Residents Businesses Visitors Government Search Directory Home About the City-Parish Government

Table of Contents
Line Break
A Brief History
Line Break
Why we have City-Parish Government
Line Break
City-Parish Consolidation: Some Questions and Answers
Line Break
How the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches Operate
Line Break
Citizen Boards and Commissions
Line Break
State Government's Role
Line Break
City and Parish Demographics
Line Break
 



Our City-Parish Government
the flag of the City of Baton Rouge
 

A Brief History

Several flags have flown over Baton Rouge since its founding. Those of France, England, Spain, West Florida, Louisiana, Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

In 1699, French explorers discovered the area where Baton Rouge is now located. D'Iberville's writings refer to the area, as Istrouma or Red Stick, which when translated into French becomes Baton Rouge. Records of D'Iberville describe large reddened poles erected by Indians with fish and bear heads attached in sacrifice. These may have designated boundaries at a point separating the hunting grounds of the Bayou Goula and the Houma Indian tribes.

In 1718, the French are alleged to have constructed a fort near the area to protect travelers from New Orleans to northern outposts. The Baton Rouge area then belonged to France. The area was transferred to England by the treaty of Paris in 1763. Following this, the settlement was renamed New Richmond.

In September of 1779, the Spanish defeated the English at Fort Butte on Bayou Manchac and then captured Baton Rouge, so that by 1781 West Florida, including East Baton Rouge was under Spanish influence.

In 1810, when the Spanish were overthrown by local settlers, approximately 1,000 persons resided in the Baton Rouge vicinity. The people declared themselves independent and renamed this area the West Florida Republic. In a few months, the territory was annexed by Louisiana and was divided. At that time, East Baton Rouge Parish was created.

Louisiana was admitted into the Union on April 8, 1812. Baton Rouge was incorporated in 1817; it became the state capital in 1849.

For most of the duration of the Civil War 1861-1865, Baton Rouge was under Union control except for a brief period in 1862. During the war, the capital was relocated several times; however in 1882 the center of government was returned to Baton Rouge at that time the city had a population of 7,197.

At the turn of the century, the town began to develop industrially due to its strategic location on the first bluff along the Mississippi River north of the Gulf of Mexico.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capital city is now 74.74 square miles in size with some 230,000 people. East Baton Rouge Parish population is approximately 412,500 and is 472.1 square miles in size.

The Baton Rouge Flag is a field of crimson representing the great Indian Nations that once inhabited the area. The crest on the lower left uses the red, white and blue representing the colors of the United States. The upper left of the shield is the Fleur-de-lis of France, the upper right is the Castille of Spain, and the lower potion is the Union Jack of Great Britain. The crest encompasses the emblems of the three foreign countries, whose flags have flown over Baton Rouge. The name "Baton Rouge" in white appears prominently on the field of crimson.

Why We Have City-Parish Government

Unlike that of our rugged pioneer forefathers, life in our complex modern society has become one of interdependence. With the growth and development of population centers (cities) replacing the sparsely settled areas of our country, demands for services that could not be provided by individuals increased.

This brought on the need for orderly government, a government of laws, administered by men elected by a majority from among the people to be governed.

There are changes in modern living other than the interdependence of people for goods and services. Conditions of today have vastly increased the services we require from government. Not long ago the roads supported only foot and horse traffic. The heaviest loads were buggies and wagons.

Today, we have high speed automobiles. Faster travel was not all the automobile brought. It produced more traffic and complicated traffic problems. Trucks and buses required improved roads and streets. Providing parking space in cities became difficult.

Problems multiplied, as urban areas grew. More policemen were needed. Street lights and traffic signals became necessary. Full-time, paid fire departments replaced volunteer fire companies, as town sizes kept mushrooming. A short time ago sanitary needs of small communities did not require modern sewer systems. People had plenty of room and could dispose of their own garbage.

In the old days, local government provided few services. Today, public works departments are expected to provide many services. Management of the services of local governments soon became big business.

Demands for new services found local government inadequate. Local and municipal governments consisting of a few part-time public officials and employees could not do the job.

Following World War II, thousands of new families flocked to East Baton Rouge Parish from across the nation to obtain the many new highly skilled jobs available from the expanding industries and businesses. This economic boom projected Baton Rouge into one of the leading industrial, educational and business centers of the south. The population pushed outward from the narrow city limits and sprawled over into new subdivisions just outside the city limits.

The city limits in 1949 ran roughly to Terrace Street on the south, to Baton Rouge High School on the east and to Choctaw Road on the north. On the west it stopped at the Mississippi River, as it does today. More than two-thirds of the entire population lived immediately outside the limits in unincorporated areas of the parish.

Until 1949, a loose and uncoordinated form of government known in Louisiana, as a police jury, struggled with the affairs of parish government.

Representatives from wards or districts of the parish met from time to time to deal with these affairs. Under severe limitations, it attempted to provide the parish with improvements in roads, drainage, sewage and other facilities. The City of Baton Rouge constituted two wards of the parish and so was represented on the police jury.

