Baton Rouge Area Chamber: A Threat to Business

Baton Rouge Area Chamber: A Threat to Business

Passing CATS Taxes, Opposing SE Schools, Featuring Communist Speaker Leave Some On Chamber Board Ready to Jump Ship

BATON ROUGE — It’s been a long time since locally-owned small businesses in East Baton Rouge Parish felt they had a place of influence in the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber has been the domain of large corporations and non-profit organizations for at least the past decade.

Only those “investors” who give $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 a year hold much sway over Baton Rouge Area Chamber policy.

But the Chamber really began to go down when it started getting $450,000 annually of your taxpayer dollars as a direct appropriation from Mayor-President Kip Holden and the Metro Council.

Now the Mayor-President’s influence over Chamber policy is undeniable.  The Chamber came out strongly in favor of Holden’s $1.1 billion Alive! proposal, which would have raised sales taxes in Central to 10.25 percent and raised property taxes.  The Chamber also came out in favor of the Mayor’s One Baton Rouge proposal.

But three developments over the past few days have completely shattered the Chamber’s image:

Sponsorship of CATS Tax. The Baton Rouge business community — few of whom are Chamber members — is starting to realize that the Baton Rouge Area Chamber was the leading force behind passage of last Saturday’s $184 million CATS property tax.

Instead of fighting the tax, the Chamber was the chief organizer in support of the tax and the largest donor ($15,000) for the tax.

Opposition to Southeast Baton Rouge School System. On  Tuesday, the Chamber came out against Sen. Bodi White’s bill to create the new Southeast Baton Rouge Community School District.  In view of the success of the Central and Zachary community school systems, one would think the Chamber would be eager to embrace White’s bill as a major vehicle for bringing affordable, quality public schools to South Baton Rouge and stopping the massive exodus out of the parish.

Creation of independent community school districts in South Baton Rouge is the key to saving East Baton Rouge Parish.  Productive, working people will not return to this parish until we offer good quality public schools and safe neighborhoods.

But, no, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber has put itself on the side of the failing East Baton Rouge Parish School System and a future which is bleak and hopeless.

Communist Party Spokesman as Main Speaker at Annual Meeting. This morning, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber held its Annual Shareholder Meeting at the Renaissance Hotel.  The main speaker was scheduled to be Martin Jacques, who served for nearly 20 years as editor of Marxism Today, the official journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain.  Jacques, who has apparently never renounced his Community Party views, was scheduled to speak on the inevitability  of Communist China ruling the world.

An avowed Communist as keynote speaker at the Chamber’s annual meeting?

Adam Knapp, the Chamber president who is up to his neck in all of these decisions, reportedly told some of his Board members he didn’t know Jacques was a Communist (even though the Chamber’s own literature and website brags that Jacques was editor of the “renowned” publication Marxism Today.)

Now some Chamber Board members reportedly have had enough and are ready to jump ship.

The real question is whether the Chamber has drifted too far from the mainstream of the Baton Rouge business community and whether there is anything left to save.

By Woody Jenkins, Editor, Central City News


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