The Shreveport City Council adopted the 2018 city budget on Tuesday, December 12. In this process four significant votes were taken.

The first was to fund a five percent pay raise to city employees with an annual salary under $75 thousand dollars a year. 

The second was to reduce the proposed funding of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) by $195 thousand dollars.

The third was to appropriate $150 thousand dollars for a economic disparity study.

The fourth was to fund $150 thousand dollars to pay the 3% health insurance increase in 2018 for city employees. 

The employee pay raise is the first overall raise for city employees since 2007. The vote was unanimous.

The decrease in the MPC’s proposed funding level was the direct result of the MPC Financial Sustainability Studies. This report concluded appropriate funding of this separate government entity be 75% by the city and 25% by the Parish. 

Dollar wise, this formula equated to $400 grand from the Parish.

In 2017 the Parish chipped in $217 thousand to the MPC. The 2018 budget proposed by parish administrator Woody Wilson had a $230 thousand dollar line item for the MPC. On a motion by Commissioner Mario Chavez, this funding was set at $200 thousand dollars for 2018. The vote was unanimous. 

The proposed 2018 city budget included the 2017 funding level of $1,083,400 for the MPC. The motion to reduce this amount by $195 thousand made by Councilman Oliver Jenkins passed 5 to 2. Councilman Jeff Everson and Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch voted “no”.

The net result of the commission and council votes is a $212 thousand dollar combined 2018 budget cut for the MPC from the 2017 funding levels.

Councilman Willie Bradford proposed funding of $300 thousand dollars for an economic disparity study. A motion was made by Council chair James Flurry to reduce this funding to $150 thousand dollars.

The purpose of such a study is to provide documentation that would support quotas on public contracts for minority disadvantaged businesses versus goals. With supporting studies, courts in other parts of the nation have upheld quotas. Currently the city has a Fair Share Program that sets goals, not quotas.

Several council members expressed their hope the additional funding needed for the study would be provided by the parish, the school board, and/or economic development groups.

The disparity study funding passed 5 to 2. Voting against the study were Councilmen Michael Corbin and Oliver Jenkins. 

The motion to pay the health insurance increase was the subject of extended (and confusing) discussion. Concerns were raised that an expected 2019 health insurance increase would lead to a substantial net increase to city employees without an additional budget subsidy. The administration argued that the subsidy will insure a full 5% pay raise not reduced by the premium increase.

This motion passed 5 top 2. Councilmen Everson and Jenkins voted against this measure.

The votes on the MPC budget cut, the disparity study and the health insurance subsidy were interesting from the perspective of future politics.

Everson, Jenkins and Corbin are termed out in 2018. Rumor has it that Lynch will run for Barbara Norton’s house seat. Norton, who is termed out, is expected to run for Lynch’s seat.

Flurry intends to seek a second term. His district has almost an even split of white and black voters.

Councilman Jerry Bowman and Bradford are expected to run again for the Council. Both represent predominantly black districts. 

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The Shreveport City Council must adopt the 2018 budget for the city by December 15. It is expected to be approved at the regular meeting on Tuesday, December 12.

The proposed General Fund Budget is for $221,214,100. 

Four amendments have been offered to this budget.

The first by Councilman Oliver Jenkins is to decrease funding for the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) by $195,000. This amendment will fund the MPC in the amount recommended for the city in the MPC Financial Sustainability Study.

A companion amendment has been offered by Council Chairman James Flurry. This amendment is to fund the MPC for 90 days only at the city level recommended by the MPC study.

Jenkin’s amendment is expected to pass with no real controversy. There will probably be discussion on Flurry’s amendment although it will probably pass since it is only interim versus permanent funding.

Council Willie Bradford has an amendment to fund a $300,000 economic disparity. This amendment will no doubt be controversial and its passage may depend on whether or not Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch’s recent surgery will keep her from the meeting.

Word is that Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler will veto any budget amendment for a disparity study. Even though there has been very little to practically no public discussion on a disparity study, Councilman Bradford has been pushing this issue all year. 

This vote could be as controversial as the failed sports arena complex that failed earlier this year. 

The fourth amendment is to increase the personal services budget by $150,000. This increase covers the 3% health insurance increase for city employees and maintains the 2017 health insurance rates. This amendment is expected to pass with little discussion.

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A long standing bone of contention between the Shreveport City Council and the Caddo Commission has been the appropriate funding of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). 

For the last three calendar years, the City has funded a little over $1 million dollars to the MPC. 

The city also provided free office space for the MPC , free accounting services, and other administrative support valued at over $200 grand a year. 

The Parish funded $189 thousand (and change) for 2015 and 2016. In 2017 the Parish funded $217,500. 

This fall the MPC funded a financial sustainability study to determine the appropriate funding levels for the city and the parish. Two approaches were used to determine appropriate funding levels. 

The first was a direct cost approach. This analyzed the direct costs and revenues of the MPC from both government bodies. This analysis indicated that the total city funding was 86.8% and the parish funding was 13.2%. 

The direct cost approach indicated that the city funding should be 77% and the parish should be 23%. Based on this analysis, the parish funding of the MPC should be $378 grand. 

The second approach was a budget analysis of Caddo Parish. Since the City of Shreveport is in Caddo Parish, a portion of the parish’s budget is for services for those that live outside the City limits and for those within the city limits. 

The budget analysis approach indicated that the City should fund 74.3% of the MPC and the Parish should provide 25.7% of the funding. Based on this analysis the Parish should be funding the MPC the sum of $422 thousand. 

The financial sustainability study findings were discussed at a Council meeting. The consensus of the Council members was that $400 grand should be funded by the Parish for the 2018 MPC budget. 

The proposed Parish 2018 budget had a line item of $230 thousand dollars for the MPC operations. At its special budget meeting on December 5, the MPC funding was amended to $200,000. 

And unlike the City, all MPC fees charged for Parish cases flow through to the Parish. This practice is also problematic to the Council. 

The Council has been less than happy with the MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney. Additionally, the much heralded Unified Development Code has failed to live up to the high expectations that it would suddenly be the cure-all to increase development in Caddo Parish. 

