New Metro Council meets today as fallout from catastrophes loom

The newly elected Metro Council has a routine agenda set for its first meeting today as it begins to work with Democratic Mayor Sharon Weston Broome.

And despite the agenda, both the council and Broome are immediately faced with sorting out Baton Rouge’s ongoing flood recovery and the potential fallout from the release of a U.S. Department of Justice report on the killing of Alton Sterling.

Three new members are on the council, with Matt Watson winning former Councilman Ryan Heck’s District 11 seat, Barbara Freiberg taking over John Delgado’s seat in District 12, and Dwight Hudson winning the seat Joel Boé held in District 9.

All of the new members are Republicans, who hold a 7-5 majority on the council, the same makeup as the last Metro Council.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson says the Republicans on the council do not have any major policy moves underway, adding his main focus is flood recovery. The state is currently working on its plan to spend $1.6 billion Congress allocated for flood aid, and officials expect work to begin rebuilding homes in the late spring.

“Flood recovery is gonna be huge, and not only in the next short months—that’s long term,” Wilson says, adding he is optimistic about the new council. “I think we’ll find a consensus where we can, and where we can’t, we’ll try to work together.”

Wilson notes his support for Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr., whom Broome has said she will replace. Wilson says the city-parish’s drop in homicides in 2016 is an extension of Dabadie’s policies at BRPD.

Councilman Buddy Amoroso also says recovery is the biggest issue facing the new council—not only from the floods, but from the tumultuous summer as well. After high-profile shootings by and of law enforcement officers in July, widespread flooding engulfed more than 4,000 of Amoroso’s constituents, along with tens of thousands of other homes and businesses.

Still, he doesn’t expect any fireworks from today’s council meeting.

“It’s probably gonna be a good agenda to get everyone broken in,” Amoroso says the meeting. “Not a lot of controversy.”

Amoroso expects working under Broome will be much different than working under former mayor Kip Holden, who was term-limited last year. Broome’s “style” is much different than Holden’s, he says, and the relationship between the council and mayor’s office will change.

“Kip was very personal, and when he communicated he was right in your face,” Amoroso says. “If you didn’t agree with him he would get mad and you would know it. I think (Broome) will be more professional. She’s such an excellent communicator. So I think the dynamic will be a lot different.”

—Sam Karlin

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