by Willie Bradford
Two months into my tenure as city councilman I’ve received several phone calls accusing me of not working with or supporting Mayor Ollie Tyler. After experiencing eight years of the most ineffective administrations in this city’s modern history, no one is pulling for the success of Mayor Tyler more than me.
I ran for City Council because of my love and concern for the future of our city. It saddened me to see how the citizens had become so cynical about city government. At this crucial time in our history, we deserve a great mayor. And on paper Mayor Tyler is one of the most qualified individuals to hold this esteemed office. So I have “high hopes” that she can be the transformative mayor this city needs. But right now hope is not enough.
You see, I represent the most economically distressed council district in the city. Over the last three decades, parts of District A have suffered drugs and crack epidemics, gang violence and killings, black middle-class flight, economic disinvestments, bad streets and the constant fear of flooding. These residents deserve better. They elected me over an incumbent because I promised them I was going to City Hall to fight for them; to hold the mayor, my fellow city councilmen and most importantly, myself, accountable. I intend to honor that promise.
My entire professional life, I have worked as a manager. It’s in my DNA that you seek out and hire the best people you can, pay them the best you can, give them clear goals for success, and then hold them accountable. So when I take the time to question the next CAO about his qualifications to guide the day-to-day operations of our city, I am not opposing the mayor, I am holding myself accountable to my responsibility as outlined in the city charter, that requires the council to give its assent….
Or when I questioned and then voted against Attorney William Bradford’s appointment as city attorney, I was not opposing the mayor, or making a personal statement about the young man. My vote was based on years of working as a manager and speaking to members of the legal community. I believed strongly that the city attorney’s position — which next to the Mayor and CAO may be the most important position in the administration — required a seasoned attorney with years of experience as a litigator and managing complex legal matters.
Additionally, my view of what it means to be an effective city councilman is also based on coming of age in the 1970’s when Shreveport elected its first City Council under the new charter. Looking back, that first council should have set the standard by which every future council should be judged.
It included James C. Gardner, who had been “First Citizen” of Shreveport in the ’50s and who was an intellectual giant, visionary and mentor to a generation of political leaders, both black and white; attorney Hilary Huckaby III whose impact was so great they named a highway after him after he died; John B. Hussey who would go on to become one of the great mayors in our city’s history; the Rev. Herman Farr who in the ’60s as president of the Shreveport Branch NAACP would go to the Strand Theater and refuse to sit in the colored section and was one of the most courageous men I ever knew; and a young rambunctious Gregory Tarver, who would go on to be one of the most powerful state legislator’s of the modern era. Four years later, a young educator named Joe Shyne would replace Rev. Farr.
These men guided Shreveport from an era of racial turmoil to racial reconciliation. They asphalt overlaid or paved every street in the African-American neighborhoods which for generations had been nothing more than dirt roads that washed away whenever it rained. They passed bond issues that allowed Shreveport to become the modern diverse city it is today. Shreveport was indeed a “City on the Grow.” Oh they had their battles, but it was over the great issues of the day, not petty, personal squabbles.
I have no interest in serving on a City Council that is paralyzed with fights over dog parks and inept financial advisers. Economic disparity, a dying inner-city, white and middle-class flight, and a loss of faith in our city government by too many demand that this mayor and council be held accountable … that we dare to be great.
So I promise the voters who elected me, and the citizens of this city, that every council meeting I am going to challenge the mayor, my fellow council members and more importantly myself to be great.
All the same, Shreveport cannot afford four years like the previous eight. So, if my vision of Shreveport becoming a progressive, inclusive and great city is not shared by the mayor and my fellow council members I anticipate lots more calls and criticisms will be coming my way over the next four years.
City Councilman, District A