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"Obama Lite" Walker reaps what he, Council sowed

The foremost question on the minds of Bossier City’s citizens is, what did Mayor Lo Walker know and when did he know it?

Drained of his usual pompous arrogance, last month the chastened Walker announced that the city heading into the end of its budget year was short $6.5 million, over 10 percent of its total spending, and would lay off immediately almost 15 percent of its workforce. The mayor, reelected unopposed in April, who once told observers that if they didn’t like this “conservative” budget they could vote against him, said now after the elections had come and gone that it was his fault alone, all due to some surprising fiscal “discovery.”

And if you believe this, give me $35 million of the city’s money and I’ll get you an office building that will attract the Air Force’s Cyber Command. None of this should have been a surprise to Walker or anybody in the city government. Every city keeps regular, usually monthly, tabs on its revenue intake, primarily on sales taxes which are remitted almost constantly. Bossier City’s finance department knew exactly what was going on from the beginning of the year. The only question is when did the trend become unmistakable?

Chances are, Walker knew of it months ago and irresponsibly kept hoping against hope that something would happen to turn it around – royalty checks, money from Washington, whatever – in order to cover for years of his incompetent fiscal management in office and prior to that as city chief administrative officer. Had he taken his medicine sooner he could have stopped the bleeding much earlier with less disruption to the city. Only with upcoming budget considerations was his hand forced, with his lack of leadership providing the worst possible outcome. This week he unveils his response to his self-made crisis by submitting the city's 2010 budget.

Nor is Walker’s plea that he alone be held responsible credible. The see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil City Council, conditioned over the years not to think for itself save in terms of how each member can make himself look like a big fish in a small pond, apparently showed no initiative, no curiosity about the city’s finances even as the country’s deteriorating economic condition was apparent over a year ago. The National League of Cities then reported a sharp decline in the typical municipality’s revenue stream, but apparently the returning members of the Council were too busy trying to get themselves reelected than pay attention to their jobs and ask the relevant questions. Indeed, they signed onto a budget that depended on a 3.4 percent increase in sales tax collections as the recession intensified.

Of course, both branches together sowed the seeds of this train wreck years ago with their agreements to spend on impractical capital projects -- $56.5 million on a money-losing arena, $21 million on a parking garage gift for a private developer, $35 million on a high-tech office building that has little chance of paying itself back for decades being the main culprits. These dollars alone if invested could have provided the safety net needed for hard times – as was argued often in this space and in other places.

But of more consequence is that Bossier City, whose leaders like to count coup on Shreveport by asserting the city is better managed, in per capita terms actually has far more debt than Shreveport. According to the city’s 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, it stands at a shocking $317 million – compare this to the similar-sized cities of Monroe at $168 million, Alexandria at $73 million, Lake Charles at $60 million, and Kenner at $58 million – and most of it accumulated in the past few years. The reason why the city chronically has had to dip into reserve funds in recent budgets is because it needs to service and pay off this debt – which will cost in the $20-$25 million range annually for the next 15 years – and why it was unable to handle this current economic downturn, courtesy of these clowns in charge.

Investing the wasted money, or using it to defray roughly 40 percent of these outstanding bonds, even if altering the budget in no other way would have averted this crisis. But showing off the baubles while puffing out their chests was more important to these nimrods and makes cries from one that they were “deceived” ring a bit hollow and late.

Bossier City never has had, contrary to another negligent city official in this matter Finance Director Joe Buffington who constantly blames the citizenry for not paying enough taxes, a revenue problem. Blessed by ephemeral gaming revenues, instead these were squandered in a way that makes now blatantly evident something revealed long ago in this space – it has a tremendous spending problem.

This should never happen again. Section 3.09 of the city charter gives the Council the power to investigate, including compelling testimony under oath. Walker, Buffington, and others in the city need to be asked what they knew and when they knew it. If shown they sat on this information, the appropriate people like Buffington should be fired, and Walker subjected to a recall petition – if industrious citizens don’t start one on their own for which they are clearly entitled and justified. Such action would deter future inaction.

However, it won’t happen. Because it may well show Walker and the reelected members of the Council all knew about this negative trend during their campaigns prior to and after filing day, yet not one peep came from them about it. If that’s the case, it is a devastating dereliction of their duties adding yet another layer of incompetence and irresponsible behavior to their existing hoard based on their poor spending choices.

Walker’s density on the matter is to the point that he even failed to recognize the irony in a statement following his admission that part of the blame for the city’s fiscal condition is due to Pres. Barack Obama’s policies. Because given the similarities between Obama’s and Walker’s free-spending ways, if Walker was a brand of beer he’d be called “Obama Lite.”


Anonymous said...

You truly are a moron.

Anonymous said...

So would the person who comment at 7:21 be on the city council or from the mayor's office.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I think he just appreciated the delicious irony of Sadow using this phrase, "Drained of his usual pompous arrogance". My first thought was the the professor had been looking in the mirror when he said that.

Anonymous said...

He is dead on the money! The pompous arrogance runs deeper than even just the mayor. Most of the Council along with some dept. heads are more guilty than "Obama Lite". You so called leaders of Bossier with your good old boy group have raped this city. I pray the recall petitions begin soon and a few good honest people step up to the plate to begin the process of cleaning up this pig waller we now have!!!

Watch out Sadow they will be after you probably now.