Planning director challenges CPEX request to study planning effectiveness

Baton Rouge City Hall (File photo)

City-parish Planning Director Frank Duke today fired back at the Center for Planning Excellence, which last month made a recommendation to the the Plan of Government committee, urging the Metro Council to create a group to study the effectiveness of planning and its implementation in Baton Rouge.

Duke is asking the committee to not move forward with the request, saying his already-stretched 16-person staff would have to drop their current duties to work with the study group. He added the committee could make an informed decision on improving city planning based on facts already presented to them.

Among issues Duke has with the CPEX presentation is whether officials should consider moving the Planning Commission from the legislative to the executive branch.

“Our question is, how?” Duke asks. “CPEX suggested moving us to report to the mayor would improve coordination. I had multiple department heads call me up and say, ‘What is CPEX talking about?’ Coordination is good…what more could we do?”

Duke also complains CPEX did not fairly compare Baton Rouge’s planning commission with similar planning departments, noting that of the 19 cities the organization studied, only four were in Southeastern U.S. communities the commission typically views as comparable.

Furthermore, says Duke, the Baton Rouge planning commission’s $1.5 million allocated budget was not accurately compared by CPEX to other cities’ budgets. Specifically, the departments in Albuquerque and Omaha also include development departments, boosting its dollar amounts. If CPEX had measured Baton Rouge in the same way, he says it would have reported a $9.6 million budget.

Duke went on to defend the functions of the planning commission, saying that his group does nine of the 11 functions—including transportation planning, urban design and area planning—CPEX said they didn’t do.

However, CPEX says its presentation last month was not meant to be an attack on the Planning Commission, nor on Duke personally. Cordell Haymon, Center for Planning Excellence board chair, says Duke is trying to connect the dots of an already disconnected system.

“Frank says he’s doing all those things, but he also says if he’s doing all those things, his budget must be $9.6 million,” Haymon says. “It can’t be both.”

Though the Planning Commission submitted several recommended changes to the Plan of Government, the committee did not have a quorum and could not take action today.


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