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Monday, Feb. 26, 2018

MEET THE PLAYERS

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In proposed new Cross Bayou development

The $1 billion proposed development for Cross Bayou has been a hot topic of discussion lately. Most of the chatter is about the scope of the project, which attempts to check all the boxes for “pie in the sky” dreamers.

A closer look of the “development team” of Paul Pratt, Theron Jackson and Curtis Joseph is certainly in order. One commonality of the group, other than their African-American race, is that none have any development experience.

Paul Pratt is the lead spokesperson for Gateway Development Consortium. Pratt is employed by Chesapeake Energy Corporation as the director of corporate government relations. In essence, he is paid to be “high profile” on several boards.

Pratt’s claim to fame is that he was the Independence Bowl chairman when Duck Commander was chosen as the Bowl sponsor. That ill-fated, desperate marriage lasted all of one year. Duck Commander had the best of all worlds – publicity without paying a dime to the Bowl.

Another jewel in his civic crown is that he served as the Sci-Port treasurer last year. Pratt resigned his position before the news broke that Sci-Port was shutting down. During his tenure on the board, designated capital improvement donations were used to pay operating expenses.

Jackson is the senior minister at Morning Star Baptist Church. He previously served on the Shreveport City Council and is currently a member (and chairman) of the Shreveport-Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC).

Jackson has a checkered background.

He has a 2012 conviction for simple battery for unauthorized touching. The court records indicated that he had an illicit relationship with a young female member of his church congregation.

Jackson has several unpaid judgments recorded in Caddo Parish records. These include an outstanding $4,000 fine by the Louisiana Ethics Commission.

Shreveport attorney Curtis Joseph rounds out the field of the local developers. Joseph’s primary client is the City of Shreveport. Mayor Ollie Tyler turned over almost all of Shreveport’s defense work to Joseph and his partner, Mary Winchell, in early 2014.

Joseph was nominated to the MPC by Tyler, reportedly with the understanding that he would closely monitor the actions of MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney. Within his first six months on the MPC Board, Joseph was the deciding vote to extend an employment contract with Sweeney. Siding with Jackson, Joseph either did not know or did not care that employment contracts by public entities are virtually unheard of as being contrary to good government policy.

Former Shreveport attorney Larry English is listed as a “national” member of the GDC. While in Shreveport, English was a constant center of local controversy, both politically and as an attorney.

He parlayed his race (African-American) and political connections to get “front cover” roles as local counsel for General Motors, Harrah’s and the City of Shreveport. English recently was in the news for a case that was heard by the United States Supreme Court concerning his representation of a Bossier inmate now on Death Row.

English attempted unsuccessfully to be a player in local politics; his impact faded the longer he was in Shreveport. After two unsuccessful efforts to be elected to local office, English relocated to New York City.

The proposed new Cross Bayou project should be closely scrutinized from many aspects. The credentials of the key persons that have been named to date leave much to be desired when considering that public dollars will be needed to accomplish this development.

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.

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