Our Views: A moment for unity

In south Baton Rouge, it’s past time for marriage counseling.

A group in the St. George area wants to split. They threaten to take the family’s prized possessions with them, such as the sales tax revenues from the Mall of Louisiana.

The reaction of the other aggrieved party is straight out of good-cop, bad-cop: The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and others push for more community control of schools, hoping to appease the St. George activists.

The bad-cop is city hall, which now threatens to take the mall and other big taxpayers across the old city line. If the bad cop has its way, St. George finds itself facing a divorce settlement on very unfavorable financial terms.

We think the moment has come for compromise instead of conflict.

We hope both sides can get past the name-calling stage. Those who want better schools are not racist, nor are those who prize Baton Rouge’s civic unity bullies and elitists. Two young Metro Council members, Ryan Heck and John Delgado, have vied for the role of most inappropriate spokesmen for the two sides. “Whipping” the posteriors (Heck) of those calling the activists “terrorists” (Delgado) helps matters not at all.

Nor is the request for annexation into the city by major taxpayers, including the Mall of Louisiana, a purely political ploy. Those are major business interests whose vote in this dispute is in favor of stability and unity, not a messy split.

We have long questioned the financial viability of the St. George city proposals, for we don’t see a new city without new taxes. Apparently, major taxpayers in the region agree with that skepticism.

In a divorce, both households can end up being worse off financially. This might be one of those bad cases.

What happens now? If you are, like the chamber, actively pursuing new businesses in the region, this cannot help but be a bit of embarrassment; every new business and industry recruit is reading the paper. And if you are a region of Louisiana or Texas or elsewhere competing with Baton Rouge for a project, this is a family feud that is good to see.

Now, then, is a good time for leadership in civic divorce court.

The energy and enthusiasm of volunteers, even in such an unhopeful cause, is not a problem but an opportunity, if the feuding spouses can be persuaded to look anew at improving the schools in the area. That is where constructive action instead of destructive conflict can be achieved.