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Monday, July 15, 2019

Running On Empty?


$220 million bond proposal for Shreveport

By now, you’ve probably heard that the Shreveport City Council will debate next month whether or not to add a $220 million bond proposal to the ballot, when voters go to the polls this fall on Nov. 16.

Moreover, the sales pitch from Mayor Adrian Perkins has already started. In a resolution prepared by the Mayor’s Office, the mayor urges that “there are many capital improvements projects which are needed for the growth, prosperity and proper functioning of the city.”

Ah, but yes – it always starts out that way, doesn’t it?

The “land of milk and honey” is just around the bend, if we could only give our elected officials just a little more “gas money” to get us there, right? But look, if City Hall getting a little more of your gas money was all that was needed to solve what ails us most in Shreveport, wouldn’t we have already solved our most pressing problems long ago?

So you can bet that if the City Council votes next month to place the $220 million bond proposal before the voters in November, then there will be glossy “Vote Yes” postcards soon appearing in our mailboxes. The message handed out at public meetings will be complete with images of happy, carefree-looking citizens, probably enjoying a glowing sunset on the horizon, while children frolic all about, enjoying the fruits of the projects made possible by the “investment” of $220 million tax dollars.

Now, I’m sure somewhere along the way we’ll also be reminded that this $220 million is really for our children’s future. It’s always “for the children” (for some reason) when they want to raise our taxes – I mean, don’t you care enough about the children to support borrowing this money?

And since those who support this bond proposal call the $220 million an “investment,” be sure and remind them that government “investments” are not really investments. I mean, government spending is rarely so prudent as to result in an income, or profit, of any kind – and in the words of Ronald Reagan, “outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.”

But I get it, nevertheless. Municipalities will need to borrow money from time to time for building fire stations, paving roads, repairing pipes, paying for police, etc. The first question for the City Council next month ought not to be whether Shreveport needs this $220 million or not – the first question should be whether or not Mayor Perkins has vetted a team within City Hall capable of handling $220 million of new spending.

From the mayor’s handling of the city’s insurance coverage (paying so much more and getting so much less) to his recent shaming of City Councilman John Nickelson for just requesting more information about a $1 billion city contract that Mayor Perkins was negotiating, there’s great cause for concern. This administration may simply be ill-equipped and ill-prepared to manage projects and funds of this magnitude.

Perhaps Mayor Perkins should first demonstrate how his administration has reviewed all of the city’s processes, restructured its project management infrastructure, and put the right people in the right places so that this enormous $220 million will be spent wisely – and not foolishly.

Out of respect to the hardworking people of Shreveport, this administration should have laid this groundwork for the bond proposal before even proposing it to be placed on the agenda for the City Council to consider. Not doing so suggests the administration is just “winging it” and expecting the usual folks will go along, to get along, and pass the initiative in November.

But if you are one of those folks, just remember we’re already in debt – something that won’t be advertised much by supporters of the bond proposal. In fact, per the 2019 “Annual Operating Budget,” the city already owes $246 million from past general obligation bonds and other debt – and this bond proposal from Mayor Perkins will nearly double that.

So, until this administration can show they have a plan in place to responsibly handle this much spending, without unnecessary waste, or cronyism, or a lack of transparency, then the City Council ought not even put this initiative before the voters. Or at least reduce the $220 million to an amount that more appropriately reflects this administration’s ability to manage such monies with integrity. If we do otherwise, we’ll need more than a little “gas money” – we’ll need a bailout.

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.


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