BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The trial challenging the incorporation of St. George was underway Monday at the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.
Opening statements from Mayor Broome’s representation argued that St. George does not have the public services needed for a city in a timely manner and the proposed city’s map intentionally excludes minority populations. For this argument, he referred to the difference between the 2014 and the more recent map created for the city of St. George.
Another argument said the separation would hit the City-Parish in the pockets, which would cause a negative impact on the surrounding areas. They said it would leave the city at a $50 million dollar deficit, forcing them to cut funds from necessary areas like law enforcement and public safety departments.
The mayor’s attorney called the incorporation a “money grab.”
St. George’s representation’s opening statements argued that the lines appear to exclude certain areas because the City-Parish allowed annexations of certain businesses and areas. They also said they do have a consolidated form of government and don’t want to leave East Baton Rouge Parish, but improve it.
As for public services, St. George’s representation said the only public services that will be taken over by the city are local, such as planning and zoning.
They said because of annexations and because some of the underserved or minority areas didn’t sign the petition saying they wanted to become a part of the city were why some of the less affluent areas were not put in the St. George boundaries.
They also said the city of St. George would take over some of the finances associated with the city of Baton Rouge because they would become their own city and have local responsibilities. They said the $50 million tax loss from the area of St. George wouldn’t hit them as hard as the mayor’s representation is making it out to be, simply because they would no longer be costing the city the dollars to provide certain services to the area of St. George.
Last week, St. George officials said they have prepared to develop an interim government and districts if the trial goes in their favor.
So far, on the stand, we heard from a St. George organizer, the EBR head of finance, and the head of Baton Rouge police.
A ruling is expected at the end of the week. The court convenes at 9:15 a.m. at the 19th Judicial District Court on Tuesday.