In the late 90’s, a veteran and father of three named Norman Browning took a job as a volunteer coach at Woodlawn High School in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Browning had been educated by Baton Rouge’s public schools and he wanted to give back to the community. But very quickly, he realized that Woodlawn was very different from the school it used to be.

For one thing, there wasn’t much discipline. Teachers didn’t have close relationships with parents, and didn’t seem particularly interested in doing their jobs. Test scores were abysmal.

Additionally, demographics had shifted dramatically. Students were poorer than they used to be. And there wasn’t much of the fabled “diversity” that we’re told is so important. More than half of the student body was black. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge and its schools were becoming increasingly violent. (Currently it’s one of the ten most dangerous cities in the country).

Here’s just one recent example of a common sight in Baton Rouge schools:

So there’s a brawl in the school, and then the parents show up and they get involved in the brawl too. And then a gun turns up, and the cops aren’t remotely surprised by any of this. This kind of thing has been happening consistently in Baton Rouge for the past decade. As the Daily Mail reports, on a single day in 2013, Browning observed “as many as six separate fights between unruly students.”

Instead of shaking his head and moving on — which he very easily could have done — Browning decided on a different course of action. As the Daily Mail reports, Browning decided to help lead a breakaway movement to effectively secede from East Baton Rouge parish and incorporate a new city called St. George. This new city would have schools that admit students who actually want to learn, and teachers who want to teach.

WATCH: The Matt Walsh Show

The idea was a longshot. Other movements to incorporate new cities and secede, most notably the effort by Buckhead to secede from Atlanta in Georgia, have fallen short. That’s mainly because local politicians — including conservatives — have stood in the way. 

But — after a campaign that took the better part of a decade — in 2019, voters finally approved a ballot initiative to create St. George. What followed were years of legal battles that ended last week, when the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that St. George can indeed incorporate. St. George will be a 60-square mile area, with a population of more than 85,000 residents. (For comparison, Baton Rouge is 76 square miles, with a population of more than 200,000). 

That’ll make St. George one of the largest cities in the state. They’ll have their own mayor, public services, and city council. Watch:

A key part of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s ruling is that, contrary to what Baton Rouge claimed, St. George has the financial means to be self-sustaining. And that’s not surprising. Taxpayers in the area that’s now known as St. George pay roughly two-thirds of the total tax revenue of the government of East Baton Rouge. But they receive only about one-third of the government’s expenses in return. And, despite paying all these taxes, St. George residents haven’t been represented in the mayor’s office in Baton Rouge in modern history.

In other words, St. George is vital for East Baton Rouge’s economy. And in return for all the tax revenue St. George has generated, Baton Rouge has done basically nothing for St. George. They made their neighborhood more dangerous and their schools even worse. And on top of that, the people of St. George have no real representation in local government. So now East Baton Rouge isn’t going to get that tax revenue anymore, or at least not anywhere near the same amount. In fact, St. George residents are currently seeking tens of millions of dollars in back taxes that they’ve paid to the East Baton Rouge parish government since 2019.

You have to wonder why this isn’t happening more often. Governments that don’t provide basic services or representation for their citizens don’t deserve tax money from their citizens. That’s a pretty intuitive principle. And there’s no rule that says you can’t make your own city if you want to. Quite the opposite. The right of free association is a fundamental part of the constitution. So why isn’t this more commonplace?

One reason might be that anyone who attempts to incorporate a sane, high-functioning city will immediately be defamed as a racist. Predictably, that’s been the main reaction from the Left to the incorporation of St. George. There has been no reckoning about the failures of Baton Rouge’s leadership whatsoever. Here for example is a former president of the NAACP in Baton Rouge, reacting to the ruling of the Louisiana Supreme Court:

The NAACP guy starts off by saying that some of the people leading the secession movement are on the school board, so they’re responsible for the failing schools. Apparently these school board members should have used their vast influence in order to prevent brawls from constantly breaking out. They also should have forced the students to be smarter, the teachers to care more about their jobs, and parents to actually parent their children.

Then his argument devolves into accusing everyone in St. George of racism. They didn’t stay and try to fix East Baton Rouge’s broken school system, so they must be bigots who just want to get away from black people.

This is one of the stock responses you’ll hear on the Left in response to the secession of St. George. For example, on Twitter, a “black activist” named Samuel Sinyangwe wrote: “They’re ‘seceding’ from a majority-Black city to create a whites-only enclave in Louisiana.”

Just as a factual matter, what this activist is saying about the new city isn’t true. It’s not a “whites-only enclave” because there are black people living in it. Specifically, 12% of the population is black, which is roughly the same percentage of black people you’ll find in Barack Obama’s preferred island, Martha’s Vineyard. It also mirrors the overall percentage of black people in the United States at large, which stands at around 14%. In other words, these activists calling St. George a “whites-only enclave” are also, in effect, calling the entire country a “whites-only enclave.”

Additionally, Woodlawn High School, which I mentioned earlier, is within the limits of the new city of St. George. This school, with a lot of black students attending, is not being abandoned by this new city. The point is to improve its leadership so that there’s more learning and less fighting.

Of course, if you let these activists talk a little more, it becomes very clear what they’re really upset about. They’re not upset about racism or whatever. They know that East Baton Rouge, like so many other cities in this country, is dysfunctional — and no sane person would want to continue funding it with their tax dollars. What bothers these activists is that their source of funding is about to go to zero. Their cash cow is abandoning them. They will have to be productive for once and solve their own problems, without taking other people’s money and wasting it.

That NAACP president in Baton Rouge eventually gets around to admitting this. Listen:

“It’s pulling a lot of the resources and the tax bases from Baton Rouge. Stuff that is used to keep our city stable. … This is going to be paid for on the backs of poor black folks.”

There’s finally some honesty there. It’s true that, without St. George, Baton Rouge will probably have a lot of financial problems to deal with. But the people responsible for those problems are not living in St. George. They’re running Baton Rouge, which is losing population by the day. As the Louisiana Supreme Court said in its decision: “Baton Rouge has arguably experienced a windfall by collecting taxes in St. George without returning proportionate money and services.

Incorporation will allow the money paid by St. George citizens to stay in St. George … The record establishes the population of St. George is increasing. Conversely, the population of Baton Rouge is declining.”

As St. George creates its new school system and builds out its infrastructure, it’s very likely that Baton Rouge’s population will continue to decline. That’s why, already, there’s an effort by Baton Rouge activists to get the Louisiana Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.

But that will probably fail, as it should. For one thing, some of the economic success of St. George will almost certainly benefit Baton Rouge in a variety of ways. St. George will keep many more people in the area, and the residents there will still pay for some services provided by the government of East Baton Rouge.

But more importantly, if St. George continues to thrive, it will send a very clear signal to dysfunctional governments all over the country. And that signal is: Stop wasting our tax dollars, or we’ll leave — and we’ll take our tax dollars with us. That’s how our system was always supposed to work. Our country was founded on the principle that governments cannot lawfully tax people without representing them or working for their benefit. And with the secession of St. George from the capital city of Louisiana, for the first time in recent memory, that principle is back. Hopefully there’s much more to come.


Leave a Reply