THE SHANGHAI OF THE 3132 EXTENSION

by Elliott Stonecipher

An avid reader of these articles asked me a very important question this week about the 3132 Extension issue.  Paraphrasing, the question was, “How could so many elected and appointed government officials so openly ignore the vote by Shreveporters to complete the project?”

The backdrop for this discussion is the bond issue vote by which Shreveporters put their own money in the pot for the completion of Hwy. 3132 to the Port of Caddo-Bossier.  Selected from eleven possible routes, the “preferred corridor route” had been determined in a comprehensive study for that purpose in 1991 and 1992.  Then, in April 1996, the ultimate test of the public will was applied, a citywide election.  Kick-off funding of $3,500,000 for the project passed by a margin of 64% For and 36% Against.  Not in the mood to say “yes” to everything put before them, the voters simultaneously rejected public funding of a new stadium by a margin of 47% For and 53% Against.

Importantly, many of today’s officials dealing with this issue were also involved then.  Our current mayor was then a city council member, and today’s NLCOG Director Kent Rogers, City Engineer Ron Norwood and MPC Director Charles Kirkland, among others, were on the Advisory Committee of that 1991-1992 Inner Loop Corridor Extension Study.

Officials made it clear that they understood what the people of Shreveport wanted when, in 1999, they purchased the first tract of land, 16 acres, for construction of the final leg of the Extension from Flournoy-Lucas Road to the Port.

So, the truth was – and is – loud and clear:  Shreveporters told those they elect and otherwise pay to build the Hwy. 3132 Extension to the Port.

So What Happened?!

In answer to this obvious question, the old dictum applies that you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken poo-poo:  the will of the people of Shreveport does not mean anything – nothing at all – to many of our officials who are, at least theoretically, accountable.

Money to build residential subdivisions – money and profits tallied in the millions – hit the table in front of an assortment of government officials, elected and appointed.  Setting aside for these purposes the very important matter of how those available millions may – and too often do – foment public corruption, the documentary evidence from the public record confirms many telling facts, including these:

(1)  The project was on track – per the directive of the voters in 1996, and proven by the land purchase in 1999 – until, soon thereafter, the manipulation of related governmental processes began.  That maladministration of process benefited only a double-handful of people who were agents acting on behalf of for-profit interests.

(2)  Once the maladministration of process took hold, a “new” corridor route mysteriously appeared on two maps within at least two NLCOG studies.  These maps, we now know, are the documentary evidence that the Extension’s preferred corridor had been deserted, and a new one somehow – completely outside public view and process – determined.  While the official, preferred corridor was on the Twelve Oaks side of Bayou Pierre, this new route “appeared” on the opposite Railsback Road side.

The MPC acted in official furtherance of this change, but only after an explicit, in-the-public-record approval of it by NLCOG.  The new route was then translated into a specific, legal description which became an Ordinance of the Caddo Parish Commission.  As we learned at last week’s MPC meeting, at least some MPC members who continue to serve on that body did not know their related 2004-2005 actions did, in fact, “relocate” the corridor route.

It is of very real importance that some documentation related to these events was withheld for months from our Finish 3132 Coalition – “lost” we were told – but finally produced by NLCOG under the threat of Public Records Act litigation.  The Coalition believes that other key documentation continues to be deliberately withheld.

(3)  In 2007, Shreveport Development Corporation / Twelve Oaks sold the land through which the Extension must proceed as it leaves the city-owned 16-acre tract.  Although supposedly “preserved” in the 2004 MPC-approved Twelve Oaks deepest incursion into the original corridor, the Extension route was not brought up by any government agencies or officials when the title changed hands from SDC to Tim Larkin.  Put more directly, neither the original, preferred corridor, nor the mysteriously devised new one, were “preserved” when Larkin took ownership.  Nothing related in any way to legal protection of the corridor is mentioned in any public records thus far found and studied.

Just Woeful Incompetence?

I learned long ago that most issues involving government officials provide a setting for public corruption.  The odds of an issue actually becoming a corrupt enterprise rise with both the amount of money available for such illegal acts, and the degree to which the plan can be hatched and executed in virtually complete secrecy.

Since proving corruption is far beyond the Coalition’s pervue or qualification, only one other explanation remains:  this huge and systematic failure to complete the 3132 Extension to the Port results from a nearly incomprehensible degree of incompetence.  If that was the cause with the 3132 Extension debacle, it will be the cause for other such projects still, and long, on our community’s transportation drawing board:  not one thing about this process has been changed, nor are any such changes contemplated.

Of course, if “mere” incompetence is the cause, why haven’t any of these government officials simply admitted the many, many errors now documented from and by the public record, and moved to correct them?

In listening very carefully to what officials involved in this say publicly, we never hear that completion of the 3132 Extension is not only about a roadway, it is even more importantly about keeping faith with the people of Shreveport.

Shreveporters are owed an expedited completion of the Extension to the Port … as we were very, very specifically promised.  Any other outcome confirms as fact that at least a majority of our local government officials are openly contemptuous of those they swear an oath to serve.

Elliott Stonecipher
for the Finish 3132 Coalition

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.