|Improving the community in a new way|
Occupation: Chair, Baton Rouge Transit Coalition; Pastor, Star Hill Church
Hometown: Baton Rouge
Raymond Jetson was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for almost 16 years and worked at the Department of Health and Hospitals for another five, but the Baton Rouge native left public office for a very specific reason. He felt a calling to improve his community in a brand-new way.
"I left to serve as a pastor and to do all that I could to improve the quality of life in my hometown," Jetson says.
Jetson now serves as chair of the Baton Rouge Transit Coalition, the group committed to establishing and sustaining a quality public transportation system in the capital city. He believes better transit and more options will help improve both quality of life and economic productivity here.
"Our transit system has been in crisis for a number of years," he says.
Last month, the area voted on a property tax to fund a variety of improvements to the local bus system in the next 10 years. After a fierce debate, the measure passed by a 54% to 46% margin in Baton Rouge.
Jetson was instrumental in the victory that will give the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) an annual operating budget just shy of $30 million. The hardest part of getting out the vote and his message? Dealing with misinformation.
"There were so many people driven by different agendas, whether it be political or social or otherwise, that it became difficult to have a discussion without a lot of other stuff getting in the way," Jetson says.
The future of Baton Rouge's bus system is now in the hands of CATS officials who have the necessary funds at their disposal— finally, says Jetson. "Now it's up to their board to implement the plan they presented to the people and make the changes."
With CATS now on surer footing, Jetson is reaching out to legislators and officials, pushing education initiatives through Better Baton Rouge, another group he chairs. "I go to the State Capitol to track legislation and voice my opinion as to how it impacts the education of children," Jetson says. "An educated population is a powerful population, and the status quo doesn't work for a whole lot of children in our community."
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