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Shreveport elections may create Caddo Commission fireworks

Depending upon the vagaries of the electorate, starting in December things might get very interesting around the Caddo Parish Commission and the situation could last for as many as five months.

This is because four current Commission members are running for Shreveport City Council seats, Democrat Joyce Bowman and Republicans Bob Brown, Michael Long, and Ron Webb. In fact, all would have to be considered favorites in their contests for, respectively, Districts G, D, C, and E.

Regardless of whether any of them win outright in the primary, they would be seated on the Council in late November. State election law then kicks in with the tendering of their resignation, and the provisions of R.S. 18:402 would put the election to fill these seats on Apr. 7, 2007. Winners would take their seats in early May.

In the meantime, this means the Commission soldiers on undermanned. And while the important decision of who should be the next parish administrator should be resolved before, if any, of them depart, at least one big decision will be made by a potentially-depleted Commission – the 2007 budget.

Note that if any of these commissioners resign early to take on a new elective job, the partisan balance of the Commission likely will change. At 6-all Democrat/Republican presently, depending upon who leaves could alter radically the scales, with the most extreme possibility being Bowman fails while all three of the GOP succeed, giving Democrats a 6-3 advantage for several months.

While it may be fashionable, particularly for Democrats, to claim that party affiliation really doesn’t matter when it comes to local government, the fact is an officeholder’s label does usually convey a stable set of attitudes and expected behavior of those choosing that label. At this level of government, simply put Democrats will favor larger government utilizing more of the people’s resources, and disproportionately for funding social service kinds of activities, than will Republicans who generally want smaller government taking less of the citizens’ money and would more likely spend that on public safety activities.

The budget should be an early indication of whether a new majority will take advantage of the changed balance. Last year some allocations to community groups slightly were scaled back. If Bowman only goes, Republicans could accelerate that process. But if Bowman doesn’t and at least one GOP commissioner does, or even if she does but joined by two such GOP commissioners, Democrats will minimize that option in this era of relatively declining parish revenues and look for other sources of revenue before cuts elsewhere. The nightmare scenario for conservatives would be the 6-3 ratio, allowing the Commission to roll forward property tax rates which it deferred doing so when the previous round of property assessments came out.

Unless all four fail in their bids or just Bowman and a Republican wins, look for some policy changes to come out of the Commission for at least a few months.

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