Louisiana doesn’t enjoy a good reputation for forward-thinking public policy.
Even so, in the 1940s, Baton Rouge leaders did something lauded as cutting-edge by observers far beyond the capital city.
With support from voters, officials implemented a consolidated form of city-parish government, and little wonder that Baton Rougeans of the Greatest Generation bought into the plan. By centralizing basic services and reducing duplication across the communities served by the parish, government was able to give taxpayers more bang for their bucks. Distributing the costs of government across a broader tax base helped Baton Rouge prosper.
Now, by proposing to create a new city of St. George in the southeastern part of the parish, supporters would reverse the Greatest Generation’s path to progress, creating yet another layer of local government and a new class of elected politicians, with taxpayers footing the cost.
That would be a step back for Baton Rouge, and we urge voters within the prospective boundaries of St. George to reject the proposal to incorporate a new city, which is on the Oct. 12 ballot. Early voting begins Saturday.
The St. George movement initially began as a way to create a new public school system, fueled by residents frustrated with current options in parish public schools. But the proposal on the Oct. 12 ballot includes nothing about schools. Of even more concern is the suggestion of St. George backers that creating a new city government won’t cost any more money.
If the notion that more government won't cost more money seems dubious, then voters won’t be surprised that Baton Rouge business leaders, keen to the bottom line, are balking at the St. George proposal, too.
After thoroughly reviewing the numbers for the proposed new city, the governing board of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber voted to oppose the idea. BRAC’s analysts concluded that the numbers cited by St. George backers didn’t add up.
“An incorporation of a large section of East Baton Rouge’s unincorporated area would weaken and threaten the combined form of city-parish government,”
BRAC noted. “The city-parish form of government provides shared and spread risk across a larger population, which has kept costs lower and provided greater access to services across the parish as a whole.”
Today's primaries in the Baton Rouge area and across Louisiana are chock-full of major issues and races.
St. George’s supporters include residents who have demonstrated an impressive degree of civic engagement – a willingness to get involved that can be a great resource if channeled into improving the existing city-parish government and public school system.
But the St. George proposal on the Oct. 12 ballot seems more driven by passion than pragmatism.
We urge voters to say no.