West Feliciana remap plan criticized

Some West Feliciana Parish residents expressed staunch opposition Monday night to a proposed parish redistricting plan by the demographer hired to oversee the redistricting process.

One local farmer, Plater Gooden, said that if the proposed districts go into effect, he would not be able to raise his hogs anymore.

“If you take the small farmers and you group them all together, they can’t get nothing done,” said Gooden, adding that he did not want urbanites to impose on his rural lifestyle.

Shane Landry, who also lives in a rural area of the parish, said the proposed redistricting plan looked good so far, but that the districts should work for everybody.

“I like living in the woods,” Landry said in response to Gooden’s statements. “I don’t want to be urban either.”

West Feliciana residents voted in November in favor of a council-president form of government, which would be composed of four district council members, one at-large council member and a parish president. A seven-member Police Jury currently governs the parish.

About a month ago, the Police Jury hired Cedric Floyd, a Kenner demographer, to draw up the four-district map.

Floyd said Monday’s meeting was the first in a series of community meetings that he will schedule to receive feedback required by the U.S. Department of Justice before it can approve any redistricting plan first accepted by the current Police Jury.

Z. David DeLoach, who served as a member on the Home Rule Charter Commission appointed by the Police Jury two years ago to work on a possible redistricting plan, said his research found that a five-person parish council represented the ideal number for efficient decision-making.

“It had nothing to do with trying to diminish anyone’s representation or diluting any voting strength,” DeLoach said.

The proposed plan would cut the number of black-majority districts from three to two, placing about 80 percent of the parish’s 3,400 black residents in those two districts.

The parish’s overall population is 10,472 and the remaining people would reside in the other two districts, which would be majority-white districts, according to 2010 Census data used for the plan.

The parish’s population is approximately 65 percent white and 33 percent black, according to the data.