Against this background of discontent is the study prepared by Shreveport City Attorney William Bradford on the feasibility of the city setting up an internal planning office versus continued funding of the MPC. Bradford’s report indicated that such an office would be valid under the city charter and it set forth the various legislative steps needed to accomplish the same. 

What the Council will do on funding is, for now, an open question. 

One option is to fund the MPC the same amount for 2018 as it did in 2017. Thus the total government funding of the MPC would be $17,000 less in 2018. 

A second option is to reduce 2018 funding to a lower percentage in line with the feasibility study. Since the Parish funding is $200,000 then the City’s funding of 75% would be $600 thousand. In this event, total government funding of the MPC would be only $800 thousand versus 2017 government funding of $1.3 million. 

A third option is to fund the MPC for the first quarter only of 2018 to allow additional consideration of setting up an internal planning office. 

The Council must adopt its 2018 budget by December 15. It is expected that the Council will have substantial discussion at its Monday work session on the MPC funding. The Council is expected to adopt its budget on Tuesday, December 12.

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Currently 17 year old juveniles charged with crimes that are waiting for a judicial resolution of their cases are housed at the Caddo Correctional Center. This changes on July 1 of next year.

As of that date, 17 year olds charged with “non-violent “ crimes must be detained at the Caddo Juvenile Detention Center. These crimes are primarily battery—the intentional use of force or violence on another person.

This legislative changes is an unfunded mandate. Thus, no additional state moneys will be appropriated for the additional costs of housing 17 year olds in juvenile facilities. And no state funding for additional facilities.

So what does this mean for the Caddo Juvenile Detention Center?

Clary Walker, Director of Caddo Juvenile Services, says it’s like adding 300 students to C.E. Byrd High School. But without additional teachers, classrooms, non teaching staff, books and/or parking to handle the overload. 

The detention center has three pods. Each pod has eight cells and a common area. There is no double bunking. Thus, the total capacity of the detention center is twenty-four.
 Currently each pod has one pod leader, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once 17 year olds are added to the mix, each pod will have two pod leaders to ensure safety. 

The influx of 17 year olds will mean less beds for juveniles age 13, 14, 15, and 16 years old. Depending on the juvenile’s criminal record and the seriousness of the charged offense, detention officials have several options in these cases.

The first is to release the juvenile to his family for supervision.

The second is place the juvenile on house arrest with an ankle monitor. In these cases, the juvenile can only go to school and to church.

The third option is to release the juvenile with a GPS monitor with no entry zones programmed into the monitor.

In the perfect world, Caddo Parish would construct three more pods. Not only would this increase capacity, but it would also allow for more segregation of the 17 year old population from the other detainees. And with pods for juveniles 16 years old or younger, only one pod leader will be needed for staffing.

The price tag for three more pods is $12 million. The Parish does have reserves that could fund this construction. The problem would be funding the four million dollars per year in additional staff costs for the extra pods and extra capacity.

Most parish revenues are from dedicated tax millages. The Parish has lost the last two renewals of millages, and thus the Commission is very very reluctant to propose a new millage to pay for additional staffing at the detention center. 

The other option for the Commission is to collect the full 2.04 millage for the detention center. The Commission has rolled this millage back to 1.86 mills to maintain the same tax amount.

The mention of a new tax millage or higher taxes from a fully funded millage on the books is an anathema to Commissioners and tax payers alike. There are no easy answers for this challenge. That becomes a reality on July first of next year.

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Liquor store zoning cases almost always cause major headaches for the Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) and the Shreveport City Council. And such is the case with the recent highly publicized application by Lakeshore Liquor to open a liquor store on the southeast corner of Gilbert and Kings Highway.

Two tie votes by the Council on Tuesday left standing the MPC decision to grant a special use permit to allow the sale of high content alcohol at the old Circle K location. 

The sale of beer and wine is allowed under the current zoning. The special use was required for liquor sales.

After the vote, all parties involved left unhappy.

Bernie Woods, the owner of Lakeshore, complained of the site plan improvements mandated by the MPC approval.

Neighborhood residents were devastated by the failure of the Council to deny the special use permit.

The Council’s decisions, both on the site improvements and the special use permit, can be appealed within 30 days to the Caddo district court.

An appeal by Woods will probably be unsuccessful. 

The mandated site improvements are consistent with the new Circle K that is on the northwest corner of Gilbert and Kings Highway and the Valvoline (formerly Time It Lube) on the southwest corner of that intersection. 

The limitation of hours of operation from 8 am until midnight versus 24 hours a day are also reasonable. Woods himself testified at the Council that he would probably be open from 10 am to 9 pm, maybe 10 pm at most.

The MPC requirements to close the westernmost driveway are needed due to heavy traffic on Gilbert. And the other requirements for fence repair, landscaping, irrigation, etc are consistent with all new site plans under the UDC.

From the perspective of the neighborhood residents, there may be some basis for judicial relief. The emphasis here is on “may”.

The UDC requires, the MPC Board to consider the following factors before granting a special use permit: (1) whether it is an appropriate activity at the proposed location based on the UDC and standard zoning practices, (2) how it might impact the neighboring land uses and the health, safety and welfare of the public, and (3) whether any negative impacts can be successfully mitigated. 

The MPC Board also has the authority to add conditions and restrictions upon the establishment, location, construction, maintenance and operation of the special use permit to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public when necessary. 

There are several businesses within a 1 block radius of the location that sell beer and wine.  These include Brookshire’s Grocery, Chevron Gas Station and Convenience Store(REMOVE?), and the Circle K Gas Station and Convenience Store. However, none of these retailers sell liquor. 

This site will become the first along this stretch of Kings Highway to sell hard alcohol. Other alcohol retailers are farther away, but also in the area. These include: Super 1 Foods and Wal-Mart on Shreveport-Barksdale Highway, and CVS at 3300 Youree Drive. Of these, only Wal-Mart sells liquor. 

The MPC staff report noted that, despite neighborhood opposition, that “with a single liquor store retailer in the general area, it is difficult to provide a compelling reason, from a land use perspective, to recommend denial of the application.” The report noted that the required site improvements and limitation on hours of operation should lessen the impact of this land use.

There is little doubt that a liquor store is incompatible with the mixed residential use of the entire block on Kings Highway from Centenary to Gilbert. However, a liquor store probably is consistent with the retail establishments on King Highway to the west of Gilbert. 

