Betcha Ya’ll Will Feel Stupid Now…

April 3, 2007

Bill Palmer and the other overpayed executives down at BREC are celebrating their tax renewal victory this past weekend, but it was an election that’s left people who went to bat for it limping, and yet they might not even know it. What initially seems like a good idea might not have been so at all.

It’s kind of hard to figure out who’s who of this debacle over the weekend, so I’m going to start with the heroes. Coming from poverty and working my way up, I’ve always detested taxes. I believed that taxes, government regulations, limitations on businesses hurt the middle and lower classes more than it does the rich. It makes it harder for poor people to move up, after all, the more rules, regulations, and taxes they have to pay for, the more money they have to come with. The rich can afford to pay for changes so it doesn’t affect them. Of course for people like Kip Holden, Roth McCollister and the 200,000 dollar Bill Palmer, paying the extra millage has very little impact on them.

But with the rising gas prices, and its eventual impact on other products, this millage becomes more of a hindrance the lower your income is. Of course they think they know what’s best for the poor… like that $84,000 a year raise that Bill Palmer got was an excellent benefit to the poor community.

When a guy sticks his neck out time and time again and fights for the taxpayers, he gets my utmost respect. So when a person like Fred Dent comes along, I’m ready to pull pom poms out and start doing high school cheers for the guy. He’s been wanting Bill Benedetto to step down due to a conflict of interests. Who knows why Fred Dent wanted Benedetto to step down, but if it was because of the tax renewal, Dent has terrible timing. If it was about the tax renewal, one would think that Mr. Dent would have made it an issue sooner, not after the decision was already made in most voters minds.

Gary Patareau is another hero this election, not because of the child he saved from a vicious dog, but because of an article he was in August of 2006. It seems that BREC promised SABR (Skatepark Association of Baton Rouge) a skateboard park that would cost over $700,000. Patareau was for it, so was I. It is much needed. Instead, what the skateboarders in this town have is a skatepark that’s closed most of the time and not worth a nickel to skate in anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset about a skateboard park for personal reasons, or even that they didn’t spend $700,000 dollars on it, but when a promise is made to build a skateboard park, one would hope they would spend more than ten dollars on the tin. Okay, so they spent $23,000 and it was made of aluminum, but all that means is that they were stupid enough to spend that much money and not get anything in return. My grandma could master that skateboard park within minutes, but after seeing how Bill Palmer manages projects, I understand why he’d think that was worth the money.

Harold Williams, who is the Vice Chairman of the Republican party, stood by his principles in the face of criticism. While Chairman David Boneno was out, Harold Williams chaired the meeting, in which, the East Baton Rouge Republicans voted to oppose the tax. While certain members might seem to have buckled under pressure, he would not budge.
But the real hero in this election was Darrell Glasper, the only BREC commissioner to openly oppose the BREC tax renewal. It’s hard to imagine that passion for what’s right and wrong still exists, but when you see it, capture it. While everybody is sticking their hand into the cookie jar, Darrell was standing alone emptying his own pockets. While $200,000 Bill Palmer and company was putting taxpayer money where their mouth was, Darrell Glasper was reaching into his own pockets to fight this tax.

And think what you want about Darrell Glasper, but it certainly appears as if he finally has an ally on the BREC board in Dan Kyle. Say what you will about Glasper, but only thieves and fools would question Dan Kyle’s integrity. Now that Kyle is on the BREC board, Glasper loses 7-2 instead of 8-1, as was the case when BREC voted to shut down certain parks four days before the tax would pass.

