When one thinks of the many challenges Shreveport’s next mayor should address, appointments to the multitude of local boards and commissions is probably not even on the radar screen. However, the wheels of a democratic government do turn, in part, on the actions/reactions of these groups which in theory provide meaningful input on how the city’s tax dollars are spent.
Some of these appointive bodies are high profile and well known to most citizens, – like the Shreveport Airport Authority, the Caddo-Bossier Port Commission, the Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Shreveport Metropolitan Zoning Board of Appeals, the Shreveport Parks & Recreation Council, and the Downtown Development Authority. Other boards/commissions that have a public profile include the Housing Authority of the City of Shreveport, the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, the Property Standards Board, the Shreve Memorial Library Board, and the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Commission, among others.
Many boards/commissions rarely make the news and thus are known at best by only those directly affected by their actions, – like the Building Board of Appeals, the Employment Retirement System Board of Trustees, the Shreveport Health Trust Board, Caddo Parish Communication District Number One, the Industrial Development Board, the Loan Review Committee and/or the Personnel Board, as examples.
The Shreve Memorial Library Board has recently been the subject of public scrutiny over the unilateral decision by its president to cancel a library sponsored forum during Sunshine Week. The Board’s actions at a subsequent meeting reflected a sad example of unqualified citizens who seemingly did not understand their responsibilities as board members vis a vis the library director, much less the basics of Roberts’ Rules of Order. Perhaps not surprising, several members are serving beyond the expiration of their terms; one ,Dottie Bell, is an elected Caddo Parish School Board member who should not even be a member for that reason alone.
By best count there are at least twenty-three (23) active boards/commissions that have members appointed by Shreveport’s Mayor. And this is part of the challenge for the incoming mayor, – identifying all of these boards and commissions along with the current members with term expiration dates. A recent public records request was answered with a list of boards/commissions, – many of which did not have all the names of the appointed members, several with out dated membership lists, and many with no information on appointment and end date of terms. Hopefully, there is an accurate list somewhere in the bowels of City Hall.
Shreveport’s next mayor should aggressively audit all mayoral appointments to boards/commissions, and ask for letters of resignation from all appointees. Criteria should be adopted for appointments and input from the directors of each entity solicited, including attendance records of current board/commission members, travel/education expenses expended by them, and other performance factors to help in determining replacement/re-appointment. The Mayor should also establish a central registry to not only inform citizens of all the boards/commissions and their members, but also to allow citizens to volunteer for appointments. Hopefully future mayoral appointments will be merit-driven, not pay back for political support or friendship; maybe that’s asking too much in a system that to date has been more political than non partisan, but there’s always hope.