Street (three racks)

-440 Third Street (three racks)

-531 Third Street (three racks)

-333 Laurel Street (nine racks)

-427 Laurel Street (six racks)

-301 Main Street (six racks)

-222 St. Louis Street (six racks)

Coming later:

-Riverfront Plaza & River Road at the Levee (nine racks)

-Florida & River Road at the Levee (three racks)

-South Blvd. & River Road at the  Levee (nine racks)

MORE COVERAGE:

As many push for more Baton Rouge bike lanes, a tense debate as one neighborhood tries to eliminate them

Consultant envisions high-tech parking meters as one way to finance improved downtown parking in Baton Rouge

Report sees potential for Baton Rouge bike-sharing program, but also obstacles

After cuts, CATS launching service improvements for most popular routes

The Capital Area Transit System is launching service improvements to eight of its most popular routes, including extended hours and higher frequency, beginning Sunday.

The changes are being made available because of the elimination of two routes late last year. The two routes that were cut were the O’Neal Park and Ride Route and the Mall of Louisiana to downtown Baton Rouge route.

The two routes were cut because they were not attracting enough riders.

“Adding additional capacity to some of our most-used routes will allow us to better serve our customers,” said CATS CEO Bob Mirabito. “We know, based on their responses to customer satisfaction surveys, that timeliness of buses is one of their top concerns. These new enhancements will help improve that.”

These are the affected routes, according to a CATS press release:

  • IMPROVING PERFORMANCE: CATS will improve service on key routes by adding either additional bus hours or buses. These routes include:
    • Route 12– Government Street/Jefferson Highway,
    • Route 17– Perkins Road/Mall of Louisiana,
    • Route 47– Highland Road., and
    • Route 54– Airline Highway North/Southern University.
  • ENHANCING SERVICE: Expanding the hours of the Downtown Airport Express from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., which will allow it to be more useful both to employees who work near the airport and as well as business travelers. The route currently runs from 7:15 a.m. to 6:10 p.m.

OTHER SERVICE ENHANCEMENTS

When these enhancements are implemented, CATS also will be improving service on several routes through re-routing and other efficiencies:

  • Route 16– Capitol Park Shuttle: Improve bus frequency by 10 minutes to every 30 minutes
  • Route 18– LSU/Cortana Mall: Minor schedule changes.
  • Route 44– Florida Boulevard: Route change to shorten trip times.
  • Route 72– Florida Boulevard Limited: Route change to shorten trip times.

Amie McNaylor, CATS spokeswoman, said that despite reports about potentially cutting the Garden District Trolley because of low ridership, no changes would occur until September 2016 at the earliest. CATS is planning to unveil marketing to boost the trolley soon, she said.

“We will absolutely be focusing on getting more riders for the trolley as opposed to looking at cutting it for now,” she said.

MORE COVERAGE:

– CATS proposes cutting two routes aimed at ‘riders of choice’

BREC selling off land on Jean Lafitte Ave. that never became park

BREC is allowing the public to bid on land at 628 Jean Lafitte Avenue, which is a mile away from the Highland Road Community Park shown in this photo. Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR.

BREC is allowing the public to bid on land at 628 Jean Lafitte Avenue, which is a mile away from the Highland Road Community Park shown in this photo. Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR.

The Baton Rouge recreation and parks system is trying to cut down on its non-park land.

BREC is accepting sealed bids for 2.26 acres of land at 628 Jean Lafitte Avenue off Highland Road. The lowest bid that will be accepted is $425,000, based on an appraisal from  the Latter and Blum Real Estate Agency.

The land parcel was thought to eventually become a park when it was donated more than 20 years ago, but BREC said those plans never materialized because nearby neighbors were not interested. The land is also only a mile down the road from the Highland Road Community Park.

BREC officials say selling off land that is not being used for parks will give the agency more money to infuse into the parks that already exist and that people use. It has classified 20 of its properties obsolete, and BREC owns more than 180 parks.

“They all must be maintained at a high level whether they are being used as park land or not,” said BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight in a statement.

The original donor of the Lafitte Hills property that BREC is trying to sell will get to choose which park in the system will be enhanced via the proceeds from the sale.