Aggressive litigation by the residents may be successful from the point of view of delay and cost to Woods.

Litigation can easily take a year before judicial resolution, and the costs for attorney fees and court costs can be daunting. Additionally, an adverse decision to the residents at the trial level can be appealed, which would further impede the opening of the store.

This case will be interesting to follow, if for no other reason to see how the UDC and the votes of the Council, will be reviewed by the court(s). 

For those expecting a new place to buy a pint on the corner of Kings Highway, they best keep on driving, because it will be a while. Like in a long while.

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When the Planet Aqua group announced in September of last year that they would open an aquarium in Shreveport many observers had substantial questions on its likelihood of success. 

Initially, this was to be the first aquarium to be constructed and operated by this group.

Secondly, the business was to be operated as a ‘for profit” organization. Thus there would be no tax deductions for contributions made to the aquarium.

Thirdly, the economics of ticket sales versus operating costs appeared to be shaky at best.

And as time went along, the promised opening date of September 1, 2017 kept being pushed back for various reasons that seemingly did not “hold water.”

The aquarium officially opened to the public on November 1 of this year. Reportedly attendance has been high which was expected since it was the new kid on the block for child friendly entertainment.

As expected the local media has showered the aquarium with substantial free publicity. And all the usual suspects have showered warm “fuzzies” on this new attraction, including BRF’s Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program that has the aquarium on its wall of fame.

But tell all that to the five local companies that have not been paid for the construction work building the aquarium. Liens have been filed totally $238 thousand dollars plus--$238,880.60 to be exact.

Those who have not been paid are: Rimmer Electric, Inc.($91,232.91); The Payne Company($67,213.50); PPT, Inc.($10,233.00); Mid South Fire Solutions, LLC($11,717.59); and The Blocker Co., Inc.($58,483.60). 

The aquarium group has not responded to an email inquiring about the liens. The Louisiana Secretary of State website reflects that Shreveport Aquarium LLC, which operates the aquarium, is not in good standing for failure to file an annual report.

How much money is owed to others for construction of the aquarium is unknown. And how much longer the lien holders will wait until taking legal action to collect is also unknown.

What is known is that the City of Shreveport gave the aquarium a lease of the former Barnwell Center for $1 a year. And then expended $1.5 million of dedicated bond funds for asbestos removal, etc from the building that was a direct cost savings to the aquarium group.

How much vetting the City did of the aquarium group before cutting the highly publicized deal is unknown.

If one wants to take a stroll through the area’s newest tourist attraction, don’t wait too long.

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On October 19, 7-5 majority of the Caddo Commission voted for the Parish Administrator to take appropriate action to have the Confederate Monument removed from the Caddo Parish court house grounds.

The Commission acknowledged that the Shreveport Chapter 237 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) owned the monument. The Parish and the UDC disagreed on the ownership of the land under the memorial.

The resolution did not set a deadline for removal. Nor did it authorize the expenditure of Parish funds for the removal or storage if the UDC failed to do the same.

After the Commission’s vote, a lawsuit was filed electronically by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the United States Western District.

The UDC suit requested an injunction against the Parish for removal of the monument. It also requested that the court rule the UDC to be the private property owners of the land under the monument.

A hearing on the injunction will be held on December 11. Judge Robert James of Monroe will hear the case in Shreveport.

The UDC is represented by Dave Knadler of Mansfield. Parish attorneys Donna Frazier and Henry Bernstein represent the Parish.

The UDC’s pleadings assert that an injunction is needed until the ultimate resolution of the land ownership is judicially resolved. To be successful, the UDC must be able to show the likelihood of irreparable harm if the monument is removed before the final court decision. 

There is a possibility of damage to the 100 year old (plus) monument if it is removed.  And if damaged, the cost of repair is also unknown.

The Parish has an estimate of $278,650 to remove and store the monument. The estimate to reassemble the monument, if stored, is $298, 400. 

The Parish may have difficulty in proving any real harm for the monument to remain at the courthouse during the course of litigation. 

At the trial on the merits, the UDC will no doubt introduce the minutes of a Caddo Police Jury (the predecessor to the Parish Commission) that authorized the donation to the UDC of the land that is now under monument. However, the Police Jury never executed a deed to comply with the resolution. 

The trial on the merits of the case will not be set until after the December 11 hearing.

It is anticipated that the case will not be heard before June of next year. 

It can be expected that the losing party will appeal to the Fifth Court of Appeals in New Orleans. After that, relief can be requested from the United States Supreme Court. Unlike the right of an automatic appeal to the Fifth Circuit, the Supreme Court decides which cases to hear.

Bottom line, no quick action can be expected on the removal of the monument. Perhaps the only good news is that no tax dollars will be spent by the Parish for outside legal counsel on this suit.

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It's a political axiom that the top elected official gets the blame when things go south. The same is true in the military and in Fortune 500 companies. 

As reported by Inquisitor editor Danny Lawler last week, the Shreveport murder count as of Tuesday, November 21 was forty-five. 

"Justified" homicides, considered to be self defense, was six. (Sources question this classification, stating the true murder rate through that date was forty-eight). 

Since then there has been another murder and another homicide which will probably be deemed “justified.” 

Ollie Tyler was sworn into office in December 2014. 

She has had two police chiefs during her term. 

As mayor she can ask for a resignation from the Shreveport Police chief at any time, without reason. 

Tyler has not asked Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator for law enforcement assistance. Nor has she called on the Louisiana State Police.

Tyler was the director of Caddo Middle Schools and deputy superintendent from 1994- 2000. She then served as Caddo School Superintendent from 2003-2007. 

Crime is often the product of socio-economic factors. Poorly educated students are most often the perpetrators of crime. Many of these were in Caddo schools while Tyler was in leadership positions. 

And as far as jobs, Shreveport has had a significant job loss during Tyler’s tenure. Unemployment no doubt contributes to criminal activity. 

Tyler's prior leadership in Caddo public education and the relationship of Caddo's poorly graded public schools can not be denied. 

Likewise, she can not deny the synergy between crime and public education. 

And the same is true with the lack of meaningful jobs in Shreveport. 

