SIGNIFICANT 2018 VOTES
Several votes by the Shreveport City Council in 2018 were significant.
Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler proposed a $30 million bond issue to construct a sports complex on Cross Bayou in an effort to land the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team’s developmental (G League) team. A private developer promised to spend $130 million on a hotel and mixed-use development in conjunction with the sports complex.
Tyler and many business organizations put on a full court press to get the authority to hire bond counsel, promising economic prosperity for all. Many detractors pushed for a citizen vote for approval like the Shreveport Convention Center. The coordinated effort to sell the proposal was virtually unprecedented.
In what was a surprising vote to many, Tyler’s proposal was defeated 6-0. (Councilman Jerry Bowman missed the vote.) After the vote, the Pelicans advised that Shreveport was no longer on the short list for the franchise award.
The Unified Development Code (UDC) had been a work in progress for almost two years by the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC). The development of this comprehensive building and development ordinance was funded by both the city and the parish to the tune of over $600,000.
Most Louisiana cities have a combined code.
Shreveport’s building and zoning ordinances were very dated. The UDC was promised to facilitate development in Shreveport and the five-mile parish radius that is regulated by the MPC.
The UDC was enacted by a unanimous vote. As expected, there have been several amendments by the Council since its enactment to “fine tune” the ordinance.
During the final deliberations on the 2019 city budget, two amendments were enacted that surprised many government observers. The first was to fund an economic disparity vote, and the other was to reduce funding of the MPC.
A disparity study examines the percentage of public contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses versus the capacity of these businesses to fulfill public contracts. A study provides a factual foundation to help ensure that agencies are using procurement policies and processes that result in fair and equitable outcomes.
A disparity study can be the basis for ordinances that set quotas for the award of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses. Currently, Shreveport’s Fair Share Program sets goals, not quotas.
A $400,000 economic disparity study had been proposed in Council by Willie Bradford in 2017. This was defeated by a vote along racial lines.
This time Bradford proposed a $300,000 study, matching the cost of a proposed Baton Rouge study. Funding was approved for $150,000, with the hopes that the remaining $150,000 would come from third sources. This vote was 5 to 2.
For many years the City Council had questioned the equality of the funding by the city and the parish of the MPC. A financial sustainability study had concluded that the city-parish MPC funding should be on a 60- 40 basis.
The parish had voted the prior week to fund $200,000 to the MPC. This was a $30,000 decrease in the proposed budget. Based on the Commission vote, the city budget was amended to reduce by $195,000 funding of the MPC.
The MPC has been under pressure by both the city and the parish to be more “business friendly.” Both the mindset of the MPC staff and the intricacies of the complex version of the UDC were the sources of concern.
This vote passed 5 to 2. The mayor’s budget included a 5 percent pay raise for city employees whose annual salary is under $75,000. This was the first raise for city employees since 2007. This vote was unanimous.
The Council also passed a budget amendment for $150,000 to pay the 3 percent increase in the 2018 health insurance. After extended discussion, this amendment passed 5-2.
The mayor and council terms end in December of 2018. These votes will probably become campaign issues for Tyler if she seeks a second term. Likewise, the four council members not termed out (Bradford, Bowman, James Flurry and Stephanie Lynch) may also be questioned on these as well.
John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: John@jesettle.com.