by John Settle, opinion
Just like an outstanding employee with a large company who gets promptly promoted, elected officials who prove their worth by good statesmanship and exemplary representation of their constituency can almost always expect involved citizens to push them to run for a higher office—and for good reason. Election of tried and true citizens who have had political experience generally leads to better elected officials—at least there is a track record to measure past performance.
Even though Shreveport City Councilman James Flurry only assumed office in December of last year, its no surprise that he was urged by many to “move on up” in the political arena. The House District 7 seat is open this Fall; the current representative Richard Burford is seeking to fill the Senate seat that will be vacated by Sherri Cheek Buffington who is termed out. This district encompasses Stonewall, Keatchie, Grand Cane, Logansport, Pleasant Hills and a large portion of Southern Hills in Shreveport. Flurry is the council representative for District E which encompasses most of Southern Hills – and for that matter District 7.
The only announced candidate for this seat is Steve Casey, a resident of Stonewall who is has a low profile in Southern Hills where the overwhelming majority of voters reside. Casey has been a pastor for churches in Mississippi, Kentucky and now Louisiana; he is also a chaplain for Evergreen Life Services working with individuals with developmental disabilities. Reportedly he is to the political right of Bossier Representative Mike Johnson if one can believe that, – – just what Louisiana needs is another hard core Christian right official to give more black eyes to the state in the national media.
Buffington is reportedly considering a run for this House seat as well; she will face opposition by citizens who are tired of career politicians who run for different seats when termed out. Additionally there is substantial questions as to her real residency—in the district or with her husband who resides in Bossier; she can expect an election challenge lawsuit if she qualifies.
So its no surprise that the politicos of this district looked to a high profile elected official to be their standard bearer in this race like Flurry. And to his credit Flurry gave the overtures serious consideration—even to the point of releasing a press conference to make an announcement of the race. Thankfully for the good of Shreveport and his council district he decided to stay home, and for good reasons. There is no doubt that Flurry would have been the favorite in this race if he had decided to run.
Flurry is a political newcomer who came virtually from nowhere last fall to win the District E seat in a run-off election; the Southern Hills power brokers had endorsed another candidate and basically did not give him the time of day until he was the front-runner in the primary. Flurry along with his new Council running buddy Willie Bradford, who he did not know from Adam until his victory, have formed a dynamic and unusual partnership on the Council.
Flurry is the quintessence of the Southern WASP— a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male who is a balding, overweight Republican who looks more comfortable in jeans and boots on a tractor than in a business suit. Bradford is well spoken, well-tailored black Democrat who has been through the desegregation wars and was at one time considered to be a black radical; now he is one of the most respected black elected officials in Caddo Parish.
Together Flurry and Bradford, both rookies, have already played major roles in matters coming before the Council. Both represent districts that have suffered from poor Council representation and it has taken their combined efforts to tilt the wheel from other districts to get a “fair share” for their constituents. And their newly formed friendship and Council partnership have not only set an example for other Council members but Shreveport as well in the area of race relations. Together they represent a “new day” for elected leadership for Shreveport—and one that is long overdue.
Flurry’s decision to not enter the House race is certainly a win-win for his district and Shreveport—and for his family and close friends that worked very hard to get him elected on a shoe string budget that has not been matched by an election winner in recent times. The Council budget process is just beginning and his time and energy will be needed to seriously address financial challenges the city is facing—and that have not been identified much less addressed by Mayor Tyler or her administration. The continuing loss of tax revenues, the City’s unfunded pension liabilities, and the stop gap funding for law enforcement and most recently the fire department by federal grants represent major issues that can not continue to be ignored—both Flurry and Bradford are committed to address these matters.
Those that criticized Flurry for his initial interest in seeking the house seat and for flip-flopping on his decision should grind on some elected officials that have clearly put themselves first by over-spending public dollars. Good examples include are Caddo Commissioners Lindora Baker, Matthew Linn, Ken Epperson and Lyndon Johnson for high dollar traveling on the taxpayer’s dime—along with Stephanie Lynch before she moved to the City Council. The entire Commission can also be criticized, and rightly so, for voting for salary increases, unmonitored travel expenses, tax dollars to defend the unlawful pension plan and for turning the GM plant purchase into an economic development nightmare.
Bottom line, House District 7’s loss is Shreveport’s gain—thank goodness. Hopefully District 7 voters will search for and wide for a candidate with Flurry’s credentials to run for this open seat—for the good of the district and for that matter the state of Louisiana. In the meantime, Flurry and Bradford can be expected to do yeoman’s duty tackling Shreveport’s budget; this is an ugly mission that is long overdue.