West Feliciana jurors balk at picking plan for new districts

The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve neither one of two proposed plans for dividing the parish into four single-member districts as required by the parish’s home-rule charter.

The charter, approved in November, calls for a parish president, one council member elected in at-large balloting and four council members elected from single-member districts.

An election for parish president is set Oct. 19, with a Nov. 16 runoff, if needed.

The candidates are Jurors Lea Williams and John Kean, former state Rep. Tom McVea and businessman Kevin Couhig.

Most of the jurors agreed with Police Juror Otis Wilson that the parish cannot be divided equitably into four districts without diluting the political strength of the parish’s black population.

They differed in the approach to the problem.

Police Juror Mel Percy said the jury should choose one of the plans that Kenner demographer Cedric Floyd proposed, then let the parish president lead a movement before the fall 2015 elections to amend that part of the charter dealing with council election districts.

Percy said each of the four candidates for parish president are supporting a charter amendment regarding the number of districts.

By acting on one of the plans, the Police Jury would be fulfilling one of its duties under the charter, Percy said.

“I don’t think the plan would ever take effect,” he said, but the Police Jury could avoid being accused of stalling on the charter implementation.

Williams said the charter is very clear in calling for council districts that are as close to equal in population as possible.

Floyd’s plans fall far short of that, she said.

“This doesn’t fit the black people of this parish,” Wilson said. “The only way to keep three minority members is to go back to seven.”

A motion to table the matter failed, with only Williams and Kean supporting it.

A motion to not approve a districting plan then passed with votes from Wilson, Williams, Melvin Young and Heather Howle.

Percy, Kean and Ricky Lambert dissented.

The 2010 census put West Feliciana’s population at 10,472, not counting the inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Floyd’s latest proposal, introduced last month, includes:

District A, with a population of 1,826, or 792 less than the ideal district of 2,618.

The district would be 63.7 percent black, Floyd said.

District B, with a population of 2,542, or 76 under the ideal district’s population.

The district would be 60.78 percent black.

District C, with the largest population, 3,113.

The population would be 8.48 percent black.

District D, with 2,991 people, 14.64 percent of them black.

Floyd calls his latest proposal the Rosemound plan because he made several changes in the district boundary lines in the Lake Rosemound area after introducing a plan earlier this year.