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."
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.