The city had a government of its own which provided most of its services and facilities, it had a fire department and a police department, for example. However, the highly populated area outside of the two wards in the old city limits lacked many city services. Service was generally poor where it was provided at all. For protection against fire, this larger area depended upon the willingness of the City Fire Department and availability of fire fighting equipment.

At the end of World War II, people in the parish and city turned their attention to these problems. An amendment to the state constitution was obtained authorizing a charter commission to draft a new form of government to be presented to the voters. The commission was given wide power including authority to propose consolidation of the city and parish governments.

At an election on August 12, 1947, the voters of both the parish and the city adopted the presented Plan of Government. The vote was 7,012 to 6,705, the total being slightly over one-third of voters registered and eligible to vote.

The plan, which went into effect on January 1, 1949 abolished the police jury and the city commission council. It extended the city limits and substituted a consolidated system of a mayor and council for city and parish.

A new and fundamentally different plan for coping with the problems of metropolitan development was inaugurated in the Parish (county) of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on January 1, 1949. Although it had been devised by some of the best minds in local government and reviewed by the most capable legal talent available, it was nonetheless and untried practical political and governmental experiment. There was, in fact no example by which those responsible for its implementation and administration might chart their course.

The fact that the Plan still exists (with but minor amendment) and that under it great strides have been, and are being, made in meeting and solving the problems of Greater Baton Rouge, is a tribute not only to its drafters, but to the tenacity and courage of those elected officials charged with the responsibility of carrying out its provisions. It is fair to say that the Plan of Government for the City of Baton Rouge and the Parish of East Baton Rouge has long since been accepted by the community for which it was developed, and that under it, major improvements have been carried out which without it could not have been developed on a metropolitan basis.

In order to properly understand and evaluate the consolidation of local government in East Baton Rouge Parish beginning January 1, 1949(and its achievements since that date), it is necessary to consider and appreciate the factors leading up to and primarily responsible for that consolidation.

Like so many other industrial communities, Baton Rouge had experienced accelerated growth during the war years. In 1945, the incorporated City of Baton Rouge contained an area of slightly more than 5-square miles and a population of 35,000 to 40,000 persons. The remainder of the urban population was in the unincorporated parish territory. The parish governing body was called the "Police Jury;" it operated under restrictive statutory provisions and was poorly equipped for providing urban services, or for controlling the development of an urban area. While the limited incorporated city area had provided certain urban improvements for its inhabitants, most of these improvements had originally been constructed in 1924-25, and were beginning to break down under the increased demand being placed on them.

Governmental and physical development, as such had thus reached a standstill for the City of Baton Rouge could not provide for the needs of the increased population when the vast majority of that population was outside of the city limits, and the parish governing authority, on the other hand, was not legally equipped to do so. Several alternatives were possible. Additional municipalities could be created to serve the new areas, or additional legislation could be sought which would permit the creation of districts under the Police Jury for the purpose of supplying municipal services to these new areas. Neither plan provided a satisfactory solution for all of the problems, since obviously the continued decentralization through districts or by the creation of additional municipalities would only make more difficult a solution needed in the best interest of the whole community. If the problem was to be met, and over-all development of the community achieved, a new metropolitan legal structure was required.

Recognizing that no satisfactory solution could be found in the existing constitutional and statutory provisions, interested citizens proposed an amendment to the Constitution, which, upon its adoption by the entire electorate, in November 1946, became Article 14, Section 3 (a), of that document. This constitutional provision authorized the creation of a "City-Parish Charter Commission," which was vest with the authority to develop a "Plan of Government" to be submitted to the people of the Parish for adoption. The Charter Commission was limited only by the "Constitution and laws" of the State of Louisiana with respect "to the powers and functions of local government." The work of the Commission, and of its technical advisors, resulted in the development of a plan of government which consolidated, coordinated and streamlined the functions of local government. The plan was adopted by the people of the parish on August 12, 1947 to become effective January 1, 1949. Basically, it accomplished and provided for the following things:

  1. It extended the city limits of the City of Baton Rouge from approximately five square miles to approximately 30 square miles, so as to include within the City of Baton Rouge a major portion of the residential areas of the parish.

  2. It provided for a Mayor-President Council form of government. The Mayor-President, as the Chief Executive was vested with responsibility for the administrative work of the government. His unusual title stems from the fact that he is the Mayor of the City of Baton Rouge and the President of the Parish Council.  

  3. It consolidated the major departments of government.
  4. It created urban, industrial and rural areas for taxing purposes. 

  5. It provided that no additional municipalities could be created thus eliminating the possibility of competing jurisdictions. Two small municipalities some distance from the City of Baton were continued in existence. (This provision has since been deleted).

In any event, almost immediately after January 1, 1949, certain opposition groups, taking advantage of the unfriendly attitude of those persons living in the annexed areas, began to seek substantive changes in the Plan of Government. It would be safe to say that during the first four years there was more litigation concerning the operation of government in the Parish of East Baton Rouge than it its entire history.

