That phrase Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins used to describe his handling of the city’s insurance renewal. Actions he took over the first four months of his administration led to, by his own description, city taxpayers in 2018 paying $550,000 for $815 million in single-occurrence insurance while in 2019 they forked over $900,000 for $300 million worth.
However, he begged for the people’s patience on this matter. “We're gonna make some stumbles. We are a new administration. But the key part about that is we're gonna learn from them and be better going forward,” he explained to a local radio station.
Really? That’s a charitable, if not peculiar, way to characterize what happened, which went down like this: right as, or possibly even before, he took office, Perkins sent word out to dump the city’s longtime broker for most of its insurance and to use one with a checkered past who had given him a $250 campaign donation. That guy put together what ended up a much more expensive package for much less coverage.
Which Perkins either didn’t know about or covered up because, about a month later when the switch became public knowledge, he told the City Council the new deal was as good if not better than the existing arrangement. Only when bits and pieces of its actual nature began to emerge did he backtrack on that, culminating in his mea culpa.
This is not what happens when some political ingenue (Perkins never had voted in a Shreveport election, much less run for or held public office, before his election) finds himself in office. What transpired has all the hallmarks of somebody with a plan who did his best to keep it under wraps but finally got caught out.
The notion of Perkins as a babe in the political woods who didn’t know the consequences of his actions seems far-fetched since he trumpeted from the start, and continues to do so, that the deal has the salutary impact of increasing minority participation in overall city contracting. That tack seems consistent from someone to whom this was his primary goal all along, scattering cost considerations to the wind.
That’s small comfort to Shreveport taxpayers who must pay hundreds of thousands of extra dollars this year for this bit of social engineering that puts city assets at greater risk. Even so, had Perkins seemed less beholden to insider politics, possibly an advertised request for proposal would have yielded a minority-backed vendor with the lowest bid and saving considerably over the present arrangement.
He said he would pursue such a path in the future. Of course he will; Shreveport now has an ordinance requiring council vetting.
In part as a result of this incident, relations between Perkins and the Council became strained right off the bat. He acknowledged this by declaring he hears from councilors that they don’t feel informed enough and want better lines of communications. He pledged to do this, saying “It's not a broken relationship…. We're going to be learning.”
But spinning a tall tale to disguise culpability in the insurance fiasco doesn’t exactly smack of transparency. How much “learning” does it to take to grasp that? Apparently at this point, a bit too much for Perkins.