by Elliott Stonecipher
Shreveporters are but a month away from one of the city’s most important, ever, mayoral elections. In fact, I believe we can well expect to learn, in time, that this election marked the city’s break, one way or the other, from decades of stagnation.
The proper context in which to consider our broader challenge is the stunning degree to which this race is being dominated by a small knot of insiders and worse who first ask, “Which candidate will mean the most money in my pocket?,” rather than, “What is best for Shreveport?” Such is old news here, but I can comfortably say I have never seen it on more obvious display.
With the election staring us down, another thing is certain: these candidates, this late, have yet to be vetted.
The (Somewhat) Serious Candidates
I have worked one way or the other with nine mayoral contests spanning almost 40 years, and I have never known of a race with so little transparency about who the candidates are. With absolutely no preference for any one of the candidates, here is a run-down of what I see as pertinent facts.
Councilman Sam Jenkins
City Council member Sam Jenkins is the one and only candidate with experience, albeit in the legislative branch, in an elected city office. He has not, however, waged a real and competitive campaign. Such was expected after we earlier learned that he has had serious difficulty managing to pay his own taxes in years past, including recently. On top of that, while on the City Council, he has been a primary apologist and extension of Mayor Glover, something I personally believe disqualifies him for the office.
Anna Marie Arpino
A political unknown to many of us, a media-reported factoid underscores the point: most of us, I would bet, did not even know that she ran in 2011 for the state representative seat of Barbara Norton, getting 408 votes of the 6,884 cast. Perhaps Ms. Arpino will publicly and directly refute the assertion by some insiders that she was recruited for this race by some other candidate hoping to thus “split” the white vote.
State Representative Patrick Williams
Mr. Williams continues to be dogged by hashing, rehashing and hashing of the rehashing about his “double-dipping” with and of expense reimbursements tied to his legislative position. The issue will not go away, in no small part because such practices among legislators are being featured in the Peabody Award-winning “Louisiana Purchased” series by the Times-Picayune and WVUE Television in New Orleans.
Now, the related practices are under investigation by the FBI, initially targeting another legislator, Rep. Joe Harrison.
Some assert that there is no legal likeness between the violations which led to the current DeSoto Parish prosecution of BESE member Walter Lee, and the violations at issue with expense reimbursement abuses by state legislators. Attorneys with whom I have consulted, however, see no difference in law. I believe the investigation, which we may logically expect to be joined by the IRS, will continue beyond Rep. Harrison.
We would be well served, as would Rep. Williams, by his public discussion of the facts of the federal investigation, and ways in which he believes any prosecution of his violations, now admitted or any yet undisclosed, are different in law.
Until recently, Ms. Provenza has not lived in Shreveport since our city’s overall peak, then dive, in the 1980s. It is a dramatically different city today. As I learned in a meeting with her some weeks ago, what she cannot know about the city and its people she works assiduously to mask with a stellar belief in herself, her superior knowledge, and her asserted business experience. As laudable as such remarkable certitude can be and often is, such attempted masking highlights the degree to which her life and experience while away from Shreveport must be known and understood by the voters.
As an example of absence of historical knowledge and unawareness of community experience, it is broadly believed that Ms. Provenza’s main recruiter and handler is a Caddo Parish Commissioner. If true, she cannot know what taxpayers here have learned about the degree to which local elected bodies are disposed against openness, transparency, and accountability, the Commission certainly included.
Ms. Provenza cannot profess a commitment to broader issues of governmental transparency and openness while simultaneously withholding information about her reasons for returning to Shreveport, any commitment to stay if she loses this race, and the like.
The smart money for mayor – meaning the money of those who benefit smartly from “relationships” with elected officials – is on former school superintendent Ollie Tyler.
As I explained in a piece back on August 25th, Ms. Tyler’s key handlers include more than one who did the same for our current mayor. As I noted in my earlier comments here concerning Councilman Sam Jenkins, such disqualifies her, in my opinion. Practices of the current administration, some of which are now being duplicated by Ms. Tyler, have seriously damaged this city.
That point notwithstanding, Ms. Tyler must self-report details of her personal and public past which bear on her qualifications to be mayor. In context, there are two or more startlingly provocative allegations, and with one of those, I have confirmation of the event. Along with that confirmation was a virtual guarantee that Ms. Tyler will not self-report or discuss it … period.
Ms. Tyler has every right, and possibly every justification, not to discuss these several assertions and allegations. Such is the case, however, only if she is not a candidate for mayor. Any person seeking to take a supposed oath to “serve” us must check their hats and guns of such privacy protection at our city door.
Refusals to discuss what the public wants and needs to know are no longer acceptable in healthy places – places where official commitment to openness and transparency is a given. Here, and now, the dearth of such marks these candidates.
Our local news media knows that its job in successfully vetting all candidates sits elephant-sized in their space of professional journalistic responsibility and ethics.
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 appreciated.