As opposition ramps up, St. George supporters say ‘it’s time’
St. George organizers plan to submit petition signatures to the city-parish Registrar of Voters on Monday, ahead of deadline, in their second attempt to create an independent city in three years.
The petition has “more than enough signatures” to get the incorporation effort on the ballot, says Lionel Rainey, who is part of the St. George leadership team, though he declines to say exactly how many signatures have been collected.
Organizers had until Nov. 27 to obtain the required signatures, but are ready to submit early in anticipation of challenges from city-parish leaders and opposition groups.
“Our opposition has ramped up efforts against us—it’s time to do this,” Rainey says.
St. George organizers informed the city-parish registrar late Wednesday that they will submit petition signatures Monday. Pursuant to the new state law, they are required to file a notice of intent three business days before submitting their petition.
In response, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome—who, along with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, opposes the St. George incorporation—says she remains committed to working to keep Baton Rouge together and proving why the city is better together.
“We will, in upcoming months, be more specific about that message,” Broome says. “I’m not deterred from my commitment. It’s not over yet.”
Opposition has been building as the St. George effort quietly resurfaced this year.
In a study commissioned by an opposition group, local economists reported St. George would operate at a deficit if incorporated, contrary to organizers’ claims that the city would operate with a surplus. BRAC also issued a statement opposing the St. George movement in May, citing several concerns.
BRAC and St. George opposition groups could not be reached for comment by press time.
The St. George petition needs valid signatures from 25% of registered voters within the proposed city’s boundaries. In June, organizers said they had already collected more than 10,000 signatures, of about 13,000 needed.
“We said three years ago we would not stop and we won’t stop until people have the opportunity to vote on this,” Rainey says. “We do anticipate the city and opposition groups continuing to fight it. We anticipate lawsuits and fighting to the end.”
The group would like to see the petition on a spring ballot, but with the anticipated challenges, Rainey can’t say yet whether that will happen. But he’s optimistic.
“We’re excited,” he says. “It’s obviously the will of the people to be able to vote on this.”