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 Continuing to repair the outdated system without replacing it is more expensive in the long run.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.

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