If things go as planned, the Shreveport City Council will take action on Mayor Glover’s “street repair” program at its regular October 25th meeting. For those who may have missed my earlier e-mailed report on this critical issue, an op-ed version of it has been published in the Shreveport Times (See op-ed here).
As I detail in the Times piece, every warning flag on this deal is now up and strongly waving. Having spent a lot of years in and around politics and government, every instinct tells me that nothing about this deal adds-up to the good of Shreveport’s people. We should, however, have no doubt that it adds-up to the benefit of a handful in and around City Hall.
Strong – and Rare – Opposition from Notable Groups
As the crucial Council vote approaches, it seems certain that 3 of the 4 required “no” votes are rock-solid: Councilmen Michael Corbin, Ron Webb and Oliver Jenkins. Many other Shreveporters are working behind the scenes to stop yet another near-$100,000,000 in Shreveport municipal debt at a particularly wrong time in America’s and Louisiana’s history. Opposition has been, or soon will be, directly communicated to the mayor and City Council by the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, Committee of 100, Republican Party and others.
Such direct effort in opposition to unwise, wayward activity at City Hall has become so rare in Shreveport that we are surprised by it, a fact reflective of Shreveport’s legendary political disinterest, not the continuing decline of City Hall competence, wisdom, ethics and leadership.
An Inflection Point in Shreveport History … and The Cautionary Tale of New Orleans
For those who keep up with financial markets, the term “inflection point” is well known and understood. A very specific mathematical term, it more broadly refers to any moment in history at which time the subject entity dramatically and systemically changes – for good or ill. The identification of such historical moments is better left to historians than real-time analysts, but there seems little risk of error in this case:
if Shreveport city government doesn’t very quickly draw a line in the dirt against any further collapse in its human infrastructure, competence and ethics / respect for the law, it will likely decline past the possibility of recovery.
New Orleans is the cautionary tale by which we can recognize the decades-long decimation of a city. From a 1960 peak in its population of 627,525, the Crescent City stumbled and fell so quickly that by mid-2005, just before Katrina arrived, those fleeing the city’s corruption and decay left the population at 452,170 (See data here.) To put this in perspective, in that 1960 census, New Orleans was America’s 15th-largest city, with only 52,000 fewer residents than 14th-ranked Dallas. (See data here.) By the time the 2010 census data was gathered, Dallas had risen to 9th-largest, and New Orleans had plummeted to 52nd. (See data here.) Even in the pre-Katrina 2000 census, with a population of 484,674, New Orleans’ rank had dropped to 31st. (See data here.)
As reported in the 2010 census, Shreveport’s population is notably smaller than it was in 1980 … by -6,509 people. Going people. If we look even further back in order to give our city full credit for the impact of the Baby Boom, our city’s population has risen +56.7% since 1950, an annual average growth of less than 1%. With national population growth of +104.9% and Louisiana’s at +68.9% in those 60 years, the population increased +82.7% in Baton Rouge, +74.4% in Lake Charles, +259.6% in Lafayette, +80.2% in Jackson, Mississippi, +89.3% in Little Rock, and +148.7% in Tyler, Texas.
With our rapidly declining number of adults of child-bearing age – for example, Caddo Parish’s percentage of Women 20-to-44 has dropped -9.1% between 1990 and 2010 – we should be bracing for challenges and problems inarguably before us. Instead, our city government, with no balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, continues to supercharge even more population out-migration by raising already very high taxes, and now intends to take on hundreds-of-millions of dollars in new debt – in a single year!
For Councilman Jeff Everson, A Huge Responsibility … and Huge Potential Gain
The City Council vote will tell Shreveporters if any semblance of a proper check on the powers of the mayor exists. If the Council approves the mayor’s proposal – or any substitute which merely shaves a bit off this cockamamie scheme’s reward to a few people – the city’s decline will not only continue, it will accelerate. In our form of government, such unchecked power held and used by any executive is always ruinous.
Enter Councilman Jeff Everson.
Put simply, this issue seems almost certainly headed for a determination by Shreveport’s youngest Council member. “Youngest” matters in this case because Mr. Everson’s youthful view of his city and the world could reduce his desire to either take the political heat of going against Cedric Glover – a heat which, as many of us know, is often as intense as it is unjustifiable on its face – or to recognize the crucial point in Shreveport’s history at which he will cast his vote. Such possible naivete is wholly understandable, but if Shreveport has ever been able to afford it, it certainly cannot now.
The leadership of Councilmen Corbin, Webb and Jenkins against this absurd proposal is noted and appreciated, and we expect their opposition to hold. There’s no way around the resulting total dependence on Jeff Everson to, this time, save us from ourselves – that is, save us from the mayor’s questionable intention and unchecked – thus far – power.
A “no” vote from Councilman Everson and fellow Council members who join him is one way personal honor is recognizably demonstrated, and the stuff from which political careers may be made. In this case, it is also how a reform City Council majority identifies and rights itself, locks-in its proper role in opposition to continuing public policy recklessness in City Hall, and exerts the leadership – now missing – necessary to get serious about saving a city certainly worth saving.
Evets Management Services, Inc.
6658 Youree Drive
Suite 180, #367
Shreveport, LA 71105