As if the brutal summer heat wave that has virtually suffocated Shreveport for the last few weeks was not enough, a detailed reading of Mayor Ollie Tyler’s much ballyhooed 6 month progress report will certainly raise the ambient temperature in one’s office or home. Give her credit—Tyler’s high dollar ($99,000 plus salary and benefits) Communications and Public Relations hire Africa Price has put together one slick 6 page report; it reads “good” if quickly scanned while taking care of nature’s business or sitting in a waiting room. A look at the so-called “facts” utilized to support most of the puffing and chest thumping is disappointing to say the least—but not all that surprising since Tyler used smoke and mirrors to sell her performance as Caddo Education Superintendent during her mayoral campaign.
Initially Tyler brags about assembling the “best team to support our vision”; practically no one was hired from the perspective of credentials versus political payback. CAO Brian Crawford was a requirement for Tyler’s support from certain downtown power brokers. City Attorney William Bradford’s lack of credentials for the job is only matched by the resume of the latest Tyler hire – – Director of Economic Development Liz McCain. Liz does not have a college degree or any economic development certifications; she was fired in February by Scott Martinez, the director of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP). McCain did however work many years at the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce; Chamber executive director Dick Bremer was a Tyler supporter from day one.
Tyler’s report—which was rendered to the Council and at a Chamber luncheon (plus posted on the City’s website) —takes credit for much that was started long before she took office. Touting a new lease agreement with Express Jet Airlines that “secured 300 jobs” is a stretch to say the least; the negotiations had been ongoing since 2010 and were intermittent due to a merger and personnel changes; there was never a doubt that Express Jet would stay in Shreveport. Another misleading boast is about the Community Development $1.5 million grant that reportedly delivered “employment training to more than 8700 dislocated adults and youths”; this was the result of a memorandum signed in February 2003.
Tyler also took credit for the National Development Award for Shreveport Common that was initiated under the Glover Administration and is primarily the result of the work of SRAC (Shreveport Regional Arts Council). She also listed as an ‘accomplishment” the $1.2 million in state historic tax credits received by SPAR (Shreveport Parks and Recreation) from its Municipal Auditorium project; the application for the credits was signed by former Mayor Glover in March 2012.
Other projects that Tyler took credit for—overlooking the labors of the Glover administration and the 2010-2014 City Council – – included the street overlay projects that were financed by 2011 bonds and contracted before she took office. In like fashion SPORTRAN’s purchase of 5 CNG busses this year was the culmination of a process started under Glover, – much like the Intermodal Transit Terminal on Murphy street that broke ground in March of this year.
Tyler also touted “almost 311” new businesses started in Shreveport this year; how she is to be credited for these is indeed a head-scratcher—especially when the planning for most of these business startups started before she took office. There is no doubt that the larger projects listed started long before January of this year from the perspective of planning, financing and contracting for work, – – for example Whole Foods , the YMCA sale of Camp Forbing to Kroger, the acquisition of the old Doctor’s Hospital by Willis Knighton and the BHP Billiton YMCA project at Preston and Knight. (And the same is certainly true for the 8 movie/tv film productions that were reported and the EPA $400,000 grant received in June to further study Cross Bayou development.) Not surprisingly, Tyler did not list the number of businesses that closed their doors in the first half of this year; some skeptics believe there was a negative loss of businesses much like an increase in local unemployment during this period.
Perhaps the loudest “toot” in the report is that “we have met with the people of this great city by accepting more than 434 engagements over the last six months.” Doing the math that works out to more than 72 “engagements” per month or more than 2.39 “engagements” per calendar day. (There were 181 calendar days from January 1 through the last day of June—the 30th.) Counting Tyler there were 10 people working in the Mayor’s office during this time period; presumably the “we” in her report is the culmination of the efforts of these ten (?). City Attorney William Bradford reports there is no list of the “engagements”, but that they were based on the “Mayor’s speaking engagements, community meetings, interviews, and business meetings related to economic development.” Presumably water cooler discussions with staff, hellos in church and discussions at the grocery store were counted by Tyler and her staff to promote her job performance rating.
Tyler’s report does mention midyear adjustments to reflect actual budget figures and the discovery that the operating reserve was $2.7 million rather than $5.2 million. Not surprising Tyler did not mention the increase in the Centerpoint franchise fee for all natural gas users in the City—a new tax in the first 4 months of the Tyler administration by a candidate that had pledged no new taxes in her 2014 campaign. The franchise fee was raised from 2.0% to 4.5% – – a 125% increase. Tyler had sought an increase to 6.0%; fortunately the Council did not rubberstamp this financial power grab.
Tyler has taken the old political maxim of “tell them all the good thinks you have done since elected” to a new level of grandiosity, if not outright exaggeration bordering on fiction. Providing more accountability to Shreveport citizens than her predecessor Cedric Glover is no real challenge – – however a more accurate representation of what Tyler and her troops actually accomplished should be reflected
in any future reports by Mayor Tyler. And unlike her sheltered life as Caddo Superintendent, Ms. Mayor should not be surprised when her media reports are closely scrutinized and questioned as to the factual basis for the same.