As mayor she is ultimately responsible for Shreveport's crime rate. Tyler needs to acknowledge and accept this fact if she is considering a bid for re-election next fall.

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If anyone needed more documentation that the economic world in Shreveport is stagnant, two recent reports erase any doubts. 

The first report was released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. It had both “good” and “bad” news.

The good news is that for the past twelve months ending in August, the unemployment rates fell over the past year in all nine Louisiana metropolitan statistical areas (MSA), according to not-seasonably adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor & Statistics. 

The bad news is that Shreveport was one of four cities with a net job loss in that time period.

Unemployment in Shreveport was 5.7 percent, and down from 6.7 percent in September 2016. The MSA only gained 400 jobs from August 2017, but lost 1,400 jobs from September 2016. Thus a net job loss in those twelve months of 1,000.

Baton Rouge was the state leader in new jobs. The Baton Rouge MSA gained 4,900 jobs from August 2017 through the end of September 2017. And in the twelve months ending in September, this MSA gained a total of 6,200 jobs. The Baton Rouge MSA has had nine straight over-the-year job increases.

Baton Rouge was followed by Lake Charles, New Orleans, Monroe and Hammond in net job gains. Alex had a net job loss of 600 and Lafayette and Houma had more job losses than Shreveport.

The Associated Press (AP) also released unemployment statistics recently. The AP report differs from the Louisiana Workforce Commission although its findings are the same.

The AP reports that Shreveport lost 1,000 jobs from September 2017 and is down 2,600 jobs from October 2016. According to the AP Shreveport’s job losses exceeded all cities in the state.

Sooo…what’s the deal? And why not more jobs for Shreveport?

Both the City of Shreveport and the Caddo Commission fund several economic development agencies. These include the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program(EAP) of Biomedical Research Foundation and the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP).

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler has an economic development person on her staff. 

The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce touts itself, along with the Bossier Chamber and the Bossier Economic Foundation, as economic development agencies.

Shreveport Mayor Tyler usually deflects any criticism of her administration by placing responsibility on her predecessor, Cedric Glover. However, the unemployment statistics cover the time period that she was mayor, just like those that included Shreveport in the top 25 murder capitols in the nation. 

Adding it all up, Shreveport’s climate for new job growth has not been positive. And there is little indication that this will change in the next months. No doubt jobs, crime and water bills will be the subject of much political debate in the upcoming months.

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At Tuesday’s Shreveport Council meeting, a resolution of no confidence in Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump failed on a 3-2 vote.

The resolution’s sponsor Willie Bradford and James Flurry voted for the resolution. Council members Jeff Everson, Oliver Jenkins and Mike Corbin voted against the resolution. 

Council members Jerry Bowman and Stephanie Lynch missed the meeting due to medical reasons. If present, their votes could have enacted the resolution.

Bradford, Flurry, Bowman and Lynch face re-election next year. Everson, Jenkins, and Corbin are termed out.

After the meeting both Mayor Tyler and Crump acted as if the defeat of the no confidence resolution was a major victory. Seemingly they confused the failure of this resolution as a vote of confidence, which it clearly was not.

Perhaps it was only fitting that a local TV station was simultaneously airing a story

that listed Shreveport as number 18 in “America’s 25 Murder Capitols.” The ranking was based on 2016 crime statistics.

Crump was named acting chief in July of last year and then permanent chief in late November. No doubt he will attempt to dodge responsibility for the serious spike in 2016 murders on that basis.

Tyler has been mayor since late December 2014. It will be difficult for her to blame the crime rate on her predecessor Cedric Glover.

Bradford has taken heat on social media for introducing this resolution. Those critics should be ignored for the simple fact that they are not elected officials who should represent their constituency.

Both Tyler and Crump should expect continued scrutiny as Shreveport’s crime is almost a daily media story. Shreveport taxpayers should demand accountability from its top elected official.

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Both the Shreveport City Council and the Caddo Commission have started their 2018 budget review process. 

The Commission budget must be adopted by December 5. The Council's budget adoption deadline is December 15. 

Both the City and the Parish fund the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), which is separate legal entity. In theory the MPC is governed by it nine member appointed board.

In 2017 the City funded over a million dollars to the MPC plus provided free office space and financial services. The Parish funded a little over $217 grand. 

Percentage wise, the total funding ration (including the City in kind) was 83% for the City and 17% for the Parish.

A recent financial study by an MPC consultant suggested a 60-40 funding ration for the City and the Parish. Based on the same the MPC has requested the Commission fund $400 grand for 2018.

The proposed Parish budget has a line item of $230 thousand dollars. It is very, very unlikely that this suggested funding level will be increased by the Commission. And in fact it could be decreased.

Parish Administrator Dr. Woodrow Wilson believes that the MPC services for the five mile Parish area subject to the MPC jurisdiction could be handled in house by Parish employees at a savings.

Additionally, many Commissioners are less than happy with the services provided by the MPC. The Commission adopted its own version of the Unified Development Code over the objections of MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney.

The Shreveport City Council, lead by Oliver Jenkins, has expressed concern that the Parish has not be “paying its fair share” for MPC operations. Jenkins notes that the City of Shreveport is in Caddo Parish and that Parish funding should not be based solely on the Parish matters handled by the MPC.

Assuming the Parish only funds $230 thousand dollars for the MPC in 2018, then the City has three choices. 

The first is to continue its million dollars (plus) funding of the MPC.

The second is to fund what is determined to be the City’s “fair share”. Assuming this to be less than the 2017 funding level, then it can be anticipated that MPC services may be diminished unless MPC fees are substantially increased. 

The last choice is to internalize the planning functions, and stop funding the MPC. This decision would require several months of planning to adopt the appropriate ordinances, hire staff and the like.

Look for the Council to continue the 2017 funding level for the first quarter of 2018 while additional analysis is made. And in the meantime the MPC and Sweeney should expect continued scrutiny from both Commissioners and Council members.

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Yes, it’s still early but the coffee shop crowd is still on the prowl to discover more possible candidates for next year’s mayoral election. A name that had surfaced earlier this summer has resurfaced—Rod Demery.

To most politicos and television junkies, Demery is not a new name. But to many, he may not be known.

Demery was a detective with the Shreveport Police Department for over sixteen years. He earned his reputation as a highly effective investigator working homicides. 

