N.L.C.O.G. FAILS TO PRODUCE PUBLIC DOCUMENTS

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REQUESTS MADE YESTERDAY TO MAYOR GLOVER AND CITY ENGINEERING

by Elliott Stonecipher

On December 15, 2011, at a specially called meeting of the five-member Executive Committee of the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), I, on behalf of the Finish 3132 Coalition, publicly reported details of months of research into our government’s repeated failures in completing construction of this traffic artery.

At the close of that presentation, I asked the NLCOG Executive Committee members – the mayors of Shreveport and Bossier City, the parish administrators of Caddo and Bossier parishes, and the Caddo Parish Tax Assessor – to accept and include in the public record of the hearing the Coalition’s request for certain specified public records from NLCOG.  That request was also submitted in writing to NLCOG’s attorney, Jerry Jones.

NLCOG produced almost none of the key, requested documents, even as the Coalition waited weeks rather than the days stipulated in law.

This request for public documents from NLCOG was made under Louisiana’s Public Records Law, details about which can be read here and here.  That law provides strict guidelines for what any government agency must release to the news media and public, and sets equally strict requirements on how long the “custodian of records” in that agency has to release those documents, literally a matter of days.  Should those rules be broken, state district court is the next stop in the process, allowing a judge to direct the agency to release the requested documents, as well as pay all costs related to the process and litigation.

The Coalition requested any and all written documents, e-mails included, on the matter of the Hwy. 3132 Extension to the Port, back to late 2006.  NLCOG, rather than producing those documents, produced a computer disk document dump which was mostly duplicative, contained no e-mails except the most recent – a few months in 2011 – and produced virtually no other written documents, e.g., letters between NLCOG and developer Tim Larkin or developer Tony Janca.  It did produce some decades-old studies of the extension’s “feasibility,” precisely like the $800,000 “feasibility study” now being done, yet again.  (The first mention I have found to such studies refers to one conducted in 1969.)

While the Coalition can take the document-production issue to court, and may yet do so, it has decided for now to issue two new Public Records Requests for the same documents.  The documents were requested yesterday from the City of Shreveport City Engineering Department and Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover.

NLCOG works for the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development, and the governments of the City of Shreveport, Bossier City, Caddo Parish and Bossier Parish.  Put more directly, NLCOG and its director Kent Rogers are an extension of the political dictates and other whims of the heads of those governmental entities.  The requested documents should have, therefore, been most easily produced by NLCOG, but given Rogers’ choice not to produce them, they must now be sought from those who are most directly involved in the politically handling of NLCOG.

It is entirely possible that additional such requests will be made of other agencies and individual officials in coming days and weeks.  While no government agency involved in this fiasco believes this, it is nonetheless a fact:  they all work for the taxpayers, and these and all other such documents belong to the taxpayers.

“Route” Announcement

Sources have communicated to the Coalition that NLCOG will soon release a (mythical) “route” for the Extension, which it contends is “100% certain” to be built.  I will comment in detail at the time of release, but for now, it is important to understand that such is precisely what we were told after the 1991-1992 “feasibility study,” the 2003 such study, and several less detailed studies prior to 1991.

To put a period at the end of the sentence about any such claim from NLCOG, the record is very clear in showing that the next thing that happened after the studies in 1992 and 2003 is that subdivisions were developed precisely in the path of the selected routes.

An announcement with great bally-hoo from NLCOG and its political handlers that something is “certain” to be built is roughly akin to a weather forecast telling us that, “Warnings have been issued for blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes … somewhere … in the future!!!”  It is notable, though, that such a forecast at least has real events in history to underscore its fundamental accuracy and truth.  NLCOG can make no such claim about 3132.

Elliott Stonecipher

For any reader who may not know, this and all other such commentary 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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