When the Metro Council last week rejected putting Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s proposed 5-mill roads tax on the November ballot, those who voted against the measure said they were doing so because of overwhelming opposition from their constituents.
But political consultant Roy Fletcher believes the council’s action was as much a show of no confidence in the mayor as it was a vote against her proposed Better Transportation and Roads plan.
“You have to establish your running game before you start passing,” Fletcher says. “(Broome) hasn’t done that. She has to establish that she is trying to run the city, not run over it. But all this other stuff has happened and it has cost her credibility.”
Fletcher believes several missteps early in Broome’s administration are at the heart of the problem. She failed to speak out against the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, which narrowly won approval last year for a dedicated millage after engaging in questionable and unethical campaign tactics, and refused to take a position on calls for its longtime director to step down.
Then, the chief administrative officer she hired amidst much fanfare after a months-long search turned out to have falsified his resume. He resigned after five days on the job. More recently, her administration has come under fire for questionable contracts it awarded in the BRAVE violence elimination program.
“All this other stuff has occurred—with the COA, the CAO, BRAVE—and the first thing she does is ask for a tax increase,” Fletcher says. “There is some humility that is required when you’re running a city. You have to say, ‘hey folks, I made a mistake.’ That hasn’t happened.”
Granted, even in the best of circumstances getting Baton Rouge voters to pass a new tax will be an uphill battle. Voters last fall defeated former Mayor Kip Holden’s Green Light II plan as well as a dedicated tax to fund a mental health diversion center. Given the prevailing sentiment in the community against taxes of any sort, is there anything Broome can do?
Fletcher says yes.
“But it’s got to be done in a legitimate way and a credible way,” he says. “The administration and Metro Council have to be committed to letting people understand that they are really going to spend their money the way they say they will. They have to establish trust before they can do anything else.”