The Hidden Nature of Shreveport’s Elite “Leadership”
A person wiser than I once told me that “Shreveport is all mailbox money, and very little barbell strength.”
Meaning: the large majority of the Shreveport population on either the top or the bottom is living in a world where subsidy or royalty/inheritance checks pay their way, while fewer and fewer of the middle class exists to provide the tax base that supports essential functions within our community.
While those at the bottom are limited in their ability to better their plight, those at the top have the mobility, resources and opportunity to make impactful change in our area. There is, in fact, a great deal of wealth in Shreveport. There is even more inertia and resistance to change within that same community.
Why does very little change? Why is business and industry driven away over the past two generations with the same basic leadership of the “upper crust” of Shreveport? What is preserved in making sure that those on top of this decaying city remain there?
A wonderful example of this is the recent incarnation of the Citizens for Better Caddo. This is a political action committee formed by Edward Crawford (a board member of the Community Foundation) and John C. Schmidt with the help of Community Foundation leader Paula Hickman. Search for “Citizens For a Better Caddo” here and you’ll find all of their filings. Note the PAC’s original address is the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce’s office. This PAC got light notice relative to its heaviest in town donations at the time of its inception from the local media, and most of that notice can be read here, here and here. A very interesting op-ed appears here, co-written by Edward Crawford who notably isn’t pictured.
By almost all accounts the Shreveport Times reporters put out, Crawford and company (via their PAC) appear to just be concerned citizens who want to see better government in Caddo Parish Schools. Instead of giving us concrete ideas about what the PAC wanted to see accomplish, we got nebulous platitudes that hardly anyone can disagree with. Words like “reform”, “efficient” and “effective” get used. As is the case in Shreveport, we’re left to simply and blindly trust that our wealthy elites are benevolently now taking an interest in leading to reform our biggest failure as a community… our failing schools.
If anyone criticizes the motives of Crawford and company, they are met with an indignant response. In a place where social standing matters more than fixing the fact that the average Caddo citizen earns around $24,000 per year (here), the wealthy and connected are supposedly all sunshine and light. Common people are relegated to never knowing much about the moves these special folks make behind closed doors. In fact, the PAC started by Crawford successfully helped get many candidates elected to the school board. Their first order of business was the give Caddo Schools Superintendent Lamar Goree a raise (here). The second order of business was to put forth a bond issue for public vote (which ultimately failed epically). (here)
That bond issue is important. Crawford and his business partner/family member, Caddo Commissioner John Atkins, have a large conflict of interest in their holding of a company called Argent Financial (here). Argent is a large financier of municipal bonds. They even manage money for local governmental entities and the Community Foundation (timber). So as Crawford, Atkins, Hickman and company were taking over the school board and using column space in the Shreveport Times for op-eds, it would have been a great service to people who can’t afford to donate five figure amounts to a PAC for them to declare exactly where they can and do benefit when their PAC succeeds in getting candidates that push bond issues that they endorse.
For all the trust and faith that we are demanded to bestow upon these do-gooders, the most telling part is just how much they hide what they are doing. They meet, in private, with officials to determine what policies they want to see happen. When Caddo School failures caused the state to lawfully begin the process of placing these schools in the state’s Recovery School District, officials from the state met with the CBC PAC leadership at least once (likely multiple times according to sources close to the PAC members) before public meetings to declare the takeover a dead issue and Caddo was stuck with the full iteration of the “Transformation Zone”. What was promised? What deal was made? What was that not done in public?
The people at question do not disclose any concrete information about their intentions, and importantly, they do not disclose to the public they claim to serve that at least some of them have financial benefits at stake.
Trust is earned, not to be blindly given. Those of us not blinded by our need for social pecking order acceptance in a shriveling community with tremendous poverty and illiteracy can see clearly. We need those with the most resources to use them to engage those with less to help provide inclusiveness in the process of reforming our schools and bettering our community. We don’t need their private meeting deals and their bought influence among those who taxpaying voters elected to lead. They can earn our trust by exposing themselves and providing us with the ability to question them, publicly and directly, about just what their plans are across all of their governmental influence ambitions. Sure, they don’t have to do any of that as private citizens… but we don’t have to trust them for an instant either, for they aren’t leading and they still aren’t getting real results.
The time is now for younger people to step up and lead. It is imperative.