MEETING OUR NEEDS
City Hall needs to focus on the basics
A 4-year-old is killed in a late-night Shreveport shooting. A 15-year-old is found murdered next to a bullet-riddled SUV. Deadly shootings continue night after night at nondescript apartment complexes and along streets with names that most in Shreveport couldn’t locate on a map if their lives depended on it, and in neighborhoods some wouldn’t consider visiting even with a police escort.
All the while, these members of our community continue to be pronounced dead at the scene, or at the hospital, night after night. Shell casings are collected, the crimes are investigated, and city leaders wring their hands helplessly into the night – until the next morning – when the headlines remind us that it’s happened all over again.
They are found dead in parking lots, or on the stoops of their front doors; perhaps an argument over money, or a lover, or no good reason at all. They are the youngest among us, as well as those whose age would suggest they should have known better, and others who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The details of who or why are usually then reduced to a 10-words-or-less blurb on the morning news, as the rest of the city pours their first cup of coffee, and the lives of those lost become largely forgotten.
As one Shreveport resident said, "It's sad, but as long as it's in our community and it's not down on Youree Drive, no one will be concerned about it.” That may or may not be true, but the irony is those most affected by violent crimes in their neighborhoods keep electing politicians who don’t effectively represent the immediate needs of their constituents.
Instead of spending their time on reducing violent crime, many elected officials are spending their time proposing multi-million dollar land deals at Cross Bayou. Or talking about how to provide highspeed
Internet to everyone. Does anyone really care how quickly a web page loads when you’re worried about whether the police can get to you in time?
Unchecked rampant violent crime results in an out-migration of families, declining property values, and erodes our tax base, making it ever more difficult for us to maintain the law enforcement presence needed to address the violent crime in the first place.
Yes, we need more police officers, and we need better leadership for them.
But as important as that is to reducing crime, we also have to focus on the basics. We need City Hall to deliver basic services efficiently and effectively, such as police, waste management, water, issuing building permits, repairing roads, etc. so that businesses want to locate here, and families feel secure here, and so wages can grow here. We need City Hall to be free from corruption and are fiscally responsible (unlike Detroit, where they can’t pay their bills, or Chicago, where 60 percent of their tax dollars go to fund just their debt and pension payments alone).
We need City Hall to realize more beautification projects or economic “revitalization” won’t save Shreveport, whether it’s a dog park, or a money-pit Shreveport Convention Center, or a poorly performing Red River District. Turns out, we have to focus on the basics first, not the shiny objects.
It all goes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Once our most basic needs are met, like feelings of security (and protection from crime), we are freed up to seek higher needs like belonging (to a community), and we’re willing to work at a job, or start a business, or move across state or across the country, to wherever meeting these basic needs is easiest for us to do.
But it’s not Shreveport that’s distressed; its people are, because they don’t feel safe. And investing city resources into anything other than delivering the best city services is akin to putting a fresh coat of paint on a house while it’s on fire.
We need a City Hall to get back to basics, before we get down to virtually nothing.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac. com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.