by Marion Marks
You have to believe in something, everybody does, and even atheists have a belief in their unbelief. Yet rage and anger has a new voice in both national political parties against those who have abused the system and citizens. Too many incumbents and players who believe the political process is a personal playground or piggybank draw enough fire to quench the anger of voters who feel tarring and feathering would be a good start.
Voters have such a frail moral vision that when an elected official follows a righteous path that benefits the public, corrects wrongs and bases decisions on a belief that justice can be accomplished, the official generally ends up being ridiculed and required to prove himself guiltless. It’s almost as if voters expect officials to sell out to porn vendors, massage parlors and gambling interests.
When a commissioner, namely the current Caddo Commission President, Matthew Linn, questions past actions that have sold out citizen interests, the first question is to demand that his protocol be checked. The anger of citizens over the past sins of the Caddo Commission comprise a lengthy list, commissioners and professional administration together. The numbers issues for outrage can begin with the current situation at the GM plant, the NLCOG bungling of the 3132 completion of the loop and the CPERS and commissioner compensation packages.
However 2016 seems to have begun with some positive actions that citizens should judge by results as well as the direction that points toward successes. The first votes, led by Steven Jackson’s bold actions that were counter to any Democrat members of the commission in the past, indicate that some mistakes are being fixed. The CPERS program, at least as far as future abuse, is a thing of the past. And actions appear to be moving to fix the prior abuses.
The NLCOG issue of the past that citizens should focus their attention occurred when Caddo Administrator, Woody Wilson, was president of NLCOG and the fateful resolution to kill the continuation of the loop, 3132, from being a protected route to the port. This disaster has since cost taxpayers millions of dollars in real loss, attorney and court frustration, and future development losses in south east Shreveport that will be measured for generations to come. And the damage, and those responsible, is only now really coming to light.
February 16 is a court hearing for the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) that attorney John Settle brought against commission President Matthew Linn to clarify the right the commission president has to appoint his choice to the NLCOG board. The documents from attorney John Settle and Linn opposition to TRO are full of information the public will want to read. But the real value will be in understanding how we arrived at this point.
Past Caddo Commission presidents have delegated the seat on NLCOG to commission administrator Wilson, but in 2014 the federal law for filling the seat of this and similar boards changed, even though NLCOG continued to operate under the old rules.
What Matthew Linn has done is read the new law, seek legal advise beyond the commission attorney for interpretation of the law, and then he acted based on this interpretation. What attorney John Settle has done is to challenge Linn’s interpretation of the law and his actions. The benefit to the public of Settle’s litigation is that we hope to get a ruling for future decisions on NLCOG and the millions of dollars at risk. The potential downside is that should the case be determined in favor of Linn’s actions, votes since 2014 may be null and void based on improperly filling seats on the NLCOG board.
A review of the history of Woody Wilson’s term on NLCOG, since 2000, indicates that the commissioner NEVER ratified the decision for Wilson to serve on this body. Additionally, Wilson has NEVER given a report to the commission or the president of the commission as to the work of the NLCOG or his votes on the NLCOG. The specific issues that have been detrimental to Caddo have always been quietly passed along without any discussion. The specific decision regarding 3132, the most egregious, seems to be lost on all citizens as far as the role Wilson played in this travesty.
In this case of citizen anger of the actions of an elected official (Linn), the rage for Linn’s methods may truly benefit all citizens of Caddo and Bossier. Attorneys I have spoken to indicate that Linn has properly interpreted the law on filling the seat on NLCOG. However, the manner in which Linn wrote letters, contradictory at one point, to fill the seat may require some pardon and redress.
February 16 may be a red letter day for citizens either to mark the change in the path of community governance as seen by Caddo Commission president Linn, or we will have to find a new way to fix what has been broken for too many years.
NLCOG related legal documents:
23 U.S.C. Sec. 134 Metropolitan transportation planning (United States Code (2014 Edition))
NLCOG Inc – Bylaws 1-16-15
Res. No. 33 of 2014 Authority to execute NLCOG By-La
Res. No. 55 of 2014 Authority to execute NLCOG By-Laws