3132 Controversy – One Year Later!

50 Years of Planning in Demise!
 
by Elliott Stonecipher
One Year Aniversary is nothing to be proud of...
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One year ago today, in spite of a half-century of planning and extraordinary expression of public will to the contrary, the extension of LA Hwy. 3132 to the Port of Caddo-Bossier was targeted for termination by some local and state officials, on behalf of friends of politicians.  These officials, certainly not “stewards of the public trust,” worked on behalf of only-my-profits-matter developers to put on a mini-clinic in how to openly and officially defeat the public’s interests.

To pull-off so bold a hijacking of the governmental process required a place and time in which such abuse of power seems any longer to hold no downside risk to the malfeaser, and where most of the citizenry rarely objects.

How could so many government officials, after all, participate in something so resolutely opposed to public interests, especially when those interests were locked-in by a bond issue vote of the people?  That vote was, after all, precisely taken to prevent that which precisely occurred.

Satellite image of region
Long term planning allows a "Broad View" of area

In seeking answers to a long list of troubling questions, we have met every known form of stonewalling.  Nonetheless, some answers have been laboriously pulled from an officialdom in aggressive cover-up mode.  These answers are the reason for this anniversary retrospective.  Diligence, research and study – all in the public interest – are its foundation.

We, the Finish 3132 Coalition, hope this report provides the public a broader understanding of how “we the people” were thrown under our own governmental and political bus.  Until we have all the answers, the Coalition – begun by Willis-Knighton Health System, and now supported by many others as well – will continue its work.  Our website – Finish3132.com – is a carefully maintained compendium of related issues and research, for any and all to view.  Many key areas of information in this report are further detailed in articles on the website.

Yes, huge gaps in our knowledge and understanding remain, and the aforementioned stonewalling is the reason.  Good examples are documents from our Public Records Requests (PRRs) to Mayor Cedric Glover and City Engineer Ron Norwood.  Filed nearly 2 months ago – the law allows the official 5 days – Glover has not produced a single document, and Norwood, after lengthy delay, gave up a cherry-picked smidgen of what the law allows the Coalition to request.

Regardless of any such obstacles, here are key facts from documents, interviews, public meetings attended, and hundreds of related phone calls. (A larger Map of Region)

— The bus of political manipulation and governmental maladministration that ran over Shreveport taxpayers in this matter actually did so twice:  the first event was the loss of the preferred, original Extension route corridor to private development in the early 2000s, and the second was the action led by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover at NLCOG last year, action specifically tailored to benefit another private developer.

— The concept of Shreveport’s “outer loop” which came to include the leg from Flournoy-Lucas to LA Hwy. 1 at what is now the location of the Port of Caddo-Bossier, was introduced to city residents in the late 1950s.  As the project’s long years of planning became actual construction of the artery, what we now know as the “3132 Extension to the Port” became the planning focus, particularly in the 1991-1992 “Inner Loop Extension Corridor Study.”

The study was a combined effort by the city’s Department of Public Works, the Shreve Area Council of Governments which is now NLCOG, and engineering firm NTB, Inc.  Included among the study’s Advisory Committee members were current City Engineer Ron Norwood, staff of NLCOG, and Charles Kirkland, Director of our Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC).  A member of the Shreveport City Council at the time was Cedric Glover.  The study is the most comprehensive and impressive of any conducted over the decades, in my non-expert opinion.

— Although some officials now in the spotlight as a result of these governmental failures attempt to refute it, a route corridor was determined in this study, and it is a key document in the study report (SEE Exhibit #1).  Eric Kalivoda, the Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD), went on record by e-mail to explain this fact less than a month after the April 7, 2011 NLCOG meeting.  Importantly, his explanation was directed to the Shreveport City Engineer and NLCOG.

— Perhaps nothing so demonstrably proclaimed the public’s intention for the 3132 Extension than our passage of an “earmarked” bond issue in 1996.  The $3,500,000 bond was passed by Shreveport voters to define and nail-down the fact of the Extension.  Its passage was, therefore, the unambiguous – we thought – guarantee that the Extension would be built.  (Once again, a City Council member during the ramp-up to the election was Cedric Glover.)  To emphatically put a period at the end of the sentence describing the public’s desire, intent and willingness to put skin in the game, some of those funds were used in 1999 to purchase a 16-acre tract of land on the south side of Flournoy-Lucas Road at its terminus with Hwy. 3132.

The Shreveport public, in short, could not have done anything more – not one single thing – to prevent what nonetheless happened within just a couple of years – the building of the Twelve Oaks subdivision jammed up against, then expanded into, the Extension route corridor.

