With 2016 drawing to a close, Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel says we can say goodbye to “one of the more difficult and divisive years in recent memory.” But don’t expect 2017 to be much better on the local or national level, she says in her latest column.
“Like our country, which remains fractured over Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Baton Rouge is as divided as ever,” Riegel writes. “Just hours after Mayor-elect Sharon Weston Broome’s Dec. 10 victory in the runoff election, organizers of the St. George incorporation effort were preparing for their second crack at creating a separate city in the unincorporated southeastern portion of the parish.”
Immediately after the election results were announced on election night, Riegel notes, a new “Coming Soon” icon was posted on the Facebook page for St. George, Louisiana, to which one follower responded: “If the political class of EBR try more illegal tactics, revolt. Stop collecting and submitting taxes. Swarm every council meeting. Overwhelm the mayors office (sic) and city hall. Choke the lot of them.”
“It’s not entirely clear why Broome—who campaigned as a moderate and has yet to unveil any sort of evil, big government program, or announce a plan for a tax increase—would, by virtue of her victory, be such a catalyst for immediately inciting the torch-and-pitchfork crowd,” Riegel writes. “Is it because she is a Democrat, a woman or because she is black? Sadly, it’s likely all three. But whatever the reason, it’s apparent there won’t be a honeymoon at City Hall and her detractors aren’t even willing to give her a chance.”
Prospects for a harmonious Metro Council aren’t looking much better, Riegel says.
“As it has been for the past several years, the newly elected council is racially and politically divided almost evenly, with seven white Republicans and five black Democrats,” she writes. “Before the new body had even taken office, three of the veteran council members—Chandler Loupe, Donna Collins-Lewis and Tara Wicker—were jockeying for the position of mayor pro tem in a battle that will likely be fought along racial lines.”
But it’s not just race that tears this community apart, Riegel says.
“Quite the contrary. Here, as in so much of the country, there is a split between the perceived elite and the self-proclaimed little guy,” she writes.