As Louisianans begin to pivot from state to national elections in 2020, a national group of mayors is pushing candidates to support efforts to make improvements in four key areas: transportation, wastewater systems, clean energy technology and digital government.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome (pictured, left), a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, who is highlighting these issues, will be facing an election bid herself in the latter part of 2020. Her staff says the city is progressing in most of these areas but is behind in clean energy technology due to lack of resident demand.
Rowdy Gaudet, assistant chief administrative officer for Broome, says moving into the fourth year of her term, major transportation initiatives have begun, shovels are in the ground, and traffic cones are popping up all over town. The Government Street road diet plan will dramatically change the traffic flow along one of the city’s main thoroughfares, a plan that’s largely in line with national transportation trends.
The “complete streets” philosophy centers around converting secluded subdivisions into larger interconnected neighborhoods that welcome micro-mobility—scooters, bikes and pedestrians. Organized rollouts of electric scooters, the latest trendy micro-mode of mobility, could come in early 2020, Gaudet says. The $1 billion bond issue for the MovEBR road improvement program has also been hailed as a major success for the city-parish.
While clean energy tech is sweeping the nation in popularity, it has gained far less ground locally. From a development perspective, there’s a growing desire for energy-efficiency and an embracement of green tech, but not on the larger scale seen in many major U.S. cities. The demand from residents to move into clean energy is just not there, Gaudet says. And the city is far off from creating a list of clean energy ordinances or laws—not surprising in a deeply industrial state whose economy relies heavily on traditional energy producers.
Although improvements came by order of a 2002 consent decree, Baton Rouge has just finished upgrading its wastewater system, putting it further ahead on the progress scale than many other major cities. Baton Rouge will still be under the federal thumb for at least another 10 years to ensure compliance with the order. But the consent decree has led to the modernization of wastewater operations. Case in point is the pending move of the East Baton Rouge Sewerage Commission’s environmental services department to a new facility on Florida Boulevard.
The fourth area, digital government, has been expanding in the city for a number of years. The city boasts a brand new website, an online open checkbook accountability system and a growing cybersecurity program now wrapped in with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.