[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish officials busy with changes

Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Tue May 31 20:53:55 EDT 2011

St. Bernard Parish officials busy with changes

Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 9:00 AM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

The St. Bernard Parish government this week will move forward on two
seemingly contradictory fronts: to challenge the results of the 2010 Census
and to redraw Parish Council districts based on those same numbers.

St. Bernard, where nearly 80 percent of housing units had severe damage from
Hurricane Katrina's storm surge, experienced the most dramatic population
decline of any parish in the state, according to the 2010 head count. Its
population fell by 47 percent from its 2000 figure of 67,229.

The 2010 count found that Arabi shrank by 55 percent, Chalmette by 48
percent and Meraux by 43 percent.

Parish President Craig Taffaro has said the 2010 total of 35,897 parish
residents should be nearly 10,000 higher. He puts the parish's population at
between 43,000 and 45,000. A 2009 Census estimate pegged the population at
40,665 people.

Wednesday is the fist day the Census Bureau will accept challenges to the
2010 count.

One day later, parish government will hold its first public meetings on how
to draw new boundary lines for Parish Council districts based on the
official census numbers.

Some might wonder if the parish is putting the cart before the horse, but if
history is any guide, it is unlikely the challenge will cause the Census
Bureau to change its numbers.

After the 2000 Census, 1,180 of the nation's approximately 39,000
governmental jurisdictions filed challenges citing potential undercounts.
The Census Bureau ended up adding only about 2,700 people nationally to its
count of 281 million people.

Moreover, with a parish-wide election set for October, the parish needs to
get moving on redistricting.

According to federal and state law, if the population deviation between the
largest and smallest council districts exceeds 10 percent according to the
2010 numbers, then the parish must redraw its district lines.

St. Bernard has five district council members, plus two at-large seats, so
the five council districts must be redrawn to represent close to the new
"ideal" district population of 7,179 residents apiece.

According to the 2010 head count, the largest district -- District D with
7,974 residents -- exceeds the ideal by 9.1 percent, and the smallest --
District C with 6,526 -- is 11.07 percent below the mark, for a total
deviation of 20.17 percent, or more than double the legal limit.

Therefore, parish government will hold a series of public hearings to
discuss new boundary lines.

On Thursday at 6 p.m., there will be a meeting for residents of the current
District D at Trist Middle School Cafeteria, 1 Pirates Cove in Meraux. At
7:30 p.m. the same night, District C residents are invited to a meeting at
the Parish Council Chambers, 8201 W. Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette.

The other meetings will be:

For District A, June 8 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

For District E, June 9 at 6 p.m. at the Islenos Museum, 1357 Bayou Road in
lower St. Bernard.

For District B, June 15 at 7 p.m. at the Council Chambers.

Benjamin Alexander-Bloch can be reached at bbloch at timespicayune.com or

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