Friday, February 25, 2011

Veterans Park Area Trails Discussed at Last Meeting

In attendance: Brain Salvatore, Robert Trudeau, Steph Pedro, Cynthia Keith, Susan Keith, Loren Demerath

The group discussed Steph Pedro’s meeting with SPAR. Pedro was excited about the prospect for a new skate park and the prospects that MTV will film a skateboarding event there. However, she emphasized that SPAR should be leveraging development efforts like this, not simply shifting attention from one development idea to another. Our SPAR officials need to think bigger. Brian added that he believes that an MTV event would also give the city the opportunity to showcase its music heritage.

With the bond issue vote just 45 days away, Salvatore wondered why the City has not yet started a public campaign to inform the voters about why this bond issue is so important. The only substantial thing we have seen so far was the video produced by Liz Swaine, and Swaine doesn't even work for the City. It was asked: what are our city leaders doing?

On a positive note, kudos were expressed to Pedro for pointing out the census challenge. City officials are on our email list, and we have heard that they read her email to the group and are acting on her recommendation.


It was noted that there seems to be a belief that the park has to be 10 acres if it going to be the only one in the city, and so must be located on the outskirts at Hamel’s Memorial Park. However, that could be one of three parks, one being by the skate park, and another being at Betty Virginia. It was also noted that the dog park needs to be positioned in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the bike path.


Demerath recently walked the trails at the Stoner Boat Launch and noted their beauty, but also how they are not publicized as a recreational resource for the city. In subsequent conversations he learned that the city may be nervous about liability. It was noted that there should be ways of dealing with the “dangers” of public greenspaces without ignoring or even eliminating the spaces altogether. The city once tore down a beautiful outdoor amphitheater at Veterans Park, apparently because of a crime that occurred there.

Trails, parks, and forests are recreational resources for a community. If we were to neglect them or see them as bad because crimes and accidents occasionally happen there, every great park in the U.S. would disappear, from Central Park to Yellowstone Park. The Stoner boat launch trails should be publicized and maximized as a community resource. Surely, it was thought, there are ways to do that, and to get around the liability issue.


The Community Foundation is continuing its sponsoring of the Aspen Institute film and panel events. This Thursday at 5:00 it will focus on the “new economy” and discuss Richard Florida’s book, “The Great Reset”

Education is ABetterShreveport’s theme next week on the 28th, both for the meeting at 6 and the radio show at 5 on 91.3. Scott Hughes, Theron Jackson, and Frederic Washington will be guests, and ABS member Brian Salvatore will be a guest cohost. There should be lots of good ideas to discuss that day on this important issue for our city.

March 7th will be partly devoted to Coates Bluff planning and an update; the Coates Bluff trail between Montessori and Valencia Park was recently walked on a beautiful day by Trudeau, and he happened to meet Murray Lloyd, one of the early members and cofounders of ABS; he said he loves the trail and is available to help with it.

Barkus and Meaux will be on held Sunday at 1:30, with the parade of pets at 3:30, at the Riverview amphitheater by the roses.

The bumper sticker discussion was tabled.

The next meeting, on the 28th, will focus on ideas for improving education.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Notes from ABS Meeting Monday with Liz Swaine

In attendance: Feico Kempff, Liz Swaine, Cynthia Keith, Steph Pedro, Robert Trudeau, Carolyn Manning, Robert Rubel, Brian Salvatore, Marjorie Kouns


The group viewed the video describing the portion of the bond that would go towards upgrading sewer and water infrastructure. The group applauded it. The video made the points that the city will be fined by the federal government if it does not make improvements, and there is an acute need for new infrastructure, evidenced by raw sewage regularly leaking into streets and open ditches. Rubel noted there were several people in his neighborhood who’d been flooded with raw sewage. Demerath said one would be nuts not to vote for the bond, or at least advocate some logical alternative, such as an increase in fees to pay for the improvements, or some combination of those funding strategies
The group discussed the different ways of paying for the improvements. It would be cheaper in the long run to pay through fees and taxes, and the city would accrue no debt that way. However, with some current political factions set against increased taxes, paying for it through a general operational bond would be an alternative, albeit more expensive in the long run. Swaine said we need to do both. With the bond issue there’s less money for other things. Pay as you go would seem to be the way to go if the city has the political will, or if it sees itself as being able to afford it. It’s often structured into a city’s sewer and water fees. Rubel noted that his water and sewer bills in Chicago were much higher than here. Showing the two sides of the issue, Trudeau noted that he’s recently been in a tug of war in discussions with his friend Brad Kozak over how to cut the deficit and grow the economy.

