Settle: Resolution supporting Cross Bayou is a bad idea

So when did the Shreveport City Council start telling the Mayor what to do?

That’s exactly what a resolution introduced by Councilman Willie Bradford attempts to accomplish.

Bradford has introduced a resolution that reads that “the Shreveport City Council approves and authorizes the execution of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Shreveport and Gateway Development Consortium, LLC regarding the development of Cross Bayou…”

The Council will vote on the resolution on May 22.

Needless to say, this notion went over like a lead balloon with Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler.

And it was poorly received by Councilmen James Flurry, Oliver Jenkins and Michael Corbin.

The Gateway group wants the memorandum of understanding (MOU) to help their development efforts for the $1 billion proposed project that includes a municipal complex, a high tech commercial college, retail establishments, and 5,000 residential units.

The MOU is said to be necessary to get a commitment from Gov. John Bel Edwards for construction of the municipal project, which is the lynchpin for the entire development.

The MOU, which can be terminated at any time by either party, requires the City to make infrastructure improvements including streets, water lines, drainage and sidewalks. No costs estimates have been provided by Gateway Development Consortium (GDC) for this construction.

Tyler expressed her reluctance to enter into such an agreement. She said that an MOU will create expectations that can cause future problems for both her office and the council.

Councilman Flurry asked what would be the taxpayer costs to Shreveport taxpayers for the infrastructure improvements. Councilman Oliver Jenkins questioned the authority of the Council to advise the mayor on a discretionary administrative matter. He also said it was hard for him to vote on something that is not the final product.

Councilman Corbin was very vocal, stating that executing the MOU would send, “a negative message to those doing development in our city.” He reminded the Council that the City does not build streets, water and sewage mains and other infrastructure improvements for subdivisions built in the City.

The MOU vote has three primary aspects.

The first is the separation of power between the mayor’s office (the executive branch) and the council (the legislative branch). If approved, this resolution would set a precedent for future votes directing actions that should be taken by Shreveport’s mayor.

The second is the ultimate economic viability of a proposed development. Gateway has acknowledged that completion of the development will require the expenditure of tens of millions of tax payer dollars.

And lastly, the Council should consider how such a vote will affect future private development in Shreveport. Currently developers are paying all the costs of infrastructure for their projects.

This vote, much like the Cross Bayou sports complex vote, will be a defining one for Tyler and the council. Tyler and a majority of the council (Jerry Bowman, Stephanie Lynch, Bradford and Flurry) are up for reelection this year. The MOU vote will no doubt be a major campaign issue this fall.