SAME OLD SAME OLD
Let’s try a different direction
During the Shreveport mayor’s race of 1994, you could open The Times nearly any day of the week, and the headlines would blare about how crime was the number one issue to voters that election year. It was a run-off race in 1994 between a relatively unexciting candidate (as described by The Times), who was endorsed by the police and fire unions (Mr. Bo Williams), versus a more high-energy, dynamic-speaking candidate (Mr. Roy Cary), who had a felony conviction from 1977 that nearly cut short his mayoral bid altogether.
Both candidates in this 1994 mayor’s race said they would improve customer services at City Hall, particularly the water department and garbage pick-up.
Both said they would revamp the permits and inspections department so that it would be a “one-stop shop” for folks wanting to build or start a business in the city.
Also, both said they would hire dedicated personnel for economic development and tourism and make Shreveport a destination for the South. We needed to recruit new businesses, they both said, and work with those businesses already here to create goodpaying jobs so that our children wouldn’t have to leave and our economy would grow.
Now, if you’re thinking this all sounds just like THIS year’s campaigns for mayor in 2018, you’d be exactly right. It seems as though we’ve been talking about the same issues for almost 25 years, but it feels as though nothing has changed.
Of course, Bo Williams would go on to win that election in 1994. Roy Cary would be convicted the following year on extortion and mail fraud charges, after a jury found that he had used his influence as a Shreveport city councilman to sell insurance policies. Not good at all.
But let me ask you a question, please. If it’s true that nothing has really changed in the last 25 years, in terms of the most critical issues facing our city, then is it because
1) the voters don’t want change, or
2) the voters keep electing officials who know what needs to be done, but don’t have the character or tenacity to accomplish it?
You see, I’m sure voters want change. The trouble is, as Albert Einstein put it, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” And yet, we seemingly keep electing the same type of officials over and over with the same kind of thinking that created our problems in the first place.
Going back to 1994, for example, we elected a Shreveport city councilman who was later convicted for soliciting a bribe of $1,500 for helping a citizen with a zoning change. Then we had a Shreveport city councilman arrested for simple battery and drunk driving (on different occasions) and then refused to pay his campaign fines to the State Board of Ethics.
Then we elected a Caddo Parish Commissioner who voted to funnel $100,000 of Caddo taxpayer money to his own “non-profit” organization (without telling anyone that) and then used it all as his piggy bank (he’s in federal prison now). Then we proceeded to elect a Caddo Parish Commissioner who would later steal $500,000 from a program meant to supply meals to disadvantaged children.
But wait, there’s more: We also elected a Shreveport city councilman who stole $10,000 from a car rental agency and elected a Caddo Parish Commissioner who has been ticketed multiple times for driving a vehicle with a switched license plate, no proof of insurance and failure to even register his vehicle.
So how about that time when many of the Caddo Parish Commissioners ended up taking around $250,000 of taxpayer money for their own retirement, even though any taxpayer-funded pension is prohibited by law in Louisiana for parttime elected officials?
We’ve even elected (and re-elected) a Shreveport mayor that was apparently subpoenaed, and later testified before a federal grand jury, regarding an FBI sting operation exposing public officials who used their elected offices to obtain cash and other things of value in return.
But look, people can change and deserve a second chance, provided they have paid their debt to society. Too often, we do tend to judge others without mercy and yet pardon ourselves, too often without question.
Regardless, though, perhaps it’s time for us to realize that electing the same kind of officials, using this same kind of “I’ll do whatever I damn well please” or “what’s in it for me” thinking, has not worked out well for Shreveport in recent years.
I mean, when you have lots of elected officials in your community who would personally benefit from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ criminal justice reforms (like the examples above), maybe it’s time to try some different-thinking elected officials altogether – and a different direction from the “we know best” crowd.
Other than another 25 years of just talking about the same issues over and over, what do we really have to lose?
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.