by Elliott Stonecipher

OK now, someone has some explaining to do.

$2,000,000+ Esplanade Larkin
$2,000,000+ State Benefits?

If you haven’t read it yet, Adam Duvernay’s report in the Shreveport Times this morning gets this thinking process started.  (SEE here.)  Along with the side-bar items, the article suggests that we just don’t have enough money to fix all the roads we have, much less build new ones.

‘Really?  R e a l l y?!

As soon as we take these assertions about the unavailability of “enough” funds and put them to the test of real facts, decisions and processes, we run into typical Louisiana trouble – trouble of the facts, truth and political reality kind.

This same highway-maintaining, highway-building state government is about to build a $2,000,000+ private entrance and exit on Flournoy-Lucas Road into a swanky new subdivision, Esplanade.  The developer, Tim Larkin, doesn’t like the “right in / right out” entrance and exit that his development is due under the law and other rules.  So, with the help of political friends here and in Baton Rouge, he gets to – if we don’t stop it – build an entrance and exit which requires land from his next-door neighbor, The Glen Retirement Center, out of the taxpayers’ already woefully pilfered pockets.  Never mind that The Glen says they don’t want to be a part of it.

It gets worse …  

The people on the point in hammering out a deal with The Glen – facing expropriation of the land if they don’t knuckle under – are NLCOG and the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD).  Yep, that would be the same DOTD detailing their funding woes in Adam Duvernay’s article this morning.

… and it gets worse …   

Until Mayor Glover joined hands with Larkin, former state representative Jane Smith, and top folks in Governor Jindal’s office and terminated the 3132 Extension to suit Larkin’s plan for developing Esplanade, Larkin had tried to get The Glen to do this “joint entrance / exit” deal with him using HIS money, not the taxpayers’ money.  Negotiations led, however, to a price Larkin thought was too high, and he stomped away, never to contact The Glen again.  When he next showed up, he had a small and very powerful army of politicos wielding taxpayer money with him, ready, willing and able to build the entrance and exit for him.

… and it gets worse …

The land Larkin bought to give him Flournoy-Lucas Road frontage for his Railsback Road subdivision is the 36.99-acre tract he brought from Twelve Oaks developer Tony Janca in 2007.  That’s the 36.99-acre tract the 3132 Extension must pass through to ever be built.  It’s the 36.99-acre tract we the people were promised by Janca and NLCOG would be “preserved” for that route.  “Preserving” that route was necessary because the previous one, set out in the 1991-1992 corridor study, ended up with Janca’s Twelve Oaks built on top of it.  (Routes aren’t “preserved” here.  They are simply the subject of hundreds of millions of dollars in “studies,” for no real purpose except to study such things, a large part of the costs of our so-called “highway construction” spending.)

… and it gets worse …

When this wrapped-in-our-money gift to Larkin is handed to him, just-plain-folks in the area, especially in Acadiana Place, across the road from The Glen, will be particularly nailed.  Larkin’s entrance/exit will produce a median cut in Flournoy-Lucas which will lead to commercial development of the land adjacent to that subdivision.  Their drop in home values and loss of any sense of privacy will be gone.  If Larkin was doing this alone, these residents could fight him, but they certainly can’t afford to fight DOTD and the crew of politicos and other public officials at his disposal.

… and it gets worse …

The key DOTD official in Adam Duvernay’s piece this morning, Eric Kalivoda, is the same one on point in getting Larkin’s entrance built for him.  We in the 3132 Coalition don’t know if he had much of a choice since his boss, DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas, was likely ordered to do this by top-ranked state officials in Gov. Jindal’s office.  As I write this, we have outstanding Public Records Requests before both Secretary Sherri LeBas and her Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda.

… and it gets worse.

The gift to Larkin is not possible under state law unless so-called “control of access” by DOTD has been ordered.  To order it, DOTD / NLCOG have to be studying the supposed “new route” for the 3132 Extension.  That’s another $1,000,000 of our tax dollars going into this rat (mouse?) hole, and it is only providing cover for this political op.  The only possibly acceptable-by-all route for the 3132 Extension – set out in 1991-1992 with hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars paying for its study – was the one Twelve Oaks sits on.  No other sane and affordable route that might someday actually yield the Extension is any longer available – and all of these political actors and their attached bureaucrats and “studiers” know that.  They’re all betting serious amounts of our money that we can’t figure it out.

Remember:  the median cut and entrance/exit for Larkin and all the rest of that stinky confection was supposed to wait on the completion of the 2-year – DOTD said – “feasibility study” for the 3132 Extension.  Why, then, is it all about to be built … any day now?  Why was the surveying just finished … so early?  Why rush?

It can’t get any worse … anywhere.

Which is it?  Are we out of money?  Are our taxes not high enough?  Did President Obama just not give us enough (borrowed) “stimulus” money?  Or, is all of this really about HOW we spend the mega-billions we give government to get this job done?!  When our unique mix of asphalt and concrete for our highways is very little concrete and huge amounts of cronyism, other corruption, maladministration of process and rank governmental waste, just how much money does it take to get a highway built:  5 times the amount it takes elsewhere?  10 times?  20 times?

Here’s what we know:

If we don’t stop these folks, DOTD and a handful of their political handlers are going to give Tim Larkin over $2,000,000 of our tax dollars to build an entrance and exit for his mega-millions, swanky Esplanade development.  That will pump-up his personal profit, of course.

Let’s see who from DOTD, NLCOG, MPC, the Mayor’s office, and the Governor’s office publicly opposes this waste.

If any of what we read in this morning’s article is the provable, factual case, and we think more tax money is needed for “highways,” let’s stop studying things that the “studiers” know will never happen.  Let’s tell Tim Larkin to build his own entrance / exit, in the form of the “right in / right out” kind his land and the straight-up law entitles him to.  

It isn’t our problem that politically flush Tim Larkin isn’t due the pretties and swank he wants to go along with the tens-of-millions he’ll make on Esplanade.

Elliott Stonecipher

Elliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.

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