BATON ROUGE, LA (FOX44) — After eight years in office, Kip Holden has a substantial track record on which he can be judged. he believes that is why he should get four more years as East Baton Rouge Mayor-President.
Holden discussed his first two terms and plans for a third in a wide-ranging interview with FOX44.
On the subject of crime, he tackled claims by Mike Walker and others that the police department is understaffed, and that is responsible for much of our high crime rate. Holden said he is doing everything within his power to make us safer.
"When you're dealing with crime," he stated, "what is being left out of the equation right now is that we have more police officers now (than) at any time in the history of Baton Rouge.
"Do we have a crime problem? The answer is yes. Is it a crime emergency? The answer is no.
"Do we have, again, a few bad apples? The answer is yeah. But we also have the uptick in domestic violence. There is nothing the police can do there. Nothing."
Holden also believes the city is not as afraid of crime as critics state.
"As one candidate advocated, 'you can't go out in your yard, you can't do this, you can't do that.' Well, you know, if you had to follow that panic philosophy, then you would be paralyzed. You would be a hermit. The only thing you would do is stay in your house and close all your windows and lock all your doors," he said.
Holden added that an upcoming training academy will expand the police force even more. But he thinks the city's bottom-up approach is the key to reducing crime.
"We have the BRAVE program, we have the truancy program," Holden said. "All of those things are working. Because it's been shown that in the areas with high truancy you have more crime."
When asked about the biggest challenge facing Baton Rouge in the next four years, Holden did not pick crime. Instead, he claimed that the city is 60 years behind in maintaining its infrastructure.
"We have 200-300 bridges that are rated 0 or 1," he said. "That simply means those bridges could go out at any time.
"We're seeing now interstate improvements, but I'm saying that we still need to at least get the northern bypass that will go from West Baton Rouge, through Baton Rouge, to Livingston Parish."
Holden says his experiences over the last eight years in office put him in a better position to guide the city than the other candidates.
"None of them have any experience as to what to do during a hurricane," he said, mentioning how surprised he was to have Hurricane Katrina hit during his first year on the job. "And it takes a lot of different parts moving, putting all of those parts together."
When asked about his biggest accomplishments in office, Holden cited two things. One was Town Center and the redevelopment of downtown.
"If you had asked people about downtown in 2004," he said, "people would not even have come down here.
"Speaking as a mayor in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, they would tell you very clearly, is that your downtown is your center of vitality."
The other was the number of corporations that have been persuaded to move and bring jobs to Baton Rouge.
"We have Electronic Arts, EA Sports," he said, referring to the company's local game testing center. "They, we got them by competing with Romania. Now, in the next few months, you'll see them up to a complement of 600 jobs.
"Now we're watching all of these movies continue to come in here, and then you're watching the technology come in here, and then you're watching game development come in here.
"So one of the things I pride myself on is being able to go out and sell this city to different people, whether it's in the United States or outside the United States, because I firmly believe that for whatever job that needs to be done, there's somebody right here in Baton Rouge who can do that job."
Holden has until November 6th to sell himself to the people of East Baton Rouge, and get them to believe he is still the man for the job.