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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday feast of politics lives on at Brother's

Brother's Seafood downtown is filling a void left by the closing of Pete Harris Cafe. Brother's served as a fine venue to Louisiana House District 1 and 4 candidate forums in the last week.
This morning's packed house offered a feast of District 4 politics in the standing tradition of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Group who used to make Pete Harris their home.

Three current and former elected officials were perhaps the most recognizable candidates campaigning for House District 4, the north Shreveport legislative district formerly held by newly elected Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover. Councilman Calvin Lester is the current Shreveport City Councilman for the area. His opponents include former council member Larry Ferdinand and former Caddo Parish Commissioner Patrick Williams. The fourth participant is political newcomer Reginald Johnson. In addition to breakfast plates, candidate push cards were scattered around the tables.

Ferdinand emphasized his experience in city and state government again and again. Johnson explained his studious approach. Lester stood on recent action taken as a councilman and his passion for public service. Williams lamented the woes of the hurricanes and read from prepared remarks for his closing to make sure he hit all of his intended points about helping people.

For more on this forum, come read Loresha Wilson’s report at and pick up tomorrow's Times.

Critical issues facing this district are education, economic development and jobs and health care. They occasionally differed on issue approaches, but occasionally fell into solidarity. All support an increased minimum wage, for instance.

A full restaurant of diners and coffee drinkers peered through plants and around pillars from every corner of Brother's. Co. Moderator Craig Lee, currently embroiled in a public controversy with Council member Joyce Bowman, was relatively tame in his questions. There were still a few agenda-driven questions but Tuesday regulars have come to expect them. Besides, his questions have a way of making you think.

If you haven't gone to a TMBG gathering, everyone is welcome, and the breakfast is usually good too. The convenience of the new downtown venue may give a whole new crowd an opportunity to drop in.

Next week's speaker: Greenwood Mayor Earnest Lampkins. The recent shooting "at" his home will certainly be a topic. Dan Turner's story on Greenwood is a must read noted by Lampkins last week as he walked off with several copies of the paper in his hands.

Go ahead and show up for breakfast next week. You may get more than a meal.
--By Alan English, executive editor

Monday, January 29, 2007

In his own words

Every so often, I get press releases that I’m not quite sure what to do with. One I received last week fell into that category. It was from a New Orleans minister and civil rights activist, the Rev. Raymond Brown.

You’ll remember Brown for being a potty mouth during a speech on police tactics in south Louisiana last year, infamously calling Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco a name you don’t use in polite company.

Brown repeated it again in a press release announcing he’s running for governor in the Oct. 20 election. It’s raw, so the faint of heart should stop here.

Here it is, word for word:

“Brown blames Governor Blanco and President Bush for a resurgence of racism and the slow response to Hurricane Katrina that left 16,000 people dead and 250,000 people displaced around the country. He supports helping small, white businesses and minority contractors. He will be speaking for poor black and white citizens.

"Brown will run as a Democrat candidate. He wants an end to the war in Iraq, a ban on flying the Confederate flag in public, make using the word ‘nigger’ in public a civil penalty, make life in prison a maximum 20-year sentence. He supports treatment for drug addicts, not jail time, an end to the death penalty, a state law banning racial profiling, the drug penalty for drug kingpins only and an end to arresting homeless citizens sleeping in public.

"Rev. Brown, who referred to the Governor Blanco as a no-good bitch, but later apologized, is now calling for the governor to resign or not seek re-election.”

To learn more about Brown, click here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Inquiring minds want to know

A few minutes ago, someone dropped off an envelope at the front desk for me. They didn’t tell the receptionist their name and the single sheet tucked inside didn’t have any contact information, so I can only guess what the anonymous deliverer was implying.

The printout in the envelope was a spreadsheet of names slugged “Glover Transition and Inaugural Committee” – names that appeared to contradict the list of volunteers we published in the paper.

I had received a copy of this from the transition team as well, but was unclear what it was when I was working on the story yesterday. I caught up with transition team co-chair Dee Peterson this morning and he explained that these were the members before the group started being broken into subcommittees.

The list was in an e-mail from Nov. 29, 2006 – one day after Glover was sworn in to office. Some of the people on the original team are no longer a part of the process, according to Peterson.