His track record speaks for itself. 

He was responsible for sixty-one arrests out of over 250 murders in the City. And he closed all of his homicide investigation files. These numbers far exceed the average of other SPD detectives.

In March of last year, he moved to the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office. He was one of the first significant “hires” of former judge James Stewart. Demery is a homicide investigator.

Demery’s murder arrests lead to a television series that debuted last fall—“Murder Chose Me”. The series has been renewed for a second season. 

Demery knows first hand the devastating impact of serious crimes. His mother was murdered when he was age 3.

Demery served in the United States Navy for nine years. He received decorations for his service in Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice in 2003 from Louisiana State University-Shreveport.

Demery’s community involvement includes work with domestic violence and homeless shelters, community crime forums as well as church outreach programs.

Demery has published several times .

His “No Place for Race: Why We Need to Address Economic and Social Factors..” was an Amazon bestseller. It was acclaimed as one of “10 Best Black Books of 2013” by Rotten Tomatoes.

Demery’s “Things My Daughters Need to Know” was also an Amazon bestseller. It was listed in the “25 Books Every Man Should Read.”

Demery says that many citizens throughout Shreveport have urged him to seriously consider next year’s mayoral race. He says that crime is generally mentioned, along with the need for more economic development. He says that is keenly aware that socioeconomics are often a big factor in a city’s crime rate.

Demery says he is open to further conversations about the city’s future . And he is open to seriously considering a run for mayor next year. 

At this juncture he has not formed an advisory committee but he does welcome input. (

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The inch thick binder handed out to Caddo Commissioners on Halloween Eve by Caddo Administrator Dr. Woodrow Wilson had a few surprises, and mainly “good news” for taxpayers. There may, however, be questions about a proposed employee pay raise, funding of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), animal shelter, and discretionary funds of Wilson.

The Parish’s proposed expenditures are $76,769,774 which represents a 2% increase over the 2017 budget.

Highlights of the budget include:

3% “pay adjustment” for all 434 parish employees

2% increase for the group medical program

.75% decrease in the retirement contributions by the Parish

increase in the juvenile justice fund to add 5 new positions

2.6% increase in funds to operate Caddo Correctional Center(CCC)

10% decrease in streets and sanitation expenses

An increase in the capital outlay program of $2.6 million.

The new positions at the Juvenile Justice Center are needed to address the mandate from the State to house 17 year-olds in juvenile detention instead of the adult facility at CCC. The increased costs for CCC is attributable to prisoner medical care, and especially increased drug costs. The streets/sanitation decrease is attributable to the decline in sales tax rebates. The increase in the central outlay budget is due, in part, to a $3 million expenditure for new jail locks at the detention center. 

Ad valorem taxes represent the major source of funding for the Parish. Property taxes are 70% of the budget. Sales taxes are 13%. Intergovernmental funds from the State of Louisiana, state severance taxes, grants and revenue sharing represent approximately 8% of total revenues. The balance of funding is from interest and rents, licenses, permits and gaming.

The Parish levies a number of special millages which are dedicated for specific purposes. The dedicated funds are for public works, parks and recreation, courthouse maintenance, detention facilities, juvenile court, public health, Shreve Memorial Library, Biomedical Center and Criminal Justice Center.

The Parish also provides funding for several parish agencies. These include the District Attorney’s Office, the Coroner’s Office, Registrar of Voters, LSU Extension Service, Caddo Parish Juvenile Court, and the Biomedical Research Foundation.

How much revision in the budget will be made by the Commission is an open question. 

Some observers believe the suggested pay raise for all parish employees will be debated. Unlike the City of Shreveport, Parish employees have received several pay raises in the last ten years. 

The $230,000 line item for the Parish contribution to the MPC may also be questioned. The City of Shreveport is considering the establishment of an internal planning office. Many observers believe that the Parish zoning/permits can be handled internally by the Parish at a major cost savings. 

Another funding issue may concern the operations of the Caddo Parish Animal Shelter. The proposed budget has a line item of $2.8 million for animal services and mosquito control. 

Animal advocates believe a non profit organization could successfully operate the shelter at a cost savings to the Parish. A feasibility study of privatization is due in early December. 

Some Commissioners have carped over what they believe are unrestricted funds that can be spent by Administrator Wilson. The budget breakdown, which is by the specific millage, lists administration costs in several budgets. Getting a handle on how all the administrative fees are actually expended may be the concern to some commissioners.

The Commission budget must be accepted by December 5th, and the Commission will have a public hearing on the proposed budget on November 14th.

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Low and behold—the City of Shreveport WILL be able to sell the downtown bus terminal, commonly known as The Tent! 

With the opening of the long delayed Intermodal Terminal on Wednesday , The Tent has become obsolete in the sense of its intended purpose. The Intermodal Terminal will serve as the new major hub for SporTran and other over the road bus services. 

The Tent was constructed with federal dollars and as a result the City had only three options for its continued use. 

The first was to repay the feds about $5 million, and do whatever they wanted to do with the acre lot between Marshall and Edwards fronting on Crockett Street. 
The second option was to sell land, terminal building and its iconic tent as per a mandated formula. 

If either of these options was not accomplished, Sportran was required to continue to use the facility and route substantial bus traffic through the facility. This option would , in effect, defeat one of the primary purposes of the Intermodal Terminal which is to reduce substantially downtown bus traffic. 

The minimum bid for The Tent was $1,020,000. The bid deadline was October 31. 
Marshall Towers, LLC bid $1,225,000. This Monroe based company, owned by Joseph Hakim, has substantial real estate holdings in proximity to The Tent. The sale should be completed within 30 days. 

These include the Lane Building on the corner of Milam and Marshall, which is open with offices and retail on Milam. This property includes a parking lot behind the building on the corner of Marshall and Crockett. 

Hakim also owns the Johnson Building on Milam which has been empty for many years. He also owns the old Panos Diner building in that same block. 

Another holding by Hakim is the Slattery Building on the corner of Texas Street and Marshall. Except for the ground floor this gothic architectural 17 story building has been empty for many years. 

Hakim also owns a 2 story parking garage on Crockett. 

To say that Hakim is a major investor in downtown Shreveport is an understatement. 
His plans for The Tent are not yet known. 

