City must steer away from past mistakes
During the Shreveport mayor’s race of 1994, you could open The Times nearly any day of the week, and the headlines would blare about how crime was the number one issue to voters that election year. It was a run-off race that year between a relatively unexciting candidate (as described by the daily), who was endorsed by the police and fire unions (Mr. Bo Williams), versus a more high-energy, dynamic speaking candidate (Mr. Roy Cary), who had a felony conviction from 1977 that nearly cut short his mayoral bid altogether.
Both candidates in this 1994 mayor’s race said they would improve customer services at City Hall, particularly the water department and garbage pick-up.
Both said they would revamp the permits and inspections department so that it would be a “one-stop shop” for folks wanting to build or start a business in the city.
And both said they would hire dedicated personnel for economic development and tourism and make Shreveport a destination for the South.
They both said we needed to recruit new businesses and work with those businesses already here to create good-paying jobs so that our children wouldn’t have to leave and our economy would grow.
Now, if you’re thinking this sounds just like this year’s campaigns for mayor in 2022, you’d be exactly right. It seems as though we’ve been talking about the same issues for almost 30 years, yet it feels as though nothing has changed.
Of course, Bo Williams would go on to win that election in 1994. And Roy Cary would be convicted the following year on extortion and mail fraud charges after a jury found that he had used his influence as a Shreveport city councilman to sell insurance policies. Not good at all.
But let me ask you a question, please: If it’s true that nothing has really changed in almost 30 years in terms of the most critical issues facing our city, then is it because 1) the voters don’t want change, or 2) the voters keep electing officials who know what needs to be done, but don’t have the character, or tenacity, to accomplish it?
You see, I’m sure voters want change. As Albert Einstein put it, the trouble is, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” And yet, we seemingly keep electing the same type of officials, over and over, with the same kind of thinking that created our problems in the first place.
Going back to 1994, for example, we elected a Shreveport city councilman who was later convicted of soliciting a bribe of $1,500 for helping a citizen with a zoning change. Then we had a Shreveport city councilman arrested for simple battery and drunk driving (on different occasions) and refused to pay his campaign fines to the State Board of Ethics.
Then we elected a Caddo Parish commissioner who voted to funnel $100,000 of Caddo taxpayer money to his own “non-profit” organization (without telling anyone that) and then used it all as his personal piggy bank (he’s in federal prison now). Then we proceeded to elect a Caddo Parish commissioner who would later steal $500,000 from a program meant to supply meals to disadvantaged children.
But wait, there’s more: We also elected a Shreveport city councilman who stole $10,000 from a car rental agency and elected a Caddo Parish commissioner who has been ticketed multiple times for driving a vehicle with a switched license plate, no proof his vehicle.
And how about when many of the Caddo Parish commissioners ended up taking around $250,000 of taxpayer money for their own retirement, even though any taxpayer-funded retirement is seemingly prohibited by law in Louisiana for part-time elected officials?
And then there was the time voters in one Caddo Parish district even reelected their commissioner after he was indicted for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a children’s summer food program.
We’ve even elected (and re-elected) a Shreveport mayor that was apparently subpoenaed and later testified before a federal grand jury regarding an FBI sting operation exposing public officials who used their elected offices to obtain cash and other things of value in return.
But look, people can change and deserve a second chance, especially after they have paid their debt to society. Too often, we do tend to judge others without mercy, and yet pardon ourselves too often without question.
Regardless, though, perhaps it’s time for us to realize that electing the same kind of officials, using this same kind of “I’ll do whatever I damn well please” or “what’s in it for me” thinking has not worked out well for Shreveport in recent years.
I mean, when you have lots of elected officials in your community who would personally benefit from Governor John of insurance and failure to even register Bel Edwards’ criminal justice reforms (like the examples above), maybe it’s time to try some different thinking elected officials, altogether – and a different direction from the “we know best” crowd.
Instead of shaking our heads about the past, let’s spend the next 30 years writing headlines that tell a different story: Like how the voters got it right in 2022 and changed the course of Shreveport, far from the beaten path of the past and miles away from a culture of incompetency and mediocrity.
And one more thing: As voters, let’s not confuse what we “hope” a candidate might be – or could be – or should be – or ought to be – with what they have already shown themselves to be.
Too often, we rush into a purchase, marriage or job based on how we “think” it will be or how it will make us feel. But as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Too many made that mistake in 2018 – and while it is human nature to want everything now, maybe we’ve rushed the process of electing the right folks into office for too many election cycles in Shreveport.
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 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at email@example.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.