Soo… When is Gosh Ollie Going to Really Start Being Mayor of Shreveport?

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John Settle-Opinion-May 2015It’s a good question!

Ollie Tyler has been mayor of the third largest city in Louisiana for over 150 days and what does she have to show for her administration? Very very little, especially since she became the de facto mayor after the October primary and had very little politicking to do to ensure her November election.

Calendar_Month PagesFor beginners, one can look at the staff she has assembled—which is long on political patronage and short on qualified appointments. For beginners the selection of Brian Crawford as Chief Administrative Officer was a condition of Tyler receiving the support of key downtown power brokers—so no credit to Tyler for that one. The same was basically true of naming former Times editor Africa Price to an over paid pr job at City Hall. Tyler had worked with Africa at the Community Foundation and the job promise not only helped promote positive press during the campaign with the Shreveport Times but also additional support from key Foundation supporters.

Young William Bradford
Young William Bradford

And the selection of William Bradford (not to be confused with Councilman Willie Bradford) as City Attorney was the rankest of all political patronage appointments. Bradford’s pathetic lack of experience necessitated the naming (for the first time ever) of 2 highly paid “deputy” city attorneys to handle the work that prior city attorney Terri Scott had accomplished. The additional payroll costs for these appointments deprived the rank and file assistant city attorneys, who had labored in the trenches for many years without pay raises, of long overdue pay adjustments.

Now Hiring-Ollie Tyler Positions OPENAfter the selection of a new fire chief, the Tyler hiring mill has virtually stopped. Shreveport has several key vacancies in very important jobs that directly deal with the daily challenges of keeping the trains running on time. Current vacancies include the Airport Director, Public Works Director and City Engineer—all related to basic city services and growing the city. Tyler, to her credit, has made appointments to the Shreve Memorial Library Board, the Shreveport Housing Authority and to the Downtown Development Authority… basically housekeeping details.

There was a surplus before...
There was a surplus before…

Tyler has not had any vacancies to fill on meaningful boards/commission like the Shreveport Airport Authority , The Port, the Zoning Board of Appeals or the Metropolitan Planning Commission. And she has not used her clout as mayor to replace those appointed by Glover that include his barber to the Port and other slots that reek of Glover’s political patronage much like her appointment of Bradford as City Attorney.

The elephant in the room that Gosh Ollie has virtually ignored is the city budget—one that does not have the excessive surplus like what she inherited, and then ran through, in her tenure as Caddo Superintendent. Despite requests Tyler has failed to conduct a budget workshop to address financial landmines known to second term Council members that could not be addressed in the last days of Glover’s administration.

The fact that the current budget is based on over-estimated income projections and under-estimated expense finally surfaced in an embarrassing way for the Tyler administration in the recent vote on the Centerpoint franchise fee. Tyler wanted to increase the franchise fee from 2% to 5% to cover an estimated $750,000 projected budget shortfall. Centerpoint topped out with a 4% offer and Tyler threatened to introduce an ordinance for a per foot charge for all Centerpoint pipe in the city—to bring in more money than the requested franchise increase.

CenterPoint Logo(Passing Along Costs)During the lobbying of the Council, Tyler’s staff argued that additional funds were needed for SPD cars, to keep parks open, and to comply with the Water & Sewer Consent Decree—notwithstanding that Water & Sewer is an Enterprise Fund and generates its own income, separate from the General Fund. A compromise measure introduced and successfully argued by newcomer James Flurry resulted in a 4.5% franchise fee that is a pass through to Centerpoint users.

The franchise fee amendment was poorly handled from start to finish by the Tyler administration. And in the process the threat of an ordinance to raise revenue by adding a true business expense (versus a pass through) sent to a message to the Chamber crowd (which had quietly but actively supported Tyler) that was not conducive to retaining current businesses much less recruiting new ones. Tyler’s reputation as Caddo Superintendent was certainly not built on fiscal restraint and it is apparent that she will not openly address the reality of the City’s growing financial crisis unless absolutely forced to do so. But then this message will not be the feel good stories about litter and beautification that Tyler and her PR whiz Price can present in a pretty package, in a high fashion public appearance.

The Wizard Africa Price
The Wizard Africa Price

Gosh Ollie is not Shreveport’s first woman mayor; she is the first African American female mayor which puts another “first” on her vita. Shreveport suffered through 4 years of stalled leadership when Hazel Beard , referred to by many as “Aunt Bee”, served her one term. Seemingly history is set to repeat itself with Ollie Tyler—Gosh Ollie—who at 70 is certainly showing her age when it comes to aggressive, progressive leadership. But then, those that pushed her to the top wanted just that—more of the same—to further benefit their personal and business interests; hopefully they are happy.

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