Here are the original members and a little background on them:

Sherwood Bailey: An engineer, he hosted a fundraiser for Glover during his mayoral campaign. Bailey served on the CAO panel and was asked to continue serving on the city attorney panel but had to step down because of work commitments.

State Rep. Ernest Baylor: Also on the CAO and city attorney panels, although he missed yesterday’s second round of interviews because he was sick.

Tari Bradford: Bradford - U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's deputy state director in Shreveport - worked on Glover’s mayoral campaign and helped organize the gala.

Lynn Braggs: Glover’s mayoral campaign chairman, Braggs is in charge of fundraising for the transition team with attorney Ron Weems.

Roy Cary: A former Shreveport City Councilman who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1994, Cary’s name hasn’t played a role in the ongoing transition team efforts, according to the group’s documents.

S.P. Davis: An attorney, Davis was a co-chair with attorney Sam Gregorio on the CAO panel. An e-mail asking Shreveport University-Shreveport Chancellor Ray Belton to serve as co-chair on the city attorney panel said Davis could no longer serve.

Helen Godfrey-Smith: Now the transition team co-chair with Dee Peterson.

Sam Gregorio: He gave $5,000 – the maximum – to Glover’s mayoral campaign. He’s been serving as CAO and city attorney panel co-chair.

Chloe Haygood: She unsuccessfully ran for Caddo Parish school board against Willie Burton in this last election and is now one of Glover’s executive assistants at City Hall.

Sen. Lydia Jackson: Said to have been a driving force behind Glover’s win, Jackson’s name surfaced only once in transition team meeting minutes.

Bob Munson: A Baton Rouge political consultant who advised Glover throughout the campaign. There is no mention of him in the team’s meetings.

Theartis Neal: Another campaign worker, Neal’s been present at some of the sub-committee meetings. He's on the contract review panel, the only non-attorney aside from Caddo Parish superintendent Ollie Tyler.

Dee Peterson: A former Jerry Jones supporter, now co-chair of the transition team with Godfrey-Smith.

Markey Pierre: With Southern Strategy Group, she coordinated Glover’s mayoral campaign. She was the media’s point of contact. She doesn’t appear to have any other role in the transition team, according to the documents.

Lillian Priest: A Caddo Parish school board member, Priest is the only paid member of the transition team. She provides secretarial duties.

Dale Sibley: He was the first person publicly named in the rollout of the transition team concept, named as coordinator. He went on to become Glover’s chief executive assistant at City Hall.

Lloyd Thompson: Head of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Group, Thompson was a Glover supporter (even accompanying him to qualifying, when Glover showed up at the Caddo Courthouse with a cake to celebrate his birthday.) Thompson has coordinated the public safety panel organization efforts.

Al Thomas: Glover's mayoral campaign office manager, Peterson said Thomas is no longer a part of the team.

Ron Weems: An attorney, Weems is co-chair of the fundraising committee and oversees the contract review committee.

In case you missed it ...

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover’s transition team released documents on its funding and operations to The Times yesterday. All of the information is posted online by clicking here.

But in case you don’t have time to scroll through dozens of pages of meeting minutes and e-mails, here are some brief highlights from the discussions the team members are having:

On contract reviews: A firm that has not done business with the city in the past few years should be selected to review contracts and determine what, if any, contracts need to be redone. “It is imperative that the firm selected is one that does not have any ties to the city of Shreveport.” — From Jan. 16, 2007, contract review panel meeting minutes.

On creating a citizen review panel: “The panel felt the concept is good. However, the downside is that it adds an extra expensive layer between police and the community. Some members of the panel feel that a Citizen Review Panel encumbers the process. Trust is also a factor on both sides (police and community). There is a fine line for the Citizen Review Panel.” — From Dec. 7, 2006, minutes of the public safety/police department panel meeting.

On restructuring city departments: “The committee discussed the separation of SPAR and Public Buildings. The committee wholeheartedly agreed that the city should not give away city buildings. There was special concern about beefing up recreational activities throughout the city.” — From Nov. 30, 2006, minutes of the transition committee meeting.

