Suburban enclave of Baton Rouge, Louisiana wins the right to separate from city

 May 1, 2024

A suburban enclave of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has won the right to split off and form its own city. 

The Louisiana Supreme Court granted approval to establish the city of St. George, realizing the hopes of locals frustrated with crime and bad schooling in Baton Rouge.

The movement began years ago with plans to start a new school district, and eventually expanded into a full-blown campaign for independence.

Supreme Court approves new city

The new city, situated in southeast Baton Rouge, will have a population of roughly 100,000.

St. George's advocates fought a long battle. An initial proposal to create the city failed to reach the ballot in 2015 but was successful when finally put to a vote in 2019.

What followed was a racially polarizing legal battle. Baton Rouge's mayor complained that the new city would drain $48 million in tax revenue from the predominantly black city.

But the state's Supreme Court narrowly rejected the mayor's economic projections Friday in a 4-3 ruling. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said she is focused on healing tensions after the Supreme Court's ruling.

“My goal from the very beginning — and it will always be my goal — is to advocate for a united Baton Rouge,” she said. “I am committed to serving the residents of St. George.”

Continued divisions

Nevertheless, divisions linger. The NAACP said the incorporation of St. George would create "considerable uncertainty around funding allocation for our schools, jeopardizing the cornerstone of our community’s future: education.”

“The St. George plan poses significant risks to our education system, threatens the continuity of critical programs, and challenges community representation,” the local chapter of the civil rights organization said.

Despite the criticism, the future residents of St. George say they have a right to self-determination. Their first priority is improving education with a new school district.

“This is the culmination of citizens exercising their constitutional rights. We voted and we won,” Andrew Murrell, one of the leaders of the St. George campaign, said.

“Now we begin the process of delivering on our promises of a better city,” Murrell added. "We welcome both our friends and foes to the table to create St. George.”

Louisiana's Republican governor Jeff Landry will appoint the city's interim mayor until elections are held.

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