GOOD GRIEF: Priests vs. Congregation In The St. George Fight, Round Two

Tonight, there is a meeting of anti-St. George people at St. Patrick Catholic Church in southeast Baton Rouge. It’s a meeting that was scheduled for another Catholic Church, the ironically-named St. George church in the south central part of the parish a week ago – but when the snows came and it had to be rescheduled, the venue was changed as well.

We’re told that the switch from St. George to St. Patrick came as a result of an outcry from parishioners at St. George who are, in general, supportive of efforts to incorporate the new city, but we can’t confirm that.

What we can confirm is that Residents Against The Breakaway, the group putting on tonight’s meeting, have found a true friend in the pastor at St. Patrick.

When parishioners expressed disapproval of their church being used as a venue for a political group’s activities, this is what Father Jerry Martin sent in response:

There’s some rather supercharged rhetoric, no? The St. George folks are killers, thieves and adulterers?

One cannot fault the Pastor’s good intentions – but he may need some advice on matters more worldly than heavenly.

Something more: from Metro Councilman John Delgado’s Facebook yesterday…

Dear Friends,

A number of people have indicated interest in supporting efforts opposing the proposed incorporation of a city of St. George and I wanted to make you aware of two organizations established in December 2013 which I believe deserve support. Below is some basic information on their organizational structure and goals, and if you would like more information, please let me know and I will be glad to have someone contact you to brief you in more detail.

The most urgent need both groups have is fundraising to achieve their goals, and when people who are upset about this issue ask, “What can we do to help?”, I suggest asking them to support either or both of these efforts.

“Community Issues, Inc.” is a non-profit corporation organized to promote the general welfare of East Baton Rouge Parish and will develop and implement various strategies to assure the parish remains unified and economically strong. Contributions can be sent to the following address:

Community Issues, Inc.
Attention: Charles A. Landry
8555 United Plaza Boulevard, Suite 500
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70809

A second organization, “Residents Against the Breakaway”, is a non-profit corporation funding the Better Together Campaign — a citizen-led movement to oppose the St. George incorporation and hold our city-parish together.

After just a few weeks, Residents Against the Breakaway has a Facebook page with over 3,200 followers (www.facebook.com/RATBBatonRouge), a website with information about the effects of the breakaway (www.bettertogetherbr.org), a mailing list of more than 1,000 people and about 100 grassroots leaders dedicated to holding our city-parish together. It also has requests and addresses for over 700 yard signs, with plans to put up several thousand in the next two months throughout the proposed St. George area. I have included a copy of their yard sign below.

Residents Against the Breakaway are hoping to raise about $20,000 to fund a grassroots outreach campaign, including yard signs, social media, canvassing, earned media and a public education drive about the effects the southeast breakaway would have on our community.

This group will hold a public meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 4th at 6:30 p.m., at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 12424 Brogdon Lane, in the area of S. Sherwood Forest Boulevard and Coursey Boulevard and expect to have about 300 people attend.

There are two ways to donate to the Better Together Campaign. You can contribute online by clicking here: www.bettertogetherbr.org/donate, or send a check payable to “Residents Against the Breakaway” to:

Residents Against the Breakaway
P. O. Box 3717
Baton Rouge, LA 70821

Please feel free to share information about these groups with your friends or colleagues who have asked about what they can do to help.

Delgado, who has emerged as the primary water-carrier against the St. George effort, is now actively soliciting funds for anti-St. George groups on his Facebook. No other elected official has done that, so we can safely call it “significant.”

Something interesting about that, though – the first group Delgado is soliciting for, Community Issues, Inc., isn’t exactly the bake-sale-fundraiser and flag-waving-at-street-corners outfit. From the Baton Rouge Business Report a couple of months ago

While supporters of a breakaway municipality in southeast Baton Rouge continue to gather signatures needed to put the issue before voters on a ballot, city leaders are working behind the scenes with BRAC and BRAF to formulate a comprehensive opposition strategy that will likely include fundraising and a media campaign. Mayor President Kip Holden tells Daily Report he has not yet taken the lead in speaking out against the proposed City of St. George because “we are still dealing with strategies and we are working with BRAF and BRAC on the best way to keep this from breaking apart.” But the mayor also says he disputes figures circulated by proponents of the breakaway city showing the new municipality would not mean higher taxes for those who live there. “There is no way you can magically create a city and have all the things they are promising to have,” Holden says. “But I want to make sure before I start spouting off figures that we have done all the research and have all the facts.” While the opposition movement is still in the formative stages, attorney Charles Landry in late October incorporated a new nonprofit called Community Issues Inc. Holden says the entity was incorporated on behalf of several “business interests in the community who are concerned about what this will mean.” He declines to name them. Landry and BRAF declined to comment.

And from the Baton Rouge Advocate around the same time

On Nov. 21, a group of about 40 business and community leaders were quietly invited to a meeting at the St. George Catholic School to get a preview of the St. George financial impact study, which was released to the media the following week, according to one of the attendees who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak on the group’s behalf.

