by Murray Lloyd
Wednesday, May 14, at 2:00pm the Riverfront Committee will be meeting at the Barnwell to talk about that debacle. (http://www.shreveportla.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=1421)
I remember working on riverfront issues at least as far back as when Hazel Beard was on the City Council back in the late 1980s.
I have watched as the City used Section 108 low-income housing loans to build restaurants in the red River Entertainment District and then forgive the mortgage when they failed so that we had neither restaurants nor low-income houses and we owed $5 million to HUD. I have listened as people said “Shreveport built its riverfront to be Food & Drink; historically Food & Drink hasn’t done well next to Free Food & Drink.” I heard Riverview Park referred to as the “Sit and Watch Bossier Grow Park.” I have wondered why SPAR would build a fountain for children to play in without providing a safe place for kids to change at the same time. I have been disgusted at the City turning one of the most valuable and potentially beautiful areas on our riverfront into an asphalt-shingle parking lot for buses. At last year’s budget meeting, the director of Sci-Port told the City that she has to use her own lawnmower to mow the grass in front of a city-owned building. And I have winced when the outside consultant asked “What in the ____ were you thinking when you gave away your riverfront?” And don’t get me started on the Cross Bayou Bond Issue again.
But I know that the City set up a fund that brings in tens of millions of dollars a year for riverfront development more twenty years ago.
Question: How could a city that has received hundreds of millions of dollars for riverfront development screw up something as straightforward as the Barnwell?
Answer: It is not because of a lack of funds; it is because of a lack of capability.
Question: When is a Shreveport Riverfront Development Special Revenue Fund not a Riverfront Fund?
Answer: When it is a Slush Fund.
Question: If the Riverfront Fund receives $12 million a year for riverfront development, then where does it go?
Question: Where does it go away to?
Answer: Rounding off, Film and Entertainment budget $ 200,000
Multi-Cultural Arts Center (Required) $ 200,000
Civic Appropriations $ 400,000
Non- Riverfront Economic Development Funds $ 700,000
Transfers to Other Funds $10,500,000
SRAC, Sci-Port, Shreveport Green, and the Black Cultural Arts Coalition were moved to General Government. $2 million went to the Convention Center Fund and Community Development.
“A transfer of $8,390,000 to the General Fund, to help maintain current levels of service and increase the General Fund Operating Reserve.”
The Riverfront Development Special Revenue Fund reads as follows:
Sec. 26-201. Established; purpose.
Established. A riverfront development special revenue fund is established as an integral component of the city’s economic development strategy. All funds received by the city from riverboat gaming activity shall be deposited in the riverfront development special revenue fund.
Purpose. This purpose of this fund shall be to dedicate these monies to the advancement of riverfront and downtown development and other economic development funds.
There is nothing in there for Film and Entertainment, Civic Organizations, SRAC, Shreveport Green, or Operating Reserves.
Amend the Fund to only allow revenue to be spent on direct riverfront development;
Admit that the City needs this revenue for the General Fund and abolish the Riverfront Fund; or,
Amend the ordinance to require a majority vote for riverfront development, a super-majority vote for downtown development, and a unanimous vote for anything else.
I am confident that the Administration and City Council will, once again, say much and do nothing.
Pogo Was Right