Discussion on authority over Planning Commission continues Monday

    Monday’s Plan of Government committee meeting will give city-parish Planning Director Frank Duke the opportunity to respond to a Center for Planning Excellence presentation given at the committee’s last meeting.

    In its Feb. 18 presentation, CPEX revealed the results of its survey of 19 cities’ planning departments, ultimately urging the committee to recommend that the Metro Council form a group to study how the Planning Commission is organized and whether it should move from Metro Council authority to the mayor’s office—a best practice, they claim, in peer cities with similar populations.

    At the time, Duke expressed concerns with the possibility of his department moving under the executive branch, instead chalking up departmental problems to the inconsistencies between an outdated Unified Development Code and FuturEBR, among other issues.

    Duke confirms he will speak at Monday’s meeting, but declines to elaborate on what he might say.

    CPEX officials will also attend the meeting, though President and CEO Camille Manning-Broome says they will only be there as a resource to committee members with questions. She adds CPEX has had informal meetings with planning department officials and committee members since the last meeting.

    “The information we provided was not intended in any way to criticize the current work of the Planning Commission or its staff, but rather to call attention to the limitations of our current structures for planning,” says Manning-Broome, noting Baton Rouge’s planning department is severely underfunded compared to other cities.

    If the committee wants to bring the item—along with other suggested revisions to the Plan of Government—before voters during the October election, it must send its full report to the Metro Council, which in turn must approve the measure by May 8, says Metro Council Administrator Ashley Beck. Alternatively, a Metro Council member could introduce an agenda item recommending the formation of a study group.

    For the item to get on the November ballot, it would need to be approved by the Metro Council by Aug. 14.

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