Kristi Johnston’s report in this morning’s Shreveport Times (see story here) discusses the latest from the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG) on the Hwy. 3132 Extension saga. Below are my take-aways from the confab. (Ethics Link reference to PAC funding)
(1) The consultants for the so-called Stage 0 feasibility study, Buchart-Horn, have drawn-up supposed routes, but
submitted them only to the Louisiana Department of Highways & Transportation (LA DOTD), not to the public, for review.
(2) When DOTD is through with its behind-the-scenes handling of the Stage 0, the mess goes to NLCOG, also known for its dislike of anything approaching transparency and accountability.
(3) Consulting firm Burk-Kleinpeter Engineering was selected for the next “study” phase, a firm closely linked to Mayor Cedric Glover by its heavy contributions to Glover’s 2010 campaign (See story here) and its noteworthy donation of television production expenses for media used in the $175,000,000 bond issue election in 2011 (Purchased Times Article).
(4) To make certain “things” stay in precisely the place NLCOG’s handlers want them, the group has picked Mayor Glover to run the show for (at least) the next year, displacing current head Bill Altimus.
A good example of how Glover will run things was on display yesterday when I questioned all NLCOG officials about a mystery of the relationship between a completed “feasibility study” and the intention on the part of NLCOG / DOTD to build a private entrance/exit for Esplanade developer Tim Larkin with taxpayer money.
Documents the 3132 Coalition has obtained – among the smidgen of those asked for in Public Records Requests – reveal that political and governmental friends of Larkin intend to build his entrance/exit on Flournoy-Lucas “as quickly as we (DOTD / NLCOG) can,” and that it “will be handled separately from the Inner Loop Extension.” Given that other DOTD / NLCOG documents stress that no such gift to Larkin is justified if the “feasibility study” yields either a “no build” finding or a route crossing Flournoy-Lucas, how can the plan be to give Larkin his gift “quickly,” i.e., before the $1,000,000 “study” is complete and official?
When I posed the question yesterday to NLCOG, no member opted to give an answer, so NLCOG Director Kent Rogers designated Tim Larkin as the appropriate “authority” to respond. (I’m not making this up.) Larkin then launched into a rambling, muddled, self-serving soliloquy which was studded with wild and well-documented whoppers about who will benefit from that taxpayer gift. By the time he was through, a listener who didn’t know Larkin or the facts would have thought he had never heard of his own deal, and that Willis-Knighton had purchased all of South Caddo Parish. (W-K Health Systems has already gone to the effort to record in NLCOG’s official record the facts that it has no interest whatsoever in the Larkin entrance/exit gift, and does not – under any circumstances – want the scheme to progress any further.)
When Larkin finally wound-down, I addressed NLCOG by pointing out that my question was asked of them / it, not of Larkin, who, I specifically noted, packed into his dissertation more whoppers-per-sentence than I may ever have heard. I asked again for an answer to my original question, to no avail. Larkin was then again given control of the meeting and surrendered it only for a rousing defense of All Things Larkin by his close friend Glover. In the process, as is his nature, Glover managed to attack me for my temerity in pointing out Larkin’s whoppers which deliberately included previously refuted claims.
Later in the meeting, after W-K attorney Jim McMichael stood to – again – point out Larkin’s hokum about W-K’s interest (which is zero) in the property at issue, Larkin acknowledged precisely what he had earlier and repeatedly contradicted.
‘Smoked ‘Em Out
A good friend of mine from my early days around politicos – a man of integrity, and no need whatsoever to call a spade a club or heart or diamond – counseled me repeatedly to never underestimate the willingness of many officials to openly use the levers of power to abuse those who elect them. He, then, taught me the basics of how to press such “officials” as necessary to, as he always referred to it, “smoke ’em out.” He well understood that the true nature of such power abusers rests just below the surface of their accomplished b.s.
Decades later, I can attest to how often my friend’s counsel proves true. Yesterday’s NLCOG meeting is one of the best examples in my career. The effective death of the 3132 Extension to the Port began almost a year ago when NLCOG provided the governmental structure and process to finalize the outrage. In that fateful NLCOG meeting on April 7, 2011, Kent Rogers / NLCOG set Larkin up to make the opening presentation to kill the 3132 Extension, then the script called for Glover’s four-part motion that nailed it all down. Only one NLCOG member present that day voted against the termination of 42 years of hope and planning and taxpayer investment.
Yesterday, circumstances smoked ’em out.
… and the sham runs on, now openly, now and again led by the original perpetrators.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.
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