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Baton Rouge mayoral candidates address traffic, public safety and flood recovery during forum

Five candidates running for Baton Rouge mayor tackled traffic, public safety, education and flood recovery topics during a forum hosted today by several architecture, engineering and construction groups.

The candidates discussed their vision for the parish, with some laying out specific plans or programs to support and, of course, reiterated their campaign platforms during the forum that took place at Drusilla Seafood.

“The mayor has to bring people together,” said Darryl Gissel, a realtor and former head of the state Republican party who is running as an independent. Asked how he plans to unite the parish, Gissel said it’s not that difficult: learn to work with the Metro Council.

Every section of the parish has felt at some point that it hasn’t been well served, Gissel said. The divides are visible, and they affect every issue the parish encounters, he said.

State Sen. Mack “Bodi” White focused on flood recovery efforts as he addressed the crowd. It’s difficult to get federal attention, White said, but the parish must have the help of Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency if it hopes to recover.

White, a Republican, also touched on education, an issue he’s passionate about. He mentioned the high rate of males in East Baton Rouge Parish who don’t graduate high school. Along with flood recovery, White said, his top issues would be education, transportation and crime.

“This mayor’s race is a very important turning point in the parish and city of Baton Rouge,” White said.

Metro Councilman John Delgado also touted a message of uniting Baton Rouge. Delgado, a Republican, laid out some specific plans for public safety, traffic and education.

He said he would increase the number of law enforcement officers and give them the tools they need to protect the parish. Delgado supports the city-parish’s Green Light Plan for road improvements, and for alternatives to interstate travel, he supports the BUMP plan, a northern loop and a southern bypass down Nicholson Drive. Delgado also advocated for the council and mayor to have more of a role in creating a stronger education system.

“For too long, it’s been someone else’s job,” he said.

Greg LaFleur, a Democrat and former LSU and NFL player, shared his past job experiences as an athletic director at colleges such as Texas State University and Southern University. He also worked for a while at the Baton Rouge Marine Institute and said he would implement some of its program in parish schools.

LaFleur also addressed his arrest in Houston for allegedly soliciting a prostitute. He was later acquitted of that charge. He related his run-in with police to the Alton Sterling shooting and explained how having one bad officer can lead to problems. LaFleur also listed his top concerns as traffic, jobs and education.

Former Metro Councilman Smokie Bourgeois, a Republican, discussed traffic issues, saying that he would implement a rapid response motorcycle team to tend to wrecks, and he criticized the money spent on the oft-maligned Capital Area Transit System.

After candidates addressed the audience, they were assigned to separate tables, each with their own moderator, to answer 17 questions prepared beforehand by the organizations hosting the event. The organizations included local chapters of Louisiana Engineering Society, the American Institute of Architects, Louisiana Associated General Contractors, American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Council of Engineering Companies and American Society of Civil Engineers.

Seven candidates did not attend the forum: former state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, Beverly “B.J.” Amador, Braylon Hyde, Rufus Craig, Byron Sharper and Cade Williams.

—Annie Ourso

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