FINALLY THERE IS GOOD NEWS FROM THE CADDO ANIMAL SHELTER

And yes, it’s about time.

In the last several months the reports from the Caddo Parish Animal Shelter (CPAS) continued to hit new lows. Even when observers could not believe it to be possible.

The litany of “bad acts” alleged to have occurred at the shelter reads like a porn movie script.

A CPAS employee was arrested for beastiality with a dog at the shelter. 

A CPAS employee was accused of having sex with this girlfriend in the CPAS parking lot.

A CPAS employee reportedly had sex with an inmate worker inside the CPAS building.

CPAS employees are accused of being part of a dog selling ring. Animals brought to the shelter were being sold on Ebay. 

And all of this was followed up by the mistaken euthanasia of a pet cat, Skittles, that was being retained for a 14 day quarantine for rabies.

Not surprisingly the CPAS director was forced to resign after the issues surfaced this year.

Against this backdrop of “you can’t make this stuff up” , the continuing charges by animal activists of mismanagement of the shelter have not subsided.

To address these concerns, Caddo Parish Administrator Woody Wilson has recently named Kelvin Samuel as the interim Director of Animal Services and Mosquito Control. Samuel had served as the Assistant Director since August of last year.

In an effort to quickly bring Samuel up to speed on successful shelter procedures and best practices, he has been scheduled to visit several high-performance shelters in Kansas City, Missiouri along with Brent Toellner, the Regional Director for the Best Friends Animal Society. After being in the CPAS environment for the last year, Samuel will certainly need a new orientation on how to successfully operate a shelter.

The installation of a long overdue camera/monitoring system that animal activists have been advocating for quite some time should improve CPAS employee accountability. The shelter now has 22 cameras in operation with a 30 day recording archive capacity. The cameras will be primarily utilized to investigate charges of improprieties by CPAS employees within the shelter itself.

The Parish reports that as of September 30, the total adoptions for the year are at an all time high. The rescue total on that date was 871; the previous high for a year is 923. Additionally, 391 animals had been redeemed, that is returned by the shelter to their owners. 

Intake for 2017 is less than 5,000. In 2016, the intake was almost 7,500. And the euthanasia rate for this year is 48% compared to 57% for last year.

Animal activists have also been advocating privatization of the shelter in an effort to improve accountability and to save tax dollars. Wilson has commissioned a privatization feasibility study by Dr. Jared Lorens of the LSU Public Administration Institute. The report is expected to be completed by mid-December of this year.

Despite all these “good steps”, animal activists are still skeptical that the shelter will be operated efficiently and professionally. Concerns are still being expressed that not all the animals brought into the shelter are properly registered, that animal care is deficient and that too many animals are not being saved.

Many volunteer organizations have ceased to spend time at the shelter assisting in the mundane chores of animal bathing, socialization and adoption efforts. One very active group, PAWS4LIFE, has been barred from the shelter. This group was transporting large numbers of animals and cats to areas outside the state for adoption.

Concerns include the lack of safeguards to ensure that dogs that are picked up are not sold before being taken to the shelter, or that not all dogs will be properly registered into the computer tracking program. They report that in the past twenty-two months over 200 canines were missing or not accounted for after being taken to the shelter. 

During that same time frame over ten CPAS employees were fired for misconduct. Many of the remaining employees are suspected of being involved in improper activities at the shelter.

Most importantly, the drastic reduction in volunteers allowed to work at the shelter has increased anxieties over the care of shelter animals and compliance with established policies for dog care and euthanasia.

Although the reduction in the euthanasia rate is commendable, it is below established norms and for that matter the historical low of 33% for the shelter.

So...the good news is that some changes have been made at CPAS. Additionally, statistics on proper operation of the shelter have improved. Whether the new leadership of Samuel can continue improvement at CPAS is an open question.

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STEVEN JACKSON ABUSES HIS AUTHORITY AS CADDO COMMISSION PRESIDENT

Its always sad when an elected official starts off with great promise and then becomes a political manipulator. Such is the case with Caddo Commission President Steven Jackson.

Jackson was first elected to the Commission in late 2016. He defeated, with the help of many good government stalwarts, incumbent Rose McCollough.

In one of his first 2017 votes as a commissioner, Jackson voted with the six white Commissioners to stop funding the retirement plan for Commissioners (CPERS). He was also the deciding vote to stop offering health insurance to commissioners at a subsidized rate.

Jackson became Commission president in January of this year. As president, he appointed the members of the various Commission committees along with the  chairman of each.

As president, Jackson is an ex-officio voting member of all the Commission committees.

During recent months, Jackson has attempted to hijack committee meetings and votes. He has constantly interrupted committee chairmen and insisted that his opinions be followed. 

He added Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson to the Long Range Planning Committee shortly before the critical committee vote on the report of the Confederate Memorial subcommittee. Johnson’s vote to not accept the subcommittee’s recommendation was the deciding vote.

Jackson later removed Commissioner Louis Johnson and Mike Middleton from the Appropriations/NGO Committee after two meetings to decide how to dole out $950 grand of riverboat funds to local non-profit entities. The Committee had a final meeting after Johnson and Middleton were removed to determine
the final report for the Commission.

Jackson literally took over the three Appropriation/NGO meetings. And he pushed through funding for several organizations that had failed to properly apply for funds.

Jackson also removed Louis Johnson from the Economic Development Committee while it was considering nominations for the Industrial Development Board. Reportedly, Johnson was going to support an individual not approved by Jackson.

Now being referred to as “Hatchet Man”, Jackson is in the final months of his reign as president. His recent actions in manipulating committee membership, will be part of his legacy as Commission president. 

Its unfortunate that Jackson has adopted a “my way or the highway mentality”. His future as a progressive leader has rapidly become tarnished.
 

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SHREVEPORT NEEDS AN INTERNAL PLANNING OFFICE TO REPLACE THE MPC

It's time — no, past time — for the Shreveport City Council to establish a planning department and for the city to pull out of the Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC).


The MPC has jurisdiction over Shreveport and five miles outside city limits. The MPC regulates land use, issues permits and approves subdivision plats.

Currently, the city pays the lion’s share of the MPC budget, about 83 percent. The city also provides free office space, in-kind information technology services and financial services.

All fees paid to the MPC for property in the five-mile parish area are passed through to Caddo Parish government. The city gets no MPC fees.

The MPC is “governed” by a nine-member board. The city and parish each appoint four members and they jointly appoint one member.

The MPC executive director does not report to the mayor, city council, parish administrator or parish commission.

MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney is the only public employee in northwest Louisiana with an employment contract. Sweeney spends MPC funds to prepare his contract.

