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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Boasso Unplugged

It doesn't get much more unscripted than gubernatorial candidate Walter Boasso's community dinners.

Campaign workers holding mics roamed the audience at the Clarion Hotel in Shreveport Thursday night as others recorded the give and take. Boasso said he's holding the dinners around the state to hear about what concerns people, rather than dropping in and telling them what he thinks.

Boasso, wearing a wireless mic, fielded the questions as best the could, occasionally spreading his hands and declaring he just didn't have an answer for some of them. He appeared without his cardboard cutout of front-runner Bobby Jindal but said he had it in the car, drawing laughter from the audience.

The low-key event highlights a major difference in image--and possibly personality--between Boasso and frontrunner Bobby Jindal.

Boasso comes across as the casual guy next door. Jindal alluded to that image during a campaign kick-off speech in Shreveport in July, saying he would offer substance instead of back-slapping.

Jindal, on the other hand, is precise, quick to offer facts and figures in response to questions. His campaign kick off was highly scripted -- the appearance on the tarmac at Shreveport's Downtown Airport, cheering, sign-waving supporters, a pump-you-up soundtrack of oldies music.

Will their paths cross and personalities clash? Stay tuned for the Sept. 11 debate at LSUS....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Politics can actually make you sick

Does anybody know the name of a good doctor?

I, along with dozens of other people in Government Plaza, may have been exposed to tuberculosis on Monday during the Shreveport City Council's regular work session. And I'm a little worried.

I'm only sort of half-joking here.

Near the end of the meeting, City Councilman Joe Shyne brought up a resident from his district who claimed that he had contracted TB when he roomed with an infected inmate at the City Jail. I won't do this poor man the injustice of repeating his name here but he seemed, well, out of sorts. The man was barely coherent but one thing seemed clear, if you believed his story: he had an active case of TB.

Most of us left the meeting thinking nothing of it but Councilwoman Joyce Bowman, who works as a staffing coordinator and nursing administrator at the Promise Specialty Hospital, sounded the alarm the next day.

At the council meeting Tuesday, Bowman handed out a small packet of information about TB and how the disease is spread. She even called later to remind me that I was especially at risk since I normally sit on the front row of the council chambers - only feet away from speakers at the podium.

I'm not sure how many folks will be going to get tested - I've heard of a few - but I'll probably seek some sort of treatment Thursday.

Shyne, ever the jokester, said he wasn't worried: "I come in contact with so many folks, I don't know what I got."

Neither do I. But I'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wooley finally gets the numbers

Shreveport City Councilman Bryan Wooley finally got the answers he wanted. Now, Mayor Cedric Glover must wait again for Wooley's response.

Three days after Wooley and Glover's dust-up at the dais, CAO Tom Dark e-mailed Wooley and several others more data about a proposal from Glover that would provide tax incentives for certain police officers.

Glover's proposal would give a tax break to police officers who live in the city and drive take-home cars. The incentive pay would have been equal to the amount of property taxes paid to the city. Wooley led a push to postpone voting on the proposal until he had more information on the impact to the budget or more up-to-date studies about the program's success in other communities.

The delay sparked a brief, but colorful, squabble between the mayor and the first-term councilman.

But Glover - through Dark - followed up Friday with more information about the program, showing an annual cost of roughly $117,100.

The city came up with that figure by assuming 200 officers would have take-home cars (175 actually have cars now) and using the median value of a single-family home in Shreveport ($125,600). With city property taxes set at 46.64 mills, a $125,600 home would generate $585.50 in annual property taxes. So, multiply that figure by 200 and presto, a more concrete number.

Wooley, who genuinely seemed hurt by Glover's sharp words last Tuesday, said he was satisfied with the city's response.

“I’m very appreciative that I have received the information that I requested. It is important to me when it comes to working with and dealing with the budget that I have definitive numbers,”
Wooley said earlier this week. "It was also important to receive this in writing. We were about to vote on a (resolution) and there were no numbers in front of us to review. That’s important - to have those numbers in front of us to review ourselves.”

Wooley said he was still mulling over the numbers before deciding how to vote. The vote is set to come at the council's meeting on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Glover makes a number of nominations

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover has submitted the names of three people for the Downtown Development Authority and another for the Shreveport Airport Authority.

The City Council will vote on all of Glover's nominations today - Tuesday. No opposition is expected among the council for any of the nominations, who are as follows:

Downtown Development Authority:

Debra Wayt - senior vice president for membership for the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.
Michael Parker - executive director of the West Edge Artists' Co-op; owner of West Edge Books and News.
Michael Whitemaine - general manager of Shreveport's Eldorado casino.

