It has been a week since five Shreveport City Council members voted to override our Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) in order to greenlight house building by Bossier City politician and developer Tim Larkin in a likely route of the Hwy. 3132 Extension.
At that Council meeting last Tuesday, our Finish 3132 Coalition offered, in return for certain protections of the public interest, to end the federal court lawsuit. Our offer has received no comment from the defendants in that lawsuit – NLCOG, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD).
(Those who care to may read, in the lawsuit linked above, the pertinent section from the bottom of Page 17, then Pages 18 and 19. The legal language there is the foundation of the three points of our offer, bolded below. I read and displayed these for the Council and public in last week’s Council meeting.)
1. Remove from the list of possible routes the one which moves through The Oaks of Louisiana and other businesses and institutions in the path of that supposed route.
This route was never legitimately a part of the 3132 Extension Stage 0 Feasibility Study. It was included as retribution against Willis-Knighton Health System (WKHS) for its organization of efforts to restore the Extension after Mayor Cedric Glover, Tim Larkin and NLCOG acted “replace” it with a five-laned Flournoy-Lucas Road. The WKHS commitment resulted in our Coalition, for which I and others do this work without pay. Legal and other expenses are paid by WKHS.
The genesis of this supposed route alternative is an email between two Executive Committee members of NLCOG’s controlling Transportation Policy Committee. The email was written at 2:02 PM on June 6, 2011 – just two months after the fateful NLCOG meeting of April 7, 2011 – by Bill Altimus, Bossier Parish Policy Jury Administrator, writing to Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover. Here is that email message, verbatim and in its entirety:
“Just want to make sure Elrod’s property is one option to be considered and the Times has plenty of opportunities to comment since they can’t seem to let go of this.”
“Elrod” is WKHS President & CEO James K. Elrod, and “the Times” is a reference to Craig Durrett who was then writing extensively on this subject for the Shreveport Times. Durrett, in fact, broke the story after a tip from an attendee at the fateful NLCOG meeting.
The absurdity of the route alternative is underscored by the fact that were it to be selected in the subject feasibility studies, the most recently completed leg of the Hwy. 3132 – from Bert Kouns Industrial Loop down to Flournoy-Lucas Road – would have to be destroyed and removed, at a cost to the City of Shreveport of an estimated $27,000,000. The route would take out, among other properties, WKHS’ The Oaks of Louisiana, then a SWEPCO power substation. Again, the mere idea of such a “route” was and is laughably absurd.
2. Hold an official public hearing – a hearing with a free exchange of information by those on all sides of the issue – which presents and explains ALL possible route alternatives, especially including the one which necessarily uses Larkin’s land, i.e., the only remaining undeveloped land available for the Extension.
Much of my time in presenting the Coalition arguments in last Tuesday’s meeting was used to explain these route alternatives. Using emails between various LA DOTD staff and consultants which we obtained through Public Records Requests, I showed how this alternative was the one originally designed and recommended by the highway department’s project consultant, as well as its own Project (Scoping) Engineer. It is the effective opposite of the one politically drawn for Larkin by LA DOTD’s Deputy Secretary, and was designed, with no outside involvement, for the explicit purpose of protecting existing homeowners in Twelve Oaks. In one of its versions, Larkin’s then brand new bridge over Bayou Pierre was “taken out” by the Project Engineer … without apology.
This route alternative never saw the light of public day until Coalition legal action. It was withheld from the August 2, 2012 public hearing – held for the explicit purpose of showing possible route alternatives – in violation of federal NEPA laws mandating such disclosures and public involvement.
3. Specifically commit (in and through settlement document language) to include the route originally recommended by the consultants and Project Engineer for full and fair consideration in the Stage 1 Study.
This is language explicitly asserting that the routes deliberately withheld from public review and comment – as explained in Item #2 – must be among those forwarded to the next – Stage 1 – Study for fair and equal consideration.
Readers may remember my report last week of a meeting with six members of the Coalition and City Councilman Michael Corbin, six days before last week’s Council action. It was notable because Corbin volunteered to us that he would vote (last Tuesday) to uphold the MPC rejection of Larkin’s request. Instead, Corbin authored and offered the Council amendment last Tuesday which overrode the MPC. He was also the only Council member who spoke for Larkin’s interests rather than the public’s prior to the vote.
Councilman Corbin also specifically expressed to us his displeasure with “delay” by the U. S. District Court in the Coalition’s lawsuit. Now, attention is directly focused on the Councilman’s actions, and Corbin can do his city a real service by taking the lead in explaining to NLCOG, FWHA, and LA DOTD the wisdom of agreeing to the Coalition proposition, explained here. We doubt his commitment to the Extension is sufficient for such, but we hope to be proven wrong.
Perhaps the Council members who followed Corbin’s lead in last Tuesday’s vote against the public’s interests – Oliver Jenkins, Jeff Everson, Sam Jenkins and Rose McCulloch – will join him in such an effort.
Finish 3132 Coalition