Last year, Sweeney spent public funds in excess of $15,000 to take two MPC board members and four staff members, including himself, to a four-day convention in New York City. The first two days were a Saturday and a Sunday with very few convention seminars.

Twice a year Sweeney treats the MPC board, its attorney and key staff members to a work session at Chianti’s restaurant on the taxpayers' dime. The tab for the recent lunch for six board members, the attorney and staff was almost $300.

Until recently the MPC office was closed weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. Totally closed —the lights off, door locked,phone answered by a message. After much public pressure, Sweeney reluctantly opened the MPC office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. like all other offices in government plaza.

Sweeney’s relationship with private citizens, builders and developers is spotty at best. Those who must work regularly with his office will not publicly complain for fear of retribution.

Many private citizens have complained, especially those who also have conducted business with the Bossier City-Bossier Parish MPC. All say that working with the Bossier MPC is a cakewalk and that the Shreveport MPC is an obstacle course.

The MPC office is over staffed when compared to other offices on the basis of permits issued and size of its jurisdiction. Staff reductions can be accomplished in an internal office — as in other city offices under the Mayor Ollie Tyler Administration.

Current MPC staff members could apply to work for the city planning office.

In addition to the in-kind services, the city will fund the MPC in excess of $1 million in 2017. These funds should be budgeted for an internal planning office in 2018.

The Shreveport City Council passed the Unified Development Code earlier this year along with the zoning map. This ordinance applies to all real estate within the city limits.

The UDC can be easily amended to change all references to the MPC executive director, the MPC board and the Zoning Board of Appeals to the planning director, the planning board and the appeals board.

With these changes, the planning office would be accountable to the mayor and the city council.

New Orleans, Monroe and Alexandria have internal planning offices. Baton Rouge has combined city-parish government. There are no valid reasons for Shreveport not to have its own internal office.

Citizens could then have redress to elected officials when treated rudely, when planning applications become overly cumbersome and when anti-business roadblocks are incurred. This is not the case today. Additionally, the MPC fee schedule, which has discouraged development in Shreveport, could be amended.

And for the parish goes, the city could provide planning services on a most equitable compensation basis. Or the parish could establish its own planning office. And the commission should recognize that the city is in the parish.

The city council’s duty is to the residents of the city, and to those that want to develop in the City. A much more user friendly, accountable planning office is long overdue to combat stagnant economic growth in Shreveport.

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UPCOMING VOTE ON CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL WILL NOT RESOLVE ISSUE

At its regular meeting on October 19 the Caddo Commission is expected to vote on a resolution to remove the Confederate Memorial from the Caddo courthouse grounds.

Most observers believe the vote will be 7 to 5 in favor of the resolution. Commissioner Matthew Linn is expected to vote along with the 6 African American Commissioners for removal. A simple majority of the 12 Commissioners will approve this resolution.

Linn also has on the agenda two proposed amendments to the Caddo Commission Charter. The first provides that the Commission shall establish a system of internal audits, with a minimum of three department audits per years. The second proposal eliminates the internal audits from the responsibility of the parish administrator.

A super majority of 8 votes is required to place these on the ballot for a parish wide election. These amendments must be approved by Caddo voters.

Word on the street has it that Linn has brokered a deal to get support for his amendments from the six African American commissioners in exchange for his vote to remove the memorial. Whether or not he can set an additional vote from one of the white commissioners is an open question. 

A vote to remove will move the hotly contested debate over the memorial from government plaza to the Caddo Courthouse.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) own the memorial. Who owns the dirt under the memorial is a question to be resolved. 

The UDC claims ownership as does the Parish. Legally, the issue of “eviction” of the memorial is dependent on this issue. In other words the Parish can not require removal of the memorial if the Parish does not own the land upon which it sits.

The UDC is prepared to seek an injunction to prevent the Parish from taking the monument down. The test for such an order is “irreparable harm” that is not readily compensable in dollars.

There is little doubt that an injunction will be signed until the ownership issue if finally resolved. 

Once the case is litigated before Caddo Judge Ramon Lafitte, it is expected that the “losing party” will appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. And similarly that court’s decision will be appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Time wise, this case will easily take 2 years, and probably much longer to be finally decided . In the meantime, the memorial can be expected to stay at 500 Texas Street.
The UDC has retained an attorney and is raising funds for legal fees. Hopefully for Caddo taxpayers, the Parish litigation will be handled internally by its two person legal staff.

The first hearing is set for December 11 on a declaratory judgement action that names both the Parish and the UDC as defendant. The purpose of this action is to force these parties to litigate among themselves the issue of who owns the dirt under the memorial. The Parish is objecting to this hearing.

How this all shakes out will not be known for quite sometime. 

Looking at the year to date, the 2017 Commission will be remembered for the continuing debacle at the Caddo Parish Animal Shelter and how the Confederate Memorial fuss was handled.

So much for the Commission’s 2017 legacy. 

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CONCERNED ABOUT HOMELESS/TRANSIENT IN DOWNTOWN SHREVEPORT?

If one ever drives through downtown Shreveport, especially in the early mornings, late evenings and/or the weekends, it is quite apparent that a large number of people seemingly “live” in vacant storefronts, on public properties and in alleys.


Unfortunately well-intended efforts to feed these individuals and to give them pocket change has not helped this reality, only exacerbated it.

The Long Range Planning Committee of the Caddo Commission will address this issue in its meeting on Monday, 16 October at noon. The meeting will be in the council chambers at government plaza on Travis Street.

A representative from HOPE Connection has been invited by committee chairman Mario Chavez. Reportedly Commission president Stephen Jackson has also invited speakers. 

The meeting is open to the public and hopefully individuals from agencies with resources to assist these downtown “folk” will attend. Anyone can address the committee on the homeless/transient issue as well as public restrooms. 

Public interest in this issue has become heightened after the release of a video from Sheriff Prator of public defecation on the courthouse grounds and a subsequent proposal to install a public restroom by the courthouse.

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WANT TO BUY A BIG TENT DOWNTOWN?

Well…now is your chance!

It comes with a one acre corner lot on Crockett Street that spans from Marshall to Edwards Street. And it has a 5,000 square foot brick building ideal for offices. 

The 25,000 square foot canopy over the building can be removed. The structural steel for the canopy can be used to build a eight story parking garage. 

It could be all yours for a minimum bid of $1,020,000.

The long-heralded Shreveport Intermodal Facility on Murphy Street across from the Shreveport City Court building will finally be opened sometime between now and year end. This facility will become the primary Sportran hub as well as the Greyhound Bus depot.

Soooo…what happens with the tent?

