In her annual State of the City address today to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome offered an upbeat assessment of her administration’s accomplishments over the past year that included identifying $7 million in savings in city government, initiatives to make Baton Rouge healthier and investments in underserved communities.
She also spoke of a “thriving Mid City,” transformative projects under way in north Baton Rouge—namely the development of bus rapid transit along Plank Road and the Choice Neighborhoods grant in and around Ardendale—and hinted that an announcement about a new grocery store in north Baton Rouge will come in 2020.
Broome spoke to the need for investment in north Baton Rouge and says she has been intentional in targeting “pockets of disinvestment” like Plank Road.
“People say all the mayor cares about is north Baton Rouge,” she said. “I care about every ZIP code but we can’t ignore areas of disinvestment. When we lift them up, we lift up our whole city.”
Broome also alluded to a “major announcement” that will be coming soon about the redevelopment of a vacant storefront at the intersection of Florida Boulevard and N. Acadian Thruway across from Baton Rouge General.
Broome touted the project as a win for her administration and a boon for the blighted Florida Boulevard corridor.
Though the mayor declined to provide details, Daily Report has confirmed the project will be a car wash and detailing business owned by Melvin Hardnett, who also owns and operates a small chauffeur business.
As for Baton Rouge’s challenges, Broome spoke briefly about the city’s crime rate. While homicides in Baton Rouge decreased to 76 in 2019 from 91 in 2018, Broome says the number is still too high and that reducing it further will be a priority in 2020.
“Chief Paul and the great men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department have developed a comprehensive, preventive strategy,” that will continue to utilize community policing but also focus on intensifying efforts to “identify, dismantle and disrupt” the drug organizations responsible for much of the criminal activity.
Broome did not mention the city of St. George incorporation in her speech, but she did field a question from a member of the audience about why she is challenging the effort in court.
“When I ran for mayor, I committed to the citizens of this parish that I would work tirelessly to keep our community together,” she said. “We cannot run away from one another. We are in this together.”
When the questioner persisted about respecting the will of St. George voters, Broome cut him off.
“We aren’t going to debate this,” she said. “But I cannot tell you how many citizens are concerned they did not have a right to exercise their vote on such a significant issue.”