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Bossier City must just say no to kick its spendaholicism

A few years ago, when it was learned that Bossier City not only would spend some $20 million on infrastructure for the nascent Louisiana Boardwalk (then “Riverwalk”) but even more on a parking garage the developers easily could have built with their own resources, no doubt this encouraged a number of private interests to see the city as a slot machine ready to pay off. The city called the tune, and now it’s paying the fiddler.

The fiddler would be Linc Coleman of U.L. Coleman Properties, who is trying not one but two tactics to get Bossier City to grace his firm’s project, a 50-townhome, 266-apartment development in a plot basically caddy-corner to the CenturyTel Center. This some city officials desperately want to provide political cover for another huge monetary mistake they made years ago, the Center itself.

The money-losing arena cost $56.5 million (almost double the amount the public initially was told) and was supposed to set off an economic development boom around it, according to some selling the project in the late 1990s. The whimper that resulted only has produced one new restaurant which has since closed, and one new watersports retailer which relocated from elsewhere. Having a residential project in the area might help save face a little bit for Bossier City politicians who favored the arena, much less provide some economic development.

The first of tactics these addresses more principle than monetary aspects. Coleman is requesting a curb cut onto the heavily-traveled Arthur Ray Teague Parkway rather than the lighter-traveled street that intersects it, Walker Place. Some city council members object, arguing that this would introduce slowing traffic and eventually the need for a lighted intersection. Worse, it would set a precedent to allow others to ask for the same. They want the council to have the authority to approve such things on a project-by-project basis, saying the idea behind the Parkway was to provide as much interrupted travel north-south in Bossier City as possible.

Coleman seems to view the matter akin to poker, declaring that they might not pursue the development if they don’t get their preferred access. The city needs to call this bluff. The value to the properties would diminish only slightly with access to a smaller road, certainly not to the point that it would not provide a decent rate of return. Even if the firm walks away, what attracted it will attract others soon who are more flexible.

Hopefully, the city has learned from the Boardwalk lesson that it doesn’t have to give away the people’s assets to private interests to get investors. If the return on investment is good enough, they’ll pay for it; if it’s not, then why would the city invest in an enterprise that’s not going to be successful (which is not the purpose of government anyway)?

Of course, the city would pay little extra monetarily for granting the request; the real costs would be indirect in terms of traffic hassles. But because of Coleman’s second tactic, let’s hope this lesson finally has been learned. Coleman also has contemplated requesting $7.6 million from Bossier City for who knows what reasons (surely the infrastructure needed for the project should be just a fraction of this cost).

Throughout its recent history, Bossier City’s politicians have suffered from severe myopia whenever it comes to big-money projects. Besides the wasting of monies on the Center and parking garage, throw in the city’s stubbornness when it came to disposing of the Bossier Medical Center. The city never should have been in the business of running a hospital in the first place, but when it had a chance to get out of it at a good price (Willis-Knighton offered to buy it), pride intervened and eventually the facility sold at a much lower level. (Willis Knighton’s Bossier City hospital just celebrated its tenth anniversary of starting to put BMC out of business by announcing yet another expansion.)

Yet again, the public demands that Bossier City’s politicians grow up. They have to look past the chest-puffing at being big fishes in a small pond, the coup-counting against Shreveport, and the ridiculous theory of economic development they have clung to which says economic growth doesn’t come through lower taxes and less government intervention, but rather by building buildings. They have got to stop giving away the people’s money for no good reason. Saying no to Coleman’s demands at today's council meeting would be a good step on their road to recovery from their spendaholic ways.


Anonymous said...

I can tell you have never spoken to Linc Coleman personally....or if you have, you have some bone to pick. I would argue Linc Coleman can better articulate Republican values than Mr. Sadow and is the last person who would try heavy handed tactics to achieve personal wealth or results. Compared to every other developer in town, Linc does everything possible to have the highest integrity and does everything above board. The other developers in town, which I know as well, would use personal favors and payoffs to get their agenda through....and it would all happen in a manner not known to the public until all was finished. Sadow, go talk to Linc or Scotty Jones and try to understand what they are trying to achieve from their perspective.

Jeff Sadow said...

I don't think I need to waste Coleman & Associates' time in asking from them the obvious -- they want to increase the profitable nature of the enterprise. That's great, and I have no quarrel with their trying to maximize the value of their holdings.

He isn't the Republican I'm worried about (point of order: I may usually vote Republican, but never if it sacrifices conservative principles). It's the Republicans running Bossier City that worry me, who have shown a marked preference for big government when they should be using the city's windfall from gambling on basic infrastructure (such as they are with the Benton Road overpass) or in reducing the fiscal burden on the citizenry -- not in "venture capitalism." If, as Councilman Scott Irwin claimed Coleman wanted the city to cough up a hefty hunk of change for some reason, and that he wanted the city to spend more to provide more convenient access to the Parkway, we're back to the scenario of handing over taxpayer dollars for economic development as in the case of the parking garage at the Boardwalk. I simply do not see enough value-added to the taxpayer to justify such financial dealings.

If somebody from Coleman would like to respond and explain why Bossier City and its taxpayers would be better off if the city made the deal Coleman proposed, please add a comment here. But recognize that I do not fault them for trying to get a good deal for themselves. I would have faulted the city had it given in as it has in the past. It did not, and it will be hard to convince me or anybody else I suppose that the Bossier City citizenry and Parkway users are not going to be better off as a result.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sadow:

This is excellent. As you may have heard, Saddle Ridge was recently evicted. The Bossier Boardwalk is a complete disaster and now our taxpayers have a $20 million dollar parking garage. I hope you will update us on this as time passes...I have a feeling the place will be a ghosttown in a year.

Anonymous said...

Just because people say Coleman requested city funds doesn't make that true. To deny a property owner an opportunity to development something that would be beneficial to the community seems wrong to me. The city is spending tons of our tax payer dolars to fight a lawsuit this whole mess has generated. Not to mention the fact that access to the parkway is being granted to others. What makes anyone think this particular project would add any traffic congestion? I understand there are two traffic studies indicating this development would not bring a downside for safety or traffic on the parkway. As far as the Boardwalk is conerned many people love the Boardwalk and look forward to afternoons and weekends to bring their families there for shopping and a meal. Several entertainment companies have tried to have evening entertainment there but have failed because they did not represent what the people want which is good clean fun for their entire family. I respectfully say, I think you are wrong sir and wonder if you might do more investigation prior to posting your views which are not fact.

Jeff Sadow said...

After three years plus, this is brought back to life ....

All that was was reported in this post came from a 7/26/06 article in the Shreveport Times. Demostrate what is not factual. And what other private developer's property has access to the parkway? Only the arena and veterans home, both government-owned, have such access.

You present nothing here that would justify a special grant to a private developer who would have access anyway that in no way will interfere with the value or profitability of the developed property. Unless a compelling case is made, the original intent of limited access to the parkway should be followed.