— Ironically, the public official who most dramatically detailed the Twelve Oaks incursion into the Extension route was Mayor Cedric Glover.  He  made this point very dramatically – albeit in furtherance of his “service” to Tim Larkin and his Esplanade development – in his presentation of a diagram (SEE Exhibit #2) to NLCOG last Spring.

The mystery of the development of Twelve Oaks near and into the 3132 Extension corridor deepens when we consider that land for the subdivision was available all around the Extension corridor and well out of its way.  The land on the south side of Flournoy-Lucas, from Bayou Pierre on the west all the way to Hwy. 1 on the east, was completely undeveloped.  Why would responsible officials at NLCOG, the Caddo Commission, the MPC, etc., approve Twelve Oaks for development near, much less into, the corridor?  To boot, federal funds for “protective buying” of the right-of-way were available (23 CFR, Section 710.503) to prevent the loss of the Extension route’s land, but not applied for.

— The deepest incursion of Twelve Oaks into the Extension route corridor was most dramatically aided by NLCOG, in 2004.  Notwithstanding that e-mails show NLCOG Director, Kent Rogers, attempting to bury the fact, he provided the MPC the final piece it needed to approve Tony Janca’s 2004 rezoning request.  That rezoning approval netted the development’s deepest incursion into the corridor route (SEE Exhibit #3).

— A clutch of developers and officials acted in 2006 and 2007 to administratively render the Extension non-viable.  Larkin, a Bossier City City Council member on the side, decided to move the entrance and exit for his ritzy (lots have sold for north of $500,000) Esplanade neighborhood from the intended Railsback Road location, down and east, to Flournoy-Lucas.  To do so, he needed the 36.99-acre tract owned by Tony Janca’s Shreveport Development Corporation (SDC) which wraps around the City of Shreveport’s 16-acre tract (SEE Exhibit #4).  When Janca/SDC sold Larkin that tract, Janca’s pledge to, as Kent Rogers put in to the MPC, “donate the property” for the Extension route disappeared.

As Janca wrote in an August 2011 e-mail to me, “Why the NLCOG did not question Larkin about extending the ROW (right-of-way) I do not know, but we (SDC) did exactly what was asked of us by governmental entities.”

Serial Maladministration – With Zero Accountability – Turns Into Something Much Worse

— By 2010, Larkin had built his $1,127,725 bridge over Bayou Pierre, connecting the 36.99-acre tract with Flournoy- Lucas frontage to his original 100.51 acres fronting on Railsback Road.  He had decided by 2008 that this frontage on Flournoy-Lucas would not do – it limited him, legally, to a two-lane, “right-in / right-out” entrance and exit – so he began conversations about the purchase of additional land for an expanded joint entrance and exit with his neighbor to the west, The Glen Retirement Center.  Those conversations turned to negotiations when, as detailed in Minutes of meetings of The Glen’s Board of Directors, a specific offer was made to Larkin on February 15, 2010.

$2,000,000+ Esplanade Larkin
Señor Larkin! Sî!

— Larkin, the Minutes show, walked away, never to return, not even to make a counter-offer.

Then, everything changed, dramatically.  With an offer from The Glen that he would not pay, Larkin turned to his political pal Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, for a solution that cost him virtually nothing.  The price was extremely high, however, for the public that wanted a 3132 Extension to the Port.

… Glover gave Larkin the penultimate freebie:  the city-owned 16-acre tract on Flournoy-Lucas with frontage dead into its intersection with Hwy. 3132.  This is the land the people of Shreveport voted a tax on themselves to buy in order to preserve the Extension route, purposes Glover well knew and supported while then serving on the Shreveport City Council.  Larkin would get to build the road from his Bayou Pierre bridge directly into Flournoy-Lucas, the mother of all “curb-cuts,” as such invaluable access points are called.  (It is a striking irony that such a curb-cut is precisely what Larkin, voting on the Bossier City Council, denied Shreveporter Linc Coleman for his Walker Place development along Bossier City’s Teague Parkway.  The resulting federal trial in Coleman’s lawsuit against Larkin and his Bossier pals is set for this fall.)

… Glover well understood that the City Council would have to approve a sale or lease of the tract to Larkin, especially given how the vote of the people in 1996 gives the tract a special place in law.  He knew no such Council approval, therefore, would come.  Additionally, of course, that 16 acres is well known to have been purchased for the 3132 Extension, an artery Glover and Larkin did not want the public to know they were acting to kill.  The solution was to conjure up a kind of gift in perpetuity:  Glover gives it to Larkin in supposed “return” for Larkin dedicating it to public use.  (Such public use also means the taxpayers, not Larkin, maintain the street.)

