Home / Features / Columns/Opinions / Seeking Input
Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023

Seeking Input

Citizens Study Committee and Small Business Task Force appointed

By Scott “Scooter” Anderson

Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux thinks it is time for the city to invest in itself and its infrastructure. And he is calling on a group of citizens to help define what priorities will get that attention.

“The city of Shreveport has not engaged in any sort of large-scale construction of new infrastructure for the city in quite some time,” Arceneaux said. “It really is time we examine that and get back in the process. That’s something the city ought to be doing on a regular basis. We kind of fell off the truck there for a variety of reasons. People decided they didn’t want to approve several propositions. As a result of that, we really are in need of some additional infrastructure. Now is the time to ask for that.”

The mayor said the city should consider a bond issue to pay for those infrastructure improvements. The possible bond election would take place in April 2024.

Arceneaux announced the formation of a Citizens Study Committee to recommend the projects that should be included in that bond issue.

Retired Louisiana State University Shreveport chancellor Dr. Larry Clark will chair the 19-member committee. It will include two appointees from each Shreveport City Council member and five appointed by Arceneaux.

The Citizens Study Committee will be advised by a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of city department heads and led by Chief Administrative Officer Tom Dark.

“They will be advised by our department heads in terms of what the needs of the departments are,” Arceneaux said. “From there, they will add some of their own. They will receive public input. They will have public meetings. So hopefully, it will be a community-wide effort. But it will not be, ‘Here’s the wide-open world. You decide what you want to do.’ We will certainly provide them with input as to what we think the needs are and leave it to them to adjust.”

Arceneaux said the citizens’ and advisory committees must act quickly to compile their list of priorities and the bond proposal. The city must work with the Secretary of State’s office to prepare the bond issue before an April 2024 election.

“How large it will be, what the projects will be, all of that will be based on discussion and recommendations from both the city council and the citizens study committee,” he said. “Part of the advice we will give them is to produce this amount of bond, this is the tax that will be needed to support it. So they will have an idea, and then how adventurous they decide to be, how to structure the bond issue among various propositions, all of those things are really going to be the recommendations by the committee, with the ultimate decision being made by the city council.”

Arceneaux said he is excited about gathering public input in this process.

“It’ll be done with good advice from our department heads and our chief administrative officer about what our real needs and priorities are,” Arceneaux said. “But then the whole purpose of having a citizens study committee is to get the input of the citizens study committee. So I don’t expect it to be a rubber stamp, either.”

Helping small businesses

Arceneaux also said he is appointing a nine-member Small Business Task Force.

“Their job will be to examine the ways we deal with businesses in terms of permitting, zoning, how we can improve the way we deal with particularly local businesses in the process so that doing business with the city and in the city will run more smoothly and with less bureaucracy,” he said.

The Institute of Justice will assist the task force. The Institute of Justice is a nonprofit law firm that, among other things, works to protect entrepreneurs and small businesses from permitting, licensing and other requirements that can be punitive to small businesses.

“Their services are free of charge to us,” Arceneaux said. “They have a grant that allows them to do this. They have done this process for the city of Fort Worth with great success. They offered their services to us, so we’re going to accept their services. I am very excited about that. They should be getting rolling pretty quick.”

Arceneaux said the task force’s goal is to cut through the red tape that can impede a small business’s plans to expand or even prevent a small business from opening altogether.

“If you’re a new business, there are a number of permits, taxes, occupational licenses and things you have to get,” Arceneaux said. “If you are an existing business trying to expand or to restore or renovate your business facility, there are a number of things you have to do. The object is to put as much of it online and to make it as user-friendly as possible.

Arceneaux said the task force is a response to complaints he heard.

“This is the fulfillment of a campaign promise,” he said. “As a result of those complaints and discussions, I said that I would do this.”


The Forum News