Sworn in at the tail end of last year, the first city mayor born after its switch from the commission form of government and who hardly has lived any of his adult life in the city, the precocious Perkins swept into office on a perception that he offered a clean break from stagnation of the recent past. Citizens who saw city government as opaque and infested with cronyism in policy-making hoped he would bring fresh ideas and a fresh start.
Instead, in his first two months on the job, Perkins seemed like one of the good old boys who additionally believed the executive imposes and the legislature disposes. He hit a minor speed bump when he proposed a garbage fee to a public wary but open to the idea. Shreveport is among the very few larger cities that does not have such a charge.
However, he botched any swift enactment because he not only refused to follow nearby Bossier City’s lead in contracting the service and that way likely saving money, instead couching his advocacy as a way of expanding bureaucracy, but he also pegged the proposed levy at an excessively high $18 a month. Well in excess of stated goals of increasing salaries and building a reserve for capital expenditures, Perkins also talked of diverting a part into a fund for future unrelated city expenses.
Needing City Council approval, it rejected his idea, but has attempted to work out a middle ground with a lower fee essentially dedicated to solid waste pickup. It currently has drifted into wanting to create a separate enterprise fund with a fee high enough to cover current operating and future capital expenses, retaining only the bones of Perkins’ plan.
If Perkins can carve out a small victory on this issue, he already has suffered a self-inflicted heavy defeat on another. Apparently right before he took the oath office an operative of his cajoled the city into shifting around half a million dollars of insurance business from longtime carriers to a firm represented by an agent who not only donated to Perkins’ campaign, but who apparently is related to Perkins’ campaign manager.
Further, while Perkins had said the arrangement would save money for the same service, Council vetting found that not to be the case. Indeed, the only difference appeared as the new (out-of-town) firm was a minority-owned business, which Perkins called as a selling point towards steering more city business that way.
While past mayors’ unrestricted contracting for the city indemnification had flown under the radar, neither had any motive other than securing an adequate deal seemed obvious. Now that Perkins seemingly had made a sweetheart deal that didn’t improve city finances, a Council majority took umbrage. It resulted last week in Ordinance 18 of 2019, which now mandates Council approval of mayoral suggestions for insurers.
Although this served as a stinging rebuke of Perkins, more importantly the attendant publicity has irreparably damaged Perkins’ cultivated reputation as a new and different kind of politician. It makes hollow to the public his promises of openness and sullies his image as uncaptured by insider interests, and erased any chance that a starry-eyed Council would sit back and kowtow to whatever the rock star politician wanted. The next four years, if nothing else, should be interesting.