SHREVEPORT MAYOR GLOVER’S “STREET REPAIR” PROGRAM

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At 3:00 this afternoon, the Shreveport City Council meets to vote (a) on whether or not to again postpone action on Mayor Cedric Glover’s “street repair” program misfire, and (b) should the postponement be blocked, the plan itself.

To bring you up to speed on the organized opposition to this increasingly dubious proposal, today’s editorial in the Shreveport Times – here – will be useful.

The Times editorial again specifically notes what those of us working on this for several weeks have explained:  pushing this plan through will raise Shreveport’s total debt to more than $1.3 billion.  Divide that by our population total of about 200,000, which is still in a decline that began in the 1980s, and the debt-per-Shreveporter is a staggering $6,500.

Mayor Glover’s Stunning and Inexplicable Unwillingness to Hear … and Willingness to Inflame

On its very face, this proposal seems wildly ill-conceived, and likely dangerous to the long-term financial health – if not viability – of this city.  The Committee of 100, Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Managers Council, among others, have tried privately and publicly to explain all related facts to Glover.  Each such attempt results in a yet harder push by our mayor for passage.

Sadly, Glover’s push is almost exclusively in our black community – a kind of race and “class” warfare that no city in America can any longer afford, and which may be particularly unaffordable in a city challenged as is Shreveport.  In that context, many sources continue to point out that money from Glover’s “street repair” plan cannot be used to replace asphalt streets, the ones which disproportionately exist within our city’s lowest income areas.

What Shreveporters Haven’t Been Told

Important, directly related facts about the mayor’s insistence on this “street repair” plan are not being reported to the public.  The production of key documents is being inexplicably retarded by accountable members of Glover’s top-level team, but who has ordered these officials to strategically slow the audit is yet unknown.

Stonewalling notwithstanding, there are some verifiable facts.  An internal audit concerning at least one aspect of financial management in City Hall is, in fact, underway at this time.  That “one aspect” relates directly to the way in which the mayor decides on such initiatives as this “street repair” plan, that is, where such advice originates, how the advice is paid for, how much it costs the taxpayers, and whether or not the translation of the advice into would-be public policy is in any way compromised.  Strong opposition to this arrangement was publicly articulated by Councilman Ron Webb when the mayor unilaterally contracted for these services in 2007.  Concerns about the arrangement have accelerated as the new City Council digs in.  Glover’s rush over the past few months to rack-up another $269,000,000 in city debt – this spring’s $175,000,000 bond issue plus this intended additional $94,000,000 bond – is stunningly aggressive, and is fueling questions about every aspect of its origination, advisability and timing.

As conduct of the internal audit has been attempted, accountable officials in the Glover administration have – at a time particularly damaging to transparency and waning public confidence – “lost” key documents, and have not, many days later, succeeded in replacing them.  Given that these particular documents are from large financial institutions, the inability to again secure and produce them for an “official” audit makes no sense.  As well, the documents necessary for anything even resembling a real and meaningful audit were inexplicably (there’s that word again) limited to a time period well before the ramp-up to the $175,000,000 bond issue vote early this year.  Thus, even when requested documents may ultimately be produced, they will have a cut-off date of April 2010, over a year-and-a-half ago.  With $735,399 in taxpayer money spent for this advice between December 1, 2007 and April 21, 2010, no one will be surprised to ultimately learn that the payments since April 21, 2010 will be far, far higher.

As a final note of concern, Shreveporters may well be surprised to learn that a “city council audit” is, in fact, effectively run and managed by the mayor’s office.  In context, it is important to note that these key and critically important documents were not requested by a mere taxpayer, but by the city’s “internal auditor.”  Worse yet, when and if they are produced and analyzed, the internal “auditor” reports to the mayor’s office for comment and/or supposed remedy.  Clearly, in this instance and many others, no such audit process will build public confidence in its conduct or completion.

An external audit is more than simply advisable in this circumstance.  Such is, rather, absolutely required.  The City Council is granted that specific authority in the city charter, and should proceed with the immediate use of that authority.

Whatever else may be the case, and whatever may happen in today’s Council meeting, something is very wrong with this proposal, and with the “audit” mechanism being used to get to the bottom of it.

The City Council’s only responsible path forward in this matter is a full and complete audit – externally conducted – of all related informational sources and services, including relationships with city officials which may exist within these processes of government.

Elliott Stonecipher

Evets Management Services, Inc.
6658 Youree Drive
Suite 180, #367
Shreveport, LA  71105
Phone:  318-424-1695

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