Citizen complaints: Brookhaven aldermen hear comments on City Hall relocation

Published 9:45 am Friday, June 21, 2024

Several Brookhaven citizens appeared before the Board of Aldermen Tuesday to express concern over and ask questions about the City’s plans to relocate its government offices. The general complaint was that they had questions they wanted answered in a board meeting at which they were present, rather than needing to read the reports and stories in The Daily Leader.

A few of them took their turns at the podium to speak during the board’s regular meeting.

Randy Jones, of Lipsey Street, said he had a question about what’s going on with the move. He said he thought the board should explain it in detail for everyone present. Though he knew it was published in The Daily Leader, Jones said he doesn’t get the paper, and is “not going to pay a dollar-fifty for a two-sheet paper.”

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Following Jones was Jerry Kelly, of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, who said he believes the board should be more transparent in the future about what the City is trying to do.

“People need to know all the changes … All changes are not bad … but citizens as a whole should know,” Kelly said. “We’re able to agree and make it happen as a whole, with unity.”

Jeanette Newton, of Lewis Drive, was next.

“I need some light shined on how much it’s going to cost to move,” she said, and waited for a response. “Ain’t nobody going to answer me? I’m a taxpayer … is it $750,000 or $1 million?”

When Newton insisted on an answer from someone, Mayor Joe Cox responded that it was neither amount, and that the five minutes allotted to each speaker on the agenda was not part of a question and answer session. Citizens can express their opinions or concerns, but board members are under no obligation to respond.

Newton then said she was also concerned about “no child left behind” — a slogan she wore on her shirt. “There needs to be some recreation here for these kids … The community want to know.”

“I need for you all to answer these questions because a lot of them don’t get no paper,” Newton continued. “I guess the cat done got all your tongues … it’s not right. Whatever y’all doing, it’s not right … We all need to be in one accord.”

Calls of “That’s right, that’s right,” came from a few people sitting in the gallery.

Ward 6 Alderman Andre’ Spiller answered Newton, saying, “We’re working with some groups to try to get that rec center and pool.”

“Y’all need to do better,” Newton said. “I’m talking about everybody on this board.”

A Mrs. Pittman, whose first name was not given, said she and her husband were present with Newton, and that all Brookhaven citizens need to know what the board is going to do and need to be allowed to vote on it.

“You’ll have less problems if you be straight up with the citizens, they’ll be straight up with y’all,” she said.

Newton again said, “Y’all still ain’t answering my questions. Looking at me like I’m crazy,” before her time limit was called.

Next was Stacey Wilcher, of Browns Loop. Wilcher had questions about when the Browns Loop sewer project would be completed, because the smell was getting worse all the time. Ward 1 Alderman James Magee Jr. and Public Works Director Kris Xifos told her that bids would be opened for work on July 1, and that a solution was coming soon.

Wilcher also addressed the planned move of City Hall.

“I’m not in agreement with it at all,” she said. “Colored people, especially, [have been] stripped from our rights … God does the judging. Us as citizens and black people should never be divided … Y’all just dead wrong and God ain’t in agreement with it.”

Wilcher said blame for the City’s problem with gun violence also lay on the Board, because young people “ain’t got nothing to do,” with no recreation center or other activities offered to them.

“Voting season is coming up, so shake a tail feather.”

During the time for aldermen reports, Spiller asked Chris Kees, representing the family for the Kees Automotive building, to explain the difference between his understanding of dealings with the City and what was presented in aldermen meetings. Mayor Cox responded that speakers must be on the agenda. Board attorney Bobby Moak said the board could decide whether to allow Kees to speak, but — given some legal concerns — a written statement from Kees would likely be better.

Kees said while he was frustrated that he drove over from Baton Rouge Tuesday afternoon for the purpose of addressing the board, he would submit a written statement.

Previously-published information

The Daily Leader has published stories on the City’s vote to relocate City Hall, objections from Spiller and explanations from the Mayor, a response from the Kees family, and information on the proposed new location for government offices.