There may be no such thing as a free lunch. But if Metro Council member Cleve Dunn Jr. has his way, council members will at least get free parking in the city-parish garages.
Dunn is pushing an ordinance that will be introduced at today’s council meeting and voted on in May, that would add the Metro Council to the short list of those who don’t have to pay to park at City Hall.
Currently, that list includes just three groups: student workers, jurors and law enforcement officers called to testify at trial.
Dunn thinks council members should be entitled to the perk as well.
“I feel someone who volunteers for public service shouldn’t really be charged for parking,” Dunn says. “We only get paid $1,000 a month to do this job and I just don’t think public servants should pay to park.”
Council members and other city-parish employees, including the mayor and top administrators in her office, currently pay $20 per month for their reserved spaces. But Dunn notes that administrators work full time at City Hall and earn salaries, while council members are paid only $12,000 a year and have to take time away from their full-time jobs to serve the public.
Admittedly, council members also receive an $800 monthly allowance to cover wear and tear on their personal vehicles, which they use for official council business.
Dunn says the issue is less about the money than the principal of the matter.
“We have passes that let us park for free at meters but not in the parking garage,” he says. “I have the ability to address this through an ordinance so that’s what I’m doing. “
Other council members say they don’t have a problem with paying to park, especially given the allowance they already receive.
“We’re already getting paid by the taxpayers,” says Council member Aaron Moak. “It’s never been an issue with me. I don’t see why we need free parking.”
In other business:
• The council will take up an ordinance by Dunn and Moak that would make permanent the relaxed regulations around serving alcoholic beverages that were put in place during the shutdown phase of the pandemic. The ordinance, which was introduced earlier this month and will be voted on today, will allow bars and restaurants to continue offering curbside service and at-home delivery even after the pandemic is over. “We have looked at this past year and we didn’t have any issues,” Dunn says. “The customers liked it. The businesses liked it and we want to keep those things in place. I think the people of Baton Rouge have been ready to relax our tight laws for a while. I think this new, more progressive council is ready now, too.”
• The Council will also take up a resolution sponsored by Erika Green that would create a commission to study renaming streets in Baton Rouge named for Confederate soldiers or other military personnel with a racist or discriminatory legacy. The measure follows up on an executive order issued in early 2020 by Mayor Sharon Weston Broome. Green says it’s too soon to discuss what streets might be renamed and how new names will be chosen. “This just gives us the framework to begin the discussion and to begin looking at all the issues and getting input from the community,” Green says.