Among other things, the new government was unable to secure operating funds until the validity of the Plan of Government had been judicially determined. A declaratory judgment suit for this purpose was instituted contradictorily with the Attorney General of the State of Louisiana. In the case of State ex. rel. Kemp vs. City of Baton Rouge, 215 La. 315,40 So. 2d 477, the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana held that the Plan of Government was valid.

As a direct result of the Plan of Government, and the centralized effort made it possible in dealing with over-all plans and problems, the face of Baton Rouge has indeed been changed. The Bartholomew Report recommended the adoption of a comprehensive zoning ordinance. This was done in 1950, and the original ordinance has since been extended to the entire parish. The Bartholomew Report recommended more stringent regulation of the subdivision of land. A city subdivision ordinance was adopted early in 1949, and a comprehensive ordinance regulating subdivision development in both the parish and city was approved in 1955. As a result, when new areas are annexed to the city, the public facilities already meet recognized standards.

While much has been accomplished, problems still exist and will always exist in any healthy, growing community. There still exists a Sheriff's Office and City Police Department with overlapping jurisdiction. The operation of certain so-called "constitutional offices" remains outside the effective control of the local government, even though the local government is required to advance substantial sums annually to the support of these offices. Because of constitutional limitations, separate civil service systems exist for the fire and police departments, which prevents an adequate over-all integration of classified personnel.

Excerpt from R. Gordon Kean, Jr.
Parish Attorney
Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The city and parish were governed under the original plan until a few minor technical changes were approved in 1952.

In 1956, in order to further strengthen the Plan of Government, the people of East Baton Rouge Parish approved several other amendments to the City-Parish Charter. The most significant amendment to authorize a limited veto power to the Mayor-President. However, the new amendment empowered the City-Parish Councils to override a veto by a two-thirds majority. At this time the voters also authorized the creation of a new post of Administrative Assistant to the Mayor-President, since the duties of this high office had become so complex. The assistant relieves the Mayor-President of many routine duties.

In 1964, City-Parish voters approved an amendment to the Plan of Government providing for the election of two councilmen from Ward Two instead of one. Thus, the total membership of the Parish Council increased from nine to ten. The amendment also provided for adding councilmen after the Federal Census. As a result, an additional councilman was elected for Ward Three at the General Election held February 1, 1972 increasing the number to eleven.

In 1966, the voters of the parish approved further amendments to the charter. Several technical changes which serve to facilitate the workings of the government were approved. Also approved was the establishment of $300.00 as the monthly compensation for City-Parish Councilmen. At this time, The voters also approved the creation of a new unclassified position to be designated as Council Budget Officer and to be appointed by the Parish Council.

In 1970, Section 2.07 was amended in order to provide for the councilmen to take the oath of office on January 2nd rather than January 1st. Other proposed amendments failed to be approved by the voters.

On February 1, 1972, the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to amend Section 2.01 relative to composition of the governing body. This amendment was necessary for compliance with the one man-one vote requirement. As a result, 12 single-member districts were created by the Council. In addition, Section 9.12 was amended to extend veterans' preference to all veterans and Section 1.10 was amended to provide for expansion of industrial areas. Eleven other amendments were proposed but were rejected by the voters.

On October 27, 1979 the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to (1) change the name of the Parish Clerk to Council Administrator; (2) provide for penalties for the violation of any ordinance or regulation; (3) provide for the President Pro-Tempore to preside over the meetings of the Council with the right to speak and vote; (4) provide that neither Council levy any new sales taxes without a majority vote of the electorate.

On September 11, 1982, the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to amend the entire Plan of Government with specific reference to Section 2.01. The voters approved the consolidation of the city and parish councils into one governing body called the Metropolitan Council. The Council members are elected from single member districts.

On April 16, 1988, the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to amend the Plan of Government to provide for a comprehensive master land use and development plan or more commonly known as the "Horizon Plan."

On October 6, 1990 the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to amend Section 9.02 of the Plan of Government to increase the membership for the Personnel Board from three to five members (one elected from the Department of Public Works employees and one elected from the non-Department of Public Works employees) and the remaining three to be appointed by the Metropolitan Council.

On November 18, 1995 the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to provide for term limits for the Metropolitan Council and Mayor-President, limiting service to no more than three (3) consecutive terms of office, commencing January 1, 1997 and thereafter.

On November 5, 1996 Section 5.04 of the Plan of Government was amended so, as to delete the requirement that the Director of Public Works be a licensed engineer in the State of Louisiana provided that the second highest ranking official in the department is so licensed. Additional qualifications include at least five years practical experience in public works or highway administration, a college degree (including completion of courses in engineering, business management or public administration management) and at least ten years administrative experience in public works administration.

City-Parish Consolidation: Some Questions and Answers

What are the outstanding changes provided in the Plan of Government?

  1. The city boundaries were extended far enough to include almost all the highly populated area.
     

  2. The plan provided for unification or consolidation of the parish and city, as far as possible.
     

  3. The organization and form of the government was patterned closely after the council-manager system.

What political boundaries are established by the Plan?

