Where is the transparency?
In the movie “Air Force One,” Harrison Ford plays the president, whose character as commander-inchief throughout the film follows his principles rather than public-opinion polls. And during the movie, after Air Force One is commandeered by men posing as a news crew, the president manages to make a frantic call to the vice-president, urging her to not give in to the demands of those who have taken control of the plane, as their demands will only intensify. He makes his point with the message, “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk.”
And although that movie is over 20 years old now, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the movie and our beloved city of Shreveport. Like Air Force One in the movie, many feel our city has been commandeered, or hijacked, by those who posed themselves as something entirely different than they actually were (during the campaign), and now we’re just left trying to desperately find a way, like Harrison Ford was, to get this “plane” – our city – back on the ground.
It was innocent enough on the surface during the campaign. Mayor Perkins promised to be an “open book” politician, and he told us that transparency enables good government. We were told the backroom deals with the businesses and influence peddlers, which scurry around City Hall, were over. We were reminded frequently of the West Point Honor Code and how Mayor Perkins “will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” We were assured, in his inauguration speech, that “(e)veryone must have a seat at the table.”
But then there was the changing of the city’s insurance policy over to the first cousin of Perkins’ campaign manager. Then there was the Louisiana Board of Ethics’ decision that Perkins had to return part of a campaign contribution to a donor (and contractor doing business with the city) that exceeded state campaign finance limits. Then there was the $250,000 insurance “commission” check that Perkins demanded be written to Roddrelle Sykes, as the city’s new insurance agent of record, despite the city council’s vote prohibiting Perkins from doing so, even though the city’s internal auditor found that Perkins had followed “no appropriate process” in switching the insurance in the first place.
Then there was $7 million in “no-bid” public works projects awarded last year, under a declaration of public emergency that was never made (on which the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office is currently drafting an opinion). And the car allowance that the city internal auditor’s report concluded that Perkins was not entitled to (and is now compelled to return $2,700 to the taxpayers).
Then there was the over $10,000 spent by the mayor and members of his staff at “Washington Mardi Gras” last year, and thousands of dollars in travel expenses incurred by members of his staff, including expenses for which there are no receipts or proper documentation, otherwise.
Then we learned that Perkins had accepted a job as the national co-chair of young elected officials for Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, prompting many to wonder why Perkins isn’t working round-the-clock only for those who elected him into office, and whether Perkins sees running Shreveport as some side-show gig.
Now, Mayor Perkins hired a “chief of staff” at $160,000 annually when no other mayor of Shreveport has needed such, even as the city continues to employ a CAO as well at $139,000 annually.
You know, maybe it is like Will Rogers said once: “It’s going to be hard to make an issue of corruption. It’s like the poor, it’s always been with us.” And while that may be true, we must not give in to these shenanigans, either. For when you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want will automatically take over.
For the majority of Shreveporters, despite the corrupt and inept who are in our way, we just want to get this “plane” on the ground, like Harrison Ford in the movie.
No more “cookies” for this administration.
And we’re not about to give anyone a glass of milk.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.