Local blogger Elliott Stonecipher regularly publishes on RealShreveport.com. He is a self-appointed “corruption scout”. In practically every column he writes he paints someone with his corruption brush.
To date, Stonecipher has published six rants railing against the April 28 Shreveport tax vote.
As usual, Stonecipher is long on hyperbole, short on facts and imprecise in his conclusions.
As he denounces the proposed tax vote in his February 25 blog, Stonecipher states unequivocally that Shreveport’s government “deserves no vote of confidence.” He alludes to “corruption and financial waste” as his reasoning for his position. He does not bother to substantiate his conclusion that these evils are rampant in Shreveport. In fact, he does not offer any proof that they exist.
On March 7 Stonecipher attempts to link, in a very negative way, the new proposed Cross Bayou development project and the April tax vote. Stonecipher says Cross Bayou, like the April tax vote, is “another scheme to grab a wagonload of our money.” Stonecipher predicts that mayoral candidates “may” have plans to ask for a bond issue after this year’s election to finance the new Cross Bayou project. Stonecipher’s suppositions aside, what the newly elected mayor (who could be the current mayor Ollie Tyler) does, or does not do, next year is really not relevant to the April vote.
On March 12 Stonecipher links the proposed Cross Bayou, the MPC, and the Mayor’s race into one smelly bundle. Although he skips the opportunity to hammer the April tax vote, Stonecipher again repeats his claim of “public corruption.”
Stonecipher correctly states that 2 MPC board members (Theron Jackson and Curtis Joseph) are part of the Cross Bayou development team and that they are part of the 5 person MPC board majority that staunchly supports embattled MPC executive director Mark Sweeney. However, he overlooks the obvious fact Jackson and Joseph could not vote on any Cross Bayou Project due to their conflicts of interest. Thus, the 4 MPC board members who consistently oppose Sweeney could have a 4-3 majority vote on MPC board decisions affecting Cross Bayou.
Stonecipher concludes that the proposed Cross Bayou project will mold if not drive this year’s mayor’s campaign. In that event, he concludes that “ huge improvements in basic service delivery would take a back seat.” Again, his opinion lacks any factual basis.
On March 17 Stonecipher declared that the April tax vote will be a “33% premium on taxes that pass.” Right out of the gates, he declares that Shreveport Mayor Tyler “has confected another taxpayer abuse” and references “Tyler’s continuing City Hall follies,” without defining them.
And then he alludes to, but does not explain, ‘the mayor’s disgust with Transparency/accountability….” He does credit Tyler for acknowledging that the taxes have expired and that she made the decision to have the vote this year rather than last when the taxes could have been “renewed”.
In his March 24 post, Stonecipher alleges that the 2018 Shreveport budget breaks city laws. Then he says that the April 28 tax vote should not be held. Stonecipher makes many unqualified statements, without any documentation, that both Tyler and CAO Brian Crawford knowingly violated city ordinances in drafting the budget. He then concludes, without any reasoning, that “there should be no election on April 28th.”
Evidently, Stonecipher did not check with the legislative auditor (who said the budget is “ok”) or for that matter any legal authority. The city budget is always adopted on the basis of certain projected city revenues, be that from sales taxes, ad Valorem taxes on immovable and movable property fees, etc. Obviously, Stonecipher’s disdain for Tyler is the basis for his opposition to these taxes.
Stonecipher next visits the Cross Bayou proposal on March 31. He again assumes, and thus blasts, Jackson and Joseph on future MPC votes on Cross Bayou planning decisions. Nowhere does Stonecipher certify that Jackson and Joseph will be allowed to vote on any MPC decisions affecting the Cross Bayou project.
In the same blog, he states that development group will receive ‘front money” once a requested Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Cross Bayou Project is signed by Tyler. Stonecipher implies that there will be a “quick public money handover to the developers.” He fails to document this assumption which is indeed far-fetched. Any city funding of this project would most likely be from bond financing, which is a long involved process.
Again on April 4, Stonecipher makes his unfounded claim that the developers will get “front money” without identifying the funding source. At the briefing to the Council subcommittee (Willie Bradford, James Flurry, and Jerry Bowman), the Cross Bayou advocates made it very, very clear that all they wanted at this time from the City was a signed MOU and NO, repeat NO, money from the City now or anytime soon. Stonecipher did not attend the meeting and he only quotes a Shreveport Times lead story as his authority; this columnist WAS at the meeting.
Stonecipher then criticizes Tyler for having city attorney Will Bradford review the proposed MOU before the Committee hearing. And why should that not have been done? It’s the job of the city attorney to review all documents submitted to the Council and the Mayor for approval, execution, etc. Bradford said that the Administration had not approved the specific language, for adoption, so what is the big deal?
It’s rare that Stonecipher lets facts interfere with his preconceived notions of “corruption” that he sees (maybe smells) everywhere and that he constantly rails against virtually ad nauseam. Constructive journalism is just not his style, and unfortunately, his negative attitude unduly affects too many citizens. And to date, almost all of his conclusions and predictions on corruption at City Hall against both city and parish government have fallen flat, like a balloon filled with hot air that is suddenly pricked by a big nail.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author