Believe it or not the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) offices on the fourth floor of Government Plaza are closed each day from noon until 1 pm; the lights are off, the door is locked and the phones answered by a recording. This noon office siesta time has been in effect every since Mark Sweeney became the MPC Executive Director in October of 2014.
Despite several requests Sweeney has failed to explain why he closes the MPC office during the noon hour. Staffing is certainly not a problem; Sweeney has 17 employees. Government Plaza also houses the offices of the Caddo Commission, Shreveport Mayor and key administrative staff including City Attorney, the Caddo Commission Clerk’s office and the City Council Clerk’s office; none of these offices close at noon. And in fact NO City, Parish, or federal government offices in Caddo Parish or Bossier Parish have a noon siesta hour like the Shreveport Caddo MPC.
The MPC is funded to the tune of over $1 million a year by the Shreveport City Council and over $200,000 a year by the Caddo Commission. The MPC also has income from fees derived from building permits as well as zoning and special exception applications. The MPC is a separate government entity that, in theory, is regulated by the 9 member MPC Board. Current directors are Theron Jackson (chariman), Nancy Coooper (vice chairman), Winzer Andrews (secretary), Alan Young, Ronnie Remedies, Bessie Smith, Dale Colvin, Lea Desmarteau, and Curtis Joseph, Jr. (Sweeny was Desmarteau’s pick when she chaired the MPC board.) The Board did NOT approve the noon hour closing , which was instituted by Sweeney.
Sweeney has constantly carped to both the City Council and the Caddo Commission about his lack of funds to implement the Unified Development Code (UDC) that was adopted by the Council earlier this year; it became effective within the Shreveport city limits on May 15th of this year. The Caddo Commission is considering some amendments to its version of the UDC, which regulates zoning and development 5 miles into the parish from the Shreveport city limits.
Sweeney has been questioned on his excessive expenditures of over $80 thousand dollars for office furnishing and equipment, especially furniture and a paneled conference room. He recently took two of his board members and four of his staff to New York City with him for a national planning conference that cost over $19,000.00. He now wants to spend $10,000.00 on an outside study to determine how much he can increase the fees charged by his office and how much the City and the Parish should be funding his empire and decorations.
Sweeney’s relationship with the City Council has been up and down, and with Commission mainly down; he has repeatedly criticized the Commission on their insistence on modification of the Commission’s version of the UDC. The Council and the Commission have invested over $450,000 in developing the UDC and the fact that Sweeney is needed , at least for an interim period, to oversee the implementation of the UDC has been his saving grace in terms of both these bodies who fund the MPC. And even with the MPC Board of Directors, the recent renewal of his contract was only approved by a 5 to 4 vote. When the Council and the Commission enter into their budget preparations this fall, the MPC dollars may be substantially reduced by both bodies, especially if Sweeney continues his “I will do it my way” mentality as evidenced by his lunchtime office closure.