Well, it depends on the sealed bids.

The Tent was originally acquired with $7 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority (FTA). The grant had specific requirements for use of the facility.

If the property is no longer needed for public transportation purposes and it remains in the City’s inventory, the City must reimburse the FTA eighty per cent of the land value, including depreciation.

If the City sells the property, it may use eighty percent of the sales price for the purchase of additional busses.

If the property is not sold, the City can avoid paying the feds any money if Sportran continues to use the tent as a bus terminal for at least 50 % of its bus traffic. In the alternative, the tent could be converted into a maintenance facility.

The bids are due on October 31, 2017.

Needless to say downtown advocates are very concerned over the future use of this large parcel which is just a short city block from the courhouse. And so is Sportran, which does not want to have any further use of the downtown facility. 

Liz Swaine, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority is hopeful that a private investor will purchase the tent. “The SporTran Terminal on Crockett Street downtown has become iconic…everyone now recognizes that tented structure. Though it was built very mission-specific, to be a bus terminal, there are other things it could become. The infrastructure is there for a Food Truck Terminal protected from the weather, with bathrooms and a place for a permanent restaurant/bar. It could also be an arts market, a year-round food co-op. My favorite idea is to repurpose some SporTran buses into small office and retail spaces and have them parked there for rent to businesses. This could truly become something remarkable.”

“We hope to be able to work with the city on repositioning the terminal into something wonderful, unique and useful. There are a number of ideas floating around that would make that facility something that would draw people into downtown.”

“We have one of the architecturally coolest bus terminals in the country. Our job now is to find a use that is as fun and unique as the facility itself.”

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MPIC WORK SESSION AT CHIANTI'S...ALL IS WELL IN LALALAND

The Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 3 pm in the Council Chambers at Government Plaza. The MPC has a “private” work session beginning at 1 pm before each meeting. 

The work session is not publicized although it is subject to the Louisiana Open Meetings law. Thus it is open to the public. This fact is not generally known.

A catered meal is provided for the MPC Board members and staff at the work session. The meal is paid out of the MPC budget.

But twice a year the MPC work session is held in the private “Green Room” at Chianti’s Restaurant on Line Ave. 

Generally a “green room” is referred to as the waiting room/lounge for performers before and after a performance. In this instance the reference is to “bucks” as in taxpayer dollars for high end Italian cuisine. 

Six of the nine board members, three MPC staffers and Sweeney, dined there last Thursday. In addition, MPC attorney Rick Johns was paid to sit and eat—but not talk.

The tab was almost $300. The tab would probably have been $400 if MPC board members Ronnie Remedies, Dale Colvin and Alan Young had been able to attend .

The work session featured 2 power point presentations. One was on the $10,000 MPC financial feasibility study. The other explained the Red River overlay district. The 2108 proposed MPC budget was also reviewed.

The feasibility study recommended that the Parish funding of the MPC be increased from 13 percent of the budget to 25 percent. And that the City’s funding be decreased from 87 to 75 percent. It also suggested that various MPC fees be increased.

The feasibility study was repeated at the MPC meeting for the full MPC board and the general public.

MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney casually advised those in attendance that the City of Shreveport was studying the feasibility of establishing an internal planning office. He also mentioned, off hand, that the Parish had authorized a similar study.

His casual remarks indicated little concern that his job, much less the MPC office itself, was in jeopardy of not being funded for 2018.

Shreveport City attorney William Bradford will soon release his legal feasibility assessment for an internal city planning office. 

Attorneys versed in municipal law all agree that the City and the Parish are not bound to fund the MPC. And that both can set up internal offices. 

The Parish could choose to contract with a city internal planning office or just set up a separate office.

Sweeney also crooned over his accomplishments in spending $650 thousand dollars of City and Parish tax dollars in getting the Unified Development Code promulgated, vetted , and implemented for the City. The Parish is expected to adopt a slightly different version of the UDC by year end.

The last 20 minutes or so of the lunch meeting featured dessert for MPC Chairman Theron Jackson and idle chit chat. 

Due to the distance to Government Plaza, the MPC meeting started late. But why should the Shreveport peasant citizens complain? In the MPC dream world, it was just another wonderful day in paradise.


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CADDO COMMISSION COMMITTEE ON FUNDING NGOS: A REAL CIRCUS

The Caddo Commission spends its portion of Riverfront Gaming Funds by doling it out to non government organizations (NGOs). 

This year the expected revenues are $950 grand.

The Commission Appropriations Committee is charge of reviewing all the NGO funding requests. It then makes a recommendation to the full Commission on which organizations are funded, and in what amounts. 

The 12 member Commission can amend the Committee’s recommendation on a simple majority vote.

The Appropriations Committee members were Jerald Bowman (chair), Mike Middleton, Mario Chavez, Lynn Cawthorne and Matthew Linn. Commission president Steven Jackson is an ex officio member. (After the meeting, Jackson removed Middleton from the Committee.) 

The Committee met on October 2 to review requests of approximately $2.4 million dollars from 66 Caddo organizations. 

Once the meeting started Committee members received for the first time a 3 page handout listing the NGOs, the 2017 Commission funding and the requested 2108 funding. 

The handout also included a brief description of the funding purpose. Examples include “support and expand Image Changer’s comprehensive tutoring program", “assist with the MLK awards banquet and the Civil Rights Celebration”, and “support for children of faith summer camp.”

Other members of the Commission attended the meeting. Although they could not vote, they were free to chime in, either opposing or pushing funding. 

Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) was the most vocal. He convinced the committee to fund several requests that were not timely submitted. 

Most significantly LBJ successfully lobbied for funding of his fraternity. The Committee voted for $30 grand to assist with the long established Good Times Roll festival.

The Committee actually had 2 meetings. The first was for 2 hours before the Commission work session. 

The second, which was late in the day, after the work session. It was obvious at both meetings that the committee was more motivated by the goal of completion, than careful screening and deliberation. 

When it was all said and done the Committee’s approved funding exceeded the anticipated revenues by over $100,000. Another committee meeting will be had to pare down the recommendations before presenting to the entire Commission.

The Committee funding for several NGOs exceeded staff recommendations. These organizations were Bernstein Development Incorporated, the Norwela Council of the Boy Scouts, Community Renewal International, Robinson’s Rescue Low Cost Spay/Neuter, and Urban Support Agency. 

NGOs recommended for first time funding included Querbes Park Foundation, Rock Solid Athletic Club, Queensborough Progressive Citizens, Project Seek, Red River Cleanup, and Steeple Success.

How the sixty plus organizations will fare after the next committee meeting to pare down the recommendations to the expected funding is an open question. And then the final committee report will be subject to scrutiny by the 12 member Commission who must make the final approval. 

