by Elliott Stonecipher
Now that official candidate qualifying is in the books, Shreveporters are forgiven any “Haven’t we seen this movie before?” reaction. Whatever else may happen, the campaign for Mayor of Shreveport will once again center on top insiders keeping the same ol’ same ol’ political machine greased and humming.
As the campaign begins, the long-needed City Hall blow-up and rebuild seems unlikely.
Major candidates this time around are City Councilman Sam Jenkins, teacher Victoria Provenza, State Representative Patrick Williams, and retired education higher-up Ollie Tyler. Provenza is white and an Independent, and the remaining three are African-American Democrats.
Also in the race are newcomer Anna Marie Arpino, identified by our daily paper as an accountant, always-on-a-ballot-for-something Jim Crowley (no offense meant, Jim), and Melvin Slack, Jr.
Mr. Slack is identified by the paper as an “evangelist.” If that be true, faithful Shreveporters should thank him in advance for praying for our city as this electoral soiree runs its course. ‘Lord knows all help is needed.
No matter that the city is stagnant, if not tipping over into something worse, top insiders, along with their small army of election wizards and flacks, prefer things precisely as they are, thank you (taxpayers) very much. Money in those particular and few pockets and purses is the tune, and these are the folks who have long called the dance. Their lone measure of supposed success has always been how much public money can be scored by control of the mayor’s office.
Joining with this group are many top names among the city’s highest-profile civic groups.
The candidate hand-picked to take over from term-limited Mayor Cedric Glover is Ollie Tyler. Some of us, myself specifically included, wonder if Tyler truly understands how and why she was recruited and is being handled.
Aware or not, if she is elected, the city hall deck is stacked for her to lead Glover’s team through what will effectively be his third term, not her first. Given that a background in public education administration is a distant cousin, at best, to a mayoralty, Tyler likely has little if any notion of what the job entails, much less how a Shreveport mayor can be so effectively handled by those outside the office.
The ties between those who put Glover in office and those now scripting and otherwise handling Tyler are as direct and extensive as they are irrefutable. Such is evidence that Glover is much more the driver than passenger in Tyler’s intended trip to the city’s top office. Another such sign will be leaks by key members of Glover’s team that they are with Tyler and already know which job is set to be theirs.
Ironically, Tyler was not even the original choice of this group. That was Councilman Sam Jenkins, who left the race when a list of his tax “problems” – meaning Jenkins was not paying them – was publicly exposed. Having picked and blessed him, Glover and his top handlers dumped Jenkins, shifted into “Sam who?” mode, and recruited Tyler.
Advancing age and previous health concerns were reported by various sources to be major concerns in Tyler’s initial thinking about entering the race, just as they had been in her retirement from public education jobs. Now, it seems, those concerns have faded.
As noted earlier, Sam Jenkins, still very much a Gloverite, is back in the race, leaving many to wonder how he fits into Glover’s plan. Analytically, it seems clear that Jenkins may take votes away from State Rep. Patrick Williams, raising the odds that he will be squeezed out of a run-off, possibly by Victoria Provenza.
Early betting is that Tyler would win a run-off against the white candidate, though the African-American majority is not large at 52.7%.
Tyler is new to this worse-by-the-day political and electoral game in Shreveport and Caddo Parish, though she is anything but a newcomer to life in a government job. Her public education career, reaching Caddo Parish and (interim) state education superintendent, certainly qualifies her in that regard.
If elected, Tyler will be paid the $100,000+ mayor’s salary, plus her significant state retirement income.
The Mary Landrieu Connection
A barn-burner Shreveport mayor’s race will maximize turnout of African-American voters, precisely the plan of U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu’s run for her political life is on the same November 4th ballot, and Glover has long been in Landrieu’s army of political soldiers. Their closeness was determinative in Glover’s 2006 first-term election.
Although, as mentioned, Tyler is broadly assumed the winner in a run-off with Provenza, Landrieu’s likely run-off election on December 6th looms large. Louisiana’s November 4th primary election is general election day for the rest of the nation. If the Republican Party then collects the six new U. S. Senate seats it needs for control of the upper chamber, Landrieu’s likely run-off in December would be far less politically important, and African-American turnout likely notably lower. Such favors a white mayoral candidate, the thinking goes.
In the midst of all extraneous issues and possibilities, Shreveport urgently needs complete political and governmental reform. That so many in the city’s acclaimed leadership seem unaware of that fact should be of overriding concern to the rest of us as this election campaign plays out.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.