We’re doing our best not to refer to Baton Rouge as Clownshow Murdertown, though at this point that’s a far better description of Louisiana’s capital city than what’s written on the map. Of course, Tuesday’s utterly moronic decision in the St. George incorporation case was actually inflicted on Clownshow Mur…er, Baton Rouge from outside of the parish.
Because Judge Billy Morvant of the 19th Judicial District Court had retired rather than work the case brought by mayor-president Sharon Broome and a few of her toadies and sycophants, a ringer was brought in from the 22nd JDC in St. Tammany Parish. Martin Coady is his name. And Coady, from appearances, sat through two weeks of the trial without learning a damn thing about the facts surrounding the St. George incorporation before doing the laziest thing he could.
He ruled, in a 10-page decision which left most legal minds we talked to after it was released perplexed and confused, that the incorporation couldn’t go forward.
Coady allowed into evidence a whole host of things which shouldn’t have been allowed, which was a good indication that he completely mailed in this case and its decision expecting to get overruled. Then he issued a decision full of head-scratching items.
For example, he brought up the racial allegations about not including the Gardere area in the successful second St. George petition. Those allegations weren’t made in the pleadings, though they were discussed during testimony. Coady dismissed them.
He cited Louisiana law on incorporations, which clearly needs to be changed, to deny St. George because the incorporation isn’t “reasonable.”
Some 54 percent of the electorate in what is to be, eventually, a city of 88,000 people, thought it was “reasonable.” The provision establishing that criterion was not built for cities of 88,000 people. It was built to dissuade little neighborhoods of 300 people from trying to become cities. But the reasoning in Coady’s decision on the question of what’s “reasonable” is utter gibberish.
He said the St. George organizers hadn’t done a deal with East Baton Rouge sheriff Sid Gautreaux to provide law enforcement in the new city as they’ve expressed an interest in doing, and that because they hadn’t, there was no provision in the budget for police as required by state law.
Whether Coady was being intentionally obtuse, lazy as hell or managed to sit on the bench for 20 years without bothering to learn his craft as a judge we can’t say, but Sid Gautreaux already patrols the area which would become St. George. The sheriff’s office is the chief law enforcement provider in all the unincorporated areas of the parish and also patrols inside Baton Rouge proper plus the other incorporated cities. Gautreaux’s office is funded to do this by parish taxes. So whether a formal deal is in place for EBRSO to do extra patrol work in St. George or not, law enforcement is provided for. Or if that’s not good enough St. George could literally hire a security guard from the Mall of Louisiana as its “police chief” for $8 an hour and give him a cell phone he could use to report things to the sheriff’s office and that would fulfill state law.
As dumb as that part of the decision was, worse was his finding that St. George isn’t fiscally viable because he thinks the $48 million in tax revenues the new city would have coming every year isn’t enough to balance its budget. Coady said, based on one proposed St. George budget out of several, that it would be on the hook for some $9 million per year in unfunded accrued liabilities for parish worker pensions and the like, and because of that its $6 million projected surplus was a $3 million deficit in disguise.
But there is no writing in stone that this $9 million expense is a real thing. The number could well be much less. In fact, that’s probably a lawsuit and a settlement to be resolved many years from now, and it would only be a real number if the eventual mayor and city council of St. George, elected by the same public which vetted these concerns in 2019 before voting 54-46 to create the new city, appropriated money to pay that $9 million. And if they made such an appropriation it would be their responsibility to balance the St. George budget – which they could do either by trimming expenses elsewhere or by raising taxes.
In other words, making decisions municipalities make all the time.
It was patently idiotic of Coady to offer up those two findings that incorporating St. George was “unreasonable,” but then he said the city couldn’t be founded because that $48 million would blow such a hole in the city-parish government’s billion-dollar budget as to make it ungovernable.
Which is hilarious.
Coady believed all the stupid arguments made by East Baton Rouge’s privileged bureaucrats and politicians, as though the city-parish wouldn’t just jack up taxes ever higher to cover whatever deficit the St. George incorporation would cause. Of course, given all the little seven- and eight-figure pots of money stashed all over the parish which could easily be drained to refill EBR’s coffers any judge worth his salt would have looked askance at Broome’s claims of poverty.
When Broome’s puppet chief of police Murphy Paul, whose management has put the “Murdertown” in Clownshow Murdertown, testified that he’d have to cut his budget by 20 percent if St. George were to incorporate and claim the $48 million in tax revenues for itself, that was a good signal of what’s really going on in Baton Rouge. Namely, that since the Baton Rouge Police Department doesn’t patrol in St. George – it’s the law enforcement agency for the city of Baton Rouge and not the currently-unincorporated area – then St. George tax dollars have no business flowing into the BRPD’s budget.
It’s theft to take people’s money without providing them anything in return. Coady, as a judge, probably should have recognized that.
This case isn’t over. It’ll be appealed, and almost assuredly appealed again, and eventually the Louisiana Supreme Court will decide it. Assumedly as it rises up the ranks we won’t see the kind of slapdash, half-assed judicial spasms we got from the retired ringer judge on Tuesday.
But as justice delayed is often justice denied, the forced absence of a new city to be run differently than Clownshow Murdertown means that the weaponized governmental failure practiced by Broome and her gang will only continue degrading Baton Rouge until nothing is left.
Some of the people who worked to make St. George a reality will now throw up their hands and put that For Sale sign in the yard on their way to Livingston Parish.
The longer it takes to create a better governmental option than that offered by Clownshow Murdertown in this parish, the more it will decline. And the more it declines, the more Clownshow Murdertown will be locked into rule by people who look and act like Sharon Broome.
Or Lamont Cole. Or Chauna Banks.
Or even Gary Chambers.
They’ll rule over a ruin, with a middle class all but gone and a thin layer of connected rich like Jim Bernhard, Richard Lipsey and John Engquist who can buy politicians for the things they really want as they hide in gated communities comfortably away from the carnage and misery on the streets to be endured by the masses of malleable poor. Baton Rouge will become Jackson, Mississippi.
It’ll be a ruin. But they’ll rule over it. And ruling over a ruin is better than not ruling in a place worth living in.
It’s time to get out of Clownshow Murdertown. An eventual St. George can’t save this place. It’s finished.