Shreveport Council Runoff Elections more Important than Mayor?

Shreveport Attorney John Settle
Opinion by John Settle

The last three seats on the Shreveport City Council will be decided on December 6th along with the next Shreveport mayor. Although not receiving the media attention (collectively) as the mayoral runoff, the winners of these elections will undoubtedly set the tone for the next Council – and maybe for Shreveport’s government for the next four years.

During the last two years the current Council has exercised more independence from the Mayor than any council since the inaugural mayor-council when Bill Hanna was elected Mayor. Set_the_ToneThe Council audited billings of Glover’s financial advisor Calvin Grigsby and thereafter sued Grigsby for alleged over billing the City for services – – over the objection of Glover forcing him to hire a new firm for the sale of the remaining bonds. And at their last meeting the Council rejected a $76 million plan to issue revenue bonds to improve streets and sidewalks.

Rose_McCulloch-ThanksFour members of the new council are now known – returning unopposed members Oliver Jenkins (District C) and Mike Corbin (District D) are joined by Caddo Commissioner Stephanie Lynch and political newcomer Jerry Bowman. Lynch will fill the seat of Joe Shyne (District F) who is termed out and Bowman takes the place of Sam Jenkins (District G) who ran for mayor.

Two other current council members may return – – Rose McColloch from District A and Jeff Everson from District B; both face tough re-election challenges. McColloch was a close ally of Mayor Glover and is expected to continue in that role if Ollie Tyler is elected. Her challenger Willie Bradford was the top vote getter in the primary; his campaign has directly focused on McColloch’s council record. If elected Bradford will have a pivotal role as a moderate black capable of building alliances, both black or white – – a challenge clearly beyond McColloch’s capabilities.

Cawthornes-White-Flyer(front)Everson, the representative from District B, bested Lynn Cawthorne in the primary; he has the endorsement of the third candidate Craig Lee. Everson is white, and Cawthorne is black; the district voter population is 58% black, 38% white and 4% other races. Everson is linked to U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and is heavily supported by the downtown business and arts community. Cawthorne is considered by many to be inflexible; he was criticized for a mailer that prominently featured the picture of a white family that many believed to be misleading. Cawthorne is supported by Glover and he would probably be his lieutenant in a Tyler administration.

The last council race is to replace Ron Webb in District D who is also termed out. Top vote getter James Flurry is opposed by the second place primary finisher Durwood Hendrix, Jr. This is another white (Flurry) and black (Hendrix) race; the district is 56% white, 40% black and 4% other races. Flurry has a diverse business background and two terms as justice of peace under his belt. Hendrix has no political experience. Like Bradford, Flurry recognizes the need for team building on the Council, and both should bring independent voices that will not be mayoral rubber stamps.

Budget CleaverThe incoming mayor will start with a budget approved by the current Council; budget amendments will require approval of the new Council. Likewise, the expenditure of new bond moneys as well as the sale of additional bonds from the 2012 bond referendum must go through the Council – – as well as any tax increases and any new capital projects. Both Tyler and Victoria Provenza could face stiff council opposition on major initiatives, depending on the final composition of the Council.

Despite her constant assertion of being her own person, Tyler is expected to be a Glover clone. Her prior experience as Caddo education superintendent differs substantially from dealing with a seven person council that does not have an equal racial balance. Additionally the expected work load of the job (if addressed adequately) is probably more than she can handle – physically or mentally. Tyler’s best hope of any real success is that both McColloch and Cawthorne win their races.

If Provenza pulls off an upset win, she is expected to name all new departments head and key staff positions – – unlike Tyler. How will she work with the Council is a big unknown – – much like the real status of her mental health. Provenza can expect opposition on many of her platform planks – no matter who wins the remaining council seats – simply because most of them are not grounded in political reality nor proven in governmental practice.Next Great city of the South

The best hope for Shreveport’s government the next four years is a strong council that will work cohesively for the good of the entire city – no matter who occupies the mayor’s office. Without a doubt the remaining council elections are critical to this goal –perhaps more significant than ever; an independent Council can offset the leadership inadequacies of either Tyler or Provenza. Thus many observers are more concerned with these elections than the mayor’s post.