Together Baton Rouge Praises 'Predictability of Standards' vs. 'Predictability of the Rubber-Stamp'

[Remarks below by Dianne Hanley of Together Baton Rouge, delivered at Baton Rouge City Hall]

"Democracy can be a messy thing. It’s much easier to have no discussion and no public input, to approve everything with a rubber stamp. That’s one approach to economic development. It’s easy. It’s stream-lined. And it’s gotten us to 50th in the nation for economic outcomes.
It’s less easy to have to weigh the benefits of exemptions against the cost of services those exemptions could fund. It’s less “streamlined” to have to distinguish between exemptions that are truly needed as incentives and those that are simply providing public subsidies for a corporation's routine costs of doing business.
That takes work and deliberation. It takes time. It’s less “stream-lined” than the alternative. It’s more “contentious.”
It’s also, we believe, the most important thing we’ve done for economic development in this state in 80 years.
We applaud our Governor for opening the opportunity for public deliberation around these allocations of public resources.
We applaud the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council and School Board for engaging in this messy thing we call democracy to develop guidelines by which exemptions will be evaluated in the future. Those guidelines require a modest level of job creation and prohibit granting exemptions on work that’s already complete. If applications meet these standards, they will be approved. If they do not, they will not be.
These standards provide the predictability companies and communities alike need to succeed.

They provide the predictability of standards, not the predictability of the rubber-stamp. 

They offer the certainty of criteria, not the certainty of the closed-door meeting.
It’s true that this represents a change from the past. But if the old way of doing things is so effective -- the rubber-stamp way, the closed-door approach  -- then why is our state doing so poorly economically, despite our extraordinary resources.
We welcome this new day of economic development in our state." 

Additional Note

After the organizing efforts of Together Baton Rouge led to the denial of Exxon Mobil’s tax exemption requests through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program by the Parish School Board, Exxon Mobil withdrew additional tax exemption requests the day before going before the Metro Council for approval.   Leaders celebrated Exxon Mobil’s decision to pull the requests for tax exemptions since these did not conform to the clear standards for ITEP established by the city.

About this victory, which results in $6 Million for East Baton Rouge Parish, $2.9 Million for the school district and up to $3 Million for city government, Together BR leader Rev. Lee T. Wesley said that “local standards provide the thing that’s most important, both for our corporate partners and for our community, which is predictability, what’s new is that, for once, it’s not the predictability of a rubber-stamp; it’s the predictability of a genuine standard. That’s a positive and important change.”  

At the same time, Together Baton Rouge publicly recognized and commended ExxonMobil’s investment in the community through education and other initiatives.  “ExxonMobil is a major asset to our community with a local team that often goes above and beyond to support community efforts,” Together Baton Rouge stated.

[Photo Credit: Hilary Scheinuk, The Advocate]

Together Baton Rouge Celebrates Exxon Pulling Tax Incentive Request, The Advocate

Exxon drops tax break requests after being rejected by EBR school board,  The Advocate

Together Baton Rouge" praises ExxonMobil's decision to withdraw ITEP request applications, BR Proud

Together Baton Rouge to address Exxon ITEP withdrawal, recognize company’s ‘vital role’, Business Report