As for the other side, it’s kind of hard who to decide who to start with. Baton Rouge’s first African American Mayor Kip Holden, or with Roth McCollister and the guys down at Baton Rouge Business Report, but with Darrell Glasper still fresh in my mind, I’m going to start with McCollister. It seems to me that every single time that I see Glasper called a racist in our local media, the source always seem to be the same, the Baton Rouge Business Report. Though I applaud McCollister’s stance against racism, it’s a bit confusing when he openly endorses giving more money to an organization that shuts down swimming pools in areas that are predominantly African American and closes none in the predominantly white community. Four swimming pools in North Baton Rouge will remain open, but those swimming pools will be turned over to the YMCA. Now, if African Americans want to use BREC’s swimming pools, they’ll have to drive to the other side of town.

While growing up, I learned that a person who points fingers has three more pointing back at them, so obviously I wonder what is Roth’s true intentions when he accuses Glasper of being a racist. Personally, I don’t like to think the worst of people and believe that racism is a matter of political convenience, so I won’t go there.

But it still leaves a question mark as to why Roth feels the need to remind us of things that happened in years passed, but currently looks the other way while the black community loses their swimming pools, infact endorses giving BREC more money. McCollister is a businessman, and claims to be a Republican, certainly would rather see money used to keep the parks updated instead of building new projects only to let them become so dilapidated and turned over to a private party, right? Isn’t that Republican businessmen are about? Frugalness? Not wasting things needlessly?

Or perhaps McCollister is just a shill for his advertisers. After stating that this $10 million a year tax made up one half of BREC’s budget, despite at least five other renewable taxes, and a brand new $70 million dollar tax passed only 3 years ago. Why did BREC ask us for more money to build more projects, if the money they currently had wasn’t enough to keep up existing buildings? Why would McCollister endorse that?

As for Kip Holden, why do politicians feel it necessary to betray the very people who put them in office? I understand that Kip Holden wants to be mayor of all people in Baton Rouge, but has he forgotten that black people make up a significant portion of those people? I want Kip to do a great job for the city, and why wouldn’t I? I live here, but I just don’t see how it benefits anybody in the community to force people on the North side of Florida Blvd to travel to the Southside just to go swimming.

I also found it quite interesting that J.R. Ball, who opposed the tax renewal did so on grounds that he opposed the very people who were opposed to the BREC tax, calling Darrell Glasper a “nutjob” and Wayne Carter a “wild and crazy guy”. He sided with people because he didn’t like them? Confused? Well, don’t be. He thinks Carter is as “scary as his name”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I ain’t never been afraid of no spiders. I don’t exactly know what Ball means when he calls him “scary”, maybe he’s a girlyman who got too many wedgies back in highschool. I don’t know, but that would explain why he’d be afraid of a guy named “Spider”.

But maybe I’m wrong about Holden, McCollister, and Ball. Maybe they want BREC to stay intact and want $200,000 Bill to retire early, maybe they have something in the works to fire the guy, I don’t know. What I do know is that Palmer used to be 116,000 dollar Bill Palmer, now he’s 200,000 dollar Bill Palmer. That the swimming pools in North Baton Rouge are being closed because BREC did not properly keep them maintained, and the predominantly black community now has to travel across town to use BREC swimming pools. That the new building for BREC’s main office is currently only 25% occupied, with 75% available to be leased, (new money added to BREC’s coffers on top of this recent tax renewal), at an additional cost to Baton Rougeans. That BREC is far and away the largest land owner in East Baton Rouge Parish. That Baton Rouge Business Report runs ads for BREC, which shows they had a vested interest in passing this tax.

We also learned that the politics of fear works. That taxes give governments power over people, holding things hostage. By threatening to close half the parks if this tax isn’t passed, BREC won’t be able to use that excuse next time. I’m sure Palmer and company have their excuse lined up for the next time opposition rises against their them. Perhaps next time they’ll tell us that if we don’t pass the tax, the animals at the zoo will starve to death. Come to think of it, why wait until a renewal? With all the hysteria going on, they could go to the voters now and tell them that they need the new tax to keep global warming from destroying the park.

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Fred Dent sent the request to the Ethics Commission before the election as well as sending a copy of the request to the local paper. The story did not run until after the election.

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