It was noted that something on the city’s web site that explains the options would be good. Swaine gives talks on this when asked to, but it’s not really in part of her job description. For those in city government, it is politically risky to promote it because to the uninformed it might seem like frivilous “spending” as opposed to responsible investment in the future. Continuing to repair the outdated system without replacing it is more expensive in the long run. The reality is the money has to be raised somehow or we get fined by the feds and they take our money and no improvements are made.

It was noted that the money wouldn’t be used all at once. Sometimes it can take upwards of twenty years for the monies to come from a bond. You don’t sell all the bonds at once because you don’t want to pay interest on money you’re not using.

Trudeau asked about bond funds being used for economic development, such as Ron Hardy’s proposal for development downtown by providing incentives for artists and other creative types to move there. Swaine didn’t think the money would be eligible for that kind of thing.

Swaine said we don’t have a long-term sewer and water master plan. We don’t where all the pipes are right now—not that unusual for old, large cities that haven’t updated their infrastructure. It was asked whether a water/sewer plan could be incorporated into the asset management system that is part of the Master Plan, and how much they were saying a water/sewer plan would cost. Swaine said she thinks they were asking between one and three million for a water/sewer plan.

Pedro pointed out that it can get political with how it gets implemented; it’s hard for constituents to understand how it gets implemented and they can think their areas are being ignored, when that may not be the case. Replacements need to at the large mains and go out to the fingers from there. Cities often doesn’t explain that sort of thing, or people don’t hear it. Trudeau said there should be some person who explains that kind of thing, and indeed, the nature of the bond. Certainly the video does that. Mike Strong apparently realized the need when he asked that this video be made. DOS has the video now, as does the Mayor’s office. Rick Seaton was the one who had it but he’s no longer there.

The ballot has three different issues, the other two being for ADA compliance in public buildings, and police and fire departments. Continuing to talk it up is important. Most people aren’t thinking about it. No one seems to be saying they’re going to vote it down. But, will people be motivated to go out and vote for it?


Pedro mentioned there is a group that would like to join us on March 12 for the Coates Bluff hike. It is a non-profit for obese children being started by Mary Ruffins.

Keith mentioned the pup-crawl, “byop”, that will happen this Saturday at 2:00 at Columbia CafĂ©. Check for it on facebook.

Swaine mentioned the monthly “Unwind Downtown” that will occur via two trolleys. It is every third Thursday. One trolley takes you to bars and clubs; the other trolley takes you to “love” locales. (Sounds like romance with local and historical authenticity!)

Salvatore mentioned Wednesday the 23rd at Robinson at 6:00 with free food they will be showing “Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius”. Julian was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, and the 2nd African American in the United States to get his Ph.D.

Kouns mentioned that on Friday the 24th, at lunchtime, “Sexy Sack Lunch” will be at Cohabitat; Gotshops is the organization behind it; it’s a one hour lunch; bring your business cards.


The next meeting will include a discussion of Pedro’s idea of holding a design competition for a bumper sticker that promotes working towards a better Shreveport.

It could be akin to the “New Orleans, Proud to Call it Home” sticker made by the Young Leadership Council of that city. The slogan could be “Time For A Better Shreveport” or “Looking To...” or “Working For...” etc. Could even be part of a phase where the goal is to transition to a “Proud of...” once certain things are accomplished.

$5 admission fees could be collected and given to the winner. We could also apply for a grant that would fund their manufacture and they could be given out for free.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Liz Swaine, head of Shreveport's Citizen Bond Study Committee, on the issues facing the city

Liz Swaine, former newscaster and currently head of the Downtown Shreveport Development Authority, spoke to A Better Shreveport about the Citizen Bond Study committee's work.

Swaine feels strongly that the bond election, due in April, 2011, is an important investment in the city's future.

Please see a video summary of the committee's position.

Liz Swaine / Scott Crain video on Shreveport's water & sewage issues: "Underground and Under Attack"

Liz Swain, Shreveport
Originally uploaded by trudeau
Please enjoy this informative video on Shreveport's infrastructure by Liz Swaine, a former newscaster who has been head of the Citizen's Bond Study Committee.

