Today is the first day that Alan Clarke is the new executive director of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC).
Former executive director Mark Sweeney’s last day with the MPC was yesterday (Aug. 15). Sweeney is off to a new job that he calls the opportunity of a lifetime.
And it could be the opportunity of a lifetime for Clarke as well. He is serving on an interim basis. He could be chosen by the MPC Board as the permanent executive director.
Clarke has many supporters. They say that he is responsive and that he can be realistic when enforcing the complex requirements of the rather complicated Unified Development Code.
His critics say that he is inflexible and overly strict. They point out that he as zoning administrator that he cited the Little Free Library as a violation. They also say that he has been anti-billboards and that he lacks the professional background for the job.
Clarke has served for over 20 years as the Zoning Administrator. Now he will oversee an agency with a $1.2 million dollar plus budget.
The MPC is a separate government entity, apart from the Shreveport City Council and the Caddo Commission. A nine member board appointed by the council and the commission oversee the MPC.
Zoning Enforcement has the largest staff within the MPC and its primary function is to investigate alleged violations of the zoning laws. The Zoning Office averages over 3500 zoning inspections each year. Certificates of occupancy, home occupation applications, and sign permits are also a function of the Zoning Office.
As the interim executive director, Clarke will also oversee the other MPC departments: Land Development, Community Planning and GIS and Mapping.
One challenge for Clarke will be funding for 2019 from the Shreveport City Council and the Caddo Commission. Both bodies have had numerous complaints about the MPC and there have been discussions by members of each concerning 2019 funding. The city budget will be adopted in December and the commission budget is early January.
Clarke’s performance will be judged by the building and development community from day one. This group, along with council members, have had constant complaints about Sweeney.
Council and Commission members will get a quick read on his leadership. The number of complaints they receive as well as the number of permits the MPC processes will be easy performance evaluation standards.
For the last year, there have been dark clouds over the MPC office. Clarke’s experience and professional demeanor should provide much needed stability to this embattled office.
John Settle is a Shreveport-Bossier political columnist. More articles can be read at www.settletalk.com