by Elliott Stonecipher
A Wall Street Journal (GRAPHICS) report(PDF of Story HERE) puts both Shreveport and New Orleans on a “top ten” list of American cities with alarmingly depleted cash-on-hand at the end of 2012. The Journal’s report, limited to scrutiny of American’s 250 largest cities by population, ranks the top-ten cities in seven categories.
New Orleans makes the “worst” list among largest American cities in two other categories: “Low Reserves” and “Population Decline.” The Crescent City ranks 4th in the study’s calculation of “fund balance to expenditures,” a deficit spending marker, and has a 2nd ranking, behind Detroit, in population loss between 2002 and 2012. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005.
Though Shreveport did not garner a “top ten” ranking in population loss for the period studied, Memphis is the 10th ranked city in that list, with a population loss of -4.3% during the July 1, 2002 to July 1, 2012 period. Shreveport’s population loss for the period was -1.4%.
New Orleans’ financial condition has long been anything but comfortable, and is the subject of discussion on a continuing basis in local, state and, when related to Hurricane Katrina, national news media. The Shreveport financial crisis, however, is rarely discussed by city leaders or the public, and spins-up little news media coverage. City officials have yet to comment on the few details which have recently leaked out, including word that city government is now down to its last $1,000,000 in cash. Second-term Mayor Cedric Glover is said to be working to transfer funds from other budget categories to create the appearance of a cash balance of nearer $6,000,000. The city’s annual budget nears the half-billion-dollar mark, and was $455,223,326 for the current year.
Notable in this context is the role in Shreveport city government finances of the man Glover hand-picked as Shreveport’s “financial advisor,” Calvin Grigsby. Glover signed Grigsby up for the work immediately after the mayor’s 2006 election, and the controlling contract of their agreement Glover has recently been investigated by Lafayette, Louisiana, attorney Frank X. Neuner, Jr., on behalf of the City Council. This action, about which I wrote a year ago, has resulted in little Council action, at least as publicly reported. The nationally-known Grigsby has long been the subject of public scrutiny, including a 2012 investigation by the Illinois Secretary of State, and a federal grand jury investigation in Miami in 1998.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.