BATON ROUGE — More than 400 elected officials and local government staffers attended the Louisiana Municipal Association’s 2016 Mid-Winter Conference on February 24 and 25, marking the 90th year of operations for the statewide group.
Held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, it was the first major event in the Association’s annual training calendar, an opportunity for mayors and other city managers to learn from experts about municipal resources and issues that impact local governance. Nearly thirty sponsors supported the event, representing both corporate and nonprofit providers of city services.
Baton Rouge Mayor-President, Melvin “Kip” Holden, welcomed the group at Wednesday’s opening plenary, encouraging unity among local leaders. “Let us not have anyone separate us,” he said. “Let us have no lines of division.”
Wednesday’s educational program focused on public safety, featuring workshops on terrorism preparation, security at city halls and a detailed presentation and debriefing on Lafayette’s tragic 2015 movie house shootings given by former City-Parish President Joey Durel and Police Chief James Craft.
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler presented Thursday on election procedures for local millage tax and the funding outlook for state museums. Other programs explained the work of city coroners and assessors, fire suppression rating systems and the rail industry. Elected officials also received continuing education on the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act and public records retention.
Governor John Bel Edwards, who last addressed the LMA membership at its July, 2015, Gubernatorial Candidates Forum, took time from a Special Legislative Session to commend the Association’s 90 year history of service, calling it “a tremendous accomplishment.” Noting shared responsibility with local leaders, the Governor said, “Your constituents are my constituents; that makes us partners.” In a brief outline of present state revenue shortfalls, Gov. Edwards acknowledged the pain felt by municipalities and said of his proposed solutions, which include temporary additional sales tax, that shared sacrifice will lead to shared prosperity.
Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, a former Plaquemines Parish President and longtime LMA supporter, followed Edwards at the podium, thanking the Association for its commitment to service and pledging his assistance to any Louisiana municipality needing a voice in Baton Rouge.
The conference kicked off LMA’s designated “Year of Education,” which along with advocacy and member service is a core Association mission. With its annual meetings and numerous workshops, the LMA is a “vital provider of continuing education and training for local leaders,” said LMA President, Springhill Mayor Carroll Breaux.
Technological innovations, including a free smartphone app and RFID registration of session participants, eased information sharing and improved the experience for attendees. “Feedback on the new tech has been fantastic,” said Ronnie Harris, LMA Executive Director.
For more information about the Louisiana Municipal Association, its mission and coming events for 2016, see: www.LMA.org or call Nikki Samrow, Events Director, (225) 344-5001.