The St. George Petition Is Off And Running

There’s a web site up and running at which outlines the case in favor of incorporating a new city in the southewn part of East Baton Rouge Parish – and in doing so, starting what looks like one of the most interesting and contentious political fights we’ve had in Louisiana in decades.

St. George would have an initial population of about 105,000 people. It would be one of the richest cities, if not the richest city, in Louisiana. St. George would include the Country Club of Louisiana, the University Club, the new L’Auberge Casino, Perkins Rowe, the Mall of Louisiana, Siegen Marketplace, Oak Hills Place, Shenandoah, Santa Maria and several other well-known centers of wealth in the parish.

Not only that, St. George would contain an enormous amount of undeveloped land in desirable areas of town. An enormous amount of undeveloped riverfront property along the Mississippi, for example.

The petition now being circulated needs about 25,000 signatures from residents of the area inside the proposed city’s borders. If those are collected, there will be an election within the borders of what is to be St. George, and if a majority votes yes there will be a new city.

This won’t do much good for the city-parish government in East Baton Rouge Parish, and it especially won’t do any good for the East Baton Rouge School System, whose superintendent went to the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday and touted his attention to things like air conditioning and universal pre-kindergarten. This will supposedly help to vault East Baton Rouge into the top 10 school systems in the state by 2020.

Of course, Zachary and Central, who previously broke away from the EBR system, vaulted to the top 10 almost immediately. They didn’t have to wait seven years for their ship to come in. And St. George would be possessed of far greater resources than Zachary and Central have.

A map of St. George’s boundaries…

Here’s a taste of the opposition. First, Kip Holden, who runs the city-parish government St. George is trying to move away from…

“This is something that will not work,” Baton Rouge Mayor President Kip Holden said.

He strongly opposes the creation of a new city. He believes the district has no reason to split because the school system’s performance numbers are increasing.

“Kind of amazing that after we go in and make all of these improvements and bring Baton Rouge up to greater standards somebody would choose to try to separate us,” Holden said. “This will be a failed movement.”

Holden recognizes that if St. George incorporates, it will make him a laughingstock in the event he continues with the idea of running for Lt. Governor.

A little more. Someone named James Finney, commenting under the Times-Picayune’s piece on September 6 about the issue…

I’m not sure which idea is worse — breaking up the school district or creating yet another municipality. This selfish take-my-marbles-and-stay-home philosophy is quite nauseating. People in southern East Baton Rouge Parish should quit whining about building fences around their tiny little worlds and start engaging in the process of improving the whole. What don’t you like about the current school system, and how would incorporation or creation of a new school district change that?

That’s as inane a reaction as it will be commonplace.

People in St. George who would like to have a town of their own are entitled – because the area they live in is unincorporated – to desire one and act on those desires. That’s called liberty.

And there is a legitimate grievance. From the St. George website…

We represent more than two-thirds of the parish’s tax base but only about one-third of its expenditures, and the area which will be St. George has never produced a mayor-president of Baton Rouge in modern times.

If you’re paying twice the percentage of taxes you’re getting back in services, you’re getting ripped off. Who can blame you for considering other options?

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