Thoughts On The Beginning Of The St. George Era

As Chris Rials’ post from Friday afternoon noted, the Louisiana Supreme Court finally released their 4-3 opinion in the St. George incorporation case and the result isn’t a surprise – Louisiana at long last has a brand-new city, and it’s the fifth-largest burg in the state.

It’s also the richest – or if it isn’t, it’s close – city in Louisiana.

St. George has 86,000 people and it encompasses most of the area in the southern reaches of East Baton Rouge Parish which wasn’t part of the city limits of Baton Rouge.

There’s a lot of whining about this, though it’s hard to understand why – at least, until you recognize how deeply corrupt the in-crowd who run the city-parish of East Baton Rouge are. After all, the area which is now St. George could have been annexed into the city of Baton Rouge at any time, but no effort was made to do that.

And the impetus for St. George from the very beginning came from a desire by people living in the southeastern reaches of the parish to have an independent school district, which is entirely common all over the South in jurisdictions where parents aren’t interested in their kids being bused to schools all over town. Texas, which offers terrific public education, is full of independent school districts within cities. Houston in particular is loaded with them.

But when the people who wanted that southeast Baton Rouge ISD initially proposed it, they were told by a certain state senator representing North Baton Rouge that if they wanted a separate school district they needed to have a city to go with it.

That state senator’s name was Sharon Weston Broome, and she has fought the St. George incorporation tooth and nail ever since the effort to organize the city was begun. And on Friday, Broome was very sad.

The heart just bleeds for her, doesn’t it?

That Louisiana Supreme Court ruling was a wide-open exposure of just how terrible the Baton Rouge in-crowd has behaved toward the people of St. George over the years – and an indirect exposure of just how corrupt some of the lower-court procedures in the St. George case were. Here’s a highlight…

The statute recognizes this factor as part of the reasonableness test: “In determining whether the incorporation is reasonable, the court shall consider the possible adverse effects the incorporation may have on other municipalities in the vicinity.” La. R.S. 33:4(D). The effect of incorporation on a neighboring city is usually one of restricted geography. In other words, does the incorporation adversely affect the ability of a neighboring municipality to grow, annex and expand? If the geographic boundaries for incorporation impinge on another area’s potential for growth, incorporation may be unreasonable.

In contrast, adjoining municipalities are not usually funded by a surrounding unincorporated area. Their tax base is within their municipal limits. This case is different. The City-Parish’s fund-allocating agreements that result in shared tax revenues between the incorporated and unincorporated areas is not typical.

So, Baton Rouge makes the argument that incorporating St. George will decrease its funding. Thus, an adverse impact or effect. While the argument may be correct, it is not complete. A decrease in funding to the City-Parish does not necessarily result in an unreasonable adverse impact. Cost-savings must also be considered to determine the full economic impact of incorporation. Challengers’ evidence shows only expected lost tax revenue. They failed to offer evidence of any corresponding advantage to Baton Rouge of not providing services to St. George.

If Baton Rouge currently provides no services to St. George, 16 that weighs in favor of incorporation: St. George citizens pay taxes but receive no services. If the only impact of incorporation is a reduction in tax revenue paid by St. George citizens to Baton Rouge, with no reciprocal services, a windfall results for Baton Rouge. Incorporation will reasonably rectify that inequity.

On the other hand, if St. George citizens receive services for the taxes they pay, incorporation brings cost-savings to Baton Rouge, which will no longer be required to provide those services. Challengers failed to address that. Without evidence of the full economic impact of incorporation, denying incorporation because of an unreasonable economic impact on Baton Rouge is error.

That was the crux of the case against St. George – that forming the new city, and in so doing squiring away the sales tax revenue generated in that part of the parish into the new city’s coffers rather than their current destination, the treasury of the city-parish of East Baton Rouge, would adversely affect the city-parish.

That argument should never have gotten anywhere in the courts. Essentially, what it says is that the people of Baton Rouge have the right to treat St. George as an economic colony, and to pillage their wallets for government spending elsewhere in the city-parish.

It was only a matter of time before a court, and it’s something of a shame that it had to be the Louisiana Supreme Court, would recognize the disgraceful bad faith of that argument. It only got as far as it did because of the racial element – because St. George is north of 75 percent white and Baton Rouge proper is north of 60 percent black, to rule that people in St. George are entitled to enjoy the benefits of their own tax dollars would be “racist,” of course.

And that likely had something to do with why this lasted as long as it did when the law of the case was as clear as it is.

But real damage was done over the course of the nearly five years since the lawsuit attempting to stop the St. George incorporation was filed. Something like $250 million in tax revenues which would have gone to the city of St. George have instead gone to the city-parish, and while those monies should have been escrowed and ought to be available immediately to the new city for use in building a town hall and ramping up its operations, Broome simply spent it. We’re told that about half of that money was spent outside of St. George. So they’re out some $125 million due to that lawsuit.


Additionally, the city illegally annexed a few areas of town following the election which would have established St. George, and by law we understand those areas should go back into St. George’s borders. There will be a good deal of confusion over that issue.

All of this will play out in negotiations between the St. George mayor and city council, who will be appointed by the governor until an election can be held likely in November to fill those seats, and Broome’s administration.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when those meetings are held!

She’s going to be fighting for her political life, as former state representative Ted James is running against her and what sort of deal Broome can get out of the St. George people will determine whether she can hold the North Baton Rouge coalition which elected her.

Frankly, the St. George people ought to turn up their noses at anything other than an utter capitulation by Broome. They should sue her for the $125 million the city-parish owes, and they ought to refuse to kick in anything for city-parish pension obligations which have been an issue since the beginning of this fight. Make her beg, and let that loss of face destroy her political career.

And in so doing, make Ted James beholden to St. George for his victory.

James is no better than Broome. He’s a leftist, race-hustling Democrat just like she is. But he’s also a politician who understands that the first rule is to reward friends and punish enemies, so if his coalition is Republicans and independents, St. George people and Broome’s critics in the black community, then his role is that of critic of Broome’s performance in the St. George negotiations and conciliator with respect to the new city.

He won’t like that role. The St. George leadership needs to foist it on him while destroying Broome.

And then they need to think of their new city in terms of what it represents, which is the last, best hope of making the Baton Rouge area the high-growth, prosperous metro people have always thought it would eventually become. The current leadership of Baton Rouge, white and black, have had the opportunity to lead that effort and they’ve utterly failed. They’re too socialistic, too corrupt and too stupid to get the job done. If it’s going to happen it’ll be St. George, and the smaller-government, pro-private sector mindset of that city’s leadership, which holds the key.

Is that a longshot? We’ll see. What’s different, and what’s important, is that St. George is now alive thanks to an outbreak of sanity in the Louisiana judiciary.



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