Recapping third Parish Council Redistricting Workshop

When seven Parish Council members finished tinkering with the District Map on Monday a fifth option, designated Plan 4A, was added for consideration.  It would, if ultimately chosen by a majority of the current council, switch Precinct 32 from District 10 (currently represented by John Cagnolatti) to District 2 (represented by Joel Robert at present) to compensate, in part, for lost west bank Ascension precincts.  It was the last link in the chain reaction touched off by changes made to District 1.

What to do with District 1?  It is one of two minority-majority districts, exclusively on the west bank but insufficiently populated, and driving much of the discussion.  The map above, without street names to reference, seems like it would bisect Pelican Point Subdivision and might put place Robert’s residence in District 1. So, take it with a grain of salt.

Attending Monday’s workshop were Council members Alvin “Coach” Thomas (1), Travis Turner (3), Dempsey Lambert (5), Chase Melancon (6), Aaron Lawler (7), Teri Casso (8) and Chairman Cagnolatti (10).  Absent were Joel Robert (2), Corey Orgeron (4), Dal Waguespack (9) and Michael Mason (11).

The action centered upon two areas, the northernmost and southernmost areas of the parish.  As a rule those districts to the north must lose, and those in the south gain, population.

Dempsey Lambert’s District 5, in Ascension’s northeast corner, is the most populous district which must cede precincts to Chase Melancon’s District 6 in St. Amant.  That was largely accomplished during two earlier workshops, along with sorting out interior district (9, 10, 11) boundaries on the east bank, leaving District 7’s Aaron Lawler to his agenda on Monday…

Lawler seeks to eliminate Willow Lake Subdivision constituency

Once that was addressed all that was left to discuss was the west bank’s District 1 and those affected by adding population to it.

District 1 has to expand to the east bank without compromising its minority-majority makeup.  Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas district can meet that more stringent requirement by tapping into precincts situated in Darrow, currently represented by Councilman Travis Turner without diluting the minority-majority makeup of District 3 in the process, nor decreasing the total population below acceptable limits.

11,500 individuals is ideal with a 5% deviation acceptable according to Mike Hefner of Geographic Planning & Demographic Services.  

The domino effect could force other precincts into District 3 which, in turn, is at risk of falling below the “acceptable” minority-majority percentage itself.  Hefner cautioned against decreasing black voter percentage below 58%.

“We want it as close to 60% as possible,” Hefner said, warning that low voter turnout could jeopardize retention of the seat by a minority candidate (which sort of seems outside of what his purview should be, but…)

And there is “a ripple effect” when adding precincts to any district since they have to be taken from another district, potentially decreasing the latter’s raw population total below required levels.  Which means that, since precincts in District 2 are also shifting to District 1, the former has to pick up some population.

The northwest corner of newly-proposed District 2, in yellow above, would be bordered diagonally by Airline Hwy, pushing the district north of Hwy 30 from Hwy 44 (Burnside) all the way east to Airline Hwy.  Compared to the current map….

Current council district map depicts District 2 in blue (southeast quadrant).  District 10 in white.

with District 2 bounded to the north by Hwy 30.  District 2 already encompasses part of Gonzales, Conway Subdivision south of Interstate 10 and east of Hwy 44 on 350 acres annexed into the city a decade ago, along with the Town of Sorrento in its entirety.  The district as currently configured crosses over the Mississippi River all the way into the City of Donaldsonville proper.

Which means that Joel Robert currently represents all or parts of three Ascension Parish municipalities.  Should Plan 4A be selected there would be only one west bank representative on the Parish Council, another factor to consider as the Council makes its decision expected to come by year’s end.