There are three areas established by the plan: urban, industrial and rural. The industrial area is designated in order to reserve the area for industry and to separate it from the area in which the usual City-Parish services are provided. Industrial plants in this area must provide their own streets, street lights, sewerage facilities, fire and police protection, and trash and garbage collection. No homes may be built in the industrial area.

The plan also provides for the separation of the urban and rural areas of the parish into three wards. Ward 1 is all of the urban area.  Ward 2 is the northern part of the rural area. Ward 3 is the southern part of the rural area.

A property owner may find that his property is in several different kinds of districts. The reason for creation of most of these districts is that before the city took over these areas from the police jury, the district system was the only means of providing the desired services. It is still utilized even in the city when an area of less than the entire city desires a particular improvement.

Are taxes and expenses lumped together under the consolidated government?

The revenues and expenditures of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge are kept separately. However, some legal gymnastics have been necessary to take full advantage of the taxing power of the parish in the city or urban area. The property tax homestead exemption granted by state law applies to state, parish and special district taxes, but not to city taxes. Now while general state law empowers parishes to levy a 4 mill property tax for general purposes and cities to levy a 7 mill property tax, the state constitution has this to say: If a city of more than 1,000 inhabitants provides and maintains its own street system, a parish may levy only one-half of the permitted millage within the area of the city. Consequently, if the City of Baton Rouge maintained its own streets, the parish property tax rate in the city would be limited to 2 mills rather than 4 mills.

The Plan of Government, therefore, by simply turning the city streets over to the parish made two things possible: (1) the collection of two additional mills of taxation in the city, and (2) the application of the homestead exemption to this additional millage paid by city property owners.

How does the government insure that funds of the parish and city are kept separate?

Individual budgets and accounts of the revenues collected for each political unit keep the funds straight. A budget for a city or a parish is no different from the family budget. Such a budget is a plan showing the revenue or income which can be expected and how it is to be spent. An account is merely a record of each budget item-how much is allotted for it and how much has been spent. City business is paid for out of the city budget and recorded in the proper city account. The same is done for the parish.

It must be understood that territorial divisions of the parish and city are less important than the division of powers and duties. A taxpayer residing in the city pays parish taxes as well as city taxes. The parish includes the urban or city area in its boundaries. Consequently, from parish taxes and revenues the parish can be given responsibility for the provision of all public ways such as highways, street, bridges, sidewalks and airports. The responsibility for providing street lights, regulating traffic and granting bus and taxi franchises is left to the city. The costs of maintenance of sewers, costs of garbage collection and building inspections must be paid for out of city revenues.

It must be remembered that the council merely approves the budgets. While the parish and the city funds are kept separate, the executive and administrative departments perform the duties of both the parish and the city. For example, when the director of public works spends money for street lights, such money comes from city funds in his account.

Street maintenance costs are charged to parish funds. Overhead costs are borne by both city and parish funds. But since the director has a unified and consolidated department, the separateness of parish and city functions exists more in bookkeeping than in actual operations.

Each department operates in the same manner. An employee's salary may be paid one-half by the parish and one-half by the city, but only one check is issued.

Have the separate city and parish functions been paid for out of the proper budgets in actual practice?

The budgeting scheme has been followed exactly as planned. In the case of streets in the city, however, there has not been enough money for street improvements. By various legal means the city has turned over to the parish considerable portions of the money collected by the city sales taxes for street improvements.

It should be noted that the Plan of Government itself requires the parish to allocate a portion of the parish tax revenues received from the industrial areas to Baton Rouge, Zachary and Baker.

Are we not operating two separate governments?

We no longer have two separate councils. The complete unification of all the executive and operating departments which are under the Mayor-President or the Council indicates how thorough consolidation has been.

Consequently, underneath what are apparently separate governments is a real consolidation.

How the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches Operate

This section outlines the specific duties of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The legislative branch consists of the Council; the executive is the Mayor-President. Broadly speaking, the mayor administers the affairs of the city and parish under policies and procedures established by the council of which the mayor is not a member. He can influence policy through making recommendations to the Council and his membership on the Planning Commission and Recreation and Parks Commission.

Term Limits

On November 8, 1995 the Plan of Government was amended to provide that neither the Mayor-President nor the members of the Metropolitan Council may serve more than three (3) consecutive terms of office, commencing January 1, 1997, and thereafter.

Executive Branch:  Mayor-President

Since the Mayor-President has so little power in establishing policy, how important is his position? It is very important. The Mayor-President is the key to the entire system. His duties and his powers are considerable. In the absence of the Mayor-President, the President Pro-Tempore is the acting Mayor-President.

Appointments

The Mayor-President appoints most of the department heads and he supervises and directs the services of those departments. His responsibility is extensive when one considers that the Mayor appoints the Director of Public Works, the Fire Chief, the Chief of Police, the Director of Finance, the Purchasing Agent, the Personnel Administrator and the Chief Administrative Officer.

The persons whom the Mayor-President and Council appoint, as directors of departments come under the rules of the personnel system.

