Pratt: Refuting the false narrative on Cross Bayou project

When Gateway Development Corporation (GDC) decided to pursue its $1 Billion, 10-year Cross Bayou Point (CBP) development project, we committed to transparency as a core principle. This once-in-a-generation transformative project was too important to be formulated in the smoky back rooms of Louisiana politics. Even if it increased the chances of failure, we decided the citizens had a right to know as much information as possible. It is in that spirit I respond to John Settle’s column “Resolution supporting Cross Bayou is a bad idea.”

Settle’s assertion that Councilman Willie Bradford bringing the resolution authorizing Mayor Ollie Tyler to execute a non-binding Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with GDC “went over like a lead balloon with the mayor” is simply not supported by the facts. The first public official  GDC met with was Mayor  Tyler. She expressed enthusiasm for the project, but urged our team to go out and build support, which we did (see crossbayoupointproject.com). GDC then forwarded a non-binding MOU to the City, which then recommended language changes that were incorporated into the document that is now before the Council.

Mayor Tyler then directed GDC to ask the Council to support a resolution authorizing her to sign the MOU. This directive was totally consistent with how public private projects of this size and scope, across the country, evolve. For the Mayor to have executed the non-binding MOU, without first seeking input from the Council, would have fed into a false narrative that this was the “Mayor’s project.” To be successful, this has to be seen as the City of Shreveport’s project. There has to be buy-in from both the Mayor and the Council.

GDC strongly supported the Mayor’s directive to take the resolution to the Council. The most crucial aspect of creating a successful Public/Private Partnership is local political support. The first question investors want to know is: “are the public partners committed?” Thus, the Council voting to authorize the Mayor to execute a non-binding MOU is a statement to the private-capital markets that the City’s leadership is supportive.

Settle’s assertion that this represents a separation of power issue has no legal basis under Louisiana Law or the City Charter. The Council, under the City Charter, is the only body empowered to authorize the City to enter into an agreement with a private entity. Although the Mayor could enter into a “non-binding MOU” without the Council’s approval, there is nothing under Louisiana Law or the City Charter that prevents the Council from expressing its opinion to the Mayor on this issue.

The resolution before the Council does not, in any way, encroach on executive privilege. And the Mayor has never made that assertion. In fact, at the May 7, 2018 Council meeting, Mayor Tyler expressed support for moving the process forward and, she stated she would like to make additional changes to the non-binding MOU language, which she can do before or after the Council’s vote on May 22.

It is important to reassert that a vote on the non-binding MOU does not obligate the City of Shreveport to put forth any public dollars or assets. Thus, the concerns expressed by various members of the City Council will be addressed through final negotiations with the City.

Mr. Settle is well within his rights to oppose the project, but he is not entitled to create a false narrative to further that opposition.

Paul Pratt, GDC