On existing concerns: “Committee proposed that outside contract management firm review the hotel contract. Committee also proposed that the review/audit be paid for by public funds and that doing will be a proactive step and will provide insulation for his (Glover’s) administration, will be the best defense against possible subpoenas.” — From Nov. 14, 2006, minutes of the transition committee meeting.

On public disclosure: “I’m not sure if any other public records requests will be appropriate because we will maintain over here only the info that you send to us, therefore much of it will remain in your hands which are outside of government and not subject to such requests. Do not feel an obligation to provide them with too much info.” — Dec. 8, 2006, e-mail from Dale Sibley, Mayor Cedric Glover’s executive assistant, to transition team co-chairs Dee Peterson and Helen Godfrey-Smith.

Miscellaneous: Dee Peterson received an e-mail from a resident interested in helping Glover develop the film industry but at the same time asked for a quote for insurance coverage through Peterson’s company. Peterson responded in a Dec. 5, 2006, e-mail, “Please go to the website for the Glover Transition and send in your resume expressing in particular your area of interest. ... I’m going to have to pass on quoting your insurance although I do sincerely appreciate the inquiry. Because of my involvement with the transition, I’ve got to basically recuse myself from working with someone on his insurance when that individual may find himself at some time working with the administration.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

New kid on the North Caddo block

He was born in California, lived in Washington D.C., Texas and New Jersey. He got his college degrees from the University of Maryland and Central Michigan University.

Now Marc Weddleton – married to Blanchard native Michelle Fonville – lives in Mooringsport and wants to be the state House District 1 representative.

He’s one of five candidates in the race where only two contenders have ever held public office – Caddo Parish Commissioner Jim Morris and Oil City Justice of the Peace Ruth Johnston. Swepco employee Richie Hollier ran for the seat before but lost. Michael Page Boyter, aka Psycho Santa, hasn’t ever run for office but has had plenty of dealings with government – albeit the police.

Weddleton, who interned in constituent and legislative affairs with former California governor Pete Wilson 16 years ago, said one main issue spurred him to run:

“I see a need to challenge the status quo on separation of church and state,” he said. “The state shouldn’t dictate church affairs but God should be included in every facet of government.”

On that issue, his top priority is returning prayer to schools. He acknowledges teacher-led prayer is a precarious situation but he believes students should have time to pray – preferably under the Christian religion.

“I’m a Christian and I promote that, but as an American, freedom of religion means everyone has the freedom to choose their religion,” he said.

A member of First Baptist Church in Blanchard, Weddleton has other issues on his platform too: opening pre-K to all students regardless of background and test scores, and ensuring the district has cleaner water.

Weddleton settled in Mooringsport in 2005 after spending 20 years in the Air Force and serving in Desert Storm, Somalia and Kosovo. He’s currently operations manager for the medical billing and consulting firm Medinomics.

“My values are God, family and country,” the 41-year-old Republican said. “It’s worked so far.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What would Illinois dish up?

Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. David Vitter Tuesday made a friendly wager with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on this weekend’s National Football League NFC Championship Game.

“The Saints will march through Chicago and make it a black and gold Super Bowl,” Vitter said.

The loser of the wager has to make congratulatory remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate and serve the winner's staff a sampling of home cuisine.

Vitter would have plenty of offerings – gumbo, jambalaya, beignets. But what’s Illinois known for?

Oh, yeah. I forgot.

We won’t have to worry about that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Transition team lets sunshine into process

The concept of a truly open government as a solution to the political ills and perceptions facing Louisiana gets a boost today. The Shreveport mayor’s transition team announced a reversal in working under a veil of anonymity and some secrecy. They announced they will abide by general practices of being considered a public body in an admission of uncertainty about whether they are public body.

The edict in public meeting and public records law presses public bodies to apply it liberally. Public bodies and those doing public work ought to find ways to remain open rather than find ways to stay closed or circumvent inspection. If loopholes can be found, exploiting them in favor of secrecy does more harm than good.

