Last year, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins told campaign audiences that he wanted to break with politics of the past. Instead, he seems all too eager to embrace heavy-handed favoritism that apparently runs against the law and blatantly contrary to taxpayer interests, leading to questions about his abilities and motives.
Perkins, a political novice who hardly had lived any of his adult life in Shreveport, swept into office as a wunderkind promising to break the mold of ossified Shreveport politics and attitudes. And in the initial period of his tenure, the public seemed approving, with over half giving him above-average marks in a television station poll.
But Perkins has made some controversial decisions, and last week two of them backfired in ways that abnegate his campaign image. At the state level, the Attorney General’s office rendered a legal opinion against his attempt to remove members of the Shreveport Airport Authority.
Essentially, Perkins wanted to replace three members of the governing board with of his own appointees. This he seemed he wanted in order to grease the skids for the Board to appoint a director of his liking.
The city’s charter indicates that appointed members would serve out five-year terms and supersedes any other part of the Charter on this matter, but Perkins insisted that another part giving the mayor appointive power took precedence. Not so, said the opinion, which will stand as the authoritative interpretation unless Perkins can get the judicial system to rule otherwise.
At the local level, Perkins raised hackles by switching insurance carriers, replacing the city’s longtime carriers with a deal brokered by a campaign donor as soon as, if not actually before, he assumed office. Nothing legally prevented him from choosing a different provider, but the City Council responded by passing an ordinance curtailing mayoral autonomy in such matters in the future.
Perkins swore the new policy would prove as cost effective, if not more so, as the one just jettisoned. Which means he either was ignorant or lied, because it turned out more expensive for far less coverage. This put the Council in the awkward position of having to authorize spending more money to buy more insurance – which Perkins promptly turned around and handed off to the same company charging the inflated rate for miniscule coverage. And the city still hasn’t bought enough to cover the full estimated $815 million needed.
As a result of Perkins’ decision, Shreveport taxpayers must cough up hundreds of thousands more dollars. Only rank stupidity or a nakedly patronage play can explain such an egregiously bad choice.
Assuming that Perkins has his wits about him, this means he has put favoritism and pay-to-play – a critique made of past mayors in their awarding of city architectural and engineering contracts – on steroids. For only a $250 donation, he may end up delivering millions of dollars of business, costing the city several times what it has paid in the past.
Rather than follow a supposedly new course of governance that eschews power politics and cronyism, Perkins’ actions in both of these matters demonstrates whole-hearted fealty to attitudes he claims he ran against. In fewer than four months in office, his dogged politics-as-usual approach should put to rest any notion that he represents anything new or different that can pull Shreveport out of the doldrums of economic development.