- Elliott Stonecipher
November 6, 2016
It has not been a good morning for Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler, this year’s City Council Chair Willie Bradford, and a few other smoke-and-mirrors folks at City Hall. This article included, there is a lot of opposition to their garbage collection and other taxes in their proposed 2017 General Fund budget.
We should begin with what no one is saying: Shreveport is shrinking, both its economy and its population. Particularly outbound are those of us who pay the long, long, long list of city and parish property and other taxes.
Therefore, its cuttin’ – NOT taxin’ – time at City Hall … not that one can tell it by looking at the nutty current budget proposal.
You will not hear or read this “Shreveport is shrinking” part except here, but the numbers which are now out confirm it. Our daily newspaper (what is left of it) never says it, neither does our other traditional media in town, nor our Chamber of Commerce, nor Paula Hickman at the Community Foundation, who is our unelected community boss of sorts. (Much more on that subject later.)
For those who still subscribe to The Times, you can see details of the proposed Ollie Tyler / Willie Bradford budget confection … and I do mean confection. It is full of budgetary flim-flammery of multiple sorts, some downright outrageous.
The Council vote on the budget is set for December 13th, so the public is given a whopping month to stop the insanity.
Today’s paper also includes criticism of this hooey budget by Tom Arceneaux. Readers may remember he is a highly paid (by taxpayers) leader of the Caddo Commission’s legal fight against taxpayer recovery of our money heisted in CPERS (retirement) and other Commissioner self-pay back to 1993.
Arceneaux is also a co-“community editorialist” at The Times, with Ms. Hickman. Arceneaux’s law partner, most notably in the legal fight against Caddo taxpayers and for Caddo Commissioners, Jerry Edwards, was recently installed by Ms. Hickman on her board of directors … but, alas, I digress again.
(Among the example I did not get to is the recent selection of Tim Magner as our new Chamber of Commerce head. Magner was one of Hickman’s two consultants on the Community Foundation op to take effective control of the Caddo Parish School Board.)
It is very important to remember in considering all related facts that our increasingly financially strapped City began all the budget gymnastics because somebody wants $8,000,000 for raises for some employees, 2017 and forward. Strapped as Shreveport is, such is – let me be polite – not sanely doable.
The Times budget numbers show at least two attempted fleeces of the taxpayers, one an early sales tax renewal which is on Tuesday’s ballot, and the other, about which I began writing days ago, the attempt to include a new garbage collection tax, therein called a “fee,” of $12.00 per month per household / business.
We are told by City Hall that this new tax (in a notoriously, already highly-taxed place) will rake-in another $9,000,000 a year from taxpayers.
Such is likely illegal, and City Hall, we have learned, has no legal opinion to back-up what it is trying to do. It is wrong-times-100 in any case: as a “fee,” bad actors need only gather 4-of-7 City Council votes to tax the hell out of us. If legally tagged as the tax it is, voters would be allowed to defeat it at the polls.
Arceneaux’s “community editorial” in the morning Times – perhaps written by him, perhaps by Hickman and/or her sizable staff, we do not know – sweetly objects to both the early tax renewal and the garbage tax.
In another article in the same edition, the one including the goofy budget, none other than Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch calls it just exactly like it actually, really, truly is:
“District F Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch said her constituents have told her they do not favor new taxes or fees, including the garbage collection fee.
‘Instead of the buck stopping with the mayor and council for the mess we are in, they propose to pass the buck onto already overtaxed citizens,’ Lynch wrote in an email. ‘Citizens need improved services, not backdoor tax increases disguised as ‘fees for services.’ The budget proposal is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.’”
What follows is some noteworthy context for all of this cow-pie-tossing. I urge readers to note how this partial list of recent City Hall scams, failures and other mistakes are indicative of a governmental body which is spiraling down as we watch.
1. We surprisingly lost our much-loved riverfront Barnwell Center – supposedly to be replaced by an aquarium – by way of our ex-mayor lying to us about the purpose of a 2011 bond proposition. He got our $1,500,000, and we lost the Barnwell Center, so he could fund a sleazy self-pay scheme of his own.
2. Shreveporters now know – more than a year after the fact – that City Hall under-billed at least $1,000,000 in water charges to some users in a spectacular “breakdown” of our billing system. Now that documents obtained by RealShreveport.com have been publicly released, we find …
a. Actors supposedly outside government say they “discovered” the under-billing and are now deemed by many – including Mayor Tyler, who has reported them to the U. S. Justice Department – guilty of extortion for huge payments they demand for their “good deed.”
b. Extortion or not, Mayor Tyler has decided NOT to recover the $1,000,000 lost to the subject water under-billing, for unknown reasons.
c. Now we know, as just discovered in hard-fought-for public documents, that a separate sewer charge under-billing has occurred, but only in a certain areas of low-income houses. We do not yet know how much money taxpayers lost in that goof – IF it was a goof.
d. The public documents fought for and obtained by RealShreveport.com’s Kaley Green, were produced by a private attorney being paid by taxpayers. That these private attorneys have the City of Shreveport as a client does not in any legal way hand them such access to these records.
e. A key actor in the water / sewer under-billing scheme is a former city and parish official who was involved in and defends the CPERS self-pay scam at and by the Caddo Parish Commission.
3. Excellent sources explain to me their fear that the resulting set-up of the new and separate “garbage collection” enterprise is the first and necessary step in rigging a soon-to-follow takeover of garbage collection services … possibly by some of the SAME actors at the heart of the water and sewer under-billing schemes.
a. If 4 council folk are, uh, “recruited” to vote for this garbage tax without definitive, official word from the State of Louisiana that such is explicitly legal, its proceeds will likely be tied-up in court for years.
b. An infamous 1990-1991 landfill contract scandal which triggered a federal investigation, but ultimately indicted no local participants, notably involved some of the same players as those who Mayor Tyler feels extorted her and the City in the water under-billing mess. A ruling this past week in Caddo District Court involving the original caper may connect the two. Tyler has asked the U. S. Department of Justice to investigate, but such very rarely occurs here.
… continuing …
© 2016 Elliott Stonecipher … ALL RIGHTS RESERVED