If you have problems affecting the maintenance of a street or road in front of your home, garbage collections, street lights, sewers or traffic, the Mayor-President or one of his department heads is the person to contact.

The Mayor-President, through his purchasing agent, purchases supplies for the government. Contracts, authorized by the Council, which are let out for bids, are also handled by the Purchasing Agent for the Mayor. The Council accepts or rejects the bids on larger contracts. But the supervision and inspection of construction work under contracts performed by private contractors is in the Mayor's hands through his Director of Public Works.

Thus, from garbage collection to supervising the expenditure of thousands of dollars in construction work, we look to the Mayor-President, as the administrator. For him to do his job, the Council must give him money to operate the departments and to pay the employees. The Mayor's role is to select the men and women to do the job and give them supervision and direction.

The daily routine of purchasing supplies, advertising for bids, hiring employees, maintaining streets, preparing plans and specifications for public improvements, collecting trash and garbage, issuing building permits, providing police protection and fire protection, and the bookkeeping for the funds of the parish and city are performed by the Mayor through his department heads.

What else does the Plan of Government specify as the Mayor's functions? It states that the Mayor is to (1) recommend policies and programs to the Council, (2) inform the Council, as to the financial condition of the City and Parish, (3) prepare and submit annual budgets to the Council, and (4) submit annual financial and progress reports to the Council. The Mayor then is very much like a business manager or plant manager.

Budgeting

The preparation of annual budgets for submission to the Council is one of the most important duties of the Mayor-President. He, with the assistance of his Director of Finance, make every effort to submit a well prepared budget to the Council. The Council approves the budgets and may make changes; however, they cannot budget more money than the Mayor estimates will be received. The departments are then required to operate within the budget allocations.

It was previously pointed out that a budget is a device to control and hold expenditures within the limits of expected revenue. The Plan of Government provides that in a given year no expenditure may be made which is not contained in the budget. However, if a surplus develops over and above the funds budgeted, it may be appropriated by the Council only after certification by the Director of Finance and Mayor-President. The purpose of this requirement is to have all the financial needs of the government considered at one time. The expected revenues are allocated for various purposes by considering all needs together. This means that the possibility of hasty and ill considered appropriations for individual items is lessened.

Money can be spent only, as it is budgeted. However, special procedure has been adopted for handling budget supplements throughout the year.

The plan provides that if the council cannot agree on the budgets by December 15, the budgets submitted by the Mayor for the next calendar year become final.

It is apparent then, that the duties and functions of the Mayor-President are considerable, and are very important.

Legislative Branch: Metropolitan Council

The council has authority for the establishment of policy which includes such matters as authorizing the expenditures of funds, establishing salary scales and employee classifications, granting bus and taxi franchises, deciding on public improvements and building programs, zoning and adopting subdivision regulations. The council adopts ordinances to regulate the conduct of people and enterprises. In 1951, the City Council collected all permanent city ordinances into one book called the City Code of the City of Baton Rouge. In 1962 a codification of the Parish laws was enacted. In 1983 the Metropolitan Council combined these books and readopted the City and Parish Codes.

Budgeting

One of the most important policy decisions of the Council is approving the yearly budgets. Also, if a surplus of revenue develops over that budgeted, it is the decision of the Council, as to how it shall be spent.

The Council may make any change in the preliminary budget as submitted by the Mayor-President by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the council, provided the changes do not exceed the mayor's estimated revenues.

Appointments

Six City-Parish officers are appointed by the Metropolitan Council; the Chief Administrative Officer (the Council Administrator/Treasurer), the Parish Attorney, the Director of Aviation, the Budget Officer, the Public Information Officer and the Director of Animal Control. Most of the citizen members of the boards and commissions discussed later in Part IV are appointed by the Metropolitan Council. In addition, the Registrar of Voters is appointed by the Council.

Investigations

The Council has power to investigate "official misconduct of any department, office or agency under its jurisdiction". This power includes authority to compel appearance of witnesses and to administer oaths.

How the Council Does Its Work

The Council is constantly required to make many important policy decisions as problems arise. These problems affect every citizen and they require the Council to conduct frequent meetings. The Council holds regularly scheduled meetings twice a month and regularly scheduled zoning meetings once a month. However, on many occasions additional meetings are called to handle emergency and special policy matters that cannot wait for the regular meetings. It is at these meetings with twelve councilmen attending that differences of opinion invariable occur and these differences are frequently expressed in warm exchanges during the democratic process of resolving them.

Public Hearings

At council meetings public hearings are held on all matters of major importance. The plan specifies a number of matters on which no action may be taken without a public hearing. The number includes such things as appropriating money, imposing regulations, levying assessments on property to pay for paving projects, levying taxes and several other types of measures.

