It is not unusual for mayors or governors to promote new public works projects their administrations worked hard to make happen, especially during an election year.
But signs that recently went up in parts of Baton Rouge touting various projects that are part of the massive $1 billion MovEBR road improvement program rubbed at least some Metro Council members wrong.
That’s because the signs appear to give almost sole credit for the program to Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, whose name is featured prominently across the middle of the sign in big, blue block letters.
A smaller blue banner underneath Broome’s name reads “ … and the EBR Metropolitan Council,” but does not list individual council members by name, as is customary on such signage.
The signs, which went up earlier this month on North Boulevard, did not go unnoticed by detractors of the mayor, who is up for reelection next week, or by Metro Council member Tara Wicker, who was running against Broome before being disqualified in a court challenge filed by Broome supporters.
Wicker says she sent a text message to her fellow council members, complaining about the wording on the signs, or lack thereof.
“It was like we had been pushed out of the way and not even acknowledged,” Wicker says. “I thought it was very self-serving.”
Wicker—who was disqualified from the race for being unable to provide sufficient proof she had filed two years of state income tax returns before the qualifying date, even though she says she had filed the returns—says she did not call attention to the signs out of sour grapes.
But she does believe omitting council members’ names from the signs was an intentional political move on Broome’s part in an election year.
“I think it is political,” Wicker says. “Why would you, in the middle of all this, change the way you do signs, that have always given the council credit? She didn’t get the tax on the agenda passed without the help of the council.”
In 2018, voters passed a half-cent sales tax to fund the MovEBR program, after the Metro Council approved putting the measure on the ballot.
Wicker says she did not bring her complaints to the mayor’s office, though other council members say she harped on the issue in an ongoing text thread.
In an interview subsequent to publication of the story, Wicker says she only sent one group message about the issue to her fellow council members, not several.
It is unclear whether her complaints, or those of others, reached the mayor’s office. What is clear is that more recent MovEBR signs that have gone up on College Drive do include the names of all 12 council members.
Broome spokesman Mark Armstrong says the administration has many batches of signs with different designs and formats.
He couldn’t say why the older signs didn’t include the council members’ names and the newer ones do, but he says there was never any intention to slight the Metro Council or minimize its contribution to the MovEBR effort.
Council member Dwight Hudson says signs should thank the taxpayers for funding the program.
“We should be giving the taxpayers credit,” he says. “I don’t need my name on another sign.”
Armstrong says the signs are just a way to let taxpayers know their money is being well spent and that the program is moving forward.
(Editor’s Note: This story has been revised from an earlier version to clarify the court ruling that disqualified Wicker from the race, and to include an additional comment from Wicker about her communication with the other council members.)