Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower has enough problems with conservative critics of building a publicly-owned convention center hotel. Critics from the left now are going to make his political life – and future – more miserable.
With two Republican council members (Thomas Carmody, Mike Gibson) often joined by a third (Jeff Hogan) consistently voting on measures to defeat, or at least reduce the taxpayers’ exposure to the venture which shows every sign of costing the city more than the benefits it brings, Hightower needs all of the support he can get from the four Democrats on the council. But two of them, Calvin Lester and Theron Jackson, now publicly question the project over the “Fair Share” issue.
With his efforts to keep unionized employees from taking excess taxpayer dollars, another commendable set of actions by Hightower during his mayoral reign has been his resistance to instituting a quota system for city contract bid-winning. Legally, this cannot be mandated by law but another method by which this may be put into place is on a contract-by-contract basis, where general contractors get asked to put in such quotas in their subcontracting each time the city negotiates such a contract. Then they must uphold the provisions or face civil penalties.
Hightower well could do this, although surely he realizes that to do so would cause contractors to increase bid prices because the contract would mandate that less-efficient producers be involved (as the typical reason why minority-owned firms are underrepresented in contracts awarded is their quality is not as high as the wining sub-contractor’s – obviously true among all kinds of losing firms – but especially because they are disproportionately smaller which means they are less able to bring economies of scale to bear that would lower their prices). It would also admit that there is some institutional bias against minority-owned firms in Shreveport’s contracting process which no doubt Hightower, and, frankly, any objective observer familiar with the process, does not see present.
Part of these objections proceeds from future mayoral politics. Both Lester and Jackson have an eye of the mayor’s office in 2006 and 2005 second quarter statistics show Shreveport now has a black population comprising 47.14 percent of the electorate while the white portion of the electorate has dipped below 50 percent (49.48). These black politicians, with the hotel going up around them throughout the campaign season, can use this as a campaign issue to mobilize the black vote.
At the same time, publicizing this issue as a shortcoming about Hightower’s tenure can only hurt him if he does run for the state Senate District 37 seat in 2007. He must win the lion’s share of the black vote, 22 percent of the district, in order to have a chance to win the office.
One aphorism of politics states that if you make people on both sides of an issue mad, then you must be doing some right. But given the bridges Hightower has burned with area conservatives and the desire of black liberals to take care of their own political futures, not enough people are going to see Hightower as doing “right,” at this rate, for him to have much of a political future.
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