Dog Park Fund Established with the Community Foundation, Downtown Dance Hall Supported at Last Meeting

In attendance: Sara Galloway, Rob Rubel, Maurice Loridans, Paula Hickman, Feico Kempff, Brian Salvatore, Robert Trudeau, Cynthia Keith, Steph Pedro, Loren Demerath, Christine Alba, Bill Pogue, Brent Richardson, David Aubry


The group voted to establish a fund under the administration of the Community Foundation to collect funds for the dog park that would be paid to the city for its construction. Among the points made in the discussion prior to the vote: the deadline of a year and a half from now is good as it sets a time-table for fund-raising and progress; if “substantial completion” is not completed by that time the funds could be used for other animal related puposes; degree of completion is not critical; monies would be paid to the city as it is going to be constructing and maintaining it; the parrish may be approached for financial support.


Hickman reminded the group of the Aspen Institute events coming up, the first on education on the 24th that will precede our ABS focused meeting on education on the 28th.

Trudeau also announced that Thursday night Dr. Mario Livio will be speaking at Magnet High School 6:30; a senior scientist at the Hubble research group at John’s Hopkins.


The group heard Bill Pogue describe his project downtown. He is a friend and client of Loridans. Pogue is a chiropractor, martial arts instructor, and, Loridans said, a person with an innate sense of design. He owns the only tattoo school in the world located here in Shreveport. He wants people who are flying in to the school to be able to walk around the downtown area and get what they need in terms of leisure, retail, recreation, etc. The building is where Ship Radio was, and he wants to turn into a dance hall and bar. He said the city and permits people are kind of mad at him because he did some things a bit our of order, trying to get things done they only way he could. The Rescue Mission has become an opponent of his project, claiming there can’t have a place that sells alcohol within 300 feet of a church, but that may not be as the crow flies but as one would walk via sidewalks. The Rescue Mission also might not qualify as a church, though they are using a religion to straighten people out. It was noted that homeless people can’t afford the drinks in a bar and would more likely go to a convenience store to buy much cheaper alcohol. It was also noted that there are two other bars already closer to the Rescue Mission than this would be.

Pogue spoke to the history of the building. It’s not quite big enough to be “hall”; but the idea is to have it open early for bignets and coffee, a one dish lunch, and in the evening to stress Cajun and Zydeco for dancing. They’ve tried to save a lot of the materials and exposed brick; they’ve tried to make it look like an old south Louisiana bar.

At first DDA said they don’t support bars, but after seeing it they’re now in favor. In one city office Pogue was first told he needed to furnish expensive, professional drawings, but after providing them was told he didn’t need them. Parking was initially a concern but there is enough parking it now appears.

Asked if this will make him go to Bossier, Pogue said others have said that’s why they’ve moved.

People have complained to him that no one can tell you what to do, then when you do it, they tell you you’ve done something wrong. He would not advise someone to do something like this because it’s so difficult to do it they way they want. You have to pay cash for all the renovations and then if you did it right you get reimbursed. If he is denied at his next appearance before the MPC, he can’t come up again in a year.

It was noted that the MPC is likely unaware of these kinds of difficulties or is constrained by other factors in being unable to rectify them. Either way, Pogue can help be a pathmaker in pointing out problem areas that could lead to an improvement in procedures that will make it easier for others subsequently to revitalize downtown by renovating historic buildings.

It was noted that promoting mixed use is the way to revitalized cities. Residences and offices can be located above retail and leisure sites such that there is always life on the street, adding to its security.

Elliot Stonecipher has apparently reported that Shreveport’s property taxes are the highest of any mid-sized city in the country with these characteristics; it’s also known that we are the largest city by area for a city of 200,000 in the country. We’re the king of sprawl for cities our size, it was said.

The inner city has become so hard to develop and its become far more costly to refurbish a building in the core than build a new one on the outside. ABS has consistently pointed out how research shows that urban sprawl results in more travel time, poorer health, more storm-water run-off and pollution, and even less social interaction due to fewer pedestrian environments, and less participatory recreation such as bicycling and walking.

It was noted that to make a better Shreveport we all need to figure out how to reduce the confusion and hold-up caused by single complainants such as the Rescue Mission. We’ve talked about a unified development code in our Master Plan. The best city council can do is not get into a day-to-day case-by-case process, Everson should champion and fund a unified development code. These kinds of cases shouldn’t have to get to a council level every time something goes wrong.

The group voted to write an email that describes ABS’s belief in the importance of a mixed used downtown generally, and in support of Pogue’s dance hall project in particular.


In signing the papers for the dog park fund, we realized we didn’t have a strategic director for ABS, and with the kind of work Pedro has consistently done for the organization, she would be a natural fit for that position. It was moved and seconded that she be nominated, and all board members present voted to elect her to the position.

