SADOW: Short Leash On Arceneaux Won’t Fix Big Problems

The possibilities of and limits to what Republican Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux can do quickly have become apparent – and voters this weekend may make his life more difficult still.

Arceneaux succeeded Democrat Adrian Perkins, who from the very start when he didn’t appear distracted or disinterested in governing wanted to hook up allies and/or pursue a quasi-progressive agenda at the expense of mundane but needed city tasks, behavior that produced a steady stream of drama. By contrast, Arceneaux already has made the trains run on time and stressed accomplishing the basics without latching onto pie-in-the-sky ideas.

In his first three months in office he appropriately handled a suspicious police shooting that has led to charges against the former officer, who recently resigned. He demurred over a project to bring professional baseball back to Shreveport that Perkins had hyped in the final days of his failed reelection bid. He junked another Perkins tout, a real-time crime center, as it appears it didn’t operate by statute because of security concerns, and will reevaluate the idea. He began the process of reviewing city policy about use of parks for private functions, which for years has allowed a for-profit festival to take place in one that he seemed to know little about. And he expeditiously set in motion getting city pools open on time later in the spring; last year, under Perkins the city initially yanked the contract from the long-time operator because it appeared not to have enough racial diversity in its management only to restore that under public criticism after the initial winner backed out over the controversy, which caused a late start.

However, when it comes to extending outside administrative discretion and implementation, tough sledding appears to be ahead since he faces a 5-2 Democrat majority on the Shreveport City Council. The only white Democrat, Gary Brooks, may be amenable on some issues that would give Arceneaux at least a negative check on Council spending and other issues since a veto override requires five votes, but that isn’t certain.

That lesson seemed driven home from the recent resolution of the issue Arceneaux has said has triggered more citizen lobbying than any other, traffic enforcement cameras located around schools. Implemented at the end of the Perkins Administration, their operation has been panned widely for inaccuracies in timer settings (they supposedly should operate only during school zone hours), missing signage (not adequately publicizing their presence), and inconvenient adjudication (appellants had to pay $50 for the privilege of contesting citations).

Arceneaux worked out a deal to address these shortcomings, and a system with accurate and publicized cameras where there’s no fee to contest went into effect this week. But getting rid of these didn’t ever appear to be on the table, a desire of many citizens.

That became clear at the City Council’s last meeting in February, when it deferred placing a moratorium on using these cameras that turned into an outright rejection of that two weeks later. The eventual deal didn’t even accede to an Arceneaux request to halve the hours these operate.


For the moratorium vote, only Republican Councilor Jim Taliaferro supported it, although the other Republican councilor Grayson Boucher was absent for that. Brooks voted with his black Democrat colleagues present. Their persistence boils down to wanting money: the city splits the money collected in fines with the contractor, and the city is headed down a path of fiscal distress.

Boucher could make matters worse for Arceneaux’s policy-making ability as he is running for the city marshal’s post this weekend. Although he is likely to make a runoff he probably will go into it as an underdog, but if he wins Arceneaux loses a Council ally.

If that were to happen, the Council has the opportunity to pick his replacement until a special election this fall, and if history is any guide partisan political power will come to bear to place a Democrat ally in the seat of the solidly-Republican district. For a few months, including the critical budgeting period, that would leave Arceneaux without a hope of sustaining any vetoes, meaning spending could run wild and for any reason.

All should welcome good, efficient administration in Shreveport, but the city also has looming large problems in need of resolution that won’t solve themselves if the Council stays on the same path as it did under Perkins. For Arceneaux to have a shot at rectifying these, the Council will have to start accepting his leadership.



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