His progress on the Slattery and Johnson Buildings since purchasing them in 2010 has been major maintenance only. 

But the good news is that The Tent will be sold. And to top it off, SporTran can keep 80% of the sale price for additional buses. That’s almost a million bucks that will be saved by the City of Shreveport subsidizes Sportran operations. 

And more good news is that The Tent will now be on the tax rolls!

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Although it’s nearly a year before next year’s mayoral primary, potential candidates for Shreveport’s top seat are starting to survey the political landscape at city hall. 

Mayor Ollie Tyler can run for a second term. Although she has not publicly announced her intentions Tyler has held a low key re-election fundraising event with key supporters. 

City Councilman Jerry Bowman confirmed in a recent interview that he has an exploratory committee assessing a potential mayoral bid. Bowman is serving his first term on the council and he will be the council chairman next year.

Former Mayor Cedric Glover now serves in the Louisiana House of Delegates. He has maintained a high profile in the last two years that fuels constant rumors of a 2018 mayoral race. 

Willie Bradford, another first term Council member, has toyed with the idea of a campaign for mayor. At one time second term Councilman Jeff Everson was considering a mayoral bid. Both now say they will not run for mayor.

Tyler will be 73 in January of next year, and she appears to be in good health. If re-elected, she would be almost 78 at the end of her term. Her age could be a factor in a second mayoral campaign.

A Tyler campaign will no doubt emphasize a more “business like” government. She can cite substantial progress on completion of water and sewer projects mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency consent decree. 

Tyler can also point to more efficiencies in government operations with a limited increase in her budgets. The City of Shreveport has less employees now than when Tyler assumed office in December 2013.

Two issues that any Tyler opponent will surely emphasize are the city’s crime rate and the water billing fiasco.

Tyler’s selection of Alan Crump as police chief has been the subject of controversy from day one. Crump is currently on administrative leave after, based on police descriptions, firing at two fleeing suspects in an alleged vehicle break-in.

Many citizens believe that neighborhood crime is a serious and growing problem. In politics, perception often becomes reality at the polls.

The city’s continuing water bill issues are seemingly out of control and nowhere near resolution. Residents are still receiving outrageously high bills that can not be justified by city officials.

And the litigation by Scott Pernici and Michael Wainwright is still progressing. Linn Bragg, who was Tyler’s mayoral campaign manager, figures unfavorably in some deposition testimony.

Bowman has dramatically raised his public profile by calling for the termination of Shreveport Police Department Chief Crump. It’s not clear whether this will help or hurt him in a mayoral campaign. 

Bowman will undoubtedly face two questions if he runs for mayor. The first is a theft conviction that has now been expunged. The second is his failure to vote on Tyler’s sport complex. He attended the council meeting where the vote was taken, but he left the meeting shortly before the vote itself. 

Much like his brother, Jerald, who is on the Caddo Parish Commission, Jerry has a built in political base that he “inherited” from his politically astute mother, Joyce Bowman. How much of his mom’s charisma will pull votes outside his district, and especially with white voters, is an open question.

Another major question for Bowman is his ability to raise funds from the “downtown establishment” that heavily supported Tyler in 2013. Another would arise if he associated his campaign with Braggs. 

Glover, who now sports a white “billy goat” beard, has maintained a high presence on social media since leaving city hall. And he is responsible for the local hearings on the failure of Paul Elio to manufacture cars at the old GM plant. 

Glover constantly reminds the public that he passed the largest bond issue in the city’s history. Glover believes that he, not Tyler, should get the credit, for the massive water and sewer construction projects throughout the City. 

Glover is , no doubt, one of the best orators in the area and he would easily outshine Bowman or Tyler in a media campaign. His ability to raise funds probably exceeds Bowman’s, but how he would match up against Tyler in this category is an unknown.

Tyler’s proposed budget for 2018 includes a 5% pay raise for most city employees. This will be the first in ten years for many workers, a feat not accomplished by Glover. If the Council passes this pay hike, Tyler will be off to a good start in 2018, if she seeks re-election.

It is not too early to talk about next year’s mayor’s race. A serious candidate needs to have a campaign organization in place by March of next year, or sooner for a Tyler challenger. What happens at City Hall for the rest of the year will most likely influence, in a big way, next year’s mayoral candidate field.

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Shreveport City Council James Flurry has openly questioned the need for the City of Shreveport to continue to keep the Architectural/Engineering (A/E) Committee in existence. The A/E Committee reviews responses to Requests for Proposals (RFP) for city contracts in excess of $10,000 and refers three to the mayor for her selection.

The Committee has nine members. These include the directors of public works, water and sewerage, airport director, city engineer, and the MPC executive director along with the council chairman and the city council clerk.

The two members appointed by the Mayor are David Aubrey with AT&T and Linda Biernacki, the owner of Fire Tech Systems. Both of these appointments have been questioned by good government observers. 

Aubrey is the chairman of the committee. It has long been rumored that Aubrey actually lives in Baton Rouge, which he has always denied. Public records show that Aubrey does own a house on Tibbs Street in Shreveport.

Public records also show that Aubrey owns a residence in St. Gabriel, which is a bedroom community of Baton Rouge. The Iberville Parish Assessor records show that Aubrey has a homestead exemption on this house.

Louisiana law provides that “the bona fide homestead consists of a residence occupied by the owner.” A homestead is generally considered to be the permanent residence of the owner. Seemingly, Aubrey should not be claiming to be a Caddo resident since he has filed a homestead in Iberville Parish.

Biernacki was one of the first big supporters of Ollie Tyler when she began her mayoral campaign in 2013. Biernacki made major contributions to the Tyler campaign in the 2013 primary and the runoff. Recently Biernacki has been a leader of Tyler’s re-election campaign fund-raising.

Since January of 2013, the City of Shreveport has paid almost $225 grand to Fire Tech for services to the Fire Department, the City Jail, and Shreve Memorial Library. Many of the services, including the fire stations, were to inspect fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems.

A fundamental premise of good government is the avoidance of conflicts of interest—and even the appearance of the same. Its difficult to identify any reasonable justification for the A/E Committee—which is the only such committee in the state. Even more troublesome are the two appointments by the Mayor.

