Metro Council to discuss proposed changes to city-parish gov't structure tonight
BATON ROUGE - According to The Advocate, the Baton Rouge Metro Council will revisit talks surrounding revisions to the city-parish's Plan of Government during a Tuesday, Nov. 10 meeting.
The council stayed the talks during an initial Nov. 4 meeting. Prior to that meeting, Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis chaired a committee that spent nearly 12 months analyzing the parish's home rule charter to clean up outdated language and present changes — some of which would completely transform certain aspects of city-parish government.
The Advocate says changes include a proposed plan to alter the composition of the Metro Council by reducing the number of single-member districts from 12 to 10, and creating two at-large seats. The committee thought that would create a more racially balanced legislative body for the city-parish, one that more accurately reflects the city-parish 50/50 racial demographics.
But several council members, not in favor of the proposal, have already expressed more interest in creating an odd number of seats if changes were to be made, which would eliminate problematic tied votes in the future, The Advocate reports.
The changes were proposed some time after the Metro Council introduced the initial set of amendments, which suggested only creating one at-large seat and keeping the rest of the single-member districts. This would leave the city-parish with a 13-member legislative body starting in 2025.
Local advocacy organizations such as the Progressive Social Network and Together Baton Rouge voiced even more concerns over other proposed changes to the city-parish's home rule charter.
Included among such suggested revisions was the recommendation to limit the terms of mayor-president to two instead of three, moving the city-parish's Planning Department under the mayor's administration, and creating the new position of "executive counsel" so that the mayor-president has their own lawyer for legal advice.
Both groups also criticized the Metro Council for not holding more meetings where the public could voice their opinions on what changes they'd like to see.
"Every committee meeting was public and the public was invited to attend those. The meetings were also posted online," Collins-Lewis said in response. "No one is trying to push anything down anyone's throat. I take offense to that."
According to The Advocate, the council Administrator Ashley Beck said the committee now wants to break the proposed amendments into three parts — the chapters on council changes, shakeups with the mayor's administration and suggestions for the Planning Department — and possibly present them to voters that way. This way, it won't be possible for all of the changes to be shot down should voters disagree with one of the proposed adjustments.
If approved, the amendments set for reintroduction at council's Nov. 10 meeting, will reach voters for approval in March of 2021.
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