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Shreveport reaping badly sown past spending choices

At least Shreveport's government is taking its 2010 operating budget disucssions slowly and seriously with an eye towards genuine needs. It hasn't always been this way with capital expenditures. While members of Shreveport’s City Council may grouse about spending decisions made by Mayor Cedric Glover, some of themselves share Glover’s culpability in the creation of crisis strategy that in the past has neglected high priority items to saddle the people with problems today.

Somewhat out of the blue, although not inconsistent with the Glover managerial style of the executive proposes, the legislature disposes, he dropped on the council’s lap a proposal for a $115 million bond issue to have been vetted by voters this fall. Most of it dealt with items Glover said the federal government was putting the heat on to the city because they could lead to possible sanctions, in the areas of water treatment and handicap accessibility. Thus, the issue needed action now, Glover implied as if Paul Revere reincarnated had come to warn that that feds were coming.

Of course, none of it should have been any surprise at all, including the amount. A good chunk of the entire request to the council months ago had formed a much smaller overall request to the federal government shortly after Pres. Barack Obama rammed into policy his spending bill that singlehandedly roughly tripled the fiscal year’s deficit. A giveaway politically in the guise of somehow being an immediate stimulus to the economy, in relative terms Glover was one of the most enthusiastic hogs to belly on up to the trough when he asked on behalf of the city for over $2.3 billion. The supplication appeared not only brazen enough to make it fodder for national ridicule, but even seemed to be too much for Santa Barack, since now Glover is wanting city debt to pay for some of it.

And why the Shreveport taxpayer would get off only being hit up for 5 percent of Glover’s wish list is due to the fact it almost all the city can afford. Because of the profligacy of Glover’s predecessor Keith Hightower, the city was close to its constitutional debt ceiling (and still owes $827 million, about twice the annual budget) in large part due to the city borrowing in the neighborhood of $100 million to build a money-losing convention center that was not supposed to lose money in part because of the presence of an adjacent a money-losing Hilton-managed hotel built by the city to the tune of around $40 million of its debt.

Meanwhile, residents in some parts of town moaned about substandard water provision of water and the city’s own managers warned a tremendous infrastructure problem loomed concerning this service. None of this fazed Hightower who was more interested in setting up conditions for lucrative contracts to be let to supporters and making it look like he was doing something than actually governing responsibly. Delayed maintenance simply has made matters worse since. And the final insults are that water rates have been jacked up substantially since then in the effort to make a dent in three years ago an estimated $450 million in repairs yet Glover still wants to spend more, and more debt on whatever will lower the city’s bond rating and make borrowing to solve infrastructure repairs eve more costly.

In the few years since, enough debt has been paid back to allow current addressing this and other (what should have been recognized years ago as) festering imperatives. But while Hightower deserves the lion’s share of the blame, it’s also the fault of Glover and some of those on the Council. As it was, the main legislative water-carrier for the city on the hotel issue – because almost all of the city’s delegation were against it – was none other than Glover, then a state representative. (Among other things, his intervention of the issue cost state taxpayers $12 million in addition to what Shreveport is on the hook for.) Also, voting in favor of building the facilities were Democrats on the Council then still on it now – Calvin Lester and Monty Walford, so they bear liability as well.

At least Glover wants a vote of the people; it’s not required and Hightower dispensed with that on the hotel. The Council told him to slow down, get direct citizen input, and to expect some kind of resolution next spring – right when campaigns for city elections in 2010 will begin flowering. However, issues of sewerage and response to federal mandates could have been ameliorated years ago with more emphasis on doing the basic, unglamorous duties of government instead of building monuments to it --mistakes that will cost the citizenry both in the subsidies they pay for them and in the additional resources that will be taken from them to do what should have been done all along.

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