Chamber EBR Recommends Cleanup
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s Transition Committee asked the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish for its recommendations on economic development. The Chamber EBR provided the following response:
Chamber of Commerce
of East Baton Rouge Parish
7515 Jefferson Hwy. #60
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
SETTING: The City of Baton Rouge has been in a state of decline for many years, as residents, especially middle income families with children, have fled high crime and poor public schools and relocated to surrounding communities in the parish and to surrounding parishes. The population of Baton Rouge has been flat and the physical landscape has deteriorated significantly. Blight has completely overwhelmed large parts of the city with little or no response from the City-Parish government. Trash collection (not referring to garbage collection) is ignored by the City-Parish, and, in additon, trash along the public roads, curbs, gutters, and rights of way is rarely if ever picked up. Meanwhile, the City-Parish has acquired thousands of blighted properties and yet done little to restore or remove them. Code enforcement appears to be completely absent in much of the parish. On top of all of this, Baton Rouge suffered historic flooding in August, inundating thousands of homes. Five months have passed since the flooding, yet entire neighborhoods remain in a state of chaos. Much of North Baton Rouge and several other areas of the parish now have the squalid look of a Third World country with debris, trash, junked cars, and flooded out houses everywhere. Of greater concern is the fact that little seems to be changing. Many perhaps most of the flooded houses were rental properties for which no FEMA assistance is possible. Before the flood, many of these houses were valued at $70,000 to $80,000. It would take at least that amount to restore them, and that clearly will not be done in most cases. They will ultimately be condemned and demolished, but the question is will that be in six months or 10 years? The recent flooding caused tens of billions of dollars in losses in the Baton Rouge area, and only a tiny part of that will be replaced by insurance, FEMA or loans. As a result, the flood has destroyed an enormous part of the wealth of the community, which had been accumulated for generations. This means that property taxes will dramatically drop, and the inclination of voters to support higher taxes will be very low. Immediate action is needed to try to prevent the further decline in this city and make it a place we can be proud of. If the city is cleaned up and properties are improved, property values will go up, and economic development will be more realistic.
RECOMMENDATION: While there are countless ideas for Economic Development, the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish makes only one recommendation for now:
RESTORE BATON ROUGE
A Year-Long Plan to Clean Up and Beautify the City of Baton Rouge
Greatly Improve the Physical Appearance of the City — House by House, Street by Street, Neighborhood by Neighborhood
Step 1 — Jump Start Restore Baton Rouge with One Week of Intense Activity
• Assign every City-Parish employee with the exception of “essential” personnel in the police, fire and EMS to work in the streets to clean up all trash, debris, branches, junked vehicles, random building materials and everything else that is out of place. Give notice of condemnation of every building that is not habitable if it is not being improved. Give notice of seizure of abandoned vehicles. Identify and followup on code violations.
• Recruit 50,000 volunteers from churches, schools, sports team, Scouts, neighborhood associations to join the City-Parish workers on two consecutive Saturdays with at least 50,000 volunteers working side-by-side with the City-Parish workers. Recruit a City Conservation Corps to continue these efforts on an on-going basis.
• Step 2 — Tear down and remove all blighted City-Parish owned structures and all condemned buildings. Remove all abandoned vehicles.
• Step 3 — City Conservation Corps assists homeowners who are making an effort to improve their property with repairs, painting and landscaping.
• Step 4 — Redirect resources toward on-going cleanup and beautification efforts. [Example: End twice-a-week garbage pickup, make it once-a-week, and use those funds for on-going cleanup.]
Cecil Cavanaugh, Chairman
Woody Jenkins, President