If You Support The St. George Petition, You’d Better Sign It Now

UPDATE #2: Here, this…

The firefighters’ union in Baton Rouge is now lobbying the Baton Rouge Metro Council for the annexation, and particularly Welch and Wilson. The thing to understand is that the Baton Rouge Fire Department is not the first responder for the Mall; that would be the St. George Fire Department.

If that would change, we haven’t heard about it. Which means this looks like the firefighters’ union that represents the BRFD is trying to create a situation by which fire protection for the Mall would get worse, because a funding source for the St. George Fire Department would be diminished and there is no plan to change the current scheme.

And you thought local politics was boring.

UPDATE: We’ve been asked what the support is for the contention that the turning in of a petition would freeze things like annexations and so forth.

We were told this by attorneys with experience where incorporations are concerned, most specifically in the case of Zachary and Central.

The basis of the contention comes from La. R.S. 33, specifically sections 1-4.

Here’s R.S. 33:1…

§1.  Petition for incorporation; contents; circulation; required signatures

A.  Residents of any unincorporated area with a population in excess of two hundred inhabitants may propose the incorporation of the area as provided in this Subpart.  A petition proposing the incorporation of the area shall be prepared and shall contain the following:

(1)  A legal description of the area proposed for incorporation and the statement that all lands included in the area constitute a contiguous area.

(2)  A statement of the number of inhabitants residing in the unincorporated area.  Such statement shall be based on the latest federal decennial census or another current population report or count which is verifiable.

(3)  A statement of the assessed value of the real property located in the unincorporated area.

(4)  A listing of the public services the municipal corporation proposes to render to the area and a plan for the provision of these services.

(5)   A statement of the corporate name desired for the new municipality.

(6)  The names of two or more chairpersons for the petition for incorporation who shall serve as agents for the petitioners in all legal matters, including the receipt of notices.  Notice will be sufficient if served on any one of the chairpersons.

B.(1)(a)  The signatures of twenty-five percent of the electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation shall be required in order to file the petition as provided in R.S. 33:2(A).

(b)  All electors, whether or not they own land, shall be eligible to sign the petition.

(c)  The signatures of the electors must reasonably correspond with their signatures on file in the office of the registrar of voters.

(d)  More than one copy of the petition may be circulated and signatures of electors on any copy of the petition shall be counted as part of the required twenty-five percent.

(2)  Any elector may withdraw his name from the petition by filing a signed statement of withdrawal with the registrar of voters at any time before the registrar of voters certifies that twenty-five percent of the electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation have signed the petition as provided by R.S. 33:2(C).

Here’s R.S. 33:2…

§2.  Filing of petition; certification; forwarding to governor

A.  When the proponents of the petition for incorporation believe they have the signatures of at least twenty-five percent of the electors residing in the area, they shall file the petition with the registrar of voters for the parish or parishes in which the unincorporated area is located.

(1)  If the unincorporated area is located in one parish, the registrar of voters for that parish shall determine if twenty-five percent or more of the electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation have signed the petition.

(2)  If the unincorporated area is located in more than one parish, each registrar of voters shall determine the number of electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation and the number of electors who have signed the petition.  In such cases, the registrars of voters shall confer to determine which one has the most electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation.  The registrar of voters of the parish with the most electors shall combine his calculations with those of other registrars of voters to determine if the required twenty-five percent of electors have signed the petition.

(3)  The required percentage shall be determined on the basis of the number of electors on the rolls of the registrar of voters or registrars of voters at the time the petition was filed with a registrar of voters.

B.  If the registrar of voters determines that less than twenty-five percent of the electors have signed the petition, the proponents of the incorporation shall have an additional sixty days within which they can obtain additional signatures to the petition to meet the twenty-five percent requirement.  If they fail to obtain the required percent of signatures within sixty days, no petition for incorporation of all or a part of the area proposed for incorporation under this Subpart shall be circulated for two years after the expiration of the sixty-day period.

C.  If the registrar of voters determines that the required twenty-five percent of electors have signed the petition, upon the initial presentation or upon the expiration of the sixty-day period for obtaining additional signatures, the registrar of voters shall issue a certificate stating that twenty-five percent or more of the electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation have signed the petition.  The registrar of voters shall forward this certificate to the governor.

