Posted on April 30, 2024

Louisiana Will Get a New City After a Yearslong Court Battle

Rick Rojas, New York Times, April 28, 2024

The original plan was to start a school district. That didn’t work. So a group of residents in a sprawling unincorporated suburb of Baton Rouge, La., expanded their idea: Create a city of their own, called St. George.

In 2015, they collected signatures to bring their proposal up for a vote, but didn’t get enough. In 2019, they tried again. This time, they made it to a ballot and won the election, only to be stalled by a lengthy court battle.

But the Louisiana Supreme Court cleared the way on Friday for the formation of St. George, a city of nearly 100,000 people that joins the ranks of the state’s largest cities, falling between Lafayette and Lake Charles in population. It is the first city to be incorporated in Louisiana in nearly two decades.


The city will consist of an area of East Baton Rouge Parish, which is run by a blended government that oversees both Baton Rouge and the broader parish. It also carves out a largely white and more affluent section of the parish, southeast of Baton Rouge.

The ruling signaled victory for a campaign that had endured since 2012 and was built on frustrations about schools, crime, infrastructure and the resources devoted to that part of the parish.


Critics also said that the grievances were masking other motivations, describing the effort as an example of a wealthy white community trying to distance itself from the Black and poorer residents in Baton Rouge. Some were disappointed that the challenge was now exhausted and believed that parish residents who live outside St. George but would feel its impact should have had more of a say.


The drive to establish St. George was started by residents who wanted to form their own school district because of concerns that East Baton Rouge Parish schools were troubled and underperforming.

When their first bid failed to get enough votes in the State Legislature, organizers were told they might have a better standing with a city of their own. So, in 2015, they sketched out an area of 85 square miles and 107,000 residents that would form the new city. But they did not gather enough signatures for the proposal to advance to a vote.

Several years later, they shaved the area down to include 60 square miles and 86,000 people, and collected enough signatures for a ballot initiative in 2019. The measure won 54 percent of the vote. {snip}


Justice William J. Crain, the author of the majority opinion, also pushed back on the assertion that the new city would contribute to the deterioration of Baton Rouge, the parish seat with just over 220,000 residents. He wrote that the population of St. George was growing as Baton Rouge’s declined, and a flourishing St. George might stanch an migration to surrounding parishes with “more shared interests, including more desirable school districts.”