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Montgomery, Bossier City count on spinning the citizenry

In another forum, an article I published similar to a previous posting here about the disappointing, to conservatives, recent voting record of state Rep. Billy Montgomery drew a response from Bossier Parish’s Assessor Bobby Edmiston. Edmiston stated his full support for Montgomery and questioned whether the legislator was as liberal as the column had made him out to be.

But the Republican and elected party leader Edmiston (whose campaign was given $500 by Montgomery’s and whose wife contributed to Montgomery’s last year) offered little coherent defense for the Democrat Montgomery’s non-conservative votes or lack of appearance at other important ones that went against the Republican/conservative agenda. His only assertion that Montgomery votes conservatively used Montgomery’s affirmative vote – like almost all of his House colleagues – on the abortion-restricting SB 33 this session. Using this logic, no doubt Edmiston then would agree that Pres. Ronald Reagan was a flaming liberal, since the 40th president just once pushed for a tax increase while in office.

Even if Edmiston is willing to excuse Montgomery for his missing recent crucial votes that mattered to conservatives where Montgomery could have made the difference (that’s the issue, not the argument Edmiston tries to put into my keyboard that he’s “not fulfilling his duties as a legislator”), it’s also indicative that Edmiston seems starry-eyed at Montgomery, supporting him “because he is ‘Coach.’” If Edmiston calls himself a conservative and actually does some research into what the people he supports do in elective office, he could not miss, as I pointed out in the column in question, that Montgomery had the second-most liberal/populist voting record in the 2005 Legislature. (Readers may investigate these telling votes here.)

It explains why Montgomery, despite being desperately out of touch ideologically with his district, continued to get reelected – voters like Edmiston who care more that Montgomery is one of “them” than whether his votes actually in the aggregate comport to his constituents’ desires or individually to their own ideology – if they even know his record. It’s this lack of insight and reflection, a staple of the good-old-boy, populist politics of the past that Montgomery is counting on in any future political aspirations.

He has every reason to expect success in this regard – many of the current crop of Bossier City elected officials managed to do the same in their 2005 reelection bids. One key issue so-called “conservatives” on the city council and mayor’s office managed to keep from experiencing electoral repercussions about was the $21 million gift parking garage to Louisiana Boardwalk developers who could have built it on their own. Proceeds from Bossier City’s investing this money could have forestalled a recent fee increase suffered by Bossier City property owners, or it might have been spent to speed along road improvements and extensions.

Cognizant of this increasing image problem, Bossier City has embarked on a public relations quest to try to put lipstick on this pig. Around the anniversary of the opening of the Boardwalk, the city trumpeted data that, according to them, showed the parking garage gift was “paying off” itself quickly; in fact, the city has at least one administrator meeting with groups to spin this story.

But to anyone who cares to critically think, that whole argument is revealed as a sham. In trying to understand the actual input the Boardwalk makes to Bossier City recurring finances, we must parse out the one-time and/or unrelated revenues – and this assumes the garage was crucial to the project’s presence which is unlikely. In short, we must find out what contribution the unique visitors – those who spent money at the Boardwalk who otherwise without it would not have spent money in Bossier City (or in the area to create jobs for Bossierites) – made in terms of recurring revenues.

That means none of the one-time reimbursements from private and public sources count. Thus, just sales tax and property tax revenue increases matter. The latter we can dismiss because (something else the city doesn’t publicize) is the extra recurring costs of the property – policing and the like. Let’s say (lowballing) they equal the $200,000 annual property tax gain.

Also note that only 30 percent of visitors are from out of the area (that is, 70 percent probably would have spent their money elsewhere in the area). Probably almost all of the visitors would have spent their money in the area anyway, too; only a small portion likely came to the Boardwalk just because it was there. And we cannot forget that, historical data show, half of revenues are generated by Bass Pro Shops which has its own parking area.

But let’s be absurdly generous and say all 30 percent came just for the Boardwalk. At roughly one-half $1.8 million a year increased sales tax revenues times 30 percent, that means (not including interest) it will take (again, using very generous assumptions) almost 78 years for the Boardwalk to “pay” for the garage. Including interest earned, at current rates it never will: note that the unique revenues are about one-quarter the size of the interest that would have been earned if the money simply had been invested.

Montgomery, himself a veteran taxer-and-spender, probably thinks that if the Bossier City public bought the garage scheme, then at least the half of the Senate 37 district that is Bossier City will buy his candidacy. But we peasants yet might surprise him and the ancient regime that has ruled these parts for so long.

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