The effort to create a new city of St. George in East Baton Rouge Parish has ended for now, but we hope that doesn’t mean the end of an active conversation about the future of Baton Rouge.
In an era often derided for its couch potato citizenry, with politics too often reduced to a spectator sport, scores of volunteers spent nearly two years amassing thousands of signatures on a petition to put the creation of St. George to a parishwide vote. Supporters of St. George hoped its creation would lead to a separate and better school system for residents of the newly formed city. Opponents of St. George, gathered under the banner of Better Together, worked hard, too, galvanizing civic activists who believed the new city would divide the community and harm the existing school system and Baton Rouge.
St. George supporters fell short by 71 names in their petition drive, according to the parish registrar of voters. After failing in their legal challenge to the registrar’s findings, St. George advocates say they won’t continue to fight the issue in court. Under state law, another petition drive can’t be started for two years.
While we’ve been concerned about the financial implications of creating St. George, we think the civic engagement of St. George’s supporters — and the equally passionate involvement of its critics — speak well of Baton Rouge. That kind of citizen activism is a good thing for democratic government.
We now hope that St. George’s supporters and members of Better Together can do more talking with each other rather than just about each other. St. George activists demonstrated that they’re not happy with the status quo in public education, and we suspect that message won’t be lost on new East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake.
Drake can’t advance school improvement on his own, though. That’s why all those citizens embracing the possibility of a better Baton Rouge should stay engaged.