- Kaley Green
SHREVEPORT, La. — The Shreveport City Council approved the 2017 budget Tuesday night in a meeting that lasted five hours and consisted of many reconsiderations to re-vote on certain amendments to budget ordinances.
Councilman James Flurry’s proposed amendment to reduce the Metropolitan Planning Commission’s funding by 35 percent ultimately failed, even after taking up the largest portion of the meeting.
MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney said if his $1.6 million budget was decreased as proposed, he would be forced to immediately lay off half of his 20-person staff, which he admitted consists of eight clerical workers.
Flurry said the cut was not personal, but echoed the calls to trim the fat in the budget and help the City live within its means.
“…You’re on the same plateau as the IRS,” Flurry said to Sweeney. “…Nothing ever changes.”
He cited the City’s “taxation without representation” and claimed the City has carried the bucket for the MPC for too long while the Caddo Parish Commission gives them much less funding. The Council also discussed the Parish Commission’s refusal to give the MPC more funding to lessen the burden on the City’s budget.
The initial vote for the eighth amendment to budget ordinance 102, which reduced MPC funding, passed 5-2, but Councilman Jeff Everson said he made a voting mistake and was visibly confused about the vote.
A motion to re-vote on the ordinance because of Everson’s mistake passed, and ultimately the amendment still passed 4-3. Councilmen Bradford, Corbin and Everson were in opposition.
Then as the Council came to adopt the MPC budget as amended, Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch changed her vote and voted in opposition, causing an unbalance in the budget. Even prior to this vote, Chief Administrative Officer Brian Crawford explained the MPC budget as amended was the companion of the previously adopted amendment to the General Fund Budget to reduce MPC’s budget.
After plenty of talk of which conflicting amendment to reconsider, the Council ultimately scrapped the only real budget cut of the night, but not before even more voting errors occurred. Chairman Willie Bradford claimed his voting mechanism was malfunctioning. The rules were suspended to re-vote once more. MPC’s budget will not be reduced.
While the budget is still too high, Mayor Ollie Tyler said her administration has worked hard to streamline the budget, making $4.2 million in cuts and bringing in $15.4 million in grants.
Chairman Bradford gave a speech earlier in the meeting begging the Council to go down in history by trying to turn around the local economy and making it more even in Shreveport, where he said “Black companies and contractors are not given a fair shake.”
(The City does offer a Fair Share program in an effort to help disadvantaged, minority and women business enterprises in the local economy.)
Councilwoman Lynch also spoke on the City’s budget problem, going back to the proposed $12 garbage collection fee last month.
“The reality of the city’s budget is…I think if we were doing everything we could do to live in our means, we wouldn’t have asked for a $12 fee,” Lynch said. “We don’t have money to provide basic services…I won’t support any tax increases.”
The Council also affirmed the mayor’s appointee, Alan Crump, as Police Chief.
While public comments on agenda items were allowed, several citizens spoke out about the unsafe nature of Zeke Drive in the Little Texas area of Shreveport. They said the street is a shortcut and many cars have either ended up in the bayou or in a front yard. They begged the Council to make it safe for their children by paving it and installing sidewalks and speed bumps.
Chairman Bradford made a suggestion for each council member to calculate the costs for needs in each district and issue a bond proposal to improve streets throughout the city. Jeff Everson’s sponsored amendment to specifically provide for $400,000 from the Streets Special Revenue Fund to improve Zeke Drive failed by a vote of 3-4. Mayor Tyler said she would work with Councilman Everson to find a way to fund the road project.
Even after the lengthy meeting with all its confusion and frustration, several citizens remained to address the Council about items not on the agenda.
Although there were claps and sighs of relief as the 2017 budget was passed, it is clear our budget issues are not over as no sizable cuts were made last night.
Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote suggesting the need for calculating costs for a bond proposal to Councilman Michael Corbin. Mr. Corbin did not say this.