What is a public hearing? As the words would indicate, it is an open meeting at which the citizens can hear the debate and speak on the matter up for hearing. The Plan of Government and Rules of Procedure regulate the manner in which public hearings are held. (See Section 2.12 of the Plan of Government)

A public hearing comes about in this way. The plan prohibits final action by the council on such matters as those listed above at the first meeting at which they are brought up. Therefore, a councilman must first introduce a measure; that is, he must have it read to the council and ask for a vote of the council as to whether it shall be considered at a later meeting. The matter must be in writing. If they vote is in favor of holding a public hearing at a later time, it is announced for a future date; it cannot be less than six days afterwards.

Meanwhile, the Council Administrator/Treasurer is required to publish a public notice in the Official Journal, which is a designated newspaper published in the parish.

The notice gives the date, time and place of the public hearing. At the public hearing any interested citizen may appear before the council and express his views or ask questions. Public hearings on several subjects can be held at one meeting and this is usually the case. If a citizen has opinions or information about a measure up for consideration which he feels should be made known, he should appear at the public hearing.

At the council meetings the President Pro-Tempore presides. The Mayor-President may make recommendations and offer comments on various items, but he has no vote. The Mayor-President, however, has limited veto power over certain ordinances adopted by the council.

The Parish Attorney prepares drafts of all ordinances and resolutions to be presented to the council. He attends council meetings and committee meetings to render opinions on the legality, legal operation or significance, and interpretation of ordinances and resolutions. All department heads are required to attend council meetings to explain matters of legislation affecting their departments, give background facts and material, and advise the council.

When the council has finally acted upon a matter, it often establishes some policy or program which the Mayor and his department heads will administer. This means that authorizations for certain work and appropriation of funds come from the Council. Doing the work is the responsibility of the Mayor's departments.

The Judicial Branch

Briefly, the judicial branch of government (the courts) consists of the District Court (a state court), the City Court, and Justice of the Peace ("J.P.") courts in the rural area. Persons accused of misdemeanors, including violations of city ordinances, are tried in City Court. A traffic violator, for example, goes before the City Court.

No crimes in the rural area are tried in "J.P." courts. Some law suits a non-criminal nature, and which involve small amounts of money, may tried in city and justice of the peace courts. If, for example, you sued your neighbor for damaging your fence, the case would likely be in one of the courts. However, if a large sum of money or a serious crime such as murder were involved, the case would go to district court.

Other than criminal trials, civil (non-criminal) matters are also tried in the courts, the courts have functions more closely related to policy and administrative questions of local government. Independent of the executive and legislative branches, the courts apply constitutional safeguards. The courts protect individual liberties and private rights from infringement I acts of the other two branches.

Also, the courts settle questions of interpretations of council ordinance state laws relating to local government and the powers of the legislative at executive branches of government.

Citizen Boards and Commissions

Can the Mayor and the Council do all the work? Have they the time and technical qualifications to take care of everything?

The answer to these questions would be "No." It is for this reason that our plan of government provided for the appointment of boards, committees and commissions to deal with those problems, such as planning future improvements, recreation, parks, health, plumbing, electrical, air-conditioning, building regulations and zoning matters, that require time and technical know-how. Members of these boards: committees and commissions are made up of citizens who are appointed by the Council, Mayor-President and other agencies of the government.

The Planning Commission

The Planning Commission of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge was established in 1949 as a part of the country's earliest combined city and county (or city and parish) governing units. Previous to the combined form of government, the Baton Rouge City Planning Commission was created in 1941 under the provisions of state statutes. The legislation mandated that the Planning Commission "make and adopt a master plan for the physical development of the municipality" and "promote public interest in and understanding of a plan." The Planning Commission is a governmental agency directed by state law and the Metropolitan Charter to guide the physical growth of Baton Rouge and the Parish with comprehensive planning and land use control.

As well as, comprehensive and advance planning duties, the Planning Commission develops zoning and subdivision regulations, and processes and reviews all applications for zoning changes and subdivisions. The commission and the planning staff make recommendations to the Metropolitan Council for ordinances, ordinance changes and land use requirements.

The Commission Members

The Planning Commission is a nine member board that advises elected officials on growth and development issues for the Parish. The commission decides on subdivision issues that fall within existing subdivision regulations, and serves in an advisory capacity to the Metropolitan Council on any zoning or planning ordinance changes or amendments.

Of the nine members, five are appointed for a five-year term, on a rotating basis, by the Metropolitan Council. Three of the appointees are from the city, and two are selected from Parish residents. The remaining four Commission members are representatives from the Office of the Mayor-President, the Metropolitan Council, the Parish School Board and the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission (BREC).

The work of the Planning Commission is conducted through the Planning Commission Staff, which is divided into three general divisions. The Administration Division includes the Planning Director and Assistant Planning Director, who tend to administrative duties for the Commission. The Current Planning Division provides professional assistance and advice to the general public for the development of land in East Baton Rouge Parish; processes requests for rezoning and subdivision of land; and administers ordinances included in the Unified Development Code. The Advance Planning Division is responsible for the coordination, implementation and update of the City-Parish 20-year comprehensive plan, the Horizon Plan, and accomplishes special studies related to long range planning for development throughout the Parish.

