Believe it or not, there IS a magic kingdom at Government Plaza on Travis Street in downtown Shreveport; its located on the fourth floor in the offices of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). The king is MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney and his cabinet is the nine member MPC Board.
King Sweeney collects money from all the peasants in Caddo Parish. His primary responsibility is to make and enforce rules on building and development in Shreveport and the five mile radius into the parish from the city limits.
Like all kings, Sweeney decides where he will travel and who will be in his entourage. The king sets the visiting hours in his castle, and the peasants, like all peasants, have no say in what the King does, or does not do, while wearing his crown. Sweeney’s peasants are becoming very frustrated with his actions, and there are rumors that the peasants may revolt and try to overthrow his kingship.
Believe it or not, this fairy tale recitation of the MPC and its Executive Director Mark Sweeney is, unfortunately, not too far from the truth. The MPC is funded by the City of Shreveport to the tune of over $1.2 million dollars a year and by Caddo Parish in excess of $200,000 annually. The MPC does not pay rent for its office space; Government Plaza is owned by both the City of Shreveport and Caddo Parish. The City’s Finance Department provides finances services for the MPC, at no cost. The MPC also collects funds from zoning applications, subdivision approvals and development plans.
Neither the City nor the Parish have any real authority over Sweeney. He can set his own office hours; the MPC office is the only government office in Caddo Parish closed for lunch each day from noon until 1 p.m. He can spend from his budget as he likes for office furniture, decorations and equipment; in less than three years these expenditures by King Sweeney are in excess of $80,000. Sweeney just returned from a trip to New York City , accompanied by four of his seventeen employees, and two MPC Board members. This trip cost Caddo taxpayers almost $20,000; there were very few organized activities for the first two days (Saturday and Sunday) of the four day conference.
The Shreveport City MPC was created by an act of the Legislature. It’s time for Shreveport to seriously consider setting up an internal planning office, and stop funding the Shreveport Caddo MPC. A Shreveport planning office could contract with Caddo Parish to provide for planning in the 5 mile parish area. Then, the Shreveport City Council could demand accountability from its planning office; currently King Sweeney reports to no one.