Hopefully, Flurry will be successful in this effort to abolish the A/E Committee. 

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It’s not official, but it is expected to be when the Caddo Commission adopts it’s 2018 budget in the next few weeks. 

As expected, the recommendations of the Commission’s Appropriations Committee had winners and losers. The annual “let’s play Santa Claus” process is reminiscent of kids divvying up Halloween candy after a big haul. 

This year’s Committee’s work was perhaps the most egregious in terms of good government. Commission president Steven Jackson not only took over the Committee’s deliberations, but also fired two committee members before the last Committee meeting. 

And to top it off, Jackson ignored the established rules for timely submission of requests. He successfully pushed funding for five organizations that were tardy in filing the necessary paperwork. 

The Commission’s share of Riverfront gaming funds is expected to be $950 grand. As further evidence of the Committee’s lack of fiscal discipline, the Committee voted to award a million twenty seven five hundred ($1,027,500) dollars. So taxpayer dollars will be needed to fund the extra $67,500 if the full Commission adopts the recommendations. 

In total, over sixty organizations were funded. Awards ranged from $1 thousand dollars to Steeple Success LLC to $80 grand for the Caddo Council on Aging Meals on Wheels program and $85 grand for the Food Bank of NW La. (For a list of organizations, email 

Several recommendations are, at best, questionable. One example is $30 thousand to help underwrite the Good Times Roll Festival. Not only was the application received late, but big time fraternity brother Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) pushed this funding. 

Previously this year, LBJ sponsored a Commission resolution recognizing Rho Omega and the festival. LBJ participated in the Committee meetings even though he was not a Committee member. 

District wise, there were big time winners and losers when it came to bringing home “the bacon” to constituents. 

Commissioner Matthew Linn (District 4) lead the pack, netting almost 29% of the proposed funding. Politicos believe that Linn’s swing vote to remove the Confederate Memorial was a trade-out to give his district the most money. 

Jerald Bowman(District 5) racked up with almost 14% of the funding. Bowman was the Committee chairman. 

Jackson’s district garnered almost 13% of the funding and Stormy Gage-Watts’ district had 12%. 

Mike Middleton was kicked off the Committee by Jackson after the first two Committee meetings. The final grant moneys were decided at the Committees third meeting. Middleton’s District 8 received no funding. 

Vice President Doug Dominick was not a committee member. His District 1 also drew a goose egg in the funding recommendations. 

Commissioner Jim Smith’s District 11 will receive less than .4% of the Riverfront Funds. 
To say that is was not “pretty” to watch the decision-making process of the Committee in it’s three hurried meetings would be a gross understatement. 

Committee members did not receive the chart of organizations with funding requests until the first meeting started. Very little information was provided about the soliciting organizations much less the need for the moneys. 

So much for following good government practices.

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Perhaps it is no surprise to Louisiana business owners that the Bayou State is not “Heaven” when it comes to operating a business. The report by the Tax Foundation just added salt in the wound by ranking the state lower for 2018 than 2017. 

Now Louisiana is number 42 versus 41 when it comes to a favorable tax climate for operating a business.

The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate index is designed to enable business leaders, government policymakers, and taxpayers to gauge how their states compare.

The Tax Foundation overall ranking is based on five components, with different percent rankings. These are:

Individual income tax-33.0%

Sales tax-23.3%

Corporate tax-19.0%

Property tax-15.1%

Unemployment insurance tax-9.6%

The ten best states in the index for 2018 are, in order, Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah, Indiana and Oregon.

The ten lowest ranked, or worst, states are Rhode Island, Louisiana, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, Minnesota, Vermont, California, New York and New Jersey.

Once again, Louisiana holds the distinction of being worst in the nation for sales taxes. 

In other categories, our state is No. 27 for corporate taxes, No. 29 for individual taxes, and No. 30 in property taxes. 

The only good news in the index is the No. 4 ranking for unemployment taxes. The 2017 ranking was NO. 9; this is the only category to which the state showed improvement.

The report is careful to delineate its purpose and how its rankings should be utilized. Specifically this index is an “indicator of which state’s tax systems are the most hospitable to business and economic growth.”

The Tax Foundation’s information is not determinative on the best states in which to live. 

It does not purport to measure economic opportunity, or even the broad business climate. It does not include crime rates, health care or public education in it’s review nor does it gauge or rank the relative cost of living.

The Tax Foundation report advises that states with the best tax systems will be the most competitive at attracting new businesses, and most effective in generating economic and employment growth. The report acknowledges that taxes are only one factor in business decision-making and that other concerns like access to raw materials , infrastructure and a skilled labor pool are or can be more important. 

However, it is noted that unlike changes to a state’s health-care, transportation, or education systems which can take decades to implement and/or change, changes to tax codes have immediate impact.

And the report did not, unfortunately, include insurance and estate taxes in the calculations. Louisiana does not tax estates before distribution of assets. Nor does it tax the actual inheritances. 

What is undeniable by any skeptics of the Foundation’s index is the fact that taxes paid by businesses are ultimately born by individuals through lower wages, increased prices, and decreased shareholder value. And in some instances, less opportunities by both wage earners and consumers alike as far as the number of businesses in the state. 

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The recently released Louisiana Economic Outlook for 2018 and 2019 has some long awaited, and much needed, good news for the Shreveport-Bossier Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Loren’s highly respected report projects two years of moderate growth that should add 1,400 jobs a year over 2018-2019. 

The Shreveport-Bossier MSA (179,000 jobs in 2017) is the fourth largest in the state, trailing New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette. This area includes Caddo, Bossier, Webster, and Desoto Parishes. (Webster Parish was recently added to the MSA). 

This projection will be the first uptick in employment after almost a decade of decline. Fueling this recovery will be a rising rig count in the Haynesville Shale, gains in the high-tech sector and anticipated gains in state highway projects. 

Loren’s report highlights many important factors that contribute to the overall economy of northwest Louisiana. 

This MSA area has the State’s largest gaming sector with six riverboat casinos and the racetrack at Louisiana Downs. Collectively these employ over 5,000 people. Competition from the Indian casinos in Oklahoma has been gradually eroding this market, and a decline in overall gaming employment. 

