City of St. George supporters launch new petition effort; mayor expresses strong opposition

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Supporters of a separate city of St. George in East Baton Rouge Parish announced a new attempt to petition for its incorporation in an announcement on social media Friday morning.

The old saying goes, "if at first you don't succeed, try try again" and supporters hoping to create the city of St. George are doing just that, officially reigniting their efforts to make the city a reality.

The group released a video on its Facebook page, which said organizers were ready to "reignite their efforts to make East Baton Rouge Parish a better place to live and raise a family for everyone.

"In 2010, a group of concerned citizens and parents began a mission to create a new school system in East Baton Rouge Parish," the video states.

This time, though, the group is scaling back on the boundaries. Supporters also have a time crunch, only nine months to get the signatures needed to put it before voters. Supporters point to rising crime, poor schools, and people leaving the city as motivation behind the movement.

"These families have watched taxes increase. Schools continue to fail. They have watched the unprecedented exodus of their friends and families fleeing the parish," the video adds.

"I'm not surprised," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge. "I figured that we would be here again."

A long-time opponent of the effort, James said he's disappointed. He believes the reasons provided for the move are thin, saying among other things, the school board has worked to invest in the area with new charter schools taking shape as well. It's why he thinks something else may be fueling this fight.

"The new administration has mocked and ignored these families and their concerns," the video claims.

Do you think that that was a fair assessment?

"Well, I think that they are trying to use attacks on the mayor to try to drum up support from folks that don't support the mayor," James replied.

With traffic, infrastructure, and other major concerns plaguing the city, James believes there are just better things to worry about than rehashing an already failed idea.

"None of those things are going to be addressed if you continue to impact the tax base and continue to divide the people in our community," James added.

Calls were made to the St. George hotline and we were told that organizers of the group would give us a call back. That had not happened as of Friday night.

The video also featured this statement: "Simply stated, they  want what was denied to them three years ago - the right to vote to determine their future by creating a transparent and accountable form of government - that is responsive and responsible to the needs of its citizens."

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued the following statement in full opposition to the movement, shortly after the video was released:

I am aware of efforts announcing a renewed move to breakaway part of the parish and I remain steadfast in my opposition. Since becoming mayor, I've reached out and met with concerned citizens in the Southeast part of our parish and have had constructive dialogue.

The petition proposes creating a new city of St. George in the currently unincorporated southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish with an independent school district. A previous petition effort started in 2013 but fell short of making the ballot in 2015.

The new proposed city of St. George is considerably smaller than the one originally proposed in 2013. The new version does not include any area on the eastern edge of the parish that is north of S. Harrell's Ferry Road or any unincorporated areas west of Bluebonnet Drive in the southern part of the parish.

Meg Casper Sunstrom, Press Secretary for the Louisiana Secretary of State, confirmed the group had filed the proper petition papers.

Supporters of the St. George incorporation movement said they would not be commenting publicly until Monday.

See the new petition below:

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