Glover neglects to explain how any such faux “pass-back to the people” alters the fact that Larkin gets his one, only and forever entrance and exit road for Esplanade … at only the cost of clearing, labor and materials, a relative song.

Most importantly, the 3132 Extension is as dead as a dodo.  Larkin cannot “use” the taxpayer-owned tract of land for his Esplanade driveway unless the taxpaying public’s loudly and provably proclaimed will and desire is scorned.

… More evidence of Glover’s real deal arose soon after the April 2011 NLCOG meeting.  I was aware that Spring that Larkin was busy working on the 36.99-acre tract.  The city’s land, as I knew from jogging next to it almost every day, was  partially cleared.  In response to various checks into that fact, the City threw up an informational stonewall.  However, Larkin confirmed to me in a June 11, 2011 meeting in his office that he cleared the land, and without a permit from the City to do so.  In a public exchange at an official NLCOG meeting four days later, I asked Glover if he approved the illegal clearing, and he lied – into the public record.  Though he would not answer my question about who cleared the land, he claimed it was “to facilitate the laying of sewer mains.”  A subsequent PRR by attorney John Settle forced the production of documents proving that no such installations had been done, and no permits for the clearing were ever issued.

… Even more dramatic evidence of Glover’s attempted cover-up recently made it into public view through a PRR to Eric Kalivoda, the previously identified Deputy Secretary of LA DOTD.  Documents thus obtained included a January 18, 2011 letter to LA DOTD’s Keith Tindell with which Larkin includes a diagram of his road through the 36.99-acre tract (SEE Exhibit #5).  It clearly shows the street from his bridge passing through the city-owned 16-acre tract … and thus shows the actual reason for his clearing of that portion of the tract, well before the April 2011 NLCOG meeting.

… The Larkin letter to Kindell was a part of an intense campaign within LA DOTD which Larkin, Glover, former State Representative Jane Smith, and Governor Jindal’s staff conducted from December 2010 into and possibly through at least that summer.  The reason for that frenzy was that Glover and Larkin had a major problem:  “control of access” for Flournoy-Lucas curb-cuts like the gift to Larkin was legally held by LA DOTD, and it would not join in the Glover deal with Larkin, even when City threats to get the approval from the Federal Highway Administration were made.

Throughout this blitzkrieg on LA DOTD, Larkin, Smith, and the Shreveport City Engineering office acted in virtual lock-step to get Larkin the approval he demanded.  Norwood went so far as to include letters of support of what Larkin and Glover wanted from former city official Mike Strong.  (Glover was in action, too, but such details await the public documents he has thus far refused to release, in spite of the Louisiana Public Records Act.)

After months of pressure, LA DOTD pushed back.  In one key document dated March 31, 2011, an exasperated Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda writes to Larkin:

“As I stated to you, the Department of Transportation and Development will not allow any permanent connection to the LA 3132 ramp terminus on LA 523 (Flournoy-Lucas).”

Then, as we know, the April 7, 2011 NLCOG meeting by and for Glover and Larkin transpires, sponsored by NLCOG.  One week later,  LA DOTD declares:

“In light of the proposed Inner Loop Expressway corridor realignment, and rather than compromise Departmental principles and standards, DOTD Secretary LeBas proposed, and Mayor Glover agreed, to seek (City) Council approval for the City of Shreveport to accept ownership of:  (a) Ellerbe Road (LA 523) from Bert Kouns Industrial Loop southward to Flournoy-Lucas Road; (b) Flournoy Lucas Road (LA 523) from Ellerbe Road eastward to LA 1; and (c) Inner Loop Expressway (LA 3132) from Bert Kouns Industrial Loop southward to Flournoy Lucas Road.”  (Emphasis mine.)

So, LA DOTD spent a full week digesting the incredible result of the Glover / Larkin / NLCOG confab on April 7th, and, in response:

(1) wrote to stress their concern about the risk of that action to the 3132 Extension to the Port, and

(2) washed their hands of the terms of the meeting’s 4-part Motion from Glover, saying they would, rather than participate, require the City of Shreveport to take ownership, maintenance, etc., of any state road / highway caught-up in that craziness.

It is noteworthy that LA DOTD is shown here to be looking out for the 3132 Extension to the Port, but no local officials were.  This is not the only documentary evidence of that fact.

