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Gloves are off now in relation to Hightower

As if Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower didn’t have enough problems with a lawsuit given a good chance of stopping the convention center hotel project and state Sen. Max Malone putting pressure on the state Bond Commission to reverse their approval of the sale of bonds to finance the project, now he’s got Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator and The Times after him.

Sheriffs typically are a powerful political force in a parish, the most except where the job is divided (Orleans) or consolidated or other local government arrangements creates other parish-wide executives with significant powers (Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Terrebone). While I’m sure the fact that Prator is a Republican has nothing to do with the faithful discharge of duties, that Hightower is a Democrat seeking to expand his political influence probably didn’t discourage Prator from investigating the complaints concerning city agencies and individuals who are rather enthusiastic Hightower supporters.

Somewhat more surprising is The Times’ increasing enthusiasm in criticizing Hightower. It has turned negative on the hotel and now there’s this. In the past, The Times was rather reluctant to delve deeply or even at all into some controversial issues concerning the Hightower administration that outlets such as Fax-Net Update and The Inquisitor did report upon.

No specific allegations are made in this story. However, there is a lot of association going on. For example, it seems that Hightower political allies are the recipients of favorable treatment, and that loans of a certain amount of money on one day later that day in an identical dollar amount suddenly buy property. Association doesn’t connote causation; that’s for the appropriate investigatory authorities to discover.

Still, the knock that many have against Hightower is that he prefers to use his power in government to reward his supporters and punish his enemies rather than in a way to benefit the commonweal, when there is conflict between the two. This is why part of the criticism against the convention center and hotel is not only is it a misguided approach to economic development and bespeaks a vanity rather than pursuit of a common good, but that the contracts that go out to build them, the positions of power to build and oversee them, etc., will, subject to the law, be thrown toward his loyalists. In short, the main reason the things are getting built is to help line some pockets, and only secondarily to achieve purposes that truly will bring the greatest benefits to the community as a whole.

None of this is new in the world of politics, especially in this state and around these parts, but new is the number of media outlets that can get access to government and disseminate more widely to the public (this blog included). It makes it harder than ever for the behind-closed-doors, limited-access-to-government-information environment in which a politician like Hightower has to operate. In particular, the newer media forces the older media to become more investigatory.

It’s a healthy trend to bring more accountability into government, along with invigorated two-party competition that would put a guy like Prator in a position of not sweeping the whole thing under the rug. Which is, from the perspective of those who now have sunshine on their previously-darkened activities, to their mode of power-wielding, unhealthy.

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