The Shreveport Bossier Metropolitan Planning Commission office has been under fire for closing down completely its office from noon until 1 pm; this decision had been made by its executor director when hired in 2014. On Monday MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney advised the Shreveport City Council at the work session that he alone as the contracted Executor Director had the sole authority to decide office hours. He also stated that he would have his office open during the noon hour if the MPC Board voted for the change.
On Tuesday, at its regular meeting the Council voted to have the City Attorney do a feasibility study on creating an internal planning office for Shreveport. Once the vote was taken, Sweeney scurried out of the Council chambers with 2 of his board members—Lea Desmarteau and Nancy Cooper. The three of them huddled up in the hallway leading to the water department for about 10 minutes, while the press waited to interview Sweeney.
Evidently the decision was made in this hall huddle to open the MPC office from noon to 1 pm. A call to the MPC office Wednesday confirmed that the office was now open during the noon hour. (It is staffed by a clerical person; no planners are in the office at that time.) A MPC Board member advised that he had not been polled by Sweeney on the office hour issue. Evidently Sweeney finally read “the tea leaves” and decided on his own volition to make the office hour change.
In his statement to the media Tuesday after the Council meeting Sweeney implied that the City of Shreveport could not set up an internal planning office without legislation from Baton Rouge. (The Shreveport Caddo MPC was authorized by legislation in 1962). Sweeney’s source of legal advice on this question—either from Board member Nancy Cooper who is an attorney or from the MPC hired attorney Rick John— is very suspect, if not flat out wrong.
Sweeney generally has four if not five of the MPC Board members in his hip pocket. One of these was MPC Chairperson when he was hired (Desmarteau), two went to the Big Apple all expense paid by MPC this year (Jackson and Andrews) and the other supporter was scheduled for the New York City trip (Cooper). The City Council appointed Shreveport Attorney Curtis Joseph to the MPC this spring; he was vetted to be a voice of reason but his deciding vote after only two months on the Board to extend Sweeney’s contract was a major disappointment.
Maybe Sweeney has finally realized that he does not have tenure as an employee of the MPC and that his future in Shreveport is not bright. Whether or not this change in hour offices is enough to get him on the hot seat is a open question. The feasibility study should be completed in late September at the same time that a $30,000 study paid for by the MPC is delivered; the MPC study deals with funding from the City and Parish, MPC fees and MPC staffing and salaries. Together both studies will be a road map for action by the City Council; to say that the fat lady has not yet sung is an understatement.