Priorities Shreveport’s next mayor should address
By 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, the suspense will be over. Shreveport’s next mayor will be known, be that Adrian Perkins or Ollie Tyler.
But what will not be known is that person’s priorities for the first 180 days in the term. Think Jan. 1 through the end of June next year.
Of course in politics, “saying” is not necessarily “doing.” And the reality of effectuating change is much more difficult than just listing goals.
By default, or as some say, by bureaucratic bungling, who will be the next full-time active Shreveport police chief is an open question. The more pressing question is when a new chief can be named.
Alan Crump is still the chief, although he is on medical leave. Shreveport has a substitute SPD chief, and this will continue until Crump either retires or is fired. His medical leave could be extended up to a year. And in the meantime, the Shreveport Police Department budget gets to fund two top salaries for police chief.
How much crime fighting “success” substitute chief Ben Raymond can effectuate while in supervisory limbo is an unknown. No doubt his interim status will effectively limit his leadership options.
Shreveport’s water billing fiasco is old news. However, Tyler’s plans to purchase a new water and sewer billing system at the cost of a cool million – yes, $1,000,000 – has not been fully explained to Shreveport voters.
The Shreveport City Council could pass an ordinance as soon as Dec. 11 – three days after the general election – to approve this transaction. If Perkins comes out on top, it is likely that this decision will be postponed until his administration can evaluate the proposal.
Needless to say, implementation of an accurate billing system is long overdue. Additionally, the next mayor must resolve all claims for refunds and also should wrap up the long-pending water-billing litigation.
What can be done to jump-start the Shreveport economy during the first half of 2019 is an open question. Most small businesses in Shreveport say Tyler has not done much to take them off life support, much less to expand.
Tyler has been quick to claim credit for national chains opening restaurants and for Bossier businesses opening a second location in Shreveport. Very few citizens believe that there has been any real growth in good-paying jobs during the Tyler years. What priority Perkins or Tyler will place on changing this reality – much less effectuating it – is a story yet to be told.
A continual loss of population during the Tyler administration should be a significant concern for Shreveport’s next mayor. This challenge is one of many dimensions, especially since the overall population of the Shreveport-Bossier MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) has leveled out. The MSA includes Caddo, Bossier, Webster and DeSoto parishes.
Completion of the upgrades of Shreveport’s water and sewage systems will continue to have a high priority, if for no other reason than the EPA consent decree. What emphasis will be placed on other pressing infrastructure needs is a matter of concern to most citizens.
The Tyler administration has acknowledged that the SPD headquarters building is in deplorable condition. Black mold and excessive heat conditions were widely reported earlier this year.
A major question is whether to relocate the headquarters permanently or to demolish and rebuild on the same site. A bond issue will be needed to finance either of these options, as well as for major street repairs and resurfacing.
The city’s bond rating was downgraded in 2017, and, thus, bond financing will be more expensive for the city. Additionally, there could be citizen push back on any additional debt, especially if Tyler is reelected.
Shreveport’s next mayor should make a concerted effort to meet with, and hopefully unite, the local delegation of state representatives and senators as far as city matters that should be funded in Baton Rouge. State funding of projects in the local area has always lagged behind, as in way behind, the area south of I-10.
This will not be an easy task due to political parties and ideologies of these elected officials. Tyler has done very little lobbying for local projects from the legislature, and this political apathy needs to change.
Although an intangible, the person in the mayor’s office on New Year’s Day should tackle head-on the negative perception of Shreveport. Restoring civic pride and enthusiasm is not a magic bullet, but it certainly is an important component of a mayor’s success no matter what gauges are used to measure the same.
For far too long Shreveport citizens have watched Bossier blossom, basically at the expense of Shreveport. To many, perception is, for all practical purposes, “reality.” Unfortunately, there are many good reasons for this perceived belief.
John Settle’s articles appear in local publications and on his blog Settletalk.com. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.