Baton Rouge’s Stagnant Population Growth Sends Warning: Don’t Follow Path of Detroit

Baton Rouge’s Stagnant Population Growth Sends Warning: Don’t Follow Path of Detroit

It’s not very popular and certainly not politically correct to talk about the problems in your own community.  But if we aren’t honest with ourselves, the consequences will be very grave indeed.
Despite all the hoopla and Chamber of Commerce rhetoric, this parish and this city are so close to tipping over the edge and becoming another New Orleans or even Detroit that it’s not even funny.
Families have been fleeing East Baton Rouge Parish and especially the City of Baton Rouge for 30 years now.
Fewer and fewer families with children live here.
Population growth in the City of Baton Rouge is nil, and population growth in East Baton Rouge is the worst it’s been in 200 years.
Look at the population growth in East Baton Rouge Parish in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  We averaged from 4.5 to 7.9 percent growth annually!  It was a boom time, and new construction and jobs were everywhere.
But by the late 1970’s, we had killed the goose that laid the golden egg.  Good public schools with high academic standards and strong discipline in the classroom became a thing of the past.  Growing crime left citizens living in fear behind locked doors and barred windows.
Not integration but cross-town busing led to a mass exodus from public schools by most white families with children and an increasing number of black families.
As crime rates rose, people stopped going out so much, they didn’t know their neighbors as much, and we began to lose the sense of community.
Today, Baton Rouge is a collection of people, mostly good people, who no longer know one another.  The sense of community that we once shared is largely gone.
Now there is so much distrust and fear.  Where I live, there is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t hear gunshots.  Sometimes it’s multiple times during one night.
Meanwhile, our neighbors in Livingston and Ascension are now booming.  Within East Baton Rouge Parish, Zachary and Central are booming.  Where there are good public schools and low crime rates, there is growth, prosperity, and also something even more important — a sense of community.
Where there are good public schools, people send their children to public schools, and parents get to know each other.  They have the sense that we’re all in this together.
In Baton Rouge, our days are numbered.  What is wrong here is epitomized by our failing parish public school system, which adamantly refuses to reform itself.  What is wrong here is also epitomized by the CATS board and the recent CATS tax.
Urban socialism is taking hold.
We saw where things are going in the election results in 2012, with Obama carrying East Baton Rouge Parish by over 10,000 votes.  This was at the same time that Romney carried Louisiana in a landslide.
The greatest hope we have going in this parish right now is the citizen-led movement in Southeast Baton Rouge.  Local Schools for Local Children, led by Norman Browning, is offering a large part of this parish the opportunity to start its own independent school district, just as Zachary and Central have successfully done.  Now his group is also considering attempting to incorporate Southeast Baton Rouge as a city.
To me, this is the most encouraging thing happening in our parish.  For 100,000 or more of our residents, it would mean a return to neighborhood schools and, in all likelihood, a strong bulwark against crime.  The creation of the Southeast Baton Rouge School District and the incorporation of that new city would send a strong message that we’ve had enough and the tide has turned.  That would be cause for great hope and optimism.

City of Baton Rouge
30 years of
No Population Growth

Year                        Total

1960    152,419

1970    165,963

1980    219,419

1990    219,531

2000    227,818

2010    229,493

Population Growth
East Baton Rouge Parish
— Boom to Bust —
Last 30 years
Worst Growth in 200 Years

Census    Population   Growth %

1810    1,468       N/A

1820    5,220    255.6%

1830    6,698    28.3%

1840    8,133    21.4%

1850    11,977    47.3%

1860    16,046    34.0%

1870    17,816    11.0%

1880    19,966    12.1%

1890    25,922    29.8%

1900    31,153    20.2%

1910    34,580    11.0%

1920    44,513    28.7%

1930    68,208    53.2%

1940    88,415    29.6%

1950    158,236    79.0%

1960    230,058    45.4%

1970    285,167    24.0%

1980    366,191    28.4%

1990    380,105    3.8%

2000    412,852    8.6%

2010    440,171    6.6%

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