SADOW: Politicians In Caddo Parish Make Lousy Venture Capitalists

With more disappointing news coming from their venture capitalist endeavor in addition to other questionable actions, members of the Caddo Parish Commission may find themselves having to pay the fiddler in reelection attempts this fall.

Last month, in a public meeting scheduled to explain why a target hiring date of employees of the beginning of 2014 by Elio Motors, and production beginning first in the middle of that year and then at the beginning of this year, have all been deadlines that have been missed, the company announced it was pushing back the production start date again until early 2016. In 2013, through a complicated arrangement, essentially an arm of the parish bought discarded General Motors infrastructure as a site for the firm to produce a mass-produced concept vehicle that has been described as anything from futuristic to a scam.

This could not come at a good time for about all of the commissioners, most of whom who voted to put taxpayer money on the line with the assumption the Elio arrangement would pay off in terms of jobs and tax revenue, instead of being left holding the bag, because of this upcoming election year. Worse, most also have been complicit in a number of other decisions that were not in the taxpayers’ best interests.

The recent follies of Commission majorities are legion. Having the good fortune to sit on lots of land with mineral possibilities underneath them when the hydraulic fracturing/horizontal drilling revolution began, the windfall that came seemed to addle permanently too many of its members. Besides throwing away money on the Elio venture capital project, twice it tried to slip a tax increase by the voters despite sitting on a surplus about half the size of the parish’s budget. At first narrowly defeated, they tried it again months later and suffered a landslide against. Only Kenneth Epperson (Stephanie Lynch having voted against it the first time but absent the second) had the sense to vote against bringing the idea to voters both times.

At the same time as the first vote, commissioners then wanted to extend term limits out from three to five years, which also ended up failing at the polls. Only Doug Dominick, Matthew Linn, and Michael Thibodaux voted against that. And perhaps why they voted for that was because the job, defined as part-time in nature, was now paying better than some full-time parish employees’ positions, because some years ago the Commission voted, by tying the two things together, to give its members pay raises every time they gave one to parish employees.

So you have here characters who have given their positions hefty pay increases, wanted to embed themselves into lengthier stays in overpaid sinecures, wanted to increase taxes by not letting a tax wither away even though the parish sits on a mountain of cash, and who toss around that cash on speculative projects, one of which is becoming less tenable as time passes. Every one of them who served through 2014 supported at least one of these measures; some went for them all.

Only David Cox (because of switching districts, Epperson technically can run again and not violate terms limits) cannot run again, and whoever runs for the District 7 spot vacated by Lynch’s successful City Council quest did not participate in any of these controversial decisions, but every other incumbent who opts for reelection is accountable for these actions. Their opponents will not likely pass on reminding voters about these, and if the results of last year’s Caddo Parish School Board contests, which featured incumbents seen responsible for contentious superintendent searches and overall system decline who got ousted or reelected with difficulty, indicate anything, because of these actions some commissioners won’t be returning in 2016.

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