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Bad personnel decisions to cost Caddo, Bossier citizens

As area local governments have demonstrated with some recent decisions they’ve made, there’s a wrong way to do things and, well, there’s a wrong way to do things.

In the past this space questioned Caddo Parish’s hiring of a lobbyist at a high salary who already had little time to commit to parish work, in part because she was employed by Bossier Parish also at a high full-time salary. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that in the three years Bossier Parish had her on the payroll, apparently only about 20 percent of the money paid to her actually was spent on lobbying activities for the parish (and apparently none at all in 2006). This led to the conclusion that the smart, constituent-driven decision for both parishes would be one of (1) each paying her considerably less, (2) each paying somebody else less to do a full-time job, or (3) dispense with the position and use those resources more efficiently among existing personnel to conduct lobbying.

One could try to make an argument that such a high salary for not much work would be justified – as one consistent defender of Bossier governments wrote – by paying a lobbyist $60,000 a year to get $3.9 million in federal projects (it is claimed, without independent verification). One could, but shouldn’t if one thought critically about the issue, knew something about lobbying, and could perceive the logical absurdity behind this thought.

Academic research shows that, except in the case of the very upper tier of lobbyists (typically ex-Congressmen, ex-staffers, or a few exceptionally talented individuals), there’s essentially no relation between lobbyist characteristics (including pay) and results (which themselves are hard to measure in any event). More intuitively, there’s no reason to believe that there’s not an individual out there who could have been paid, say, $30,000 a year who could not have done as well, or even have a parish pay $10,000 in expenses spread out over one or more employees to engage in this activity – and they might have had better results, which would seem very likely given little effort was made for the $60,000 in the case of Bossier last year.

Consider as well the absurdity of the statement that parish taxpayers had to pay $60,000 to get $3.9 million. With that logic, why doesn’t Bossier Parish pay $180,000 in lobbying expenses and – presto! – $11.7 million will come rolling in and it could stop trying to soak taxpayers and start turning shovels on the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway extension tomorrow?

(Alas, for the remainder of the year area voters should be prepared to suffer more of this drivel for at least one area candidate for office looks like he’ll make this exact argument for his election. It’ll go like this: “Elect term-limited state Rep. Billy Montgomery to the state Senate because he brought X projects worth $Y to his district.” The flaw in the logic is the same – that Montgomery was totally responsible, even if he wasn’t, for getting these projects so without him District 9 would have been left destitute these past 20 years. But there’s absolutely no reason to assume somebody else other than Montgomery wouldn’t have then, and couldn’t in the future, do as good of a – or a better – job of this. In fact, I think there's someone better.)

You might think Shreveport would learn from these instances that it’s all about priorities and being good stewards of the taxpayers’ monies. Instead, it seems new Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover is as stuck on stupid.

While Glover is breaking all records in hiring personal staffers, in numbers of them and therefore salaries paid out, one job he specifically eliminated was that of city grant-writer. In great contrast the nebulous nature and indifferent results that lobbying provides, the results from grant-writing are tangible and direct.

A mayor has the right to put whomever he pleases into unclassified positions which this one was, including discharging a holdover from a previous administration. But making this a very curious decision was rather than put someone else into the job, he dispensed with it. Very likely this happened because a mayor only has a limited pool of salary money to pay out and, already having hired allies into these other jobs he created, there’s not enough to go around to keep a position into which apparently an suitable ally could not be hired.

Good grant writers, unlike most lobbyists, directly translate their work into funds because the grant process is mostly by merit infused with some politics, with lobbying being opposite. Unless one or more of Glover’s new assistants can start cranking out decent grant applications, this decision will cost a city whose financial picture currently looks bleaker rather than brighter in the future.

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