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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

An Abuse of Power?

Councilman Green resorts to bullying and intimidation

Shreveport City Councilman (and Reverend) James Green is certainly willing to speak out.

In the past, he has stood up to those who deal in the lawlessness and violence that have wreaked havoc on our community. He’s preached in parking lots and street corners where he believed there was drug dealing. He’s spoken out against thug culture and the destruction it has had in our neighborhoods.

Almost 20 years ago, in the middle of the night, there was a drive-by shooting at his own home after he said he confronted a group of men nearby that appeared to be selling drugs. Police said the windows in Councilman Green’s vehicle were shot out, and “bullet holes were found throughout his home.”

And athough it’s been nearly 30 years since the Rev. Green was first sworn in as a Shreveport city councilmember in 1994, why he continues to serve in elected office might be best explained by what he told “The Times” back in 1995: “In reality, I’m just a servant. It’s like all that I do. I love it. It’s for the community, and it’s for the building of God’s program. I’m not hung up on the title.”

So, last month, when Councilman Green used his title, his elected office during a public meeting of the Shreveport City Council to urge a local reporter to be censored (because Green disagreed with the reporter’s opinions of Green’s service on the council, in particular) and to urge advertisers to consider boycotting a local newspaper altogether (where the same reporter’s writings are published) by refusing to purchase advertising, well, that just crosses the line.

Green advised others in the community to go to this reporter (with whom Green disagrees) and say, “stop writing.” Green also said he was “calling out his (the reporter’s) sponsors, those folk who pay to be in his paper” and asking them to reconsider continuing to advertise in that publication.

Green went on to make personal (and some might say salacious) and seemingly unsubstantiated allegations about this reporter, but that’s really beside the point. Even if Green’s allegations were true, and even though Green may voraciously disagree with the reporter’s opinion, Green was elected to serve the interests of the people and not to use his power to serve the interests of himself, or to bully and intimidate those with whom he disagrees – especially while conducting an official meeting of the city council – taking up the time and expense of city employees and fellow city councilmembers in the process.

It goes against the very principles of democracy. Elected officials are not above the law. They are elected to serve the people, not to use their power to bully and intimidate. When an elected official tries to use their position to pressure others to boycott a business or suppress information they disagree with, it is a clear abuse of power.

It’s seemingly hypocritical for Green to claim he believes in equality and justice for all, yet he is using his position to silence and intimidate. This is not democracy; it’s tyranny. He even threatened recently to have a citizen forcibly removed from a city council meeting simply because he didn’t like her tone when she addressed the council.

Louisiana law prohibits bullying and intimidation by elected officials. In R.S. 14:134.3, it states that, “No public officer or public employee shall knowingly and intentionally use the authority of his office or position, directly or indirectly, to compel or coerce any person to provide the public officer or any other person with anything of apparent value …” Courts have agreed that the term “anything of value” includes sex or money or loss of simple human dignity.

The Code of Governmental Ethics provides that “no public servant shall use the authority of his office or position to compel or coerce another person to provide the public servant or other person with anything of economic value or to engage in political activity.”

For an elected official to urge advertisers to consider boycotting a publication that an elected official disagrees with politically, would that provide that elected official with “anything of value” (such as reducing accountability or criticisms of one’s actions)?

Would that public servant be using the authority of their office to compel or coerce those advertisers to engage in political activity by “voting” with their advertising dollars and starving the publication to death?

We’ve seen this kind of behavior from both sides of the political spectrum, and it’s not acceptable, no matter who is doing it. Whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican, an elected official should never use their public office to try to bully businesses or intimidate the media.

We need to remember that democracy is a precious thing. It relies on the participation and engagement of all citizens. When we allow our elected officials to abuse their power and undermine the principles of democracy, we’re putting the very foundations of our society at risk.

Most citizens would sing the praises of the Rev. Green from 1995 who said, “In reality, I’m just a servant. It’s like all that I do. I love it. It’s for the community and it’s for the building of God’s program. I’m not hung up on the title.”

Now, that sounds like someone I would vote for.

Any chance of that Reverend Green coming back on the city council?

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 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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