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Monday, March 26, 2018

The Waiting Game

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[INSIGHT]

... on April 28 tax millages vote

It’s a deafening silence … and one that very few at City Hall want to acknowledge, much less talk about. Of course, it’s early yet.

But it IS the big elephant in the room, and it’s getting harder for the mayor and the council to ignore the looming vote on April 28 on six tax millages. Collectively, they total 7.350 mills that should generate a little over $11 million per year.

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler stumbled out of the gate earlier this year when launching her campaign for the millages. The glossy brochure touting the election was produced by the administration in-house, using tax dollars for materials and personnel.

Initially a bragging point – that dollars saved by not outsourcing the printing – quickly became an “egg on the face” snafu.

The brochure encouraged a “yes” vote on the propositions. Public law allows expenditure of public funds to “educate” voters, but not to “persuade” voters on how to vote.

And after the blotched campaign kickoff, the Tyler PR machine has continued to sputter.

In a canned press release that has been published more than once, Tyler claims credit for the American Airlines direct flights to Charlotte, N.C. These flights are subsidized by the hotel-motel tax. The Tyler Administration had NOTHING to do with the American Airline decision.

As is typical of her leadership modus operandi, Tyler has taken a solo approach to obtaining voter approval. She has not included the council members in her PR campaign.

The three termed-out members (Jeff Everson, Oliver Jenkins and Michael Corbin) have spoken in favor of the millages. Since they are not up for re-election, seemingly they would not be reluctant to promote what many call a “new tax” – two three-letter words that strike fear in the heart of many politicians.

Councilman Willie Bradford, who can seek a second term along with Jerry Bowman, Stephanie Lynch and James Flurry, has spoken publicly in favor of the millages. The other three have been very quiet on their positions.

And while the days click by, many in the mix for the upcoming mayor and council races are sitting by and waiting for the outcome of the tax votes.

The millages actually expired on Dec. 31 of last year. These 2017 tax revenues are included in the city’s 2018 budget. If the taxes fail, then drastic cuts will be necessary in the 2019 budget, and some cuts may be implemented this year.

Many observers have openly questioned Tyler’s decision to put these on the ballot this year versus last fall during the general election for State Treasurer. Calling a special election costs the city more money. There is, however, a school of thought that a smaller turnout favors passage.

The tax vote is considered by many political observers to be a referendum on Tyler’s first three years in office. Whether or not the majority of Shreveport voters agree with that assumption, the failure of any of the millages will certainly pour cold water in Tyler’s announced intentions to seek a second term.

Similarly, the outcome of the vote will definitely affect the aspirations of any mayoral wannabes. Adrian Perkins has carefully crafted his campaign statement to say that he is officially an “unannounced” candidate for mayor. Lee O. Savage, who has openly campaigned for several weeks, has decided to delay his official mayoral declaration until – you guessed it – April 28.

Reportedly, many that are thinking of seeking council seats, and especially the three seats that will be open, are also delaying final decisions until the vote is conducted. The prospects of getting on the council after major budget cuts a reduced 2019 budget has dampened some enthusiasm in seeking these seats.

How much longer the April 28 vote remains under the radar is an open question. The euphoria over the upcoming beauty contests may put voters in a better mindset, which would help passage. If the vote was this week, most believe many, if not all, of the propositions would likely fail.

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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