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?
NOLA Bowl game day outfits
Accept no substitutions for homemade Eggnog
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 13, 2013:
September's $509 million in sales pushed Lafayette Parish's nine-month total to $4.4 billion.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
From jewelry to home goods, deals abound
Forgiving shapes for NOLA Bowl
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The New Orleans architect behind the 1984 World’s Fair also left his mark on Lafayette.
Laid back vibe just right for NOLA Bowl
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
Week long specials and a ribbon cutting celebration held in Parc Lafayette
Fort Worth company's new facility at Lafayette Regional Airport will build helicopters primarily for the export market.
Could River Ranch restaurant be the next star?