In what began as a push to set up an independent public school district, the Village St. George community in Louisiana has now gathered almost half the signaturesnecessary to become its own city. The southern unincorporated portion of East Baton Rouge Parish is petitioning its 107,262 residents to form a local governing body, potentially creating Louisiana’s fifth largest municipality.
“First and foremost, people want better schools, but what they recognize is that we can have a great city as well,” Norman Browning, one of the incorporation campaign organizers, told The Advocate.
But the campaign has not met with universal support. It taps into longstanding divisions of class and race. East Baton Rouge Parish is also home to the state’s second largest city and capital, Baton Rouge. Many people are suggesting that the real goal of incorporation supporters is to put some distance between the better-off, mainly white, suburban St. George and the financially struggling, mainly black, urban Baton Rouge.
“Some of these supporters of this effort to incorporate St. George and create a school district, they have the temerity to say with a straight face that this has nothing to do with race,” Albert Samuels, an associate professor of political science at Southern University, told the Times-Picayune. “But they’re acting as if the previous 50 or 60 years of history in this town have absolutely no consequence for where we stand now.”
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