In a great endorsement for Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins’ U.S. Senate campaign, Shreveport politicians declared surrender.
Earlier this week, a Shreveport City Council committee virtually committed to increasing fees or taxes to boost public safety salaries. The city’s police department currently runs dozens of officers below what it considers optimal numbers and firefighter salaries are significantly lower than what some other area departments pay.
Below-par staffing adds to a litany of problems facing Shreveport under the watch of Perkins, although many of these predate his arrival by years. Its estimated population has plunged six percent from the last census in 2010. Caddo Parish, of which the city comprises about four-fifths in population, has seen microscopic 4.1 percent economic growth in the same period, well below the rate of inflation. Violent crime, which in this span has seen a small decrease nationally, increased in Shreveport. All sorts of rankings in the past couple of years of the metropolitan area, which is majority Shreveport but also includes typically Bossier, Webster, Red River, and De Soto Parishes, place it dismally, from “best places to live” (122/125), in “happiness” (172/182), to safety (148/182), and is the worst of 182 in where to start a career.
So, you would think the last thing the city would want to do to not chase away people is increasing fees or taxes, regardless of purpose. Well, it depends. You could try to shift money around to grant pay raises, but when Democrat Councilor LeVette Fuller suggested doing that by cannibalizing open police positions, she got an earful from unions. With the Wuhan coronavirus playing havoc with local government revenues – which have Louisiana municipalities literally begging for taxpayers at the federal level to bail them out – that’s the only way to avoid using new revenues to achieve this purpose.
With fund shifting of the table, fee hikes on insurance companies – which of course policyholders ultimately pay – and raising property or sales taxes (which would need voter approval) councilors like Republican Grayson Boucher forwarded as ideas. The sales tax idea particularly appeals to Fire Chief Scott Wolverton, who pitched a quarter-cent hike that not only would provide raises for his charges but also for all city employees – even as significant numbers of Shreveporters remain out of work and businesses closed because of economic restrictions designed to ward off the virus – and buy new equipment.
Wolverton proved even more tone-deaf when he explained why he liked lifting more out of people’s pocketbooks. Even as Shreveport hemorrhages people, a lot who fled still work in it. “They’re here working. Today they’re going to go to lunch and spend money, which is sales tax. They’re going to stop at the Home Depot, the Lowes, the Wal-Mart, and whatever here in Shreveport on their way home. They’re going to spend their money. And that’s sales tax.”
Wolverton couldn’t wave the white flag any more vigorously. Rather than try to change conditions to attract people, he concedes Shreveport can’t get them back, and so it should try to gouge out-of-towners in a kind of retribution for turning their backs on the mess he helped to create.
This kind of talk can’t come at a worse time for Perkins, where the last thing his underdog campaign needs is to have attention placed on Shreveport’s woeful standing and whether he supports tax increases – in the context that all the while he wants to abandon the place implied by his run for the Senate only two years after he campaigned for mayor as a fresh face with new ideas to turn the place around. Since then, on that account he’s come up with nothing new – nor has any other elected official – except to throw money at a speculative crony capitalist deal.
If Shreveporters ever needed a prompt to leave if they could, they just received it. And then once decamped, to buy local wherever they live.