At the meeting, Mike Polito, president of MAPP Construction and a former chairman of the BRAC board, told the group he would be spearheading a fundraising campaign under the name Community Issues Inc.

A nonprofit organization named Community Issues Inc. was registered with the Secretary of State on Oct. 30.

Baton Rouge attorney Charles Landry is listed as the group’s director.

Landry declined comment in an email response to questions, and Polito did not respond to messages left at his office and an email seeking comment.

According to the participant who provided an account of the meeting, the speakers included Baton Rouge Area Chamber President Adam Knapp and William Daniel, the chief administrative officer to Mayor-President Kip Holden. Holden was not present at the meeting.

Other leaders who attended were Shaw Group founder Jim Bernhard and Baton Rouge Area Foundation leaders John Davies and John Spain.

BRAF insists they have no position on the St. George fight, but absolutely nobody – nobody, which as you can see above would encompass the mayor-president himself – believes they’re somehow neutral. The first meeting of Landry’s group was peppered with attendance from BRAF’s top brass, along with current and past members of its board, but you’re supposed to believe they could go either way.

The implausibility of that position aside, it’s clear that the Community Issues crowd is made up of some very heavy hitters. They’re hardly in need of $25 checks from John Delgado’s Facebook friends.

So why is he soliciting funds for them on social media?

If you were to conclude the reason has more to do with Delgado’s interest in currying favor from bigwigs than responding to their pleas, you would not get an argument from us.

The fact is, Landry – who is Of Counsel at the prestigious Jones Walker law firm in downtown Baton Rouge – can raise enough money with a few phone calls to buy and sell Delgado every day for a month. From his Jones Walker bio

Noteworthy

  • In the September 18, 2012 edition of the Baton Rouge Business Report, Mr. Landry was identified as one of the 30 most influential people in the Capital Region over the past 30 years.
  • Mr. Landry was named the 2006 Businessperson of the Year by the Baton Rouge Business Report and Junior Achievement. The Business Awards are annually awarded to the top local executives or entrepreneurs. Started in 1984, the awards are based on successful demonstrations of leadership, vision, ingenuity and innovation. This is the first time the Businessperson of the Year award has been given to an attorney.
  • Mr. Landry was named to the top 10 list of the most influential people in the Baton Rouge Capital region in the 2007 Power Book, published by the Baton Rouge Business Report. The list was compiled from surveys of the Business Report‘s readers.
  • Mr. Landry received the 2002 Distinguished Leadership Award for a Citizen Planner presented by the Louisiana Chapter of the American Planning Association for his effective leadership in community and regional planning dedicated to promoting planning and implementing policies which improve the quality of life for citizens throughout the State of Louisiana.
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® 2014 (Copyright 2013 by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, SC) in the area of Real Estate Law (listed annually since 1993)
  • Recognized in “Chambers USA – America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” in the area of Real Estate (annually since 2005)
  • Listed in the 2014 edition of Louisiana Super Lawyers in the area of Real Estate (listed annually since 2007)
  • AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rating in Martindale-Hubbell
  • Featured as part of the “TND Trinity” in the Summer 2008 issue of 10/12 Magazine
  • Featured in the Baton Rouge Business Report‘s 2008 Real Estate Report under “People to Watch” in the retail sector

Other Acknowledgements

  • Mr. Landry was featured in the Baton Rouge Business Report on January 30, 2007, in an article highlighting the popularity of TNDs
  • >Mr. Landry received the 2003 Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professional for his work on the Shaw Center for the Arts project, as well as numerous other philanthropic projects.
  • Mr. Landry received the 2002 Annual Business in the Arts Award presented by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge for his leadership, personal commitment, and volunteerism with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.
  • He received the 2000 Community Leadership Award from Leadership/Greater Baton Rouge Alumni, Inc. for his volunteer work on issues affecting social services, leadership, and education while participating in worthy projects benefiting the community.
  • Mr. Landry was selected as a recipient of the 1994 Volunteer Activist Award which recognizes lifetime achievements and exceptional volunteer efforts to help others in the Baton Rouge area.
  • Mr. Landry received the Outstanding Volunteer Award in 1994 from the Louisiana Arts and Science Center.
  • He was named as Baton Rouge’s 1992 Young Man of the Year by the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Baton Rouge.

Talk to anybody on the Baton Rouge Metro Council and they’ll tell you Landry merely needs to make a call on behalf of a client and he can get virtually anything he wants. He’s not exactly a “lobbyist” per se, but where East Baton Rouge government is concerned he’s just about the best mover and shaker there is.

So when Charles Landry starts up a “grassroots” organization to fight St. George, you can bet that the least significant occurrence with respect to that organization is John Delgado begging for rupees from his Facebook friends on its behalf. The folks in the know we talked to about this effort earlier today thought it was the most ludicrous thing they’d ever seen.

Even more so, in fact, than the good Father Martin at St. Patrick calling the St. George crowd a bunch of adulterers and murderers.

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