The long and short of this section is that for a given incorporation, there is a target number you can hit – 25 percent of the registered voters – at which your petition gets shipped to the governor. Here’s the thing – so far that number, in the case of St. George, hasn’t been firmly established. That’s because the exact number of registered voters hasn’t been determined yet. It’s complicated to do so, because you can’t just total up all the voters from the wards and precincts on each side of the Baton Rouge city limits; some of those precincts are both in and out of the city limits. It’s a mess.

Most people think the number of registered voters in what would be St. George is somewhere around 70,000. That would put the magic number for the petition at somewhere around 17,500. We said in the original post that based on statements the St. George folks have made about the rate they’re going they’d be somewhere between 1500 signatures and 2,000 signatures short of that number as of today; we’ll stick with that for the purpose of this analysis.

Now, let’s say the St. George organizers made the decision to go into the registrar of voters on Wednesday with 16,000 signatures. That wouldn’t invalidate the petition; they would have 60 days to add signatures to get to the 17,500 or 18,000 or whatever the number they’d need would be, while the registrar begins poring over what they have.

The freeze on annexations appears in R.S. 33:1(A)(1), in which it’s a requirement that the petition specifically outline the unincorporated territory to be incorporated. If you’ve seen the St. George petition you’ll notice the incomprehensibly lengthy legal description of the territory on it, which is what the law requires. The petition can’t be valid if the legal description isn’t accurate.

Then in R.S. 33:2(C), there’s the line wherein “the registrar of voters shall issue a certificate stating that twenty-five percent or more of the electors residing in the area proposed for incorporation have signed the petition.” By this point the area proposed for incorporation has already been well defined, and the registrar has certified the petition as valid in order to send it to the governor. To alter the territorial borders of the area listed in the legal description of the petition at this point could hardly be legal, just like to annex – and thus make incorporated – territory included in a petition which is described as unincorporated would make the petition legally suspect.

Bear in mind that the question of the Mall of Louisiana and the other property put into the annexation petition being part of St. George is not decided by the November election. If the folks who own the Mall want to be in Baton Rouge rather than St. George, that right is absolutely theirs. What’s objectionable is the timing – so long as the St. George petition goes to a ballot and is valid, the Mall’s annexation petition could be baked into the cake for November. In other words, the voters could know that if they want to vote for St. George that’s fine, but the Mall won’t be part of it. There are arguments to be made both ways about what effect the Mall might have on the viability of the two cities, and that’s for another time.

What’s important to understand is that if the St. George organizers can present the magic number of signatures to get their petition certified before the Mall annexation is voted on, the legalistic machinations driving the timing of that annexation won’t kill it. Politically it would seem very difficult to get seven votes on the Metro Council for the annexation while this issue is pending, but a completed petition would make the issue moot.

ORIGINAL: It is getting down to the wire where the effort to put the incorporation of the city of St. George in East Baton Rouge Parish is concerned, and because it is things are naturally becoming chaotic and utterly stupid.

At Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting, petitions will be presented by the Mall of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and Baton Rouge General Hospital to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge. Those annexations will go through if seven of the 12 Metro Council members agree to accept them.

WBRZ-TV reported Wednesday on the slapdash, hurried nature of the Mall annexation – to such an extent that it doesn’t even include the retail center’s four anchor stores…

There are currently six votes in favor of those annexations at the Metro Council, and six votes opposed. Speculation abounds that a pair of those “no” votes, Trae Welch and Scott Wilson, might be soft enough to flip on Wednesday.

Should the annexations go through, it is all but a certainty that mayor-president Kip Holden and the Powers That Be will rush into court with legal pleadings to the effect that since the borders of what would be St. George are now different from what is on the St. George petition, that petition is therefore invalid and the whole thing has to start over – and by the way, the deadline to get the St. George issue on the November ballot is July 23, so instead of the eight months the St. George effort has had to collect the signatures they’ve got they’d have little more than two months to reconstitute those efforts.

And if Sen. Ben Nevers’ bill imposing a moratorium on all incorporations which aren’t on the ballot by November manages to become law, St. George would therefore be dead for a good two years if not forever.

This is the strategy to kill St. George. It’s not a strategy to win the argument over whether St. George ought to be incorporated, and it’s not a strategy to address the underlying concerns (bad schools and the redirection of some $50 million per year in tax dollars from the southern suburbs into Baton Rouge proper) which gave rise to St. George in the first place.

