by Marion Marks
Do you Believe? The question is, can anyone convince voters to believe in the power of Ruby Slippers? Obviously two candidates are preparing to convince voters to believe that either is capable of miracles for Shreveport to turn around after years of mayoral neglect. One must convince them that being 69 years old and retired because the pressure was too great, really isn’t accurate any more. The other must convince voters that being a government contractor and teacher is suitable training to be mayor.
Regardless, none of the front runners have city council experience, and all will have a steep learning curve in taking office while coordinating with a city council that has found a voice. Whoever is the new mayor will be taking an office that requires great deal of stamina and infinite patience with navigational skills.
Both former superintendent Ollie Tyler and teacher-government contractor Victoria Provenza believe that they are capable of convincing voters that it is possible to pull together a team of managers who can right the city for the next four years. Voters must be convinced these novices will be able to assemble a team in a way never before done in Shreveport. Even Patrick Williams has no real experience in city government, yet he has supporters who have great experience working and contracting with the city.
At the filing deadline no real surprise names were added who we might believe could alter the path of what may be THE pivotal election for the future of Shreveport. Anna Marie Arpino was registered by some backers as a “red herring” distraction just for conversation. Based on the trend of the last sixteen years, neither Shreveport nor Caddo Parish has experienced any population growth. As soon as one new industry or opportunity appears on the horizon another seems to dissolve and residents move to the next market. Between the GM Plant, Haynesville Shale, medical and Barksdale technology, anchor or magnet centers seem to have been difficult to lure and maintain as a permanent high-dollar base for growth.
Those candidates with a track record, Patrick Williams, Sam Jenkins, and Michael Williams [note: it was learned that Michael Williams did NOT file after this article was prepared just prior to the deadline, even though I was informed that he would. My apologies for this inaccuracy based on the information available prior to the 4:30 close of filings. Other candidates who did file are relatively insignificant], each have some blemishes that will be aired during the campaign season. None of these issues were significant enough to discourage entry, and with issues in a career of public service, we expect some slips. We can only hope that each “problem” has taught a lesson, and that those lessons learned are not how “not to be caught.” Rather, “how to do things correctly” would benefit citizens.
As for Ruby Slippers, Tyler has been spending hours each day with former city support staff, her business, and government advisors and members of the mayor’s staff who are trying to educate her on the inner workings of city government. Provenza, on the other hand, has been learning far more about running a campaign with the help of her many volunteers, unaligned public officials, and eager middle-level potential city managers expecting an opportunity to change city government. As many citizens who observe city services from the standpoint of users, they believe too many of our resources have suffered from “wasteful and poorly managed processes.” The easiest person to point the finger at seems to be the mayor.
Most citizens see the current trajectory of city management as dysfunctional. For them things can only change for the better. Some believe that waste has put money in one set of pockets for too long, and it’s now time for others to have a seat at that trough. But then the optimists, those who seem to be KEEL poll-takers, believe in the Ruby Slipper school of politics. If they can just throw out all the old and put in a clean-government candidate, change for the better is possible.
All I can say is, we aren’t in Kansas, and there really are some wicked witches (male and female!) out there who are trying to trap us. Voters who study the issues, supporter’s expectations and follow the money trail of each candidate may have an understanding of the motivation that drives these candidates to seek the highest city office. The Wicked Witch seems to always be tied to the “good-old-boy network” who don’t want change because it may interfere with their money connections and flow of business.