People can bid on the land until 2 p.m. on February 15, and they can fill out bid documents either at BREC’s purchasing department at 6201 Florida Blvd or at Latter and Blum’s offices at 10455 Jefferson Highway, Suite 200.

MORE COVERAGE:

Not needing voter OK, BREC panel moves to allow property taxes to rise for park maintenance

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

BREC stocks ponds with rainbow trout to delight of local anglers

Baton Rouge Police switching body camera vendor to TASER

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --BRPD Cpl. Larry Walters, right, wearing a body camera, talks with barber Lenny Davis, left at Webb's Barber Shop.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS –BRPD Cpl. Larry Walters, right, wearing a body camera, talks with barber Lenny Davis, left at Webb’s Barber Shop.

After wearing them for a few months as part of a pilot program, the Baton Rouge Police Department is scrapping its L-3 body cameras and replacing them with body cameras from TASER.

BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie told the Metro Council on Wednesday that officers were having trouble keeping the L-3 body cameras on their uniforms and that they had some technical glitches. The 100 officers participating in the body camera pilot program will be re-outfitted with the TASER variety come February 1.

State Rep. and former councilwoman Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, said BRPD does not have the money to buy the cameras and data storage for all of its 400 uniform patrol officers yet. But she said TASER gave BRPD the batch of 100 cameras for free to test out.

In switching cameras, new conversations and debates have arisen about video storage. The TASER body cameras use a cloud-based storage system, where videos are automatically uploaded to a virtual space rather than downloaded to a computer server.

Dabadie said it’s opened up questions about officers being able to access and edit their videos, and the controls placed on the footage once it’s in the cloud.

A body camera committee that Marcelle leads has already grappled with questions about officers accessing their own videos. They have also considered how to treat body camera footage in the scope of Louisiana’s public records laws.

“We’ve had some lively conversations about whether officers should view videos prior to writing reports,” Dabadie told the council.

TASER also outfits the New Orleans Police Department with their body cameras. NOPD has $2.7 million budgeted over five years for 620 cameras and the software that goes with them.

MORE COVERAGE:

Should Baton Rouge police officers be able to view body camera footage before writing incident reports?

Baton Rouge launching pilot program that places body cameras on officers in the high-crime First District

Metro Council rejects mandating body cameras during emotional debate about race and police

Mayor Kip Holden touts he spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary about same interstate issue he told Obama about

obama

Mayor President Kip Holden isn’t done reminding people about his conversation with President Barack Obama about Baton Rouge traffic.

Holden, who is in Washington D.C. for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, issued a press release on Friday afternoon about another executive-level conversation he had about Baton Rouge infrastructure — this time with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The press release states that Holden met “privately” with Foxx to discuss “traffic initiatives for the Capital Region, including the widening of (interstate) 1-10 which he spoke with President Obama about during his recent visit to Baton Rouge.”

“We talked again about the congestion created by the interstate narrowing to one lane as traffic comes across the Mississippi River Bridge,” Holden said in the press release. “And the Secretary assured me he is looking into ways to help us particularly solve this problem.”

He said they also discussed other grant opportunities related to traffic projects, such as “a new Mississippi River Bridge crossing, gap funding for the Pecue Lane Interchange at I-10 and the Baton Rouge Streetcar project” which would run between downtown and LSU on Nicholson Drive.

Earlier this month, when Obama visited Baton Rouge, he rode from the airport with both newly elected Gov. John Bel Edwards and Holden.

After the visit, Edwards told a room of hundreds of business people at the annual Louisiana Association of Business and Industry luncheon, that he put a bug in the president’s ear about the bottlenecking on Interstate 10.

“He didn’t know that before, and had I not taken advantage of the opportunity, he wouldn’t have known it today,” Edwards said of the conversation.

Holden then approached media to inform them it was he who actually told Obama about the interstate problems and he didn’t know why Edwards took credit.

Holden said Obama backed his version when, during his visit to McKinley High School, he credited him with calling his attention to the issue.

Obama said, “I know that your mayor was talking about how the interstate here narrows, and we may need to do something about it to relieve some traffic.”

Both Edwards and Holden, who leaves office at the end of this year, are Democrats. Edwards has said he stands by his comments.

