The effort allowing the Algiers neighborhood to secede from New Orleans took its first step Thursday when a Louisiana House committee approved legislation outlining the process.

Rep. Jeff Arnold, the Democrat whose district covers nearly all the precincts in Algiers, said the residents on the West Bank of the Mississippi River are “tired of not being serviced” by city government.

“At times, we have 60,000 people and two (police) officers on duty,” Arnold said. “Algiers is the red-headed stepsister of New Orleans.”

Opponents countered that never before has a part of an incorporated city in Louisiana tried to leave.

“I don’t want to set a precedent of chopping away” at established cities across the state, said Rep. Wesley Bishop, a Democrat from eastern New Orleans.

It’s a long haul before Algiers can become its own city.

One of the bills requires approval by two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature and a statewide vote. If a majority of Louisiana voters approve, then 10 percent of the people living in the 17 square miles that would make up the proposed city — about 6,000 registered voters, by Arnold’s reckoning — would have to sign a petition for an election on the issue, and a majority of Algiers voters would have to agree.

On a vote of 8-4, the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs approved House Bill 744, the enabling legislation. The panel then passed without objection House Bill 235, which calls for a constitutional vote.

The legislation next has to be vetted by the House Civil Law Committee and, if approved there, would go to the full House for consideration.

Arnold said Algiers would not be withdrawing but reincorporating. Algiers, Carrollton and Jefferson were separate cities until the 1870s, when the Legislature dissolved them without a vote of the people and made them part of New Orleans, he said.

Arnold said some residents are still angry about that.

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