That’s the lesson we take from what happened this morning, which was that Broome, the incompetent and politically septic mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish, has filed suit against two of the organizers of the St. George incorporation effort. To call this a chilling effect on political discourse in Baton Rouge wouldn’t be too inflammatory…
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome filed suit this morning against two organizers of the city of St. George incorporation effort, Norman Browning and Chris Rials, challenging their ability to provide services to voters in the proposed new city and claiming incorporation will “have a substantial adverse impact on the city of Baton Rouge as well as the remaining unincorporated areas of the parish.”
The suit is based on a couple of provisions in a state law, La. Rev. 33:1, that lays out the grounds for contesting an incorporation. Among those are the proposed city’s ability to deliver “public services within a reasonable period of time” … and the potential adverse impact incorporation would have on another municipality, which, in this case, is the city of Baton Rouge.
The suit was not unexpected and comes a little more than three weeks after 54% of voters in the proposed St. George footprint voted to create an independent city of some 86,000 residents in a mostly white, middle class and affluent section of southeast East Baton Rouge Parish.
Joining Broome—who is filing suit in her capacity as mayor-president but has said city-parish tax dollars will not be used to pay for the litigation—are veteran criminal defense attorney Lewis Unglesby, who lives in St. George, and civic activist M.E. Cormier, who has led efforts to fight the incorporation and does not live in St. George.
The suit, filed in 19th Judicial District Court, asks the judge to deny the incorporation. It also asks that if incorporation is granted, the judge order an election that would allow the entire parish to vote on amending the Plan of Government, which forbids the incorporation of any additional cities, towns or villages in East Baton Rouge Parish.
“Should the court determine the proposed incorporation of St. George is reasonable and should go forward, it should not be allowed to proceed until a vote of the entire parish to amend Section 1.05 of the Plan of Government,” the suit reads.
Perhaps it’s just the form these things take, but the fact Browning and Rials now have to come out of pocket to hire legal defenses to a suit by the mayor-president of Baton Rouge ought to offend everyone within earshot, regardless of whether you’re a proponent of St. George.
It smacks of abuse. After all, 54 percent of the people living in the area which will be St. George once all this foolishness is over agreed with Browning and Rials about the propriety of the new city.
Something else about this lawsuit seems telling, which is that it claims the incorporation will have an adverse effect on the city of Baton Rouge.
Why would this be? St. George, after all, is a part of East Baton Rouge Parish not included in the city of Baton Rouge, and the incorporation doesn’t change that.
The only reason the city of Baton Rouge would be adversely affected by a St. George incorporation is taxes collected from people in St. George would have been used, for decades, inside the city to the exclusion of St. George residents. We already know this to be true, as Broome has stupidly admitted it again and again by putting out alarms to that effect.
Which is to say that Broome expects people living in unincorporated areas outside the city limits of Baton Rouge to be content in their status as tax slaves to the city itself, and not to at any point question whether that status is just or in their interest to continue. Do so and you’ll be sued, is today’s message.
No wonder last week’s meeting between Browning, Rials and others among the St. George organizers with Broome and her lawyer, Mary Olive Pierson (we’re still trying to figure out why Pierson would have been in that meeting), went so badly. We’re told Pierson was abusive toward the St. George organizers, almost certainly in an effort to destroy any progress that might have been made and therefore to pick a fight. This lawsuit was pre-planned at the time of that meeting; that much is obvious.
But it’s also pretty difficult to understand how Broome thinks some provision in the East Baton Rouge Parish Plan of Government which forbids incorporations and is in direct conflict with a state law providing for municipal incorporations is going to get her anywhere in this suit. State law supersedes local ordinances and plans of government. Not to mention Louisiana’s constitution provides for the right of people to incorporate, and that certainly supersedes Broome’s stupid Plan of Government argument.
We’re told that the Broome Gang struck out in the judicial lottery, as this case has been assigned to Judge Billy Morvant’s court. Morvant is known to be somewhat deferential to government in his rulings, but not to the extent that he’ll throw the law away.
In any event, we knew this would devolve into a circus of litigation, and now it has. What’s left for the people of East Baton Rouge Parish to do is to get rid of Sharon Weston Broome as the worst mayor the place has ever had and to replace her with someone who isn’t an abject Charlie Foxtrot in office.
Candidate recruitment begins now.