New districts could increase black representation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2011



EDGARD – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council recently adopted the new council district maps that were proposed last month.

The council also briefly discussed the status of the parish’s request for proposals for garbage service and received information about the rising water in the Mississippi River while authorizing the bid process for an elevated walkway for the Edgard water plant.

South Central Planning and Development, the group hired to handle redrawing of the council districts, had previously presented three alternatives for consideration. After two public meetings on both sides of the river, the council opted to move forward with the alternative that offered the least tweaking of present lines, otherwise known as alternative 3C.

Under the plan, the parish’s two at-large districts remain the same, but each council district is adjusted so four of the seven districts would have significant African-American majorities, up from three under the current map, which was adopted in 2004 after a successful court challenge of maps drawn after the 2000 census.

Districts 1, 3, 4 and 6 would be majority African-American, while districts 2, 5 and 7 would be majority white. The council voted 7-0 in favor of the plan, with council members Jaclyn Hotard and Danny Millet absent from the meeting.

The state requires a redrawing of district lines after every census to account for changes in population. Change was needed because the percentage of African-Americans in the parish’s population grew from 45 percent to 54 percent. The total population in the parish jumped from 43,044 in 2000 to 45,924 in 2010.

The final maps and accompanying demographic information can be found at South Central Planning’s website,, 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.

The council also questioned Parish President Natalie Robottom regarding the parish’s progress in requesting proposals for garbage pickup. The current contract with IESI Inc., formerly SWDI, expires on July 1.

Robottom said the parish is only interested in rates for garbage pickup and will not be requesting potential vendors to provide new garbage cans or proposals for curbside recycling. She said the parish’s current recycling program, which features large storage bins scattered throughout the parish, is suitable for the time being.

“We are seeing great success with the system we have and may eventually expand it in some areas,” Robottom said. “Some locations, like at Belle Terre Boulevard, are more popular than others.”

Robottom said the council will have a proposal regarding garbage collection by the end of the week.

The council also authorized the parish to seek bids for construction of an elevated walkway to the Edgard water intake plant, which is situated on the river side of the levee. A new water plant was completed last summer, but the walkway, which is needed during high river periods, was delayed. The $187,000 project is funded through the Louisiana Government Assistance Program, as well as the 2009 parish bond issue.

Although the bid process was approved, the parish, ironically, cannot move forward with the project until the river levels come down. The project prompted a brief discussion about the status of the river.

Robottom told the council the parish is in daily contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the security of the levees and the water levels. She said no flooding is expected other than within the levee system. She said residents are advised to refrain from driving and walking on levees until the water subsides. She also said all digging within 1,500 feet of the levee is prohibited.