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Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023

The Best of Intentions

We are losing sight of truly meaningful qualities

Like most things in life – marriage, relationships, parenting, family – they all start with the best intentions. We begin with a rainbow vision of a colorful and magical life, complete with the proverbial white picket fence and a storybook ending.

And there’s always a moral to the story, as everyone works together for the common good of each other, like in an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” or “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Of course, it doesn’t always end up that way. Sometimes, we get taken advantage of. And it’s not that anyone, necessarily, starts out with the intention of hurting one another or taking one another for granted. It’s just that most of us like to “see the best in people,” and sometimes, we end up being fooled (or even harmed) by their “best of intentions” in the process.

So when Shreveport City Councilman (and Reverend) James Green held a press conference to explain he had the best of “intentions” when he unilaterally directed the city of Shreveport’s payroll department to increase the (collective) salaries of the city council clerks by over $40,000 per year, without even as much as asking any of the other city council members or the city attorney for their opinion before doing so, it reminded many of us of the proverb how the road to hell is also paved with the best of intentions.

Reverend Green said, “All I was trying to do is bless” those he wanted to get raises, and added, “I was not trying to do something bad. I was trying to do something good.”

But for whom? For the people of Shreveport? Or himself?

We already live in a world with too many secret meetings, backroom deals and under-the-table arrangements. The reason for these in the first place is that those involved hope they are never discovered. If it’s in the dark and no one can really see what’s going on, they foolishly believe they can get away with it – so long as they intended to do good, that is.

And that’s what’s most troubling about these unauthorized pay raises. They were done in the darkness of night as if no one would ever know or needed to know. But the Bible teaches us in Luke 8:16-17 that “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” And John 3:19-20 tells us, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Whether Green did what he did with the best of “intentions” or not, we’re defined by our actions – not by how we explain them away. A husband who cheated on his wife will say he never “intended” to hurt her. A drunk driver who ran a red light never “intended” to harm anyone when he crossed the center line and crashed into someone.

You see, it’s not enough to have just not intended to cause someone pain – you’re still responsible because you should have thought more about all the ways your actions could have hurt someone. But you didn’t.

And neither did Green – the chair of the city council. Whether this is malfeasance, a crime or poor judgment, when city resources are mismanaged, it’s the hardworking men and women in our community who suffer. Roads go unrepaired, taxes rise, and essential services falter. It’s a slap in the face to every citizen who plays by the rules and contributes their fair share.

But here’s the other part of this: As chair of the city council, Green has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the rules – from the Shreveport City Charter to the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics. With Green as the chair, for example, Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law was violated on the first day in office for this new city council, and even the mandatory procedure co elect Green as chair originally was not even followed.

And with this latest impropriety, many are calling for him to resign as chair, at the very least.

You see, maybe being chair isn’t for Green. There was a recent study that found between 50% and 70% of leaders fail within 18 months of taking on a role, landing somewhere between “failing spectacularly” or “quietly struggling” – and that’s despite the great “intentions” of those leaders. Most leaders, like Green, do start with great intentions, but without quality leadership action, such intentions are just meaningless and provide no excuse for poor leadership.

This brings us full circle to the point that what you do in the darkness, regardless of your intentions, hurts both your own reputation and those who trusted you the most. That’s why we need a full investigation of these raises and (re)build trust in city government in the future.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

And that’s not just good advice for our city leaders but for each of us who votes these leaders into office, however well-intentioned they may be.

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 101.7 FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.


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