Demerath said he would prepare wording for an update of the by-laws to include descriptions of the Strategic Director and CAO positions.


It was noted that our next meeting, on Valentine's Day, will focus on the bond issue and DDA director Liz Swain will attend. Swain will also guest with Adam Causey on the radio show that Monday at 5 on 91.3.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dog park progress, food co-op, bike-ped master plan; coming meetings: Feb 14 bond issues, Feb 28 education needs

Originally uploaded by colorblindPICASO
Notes by Loren Demerath.

In attendance: Will Loe, Cynthia Keith, Lauren Cummings, Susan Keith, Rob Ruebel, David Young, Maurice Loridans, Susan Fontaine, Garrett Johnson, Sara Galloway, Loren Demerath, Feico Kempff, Steph Pedro, Carolyn Manning.

Cynthia Keith updated us on the dog park, giving background on how it was initially inspired by visitor from Austin who asked where ours was, assuming Shreveport had one. Cynthia in 2008 talked with the Mayor and the director of SPAR who both supported it. In 2009 the front page of the newspaper featured an article on SPAR’s plans for a riverfront dog park, and there was much resistance to it because of a concern that it would come out of the same funds that the maintenance of community swimming pools comes from--but it doesn’t; pool maintenance comes from operating funds, and the park would come from capital funds. More recently, in April, the city called Keith to say they want to take up the idea again, now that things have settled down and misunderstandings have been largely cleared up. The city first suggested doing it at Hamel’s Memorial Park, but discussions since then, primarily among ABS folks, SPAR, and city council members have shifted the likely location to somewhere near the Stoner Boat Launch area and skate park. There’s an 18” clay cap that exists there over a former landfill, but it appears stable and functional. The Dog Park Committee of ABS is still looking at sites and discussing the merits of different locations, but it may work in either place. The advantage of putting it at the riverfront is that its not just one neighborhood’s district but everyone’s district.

Keith described some of the details of parks, such as having separate small and large dog sides, fence heights, guidelines for use (no kids, animal vacinations, etc.; no “aggressive” dogs--perhaps being breed specific, but the director of the Caddo Parrish Animal Shelter does not want to be breed specific, [maybe recognizing the high percentage of owners of well-behaved pit-bulls, etc; or that the variation within breeds for aggression is much greater than the aggression between breeds?]) Cynthia also noted the therapeutic and social benefits of being around dogs for those that don’t have them and can watch them. It will be self-policed. Speaking of which, the Shreveport Police are all for it, because it would have a calming effect on the environment. In sum, it would serve the health and happiness of the city overall.

This year the committee would like to make Feruary 27th, the Barkus and Meaux Parade a date by which the dog park site is decided and we’re “go” on fundraising for it. The city has agreed to help supplement funds as needed once we’ve completed a concerted fundraising campaign.

At the meeting on Saturday with the committee and Caddo Parish, Commissioner David Cox, it was noted the city can use this to show progress in implementing the master plan. It was heard that the Parish would consider maintaining it. It was also noted that the Parish might be able to help us write a grant for funding.

So, piecing together help from city, parish, citizens, and corporate sponsors (e.g., “Cane’s” with its Golden Retriever symbol, and Purina, with a plant here) support should come together.

Politically, Councilman Jenkins says he does not want a split vote; 4 to 3 would include that and might be considered too contentious.

The city said (Katherine Kennedy with SPAR) said they’d like to start by May, perhaps as part of a Movie and Moonbeams celebrating the new park and aimed at inviting dog owners to see it.

Steph described the 6.6 acre area that is between the skate park and the boat launch parking lot. It’s a better, less floodable location than at Hammel’s. Steph talked to a fence company about how one might be constructed. Will Loe (a landscape architect) mentioned that you need a third below grade to make a certain kind of fence; Will thought Stoner that would be a better location; restrooms, skate park, disc course, parking, walkable to neighborhoods, across the street from the coming Riverscape development--when it comes time for sidewalk development there they could like to this. Galloway mentioned that the riverfront is an extraordinary resource. The landfill aspect is not a problem [as Jeff Wellborn’s subsequent messages have stated, the clay cap has not eroded and remains functional]. Pedro and Keith went to the Stoner site recently and did not see any glass; their dogs were there and didn’t get glass on their feet. It was noted that many schools are built on landfills.

At the South Shreveport Business Association dinner, it was noted that Jenkins said he thought ABS should go ahead and decide where it thinks the park should go and get on to raising money for it. All seemed to agree with that.

