Last week, the City Council narrowly approved putting up to voters the three measures, which had jettisoned $34 million worth of items, some dealing with nonessential “smart” technology but the remainder suspiciously looking like a slush fund to fund a private concern’s economic development project on Cross Bayou. Now pegged at 11.68 mills to start, while the deletions improved the package, it’s still not out of the woods.
Part of the problem stems from the overtaxed nature of Shreveport. It has the second-highest city property taxes in the state (around 36 mills, but that trails New Orleans by more than half), and it doesn’t help that Caddo Parish has the state’s second-highest as well (at about 146 mills, barely behind Orleans Parish). Given the chance, an overburdened citizenry might take a step towards relief with rejection of at least one item.
Opposing councilors Republicans Grayson Boucher and John Nickelson took a parochial view of the matter, complaining that the package didn’t address as much as it could have in their districts. Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins tried to forestall such objections in having a citizens committee – albeit skewed to his supporters – with assistance from the city to come up with the list that purports to have the most needed items included, and some have city-wide implications. Democrat Councilwoman LeVette Fuller, seeking to cultivate her image, joined them in opposition.
All three have professed a shortage of trust in Perkins, for a number of publicized reasons such as shiftiness regarding the city’s insurance, trying to have city dollars pay for mayoral transition activities, and consent decree contracting changes. Boucher in particular echoed this mistrust when he complained the requests were missing too many details, because, in the final analysis, assumed wise use of the proceeds requires faith in the Perkins Administration
The swing vote in favor turned out to be Republican Councilman James Flurry, who usually joined the other three in complaints about opaqueness from Perkins. He tried to justify overcoming suspicion of Perkins’ execution by falling back on the canard that the people should decide the matter. As always, this view ignores that the public elects officials to get into the details of and to vet complex matters of governing, so it is their duty to decide whether something benefits or disserves the public, not to fob it off. (There’s also a conspiracy theory that Flurry voted in favor in exchange for a new job he recently began.)
In the end, while the specific projects have their own merits, Perkins will resolve the specific details of them and their more nebulous issues left unaddressed. And if the public has enough doubt about his judgment to see these through in a cost-effective manner where politics takes a back seat, whether from his short history short on transparency, it will reject some or all of the three proposals.
Certainly Perkins did perceptions of his competence no good recently by signing on to a ridiculous screed urging counterproductive and invasive gun control. All these things add up to give voters reason enough to vote down the measures.