ST. FRANCISVILLE — A Kenner demographer on Monday gave the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury a proposed four-member redistricting plan he said will satisfy the U.S. Department of Justice’s scrutiny under the federal Voting Rights Act.
The jury hired Cedric Floyd to devise a plan to implement provisions of a home-rule charter approved by voters in November, which calls for a five-member Parish Council and a parish president to replace the seven-member Police Jury.
The council will include one member elected by all parish voters and four elected from single-member districts. Floyd said the Justice Department will consider the election of a parish president as a separate issue.
Floyd’s initial plan calls for two majority-black districts and two with white majorities.
If voters elect an at-large member who is white, the Parish Council will have three white and two black members, Floyd said.
He said he considers comparing the seven-member jury with three black members with a five-member council with two black members as “a wash” that the Justice Department will accept.
Floyd pushed for a Monday public hearing at the courthouse on his plan, which he unveiled at the jury’s regular meeting, and said he does not need an attorney to help him present the plan to the Justice Department.
The public hearing proposal ran into problems immediately, however, with tourism officials reminding jurors the area around the courthouse will be used for filming scenes for a television miniseries on the outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
After considerable discussion, jurors withheld action to call a public hearing, but said Floyd may conduct meetings with the “black community” to gather input on his plan.
Former Parish Manager Ambrose Sims said Floyd’s plan and the Parish Council arrangement will dilute minority voting strength in the parish.
“I’ll let you know we’ll fight it all the way,” said Sims, who is black.
Z. David DeLoach, a member of the now-disbanded Home Rule Charter Commission, took issue with Floyd’s contention that an attorney the jury hired, Jerald Jones, is not needed to get Justice Department approval.
Jones, who said he found himself in a “difficult situation” in not being informed about Floyd’s plan, said the jury engaged his firm to help with the process.
“If a plan is on the fence, the process makes all the difference,” Jones said.
Floyd and Jones differed on whether the jury should hold the hearing as a formal meeting.
“This is my point,” Jones said of the disagreement. “It must be a public hearing of this Police Jury.”
Jones also said a Monday hearing will not give the jury enough time to advertise it in the parish’s official journal.
Floyd said the jury does not have to attend, but Jones said a majority of the jury must be present to hear what the public has to say about the plan.
One of Floyd’s proposed districts has a black population majority of 64.3 percent, while another is 61.5 percent.