Together BR forum tells political candidates what it wants from them

Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Monday, October 29, 2012 - 10:24pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 12:00pm

The biggest local election forum of this political season was nothing like the candidates are used to.

Together Baton Rouge hosted 30 of the 32 candidates for East Baton Rouge Mayor-president and Metro Council Monday night, with approximately 500 people in attendance at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church.

But they did not show up in order to listen to the candidates.

"What we're pushing for," said Dr. Jeanne George, a Together Baton Rouge committee co-chair, "is to get them to listen to the citizens."

None of the candidates got to choose their talking points.

"Instead of focusing on issues that divide," George said, "we're going to be asking them to focus on, to make a commitment to, working together."

Members of Together Baton Rouge told personal, emotional stories about the issues, such as infrastructure, CATS, and crime.

Cynthia Tracy spoke about the pain and struggle of having a child in prison. She mentioned that political candidates often turn criminals into villains in order to get votes, but reality is rarely that simple.

"What do you do when the righteous 'us' and the evil 'them' become one and the same," she asked.

When the candidates did get to take the microphone, they were asked to pledge to work with Together Baton Rouge, particularly on the eradication of food deserts.

"That is going to be one of our major focuses during the next couple of years," George said.

The leaders of Together Baton Rouge said they want to work with whoever wins, because cooperation is the biggest catalyst of innovation.

"We want to see them exemplify what we exemplify," said Sidni Lloyd-Shorter, "and that is, 'together.' We exemplify what together looks like."

The candidates were held to a strict one-minute time limit. Many of them struggled with the constraint, but that was the point: Together Baton Rouge wants less talk, and more action.

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