We Baton Rougeans have a special affection for our city. We all know lots of people who have moved away and almost all have eventually come back, drawn by the unique character of the food, the sports, the music and the job opportunities.
We love our city so much that we have been willing to suffer for decades, largely in silence, with inadequate schools, dirty streets, decaying neighborhoods and an unreasonably high crime rate. We’ve seen other cities in the South with fewer natural advantages than we have pull ahead of us and become truly great cities.
But even the extremely tolerant people of Baton Rouge have a limit to how long they are willing to put up with mediocrity. Baton Rouge now appears to be on the verge of great economic opportunity. The frequent announcements of billion-dollar industrial projects coming to the area, the expansion of CBI and IBM into Baton Rouge and the springing up of numerous other new businesses gives us hope. Then why even consider splitting up our beloved city when the future has such promise?
The problem is we’ve seen this movie before. Granted, the announced investment coming into the area is large. But compared with the amount of investment that came into the Baton Rouge area in the three decades preceding the 1980s, the investment (adjusted for inflation) is modest. Growth was explosive in those days with massive investment up and down the river. With that unprecedented investment, Baton Rouge grew fast and chaotically, and the opportunity to become one of the South’s great new cities was squandered by short-sighted city and state management. Thus we remain in the backwater with the same intractable problems that have plagued us for decades.
So I have reluctantly signed the petition to form the city of St. George with the hope that the threat of breaking up Baton Rouge will focus the city and state leaders to come up with a dynamic plan for improving our schools, reducing crime and cleaning up the city; a plan that is so well conceived that it will convince the resients of Baton Rouge to cast their lots together. Jawboning by the city leaders about what horrible things will happen if St. George is formed will not be believed and will not deter residents from voting to form the new city.
Without the threat created by a successful petition to form St. George, I believe adequate progress in resolving our city’s problems is unlikely.