The private fund-raiser at the Louisiana Lagniappe, one of Baton Rouge’s finer eateries, seems a typically polite affair. Crab cakes and smoked salmon; jackets but no ties. You wouldn’t guess the people inside were plotting an urban remapping campaign that critics are calling a betrayal of 50 years of civil rights progress.Good lord, what are they planning to do – bring back ‘Whites only’ water fountains, or something?
Fortunate residents of this the relatively prosperous southern section of a city that is otherwise blighted by poverty, violence and a failing public school system, they are demanding the right to break away from it and forge a whole new city of their own. Putatively named St George, it would measure about 85sq miles and would rob Baton Rouge of about 25 per cent of its population (and, of course, a chunk of its tax revenue).Aha! The parasite doesn’t want to see the host depart, now does it?
And on this night, they have some good news. After months of struggle, the group has at last mustered the nearly 18,000 signatures required by the state for the issue to be put on the ballot when next Louisiana goes to the polls, or the time after.
“The tide is changing, this will happen,” Lionel Rainey, the campaign’s spokesman, told the cheering guests.
“We will get this on the ballot, we will win and we will create our new city.”I admire your passion, but I rather think you’ve underestimated just how hard they’ll fight to keep you on the reservation, Lionel.
Their plans call for starting out with only about 10 to 15 city employees, a tiny fraction of the numbers on the Baton Rouge payroll now.We can’t have that….!
Arguments that he and his cohorts are essentially turning back five decades of integration in the South do not much impress him.
"I wasn’t alive during the civil rights era and desegregation. I don’t carry that baggage. It was a horrible time, but I can’t do anything about it. What I can do is try to make the present better.”But you can only make the present ‘better’ if that coincides with what the progressives have decided makes things ‘better’…
If opponents of St George don’t evoke racism or even snobbery, they might just ask if its supporters aren’t guilty at the most basic level of selfishness, trying to cast off from the rest of the city without a care for what happens to it.
“My heart breaks for a lot of people who are now living in the city of Baton Rouge and especially for the children,” responds Mr Reiney.
“But at some point you have got to ask, do you just let the whole ship go down? And when did it become a bad thing in this country to try and do right by your child?”When your proposed actions threatened the status quo and future prospects of the progressives, that’s when.
I’m guessing the citizens of this proposed new town don’t want to be in thrall to the sort of people that foul their own nest then demand everyone else pays for it.
I wish them all the best.