Governor must now appoint mayor & council members for City of St. George

BATON ROUGE — After nearly five years of legal battles, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the voter-approved City of St. George can proceed with incorporation.

In a 4-3 decision, state supreme court justices found “legal error” and reversed lower court rulings that prevented incorporation. Proponents argue the effective date for St. George’s incorporation is Nov. 23, 2019 given the Supreme Court reversed the Appeal’s Court decision.

“If you ignore the haters and refuse to quit, anything is possible. Never, ever, ever give up,” said St. George’s original spokesperson Lionel Rainey.

Per Louisiana law, Governor Jeff Landry will now need to appoint an interim St. George Mayor and five council members. The first election will then be when the mayor and council set it. The earliest it could be would be Nov. 5, 2024, which is the upcoming primary.

CHECK ST. GEORGE BOUNDARIES

Plus, the annexation lawsuit can now continue given it was stalled until the ruling from the Supreme Court. Any annexations filed after Nov. 2019 are in jeopardy. The Mall of Louisiana, L’Auberge Casino and businesses along Siegen Lane are not included in this particular lawsuit because they annexed into Baton Rouge prior to Nov. 2019.

“It is our genuine desire that Mayor-President Broome accept the will of the voters that St. George be governed as a separate municipality,” St. George Incorporation co-chairmen Norman Browning and Chris Rials said in a statement on the lawsuit. “We look forward to demonstrating how the City of St. George can be an asset to East Baton Rouge Parish, making it a better place to do business and a better place to call home.”

The battle, which began in 2019 when East Baton Rouge Parish voters approved St. George, has slowly progressed through the courts. Baton Rouge city leaders, including mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome, opposed the incorporation and filed a lawsuit to halt it. Lower courts struck down the proposed city’s incorporation twice, leading to a legal showdown at the Louisiana Supreme Court in January.

Located in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, St. George, with an estimated 86,000 residents, would become the state’s fifth largest city.

The legal dispute has revolved around the petition that enabled voters to decide on whether St. George could secede from Baton Rouge and establish itself as an independent city. The First Circuit Court of Appeal determined that the petition did not adhere to state law because the incorporation plan lacked clarity regarding the provision of city services.

Attorneys representing St. George contend that the incorporation plan was sufficiently clear for voters to endorse it via the petition and on a ballot sanctioned by then-Governor John Bel Edwards. This argument was echoed by Justice William Crain during the January hearing.

“Notice who’s absent?” remarked St. George spokesman Drew Murrell. “Resistance to the City of St. George from any resident of St. George because there isn’t any. A legitimate election—fifty-four percent of the electorate—voted in favor of the City of St. George.”

Opponents of the incorporation assert that St. George would siphon nearly $50 million in annual revenue from the City of Baton Rouge and could potentially impact parish services, including those provided by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Some critics have labeled the plans for St. George to incorporate as racially motivated, arguing that it would create a predominantly white city and divert tax funds from a predominantly Black city and school district.

The St. George movement began in 2010 as an effort to create a local independent school district. It evolved with organizers pushing a petition that would create the City of St. George. The push for incorporation first failed in 2015 when organizers were 71 signatures short of getting the proposal on the ballot.

Since then, we have witnessed the further decline of our public school system, skyrocketing murder and crime rates, further decay of our Parish infrastructure, unprecedented exodus of our friends and families from the Parish, and a complete lack of trust in our City-Parish leadership,” organizers said on the St. George website. “After our initial effort to create a city, we were told that things would improve; we were told that we would have a voice; we were told that we are “Better Together.” These were false promises that instead were manifested into ridicule and mockery against those that believed in the vision of the City of St. George.”

This is the final decision in the matter. The city-parish could ask the Louisiana Supreme Court for a rehearing within 14 days, but that would be the same court that just reversed the First Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision. The reason why the city-parish cannot appeal this to the U.S. Supreme Court is because it the case only deals with Louisiana law. That means, the Louisiana Supreme Court is the highest court this case could go before.

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2 Responses

  1. Daniel Brown made an error in this article. St George did not secede from Baton Rouge. The affected area was not part of Baton Rouge to begin with.

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