Today, that spirit of the law takes hold and is a guide for the transition team. Taking a lead role in government work - no matter how you set yourself up - co-joins you with generally accepted guidelines for public work. Circumvention is not advised or accepted. Their willingness to reconsider is a true sign of progress and a sign of the new administration’s flexibility in decision-making. Bodies charged with a specific governmental function by an official such as the mayor should expect to remain open to scrutiny and find ways to remain open from here on out. How they operate is as important as what they do. The ends do not justify the means. Those who serve the public business and influence use of taxpayer dollars work under the auspicious nature of the word defining the assignment: “public.”

It is likely this openness will reveal a well-considered approach and process. This also has the potential of being seen as a positive move. Many high-minded and experienced people willing to support and serve will be known. The Times' intent in advocating and seeing it happen is not a “gotcha” moment. The point of process in remaining open to inspection is a point government in Louisiana has resisted far too long.

Standing out as an example by being forthcoming with information and access normally afforded to the public is a posture that can only serve Shreveport Mayor Glover. As he makes difficult decisions, the tendency of previous state and local entities to keep doors closed has left a stink wafting like a cloud over new ideas. Now, we only hope this promise to open is realized and becomes the new standard. We pray it is not an expedient ploy to divert attention for the moment.

In Mayor Glover’s quest to make Shreveport the next great city, being a great example in government opens the door to new perceptions about our city.

Today’s action will do much to erase concerns about whether “new” ways of doing business with the city are going to be inclusive of all of Shreveport.

By Alan English, executive editor,

Monday, January 15, 2007

License and voter registration, please

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

Michael Page Boyter, aka “Psycho Santa,” joined the race for state House District 1 last week.
“I’m the real deal,” he told me when I called to learn a little about him.

That he is.

He didn’t make any attempt to hide his DWIs or his conviction on pot possession – although he claims the joint in his pocket when he got busted wasn’t his, but he was too drunk to remember who gave it to him.

Now without a license, Boyter “needs some little helpers to drive him around while he’s campaigning.”

When I asked him if he had a head-and-shoulders photo I could run with his announcement, he told me to call The Inquisitor. They’ve run his mug shot numerous times.

Boyter-- who said his party of choice is Republican’t -- has never run for office before.

“I could have started at commissioner but I don’t want to waste my time in Shreveport. I just want to go on to Baton Rouge and meet everyone down there. I might run for governor.”

I’m thinking that might be just a little bit of an uphill battle.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The home field advantage?

U.S. District Court judge Tom Stagg has dismissed Patti Cox’s lawsuit challenging U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery’s residency. She contends he was not a resident when he won the Nov. 7 election and should be disqualified.

Cox said she would appeal the judge’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But in the meantime, the House – with whom Cox filed a complaint contesting the election – could take up the matter. McCrery was expected to file his response today.

If you want to read the documents in full, click here. Otherwise, here’s the gist of what they say:

Cox makes a 15-point argument, claiming the right to the office because McCrery was not an “inhabitant” of Louisiana, as defined by the United States Constitution. She sites a couple lawsuits she believes makes her case, one of them regarding a contested election from 1823 that has been the basis of her argument from the beginning.It has to do with John Bailey, elected from Massachusetts to the 18th Congress. Bailey was a resident of Massachusetts, appointed clerk in a federal agency and moved to Washington D.C., where he lived from 1817 to 1823.

Cox quoted the House Committee on Election in her lawsuit: “Mr. Bailey had no domestic establishment or estate in Massachusetts. If the residence of Mr. Bailey here (in Washington D.C.) had been transient and not uniform; had he left a dwelling house in Massachusetts in which his family resided a part of the year; had he left there any of the insignia of a household establishment; there would be indication that his domicile in Massachusetts had not been abandoned.”

Cox believes that case supports her argument that McCrery had no physical presence in Louisiana on election day and that he sold his home in Shreveport in 2004.

McCrery’s attorneys in earlier court filings said that the Bailey example cited by Cox actually supports the congressman’s case.

In supplying the House with his response to Cox’s complaint, McCrery included an affidavit from Paul Adkins confirming that McCrery rented a room from him from September 2004 to November 2006.

“Congressman McCrery and his family left numerous items including clothes, personal items, and toiletries at our home for their use whenever he was in Shreveport,” Adkins wrote. “Congressman McCrery came to the Shreveport area and stayed at our home one to two times per month during that time with some stays being only a couple of days, and others as much as a week. On many occasions, he brought his wife and children with him.”

