It’s almost a given that the Metro Council will approve, as others before it, the annexation of a major casino into the city limits — and, thus, outside the planned boundaries of the proposed city of St. George in south Baton Rouge.
The annexation request by L’Auberge Casino and Hotel perhaps was, as described by one official, a “tremendous victory” for Baton Rouge officials in their ongoing effort to stifle the proposed city of St. George. Yet, we deplore the notion that a victory lap is already due, and inflammatory language ought to be avoided.
The proposed annexation is the most recent in a series of high-profile land acquisitions by the city of Baton Rouge, including the Mall of Louisiana, which shrinks both the footprint and revenue stream for the potential new city. LSU’s facilities aren’t that big as taxpayers, but a couple of them also are on the future annexation list.
The casino’s annexation would mean a loss of nearly 10 percent of the revenues the organizers of the new city were counting on in their proposed $80.8 million budget.
“I think we had already put the nail in the coffin (for St. George) with those other annexations,” lawyer Mary Olive Pierson said. “Now, the coffin has been dropped in the ground, and they’re starting to throw dirt on it.”
We’d admire that kind of language in a courtroom drama. But that’s not what this is about.
Pierson is working with Baton Rouge officials on the annexation issues. The major businesses in the Mall of Louisiana and L’Auberge, among others, want the business stability of today’s arrangements. Not unreasonably, they see the fiscal risks of St. George.
They are right to do so. We have felt all along, even if St. George’s creation eventually goes to a ballot next spring, that residents will find quite risky the financial prospects (read: higher property taxes, perhaps much higher) of the new “city.”
Yet, such inflammatory language doesn’t recognize the legitimate grievances of people backing the annexation effort.
The challenges of raising achievement levels in local schools, or paying for local services, won’t magically go away if St. George is formed. In fact, the coordination of services and larger borrowing capability of East Baton Rouge Parish makes solutions to those problems easier, and a separate St. George might just be a bureaucratic add-on.
What does not go away, either, is the impetus for the St. George movement. We see it as grounded in concerns for better schools, with the other services secondary.
We don’t want to bury those concerns at all. We want them to be part of a larger solution.