It was over a year ago, fifteen months to be exact, when our Finish 3132 Coalition was formed. This work has become a full-time-plus (pro bono) job for me, and I continue to believe it is very important to and for our city. Your comments to us underscore that belief.
In a not-funny whack-a-mole kind of way, there is no end to the number of issues which have surfaced and require attention … no end. “Attention” means communication to the public. Thus, I ask for your attention, now.
Last Wednesday, our MPC, Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission, had a meeting which strong rumor, if not the actual meeting Agenda, suggested might include discussion of Extension issues. Our Finish 3132 Coalition thus trundled down to Government Plaza to try yet again to make sure nothing is constructed in the likely Extension route corridor until after the “feasibility study” now underway is completed … duh.
We made our presentation at the meeting, this time focusing on the newly discovered route option which was withheld from the public, a route option which we believe is far, far superior to any alternatives which have been blessed for consideration by the powers that be. Since this new alternative would protect surrounding homeowners rather than the undeveloped land which would be Tim Larkin’s Esplanade development, it isn’t, shall we say, favorably viewed by those powers.
When we were through, attorney Tom Arceneaux spoke for Larkin. The meeting then proceeded to other unrelated MPC cases, or so the official Agenda suggested.
So, we left the meeting, but not without some protection against surprises. Since there have been many such surprises in this endeavor, none of them good for the general public, we video / audio tape all public meetings which may include Extension matters. This meeting was no exception.
Much to my surprise as I viewed the recording for the period after we left, the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG) director, Kent Rogers, was then called up to the podium, and another 3132 Extension meeting began and was conducted, and it was lengthy.
Now, here’s the important part.
Near the end of the meeting-within-the-meeting – with only MPC members and staff, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Larkin and his attorney still in the room – MPC Director Charles Kirkland made the following remarks. This is a verbatim record of the pertinent part, from which I have excluded only an out-of-context mention by Mr. Kirkland of Mr. Arceneaux and MPC member Larry Ferdinand:
“In Caddo Parish – Shreveport, Louisiana – we have come a long, long way in how we do roadway and transportation planning.
It used to be so political you couldn’t believe how political it was. It was mayors, governors and others … state senators and others … (excluded comments referenced above)
Our NLCOG unit, especially under Kent Rogers, has done tremendous work in improving the quality of how we work and make our decisions.
I understand that those who didn’t have information are criticizing COG every time we turn around, but Kent, from me and some others who do know, ya’ll have been a godsend in terms of improved quality of work and good decisions that benefit the public.
I for one really appreciate that good work.”
I am honor-bound to specifically note that I have long known Charles Kirkland, and I mean him no disrespect. We have worked together on this issue, even with – as is now obvious – deep differences of opinion and intention. My surprise and disappointment, thus, is not intended or meant as personal criticism of Charles Kirkland. Rather, it provides dramatic testimony of the difference between the view of insiders and the public as to what has happened, and is happening, in the public affairs of the city we work hard to fund and otherwise support.
First. If our “COG’s” role in this chapter of Shreveport history is not political – hyper-political, in fact – then even after a career in and around politics, I cannot imagine what is. The public record proves, without doubt, that the deliberate, overt termination of the decades-old contract with the Shreveport public to build the Extension was totally and completely political. The intended extinction of the roadway was designed and ordered – as we have proven – by Mayor Cedric Glover, Mr. Larkin and other public officials, including some in our state capital. The actions of these officials have been and are a gross and garish display of how such abuse can subvert the will and direct commitment of the governed. In fact, the breach of faith and trust with the people by these public officials veritably screams from the public record!
Second. To put the point very mildly, our research finds in this debacle irrefutable evidence in contradiction to the claim that our “council of governments” has “done tremendous work in improving the quality” of this “roadway and transportation planning” process.
Third. If our Coalition is, as I am certain, Mr. Kirkland’s target as he refers to “those who didn’t have information who are criticizing COG,” we must note that there’s a simple and lone reason for any lack of information on our part: in my long experience in uncovering that which public officials never intend to be uncovered, Mr. Rogers ranks near the top of a list headed by Mayor Glover and Governor Jindal of those who work to deny public access to public information. In case we need to point this out, government officials hide public information when they have something to hide, not because they can’t find something else to do.
Fourth. If what has gone on with the 3132 Extension is a “godsend,” or the we-can’t-finish-it-no-matter-what I-49 is a “godsend,” then we need to kneel at the alter of the highway gods and offer-up a suitable sacrifice for mercy.
I know of nothing in the history of the 3132 Extension which better exemplifies and defines the immensity of the disagreement between we the people and those we have elected or otherwise employed to serve us.
FINISH 3132 COALITION
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.
CLARIFICATION: I must correct an impression I may have left in my earlier report about last Wednesday’s MPC meeting.
At one point in the piece, I wrote:
“Near the end of the meeting-within-the-meeting – with only MPC members and staff, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Larkin and his attorney still in the room – MPC Director Charles Kirkland made the following remarks …”
In that expression, I omitted the presence at one stage in the end-of-regular-meeting session of a new attorney working on “our side” of the Extension issue. I intended to convey that all of us with the Finish 3132 Coalition and our sponsor, Willis-Knighton Health System, had left before the meeting-within-the-meeting, and thus well before Mr. Kirkland’s remarks, which is the pertinent fact.
Although no one has notified me of the error, I apologize for any misimpression I may have left.