The Business Report

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome is planning to hire a consultant in the first quarter of the year to study ways to make city government more effective and efficient.

In remarks following the annual State of the City-Parish address today to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, Broome said it’s too soon to say who that consultant might be or how much it might cost. But she said the idea is to bring in an expert who has worked in other cities and “assisted them in terms of maximizing their organizations, their departments to make them more effective and efficient.”

Broome’s remarks followed a broad-ranging State of the City-Parish address that touched on a variety of topics but was short on specifics. Broome delivered a slightly different version of the speech Tuesday night to a group of civic and community leaders and elected officials.

In her speech today, as in the first one, Broome stressed the need to address the parish’s chronic gridlock. Given that the Metro Council last fall failed to put her proposed roads tax on the ballot, Broome said she has instructed her staff to work on a traffic remediation plan.

Following the speech, the mayor told Daily Report she has tasked Fred Raiford, director of the department of transportation and drainage, with coming up with a comprehensive plan that will help traffic move more swiftly and efficiently on city streets.

Does that mean changing the direction of certain streets? Adding smart traffic control systems? Laying more asphalt?

“It means looking at all different options,” Broome said. “We will have to wait and see what Fred comes up with.”

Raiford is a 30-year veteran of city-parish government and former director of the department of public works.

Broome also said she expects to make an announcement “very soon” about whether she plans to pursue federal grant money for the development of a 3.4-mile modern streetcar that would run along Nicholson Drive between LSU and downtown.

The city-parish needs to submit its grant application to the federal government by early September in order to be considered for funding in 2019. That means it has to finalize contract negotiations with its consultants, HNTB, by February so the consulting team can begin preparing the application. Broome said she plans to meet with leaders of HNTB soon and finalize her decision.

Broome reiterated her earlier position on the tram, namely that she can only support the project if it’s tied into a larger mass transit plan that addresses the needs of the entire parish, including north Baton Rouge.

Broome also stressed the importance of using data to both identify and solve the city’s problems. In 2018, city-parish government will become more reliant on data, she said.

Broome also said she is working closely with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in the area of economic development, specifically, on business recruitment.

Are any deals in the works? Broome wouldn’t say.

“One of the downsides of business recruitment is that you cannot talk about these conversations until they come close to being manifested,” she said. “All I can tell you is my work with recruitment has been very, very aggressive.”

Before the speech began, Broome announced two new members of her administration: Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Veneeth Iyengar, and Rachel Haney, chief communications officer.

Check out the new Business Report cover story, which includes an examination of Broome’s first year in office and the challenges facing her administration in the year ahead.