Before I escort readers behind the curtain of yesterday’s Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) action on the Hwy. 3132 Extension, I thank the Shreveport Times’ Kristi Johnston for her coverage (SEE here), and KTBS Television’s Nick Calloway for his (here).
The most notable result of yesterday’s MPC action is that board members voted unanimously to reject Esplanade developer Tim Larkin’s request for approval to build a roadway from his bridge over Bayou Pierre into Flournoy-Lucas Road. The conviction of the MPC members was thus loudly proclaimed: this is the second time in four months they have listened, studied, and questioned, then voted their refusal to green-light the developer’s roadway.
The short version of the action over those four months is: (1) at its May 2, 2012 meeting, Larkin asked the MPC to approve his roadway, likely in the path of a new 3132 Extension corridor route, and all members voted “no”; (2) Larkin appealed that decision to the City Council, and it, on May 22nd, punted it back to MPC, rather than take the politically dangerous action of approval itself; and, (3) yesterday, the MPC reiterated its confidence in its initial decision.
Now, Mr. Larkin may elect to go back from whence he politically came, the City Council, with his appeal of these two, identical MPC votes. Contrary to the Shreveport City Charter’s separation of executive and legislative powers, Mayor Glover rules the political roost with the Council in (far too) many things, the 3132 Extension included. We will now see if the Council members can feel the change in these political winds: if Larkin refiles his appeal, and if four-of- seven members jump on board with he and Glover, the developer would gain approval for his roadway. In such case, however, certain pleadings within the just-filed lawsuit of Willis-Knighton Medical System and our Coalition would be triggered.
In terms of the real action yesterday, attendees at the MPC meeting at Government Plaza were front-row witnesses to the heavy hand Cedric Glover uses in all 3132 Extension matters, and much else. After hours of meeting on a long list of agenda items, when the MPC vote on Larkin’s roadway was about to be cast, Glover’s City Attorney, Terri Scott, made her first appearance in the Plaza chambers. She and another staffer began to actively “advise” MPC members on what they could and could not do – almost all of which was whispered in select ears rather than communicated to the public in attendance. Given that Ms. Scott is, by her own admission, a close advisor to our mayor rather than our city government’s lead attorney in matters of the public interest, the message was clear: Glover was watching, maybe literally via the closed-circuit telecast of such meetings in various Government Plaza offices.
If these dramatics were an attempt at intimidation of MPC members by Glover, the attempt fizzled. Not only did the group vote unanimously against the mayor’s personal interest – whatever it is – in Esplanade, they did so with expressed enthusiasm.
The City Council’s remand of this matter back to MPC never should have occurred. The MPC is carefully structured within Shreveport city government as independent of the mayor and city council. The reason, of course, is precisely a situation such as this: some politicians want to rig the deal rather than govern for the greater good, and the MPC is drawn in by the substance of the matter, i.e., city planning related to transportation needs, zoning, etc. In such instances, the MPC must aggressively protect its independence. Special-interest manipulation – if not maladministration – of governmental process is the business – all too often anymore – of the City Council.
It was equally inappropriate for the City Council to remand this issue back to the MPC after its original decision, and for the MPC staff to accept such a remand. The MPC staff, on behalf of its members, had every right under our City Charter to refuse the Council’s order, and should have done exactly that. Rather, the staff volunteered the MPC to be manipulated by certain council members, simultaneously surrendering its protection under the Charter, and choosing to participate in an obviously – and purely – political game.
As addressed in our just-filed lawsuit, the MPC has offered no explanation to the public of its 3132 Extension actions in 2003, 2004 and early 2005. Along with other government officials and bodies, the MPC failed to protect the Extension’s preferred corridor route – and the interest of the public – as the Twelve Oaks subdivision was built atop it.
Regardless, what the current members of the MPC board have most recently done – and completely in public – is to be commended. When the smoke cleared, none of the current political manipulations made it past these Board members: they did the right thing … not once, but twice.
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.