The Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) is a separate governmental entity that is funded by the City of Shreveport and Caddo Parish. The MPC has jurisdiction over all of Shreveport and in the parish to five miles outside the city. This agency is charged with regulating zoning and building development and enforcing zoning regulations.
Unfortunately, the MPC is not accountable to either the city or the parish.
The city funded $1.2 million to the MPC this year and provides financial services to the agency at no charge. The parish chipped in $240,000. The city and parish, which together own Government Plaza, give the MPC rent-free offices. The MPC also derives income from zoning applications, subdivision platting and other planning services that are required for construction.
The MPC is, in theory, governed by its nine-member board of volunteer commissioners. The city and the parish each appoint four members and they choose the ninth member jointly.
The MPC executive director, Mark Sweeney, has an employment contract
with the MPC board. He is the only public employee in north Louisiana with such a contract. The contract was recently renewed for another year by a 5-4 vote of the board.
Sweeney has run the MPC office as if it were a private kingdom. Since becoming executive director in the fall of 2014, he has closed the MPC offices from noon until 1 p.m., shutting off the lights, locking the doors are locked and setting the phones to be answered by a recording.
Sweeney spent almost $20,000 on a conference in New York City this spring that he, two board members and five staffers attended. He has spent in excess of $80,000 on office furnishings, carpet, paneling and equipment since taking over the MPC directorship.
The legislation that authorized the combined city and parish planning office was enacted by the Louisiana Legislature in 1962, and it is discretionary, not mandatory. Additionally, the Louisiana Constitution provides that the city council or the parish commission can serve as individual planning commissions.
Thus, legally, either the city or the parish can pull out of the Shreveport Caddo MPC and refuse to fund that office in 2017. A simple majority vote of either body will, in effect, pull the plug on the combined office.
The city has many reasons to seriously consider pulling out of the MPC and establishing a separate planning office. Initially the city could offer to provide planning services for the parish in the five-mile area outside city limits, on more favorable terms than it now has with the MPC.
Secondly, city most likely could save money through the economies of scale it would achieve by combining MPC functions into existing city functions. The MPC is authorized for 20 employees and currently has 18, including Sweeney, and they all already currently participate in the city retirement system and heath insurance program.
Office hours for a city planning office would be set by the mayor and the city council, as would holidays and vacations. Similarly, travel expenses and equipment purchases would be subject to the same guidelines as other city departments. And there would be no need for separate legal council for the MPC.