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."
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.