Shreveport Airport Authority:

Keith Gamble - owner and member of the Agape Hospice Care Group; manages a number of local nursing homes in northwest Louisiana. Gamble donated $1,500 to Glover's transition team, which was used to pay for the mayor's inaugural ball and transitional expenses.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shyne, Webb skirmish over Fair Share

As far as drama goes, the Shreveport City Council hasn't had much of it through its first few months since the November elections.

There's been a few flare-ups, to be sure. But nothing like the clash - one-sided as it may have been - at Tuesday's council meeting. Here's a link to the online version of the story in Wednesday's newspaper:

City Councilman Joe Shyne, a Democrat, was plenty upset with Republican colleague Ron Webb for questioning the goals of the city's Fair Share program. Webb said requiring at least 25 percent minority subcontracting work on city projects may be too ambitious a goal for now.

"I think it's unrealistic," Webb said.

Well, that set off Shyne, who helped create Fair Share in 1999 and rarely misses out on a good fight. Shyne, a bit of a boxer in his younger days, wasted little time before taking a swing at Webb.

"I don't know whether it's because of racism or lack of intelligence ... I'm just almost sick that in (2007) that we would have an elected official that would not be in favor of the kind of program that we worked for years to create," Shyne said. "It seems like to me, if it was left up to him, he'd take (the program) and ball it up and throw it in the trash can."

Webb sat silently beside Shyne, seething. You might even say his face turned beet-red. Shyne went on before being warned to direct his comments to a representative for hotel contractor Walton Construction.

Don't think this will be the last time Shyne and Webb cross swords. At all.

Reached on his cell phone Wednesday morning, Webb said, "I didn’t stoop to his level. I could have. But he’s entitled to his opinion and I’m entitled to my opinion. I guess he doesn't believe that, though."

Webb also reiterated his concerns about the program: "I’ve had numerous phone calls in support of what I said yesterday. That only makes me believe that we’re a long way from what it’s intent is."

Asked if he spoke with Shyne after the meeting, Webb said: "I went on about my way. There will be another day. I know this issue is not over by any means."

I couldn't reach Shyne today. All calls to his cell phone went to voice mail. But I have little doubt that he feels the same way.

Stay tuned for the next round of this one.

Monday, April 30, 2007

It's All Politics

It sure is all politics. At least for some people.

Below is a conversation I had with Caddo Parish Commissioner Rose McCulloch a couple of weeks ago when I called to ask about a lawsuit filed against her and the commission for slander.

“Hello Commissioner McCulloch. How are you doing today?”
“Not good Janelle.”
“Understandably so. I was calling…”
“Are you calling to talk to me about the tax incentives story?”
“Are you calling about low income housing in my district?”
“Well, then I don’t want to talk to you because I’ve been waiting for you to call me about those stories.”
“So you don’t want to comment on…” dial tone


Then today, as I was leaving a Commission meeting she calls me out after not speaking to me for the past few weeks.

“I’m still waiting on you to write that tax incentives story.”

I guess Commissioner McCulloch, and possibly some other people in the community, are confused about the way the media operates.
I don’t know of any reporter that is going to write stories politicians ask them to in exchange for comments for another story or any kind of favors. This isn’t the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” situation that some politicians may think it is.

You don’t want to comment? Fine.
Hanging up on the reporter trying to make sure you have a fair say? Fine.

After all, it’s all politics.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More transcription, this time from former mayoral race opponents

Of course these two would never like to be called opponents, but they were at one time. Technically.

It was either a little ironic or nicely planned that Jerry Jones introduced Mayor Cedric Glover at Tuesday's Downtown Rotary Club meeting. Jones said when he was asked to talk he hoped it was to give the victory speech he never delivered.

Instead he welcomed the mayor, who became an honorary Rotarian that day. Here's part of what he said:

It actually is a great pleasure for me to introduce our speaker today. Cedric and I have known each other for 16 years. We both went to the city at the same time: he as a councilman from District A, the youngest city councilman ever to be elected to the city of Shreveport, and me a city attorney.

And I think both of us took a while to figure out things, like where the bathrooms were at City Hall, but we learned a lot of things together. We learned how city government works, and we learned how to work together.

Cedric and I ran a great campaign against one another. Cedric was always a friend. We don’t always agree -- we won’t always agree -- but that’s the great thing about politics. And the great thing about politics in Shreveport is that we can do that while still being agreeable gentlemen. And that’s why Cedric and I believe our relationship works.

So, it’s my pleasure to introduce my friend, now my fellow Rotarian, but most importantly, my mayor.

(A special thanks to Sherry Shephard for transcribing the speech from her notes.)

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