by Elliott Stonecipher
It is certainly no secret to any who have spent a lot of years learning how our city and parish tick: most of our “leaders,” elected or (self ?) anointed, have historically resisted anything but cheerleading. We are more than a tad bit resistant to bad news … even if it’s just the truth, and even if it begs over time to be acknowledged and remedied.
Such is, of course, precisely the way a place finds itself in a hole, busily digging away, for decades. It is, too, how the City Council could do to the community what it did last Tuesday in our Hwy. 3132 Extension debacle. According to the Mayor and those five council members, Tuesday’s vote endangers nothing, and simply helps a “valued business” improve Shreveport. That houses will be built in the only remaining undeveloped land for the highway did not matter. Rah, rah, rah!! … pom-poms flying.
As those who can handle and attack the truth stow the pep rally gear, this morning’s (Shreveport) Times has an article of interest in this context, for which I thank them, about our recent population loss.
Earlier Report of This Data
For the record, these are earlier-reported data. As the Census Bureau released the data, I reported on the Caddo Parish numbers in a piece in March, and on the Shreveport numbers in an article last month.
The anything-but-positive facts included in these articles were actually telegraphed in February, as first published by The Huffington Post. I wrote that story, too, on this past February 2nd. Back to my opening point, some of our “leaders” actually attacked the data as made-up.
The Error in the Thinking of So Many in Leadership Positions
In this morning’s article, Shreveport City Councilman Jeff Everson drew the short straw with the Times reporter, and was asked to comment on the population loss numbers:
“Shreveport City Councilman Jeff Everson said rising tax revenues might signify improved population estimates in the future.’These things are constantly shifting,’ Everson said. ‘Potentially, next year — or the next time they do an update — we’ll see different numbers return. It’s constantly, kind of, (in) sway.’”
All of us, I think, wish the Councilman was correct, but Shreveport’s population is not “constantly … in sway,” and has not been since the 1980s. Our city’s population stagnation traces back to the Oil Bust of those years, from which we have never recovered. The latest July 1, 2013 population of our city, according to the Census Bureau, is 200,327 – down -1,739, or -0.9%, from a year earlier. Shreveport’s population is now -5,493 below its 1980 Census count of 205,820.
The Whole Truth of Caddo Parish Population Change
Caddo Parish’s population is 1.0% higher than its 1980 Census level, up only from 252,358 to 254,887. Louisiana’s population since then is up only 10.0%, with only five states having lower population growth. The parish and state growth (read: stagnation) rates may be compared to the U. S. population growth since 1980 of +39.6%.
The statistical drivers of the stagnation can either be declining births and rising deaths, population outmigration, or both. Using a more contemporary data comparison, going back to 2000, just over 46,000 births have been recorded in Caddo, along with almost 32,000 deaths. The precise figure over the past thirteen data years beginning in 2000 is a gain of 14,445 new residents in this “natural increase” category. However, in the “migration” component, Caddo has lost -10,397 residents – net – to moves out of the parish since 2000.
According to the Bureau’s recent population Migration / Mobility data for the five years 2007 to 2011, when residents leave Caddo Parish, as they have in a relative gusher for decades, they mainly move to surrounding parishes and Texas counties – including all the way to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Yes, the largest number of lost residents is to Bossier Parish, but so is the largest number of gains: the traffic of residential moves between Bossier Parish and Caddo Parish was, during the study period, a wash of just under 3,000 residential relocations in each direction. (We do not have statistically reliable data from the Bureau for the last three years.)
No doubt about it, though, Bossier Parish is one of only seven of our state’s sixty-four parishes to grow at or above the national population growth rate of 39.6%. Perhaps more to the point, Caddo falls well behind its traditional parish “competitors” in this context. Compared to its +1.0% population gain since 1980, Ouachita (Monroe) gained +12.2%, Calcasieu (Lake Charles) +16.8%, East Baton Rouge +21.6%, Bossier Parish +53.4%, and Lafayette Parish +53.9%. Only Rapides (Alexandria) joins Caddo in the stagnation or loss category with a population loss since 1980 of -1.9%.
For those in Caddo – and Bossier – there are many known problems which limit our cities, and population growth is only an easily understandable stat for them. As an example, Bossier’s population growth success has become its marked weakness. Like Baton Rouge, especially after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Bossier Parish is now fundamentally weakened by its traffic congestion.
Caddo’s known list is growing. All of us, especially natives, “know” what our worst and most endangering problems are. Included by most are these:
— one of the worst public school systems in the state, and
— systemic corruption.
If and when we once again elect officials who care about us, not just themselves, and can handle the truth so it may be addressed, I believe they must first and aggressively attack our public corruption scourge. (Yes, I believe there are ways to do that, about which I will write later in the mayoral race.) Unless and until we do, no other reforms, should they be possible, will hold.
Simultaneously, we must move aggressively to city-parish government – Sheriff Steve Prator and our next mayor must join in leading that effort. Too, we must do any and all things necessary to enhance our primary economic development engine, the Port of Caddo-Bossier. That, of course, requires the next mayor and the Commission to appoint Port board members who immediately, fairly and honestly take the point, as they should already have done, to get the Hwy. 3132 Extension completed as fast as humanly (politically, financially and bureaucratically) possible.
But, hey, that’s just my opinion. Of course, “opinions” based in diligent research of all varieties becomes much more.
I yet see no evidence that many – most, perhaps – Shreveport and Caddo “leaders” are in the facts and truth business.
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.