Needless to say, more political game playing can be expected as these elected officials divvy up these funds to bolster their political standing. The entire process, to date, is “politics” in the true sense of the word. And it has not been pretty, to say the least. 

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DOES CITY OF SHREVEPORT REALLY NEED ARCHITECTURAL/ENGINEERING COMMITTEE?

It’s a good question, and one that City Council president James Flurry has asked.

For the record, Bossier City, Baton Rouge or New Orleans do not have this committee, or anything similar.

So why in Shreveport?

The Shreveport ordinance establishing the Architectural/Engineering (A/E) Committee provides that the Committee is to “assure the city selects qualified firms to provide it with architectural, engineering, interior design, construction management, land surveying.”

The Committee also is to "provide that firms whose primary business address is in the Shreveport-Bossier metropolitan area are selected to provide these services when they are properly qualified and are experienced in the type of work needed by the city.”

The A/E Committee reviews responses to Requests for Proposal (RFP) that have a contract amount of $10,000 or higher. With an RFP, selection of the lowest dollar amount is not required. 

There are 9 members of the A/E selection committee. The directors of public works, water and sewerage, airport director, city engineer and executive director of the metropolitan planning commission are automatic members. The chairman of the city council and the clerk of the city council are also automatic members.

The Mayor has 2 appointments to the A/E Committee. These are David Aubrey, who spends most of his time in Baton Rouge with his job, and Linda Biernacki, who is a major campaign donor to Ollie Tyler. Aubrey is in management with AT&T and Biernacki is the owner of Firetech Systems.

The ordinance prohibits citizen appointees and their employing firms from competing for city A/E contracts while on the Committee and for 6 months after their term of service has ended.  The ordinance does not preclude the citizen appointees/their companies from being sub contractors on A/E contracts.

Rumors have circulated about conflicts of interest both with Aubrey and Biernacki. 

The A/E Committee is charged with reviewing all submittals from A/E firms to determine the firms which it considers most qualified for and suited to perform the work. Aubrey’s qualification for this determination as one of the voting committee members is questionable at best.  Biernacki's company provides a substantial percentage of the fire prevention systems in local construction projects.  She has ties to many if not most of the companies that bid for A/E contracts. 

The Committee is charged with selecting 3 "qualified" firms. The Mayor then has the sole authority to select one of the 3 recommended contractors.

At the last A/E Committee meeting it was apparent that concerns other than qualifications were paramount in the voting of Aubrey, Biernacki and some of the other members. One of these deal with selection of a minority contractor whose office was in Aubrey’s Baton Rouge office building. The other dealt with how much time had passed since a contractor had gotten the vote of the Committee.

One wonders why the MPC executive director is on the A/E Committee.  The MPC is a separate government entity and it does not deal with qualifications of contractors.  And what qualification does the airport director bring to the table?  

Bottomline, the A/E committee in its present form, appears to be a dinosaur.   Flurry’s interest in a review of the committee and its functions are very timely.

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PROPOSED PUBLIC RESTROOM ON COURTHOUSE GROUNDS RAISES MANY PRACTICAL AND LEGAL QUESTIONS

Caddo Commissioner Mario Chavez is expected to introduce a resolution at the next Commission meeting to purchase and install a public restroom on the courthouse grounds.

Under consideration is a Portland Loo, a metal structure with a locking door and one toilet which is handicap accessible.

The total cost , including installation, could exceed $126,000.

Leaving the "politics" of the matter, there are many practical and legal issues that should be a part of the Commission deliberations.

Chavez believes that the loo will eliminate the problem of the "homeless" using the courthouse grounds as a public restroom.

The loo will be installed on the Milam Street side of courthouse.

Most of the "homeless" congregate on the Texas Street side of the building.

Whether the "convenience" of the nearly trees and bushes on the Texas side of the courthouse will be offset by the privacy afforded by walking around to the Milam Street side is a open question.

Another question is whether or not this public amenity wouldl serve as a "draw" for more "homeless" or vagrants to congregate in the 500 block of Texas. This is "the build it and they will come" theory.

Commissioner Matthew Linn’s belief that the timed opening of the loo door will prevent people from setting up camp in a loo is faulty. The door openings would only provide fresh air and sunshine to an inhabitant accustomed to living outside.

Another concern that the Commission should address is a possible failure of the loo door lock. What happens when an intruder enters the loo when it is occupied? Or when a loo user can not get out of the loo because the door will not open?

Maintenance of the loo must be addressed. The city of Portland spends over $18,000 per year to have loo maintained, including weekly power washes and minor repairs.

One wag suggested that the 12 Commissioners volunteer to be "loo janitor" for one month of the year.

Regulating activities within the loo is another matter. No doubt there will efforts by some to use the loo for purposes other than what is intended; these are limited only by one’s imagination.

The loo will be installed by the Commission on land owned by the City. Which public entity will be liable for any injuries incurred by those using or attempting to use the loo is another factor for review.

Many believe that installation of the proposed public restroom will create more problems that it solves.

CADDO COMMISSIONERS PLAY FAST AND LOOSE WITH LOUISIANA OPEN MEETING LAW

It’s no secret that Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn has no love lost for Caddo Administrator Dr. Woody Wilson.

Linn was Commission president for the 2106 calendar year. One of first acts in that position was to attempt to remove Wilson from the NLCOG Committee. His efforts ultimately failed.

He had previously accused Wilson of not actually being a resident of Caddo Parish as required by Commission action.

This year Linn has pushed to have more authority for the Commission, and less for Wilson. Linn is the chairperson of the Commission Clerk & Administrator’s Evaluation Committee.

Other members are Lynn Cawthorne and Doug Dominick. Steven Jackson, Commission president, is Ex-officio member.

Linn scheduled a committee meeting for Wednesday September 27. The business listed on the published agenda was to meet with KPMG guest to "discuss the benefits that objective assessments can provide to local governments and citizens."

Those at the meeting included Linn, Cawthorne, Middleton, Wilson , Commission finance director Erica Bryant, Commission attorney Donna Frazier, Commission Clerk Todd Hopkiins, and assistant Caddo administrator Randy Lucky.

The "discussion" was a sales pitch by 2 KPMG professionals to conduct department reviews to determine operational efficiency. This study would cost $50 to $100 thousand dollars per department. The short meeting (30 minutes) seemingly did not justify the flight from Atlanta Georgia for the meeting.

Later it was discovered that the KPMG pair had met with Linn and several Commissioner that morning at the office of Commissioner Mario Chavez. Those known to have attended included Linn, Chavez, Middleton and John Atkins. Commission president Steven Jackson was invited but could not attend due to a work conflict. Commission vice president Doug Dominick was invited, but he declined.

