We went through this ad nauseam three years go when the St. George incorporation effort got started in the southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish – the immediate accusation that the people in charge of that movement, and those participating, were a bunch of racists who wanted to “break away” from City Hall because there was an African-American mayor-president in charge.
And now that St. George is back for a second try as of Friday, those accusations are flying with perhaps even more passion. Why? Because the new map of the proposed city makes it a bit richer and a bit whiter than it used to be.
Here was the old St. George map…
And here’s the new map…
Two of the most obvious reductions in the map are that the area around the impoverished and mostly-black Gardere area in southwest Baton Rouge has been excluded from the new iteration of St. George, as are some areas in the far east side of East Baton Rouge Parish where there are apartment complexes which aren’t particularly high-end places to live – and those areas may be majority-minority as well (we haven’t done too deep a dive into the demographics of the area, but at least there’s a perception lots of black people live there.
So St. George was a bunch of racists three years ago for trying to “break away,” which is a term given to a part of East Baton Rouge Parish not incorporated into the city of Baton Rouge seeking to remain exactly that way but to be organized as a city of its own, and include some majority-black areas against their will (and the accusation in the case of Gardere was that the St. George people were going to gentrify the place) – and now it’s a bunch of racists for not including those majority-black areas.
Here’s a taste of something you can see anywhere you look on message boards or social media from the anti-St. George crowd…
Here’s another example. We’re not going to burden you with a whole bunch of these – you can find them if you look.
So here was St. George’s response to the screaming. It’s exactly what you’d expect…
On Friday, March 2, 2018, a petition to incorporate the City of St. George was submitted to and approved by the Louisiana Secretary of State.
The proposed City of St. George will have a smaller footprint than the previous effort due to the fact that the City of Baton Rouge continued its annexations of commercial real estate within our proposed boundaries (the Siegen Plaza shopping center) over the last two years in an effort to reduce our revenue and stifle our effort. While their plan to kill this movement was not successful, we did have to make adjustments to our boundaries. Revisions in state law now prevent the City of Baton Rouge from annexing land while the petition is ongoing.
The decision on what areas to include and not include was based exclusively on the amount of previous support for the effort. If a precinct had a small percentage of signatures and clearly did not want to be in the new city, they were not included in the updated boundaries. Should our effort be successful, we will welcome any adjacent areas that want to be annexed into the City of St. George.
We are in the process of printing and preparing petitions for signature gathering efforts. Every individual who previously signed the petition and resides within the proposed boundaries will receive a petition in the mail over the course of the next week with detailed instructions on how to complete and return. Anyone who wants to sign the petition who did not sign last time can fill out a form our website (www.stgeorgelouisiana.com/sign-the-petition) and we will contact them in the coming weeks. Lastly, we will announce a central location to sign the petition within the next two weeks.
Sign St. George for a Better Baton Rouge.
The thing here is the St. George people went after a city footprint of 107,000 people the first time, and in that population there were something like 70,000-odd registered voters. They had to get 25 percent of that number, and they’ll argue they did get it – only to see their work invalidated by chicanery at the Registrar of Voters, who struck signatures off the petition for picayune reasons until they could get the petition thrown out altogether.
But there were areas in that initial map where petition signings were, shall we say, infrequent – as in, nobody signed the petition. So this time, they’re making it easy on themselves by knocking those areas off the new map.
Practically nobody from Gardere signed the petition the first time, so Gardere is being left off the new map. As are those other areas.
Which means the 18,000 or so signatures St. George got the first time, which the registrar said would make for just under 25 percent, probably is more than enough this time. If the ratio holds and it’s something like 2/3rds of the population which is registered to vote, a footprint of 86,000 people would mean something like 57,000 registered voters and a need for a little less than 14,500 signatures.
And the areas being struck off the map don’t represent very many signatures lost, if at all.
What this means is that if the St. George crowd gets the same people to sign the petition this time who signed it last time, they’ll probably 3,000-4,000 signatures over the number they need without even adding anybody new – which certainly they will.
Petition-wise, in other words, this isn’t about race. It’s about strategy. It’s also about being responsive – unlike what some could say about the people at City Hall who hate St. George with a passion, these people can make the claim that they’re not trying to force anybody into something they don’t want to be part of.
None of which will stop the incessant epithets of “bigot” and “racist” being thrown at the St. George crowd. But at this point what does that even mean anymore? Nobody should care about the constant race-baiting given what it’s gotten us so far.