Dead or Alive?

November 9, 2009

Austin, Atlanta, Chattanooga… and now Baton Rouge the next great city? I recently took a trip up to Chattanooga, TN where I found out exactly why this city is so attractive. There has been much downtown development, from a pedestrian bridge that crosses the river, to the aquarium, and I have to admit that it was nice and a well done and developed project, though a visit to the aquarium was not a top priority for me. Why should it have been? I’ve been to an aquarium before just as I’ve been to zoos before, I’m not going to a city just to see their aquarium. In fact, the entire downtown development wasn’t even the selling point for me, but rather, it’s cleanlinest was more lagniappe than anything else.

What sold me on Chattanooga was it’s relative closeness to the Great Smoky Mountains being that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg looked more like Las Vegas for country folk with all the traffic, I figured I’d be better off taking the back way from Chattanooga into the Smokies. Also the natural beauty that surrounds the city of Chattanooga simply made the city seem peaceful. The real selling point of the city, at least for me, was the history, both natural and of humanity. Driving around the battlefield of Chickamauga, or going up the incline railway to the top of Look Out Mountain and seeing where these battles took place naturally brings a sense of what the civil war was like. At the top of the incline railway is an electronic battlefield where the entire battle is played out, where young and old both will realize just how important the battle of Chattanooga was to the civil war and where Douglas McArthur’s father earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

If war continues to peak your curiousity there’s a “Medal of Honor” museum in one of the malls, and the 6th Calvary also has a museum in nearby Georgia where Patton once served, and The Great Train Chase ended in nearby Ringgold. There’s plenty of war history, and the historical value is incalculable.

Then there’s natural history, more notably Ruby Falls where tour guides lead you through a cave, culminating in seeing an underground waterfall. After you’re done there drive down the road a couple of miles to World Famous Rock City where paths are naturally cut in between rocks (though now man paved). It’s a unique experience all it’s own that only Chattanooga can offer, from ‘Lover’s Leap’ to seeing 7 states on a clear day. You can go hang gliding if time permits after you’re done there…

At the end of the day, you can go downtown where you can see the aquarium, walk over a bridge, and grab some food over at TGI Fridays, and spend the night in the historical Chattanooga Choo Choo. I’d recommend going to Chattanooga for a trip, but their downtown development is but an after thought to what sells the city.

There lies the problem for Baton Rouge, there’s nothing more to really attract people to visit the city of Baton Rouge and Alive simply will not be enough to turn Baton Rouge into the next great city. Comparing Alive to what Chattanooga has is like comparing a cranberry and turkey sandwich to Thanksgiving dinner. It could be a sweet deal, but it can never be as satisfying.

It’s not Chattanooga that I would take into consideration when casting my vote, but rather current circumstance and recent history. First, let’s first look at the current situation. Economically nationwide, we are hitting unemployment levels of 10.2% and that’s people that are actively looking for jobs. Fortunately we are not faced with the same bleak economic outlook that the rest of the nation is, but as most economist will tell you, during economic uncertainty it’s best NOT to raise taxes. These are times that people need their hard earned money, and even one percent could be a heavy burden on people. We all greatly suspect that with the excessive and out of control spending going on in Washington that we will all face the heavy burdens of tax increases on the federal level, would it be wise to raise the taxes on the local level as well?

Then there’s the recent past, not least of which the voters rejecting this proposal when we had the highest turnout of voters that we’d see. It’s an utter disrespect of the community to come back immediately the next year with the same proposal betting on a much smaller turn out to pass the tax.

And if the mayor felt so strongly about this project, why then did he pass on the opportunity to get stimulus money to fund this project instead of placing an additional burden on the Baton Rouge tax payer, when the stimulus already becomes an added burden? It seems to me that the federal stimulus pushed by President Obama was intended for “Shovel Ready Projects”, are we to believe that Alive is not even shovel ready?

We can always marvel at the greatness that never was in Catfish Town, and of course the two Casinos down on the River are leading the way into making Baton Rouge the next great city, and of course the Shaw center is making Baton Rouge the next great city… or maybe the River Center expansion will make Baton Rouge the next great city. I must give Kudos to the River Center expansion, after all, it did find usefulness with a bowling tournament, and during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina where it housed evacuees and we learned that some people don’t even know how to use a toilet (which happens to be information I think I could have lived my whole life without ever knowing).

Ultimately my vote rest on the one thing that this administration sold us on, told us that we simply could not do without and that it would make Baton Rouge the next great city. I’m talking about Pinnacle resort. We had the big push for that, we put it on the ballot, Pinnacle made much adu about what great things they would do for the city and well. where’s it at? I think I will take a look, and I’d suggest you do the same, at how well Pinnacle is coming along. It does little to make Baton Rouge a great city to come up with wild eyed schemes that never come to fruition. Let’s see if these folks who are pushing for the Alive Project know what progress is before we vote for it. As for me, I simply have no confidence and will not burden myself nor other people with higher taxes on so little faith.


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