Some residents of south Baton Rouge, La.—a predominantly affluent and white area of the city—want to secede from the city and create a new one named “St. George,” the Raw Story reports.
A study by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber has already concluded that incorporating a new city would most likely end in Baton Rouge residents “disproportionately paying taxes to the proposed municipality” because of the city’s dependence on sales tax revenues. According to the Raw Story, “St. George” would incorporate Perkins Rowe and the Mall of Louisiana, two of the largest tax bases in the state.
If the plan were implemented, the study claimed, it “could entail the dissolution of the present system of governance.”
The push to establish St. George started out as an attempt to create a new school district. However, the state Legislature continually pushed back on this measure, saying that they could not sign off on an independent school district that was not affiliated with a city. That’s when proponents started working on the idea of creating a new city.
Some government officials have come out against the plan. “If they pull away from Baton Rouge, it will affect everyone,” city Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle told the Morning Advocate. “We’ve spent millions of dollars on improvements out there and making traffic better, and now they want to be their own city?”
But the racial ramifications could be even more telling.
According to a report by the Times-Picayune, the remaining parish school system, for example, would have increased numbers of poor, black and at-risk students.
“You have a separation that is both based on race and class, and this would really perpetuate that,” Albert Samuels, an associate professor of political science at Southern University, told the Times-Picayune. “Some of these supporters of this effort to incorporate St. George and create a school district, they have the temerity to say with a straight face that this has nothing to do with race. But they’re acting as if the previous 50 or 60 years of history in this town have absolutely no consequence for where we stand now.”
However, one of the leaders behind the St. George movement brushed off such claims. “Typically, the only comments you hear are those that try to create fear,” said Norman Browning, according to the Raw Story. “They never support it with any documentation to make those claims.”