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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Seat At The Table

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Questions about the city’s new insurance

Dear Mayor Perkins:

A friend of mine is convinced that whenever given two explanations for the same thing, the simpler one is usually the correct one. You may know this also as Occam’s Razor, which is basically a problem-solving approach (from medieval times) that states that one should select the explanation with the fewest assumptions.

And in trying to explain this whole issue of changing of the city’s insurance business over to out-of-town agencies, I’m trying to eliminate as many assumptions as possible – and I’d like to your help to do so.

So, just to make sure I have some basic facts correct, you said, in a City Council meeting on Feb. 12, that you are “personally trying to build corporations here in Shreveport,” but yet you awarded the city’s insurance business to corporations in New Orleans and in Dallas, Texas, while firing the local corporations here in Shreveport that have been serving our city’s insurance needs for many years.

And during that City Council meeting (again on Feb. 12), you said, “There’s never been a competition in the free market whatsoever” between the city’s current insurance agencies and their competitors, but yet you hand-selected the new, out-of-town insurance agencies without allowing any competition for the city’s insurance business whatsoever.

And in the same meeting on Feb. 12, you said you had “talked with industry experts” who had provided you with “documentation” that the “city can save money,” but our insurance premiums actually are now almost double and our insurance coverage is less than half than before.

You also said before the City Council that “we have opened it up (referring to the city’s insurance business) to bring in new people who will provide us documentation, that have already shown us that they can provide us with market rates, and that’s the reason we’re going forward,” correct? But the city’s insurance business seems to have been “opened up” only to Roddrelle Sykes, who contributed to your mayoral campaign last year and also happens to be the first cousin of your campaign manager.

And here’s another question I have:

If these “new people” that you had brought in had already provided you the “documentation” of the “market rates” you referenced back on Dec. 28, when the insurance agent of record was changed, but before you were inaugurated, why didn’t you just tell the voters – during the City Council meeting on Feb. 12 – that you already knew the insurance premiums would almost be double the cost of what the city is currently paying, for less than half of the coverage?

Did you withhold this information from the City Council, possibly, and from the voters, or was the “documentation” provided to you by those “industry experts” false or misleading? Did you have this “documentation” of increased costs and decreased coverage before “going forward” with Roddrelle Sykes on Dec. 28? If so, why was it worth switching insurance agencies and spending more money when you had already explained – in the same City Council meeting – that the city is so “cash strapped”?

Or were you not involved in this decision at all regarding “going forward” with Roddrelle Sykes on Dec. 28? After all, your spokesperson did tell KTBS that you “played no part in how or when” this change in insurance agency occurred because you were “not yet in office.”

That’s true. So, now, as you might guess, I am thoroughly turned around in all of this.

If you “played no part in how or when” to change our insurance, then to whom was the “documentation” provided of the “market rates,” and who brought in the “new people” for consideration before Roddrelle Sykes was named the new insurance agent of record on Dec. 28?

And since you were “not yet in office,” does that mean Mayor Tyler, then, was the one who (as you put it), “opened it up to bring in new people” to handle the city’s insurance? But Mayor Tyler has already said she had no knowledge of any plans to switch insurance, and she gave no authority to do so.

So, if it wasn’t Mayor Tyler who brought in the “new people” with all the “documentation” of their “market rates” showing you how the “city can save money,” and if it wasn’t you because, according to your spokesperson’s statement to KTBS, you “played no part in how or when” to change our insurance, then how did Roddrelle Sykes become the new insurance agent of record for the city?

Who made the decision, and when was it made? Where is the “documentation” you referenced when speaking before the City Council about saving the city money on insurance through changing agencies?

But if it was you who made the change, and you knew that the insurance premium was going to increase by $200,000 and the insurance coverage was going to be decreased to less than half – a month before you switched to Roddrelle Sykes (as you said in an interview with KTAL on April 18) – then why did you tell the City Council and the public that “industry experts” had provided you “documentation” that the “city can save money” by changing insurance agencies? Why didn’t you just tell them what you knew to be true?

You know, in your inauguration speech, you said, “Everyone must have a seat at the table.” I trust you meant everyone and not just those who share your perspective or point of view. And I hope you understand that having a “seat” at the table means not just listening to us, but us having a voice in the conversation, “(n)ot because it is fashionable, but because each seat provides a unique perspective, a particular take on what it means to live, to love and to struggle in Shreveport” (as said in your inauguration speech).

Now, I know you’ve been gone a while from Shreveport, but we’ve had enough of struggling here. And struggling more now to uncover these facts, patch together the timeline, and to be on guard about what’s coming next when you feel your city government is keeping you in the dark, isn’t helping matters at all.

And no, we all realize, whatever the explanation, it may not be the simplest of ones, but we at least deserve one – don’t you think – so long as we have that “seat” at the table?

Louis Presented R. Avallone by Downtown is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Shreveport Spots, Big Unlimited 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.

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