Mayor Kip Holden Failed North Baton Rouge Again in His Letter to President Obama

Mayor Kip Holden boasted to WAFB about giving President Obama a letter during his visit to Baton Rouge. Mayor Holden greeted President Obama at the airport with Governor John Bel Edwards on Wednesday evening when the president arrived. The mayor handed the president a letter highlighting five “paramount issues” facing Baton Rouge in the ride in President Obama’s limo “The Beast”.

The issues included the need for another bridge over the Mississippi River and help paying for it, plus help from the federal government for the Hospital District (in south Baton Rouge), Water Campus, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the proposed LSU to downtown Nicholson Drive tram system according to WAFB.

The mayor is headed next week to Washington D.C. for the Mayor’s Conference, where he plans to talk with the White House about the issues addressed in his letter to the president. The issues addressed by Mayor Holden are all issues that will help certain demographics of the city that he’s been mayor of for the past 11 years.

Many are the accomplishments of Mayor Holden, but what he has not done well is ANYTHING as it relates to economic development in north Baton Rouge specifically, a true reduction in crime, or reducing the median income gap between blacks and whites in the capital region.

It’s amazing that Mayor Holden in his letter to the president included the medical district, but not the lack of healthcare facilities in north Baton Rouge. He is a full supporter of spending millions of dollars on roads and planning to help expand medical services for the southern portion of the parish, all while there is no emergency room north of Florida Blvd. in Baton Rouge. Leaving THOUSANDS of residents, mostly African American without adequate access to healthcare since the closure of Baton Rouge General’s Mid-city ER and Earl K. Long Hospital. Both closed with Holden at the helm in the mayor’s office. Mayor Holden even pushed the city to purchase the old Woman’s Hospital for a new police station for BRPD rather than going out to recruit a new medical facility to the area.

Everything major that Mayor Holden has supported in his years as mayor has benefited those who live in the southern portion of the parish most. Starting with the revitalization of downtown, even his green light projects have been mostly been beneficial for south Baton Rouge. (Minus old south Baton Rouge which is still considered a black neighborhood.) The mayor’s green light initiative spent $700 million and black contractors got less than 1% of that.

Is it expected that the mayor only address issues of north Baton Rouge? Certainly not. However, one of the things on his list could have certainly been to have the White House help solve the problem of the lack of medical facilities in north Baton Rouge. Could the White House build a hospital in north Baton Rouge? No. That isn’t the role of the federal government, but they could help the mayor find out how he and the governor can use the new access to Medicaid expansion dollars to recruit a medical facility to the area. They could connect them with those organizations that are interested in helping solve these types of problems.

Mayor Holden has done well for the southern portion of the parish, so well that they want to break away and start their own city. All while north Baton Rouge and old south Baton Rouge has suffered under his leadership.

IMG_6156Abandoned house on McKinley Street near McKinley High School, where President Obama held a town hall on January 14, 2016

The president wouldn’t have had to look far to see the lack of progress for the black community in Baton Rouge. Just two doors down from McKinley High School are abandoned houses that are eye sores for the community and breeding grounds for illegal activity. Those are things that Mayor Holden never addresses in the rare occasions he talks about the state of Baton Rouge.

The truth is Mayor Holden has failed the black community again. He had the opportunity to talk to the most powerful man in the world about his city, and he only addressed issues that will bring progress to white communities in Baton Rouge. The Median income for African Americans in Baton Rouge is $39,000 compared to that of whites earning a median income of $90,000 in Baton Rouge. 

Some might wonder how did the mayor not address issues that would help blacks and north Baton Rouge? The answer is simple. When the roads are built, how many black contractors will get contracts? When the Water Campus is built, how many black contractors will get contracts? When the medical district is supported, how many black contractors will get contracts? The answer is probably none.

Some will say, black contractors don’t have the capacity to build on that level. Well that has nothing to do with all the contracts the mayor sends out for professional services. These contracts are mainly consulting contracts for the city. Contracts like the $95,000 study for the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison that was given to a firm that has no African American’s in its leadership team. Why does this matter? Because the leadership team happens to be the top earners and if African American’s aren’t in leadership the median income gap isn’t closed. Not to mention that blacks pay sales and property taxes in Baton Rouge also, and should see some of the contracts in the city given to companies with owners and leaders that look like them. We can’t continue to say race doesn’t matter, if it didn’t more blacks would earn higher wages, get more of the contracts given, and improve the quality of life in the communities they live in.

Mayor Holden has again dropped the ball, or really just shown blacks in Baton Rouge where his loyalty lies and what is important to him. Not one issue important to improving the quality of life for those in north Baton Rouge was included in the mayor’s letter to President Obama. The letter to the president should show you what he will be advocating for in Washington D.C.

The mayor mentioned that people are asking him to run for congress, to all those people, please call someone else to serve. Sending Mayor Holden to Washington for anything other than a vacation at this stage isn’t in the best interest of Baton Rouge. If we fail to fix north Baton Rouge, our great home will never reach its fullest potential.

January 15, 2016