Racial divide of Baton Rouge highlighted when meeting takes controversial turn
BATON ROUGE - A discussion about plans to develop a medical corridor along Perkins Road near Bluebonnet ballooned into a discussion about race and inequality Wednesday afternoon.
The zoning commission of the metro council was set to talk about the proposal when an emotional - and often loud - conversation started over the lack of medical services in north Baton Rouge and what some said were white, wealthy business leaders promoting development in an area of town that has fewer African Americans.
"We need health care in North Baton Rouge, and we can accept nothing less," Alfreda Tillman Bester of the NAACP said before the meeting.
The original agenda item did not include a discussion about medical services outside of the medical district and the commission, made up of Metro Council members, were set to talk about approving a master plan for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation-backed medical district. But, when it came time to hear public comments on approving the plan, people used the opportunity to address their dissatisfaction that there are large plans for more medical services in the southern part of the parish while there ARE no emergency medical facilities in the northern reaches of the city.
"We shouldn't do anything to advance health care in the Southern part of Baton Rouge with out first coming up with a plan for North Baton Rouge," Gary Chambers, Jr., a community activist said.
Another person asked that either side stay away from a north versus south fight.
"Everybody take a deep breath," Councilman Chandler Loupe said at one point during the meeting.
Council members eventually agreed to defer - or delay making a decision - until a later meeting.
"You want to order a pizza?" council members joked before the decision to hold-off on voting as the meeting continued nearly two hours after it started.
There is a meeting to highlight concerns of people in the northern part of the city Thursday. It's at 6 p.m. at Champion Medical Center, 7855 Howell Boulevard, Suite 220. Councilwoman Chauna Banks is hosting the meeting and said she will also talk about concerns raised Tuesday about a community organization's idea to move the zoo.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz