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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly


Shreveport’s new mayor faces a number of issues

Well, the parties are over.

Adrian Perkins won the mayoral election on Saturday, Dec. 8.

He was sworn into office on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 29.

That night he hosted a black-tie, open-tothe-public gala at the convention center.

Perkins moved into his new digs at city hall over the weekend. He actually worked as mayor on New Year’s Eve.

His first city council meetings are Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 7 and 8.

Now that the euphoria over his historic victory has subsided, what lies ahead for Perkins?

The Good

Perkins will start with a council that is excited over this victory. He can expect a honeymoon period when his plans will be readily adopted.

Perkins will have full discretion to name his administrative staff. This means many new faces will be in the city’s executive office as well as a new city attorney. And several city departments may have new leadership.

Perkins has enthusiastically been received by the business community. He can expect support for many of his projects from this important sector.

The same can be said about citizens throughout the city. Many have expressed interest in becoming part of study groups in working with this transition team.

The city’s bond indebtedness was substantially paid down by the Tyler administration. Thus, the city’s capacity to fund further capital improvements by bond issuances has increased.

Perkins has assembled a diverse, wellqualified transition team. His plans to have citizen involvement in assisting this group is a welcome opportunity to tap into resources from Shreveport citizens.

The Bad

Perkins is stuck with Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump until his retirement. This is expected by mid-year, but it could be sooner. In the meantime, Perkins can implement new strategies for dealing with crime working with substitute SPD Chief Ben Raymond.

Perkins is locked into the water/sewer replacement/renovation projects mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency consent decree. Better coordination of the work programs with utility companies and city street improvement projects is needed as well as a review of total estimated costs as compared to bond funding.

The budget that was passed by the last council in December has estimated expenses over anticipated revenues. The city reserves are slated to subsidize the budget to the tune of $6 million.

The sanitation department has consistently had challenges with its labor force. A “sick out” occurred the week before the general election, and the discrepancy of wages paid by the private Bossier collection agency became a public issue.

Comparable pay for Shreveport police officers has been a constant challenge in recent years. Funding to promote the retention and recruitment of seasoned officers should be a critical component of any budget restructuring.

The convention center hotel is a continual drain on the city’s resources. The 2018 budget showed an operating deficit of $2.7 million, and due to renovations, the 2019 budget anticipates an operating deficit of $4 million.

The Ugly

The city’s reserves should be $15 million.

The current budget forecasts a reserve of $2 million at the end of 2019. The reserve funds affect future municipal bond ratings, and, thus, the cost of borrowing money.

The Shreveport Police Department headquarters on Texas Avenue and Murphy have well-documented problems with air circulation, plumbing and possible black mold. The costs to build and/or renovate the HQ has been estimated to be $26 million.

Shreveport has major blighted neighborhoods and a substantial number of adjudicated properties. Stabilizing urban blight is hampered by complex legal issues and substantial funding requirements.

Increasing costs for health insurance and employee retirement plan contributions are major budget items. Additionally, the city budget is under pressure to contribute to unfunded retirement plan reserves.

Shreveport’s continuing population loss is the result of many factors, some of which are outside the scope of city government. Nonetheless, a proactive strategy should be adopted soon to deal with this issue, which has many far-reaching negative consequences.

The retained risk fund is a budget set aside for potential outstanding claims against the city. The 2018 reserve of $5.57 million is increased to $8.2 million in 2019 based on the recommendation of external auditors.

Bottom Line

Perkins will have a full plate in moving Shreveport forward.

As shown by his campaign, he has a strong work ethic and the discipline to implement a successful campaign.

His undergraduate economics degree from West Point and his law degree from Harvard equip him well with background knowledge to understand the complexities of city government.

With support from the entire community and especially the downtown business sector, Perkins should be able to develop and then implement progressive business strategies at city hall.

Shreveport should give Perkins the time to make long-overdue changes in the way government has worked in Shreveport for the last 12 years.

John Settle’s articles appear in local publications and on his blog Settletalk.com. His email is john@jesettle.com.


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