Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that should the NAACP acquire enough signatures on a petition, the Metro Council would still need to approve the measure before it goes to voters.
An organizing group that includes the NAACP wants to give voters the chance to decide whether to restore the Baton Rouge City Council in next year’s spring election.
In order to do that, the group plans to bring its request before the Metro Council this fall, says Ernest Johnson, president emeritus of the NAACP Louisiana State Conference and head of the organizing group, dubbed Restore Baton Rouge.
“We want to have an election next spring,” Johnson says. “We’re not saying we want a city council—we’re saying we should at least give Baton Rouge citizens the chance to vote on whether they want a city council.”
A majority of council members must vote to place the item on the spring ballot. If the council rejects the request, the organizers could pursue a petition instead, says Council Administrator Ashley Beck. The petition would require signatures from 10% of residents who voted in the last sheriff’s election, which would amount to more than 8,000 signatures. The Metro Council would then decide whether to place the item on the next parishwide ballot.
Johnson says several people are involved in the Restore Baton Rouge effort, though he would not disclose who they are.
In July, Johnson and NAACP Louisiana President Mike McClanahan sent out a letter announcing their organization, along with others, is asking that an item be placed on the ballot allowing voters the opportunity to decide whether Baton Rouge should have its own city council, as it did prior to 1983 when the council was merged into the Metro Council.
“We believe the 1983 act of eliminating the Baton Rouge City Council is unfair to the citizens and voters residing within the city limits of Baton Rouge,” the letter stated. “Like Baker, Zachary and Central, the city of Baton Rouge should be governed by its own City Council.”
The mayor’s office declined immediate comment on the group’s effort. Meanwhile, Broderick Bagert of Together Baton Rouge—a community advocacy group—said his organization has not had a chance to review the proposal yet.