Whether or not all that attending the morning meeting were together as a group or met in smaller groups is unknown. Nor is the topic of discussion, although it is presumed work evaluations of Wilson and Hopkins were on the front burner.

The names of other Commissioners who may have been invited , whether they attended or not, is unknown. Only one Dominick replied to an email inquiring about attendance; he refused to attend.

Evidently cell phone texts were utilized to set up the clandestine meeting.

The Louisiana Open Meetings law mandates that meetings of a quorum of a public body shall be open to the public exception for executive sessions approved by two-thirds of the members present.

There are 12 Commissioners. Thus a gathering of 7 or more together must be noticed and held open to the public unless an executive session is approved.

The Open Meetings law also applies to committee meetings. If a majority of a committee meets together, the meeting must be open to the public.

How the private meeting by the Commissioners with KMPG was handled is not really an issue. The overriding concern is transparency to the public. If Linn wanted to discuss Wilson and/or Hopkins at a meeting of Commissioners, a vote could have resulted in an Executive Session.

For an elected body that has struggled with its public image, these actions constitute another black eye. And shame on Linn, who orchestrated this scheme, as well as Chavez, Middleton, and Atkins who participated in a process that obviously was intended to violate the Public Meetings law.

And this goes for Jackson as well, who defended the meeting as Ok. Hopefully other Commissioners who were a part of this back room closed door sham will be identified. Additionally, Commissioners should be questioned publicly at the next Commission meeting, either on Monday (October 2, 2017) or Thursday (October 5, 2017).

So much for the good government principles that Linn continually espouses when making requests to Commission staff, suggesting more power be vested in the Commission versus the Parish Administrator and promotion of this self serving agenda. As they say, when the lights are turned on, the cockroaches run.

AQUARIUM AND RESTAURANT A MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT AT RECENT EVENT

Talk about a bummer, a major let down and sad story…just ask anyone who attended the recent fund-raising event at the much heralded Planet Aqua aquarium on the River Front.


It’s easy to dismiss the well-founded complaints on the basis that the construction of the aquarium is not finished (and it has a long way to go). Or that it was too early to expect to see critters there. And it was the first event at the restaurant.


Tell that to the 250 or so that paid $65 a head to attend. The only saving grace was that the event was a fundraiser for the Leadership Shreveport group of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. Small solace.


S.A.L.T. is the aquarium restaurant; the acronym is for Sea, Air, Land and Time. Many that attended the event left grumbling saying that S.A.L.T. stood for "Slow, Abysmal, Late, and Tiny."


Many guests left before all the food was served. Only 2 of the entries had been served by 8:15 pm for a dinner that was advertised to start at 7 p.m. The portions were small, as in teeny weeny—a 2 small leafs of lettuces being a "salad".

 

How 2 servers could be expected to promptly distribute the various courses to the crowd of over 200 defies logic. It was typical of the entire event.


Much like the serving crew, the 2 bars were terribly short-handed. Whether one wanted water or a alcoholic libation, wait, wait and wait was the operative word.


Since the aquarium received the bar proceeds seemingly efforts would have been made to expedite delivery of drinks. If for no other reason, prompt service may have placated the large frustrated and disappointed crowd, most of whom were seated outside in the heat.


But so much for planning and sending a good PR impression to others who may have considered having a party at the aquarium. Since the number of guests was known prior to the event, it would not have been rocket science to plan accordingly.


Tours of the unfinished but soon to be finished aquarium were also part of the "attraction" of the event. The 10 minute experience was a major disappointment. In fact it was almost comical.


Many high school science projects have more sophistication. To say that the aquarium displays were amateurish is a gross understatement.


When the construction work will be completed was a question not answered. Neither was when the aquarium will actually open.


A tour guide advised that the fish and other critters were coming from Australia and that shipment had been delayed. A newscast this week said some critters will be coming from Florida. Additionally there will be a three week transition period for the aquarium inhabitants to get acclimated to their new restrictive environment.


And to top it off, various aquarium venues were posted with "sponsorships available" postings. When asked, the tour guide admitted that sponsorship funding would not be tax deductible because Planet Aqua is a for profit entity.


So much for wishful thinking.


The Planet Aqua group is clearly over their heads in setting up their first aquarium, much less a restaurant and bar. How and when this group can get their "first child" launched is a major issue.


Add to this the management of Sci-Port by Planet Aqua and one can soon expect a major disaster on the riverfront. Who will turn out the light is yet to be decided.


 

COMPARE YOUR EXERCISE HABITS WITH SHREVEPORT'S RATING IN NATIONAL INDEX.

In the last seven days, on how many days did you exercise for 30 minutes or more?”

This was the question asked to over 350,000 telephone interviews with adults in the United States across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The telephone polling was conducted from January 2. 2015 to December 30, 2016 as part of the research for the Gallup-Sharecare Well-being Index that was recently released.

This index is touted to be the world’s largest data set on well-being, with over 2.5 million surveys fielded to date. Gallup conducts 500 telephone interviews daily, resulting in a sample that it projects to an estimated 95 percent of all U.S. adults. The interviews are conducted in both English and Spanish.

Those who responded to the interview and who reported exercising 30 minutes or more days in the previous week were categorized as exercising “regularly.” Some communities reflect the same score when rounded to a single decimal. The report indexed 189 communities. 

Shreveport-Bossier ranked number 142 with 50.6 of those interviewed saying they exercised “regularly”.  Lafayette was the highest ranked city in the state, coming in number 61 with a regular exercise rate of 55.8. New Orleans ranked 109 with a regular exercise rate of 52.5 and Baton Rouge was number 127 with a 51.2 regular exercise rate.

In 2016, the communities with the highest rates of regular exercise were from Colorado (five communities in the top 25) and California (six communities in the top 25). Boulder, Colorado was the number one exercise community with almost 70% of their residents indicating they exercise regularly. The report stated that Boulder had a track record of high well-being, high fresh produce consumption and extremely low rates of obesity.

Several of the lowest exercise communities were in Ohio, they had 6 communities in the bottom 25. Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown, North Carolina was the nation’s lowest community for regular exercise with only 41.8% of their residents exercising regularly. 

The rates of regular exercise varied by gender, age, ethnicity and income. Males outpaced females for regular exercise by 4.5 percentage points. Not surprisingly, exercise rates fell as people aged. 18 to 29 year olds had a 10 point higher regular exercise rate than those age 65 and above. 

