- Kaley Green
SHREVEPORT, La. –The Shreveport City Council removed the garbage fee from the proposed 2017 budget Tuesday evening by a vote of four to one.
During the public hearing segment of the regular session meeting, several people spoke out against the $12/mo. proposed fee, many of whom were elderly women.
One woman said she cannot afford an extra $12 per month on top of a fixed income. That sentiment was echoed as the hearing continued.
Another woman who spoke against the legislation gave several reasons for her opposition. She said she could not afford it and called it a tax. She said a lawsuit would be filed if it was passed. She also said it would be regressive, and made clear she thought the fee should not be equal for all households and businesses.
Mayor Ollie Tyler made an explanation for her proposed legislation prior to the vote. The public was given misinformation about the fee being a tax, she said.
Mayor Tyler also said her goal in laying out this legislation was to move the city forward. She did not, however, address many of the concerns raised by the public. Tyler continued to compare the proposed $12 fee with garbage collection fees of nearby cities, claiming Shreveport is the only one which does not charge for trash services.
City Council Chairman Willie Bradford said in Shreveport there is a “built-in rejection to taxes and fees.”
“We are a transition city,” Chairman Bradford said. “We’ve got to grow. We can’t want the best things for this city but not want to pay for it.”
The climate of Shreveport is not conducive to the mayor’s proposed legislation now, Bradford said.
Mayor Tyler’s speech prior to the removal did not address concerns of citizens regarding their fear of having water services shut off if the fee went unpaid. Instead, she painted a picture of how the proposed legislation would have been one of the most progressive actions in the history of Shreveport.
Because the City is still under the federal Consent Decree to repair the water and sewerage infrastructure, these funds would be necessary, she said. The funds already in existence to fix the crumbling infrastructure were not mentioned, though.
Then, Bradford spoke at length about the city’s changing demographics before finally making the motion to remove the legislation from the budget.
Once it was clear the Council could not adopt this legislation while also considering the feelings of the public, the conversation between council members turned to the bleak 2017 budget.
Councilman Michael Corbin said he hopes the Council will be willing to roll its sleeves up to make the budget work without the fee increase.
“We seem to be able to talk about budget cuts in the back room over coffee, but it disappears as soon as we step in here,” Corbin said. “…I hope we will have some hard conversations to reduce this budget.”
If the council truly wants to represent the citizens, it has three weeks to do the right thing to amend the budget, he said.
Council members Oliver Jenkins and Stephanie Lynch were not in attendance at today’s meeting. Councilman Jerry Bowman was the only vote against removing the legislation from the budget.
“I don’t want budget cuts in my district,” Bowman said.
That sentiment seemed to be shared by most of the council.
Bowman also cited the need in his district for police and fire department services, which represent two of the largest portions of the City’s budget.
Chairman Bradford said the City will soon need to revisit legislation like the garbage collection fee to move the City forward.