SADOW: Perkins’ Tax Gambit Fails To Absolve Road-Repair Failure

Shreveport Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins has been trying to post a lot of wins lately in his bid to retain his job, but his reading of tax accountability and roads responsibility won’t be one of these.

Over the past month, Perkins has trotted out a series of alleged policy-making victories as he makes the case to win reelection. He boasted about a drop in crime over the past several months, even as it remains higher than when he assumed office and won’t drop at all over his term unless the recent trend continues. He crowed about building a whole new ballpark at the Fairgrounds and bringing in a minor league baseball team, even as it remained entirely uncertain whether that ever could happen or what the city would pay and the city still must deal with a half-demolished hunk of an old stadium. He bragged that he launched, in conjunction with the library system, free wireless Internet provision in some parts of town although without a plan to continue funding its operation as its capital costs came from one-time money. Plus, the city filed suit against its former consent decree contractor, claiming improprieties to claw back hundreds of millions of dollars that it probably won’t see again even as three or four times that amount remains to be spent in meeting a timetable unlikely to be attained.

Of course, in that span he suffered some losses he rather would have avoided. Chiefly, a former employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit contending that he was fired, backed by Perkins, because he revealed financial irregularities with payroll and Perkins’ travel expenses. That came on the heels of a Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report confirming the legal problems behind the travel expenses.

And in the series of debates last week, Perkins attempted to deflect from a weakness of his tenure. His opponents ganged up on him to remind viewers of the insufficient progress he has made in roads repairs and upgrades, especially pointing out that voters rejected a bond issue Perkins had stumped for to accelerate that, they said a result of voters not trusting Perkins to make a transparent process of it.

As an attempted rejoinder, Perkins brought up that the Caddo Parish Commission – on which one opponent no party Mario Chavez sits – levies a 5.92 mill property tax that deals with roads, to which the city’s 1.13 mill charge that Perkins had hoped to increase paled in comparison. He asserted that the parish should spend part of that on Shreveport roads, as Shreveport residents made up the vast majority of parish residents paying the tax, which not only attempted to deflect culpability from him but also tried to shift it to Chavez.

It turns out that the parish has responsibility over 830 miles of roads and 170 bridges, while the city has 2,820 miles worth (a figure which seems to vary dramatically, as until 2014 it had 3,326, then plunged to 2,275 last year, only to bounce back this year). So, if you wanted to make the argument that a city should depend at least in part on a parish to provide a basic service it already had the power to do so, Perkins might have a point.

Except that the 5.92 mills doesn’t go only to roads, like the Shreveport version does. The parish tax is “for maintaining, operating and repairing roadways, bridges, garbage disposal and industrial waste facilities, surface water drains and drainage facilities and payment of mandated costs of the Criminal Justice System.,” so says the passed proposition’s language – a brief far in excess of both the city’s current and failed ones.

Thus, if you want to go the record as saying a city should default financing one of its major functions to another level of government, out of the parish dollars dedicated to roads Shreveport could claim just a small fraction, and certainly not enough to come close to meeting city roads needs. And if city voters don’t think they current arrangement fair – the parish planned to spend about $7 million this year to cover 64 miles of overlay, chip seal, and striping of only parish roads – next year they have more than the numbers compared to residents in unincorporated areas of the parish to vote down its renewal.

Perkins with this tries to distract from the reality that in his tenure he hasn’t met roads needs, preferring instead to provide free Internet and to allow philanthropists to pay welfare to people for no reason. Voters shouldn’t buy this as an excuse for his failure.

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