Of the four major ethnicities in the U.S., Hispanics (55.5%) boast the highest rates of regular exercise followed by Asians (54.6%). Finally, the report concluded that there was a direct correlation between regular exercise rates and income; rates of exercise rise as income rises. 

HOW ABOUT A PUBLIC TOILET ON THE CADDO COURTHOUSE GROUNDS?

It’s a well known fact that the stately Caddo courthouse grounds on the 500 block of Texas in the heart of downtown Shreveport has become, for some, an outdoor bathroom location. Sheriff Prator listed this problem as one of his justifications for the construction of a wrought iron fence around the courthouse square.

Caddo Commissioner Mario Chavez identified what he believes is a solution to this problem—install a public bathroom on the courthouse grounds. Chavez says that “if the main issue at our Courthouse is people using the lawn as a public bathroom, common sense says lets install a bathroom.” Chavez intends to introduce a resolution for the bathroom installation at the next Commission work session on October 9.

Chavez is looking at the installation of The Portland Loo, which is advertised to be “a unique solution to a universal problem”. The “Loo” literature says the toilet uses 1.28 gallons per flush. The electricity requirement for the toilet as relatively small with a max load of 60 watts at 110 volt circuit. 

As far as cleaning and maintenance, the City of Portland contracts with a non-profit organization to provide janitorial/cleaning services a minimum of twice daily which includes the provision of soap an paper supplies, a weekly power wash, and minor maintenance and repair. The annual cost per unit for Portland is $18,666 or $1555 a month. Presumably, the Commission will decide how to handle these responsibilities when deciding on the purchase of a “Loo”.  

The base price a non-solar loo is $90,000. Estimated cost for utility work for water, sewer and electrical is listed as $22,000-$25,000. Foundation work for the slab and finish is estimated to cost between $7200 and $9000. Shipping costs will be $3500 to $5000. And the installation cost for a crane, labor and hookup are estimated to be $3600 to $5000; crane access is required. Thus the total estimated cost is listed at $126,300 to $134,000. How much of these listed labors could be performed by Commission employees, at what amount of savings, is not yet known.

As they say in real estate circles, its location, location, location. And that will be the next issue the Commission must decide if a Loo is to be installed. A commission staffer advises that “it would be an extremely tight fit to place it (the Loo) in the area that currently has bushes in it on Marshall Street. It would have to go closer to the sally port door on the south end. There are no other viable options for placement. The only other locations that are on Parish property would involve removing the historic water trough and an Oak tree that is near the McNeil Street entrance.”

For those not that familiar with downtown Shreveport, the courthouse and grounds occupy the entire 500 block of Texas Street, with Texas Street on the north side and Milam on the south. Marshall Street runs north to south and it is on the east side of the courthouse. McNeil Street is on the west side. The McNeil Street entrance is used by courthouse personnel including judges; it is not open to the public. The Marshall Street side of the courthouse has 2 sally doors; prisoners are transported in and out of the building through these doors. The public can also enter on this side. Thus the suggested location of the Loo would be on the Milam Street side of the courthouse near McNeil Street. 

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see the public reaction to this proposal. If nothing else it will provide a welcome (?) distraction from the continuing hubbub over removal of the Confederate Monument, and the increasing noise over the suggested courthouse fence. Some skeptics have already mused that the public restroom would encourage more homeless people to “hang out” at the courthouse. Others have surmised that a Loo would be a good place for those that want to “light one up”, either to celebrate what their courthouse visit, or to fortify themselves for the same. One can expect much public discussion on this issue which no doubt will also become a hot topic on social media. 

SOOO...WHY THE DELAY ON VOTE BY COMMISSION ON REMOVAL OF THE CONFEDERATE MONUMENT?

It’s a good question, and one that Caddo Commissioner Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) refused to answer on Monday after the Commission work session.

LBJ has been the driving force on the Commission to have the monument removed, stating frequently that "history belongs in a museum, not on the Caddo Courthouse lawn."

The citizen advisory committee, appointed by the Commission, had recommended on August 10 that the monument be left in place and be supplemented by 2 additional monuments honoring the Reconstruction Era and Civil Rights Movement.

On September 5 the Commission’s Long Range Planning and Special Projects Committee voted 4-3 to remove the monument. Caddo Commission President Stephen Jackson added LBJ to that committee after August 10 report was tendered to the Committee. LBJ’s vote to remove was the deciding vote on removal.

At the Monday work session (Sept 18) the Commission considered a resolution by LBJ to remove the monument and voted to place it on the Commission’s regular meeting agenda for October 19. The resolution could have been considered on October 5.

So…why the delay in the vote on the most decisive issue the Commission has considered this year, if not this decade?

The Commissioners have been hearing speakers, both pro and con, on the monument removal for the last several months. Most of these have been speaking at each work session and regular meeting. No doubt they will speak again in the 2 work sessions, the October 5 and October 19 regular meeting.

The primary election to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Ken Epperson (District 12) will be held on October 14—the Saturday before the scheduled Thursday vote on removal. Louis Johnson (Johnson) was appointed by the Commission as the interim commissioner in January of this year and he is a candidate in the primary.

At the work session Monday Johnson gave a long rambling statement about the upcoming vote to remove the monument, after he had voted to place the resolution on the October 19 agenda. Johnson’s monologue was long on verbiage but short on substance. He did not tip his hand on how he would vote. Johnson did say he was listening to his constituents, keeping their texts, calls and emails. He indicated he would follow the lead of the majority of those that contacted him.

Johnson is one of six candidates on the October 14 ballot; five including Johnson are black. The racial breakdown in the district is 56% black, 40% white, and 4% other. The voter turnout for the primary is expected to be less than 10 % and many believe the majority of those that vote will be white. Thus, Johnson’s official position on the Confederate monument could have a significant impact on his vote total on October 14.

Some politicos speculate that the LBJ’s motive in delaying the monument removal vote until after the primary was to assist Johnson (they are not related). A possible glitch in that theory is that one of the candidates, Fred Moss IV, is a fraternity brother of LBJ. One theory circulating around government plaza is that LBJ wants Johnson to be in a runoff with Moss.

All of this maneuvering may be for naught after a District 12 candidate forum on Sept 19. Johnson was hard pressed , as the sitting Commissioner, how he would vote on the monument if he was still on the Commission. Johnson said he would vote to remove the confederate monument.

If the white voters in District 12 are concerned about the monument, then Johnson's position - prior to the October 19 commission vote - - may be a factor in the October 14 primary. How all this plays out for Johnson, Moss and the other candidates will never really be known. Johnson’s removal vote will be the subject of much speculation both before and after the primary, and maybe in a runoff election as well.

