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2-25-24 Meeting Minutes

February 25, 2024

Garden District Civic Association Annual Meeting Minutes

February 25, 2024, Leola’s Café, 1860 Government St., 3:20 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.


President Justin Kojak welcomed the attendees and introduced the current active board members. Justin updated members on the association’s activities for the past year.


The GDCA received a Neighborhood Challenge Grant in 2023 and used it to plant nearly 40 trees around the Garden District. We partnered with Baton Rouge Green on the effort, and they were wonderful to work with. The neighborhood improvement contest is sponsored by the MidCity Redevelopment Alliance. The GDCA won for best project amongst all the 2023 grant recipients.


The LiveOak Collective is the Garden District’s program for maintenance of our median live oak trees through proper pruning and soil amendment. A 501(c)(3) corporation was set up so all contributions are tax deductible. So far, $39,000 has been raised and 46 trees have been addressed. There are 164 live oaks in the medians, so there are many waiting for help. One median at a time is tackled. We need residents or anyone to contribute to a median. We encourage residents to encourage their neighbors to join in supporting a specific median or contribute to the cause. If a block can collect most of the money, the Association will contribute to finish off the amount that is needed. www.gdcabr.org has more information.


Officer Seth Gautier was unable to attend because of work obligations, Justin gave the security report. He told us that if everyone would lock their vehicle, 80% of the crime would disappear. He reminded us to keep valuables out of sight. We continue to work with our BRPD security liaison to address all issues in the neighborhood.


Justin reported on drainage. Last year the City worked on drainage, but it wasn’t enough. Drainage at the corner of Cherokee and Drehr is being renovated right now. They are repairing/replacing the brick tunnel that was built in 1918. Alaye Bloomstone reported a drainage problem at Oleander and Park to 311. The ’City’s vacuum truck sucked out the clog and the problem was corrected. Attendees were encouraged to submit any drainage issues through the 311 app.


Upcoming activities are the Easter Egg Hunt, the Fall Picnic, the Champagne Stroll, the Holiday Lighting Contest and, possibly, a Garage Sale Day.


Councilwoman Coleman said she likes our neighborhood “because we take care of our business or else we call Justin.” Thank you, Justin! She introduced the owner of Fire Haus, a nearby bar, at 17th St. and Wisteria, which has had many complaints about excessive loud noise. Cornelius Quarels, the owner, said he has been open five months and has worked hard to keep the area clean, hired 2 police and 6 security guards and is getting a police camera. He has moved the speakers to different places in an effort to curb the volume and will continue to try to accommodate the neighbors. His assistant is Brooke Hill. She may be called at (225) 285-5130 if neighbors need to contact them.


Justin introduced prospective board members, Dickie Howze, Kay Willson, Susan Menville and Anne Trapp. Attendees unanimously voted them in. Justin invited any members present who would like to be on the board to speak up. No one did, so he said to let us know later if they decided that they want to join. Justin introduced current board members who were present and they were unanimously voted in. Present were Justin Kozak, Ted Magee, Heather Day, Anita Parsons King, Mary Fontenot, Jason Hessick, Mike Schexnayder, Babeth Schlegel, Kathryn Mount and Michael Myers. Current board members who were not present, but were voted in, are Hance Hughes and John Williams.


Ted James, who was born and raised in Baton Rouge and spent ten years in the Louisiana Legislature, informally told us that he plans to run for Mayor-President in the next election. He enthusiastically talked about his agenda.


Questions from the floor were about crime. Breaking into cars was one of the topics. The corner of Tulip and Drehr is one of the hot spots for that. How many hours the patrols are on duty was a question. Justin explained that 80% of our dues go to patrols. We are a volunteer membership association, so we can’t make people pay. People can donate to a fund that is just for patrols if they wish and some do. One patrolman cost $30 per hour. They cover 25 hours per month with ten more hours in the summer and during holidays. The officers suggest when the best times of the day or night would be.


There was a complaint about vehicles speeding down 22nd St. going the wrong way. A child nearly was hit at Oleander and 22nd recently because of a speedy car going the wrong way. A sign saying “WRONG WAY” was suggested. Councilwoman Coleman suggested talking with our new police chief about getting community policing in there.


There are problems with people not stopping at stop signs, parking and blocking driveways. It was suggested that lowering the speed limit on Government St. might be wise. People thought that not enough tickets are given. We were reminded that it takes police a lot of time to process those tickets. Years ago, the police focused on our neighborhood, giving out tickets and it turned out that most of the tickets went to people who lived in the neighborhood.


The landscaping on the Government St. medians was discussed. The state has turned them over to the City. Attendees felt they should have very low maintenance plants, so it doesn’t grow weeds. A watering system is already installed.


We thank Leola’s Café for allowing us to meet there and supplying delicious food. Thanks to the residents who signed up to volunteer to help with activities.


Respectfully submitted,

Mary Fontenot

GDCA Secretary