It’s a strategy to make the problem go away through machinations and legerdemain. It’s a dishonest, crooked strategy.

But it might well work. If those annexations get seven votes on Wednesday and the resulting lawsuit lands in a friendly judge’s court – if Janice Clark doesn’t end up hearing the St. George case it will be a miracle – that injunction is coming. Sure, it will be appealed and at the appellate level one would expect the sheer maleficence of this scheme to generate a proper rebuke, but in the meantime they’ll have succeeded in gumming up the works – and if the process should drag out beyond July 23, they’ll have won.

So there is one way to head this off, and that is for the St. George effort to reach the finish line by Tuesday night.

The organizers aren’t saying how many signatures they have, but they’re obviously very close to the required number of signatures to put the incorporation on the ballot. Tuesday night at a meeting of the incorporation effort’s supporters, one of the organizers of the effort said that at the current rate they’re going they’d be finished in four to six weeks. They’ve been at this since September, so if they’re a month away from getting 18,000 signatures that means they’ve got about 16,000 signatures, or thereabouts, in hand.

The St. George organizers have been doing fairly brisk business every weekend; they’ve been getting 500 or so signatures a shot. They need to finish the job now. They need to go into the registrar of voters on Wednesday morning and drop a stack of petitions and finish this.

That’s the only way to insure the Powers That Be can’t turn St. George into a partial-birth abortion. Once the petition is turned in, by law everything stops. It’s done. No annexations, no machinations. All that’s left is for the petition to be validated, and there is a 60-day period in which signatures may be added if necessary. If enough signatures are validated to reach a number equal or greater to 25 percent of the registered voters living in what will be St. George before July 23, the incorporation goes on the November ballot and there is nothing Kip Holden and his pals can do about it.

So there are basically five days to reach the finish line and trump the Baton Rouge power elite’s efforts to stymie democracy. If you believe in letting the voters, rather than the lawyers and the money men, decide the future of this parish, you’re going to need to act now.

Here’s where you can go to sign the petition:

Friday May 9th
Petition Location: Jefferson Terrace – The old Crowe Peele Texaco Station at 9878 Jefferson Highway near the corner of Jefferson Hwy. and Floynell.

On a map:

crowe peele map

Saturday, May 10
Shenandoah Subdivision, 5150 Hagerstown Drive – 9:00am-2:00pm. A map…

5150 hagerstown

Carrington Place Subdivision, Coursey Entrance – 9:00-2:00PM. A map…

carrington place

Country Manor Subdivision, Stumberg Entrance – 9:00AM-1:00PM. A map…

country manor

For the Carrington Place and Country Manor locations, don’t go to any of the houses Google Maps wants to put the pointers on – you’ll see the organizers at the subdivision entrance. Just go sign the petition.

Also, you’ll find a signing location at the Old Crowe Peele Texaco Station on Jefferson Highway from 8:00am-2:00pm. The map of that location is above.

There are permanent locations to sign the St. George petition. Those are…

  • Locke Meredith: 1300 Millerville Rd. Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
  • Megan’s Dress 2 the 9’s: 5740 Jones Creek Rd. Tuesday – Saturday 10:30am – 5:00pm
  • Inspection Station on Tiger Bend. Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
  • Techni-Cuts: 15166 Tiger Bend Rd. Monday – Friday 10:00am – 5:00 pm
  • Darnell Browning – State Farm Office: 5664 Jones Creek Rd. Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Garrett Neal Salon – 7554 Bluebonnet Blvd Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm

What’s more, if you call Stacy at (225) 341-2628, the organizers will make arrangements to bring a petition to you.

We’ll have updates on the effort to finish the petition as they become available. But at this point it’s time to act. This isn’t even about whether St. George is a good idea; it’s about whether people have the right to vote on it or if it’s OK for the politicians, lawyers and entrenched elite to engage in back-door deals to thwart the public will.

You can sign this petition and vote against the St. George incorporation in November if you want. There will be a fairly long electoral campaign about the issue, and if the organizers don’t make a good case for the incorporation then they ought to lose.

But that case needs to be made, and it needs to succeed or fail in the public eye. Not some courtroom, and not some smoke-filled chamber where the power elite who brought us to this point hash it out.

It’s your choice. Sign the petition and make it.

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