Edwards could have an opportunity to talk to Foxx about similar topics. He was scheduled to meet with Fox at 3 p.m. Friday to talk transportation issues, according to the public schedule the governor’s office provided for Edwards’ trip to Washington this week.

MORE COVERAGE:

Regardless of who briefed Obama on I-10 mess, even best scenarios put Baton Rouge traffic relief years away

Single-lane interstate? Obama gets peek at what many Baton Rouge drivers see daily, vows to help

 

Broome unveils website, social media for mayoral run

Former State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome is off to an early state in the 2016 East Baton Rouge mayoral race. Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG.

Former State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome is off to an early start in the 2016 East Baton Rouge mayoral race. Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG.

Former State Senator Sharon Weston Broome unveiled her mayoral campaign’s digital platforms on Wednesday as she digs in her heels for a race that will take place over the next year.

Broome was the first candidate to make it known that she would run for East Baton Rouge mayor-president, and since then, she has been joined in the mayoral race by Metro Councilman John Delgado and former councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois. Many prospective candidates have floated their names, including Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe and former Attorney General candidate Marty Maley.

In a statement, Broome said her new digital offerings will allow her to better communicate with voters.

Broome’s website lists crime, traffic, health care and education as the issues on her campaign platform. It also asks people to submit their top three issues for East Baton Rouge.

“As mayor-president, I will tackle head-on the issues of crime and traffic congestion that are holding us back,” Broome said.

Broome has represented north Baton Rouge in the Louisiana Legislature, which has recently become the subject of much debate over a lack of economic development in the area. In her statement, Broome said she realizes some people feel abandoned by the city and that she will take action to close gaps in the community, though she does not list the specific steps she would take.

Broome has secured consultants from Baton Rouge-based Ourso Beychok Inc. and Solid Ground Innovations as her campaign strategists.

MORE COVERAGE:

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

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

Kip Holden bashes Metro Council’s north Baton Rouge development proposals, reveals plans for final year as mayor

Airport officials unsure why Obama flew smaller plane to Baton Rouge

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Air Force One climbs from Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, leaving with President Barack Obama after his town hall meeting at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Obama flew in a smaller plane to Baton Rouge than the one he usually travels in.

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING — Air Force One climbs from Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, leaving with President Barack Obama after his town hall meeting at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Obama flew in a smaller plane to Baton Rouge than the one he usually travels in.

Baton Metropolitan Rouge airport officials said they are unsure why President Barack Obama did not fly in his usual Boeing 747 on his visit to Baton Rouge, but that it’s unrelated to the size of their runway.

Obama flew in and out of Baton Rouge on a modified Boeing 757, or C-32, which is smaller than his usual plane. Whichever plane the president is flying on is dubbed “Air Force One,” but the plane he flew to Baton Rouge is sometimes nicknamed “Air Force Two.”

At least one news outlet speculated that his change of planes could be related to the small size of the Baton Rouge airport. Obama flew into Omaha, Nebraska on his usual 747 and left there for Baton Rouge on the smaller plane.

But the larger Air Force One 747 has touched down at the Baton Rouge airport multiple times, carrying different presidents inside of it.

President Barack Obama waves goodbye after boarding Air Force One to depart Baton Rouge, La. for Washington, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Hilary Scheinuk)

President Barack Obama waves goodbye after boarding Air Force One to depart Baton Rouge, La. for Washington, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Hilary Scheinuk)

“Can the 747 fly here?” said Baton Rouge Airport Director Anthony Marino. “It’s done it six times.”

Marino recalled both former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton flying in the larger plane to the Baton Rouge airport. Despite runway upgrades since past presidential visits, Marino said the runway lengths have not changed.

The airport also fielded multiple questions about the change in planes on its Facebook page.

“Maybe they just wanted to switch it up,” airport officials joked about the reasoning behind the smaller plane.

MORE COVERAGE:

Obama entertains playful Baton Rouge crowd of 1,000 at McKinley — then stops at Poor Boy Lloyd’s

Oops! Video: President Obama says ‘thank you, New Orleans’ at end of Baton Rouge town hall event

LSU’s Ben Simmons gets shout-out from President Obama, calls experience ‘surreal’