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."
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.