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Hightower: Shreveport's Louis XIV

You must hand it to Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower when it comes to persistence. If the facts don’t fit his idiosyncratic worldview, he either changes them or dispenses with them entirely. He gives us another example of this in his latest comments regarding state Sen. Max Malone’s amendment to the capital outlay budget which prohibits use of $12 million authorized by the state to be used to build a convention center hotel until litigation is settled and a public vote on the project occurs.

Says Hightower, “It's just politics. It's not politics for Shreveport. It's a political agenda, and it's bad politics.” What he seems to mean here is he believes Malone is pursuing a political agenda against Hightower, while Hightower equates his agenda with Shreveport’s. In fact, Malone has been very consistent in stating the reason behind his opposition the hotel, that such a huge capital expenditure ought to have the vote of the people, and if it fails to pay for itself, then only the people have themselves to blame.

More than once Hightower has said he doesn’t fear such a vote, even though the only reliable public poll ever taken on the idea (now around nine months old) showed 76 percent were against the idea. He has argued taking a vote would slow things down too much. Buying this for the moment, then there’s another, simple solution to the issue: if the amendment comes to pass and Hightower still does not want to bring it to a vote, just sell $12 million more in bonds to bring the total city commitment to $52 million (which would also render moot all lawsuits). As stretched as Shreveport’s bonding capacity has become under Hightower’s reign, it still can afford this.

Yet Hightower instead rants and raves about Malone’s actions instead of calmly proceeding to the next step. If Hightower were as confident in the hotel project as he projects, what’s the difficulty in selling $12 million more? His rhetoric, in fact, suggests no understanding whatsoever not only about Malone’s motives, but any genuine grasp about the reality of the situation:

"I'm once again amazed that Max Malone is trying to take state dollars from Shreveporters," Hightower said. "In effect, he's worked the entire session to take things from Shreveporters and, to my knowledge, has not delivered anything. To take $12 million from us is absurd, and I hope the voters take him to task over it."

First, Hightower doesn’t seem to understand that the $12 million is not “Shreveporters’,” it is a gift from the taxpayers of Louisiana for a particular purpose which, quite frankly, Hightower does not seem to be following (the purpose of the lawsuit). Neither is Malone “trying to take,” he is just suggesting conditions by which the Legislature and governor may institute to safeguard state taxpayers’ monies. (Note that, per capita, about 5 percent of that money actually is Shreveporters’, the proportion they will have to pay in to pay off the bonds backing it, so in essence Malone is helping to protect Shreveporters. Also note that Hightower’s phrasing of “take” means he implies a public vote would result in a defeat, preventing that money from being used. What does he really believe then, this or his rhetoric that a vote would bring approval?)

Second, the next sentence probably refers to Malone’s bill SB 333 which changes the selection of members to the Caddo-Bossier Parishes Port Commission which would leave Shreveport officials with fewer unmediated choices to the board. This is good legislation but since in Hightower’s mind everything is about him, that any legislation that impacts his policies negatively must be directed against him because others are against him (isn’t there a word for this?), he can’t help but call it negative. This sentence also reveals Hightower’s thinking about the nature of government: to him it is all about “bringing home the bacon,” not serving and leading the governed. By contrast, Malone’s voting record has shown he is more interested in making good decisions for the people, rather than putting his name on plaques.

Third, the last sentence belied the political mentality of Hightower: a pure politician looking for the next office to hold. That explains why he assumes Malone, who is term-limited in the Senate, is running for something again to create the situation where “voters take him to task over it.” Much more likely, were Malone to do something like run for mayor, voters would thank him for protecting their interests and pocketbooks from Hightower. And the real eye-opener here is the idea of “taking $12 million from us,” as if it were Shreveport’s to begin with (not the state taxpayers’) and that his policy, despite the poll numbers, actually stands for “us.”

What seems to sum up Hightower’s political worldview is “L’État c’est Moi.” Rather than trying to provide leadership through persuading the public and all policymakers who count and/or by following the will of the people, Hightower believes that he with inerrancy determines what is good and bad for the people, that he is they. Only that attitude can explain his remarks on this subject – an attitude that performs a great disservice to Shreveport on this, and potentially many other, issues.


Anonymous said...

an outstanding expose on the inner workings of the Shreveport "King"!

Anonymous said...

what a crock!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great commentary Dr. Sadow