White section of Baton Rouge wants to form new city

The Village St. George community in Louisiana, located south of Baton Rouge’s city limits, has started a petition to become its own city.

The community’s initial plan was to set up a new school district, independent of East Baton Rouge Parish, but they were denied because they were not a city.

The online petition has about half of the 18,000 signatures it needs to be brought to voters.

“The movement was called for by the people, and it’s going to be accomplished by the people who live in this area,” effort leader Dustin Yates told WBRZ.

However, not everyone agrees with the incorporation of St. George.

“If the entirety of their concern is about education, creating a new city is a very blunt and dangerous way of addressing it,” public administration professor Roy Heidelberg told The Advocate.

The proposed new municipality would substantially effect East Baton Rouge Parish’s tax revenue. The St. George area includes major commercial areas and over 100,000 residents, contributing about $85 million to the parish’s General Fund.

The potential city would be disproportionately white and wealthy in comparison to the city of Baton Rouge.

According to a December 1 report released by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the new city would be “approximately 70 percent white, 23 percent black, and 4 percent Asian, compared to the City of Baton Rouge which is a majority-minority city with a population that is 55 percent black, 40 percent white, and 3 percent Asian.”

The report also states: “The mean household income for the proposed city will be $30,000 higher than the City of Baton Rouge. More than 60 percent of the households in Baton Rouge have incomes below $50,000, while more than 60 percent of the households in the new city have incomes above $50,000.”

“Some people say it’s just white flight. It’s not true. It’s middle-class and upper-middle-class flight, is what it is,” Louisiana state senator Mack “Bodi” White (R) said during a Baton Rouge Press Club meeting last week.

“It’s not a color issue,” White added. “It’s a ‘who can afford to get a better education and not pay two house notes for private education for their family’ issue.”

Baton Rouge mayor Kip Holden strongly opposes the idea of a new city, saying, “this is something that will not work.”

In order for the new city to be created, the petition needs signatures from 25 percent of registered voters withing the proposed boundaries.

Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals

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