Barksdale Air Force Base is the largest employer with over 9,000 military/civilian workers. 
High tech is a growing presence in this region with the addition of the Computer Science Corporation (CSC), with 500 jobs, as the anchor of the National Cyber Research Park Computer Science Corporation. CSC expects to add an additional 300 jobs by mid-2018. 
The Port of Shreveport-Bossier has a number of large employers that further anchor the MSA economy. The Port tenants employ about 1,500 people. 

Employment in healthcare services is a major economic driver for the MSA. LSU Health Sciences Center has over 5,200 employees. Willis Knighton, despite its recent layoffs, is still a major employer. 

Shreveport-Bossier has the highest concentration of durable goods manufacturing employment in the state. Because of this, Shreveport-Bossier is the most susceptible MSA in the state to national recessions in the state. These employers include Sable Industries (formerly Cell Xion), Frymaster, Ternium and Benteler Steel. 

Total road construction is anticipated to exceed $182 million. These projects include the LA 531 overpass bridge replacement, new $19 million rest area in Ida, $15.1 million to widen Swan Lake Road, and $14.7 million to overlay I-20 from the Texas Street line to Monkhouse Drive. 
The Haynesville Shale exploration boom shielded the local MSA from substantial declines in employment when the U.S. economy began to lose jobs in 2008. Additionally, the award of Global Strike Command to Barksdale Air Force Base helped mitigate the impact of the national recession. 

The major impact of Shale dollars trailed off considerabley beginning in 2010. Now instead of being a drag, the Shale should be a jump start to the MSA’s economy. The Shale is geographically close to the LNG export facilities in South Louisiana and pipelines that are exporting natural gas into Mexico. 

Loren reports that Louisiana began recovery from a twenty month recession in May 2017. He predicts that the state will have over two million jobs by 2019, which will be the first time it has exceeded that level on an annual basis. This recovery will be bolstered by a slightly faster growing national economy, low inflation, and only a slight increase in interest rate. 

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In March of 2015 Elliott Stonecipher filed his much ballyhooed suit against the Caddo Parish Commission, all the then elected Commissioners, Parish Administrator Woody Wilson and Parish Finance Director Erica Bryant. 

Stonecipher’s suit requested several rulings by the Court:

a. That none of the Commissioners were ever eligible to participate in the Caddo Parish Employee Retirement System (“CPERS”) and that no further CPERS payments be made by the Parish for the Commissioners.

b. That all CPERS payments made on behalf of the Commissioners by the Parish be repaid, with interest, to the Parish by each Commissioner.

c. That the Commissioners were not entitled to life and health insurance benefits/subsidies from the Parish, travel expenses, cost of living increases in their salaries, or mileage reimbursement and that no further Parish moneys be spent for the same.

d. That all of the Commissioners repay the Parish, with interest, for all insurance subsidies travel expenses, cost of living increases and travel reimbursements that each received.

In his columns, Stonecipher always proclaims that the legal services provided by the Pesnell Firm were contributed pro bono and thus his Don Quixote search to right all the nefarious deeds of the Commission were to be forever commemorated.

So, where does this case now stand after some 30 months and counting?

Well to begin with the litigation has been a major expense to the Parish.

Over $46 grand was paid to defend the action against the individual Commissioners, Wilson and Bryant. All of these were persons dismissed from the suit.

And an additional $132 plus thousand has been expended in litigating all the issues raised against the Commission. 

To date, Stonecipher has had little to no success in this litigation. But he likes to complain about the Commission legal expenses--that he caused!

The decisions that have been made thus far are:

a. The district court dismissed all of Mr. Stonecipher’s claims against individual parties and commissioners – this was affirmed on appeal and writs denied. 

b. The district court dismissed all claims for mandatory injunctive relief (essentially Mr. Stonecipher sought to collect sums he claimed Commissioners owed the Parish) – this was affirmed and writs denied. 

c. The appellate court reversed the district court’s ruling that the Caddo Parish Commission was not an entity that could be sued (as opposed to Caddo Parish, also a defendant). The Commission did not seek writs, so the Commission remains a party. 

d. The appellate court reversed the district court’s ruling that Mr. Stonecipher did not have standing for prohibitive injunctive relief (to enjoin the payment of unauthorized benefits). The Commission did not seek writs, so this issue remains before the court. 

e. The district court granted a partial summary judgment in favor of the Parish and Commission that reimbursement of travel and mileage was permissible. The Second Circuit found that the district court did not have jurisdiction over those matters because of the other pending appeal, so they remain before the court. 

f. The district court denied the Parish’s motion for partial summary judgment that Commissioners participation in health insurance with the Commissioners paying 100% of the premium was permissible. That issue is still before the court because Mr. Stonecipher has not filed any cross-motion for summary judgment or other motion seeking that determination in his favor.

There are four issues still before the court:

a. The validity of Parish contributions to CPERS (which has been discontinued). 

b. Whether Commissioners can participate in health insurance program if they pay 100% of the premiums. 

c. Whether Commissioners can be reimbursed for out-of-parish travel expenses for Commission-related business. 

d. Whether Commissioner can be reimbursed for mileage according to state standards for out-of-parish travel on Commission-related business.

Most legal scholars had doubts, as in very serious doubts, that Stonecipher’s attempts to require repayment of benefits that had already be received by the Commissioners would be successful. And for his other goals, much of the wind was taken out of his sails by Commission votes after the suit was filed.

In January 2016 the current Commission took office. And in their first few meetings they voted to suspend their CPERS payments and subsidized insurance payments. Additionally, substantial reform was made on travel expenses to be paid by the Parish for Commissioners. Stonecipher could have halted his litigation after these votes, but he chose to proceed. 

The Parish has lost two straight votes on tax renewals. The first was a few years back with one tax proposition on the ballot. The second proposition had four millages on the ballot. Next year there are additional tax millage renewals that will be on the ballot. Thus, in the current political environment it is very unlikely that the Commission will vote to restore CPERS or subsidized insurance benefits.

What happens next in the litigation is up to Stonecipher. Much like in checkers, its his move next. If he continues to sit quietly, no more court proceedings will follow and thus no more public dollars expended in defending the past actions of the Commission. Lets hope this is his course of action. It’s time to shut this parade down. 

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