Rebuilding hadn't even kicked off yet two years ago when politicos and pundits started predicting a power shift to the Capital City. Since a large majority of evacuees landed in the city ' various surveys peg the increase at 100,000, with a present population possibly nearing 325,000 ' Red Stick appears poised to gain more seats in the state Legislature. Now interests are coalescing in the sister cities to either defend turf or take advantage of the situation.
Sometimes lost in the tit-for-tat, however, is Acadiana, which is likewise positioned to gain seats following the next census, largely in the area that hugs I-10 around Lafayette and New Iberia. While evacuees and businesses that landed in the region following the 2005 storms that battered both ends of Louisiana's coastline are surely an indicator, the Cajun cities were already experiencing phenomenal growth pre-Katrina. While other major metro areas were suffering from outmigration, Lafayette was attracting new residents and serious investments.
In fact, Lafayette was growing in 2000 when no other Louisiana city was. Last year, it practically led the entire nation in growth, from wages and jobs to households. The Acadiana region enjoyed a 5 percent surge in overall population in related reports, spiking somewhere around 537,947 residents, according to the U.S. Census. Moreover, of Louisiana's top 50 cities for raw population gain last year, a dozen were located in Acadiana.
The Big Easy cannot tout such figures. It will show a decrease in population after the 2010 census, but the beneficiaries are largely unknown ' and Orleans isn't ready to give up without a fight.
Among others, Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin argues that people are moving back at a quicker pace than is generally accepted, based partly on so-called mailbox and utility counts, which may or may not be used in the coming census. The problem with this methodology is simple: just because someone is receiving mail or energy doesn't mean they're living in the city.
Shreveport demographer and political analyst Elliot Stonecipher says New Orleans officials are fighting back aggressively by tracking these unconventional counts. There's also the question of what property owners plan to do in the coming years ' stay or sell ' as Louisiana still suffers from an outmigration trend that started long before Katrina. "In any case, the stage is certainly set for New Orleans officials to challenge the census with any reported population significantly lower," Stonecipher says. "When cities lose population, they kick and scream and holler and challenge. We've seen northern cities like Shreveport do it and sometimes they're successful."
The Capitol City, meanwhile, is positioning itself just as aggressively for the gains. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has converted many of its initiatives into regional approaches and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation is spending as much as $1 million to brand and promote the I-10/I-12 region. A new magazine, bankrolled by The Baton Rouge Business Report's parent company, hopes to piggyback on that initiative. There's an undercurrent running through all of these initiatives to help Baton Rouge become the locus of power in Louisiana.
Acadiana factors into the I-10/I-12 strategy as well, Stonecipher says. "Lafayette has been growing consistently faster than most other areas of the state and that population is compressed around the I-10 area," he says. "The parts of Acadiana around Lafayette and New Iberia are going to be real growth stories and they could be ready to gain more seats in the Legislature."
Next summer, Louisiana will receive its official intermediate estimates for the period through July of this year, which should offer a decent precursor of what's to come. "Things in New Orleans are turning around and people appear to be spending money," says West Bank Rep. Jim Tucker of Terrytown, chair of the GOP Caucus. "I don't think we'll be down as far as originally thought, but there's little doubt that New Orleans will be down and Baton Rouge will be up. As far as how that plays out, we'll just have to wait."
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.