Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Redistricting might become a legislative brawl, but coastal Louisiana could benefit. By Walter PierceIn less than three months state lawmakers will gather for a special session to redraw Louisiana’s congressional and state House/Senate districts to conform with new census figures. This promises to be a contentious powwow for state districts as Republicans seek to solidify political gains, Democrats try to mitigate their declining clout and regional interests compete for influence.
Of equal interest will be the redrawing of Louisiana’s congressional districts. Because of a population decline since 2000, the state will forfeit one of its seven U.S. House districts. Thus far two proposals for how those districts should look have been floated — one from Louisiana Family Forum and a second from state Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville — and others are likely to come. LFF’s plan is a blueprint for marginalizing Democrats and ensuring conservative Republican hegemony; the latter is fairer to everyone, and it offers a proposal that is gaining support among lawmakers south of I-10: creation of a district spanning from Cameron to Plaquemines parishes skirting the Gulf of Mexico.
Louisiana Family Forum and its political action committee, Louisiana Family Forum Action, have historically lobbied for initiatives that, for example, marginalize our lesbian-gay population and antagonize the state’s non-evangelicals. LFF has been a divisive force in Louisiana politics, and its redistricting proposal for the state’s six congressional districts maintains that tradition and deserves skepticism.
The LFF plan dilutes the state’s black voters, the vast majority of whom vote Democrat, by combining half of black-majority Orleans Parish with the overwhelmingly white, conservative St. Tammany and Washington parishes. The other chunk of Orleans Parish is combined in LFF’s proposal with the southeastern coastal parishes and the parishes skirting the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin.
I wouldn’t, however, call LFF’s plan a Trojan horse — we know there are Greeks huddled in its belly, ready with daggers and blood lust. And in fairness — if you can call it that — LFF’s plan appears to focus on neutering Democrats, not blacks, although in this increasingly polarized, conservative state, the overlap between Democrat and black is closing.
Harrison’s plan, in contrast, creates a district that comprises Orleans Parish, slices west through the river parishes and north to include part of East Baton Rouge — a majority black district. The U.S. Department of Justice, through the federal Voting Rights Act, is requiring Louisiana to maintain a black-majority district. Harrison’s plan seems to satisfy the VRA, although it can be fairly argued that Louisiana’s black population is still getting short shrift: 2009 census figures show very close to one third of the Bayou State’s population is black, so shouldn’t one third — two of six — of our redrawn House districts be black-majority?
Harrison’s plan is likely to run afoul of Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette who, as we learn in today’s news article by Jeremy Alford (“Getting Shored Up,” page 5, which also includes a map of Harrison’s proposal), is adamant that Lafayette and Lake Charles remain in the same district; Harrison’s plan divorces them, bumping Calcasieu north into a district — little changed from the current District 4 — comprising a column of parishes running north-south along the Texas border to Arkansas. If part of the rationale in redistricting is to consider geographic and cultural affinities, that is a shortcoming; Lake Chas has about as much in common with Shreveport as Lafayette has with Monroe.
But it’s a minor nit to pick; the population of coastal Louisiana from Cameron to Plaquemines has much in common — lots of Cajuns, Catholics, rig workers and fishermen, with urban pockets and college towns like Lafayette, Thibodaux and Houma. And most of this population is confronted with the ongoing ecological and economic cataclysm known as coastal erosion.
These are commonalities — exceptionalities would be a better word were it a word — that a representative in Congress can reflect and embrace.
Close to one third of the Bayou State’s population is black, so shouldn’t one third — two of six — of our redrawn House districts be black-majority?
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
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Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
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An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
According to Gov. Bobby Jindal, President Barack Obama needs to stop talking about “justice” and start murdering people, even if we have to go alone.
A replacement is expected by January to fill the vacancy left when Greg Roberts resigned after allegedly pointing a fake gun at an engineer during a June meeting.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Halliburton says it has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a substantial portion of plaintiff claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
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A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,575 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.
A crew began erecting the 25-foot mini-wheel late morning Friday in anticipation of the evening’s Hottest Night of the Year party at the park.
Frances Boothe of Nunez, who also happens to be filmmaker Stephen Meaux’s grandmother, prepares a cool-weather fave.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
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The LPSB is poised and ready to move forward with the termination of Pat Cooper following a discussion Thursday with the attorney hired for the investigation of the superintendent, but a decision of this magnitude should be left up to the new board seated in January, especially with three pro-investigation board members bailing out come the new year.
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Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
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