I BOWL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SETTERS BRUSHES OFF SHREVEPORT CITY COUNCIL

Shreveport City Councilman Willie Bradford wanted Independence Bowl Executive Director Missy Setters to appear at the Shreveport City Council last week to answer questions about the 2017 Bowl , specifically did the Bowl have a corporate title sponsor and would the Bowl be played this year? Setters advised Council clerk Art Thompson that she had a calendar conflict--and no title sponsor yet for the Bowl.

Setters should be subpoenaed to the next Council meeting to answer questions in person. The Bowl is funded $100,000 by the City of Shreveport and it has a sweetheart lease with the City of Independence Stadium. Additionally the City is funding improvements to the stadium including the scoreboard .

The required payoff for the Bowl is $1.5 million. The hotel motel tax generates less than $600.000 for the Bowl. How the balance of funds for the Bowl payoff is a question that needs to be answered in front of the City Council...like at its next meeting on September 26. And whether or not the Bowl will be played this year.

SHREVEPORT SPORTS COMPLEX: DEFEATED BY DEMOCRACY IN ACTION

The City Council’s vote on Tuesday to defeat a proposal by Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler to hire, at no cost to the city, bond counsel for the issuance of $30 million in revenue bonds to underwrite the construction of a sports complex on Cross Bayou took most of the packed house in the Council chambers by surprise. 

The Tyler Administration had been confident that the proposal would  would pass on a 4-3 vote. Instead, all six Council members present voted “No”. Once it became clear that the proposal would fail, Council Jerry Bowman left the chambers before the actual vote was cast.

Tyler introduced the sports complex and mixed-use development project at the August 22 council meeting with handouts, a Power Point presentation presented by Chief Administrative Officer Brian Crawford and City Attorney William Bradford. She followed up with a parade of individuals who gave glowing testimonies to the value of the entire project. 

This “dog and pony” show was then followed by a slick presentation by the owner and staff of Capitol Realty, a private development firm from Birmingham Alabama. When it was done, many in the council chambers expected the streets around Government Plaza to have been miraculously paved in gold during the meeting.

Shreveport had been promised a $30 million dollar sports complex, at no cost to the city, and a private mixed-used development of at least $150 million dollars that would magically transform a 10 acre scrap yard and surrounding property at the north end of McNeil Street into a “sports ecosystem” complete with thriving retail/restaurant tenants, 200 plus apartments, a hotel and many other amenities that would instantly become the focal point of downtown Shreveport and a major economic catalyst that would restore the City’s coffers to over following. And that was just for starters.

But, lo and behold, despite continued hoopla from the Mayor’s office-- complete with the customary endorsements from the Committee of 100, the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce--the wheels started squeaking on this “economic train to prosperity” as citizens and elected officials took the time to look under the covers of the PR blitz at the basic economics of the complex and mixed-used development project as well as the city coffers. 

And suddenly, many realized that this project resembled the parade of the naked emperor—it only being a matter of who would call out the truth and be ready for the heat. 

Thankfully first term council members James Flurry, Willie Bradford and Stephanie Lynch quickly announced their opposition to the entire project.  It was then an open guessing game on how the remaining Council members, three of which are termed out next year, would vote.

Many questions were asked about the total project by council members and citizens after the initial announcement, and some where answered. Several important inquires were still unanswered on Tuesday before the vote.  

From day one, the Tyler Administration and the developer, Corporate Reality, took  the attitude of a long-respected institution that was not to be questioned--sort of a “trust me but no questions” position. 

Inquiries like how to handle a heavily polluted scrapyard and, just as important, where to move the 10 acre beast, were brushed with homilies like “none of these are matters can not be resolved.” Or that only issue be decided is whether to hire bond counsel, not to design/build the project.

The three muskateers who said “no go” from the virtual get-go were just as concerned, if not more so, by the reality that the projected revenue from the complex would not be sufficient to pay the bond payments after the complex had been open for several years.

Crawford, the chief administrative officer, stated that $1.9 million dollars would be annual subsidy that would be needed for bond payments during construction of the complex and until the revenue stream would become sufficient for bond payments at some undetermined date after the facility was opened. The source of the money would be gaming revenues from the Riverfront Fund. 

The only problems with that funding source were that it had  been decreasing annually, and that these moneys were being to subsidize the operating budget of the City. Payments on the revenue bonds would thus necessitate unidentified cuts in other city funding.

Other questions about the entire project that were  practical, such as the impact on downtown of the half-mile distance of the proposed location from the center of downtown (the Caddo courthouse) and the challenges of the Red River District which is much closer. 

Additionally, the decline in retailing downtown was seemingly contrary to the promises of 90 percent occupancy of the retail space by Corporate Reality as well as the projected number of events that would be scheduled at the sports complex. 

And mundane matters such as the traffic patterns in and out of the McNeil Street location as well as the advisability of spreading out, rather than concentrating development in the downtown business core, troubled many who evaluated the project.   And at virtually the last  minute Corporate Realty downsized its grandiose plans, announcing that the first phase would be only $39 million for retail and restaurants with housing and hotel to come later. 

The Monday work session was heavily attended and the Tuesday Council meeting had a standing-room-only crowd. The majority of citizens at both meetings favored the project. Many obviously had been recruited and prepped in their comments, which in many instances were based on faulty facts. Citizens speaking in opposition generally hammered the themes of "wants" versus "needs", citing crime concerns, financial stability of the city and continuing infrastructure challenges.

There was no doubt that the Cross Bayou development project, and specifically the proposed $30 million bond issue, was "cussed and discussed" both in and out of the council chambers more than any other issue that has ever been considered by the city council since the institution of the mayor-council form of government in 1978. 

The relative ease of communication with cell phones and email, along with social media, is  one reason for the "ease" of citizen involvement in government. More important, opponents ignored comments that they were "scared", racially prejudiced,  or that they just  had "stinking thinking". They  focused on the details, rather than the glamour, of the total project . They then took the time and energy to interact with the elected officials and showing up during the work day to actually participate in the process of government.

Whether one supported the Cross Bayou bond resolution or not, all must agree that this exercise was democracy at its best and that the City of Shreveport is all the better for the process.  Hopefully this high level of citizen involvement will continue.
 

WILL THE INDEPENDENCE BOWL BE PLAYED THIS YEAR?

Who knows?

