Senator Jones says Mayo blindsided him opposition to Southside Economic District

There’s a tug of war going on between Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and Senator Charles Jones over the future of business growth in South Monroe.

Tuesday Senator Jones was visibly upset on the floor of the Senate when a bill he proposed to provide funding for a new South Monroe Economic Development District was attacked by three North Louisiana Senators at the request of Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.

Mayo told the Free Press Wednesday that Jones’ bill would create a tax district that would be able to duplicate the city’s taxing power even though it was restricted to new business.

Mayo said earlier that he touched base with Jones about the plan and the two were supposed to sit down and talk about the plans, but Jones never touched bases with him.

At present Mayo said the Southside Economic District is in its infant stages. He said the city is seeking financing and holding workshops. It’s been in operation for about three years but Mayo could not name any new business that has begun operation in the district. He said that its existence is to create an atmosphere for business growth.

“I have to be concerned about the entire city not just South Monroe. Until we have an opportunity to have a better understanding of Jones’ (Sen. Jones) legislation, I can’t support his bill. IÆm going to be the one that will have to make it all work in the end. South Monroe is a priority but we can’t cripple ourselves by arbitrarily supporting legislation that will have the potential to do so,ö Mayo said.

Jones said he was blindsided on the floor of the Senate Tuesday when North Louisiana white Senators ‘who don’t even live in the Southside’ started speaking against the bill on behalf of Mayor Mayo.

“The council members this bill affects have not contacted me at all,” Jones said.

Jones was furious when Senators: Noble Ellington from Winnsboro, Robert Barham from Oak Ridge and Robert Kostelka from Monroe all started to pick his bill apart one by one, reportedly at the request of Mayor Mayo. Ellington and Barham said they received letters from Mayo opposing Jones’ action.

Mayo did not write a similar letter to Jones.
Barham told the Senate that Monroe was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and could not afford a tax district that would take money from the city’s general treasury.

Ticked off, Jones said the Mayor and council should not contact him in future for their special projects, since they chose to embarrass him on the floor.

ôThis has never happened to me before in all my years in the Senate,ö Jones said.

What’s the Issue?

Jones’ bill would give the Southside District tax authority and provide a revenue stream for future growth, according to the Senator.

“It would provide a revenue stream for the Southside. It would place a tax on new businesses that begin in the district and would not affect any of the city’s present revenue sources,” Jones told the Free Press.

In addition, Jones’ bill would dissolve the present Southside District and transfer its duties to the new district.

“This could mean potentially millions of dollars invested in South Monroe business growth,” said Jones who was upset that Mayor Mayo would go to three white Senators to oppose something that would help South Monroe.

“The city does not have the revenue to help South Monroe in its present economic condition,ö said Jones who added that the only funding the district gets is handouts from the state.

He said what he wants to do for the Southside is essentially the same thing he did for the Downtown Economic Development District.

“Nobody opposed that (DEDD)? What’s the big deal now,” Jones asked.

Adding insult to injury, Jones said he was getting calls all Wednesday from those who reminded him that he played a key role in promoting Mayo’s re-election bid. He didn’t even get a phone call from Mayo.

Replace The Present Committee

One sticking point in Jones proposal is who runs the show.

Under his new district, the present board would virtually be replaced. He inserted a set of criteria for board membership that guarantees a board with more economic savvy but would still have some oversight by elected officials.

The new district would be almost independent of the city, since it would have its own funding source.

The present board is all appointed by the Mayor. Under the new plan, the mayor would only have one mayoral appointee: himself or his designee and three appointed by each Southside Councilman.

In addition, the board would consist of two members appointed by Jones and two by State Representative Willie Hunter who would serve two-year terms.

The present Southside Economic Development Board could appoint two members one who would serve four years and the other six years.

There would also be one member appointed by the Minority Business Council.

Jones’ bill sets up a tougher criteria to be a South Monroe Board member. The requirements include requiring board members to have backgrounds and expertise in the following areas: Real Estate, banking, economic consultant, architectural engineering, planning, and urban development, or be the owner of a successful business.

Jones said his bill is not designed to push any of the present members off the board but ôthe people of South Monroe deserve the very best we have available.ö

Jones said the bill is not dead. He said he pulled it from the floor to give those who are opposed to it a chance to talk to him.

As of Wednesday evening, he said no one from the City of Monroe has talked to him. Neither has he seen the letter from Mayo that was purportedly sent by Mayor Mayo opposing his bill.

Jones said his bill will pass and become law.

Jones is a senior senator in Baton Rouge whose clout as one of the Governor’s floor leaders and finance committee membership can just about guarantee the life of death of most bills that come through the Senate.