The Horizon Plan

The Horizon Plan, a 20-year "Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan," is at work in East Baton Rouge Parish as a "blueprint for the future." The plan was created with substantial citizen involvement and adopted by the Metropolitan Council on January 7, 1992.

The Horizon Plan focuses on seven major planning elements: land use; transportation; wastewater, solid waste and drainage; conservation and environmental resources; recreation and open space; housing; and public services, public building, and health and human services. Existing conditions, issues, goals, objectives and implementation strategies, or "Action Items," are established for each of the plan's elements. The City-Parish Planning Commission is responsible for coordination of the entire plan, although the implementation of Horizon involves many local agencies, organizations and initiatives.

Zoning and Subdivision Regulations

Zoning is permitted within the home-rule power of the City-Parish as granted by the State of Louisiana. The land use and development of land are regulated through the classification of the Parish into various zoning districts with permitted uses for each district. Zoning affects several aspects of development within each district, including the intensity of development, height and bulk of development, required lot and yard sizes, and parking requirements. Zoning may also establish standards for noise, signs and landscaping.

Recognizing that community growth over time often changes the character and needs of any community, the Unified Development Code allows requests for zoning changes when the existing zoning no longer allows reasonable use. Once a month the Planning Commission, which also constitutes the "Zoning Commission," holds a public hearing and considers such requests. Two public hearings - one conducted by the Planning Commission and a second by the Metropolitan Council -- are required before a zoning change takes place.

Persons requesting a change in zoning are encouraged to visit the planning office and obtain a rezoning application. Upon the visit, it may be helpful to discuss the proposed zoning change with a member of the Planning Staff. A completed rezoning application and any required fees must be submitted before the Staff may accept the application for a zoning change. Also, determination should be made as to the consistency of the proposed zoning change with the Horizon Plan. If the zoning change is not consistent with the Horizon Plan's "2010 Land Use Plan," the applicant may choose to apply for an amendment to the Horizon Plan. Procedures for the Horizon Plan amendment process are available upon request to the Office of the Planning Commission.

Subdivision activity in the Parish, which must be reviewed by the Planning Commission Staff, includes: the division of any parcel of land into two or more lots; the construction of any road through a parcel of land; the "resubdivision" of land previously divided; and development of sites of at least five acres for two or more multi-family buildings, office buildings, shops or store buildings, warehouses or other commercial or industrial structures.

Planners make recommendations to the Planning Commission, which in turn makes recommendations to the Metropolitan Council concerning zoning changes or waivers from subdivision regulations. The Metropolitan Council makes the final decision on zoning and subdivision issues.

Capital Improvements Program

Capital improvements include all major construction and improvements to public streets, sewers, buildings, parks and other physical facilities. The Planning Commission, along with the Department of Public Works and other City-Parish agencies, plays an important role in development of the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for the Parish. The Horizon Plan, which outlines the CIP process, places the Planning Commission in a major role for the initiation and establishment of the CIP; preparation and review of the CIP proposal; and final revisions to the CIP and Capital Budget. A five-year CIP is prepared by the City-Parish on an annual basis.

Recreation and Park Commission

The members of this commission include six non-paid citizens appointed by the council, the Mayor-President, a member of the school board and a member of the Planning Commission. The commission appointed a full time director to operate and maintain the facilities operated by the commission.

This citizen board labors hard to provide parks, playgrounds, playing fields such as softball diamonds, swimming pools, golf courses and other recreational facilities. The Recreation and Park Commission has exclusive responsibility to provide and maintain these facilities. The commission is empowered to find its own means to finance construction of park and recreational facilities, including the power to issue its own bonds. (Authority for the commission to issue bonds in contained in the state constitution and not in the plan of government.

Before issuing bonds to raise money, the planned construction must be submitted for approval to the Planning Commission. However, the Planning Commissions approval is not necessary if six members of the Recreation and Park Commission favor a particular program. While the commission is responsible for finding means of financing its own improvements, the council is authorized to appropriate money to support the commission.

Personnel Board

The Plan of Government contains the essentials of a civil service system for all employees, except those of the fire and police departments who are covered by a civil service system provided by state laws.

Briefly, personnel matters are administered by a personnel administrator appointed by the Mayor-President and responsible to a personnel board. On October 6, 1990 the Plan of Government was amended to add two additional members, making a total of five persons appointed by the council to the board for three year terms.

Two "members must be classified employees (one elected from the department of public works and one elected from the non-department of public works employees). Although these two are appointed by the council, they must be selected from three persons nominated by the specified group of employees themselves. Three additional members are appointed by the Metropolitan Council.

A classification plan is adopted by the Personnel Board upon recommendation of the personnel administrator. The council, upon recommendation of the personnel administrator, establishes pay plans and pay ranges.

One of the duties of the Personnel Administrator is to give competitive examinations for various positions to be filled in the classified service. Any department head wishing to make an appointment to fill a vacancy in his department must appoint one of three applicants. The appointee must be one of the three having the highest scores on the competitive examination. After he has been appointed and passed a probationary six-month period, an employee may not be suspended from his job, demoted, reduced in pay, or dismissed without having been given an opportunity for a public hearing before the personnel board. The board hears the arguments for and against the proposed action, and its decision on such matters is final.

