LeVette Fuller: Apathy and Avarice Have Seduced Shreveport

  • October 10, 2022

In this first essay in a three part series,  I want to ask you, dear reader, to lean into a more philosophical viewpoint of what ails our community. I promise to become more concrete over the next three weeks. For now, however, it would help us to take a twenty thousand foot view of one of our major issues.  

Avarice. That is our city’s biggest problem. To put it another way:  It is a mindset of scarcity that took hold over this vibrant city when Western Electric closed its doors and the oil industry crashed and we have been living with it ever since.

Avarice pits us against one another, neighbor against neighbor. Our selfishness and greed have led to decades of policy making that maintains the status quo. We’ve been suffering under scarcity minded leadership for 50 years. 

This governance of obscuring and mystifying policies that would benefit from sunlight puts distance between government and citizens and makes participation intimidating. It makes mediocrity satisfying. It has led to a malaise and apathy because we assert ‘this is just the way things are.’ 

An example of what I’ve done to combat this is work to make changes in the ordinance governing how we select architecture and engineering firms for municipal projects. I’ve injected consistency and transparency in scoring and enabled more local and minority participation so local firms can build capacity to compete with larger nationals firms and keep more dollars in our local economy.

As mayor, I will work to streamline and demystify policies within permits, planning and zoning. I will work to abolish the administrative gatekeeping that enables so many projects to be done on a case-by-case basis while excluding creativity, innovations, and bootstrap entrepreneurship. If we do not shift our mindset, policy changes will continue to be determined by whatever cabal holds all the marbles, and our community will continue to see our population and opportunities diminish. 

Avarice has seduced us over the past 50 years into believing that if we keep electing the same type of candidates pitching rebranded versions of the same ineffectual solutions, that this time, THIS TIME, it will be different. Has it?

Our scarcity mindset enables us to hide from hard truths (and, just as an aside, you should know that I don’t hide from hard truths. I faced a recall  from my own party because I stood up for the city as a city councilwoman because I cared more about serving my city than just keeping my job.  That is in my core.)

A scarcity mindset dictates that we must expand our boundaries to bring in more acreage because this time we will recover enough of our tax base to cover our debts. The reality is we need to prioritize the areas suffering from decades of neglect and revitalize those areas for the people who are already there. As a councilwoman I’ve used private funds to begin the process of removing blight and speed up the arduous process of demolition in Hollywood/Caddo Heights with awesome feedback from residents. Now those empty lots can and must be filled with new opportunities for vibrancy. An abundance mindset recognizes that we are only as strong as our weakest neighborhood, and that our core neighborhoods are our best opportunities to keep the homegrown talent here, and create a city that brings people, with ideas, training, and jobs to fill the empty spaces.

Avarice whispers in our ears that we have a lazy workforce. The reality is that people are stretched beyond their capacity by a myriad of compounding issues without the relief that could lead to attaining new skills. Our primary goal as a city should be improving the environmental circumstances directly within our control, blight, infrastructure, public safety, while also working with private partners on incentives for workforce and economic development because in this new 21st century economy: jobs go where people want to live and people want to live in cities governed with consistency, transparency, with decision making informed by data.  As well as an aura of openness and welcomeness.

I’m prepared to implement complex, policy-minded strategies to address our persistent problems of crime, economic development, quality of living such as: outcome based budgeting, incremental development, and placemaking.  These strategies have studies and successful cities to attest to their effectiveness.

First we must accept that antiquated solutions are not the answer. It requires us to stop treating our city like Louisiana’s consolation prize, debating how big of a dowery we need to give in tax giveaways to entice a savior from elsewhere. It requires us to believe with our hearts that we are the people we have been waiting for.

We all have an opportunity — and  responsibility — to dig deep to really push for what we want to see in our community.

Great cities don’t just happen, but they’re more possible when community members get together and say, “We can do this. We believe that this city can be something amazing and we’re going to put in the work because we deserve nice things for ourselves and for future generations.”  But we’re too busy lamenting what we don’t think we have instead of celebrating what we do. And if we celebrate what we do have, we can have more of it. We have a bountiful path ahead, but it takes courage, and it starts at the top, and it requires all of us on board to be part of the solution. To that end, the government can be more accommodating with simpler policies, and a more welcoming atmosphere for citizens. That is what I am fighting for. I hope you’ll join me.

Title photo of Shreveport by Jim Noetzel. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.