Redrawn districts pass muster - St. Charles, St. John council plans OK'd

Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Author: Matt Scallan River Parishes bureau

St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes' new council districts have been pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, effectively giving the green light for the district boundaries adopted by the two parishes after the 2010 census to go into effect in time for the Oct. 22 elections. 

In St. John, the new districts are not dramatically different than they are now, but the boundaries have changed to reflect a new African-American majority in the parish. 

St. John saw an increase of more than 2,800 residents, rising to 45,924. But the number of black residents rose by more than 5,300, increasing the African-American population to nearly 54 percent, up from about 45 percent in 2000. 

The council's two divisions, which are designed to encompass half the parish's population, were unchanged. 

The St. John council chose Alternative 1C from three alternatives developed by the South Central Planning and Development agency. 

"The plan was developed in a transparent manner, and the public can be assured that all of the requirements set forth by the Department of Justice have been met. Alternate 1C seemed to be the most advantageous of all alternatives," said Kevin Belanger CEO of South Central Planning in a news release. 

The new configuration gives the St. John Parish Council four majority-black districts in the October elections, up from three under the former configuration. The change reflects the shift in the parish's population. 

A copy of the reapportionment plan is available for public viewing at the Parish Council office in LaPlace at the parish courthouse in Edgard and on the parish's web site at 

In St. Charles Parish, redistricting the new plan includes two cross-river districts, up from the current one. That plan was chosen out of four alternates because it does a better job of keeping communities together and incumbents apart, officials have said. 

The adopted plan is Alternative 3. 

The districts reflect stronger growth on the parish's west bank, which has more developable land. The west bank holds 55 percent of the parish's residents, up from 50 percent in 2000. 

St. Charles' population grew by 10 percent since 2000 to 52,780, spurred on by new development in parts of Luling, Bayou Gauche, Hahnville, Montz and Destrehan. 

St. Charles has one black-majority district, the 1st District, which stretches from Killona downstream along the Mississippi River to Luling and crosses over the Hale Boggs Bridge to Destrehan. The parish's African-American population grew by 1 percent to 26.6 percent since 2000.