Pedro spoke with Ragel today and she said the city has started to meet to define ordinances with regard leash laws.

The committee is moving ahead with the fundraising and putting a paypal button on the web. (And, if called for, they could help with putting one for ABS too; one for Coates Bluff, etc.; wherever there are needs for funds.)

Zocolo’s is a restaurant that’s having a “Best in Sheaux” event soon.


Carolyn reported on the radio show and mentioned said a lot of people are upset about the $2.50 per month. She’s learned that the city is not making a profit on it, it’s to cover the costs of the program. Carolyn asked Micheal Corbin to ask Pratt how much they contribute to the landfill, and what they don’t recycle and what they do with it. Corbin said he’s told they keep materials in storage until the price goes up enough to make it worth selling. Maybe it’s stored at the landfill? Separately from actual refuse? Part of the resistance to the fee is people’s suspicions that what they’re paying to be recycled isn’t getting recycled. Corbin will try to find out.

Michael Hughes is an amazing person, Carolyn said. Anyone can drop their stuff off there, including old cars. He has relationships with specialized recycling companies. He disposes of virtually 100% of products, such as washing machines, stripping down the machines. He has a company that creates mulch out of brush that is taken to them.

Carolyn would like to coordinate with this company with the city. Maybe certain dates where leaves get made into mulch. The city used have a yard waste program that could be remade into a more productive one in terms of creating something more useful.

Loridans said its alright if they can’t do anything with certain materials, but the public needs to know what would help if we don’t load them up with and could eventually cut costs. Also, this may be part of the contract.

Brian Salvatore’s wording in his email would be fine to use as part of a letter, it was noted. The community should support the idea of recycling, but we need more information on the fee, etc. before drafting a letter.

It was noted we could also approach the problem from the other end, such as banning plastic bags, as in California.

It was decided that we would wait to hear from Cobin and revisit the issue at a themed meeting on this. We can draft a letter at that time.


Pedro and Caroline Majors were congratulated for submitting a grant application to the Community Foundation for $78K for the bike-ped plan for the education and outreach portion of it, working with Thinkfirst to do so.


Loridans noted that Aubry had mentioned the new store in Allendale that is not selling tobacco and other things seen as non-healthy; it could be a site for the guerilla whole food project. Demerath recently chatted with Jen Courtney about the need for a permanent site.


It was decided that February 14th would be a discussion of bond issues, and February 28th would be a discussion of education. Brian Salvatore will co-chair the education meeting.


Cohabitat has a conference call phone that we will work to have available at subsequent meetings. Details to come.

The next meeting will be a open meeting about any issues that people want to discuss.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Report from the Pratt Industries recycling center tour by city council member Michael Corbin

Michael Corbin, newly elected city councilman from District D, recently chatted with Michael Hughes of Hughes Recycling on the civic affairs program Time for A Better Shreveport. Hosted by Loren Demerath, Carolyn Manning and Robert Trudeau, the program airs Mondays at 5 pm on KSCL, 91.3 fm.

Corbin sent this report on the Tuesday tour of Pratt Industries given the city council:

"Yesterday the Council had the opportunity to tour Pratt's recycling facility and paper mill. We basically watched trucks dump their daily pickup of items from the blue bins and saw the materials pass through the recycling process to the end product of the following: bales of aluminum cans, bales of steel cans, bales of different types of recyclable plastics and bales of cardboard and paper.

The cardboard and paper is fed into the paper mill while the other items are sold as raw material. At this point in time glass is not being recycled due to market conditions and the contamination rate (cleanliness of the product). Pratt is building a prototype machine designed to better clean glass and results of testing should be in soon. Until glass can be cleaned better and/or the market for glass improves it is being dumped in the landfill.

Here are some take-aways for me that I will share with you.

* A pizza box you place in your blue bin this morning may very well be picked up, sorted, fed into the mill and become a new pizza box within 36 hours or less.

* Although there is an amount of non-recyclable items that are placed in the blue bins, the amount is not prohibitive to the process and much less than other areas of the country.

* Total participation in Shreveport's recycling program has increased while actual tonnage (amount of recyclable material) has decreased since inception.

* Gray water output from the Lucas Wastewater Facility that was previously pumped into the Red River is now used in the manufacturing process at the Pratt Mill.

* The paper mill runs 24/7, 365 days a year while the recycling facility runs a shift and a half daily. This means there is ample opportunity to create new recycling opportunities throughout the region. Other cities, businesses, schools, etc."