Library Board of Control

Were you aware that the parish library and its services are provided by the City-Parish government? The Mayor-President and five citizens appointed by the council form a board which is responsible for the library in accordance with state law. They appoint the librarian and assist in operating the library. The expenses of operating the library come from parish funds.

All of the boards and commissions discussed above are set up in the Plan of Government. In addition, other citizen agencies have been established by the councils in various ordinances. Additional authority in some cases is found in state law.

Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board

As mentioned earlier, policemen and firemen are under a state Civil Service System. Under a city ordinance and state law a municipal fire and police civil service board administers personnel matters for the city firemen and policemen.

Metropolitan Board of Adjustment

City and parish zoning regulations not only prescribe what type of buildings may be put on certain lots, but they also require, among other things, that buildings be located certain distances from the front, sides and rear of each lot. Even the height of buildings is regulated.

Suppose Mr. Jones applies for a permit to build a house on his lot in a residential district. He is told at the City-Parish permit office that the zoning regulations require him to leave a certain number of feet on each side of his new house. Now perhaps the lot was created before subdivision regulations prescribed minimum widths for lots. The lot may be too small for Mr. Jones to build a decent house and leave the prescribed number of feet on each side. Mr. Jones may go before the Metropolitan Board of Adjustment with his case. If he shows just cause for not following the zoning ordinance, the board is empowered by council ordinance to relax the rule in his situation. The council appoints members of the board.

Board of Appeal

An extensive building code for the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge establishes regulations for the construction of buildings. These regulations require that building plans be submitted to the City-Parish Building Official before a building permit is issued. The purpose of these regulations is to insure that all construction is safe and free from fire hazards.

A Board of Appeal is provided for in the building code. It is composed of five members who are qualified by experience and training to pass upon matters pertaining to build construction and who shall be appointed by the Mayor-President with Council approval.

Plumbing Board, Electrical Board, Air-Conditioning and Heating Board

Plumbing, electrical and air-conditioning installations are controlled by codes adopted by the Council. These boards assist the plumbing, electrical and air-condition inspectors who are under the Director of Public Works, to interpret these codes and to prescribe examinations for persons seeking licenses in their respective fields. The boards are also intended to protect the average citizen whose knowledge of these fields is generally limited.

Airport Commission and Public Utilities

The Parish Airport is a terminal facility owned by the City-Parish Government. The Greater Baton Rouge Airport District was created by Act 151 of 1969. A commission of citizens administers the operation of the Airport.

The Metropolitan council is the Airport Authority and exercises supervisory jurisdiction over the Board of Commissioners. The Director of Aviation, who manages local airport facilities, is appointed by the Council.

The public utilities providing electricity, gas and water are privately owned in Baton Rouge.

The bus transportation is owned by the City-Parish and is administered through the Capitol Transportation Corporation, a quasi-public corporation.

Board of Health

The Plan of government makes no provision for a Health Department or a Board of Health.

However, the state statutes provide that the "governing body of each parish or municipality shall provide ample means for the maintenance and operation of local boards and for the promotion and conservation of the public health." For a number of years there has been an active City-Parish Health Unit operated under the supervision of a Health Unit Director. The operating costs have been jointly borne by the state, federal government and the City and Parish.

In October, 1953, a Board of Health was established. The Council recommends to the State Board of Health the names of five citizens for appointment to the board and the terms of these appointees run concurrently with members of the Council.

Beautification Commission

In order to provide for development of plans for beautification throughout the City and Parish, a City-Parish Beautification commission was created. This group, which is now a division of the Department of Public Works, works with the Planning Commission to insure that ecological and beautification considerations are included as part of capital improvement projects undertaken.

State Government's Role

State government has long had a dominant role in the activities of cities and parishes. The state legislature prescribes for local governments certain basic procedures which they must employ in carrying out their responsibilities, such as public bidding on purchases and building contracts, civil service systems for larger cities and in many others.

The state also provides some financial assistance to local governments. Some of these comes in the form of state supplemental pay to city policemen and firemen and to deputy sheriff's in the parish.

For many years also, the state has shared the revenue it collects on sales of tobacco products with municipalities. The parish receives revenues from stated collected beer tax, chain store tax, insurance company tax and from the State Road Fund.

Beginning in 1972 the state instituted what the legislature called "revenue sharing" with cities and parishes. These payments were actually in place of property taxes previously paid to local governments and did not result in a significant increase in revenues to the City-Parish. The City-Parish form of government in East Baton Rouge was the first consolidation of a county and city government in the United States. Since its implementation on January 1, 1949, it has attracted national attention and other cities have used this system as a model for enhancing the efficiency of their local governments. The people of East Baton Rouge Parish are extremely proud of the efficient, consolidated government which has permitted progressive growth of East Baton Rouge into a leading center of industry, business, education and culture.

City and Parish Demographics

For information on City and Parish Demographics please view our Demographics page.