Glover and Larkin and City Engineering and NLCOG had run their attempted deal to the extreme:  even when LA DOTD called b.s. on the entire nasty business – and dramatically so – Glover & Larkin, Inc. went so far as to attempt to load the taxpayers with ownership of impacted state highways in order to wrest LA DOTD’s control-of-access from it, and get Larkin his curb-cut and thus the city’s land.  Killing the 3132 Extension was a given, not a concern.

… Through last year’s baking summer, all hell was breaking loose, too, for those “in on the deal.”  Craig Durrett at the Shreveport Times, John Settle, the Coalition and its Finish3132.com website, the Forward-Now blog and others applied that heat.  From it, public support bubbled-up … and up.  With the public outcry forcing a City Council vote to block the Larkin gift of the city’s 16 acres, and with a Caddo District Court Petition for Declaratory Judgement from John Settle to back that action, the Larkin Gift Gambit bit the dust.  The public, then, began to get it:  something was very, very wrong with all of this.

… Unfortunately, Glover and Larkin must still be owed one hellacious political debt by state capital politicos.  No sooner was the Larkin gift from Glover shoved out of public view than a new gift was offered by someone at LA DOTD.  This time, it was a taxpayer-funded joint entrance and exit with The Glen on Flournoy-Lucas.  That was, of course, precisely the deal Larkin walked away from when the money involved was his own.

— Larkin’s second gift package has been the subject of stacks of e-mails and other documents among LA DOTD and other local officials, especially Kent Rogers and NLCOG.  Rogers / NLCOG took the point in negotiating the Larkin / LA DOTD deal with The Glen for the developers fancy and expensive entrance and exit for Esplanade.  I attended one key such “negotiation” session – to the anger and surprise of Rogers – and literally could not believe what I witnessed:  Rogers repeatedly barked at The Glen representative to come up with something of enough value to The Glen to get them aboard another let’s-serve-Larkin deal.

Importantly, I asked John Sanders of LA DOTD, one of its staff people in attendance, for confirmation of something he quietly offered at one point (which I earlier mentioned):  was it not the case, in fact, that all – a l l – Larkin was entitled to under laws and other regulations was a “right-in / right-out” on the piece of his 36.99-acre tract which is on Flournoy-Lucas?  Sanders confirmed the fact.  (SEE Exhibit #6, top-left corner, beside City’s 16-acre tract.)

— A decision of great public benefit has been made by The Glen’s executive, Rhonda Beauvais, and its Board of Directors, as a result of this Larkin / NLCOG / LA DOTD push for his high-dollar entrance and exit on Flournoy-Lucas:  The Glen has notified NLCOG and LA DOTD that it will not partner with Larkin in the deal.  That puts the ball back in LA DOTD’s court.  If it chooses to go after this deal for Larkin via expropriation, such a decision will be fully opposed by the Coalition, The Glen and others.

— Just last week, however, the Coalition learned of yet another possible attempt to somehow get Larkin what he wants.  We have no details – though we have asked for them from LA DOTD – but this somehow involves LA DOTD construction of an “access road” along the 3132 exit ramp to Flournoy-Lucas.  We are suspicious because word of this latest development came from the Shreveport Times via Larkin, never a good sign for public interests.

— Meanwhile, final route corridor choices for the 3132 Extension have been determined by LA DOTD consulting engineers, but their report is being withheld from the public.  Soon, NLCOG says (?), a two-year “environmental assessment” will begin.  If such actually produces a viable – likely to be funded – route option, then we take our place in line with every other such highway construction project in Louisiana awaiting funding.

Newly four-laned Flournoy-Lucas – a kind of drag-strip for 18-wheelers, hazardous materials aboard some of them – is already dead in the sights of for-profit developers peddling their retail expansion wares.  As discussed in one e-mail we obtained from LA DOTD, “another Bert Kouns Industrial Loop” is in the offing unless aggressive action to the contrary is a permanent part of the Southeast Shreveport development mix.  That is the official, resolute duty and responsibility of the Shreveport Mayor, City Council, MPC and general public.

If I am to make a bet about any matter of public interest at this point in time, I will bet on the general public and groups like our Coalition.

After all, we have spent the past year in attendance at the anti-public interest clinic that Glover, NLCOG and others have put on.

I learned plenty, and not trusting most public officials here to look out for the public’s interests was Lesson #1.

Elliott Stonecipher, for the Finish 3132 Coalition

Elliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or in any way accepted for this work.