The Betrayal Of District F
Council President Green leaves constituents without representation
The concept of representative democracy is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our nation. It is a system that empowers the citizens to choose individuals to represent their interests and make decisions on their behalf. As John F. Kennedy once wrote, “The first duty of a representative is to represent.”
But what happens when your elected representative might not be representing you?
It’s a bigger deal than some may realize. As Coretta Scott King put it, “The struggle for civil rights was not just about the right to vote, but the right to have our voices heard through our elected leaders.”
And that is because, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.” After all, how can you feel a part of something when you don’t even have a seat at the table?
So, when there were no representatives from Shreveport City Council District F at the first meeting of the Citizens’ Capital Improvements Committee (which is the committee considering which city projects should be included in a bond issue to go before the voters next year), most folks attributed it as mere scheduling conflicts. After all, it was the first meeting.
Then there was the second meeting.
And the third meeting.
Still no representatives from District F – even though every other City Council district was represented at those meetings.
You see, the way this committee was set up, each City Council member would select two committee members, and the mayor would choose five additional committee members, all serving together on the committee and representing the interests of the entire city.
But apparently, Shreveport City Council President James Green, who was re-elected last year (unopposed) to represent the citizens in District F, is going his own way, paddling his own canoe – marching to the beat of his own drum – because he hasn’t appointed any members to represent the interests of his District F constituents on this committee.
And it’s not as if he’s forgotten. In fact, according to the committee’s chair, Larry Clark, he called and emailed Green several times to request the names of those in District F that Green would nominate to serve on this committee, but Green has not responded.
In the meantime, the people of District F are left without a voice in their government – perhaps left empty-handed also – as there are over $100 million in projects being considered for funding, from the Linwood Avenue Bridge rehabilitation to repairing Hollywood Avenue (from Mansfield Road to Jewella Avenue), as well as countless other streets and drainage upgrades, all across the city. And with no input (yet, at least) from District F on how to spend those dollars or prioritize those projects.
And here’s where it gets more ridiculous: Which city council district, do you think, has the greatest number of projects being considered for funding with these bond proceeds? You guessed it: District F, yet not one of their citizens is even sitting at the proverbial “table.”
The voice of the people in District F have been effectively silenced by the very person they trusted to be their voice. Decisions are being made without District F’s input, and it’s a betrayal of the very essence of representative democracy.
When the people are not being represented effectively, their trust in the democratic process erodes, and people become disillusioned with their government. The very essence of democracy, where the people have a say in how they are governed, is undermined when elected officials are derelict in their duties or absent altogether.
And for Councilman Green here, it’s unclear which one it is, or if it’s both. Is he derelict? Or is it something else? From his silence, we can only speculate. Is he making a political statement by not acknowledging the committee, or does he disagree with the idea of using a citizens’ committee in the first place?
Does he feel folks might already be ready to blame him if the bond proposals fail, and because he’s the grand marshal of his one-man parade, he won’t participate at all?
Or does he want the bond proposals to fail, and he knows that District F voters are less likely to vote for propositions they had no role, no voice, no chance (because of Green) to even participate in?
Rev. Green, whatever your reasons for not selecting any constituents from your district to serve on the committee, that may be between you and God alone, but remember, as author Simon Sinek put it, “Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge.”
And the question is, are you?
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 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.