CRITICAL DOCUMENTS NOW “LOST” OR WITHHELD – ARE THEY KEY?by Elliott Stonecipher
To begin, I thank each of you who attended the 3132 Coalition’s presentation to the NLCOG (Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments) Executive Committee on Thursday. Many others have e-mailed their support after seeing media coverage of the presentation, and still others have signed-up as Coalition members. Such expressions of strong public support are more important than I can express, and it is unquestionably the case that making the 3132 extension to the Port a reality will require much more of the same.
We also thank the local news media for their coverage. In fact, the following day’s report from Kristi Johnston at the Shreveport Times was cited by many who have contacted me, and both KTBS and KSLA were present at the meeting and broadcast news stories, too.
As to the presentation itself, of the five members of the NLCOG Executive Committee, only Bill Altimus, representing the Bossier Parish Police Jury, was not in attendance. Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker stepped-in to chair the meeting which was also attended by Woody Wilson representing the Caddo Parish Commission, and Charles Henington, Caddo Tax Assessor.
Notably, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover made his entrance during the presentation, but, as is his practice in such public meetings, never looked up from his smart phone until after the Coalition’s presentation was completed. (The Mayor is well known by city hall insiders and observers for texting / tweeting his instructions to “his” City Council members during official meetings.)
For those interested in reviewing the public documents which served as the foundation of Thursday’s presentation, they are posted on the website, www.finish3132.com.
Coalition Letter of Request to NLCOG Executive Committee
At the close of the presentation Thursday, I presented to Mayor Walker, as Executive Committee chair, a list of requests from the Coalition. That letter is (LINKED HERE) and further explanation of those requests is the purpose of this report.
NLCOG Was M.I.A. In Sale of Key 36.99-Acre Tract
Request #1 in our letter to NLCOG is a key if the public is ever going to find out which political bus ran over us in this crash between the public interest and hidden political agendas and money.
The taxpayers’ unambiguous commitment – we thought and intended – to 3132’s extension to the Port was our 1999 purchase of the 16-acre tract of land immediately across Flournoy-Lucas Road from its current terminus there. Shreveport property owners had voted a tax on themselves in 1996 which generated $3,500,000 to buy that land and whatever else was initially needed for the extension to the Port. Wrapping around much of that 16-acre tract is the 36.99-acre tract purchased in a land-swap between Tim Larkin and Twelve Oaks developer Tony Janca in April 2007.
(The Google satellite map of these tracts and surrounding features is seen here. You will see the city’s nearly triangular-shaped tract at the top center, an empty tract on Flournoy-Lucas to its right, Twelve Oaks lower and to the right, Esplanade’s newly-built bridge over Bayou Pierre center-bottom, and Glen Retirement Center property line and buildings on the left. The 36.99-acre tract wraps around the city’s 16-acre tract, below and to its immediate left.)
After eight months of study and interviews, it seems that when ownership of this tract of land passed from Janca to Larkin, the legal protection of the 3132 extension route which was in place when Janca owned it did not legally pass to Larkin. The NLCOG, which had been notably involved in previous actions to protect that route, was completely – and inexplicably – missing in action on this transaction. To quote Mr. Janca’s comment to me in an e-mail on the subject,
“Why the NLCOG did not question Larkin about extending the ROW (right-of-way) I do not know, but we (Shreveport Development Corporation) did exactly what was asked of us by the governmental entities.”
Needless to say, the details of this issue are critically important to the peoples’ interest.
(At Least One) Key and Important Document Is Being Withheld
As the documents presented Thursday detail, it took Mr. Janca fifteen months – October 2003 to January 2005 – to secure Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) approval to rezone a part of the 3132 extension route for a westerly Twelve Oaks expansion. This was only possible because
(1) the 3132 extension route shown in the 2003 NLCOG / DOTD transportation plan was on the other side – the Railsback Road side – of Bayou Pierre, apparently freeing-up space for the Twelve Oaks expansion, and
(2) the NLCOG Director, Kent Rogers, signed-off on that rezoning, an MPC requirement for its final approval. In a related October 31,2004 letter from Janca to MPC Executive Director Charles Kirkland, Janca declares:
“We (SDC) are prepared to set aside sufficient acreage abutting the property presently owned by the City of Shreveport to allow this section of the Inner Loop extension to cross Bayou Pierre. SDC wishes to continue to be a good citizen and look forward to the day this future section of the Inner Loop extension can be built.”