The affidavit goes on to say that the McCrerys received “substantial volumes of mail” – including voter registration cards and correspondence from the Louisiana State Bar Association – at the house and had a separate telephone line installed in their name.

“Shortly before the 2006 November Congressional elections, Congressman McCrery advised that he was looking for an apartment in the Shreveport area and subsequently advised us that he had rented an apartment, effective Nov. 1, 2006,” Adkins wrote.

McCrery submitted a copy of his lease at Sommerset Apartments with his response.

LSUS associate professor of political science Jeff Sadow opines on the subject in his blog raising the question of whether politics will come into play in the Democrat-controlled House.

PRopaganda Machines, Volume 3

My inbox got a bit of respite during the holidays, but the PR machines are back at work although not up to full speed yet. Here’s a highlight from the last few days:

From U.S. Sen. David Vittter’s meeting with President Bush to discuss the strategy for Iraq: Vitter, who toured Iraq and met with Louisiana troops last fall, is a new member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with the president and 11 senators in the White House Cabinet Room Jan. 8. “I believe we had a good discussion, and I am very interested in hearing more details when the president announces his full plan later this week. Specifically, I was pleased to hear the president speak about the Iraqi government’s true commitment to security. When I asked the president specifically about the situation facing Iraq Prime Minister Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr, he informed me that he and Maliki have spoken about the matter and that Maliki is committed to addressing it. I am eager to see more concrete detail and action in this specific area. I will continue to ask tough questions and plan to participate actively in the coming U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others.”

From the Louisiana Democratic Party: This came with the headline “Republican Legislators’ Special Session Road Block Sends State Economic Development into a Tailspin.” Party Chairman Chris Whittington is taking issue with Republican legislators for their “bullheaded, partisan and self-serving actions” in denying $400 million for road projects in the special session. “Louisiana has made the bottom of yet another list and this time on a point that is so vital to economic development in our state. It’s time these Republican legislators feel the long and bumpy road back home as they sugar-coat their actions and pander for votes next fall,” Whittington said.

From destitute to mayor

My curiosity was piqued when I saw the announcement a couple weeks ago that Rep. Jim McCrery was going to swear in the new Gibsland mayor.

“Gibsland?” I thought.

Turns out there’s an interesting story there.

I caught up with new mayor Pat White this week and asked him to fill me in on how it came to be that McCrery – who’s been criticized lately for not serving Northwest Louisiana – would swear in the mayor of a Bienville Parish town of just over 1,000 people.

White explained that he moved to Gibsland 11 years ago from California. He arrived “destitute” – broke and with only a few pieces of furniture – after his wife’s medical problems depleted their bank account.

“We came here to start over,” White said. “Gibsland was really, really good to us. Here I am 11 years later the mayor. I just wanted people to know when I ran for mayor we’re kind of a dying town. Basically if we don’t do something about it, it will be worse. Half of the visible businesses have gone away in the time I had been here. We’re trying to bring it back. That’s what that was about.”

He thought a good start for the town that’s most known for Bonnie and Clyde – and whose tax base consists of two businesses – would be to have McCrery come to the inauguration.

“It would show the people of Gibsland that we’re not second-class and we’re not backwater,” White said. “I was elected in a town, a white man, where five out of six people are black. I’m registered Republican and the town is 95 percent Democrat or Independent. I went against long, hard odds and I won by a landslide. What it is, people are ready to change and that was the whole idea about getting Rep. McCrery down.”

Here are some photos White sent of the inauguration. That’s his wife, Annie, holding the Bible as McCrery swears White in.

Oh, the irony

An introductory course to government contracting is being held at LSUS later this month. Participants will learn the steps of selling products and services to the government.

The name of the class: Gov Con 101.

