In his military career, Bossier City’s Republican Mayor received and gave many salutes. Now, as his 16-year tenure approaches its end, he is giving Bossier City residents a Bronx salute.
Lo Walker and his city hall gang, many of whom will lose their power and prestige when Republican Mayor-Elect Tommy Chandler who defeated Walker last month takes office, don’t appear willing to make a graceful exit. That was the implication of an ordinance scheduled for introduction at yesterday’s City Council meeting.
The ordinance would have made adjustments to contracted services rendered by the Baton Rouge-based Manchac Consulting Group. Over the past five years, Manchac has overseen sewerage and wastewater administration under a private-public partnership agreement, to net over $7 million by the time the agreement expires on Walker’s last day in office, Jun. 30.
That figure would have increased to over $11 million for the next five years under the ordinance’s amendment. To put that in perspective, in the first year of the contract, the city shelled out about $1 million. Ten years later, it would cough up $2.4 million for essentially the same service, as the amendment states no additional functions would be performed.
The city has released no public information justifying the over 50 percent increase. Possibly it is a prelude to future amendments prior to Jun. 30 that would expand Manchac’s role, which could result in reducing Chandler’s control over the executive branch and perhaps create landing spots for Walker Administration members.
And if Chandler didn’t like this arrangement? Tough: the amendment further would have removed the provision allowing the city to terminate the deal at its own convenience. This means that if the Chandler Administration wished to renegotiate, change providers, or have the city retake the business, it couldn’t. In essence, the Walker Administration wanted to tie the hands of the Chandler in this area of policy for his entire term, plus one year. This surrender of discretion is bad policy regardless of who runs the city.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Shortly after the election, Walker pledged to work with Chandler on a smooth transition. That should be a given, especially between members of the same political party. Why bother to announce something normally so obvious unless as part of a charm offensive to deflect from future mischievousness? As it turns out, Walker defined cooperating as allowing Chandler a transition office at City Hall only by Jun. 14.
Chandler and incoming councilors Republicans Chris Smith and Shane Cheatham also raised concern about another ordinance committing $30 million for a recreation and senior center, a major capital expenditure discussed in background for years but without warning suddenly thrust to the forefront. A couple of bond refinancing deals also appear on the agenda, both of which authorize millions more than the outstanding balances and refinancing costs, which along with the center would add to the city’s staggering half-billion dollar debt while reducing its discretion regarding its legally-limited future borrowing.
Then at the meeting, the Council pushed back. Democrat Councilor Bubba Williams asked to dump these items from the agenda. Outgoing Republican Councilor Tim Larkin argued these should stay on and face debate. In the vote, another defeated Republican, Scott Irwin, and GOP Council Pres. David Montgomery joined him, but, in a rare close outcome, the others voted to excise these items minus the bond refinancing.
Nor should these resurface prior to Jul. 1. The new mayor and Council should have the maximal latitude to make such major decisions. Before then, Manchac’s contract should be extended only through Sep. 30 with retention of the convenience termination clause and the council should delay deciding to commence building the center, which is not critical.
Last month, Bossier Citians voted for a fresh set of leaders, most prominently in the mayor’s office. To respect their will, those newcomers deserve the chance to set long-term city policy priorities.