Missy Setters, the long time executive director of the bowl, has refused to answer a public records request concerning the bowl emailed on August 28. The public records request was very basic:

    “ Missy
        1. What is required payout for both teams for bowl this year
        2. Does the bowl have a name sponsor to pay the big bucks
            If so, who and what amount
        3. If no sponsor, can the game be played-in sense of payouts
        4. If no sponsor, what is deadline to get sponsor
        5. Is ESPN still on board?
    Thanks
    John”

No response from Missy, and a second email was sent on September 4 enclosing the August 28 request: 

    “Missy
    Can I get a response to this email
    I will write a story-with or without
    Thanks
    John”

Again, no response by Missy to the E-mail.

Two calls to the I Bowl office were answered by an answering machine recording; the requests for a return call from Ms. Seeters were non productive.

An August 23 email to a local sports writer concerning the Bowl and its lack of a major corporate sponsor was answered as follows:

“Just spoke with Missy Seeters. The bowl folks continue in a title sponsor    search but plans to have a bowl this December.”

The Independence Bowl, which was founded in 1976, has now had 7 corporate sponsors: Poulan (1990-97), Sanford (1998-2000), Mainstay Suites (2001-2003), Petro Sun (2006-2008), Advocare (2009-2013), Duck Commander (2014), and Company World (2015-16). 
The required payoff for the I Bowl was raised to $1.2 million in 2015; that is the required amount for this years game. The I Bowl website does not list any 2017 corporate partners. The 2016 partners included the City of Shreveport, The Caddo Parish Commission, The Louisiana Office of Tourism, Willis-Knighton Health System, The Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation, Suddenlink and Mattress Firm. The sponsorships for the 2017 Bowl are not listed on the website.

At the city council meeting on September 12 the clerk of council Art Thompson related his conversation with Missy Setters, the executive director of the Independence Bowl. Ms. Setters advised that, as of that date, the Independence Bowl did not have corporate title sponsor.

How the bowl can make its required payment without a corporate title sponsor is a question left to be answered. Those who are not wearing rose tinted glasses believe the I Bowl is now history. The bowl world has changed substantially since the bowl was started, and like rotary phones, it is a victim of progress.  And if a primary goal of the board was to put Shreveport “on the map”, then it has achieved that goal.  
 

SHOULD CADDO BOSSIER PORT ENDORSE SPORTS COMPLEX AT CROSS BAYOU?

It’s a good question,--and one that the Port Commissioners as well as the Shreveport voters are asking. The general public plus several Commissioners were surprised, no shocked, to read in the September 6 edition of the Shreveport Times that Executive Port Director Eric England was one of thirteen people who attended a public briefing and “said they funded the website and belong to the Shreveport for Pelicans support group.” The endorsement by England reportedly angered several of the Port Commissioners.

Eric England is one of the highest, if not the highest, paid public employee in Northwest Louisiana. Presumably he reports to the 9 Port Commissioners who are appointed by Bossier City, Bossier Parish, Caddo Parish and the city of Shreveport. The minutes of the Port Board meeting do not reflect that the Port Board has endorsed the sports complex at Cross Bayou nor authorized England in his capacity of Executive Director to appear on behalf of the Port as was reported in the Times article.

In response to a public records request, the Port advised that no Port moneys were expended for the PR campaign. Two of the 9 Board Commissioners are long time financial supporters of Shreveport Mayor Tyler: Secretary-treasurer Roy Griggs and President Sam Gregorio. Griggs was also of the supporters at the Slam Dunk press conference and he is named sponsor in a recent fundraiser for Tyler.

MOODY'S DOWNGRADE OF SHREVEPORT BOND RATING REFLECTS MAJOR ECONOMY CHALLENGES

In all the continuing hubbub over the pros and cons of issuing bonds for a sports complex on Cross Bayou the stark reality that Shreveport’s general obligation bond rating was recently lowered by Moody’s Investors Service should not be overlooked. Although the downgrade was only from A2 to A3, the credit opinion offered limited optimism for the City’s current economy while addressing significant credit issues.

Moody’s, which is the bond industry benchmark rating service, assigned a “negative outlook” due to weakness in the energy sector, the lack of economic development, and increased operational costs including the funding of substantial pension contribution shortfalls. In a press release Mayor Tyler attempted a positive spin on the downgrade, saying that it “will not affect the City’s ability to continue infrastructure improvements”; she failed to note that the City can expect a higher interest rate on future bond issuances as well as the current bonded debt of over $175 million dollars.  

Another “elephant in the room” that should not be ignored during all the sports arena hype is the pressing needs of Shreveport for future infrastructure improvements of over $1 billion dollars plus. The mid-year report of the city engineer outlined major challenges to the continuing (and growing) responsibility to fix, replace and upgrade sewers, streets, roads and the water supply system.  

The most sobering findings noted that the city’s sole water treatment plant operates, at peak, below its original capacity due to overdue maintenance and repair. Paired with this are concerns over the source of city water—Cross Lake— which needs $200 million in upgrades as well as needed repairs to the Cross Lake dam. After the problems in Texas over municipal water supplies and the recent Red River and Cross Lake flooding, these critical issues should now take on new meaning to a population that has too long held “a never happen to us” mentality.

Moody’s report noted that the city’s population has only increased 0.4% since 2010 and that unemployment was higher in June than the state and national rate. Moody’s also reported that the median residential income was equal to 74% of the national average. Additionally, Shreveport had general fund deficits in four of the last six years due to weak revenue performance, particularly sales taxes which comprise over 50% of the general fund revenues.

The continuing decline in gaming revenues was also a factor in Moody’s downgrade. The Riverfront Development fund has been tapped for increased operating expenses as its revenue has dwindled, which is expected to continue. Additionally, poor liquidity is a detriment to future credit. The City’s goal of a 5% reserve of its operating budget will not be met this year; it could be less than 2% at year end. Moody’s also noted that the city’s long term liabilities “are elevated and growing fixed costs will continue to pressure the budget.”


Other findings of merit in the Moody’s report were also gloomy, such as the continuing history of contributing less than the actuarially determined contributions for pension liabilites. Moody’s “tread water” amount of $30.2 million in funding is the annual amount required to present the pension liability from growing. This year’s budget has a $25.5 million in pension funding. 

And for those that look to trends, the last 3 years have not been promising in several areas reported by Moody’s. Fund fiscal balances as a percentage of revenue have declined from 29.2% at the end of 2014 to 25.8% at the 2016 year end. The cash balance, as a percentage of revenue, at 2014 year end was 10.6% and only 2.2% at the end of 2016. 

The proposed sports complex and mixed-use development, if constructed, will improve on a short term basis sales tax revenue; long term additional ad valorem tax revenue wills also increase provided no ad valorem tax abatements are included in the final package to land the mixed-use development. Government leaders should not sit back and expect these projects to be the magic genie that solve growing financial challenges of the city. Expect these concerns to be campaign issues next year in the mayoral and council elections.