Ken Epperson’s recent Soapbox rant accusing the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) of being a “train wreck” is a sad commentary by a very highly paid part time public official unfairly criticizing a volunteer board working with poorly qualified, publicly paid staff. Epperson is always known to have a secondary agenda, and a close reading of his column clears reveals his motive–to have an unqualified person who happens to be a minority like Epperson appointed as the MPC Executive Director.
The MPC Board has 9 members–4 appointed by the Caddo Commission, 4 by the Shreveport City Council and 1 mutually agreed upon by the 2 bodies. Both the City and the Parish fund the MPC and its Zoning Board of Appeals; the MPC has planning jurisdiction over the City of Shreveport and a 5 mile district outside of the city limits. Its members serve voluntarily and without pay, often dealing with highly controversial decisions that have tremendous impact on development and rights of private property owners.
Currently the MPC Board is seeking to hire a new Executive Director to take the reigns after a 30 year tenure by former builder who lacked current day qualifications for this job. The Board has correctly decided that NO ONE on the MPC is qualified to lead the MPC into 21st century planning, and furthermore it has decided that policies and procedures need to be enacted for both the Board and the MPC staff. While Epperson complains that these steps are long overdue, perhaps he should question the former Executive Director or former MPC Chairman on those issues–if not look in the mirror and answer why has he only now become interested in these issues.
Both the Caddo Commission and the Shreveport City Council have passed resolutions requesting 2 members of each body be a part of the selection process for the new MPC Executive Director–in participatory non-voting roles. Many scholars question the legality of this request, along with the backroom rationale for the same. To its credit the current MPC Board, and especially its Chairperson Ms. Lea Desmarteau, are to be commended for asserting their independence as set forth in state law, cleaning their house, and plowing ahead on a critical decision process that will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on Shreveport and Caddo Parish for many years to come. Self serving politicians like Epperson should sit at home or get on board the new train…because the old one of political partisanship is no longer on the track!