… AS IN A VERY SLOW, START
by John Settle
Newly elected Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler turned 70 on January 7th, and by all accounts her administration is acting her age…as in old and slow. Despite her self-serving pronouncements about how much she accomplished on her first full day in the office (Monday December 29), City Hall observers are surprised as to how little Tyler has really accomplished since her December 6 cakewalk election. In reality, Tyler had an easy walk in the park during the entire election, and especially after the November primary; in the runoff she refused to participate in any forums, had very little public appearances and basically was a political hermit.
Tyler and her camp were very very tight-lipped throughout the campaign and even more so after her election. A time line of her activities, at least what is publicly known, is not encouraging for those who bought into her campaign boastings of expertise in management of large public institutions. Tyler has not previously served in a high profile elected political office and her lack of preparation for the job of mayor is becoming more and more apparent.
Seemingly Miss Ollie could have started plans for her administration after the Nov 4 primary election–she won 44 percent of the vote and her opponent tallied only 26 percent. Her runoff strategy reflected confidence in her landslide December 6 victory and thus one can only wonder what she did in those 4 plus weeks to get ready for her new office at 500 Travis Street. And after the election day party, the new mayor-to-be had 3 weeks to plan before her December 27 installation as mayor. What is known is that Miss Ollie had time to spend a day helping Caddo Education Superintendent Lamar Goree host a tour of Caddo transition schools–the day before Goree announced a proposed $108 million bond package.
Tyler formed a 10 person transition team on December 15–which was not officially announced until her first day in office on Monday December 29; most politicos had expected this a transition team to have not only been announced but be up and running much sooner…like on the Monday after the Saturday election. One of the co-chairs, Reginald Abrams, was the highly paid attorney for the Caddo School board while Tyler was superintendent; last year (2014) he billed the City for over $115,000 in legal fees. The other co-chair, Tom Arceneaux , is counsel for Tim Larkin in the extended 3132 litigation.
Tyler did not bother to contact City Council members before taking office and she announced in her December 30 press conference that she had begun making appointments with them to learn of their priorities; why she could not have initiated a dialogue by phone or email or for that matter in person on or after December 7 is not known. The same goes with department heads and key administrative officer….all of whom must win her approval to keep their jobs on a long term basis.
Tyler did make time to have her first press conference on Tuesday December 30. Her “news” was not that encouraging when one considers that most of her efforts during her first official day could have been accomplished during the time intervals identified above…especially if she intends for her administration to be “more effective and efficient” as she bragged in the press conference. Like during the campaign, it was obvious that Miss Ollie was not receptive to unplanned questions and she stumbled badly when pressed on the status of a reported firing of a city contractor for legal services. And that issue–which many claim was her first official act as mayor–could prove to be a major stumbling block for her future success as mayor. (Reportedly, Tyler met with that attorney on Thursday January 8.) At the press conference Tyler quickly learned (or should have learned) that, unlike her actions on Midway, everything she does on Travis street will be in the public spotlight and subject to question.
Tyler said that she will have her team in place in 180 days–yes 6 months or one eighth (1/8) of her term; apparently Miss Ollie is reticent to make key decisions without the blessings of her transition team. Consulting with the Council, other governmental entities, non-profit organizations and the man on the street to “come up with a strategy that for Shreveport to “unify around and move ahead” (as Tyler touted) should not be prerequisites for making key personnel decisions. Tyler’s background as an education bureaucrat is quite apparent…and this style of mayoral leadership will lead to more stagnation at City Hall. During the campaign Miss Ollie was known to be slow study on local government programs/entities, and her “I want to learn how to be mayor” plan for the first 180 days means very little real action can be expected from her administration until this summer.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, City Hall will continue to be run by the Glover holdovers–most of which are happy to have a job at salaries that can not be matched in the private sector. Although perhaps working longer hours, key administrative officers will be less reluctant to continue making the routine decisions needed to keep the wheels of government running without checking in with Miss Ollie–or whomever is calling the shots at 500 Travis Street. And although Tyler has indicated that she wants to make immediate changes in certain areas (crime, city cleanup, business recruitment), she will need a reallocation of resources from department heads who do not know if they will have a long term job and/or budget amendments from the Council composed of 3 members who adopted the current budget and 4 members that are new to the job. (This is the governing group that she had not previously reached out–not even calling those who won December 6 elections to congratulate their victory. )
Tyler’s first public meeting with City Council will be on Tuesday January 13; presumably she will participate in the Council work session the day before.
How she handles the “live stage” with Shreveport’s legislative body will be an interesting, to say the least. One can expect another fashion show (Tyler was a well-recognized “clothes horse” when Caddo Superintendent and during the campaign) and a message of enthusiasm about unity, building a vision, planning, etc–in other words much noise but little substance. Miss Ollie had best be ready for unexpected “hard” questions from the Council and, for that matter, private citizens who may address the assembled body at the Council meeting. In the meantime, the Tyler circus has started although the show already seems old and stale…much like the new ringmaster.
(NOTE: After the press deadline Tyler announced that Africa Price, former editor of The (Shreveport) Times, was her proposed Director of Public Affairs and Communications; this will be her first “hire” at City Hall.)