At about the same time, key information about Janca’s promised donation – unknown details included? – went to NLCOG’s Kent Rogers in an e-mail. As detailed in the official Minutes of the November 3, 2004 MPC hearing, Rogers identifies this e-mail:
We have learned that this key e-mail has supposedly disappeared from all files of BOTH the sender and the (government) receiver. What are the odds against such a dual disappearance?! The odds notwithstanding, the public needs to see this e-mail.
Transportation Planning Disappears … Raw Power and Money Replace It
Any objective party reviewing / investigating what has occurred with the 3132 Extension would be struck by how well-oiled the transportation planning was before 2007 and how NLCOG has been, at least in this matter, little more than another department of Shreveport city government since. The differences are striking, and more than one official has privately acknowledged to us how city hall hijacked the process when the present administration took office. (One is left to wonder how many other “transportation planning” needs have been likewise side-tracked by “friends” of the current administration.)
To nail-down the degree to which the public was sold-out in the process, we need all written documentation for that period between NLCOG and any other person or agency. If the subject of such documents is 3132 or any of the associated plans and projects, the public needs to know what happened, when it happened, and who did it. Thus the inclusion of this Public Records Request in the attached letter to NLCOG’s Executive Committee. Those documents belong to the taxpayers, not to NLCOG, not to Shreveport city hall, and not to opponents of the 3132 extension who own land in the area.
The Very Strange Case of the New Taxpayer Gift of Millions (of dollars) to Esplanade’s Owners / Developers
The political bus that ran over the people in 2007 is coming back around for another pass at us.
Along the way in their political op, the Esplanade owners / developers recruited former State Representative Jane Smith to line-up critically necessary approvals from the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD). Ms. Smith, to the inarguable knowledge of many, was a political operative of former Jindal Administration Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell. Once Teepell was aboard, he in turn brought into the op the new Jindal appointee as Secretary of Transportation, Sherri LeBas. Already in place was Mayor Glover, with the strongly rumored involvement of former state senator Lydia Jackson. What this garish political display yielded was none other than the proceeds of the fateful April 7, 2011 NLCOG meeting in which Glover attempted the coup de grace to 3132’s final leg to the Port. (Real work in securing related e-mails and other documents is necessary to determine the facts and details of this op.)
Given all that’s happened, one might imagine that the political and financial “gifting” to Esplanade’s owners would be over, but such is not the case.
For some unknown reason, LA DOTD has decided to bless Esplanade with a specially designed and constructed entrance and exit off Flournoy-Lucas. The 36.99 cares Esplanade bought apparently does not have enough Flournoy-Lucas frontage to get the job done, so land from next-door neighbor The Glen Retirement Center will be needed. In order to do this, DOTD had to invoke “control of access” in the area, and the related construction is estimated to cost $2,000,000 or so. (This is not to be confused with the $2,000,000 or so being spent on so-called “feasibility studies” into the route’s extension to the Port.)
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE that this gift from the very taxpayers already nailed in this deal is coming BEFORE ANY DETERMINATION via “feasibility studies” that the extension will even happen. If not, what possible – albeit lame in the best case – justification can there be for building Esplanade a $2,000,000-or-so entrance and exit?
So, our letter to NLCOG includes a request for a written explanation of this new public funds largesse to Esplanade.
In Conclusion …
In an open and transparent government where elected and appointed officials understand that the taxpayers don’t work for them, the documents and other information the Coalition has requested would be found and produced, in a timely and unrestricted manner. We do not, however, live in such a place. Here, a group of three or four “officials” will pay our taxpayer money to lawyers (who also work for us) for legal battles to prevent release of the public documents.
At the end of it all, the “NO BUILD” option for extending 3132 to the Port is the mostly likely outcome, unless the public decides this is the time and place to take back control of local government. This is really just that simple.
All the hidden monied and political interests in place since 2007 are still in place and in power. Why would we expect an outcome different than the one this handful of people put in place at the start?
After all the research and related work, I can assure you that the fact of the 3132 extension story is as clear and easy to state as it is sadly unoriginal …
… the financial and political benefit of the few – at the expense and danger of the many.
For any reader who may not know, this and all other such analysis and commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.
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