by Marion Marks
Three unique camps have formed in the early rounds of the mayoral election. These show that politics and political allies truly can be in fluid relationships. The roll-out period of mayoral candidates in this fall’s election cycle has shown issues and coalitions changing in Shreveport.
Traditional allies have found new friends in the early Patrick Williams camp, and noises coming out seem to rattle old bonds as well as some old skeletons. Some of the most prominent alliances are the Hightower, Tarver and business interests including the legal community.
The Ollie Tyler camp has aligned the larger construction interests, downtown-commercial interests, Baton Rouge legal crowd and old-money conservatives. Interestingly Tyler’s political operatives from Baton Rouge have muzzled most marketing beyond name recognition and fund raising.
Finally and probably the biggest question in the election is the attempt for grass roots stumping by a real newcomer, Victoria Provenza, the independent candidate. Provenza delivered to Ernie Roberson, Caddo Elections chief, what appears to be well over the required number of signatures on a petition to file to run for mayor that require validation by Roberson. Shreveport certainly has no record of any attempt like this and pollsters across the state are scratching their heads.
But the issue of the early moral compass demonstrated by one candidate’s decisions deserves some mention.
Patrick Williams is preparing his campaign headquarters at the prominent corner of Stoner and Youree, and it certainly cannot be missed. Not only can it not be missed, but Williams chose to place prominent billboards on the north and east facing roof lines of his headquarters.
These billboards would normally require a permit, as any other large billboard in the city. Williams fired out with the boards and is only now seeking approval for them to be deemed legal. To me this is indicative of the attitude Shreveport leaders must avoid. I hope future decisions are passed before committees with better judgement before mistakes are made in the future. It’s the same as failing to verify requests for state expense reimbursements that may have been double billed. Mistakes are made, but explaining them detracts voters and causes consternation. Admit the costly mistake and get past the embarrassment. Williams may be an excellent potential mayor, but we don’t need these distractions.
Current elected officials have had countless opportunities to brand themselves and establish their images as issues require a vote or a public stance. The simple and rather expensive spectacle of the dog park and trying to refuse funding donated by the Red River Waterway Commission probably established Glover as the mayor who was fiddling as the city burned or the mayor who couldn’t be elected dog catcher.
Branding has the potential for building a connection with voters who previously turned their back on politics. Traditional political communications often leave people confused and indifferent. But political candidate adherence to rules followed by commercial brands that facilitate a brand connection empower and re-politicize some potential voters. It certainly worked in the “YES WE CAN” campaign for Obama in 2008!
On the other hand, a failed branding effort drives disillusioned voters out of politics because they want more than glitz and style. Citizens view the whole show as shallow and hollow. Branding, in theory, should always be based on a solid issues with substantive values and well-researched policies. Yet most political campaign shows turn into the traditional marketing show that turn voters against the whole system.
Branding can increase political communication and credibility makes candidates connect and appear responsive to public opinion. However, branding often lacks ideological grounding and stifles traditional party relationships by denying real issue debate and narrowing a candidate brand similar to the Tea Party.
Shreveport, Louisiana is not that different from any community of similar demographics in the moral compass of leaders. Decisions by candidates during elections, determining how to spend public monies and times when leadership is required give any citizen the opportunity to view the true moral compass of those who step out into the fray. We see signs in the season’s early campaign jockeying, let’s hope there is a better moral compass in our future.