Lingering thoughts on the transition team

In the course of writing the Sunday article about the privately funded transition team established by Shreveport mayor Cedric Glover, I talked with every city council member about it. The opinions varied, as I noted in the article. Here are some of the highlights from some of those conversations that didn’t make it into print:

District A councilman Calvin Lester: Lester believes the transition team will insulate Glover from accusations that he makes decisions in a vacuum, but there will always be people who are going to claim backroom deals are going on. As for the transition team, “I don’t have a problem with it,” Lester said. “If the mayor wants to invite input from people he knows and trusts, a cross-section of people from the city to give him information, I think that’s probably a good thing. I think it shows he’s a leader that’s not afraid of getting support and bouncing things off people. Every mayor, every executive, regardless of whether they’re in government or business has a kitchen cabinet of people they bounce things off. At the end of the day I’m very confident Mayor Glover will pick good people.”

District B councilman Monty Walford: Walford was supportive of the idea of a transition team and did not question how it operates. “I think Cedric has put together a very good team. I think it’s an excellent idea to screen the applications. I also think the mayor is very capable of doing that. He will come to us to confirm who he wants to hire.” Walford said he has not been following “the workings” of the transition team but “that really is up to Cedric. How that committee works … is entirely up to him.”

District F councilman Joe Shyne: Shyne served on the Shreveport City Council with transition team co-chair Dee Peterson and has known co-chair Helen Godfrey-Smith for years. “All of these are quality people who are truly concerned about the city and about the quality of life and the quality of individuals who are in charge of making day-to-day decisions,” he said. “I really think the mayor put together a good transitional team.” Shyne questioned why Glover would keep the information about the transition team private but stopped short of calling it a bad idea, even though Shyne said he would opt for public disclosure if he was in the same situation. “My position is this: I told him, ‘Mr. Mayor, whoever you select on your transitional team or on your administrative team is alright with me because you’re the one who has to work with them. If I have a problem with them, I’ll let you know.”

Monday, January 08, 2007

Glover transition team anonymity untenable

When a public official creates an organization with the mission of assisting public work, gives them exceptional access to the inner workings of government and considers their work a significant part of the decision process, he has in essence created a public body or committee.

The contention by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover's administration that it circumvented any public records responsibilities by setting up the transition team as a private entity with private donations is an affront to the citizens they serve. If they've found a loophole in the law, they've done so as an offense to the spirit of the law.

Serving the government in anonymity is something that should only be reserved for national security and serious police work requiring undercover identities. It is not to be served up as a veil for those who want to wield influence without criticism or review.

If we don't ask the questions, who will? If your local news organizations aren't concerned about the process and use of our tax dollars, who will seek to hold government accountable? Extending a honeymoon to new office holders has more to do with giving officials time for new strategies to yield results than calling foul on management styles that run contrary to the public’s right to know what the official is doing. It isn’t about who he appoints to particular offices -- it is how he does it – giving great responsibility to an anonymous committee funded by anonymous donors.

Individuals and politicians who offer a honeymoon to new officeholders offer government an untenable window for corruption against a Louisiana history of political hi-jinks. If you want to get involved in public service, there is an openness that comes along with it. "Private" is for private business, not for mayor's unofficial official cabinet.

At the end of the day, The Times’ requests are not much more than a view through a crack in the door: a list of donors and the names of all the volunteers. Voters can choose to give Glover kudos for soliciting citizen advice through a formal process, but they deserve to know whose advice he is taking and who is underwriting the Glover transition team.

Our request gives the community a simple review of basic political actions. The names will say something about who Glover trusts and the character of those he welcomes into his conversations. This is not unlike a view into his appointment book. The list of donations is a report that gives the community a way to "check" Glover's claim of never being bought. Knowing the donations to political "action" are commonplace. Missteps and oversteps have been documented again and again. We don't expect an Abramoff moment, but...

Our approach isn't about a "gotchya" moment. It is a "trust but verify" need determined by our history. Offer your thoughts on today's poll (168 votes at the time of this post). Read what readers have been saying about this story in the string of comments.

By Alan English, executive editor,

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A mayor was recognized at a party in Bossier City

But it wasn't the Bossier City mayor. Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover was asked onstage just before the presentation of the 2007 royalty for local krewes at tonight's Twelfth Night Party in the Bossier City Civic Center. Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker wasn't asked on stage, and partygoers and planners said he wasn't there.

Maybe Walker had a previous engagement, but the Mardi Gras season kick off seemed like a great place for a little public relations since it had moved across the river from last year.

State Senator Lydia Jackson was also introduced onstage. Neither gave a speech.