Public peek at St. John remap

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2011



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish residents on Tuesday got their first look at various alternatives created to redraw parish council districts following the 2010 census.

The public meeting, held in LaPlace, was the first of two scheduled to allow as many residents as possible a chance to look at the new district map proposals. The second meeting will be held Monday at the St. John Parish Courthouse in Edgard at 6 p.m.

South Central Planning and Development, the group hired to draw up the new boundaries, presented the parish with three alternatives showing the new boundaries for the seven council districts and two at-large divisions. The parish is required to redraw council boundaries after every census to ensure each district keeps the same number of voters while keeping minority districts. The 2010 census shows St. John’s population climbed to 45,924, which is a 7 percent increase over the last decade.

One of the alternatives under consideration draws the boundaries in a way that divides the west bank into two council districts. South Central Planning and Development CEO Kevin Belanger said the idea was proposed as a way to increase representation on the west bank of the parish, but at the meeting Tuesday some council members believed that the plan would make it harder for someone from the west bank to get elected to the council.

“Those districts would end up including more populous neighborhoods on the east bank,” said interim councilman Raydel Morris. “I think it may be best to consider a plan that keeps one district on the west bank.”

Morris, soon to be replaced by Lucien Gauff III, who won the council-at-large election Saturday, recommended the first alternate map, which keeps the districts close to what they currently are. Other council members at the meeting seemed to also want to limit extreme changes in the redraw.

Councilman Charles Julien said he would like to see a plan that would create four districts represented by an African American. He said census figures showed black residents now constitute a 54 percent majority in the parish, which is an increase from 45 percent in 2000.

The current council includes four district seats held by white people.

The two at-large seats are designed so one of the divisions has an African-American majority.

The council could introduce one or more ordinances to choose a redistricting plan at its April 26 meeting. The council will likely continue discussions at Tuesday’s regular council meeting in LaPlace. If ordinances are introduced at the April 26 meeting, the council could vote on a plan at the May 10 meeting in Edgard.

All maps and accompanying demographic information can be found at South Central Planning’s web site,, under the St. John Parish tab. Printed versions are also available at the Parish Council office at the Percy Hebert Building, 1801 W. Airline Highway, LaPlace.