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Gibson's bond plan performs duty, turns up heat on Hightower

Not just at least a down payment on Shreveport’s infrastructure woes, the move by City Councilman and Council President Mike Gibson to propose a bond issue for street repair also represents a shrewd political move.

The $75 million request to voters would address needs estimated in the $450 million range and politically stands in marked contrast to Mayor Keith Hightower’s bypassing voters on the $40 million question whether to fund a convention center hotel. Not only does Gibson want voters to have a say, it highlights the different priorities the two politicians seem to have.

Almost everybody traveling around Shreveport can see first-hand the necessity of street and drainage repair, whereas no such need for a publicly-owned hotel is evident, especially as it now appears likely that legal changes concerning gambling in Arkansas and Texas could strip area casinos of half of their business, making the profitability of that hotel that much more questionable. And Gibson is comfortable giving people the choice; in fact, during the campaign he can apologize to voters that with approval of the general obligation bonds their interest rates will be slightly higher (thus costing city taxpayers more) because of the extra debt Hightower committed to an increasingly financially-precarious hotel.

There’s no way Hightower can look good out of this. With Gibson and the other two Republican councilmen Thomas Carmody and Jeff Hogan almost sure to approve this, only one Democrat vote is needed for it to pass. Hightower would look incompetent to veto it (can you imagine this being thrown in his face in some future campaign, that as long as it’s above the ground no matter whether it’s needed he’ll build it, but if it’s on or below ground he won’t even if it’s vitally needed) and petty to oppose the referendum when the need is so clear. Hightower couldn’t even have suggested it and gain credit for it, after opponents of the hotel kept pointing out how massively the city has run up debt under Hightower.

The move further locks Hightower, and his legacy as well, into the fate of the hotel, a fate that is looking simultaneously increasingly pessimistic for him and more costly to Shreveport taxpayers.

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