BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor President Kip Holden has declared the defeat of the St. George petition this weekend a win for the parish. But Holden said Monday he wants to extend an olive branch to leaders of the movement to create a new city.
“Our hands are out and we are willing to sit down with leaders of the movement and see if there’s something else we may be able to do,” Holden said in an interview Monday. “We want this to remain one government, but a government that most of all speaks with a single voice on the critical issues facing each and every resident.”
Holden made his comments just two days after the Registrar of Voters Office closed out the 21-monthlong petition process to call an election to create the City of St. George. The registrar announced the petition was short 71 signatures of the 17,859 required to make the ballot.
“For the betterment of the total community, I’m happy that it was defeated. We’re on a path where we always sought to unify people,” Holden said. “In my 10 and a half years in office, I have done my best to bring people together instead of separating people.”
Lionel Rainey, a St. George spokesman, tells The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1JR1GEE) his group is willing to meet with Baton Rouge officials, but is not ready to concede defeat.
St. George advocates have suggested they’re mounting a legal case to challenge the petition count.
“We’ve never been unwilling to have a conversation with anyone, so sure we’d sit down and talk to the mayor,” Rainey said. “Because we are certainly not going away.”
State Sen. Bodi White, who has advocated for the city and attempted to pass legislation supporting its incorporation in the state Legislature, cast doubt on the registrar’s process for checking names, and perhaps more critically allowing people to strike their names from the petition after signing.
He suspects registrar’s office accepted withdrawal forms of people removing their names from the petition for longer than they should have.
“There are a lot of questions that are unanswered and there are a lot of people who worked really hard on that petition,” White said. “I’d hate to think that the people at the Registrar’s Office didn’t do their job right.”
Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com
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