If you want to understand why Louisiana does so poorly in providing opportunity to its citizens, look no further than the St. George microcosm.
Under the radar statewide in last week’s election, a small but comfortable majority voted the new city into existence. This came despite an enormous effort over the past half-dozen years by representatives of the status quo to prevent its birth, sending waves of disinformation about its formation cascading over the local polity.
Those special interests included most local government elites, prominent citizens who didn’t live in the unincorporated area, and largely Democrats at the state level. They hate what St. George stands for: an example of citizens taking back self-governance from elites who support, if not openly then tacitly, the tax-and-spend/crony capitalist/good-old-boy-and-girl government that has shortchanged Louisiana for decades.
The people spoke against that ethos. They rejected governance they saw as too wasteful of their tax dollars and too inefficient in providing them services. There’s nothing more congruent with the philosophy of self-governance on which was founded America.
Yet, playing the part of the late eighteenth century English crown and Parliament, rather than learn from this, accept the will of the people, and change their own practices to improve the lot of those within the city limits, Baton Rouge government and its fellow travelers won’t give up the fight. You have some trying to spite the effort by imploring some parts of the new city, once incorporated, to then petition for annex to the existing one.
Others want to overcome democracy in action by using the courts. Some appear to want to send up Hail Mary passes based on legislation that never passed the Legislature or the metropolitan Plan of Government that conflicts with the Constitution. The most serious effort comes from the city itself, relying on existing statute.
R.S. 33:4 states that officials of a municipality “which might be adversely affected” by the incorporation can file suit to block this. A district court may do so if procedures weren’t followed correctly or if the municipality can’t “in all probability provide the proposed public services within a reasonable period of time,” while also considering “the possible adverse effects the incorporation may have on other municipalities in the vicinity.”
Such a challenge will fail. A principle of American jurisprudence is that courts do not involve themselves in political questions, or policy disputes. To put it another way, existing Baton Rouge politicians aren’t excused by bad governance on their part as a rationale for demonstrating alleged “adverse effects.” Depending on which judge draws the suit, a particularly activist one (Janice Clark, Wilson Fields or Trudy White, for example) might buy such a challenge, but eventually wiser heads will prevail on appeals that probably will go all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Of course, this will flush millions of taxpayer dollars down the toilet to no purpose (although some wealthy out-of-touch elites, who have nothing but contempt for people not at their level of wealth, may let some of their money get separated from them in the losing cause). However, that’s not important to those who would bring such a suit. Losing this fight erodes their power and privilege, and they will use as much money not their own as they can to prevent that.
Rather than learn from their policy mistakes, too many Louisiana politicians, from the top down, keep advocating the same things over and over again that keeps the state backwards and trailing in quality of life because it benefits them and a few special interests at the expense of the people. The continuation of the battle of this dragon with St. George is emblematic of a problem writ much larger.