In what is hopefully NOT a precursor of future actions, the Caddo Commission voted to waste taxpayer funds –not once but twice in recent meetings. On May 17th, the Commission appropriated $50,000 for Shreveport Green to clear a marshy area behind a number of homes in Cherokee Park subdivision. On June 17th, the Commission voted to pay more for its legal advertising to reach fewer parish residents (More on this next week).
The Cherokee Park(Click HERE to see a larger Map) clean up ordinance is conditioned upon approval by the Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. In his letter to Caldwell, Parish Attorney, Charles Grubb advised that the funds would be spent to clear a former oxbow of the Red River. Grubb also opined that the old river bed is now owned by the private property owners.
The legal issue is very simple –should parish funds be utilized to perform work on private property. Louisiana law clearly prohibits such an expenditure, –for obvious issues.
In an effort to justify this public project on private property, the Commission strained to find a “public purpose” i.e. that the condition represented a health hazard to the entire neighborhood. The Commission evidently believed that the snakes and “other varmints” who may breed in this wet area are highly mobile, and as such, would seek higher ground by the traveling over the lots, cross subdivision streets and establish habitats throughout the neighborhood. The Commission’s faulty logic is matched by that of the complaining residents who “do not consider the area in question to be part of their property because they do not maintain the same.” The residents in the minority neighborhood also cited a cleanup of this property by the City of Shreveport years ago as additional support for this endeavor.
The fact that the property is in the city limits seemingly was not a problem for the Commission nor the fact that neither the City nor the Levee Board officials were not interested in assisting the residents. Additionally the Commission was not concerned with setting a bad precedent that will likely haunt them when other City of Shreveport neighborhood associations look for extraordinary relief from the Parish, rather than the City coffers.
The fact that most of these residents do not pay parish taxes because of the $75,000 homestead is further evidence of bad decision making by the Commission. Interestingly enough, the letter to Attorney General Caldwell did not state that the property was in the City limits, –only that the City had previously cleaned the area.
The black commissioners voting for this boondoggle were joined by David Cox and John Esude. Cox’s vote was no doubt motivated by the re-districting discussions now being had, which may lead to a seventh minority commission district. Escude, the self-proclaimed, Jeffersonian on the Commission, must be pinning his hope to the Attorney General’s ruling, – or he could be playing the political “You owe me one” game.
And although the parish intends to send letters to all the Cherokee Park residences advising that this is a one-time cleanup, the neighborhood association has not gotten the message. In the May 24th issue of the Shreveport Sun, the association president advised that his group will be seeking more governmental assistance in the future –“a coordinated partnership between the Levee Board, the City and the Parish” to deal with this area. Evidently, once a government entity feeds a neighborhood association it can expect a return visit for another meal.