December 12, 2012 5:00 pmBy Elliott Stonecipher
A couple of years or so ago, the hubris-soaked leaders of Bossier City Hall’s good ol’ boy cabal decided to call themselves the “Bossier Mob,” an awful fact which some argue offensive to organized crime. Regardless of how the bunch refer to themselves, though, they have just taken a good-government torpedo amidships.
In a news release last night by Bossier Mayor Lo Walker, a few recipients learned that the years-long state and federal court legal battle between U. L. Coleman Company of Shreveport and Bossier City Hall has been settled at a tremendous cost to Bossier City taxpayers. Linc Coleman’s real estate firm will receive $6.7 million in damages and costs, with Bossier City additionally required to provide to Walker Place some $10.4 million in municipal infrastructure, an elevated walkway over Teague Parkway, and a $1 million park between CenturyLink and the adjacent Walker Place site.
As if all of that, the core of the settlement of the federal court case, is not enough chastisement to Bossier government gone wrong, the city must also give Coleman 39.4 acres of its own property for expansion of Walker Place (to 90 acres). Then, there is the matter of some $4 million (or more) taxpayer dollars paid to attorneys hand-picked by Bossier City Attorney Jimmy Hall to lose the city’s case, if anyone can be said to have “lost” with $4,000,000 in his or her pockets.
Not including the lost value to the city of the 39.4 acres, the total bill to the taxpayers in city cash and other costs is very nearly $25,000,000. Consider that the city’s general fund revenue and expenses budgeted for 2013 are each almost exactly $48,000,000. Put another way, before this bombshell, the general fund showed only a $5,932 – that’s thousands, not tens or hundreds of thousands – “excess” over expenses, and a projected general fund (discretionary) balance for year-end 2013 of just over $11,000,000. And, for those wondering, any “insurance” the city might have counted on is doubtful since the formal claim by city officials to the insurance carrier was only recently made – after many years of litigation. The rest of that story continues to develop, and it bodes darkly for the city.
Notably, Coleman and his team also won their long-sought and hard-fought median- and curb-cuts on Teague Parkway, a flash-point in the hostilities. Originally promised to Coleman by city officials, those same officials took the crucial access points away once the developer demonstrated that he wasn’t necessarily down for doing everything “the Bossier way.” Top city officials thus acted to kill the premier multi-use development, with a malicious intent they boldly flaunted to any and all.
In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that I have been professionally and personally involved in this matter. Linc Coleman has been a personal friend of mine for many years, I provided opinion survey services to him in this litigation, and was set to testify on behalf of his interests in the federal trial set for next month. Strictly pro bono, I also worked to find a solution to the fight, as did others who simply could not believe that Bossier officials were abjectly foolish enough to spend and risk millions in taxpayer dollars to prevent something as obviously good for the city as Walker Place would, and will, be.
Included among those vehemently anti-U. L. Coleman Company was Bossier City Councilman Tim Larkin, to whom I most personally appealed. With the notable exception of late Councilman Chubby Knight, not one council member or other key city official – Mayor Lo Walker included – took action to end the federal suit and support Walker Place for the good of the city. (George Dement, Bossier City’s mayor in the earliest years of Walker Place planning, has always been among its strongest supporters.)
(Given his activities in the matter of the Hwy. 3132 Extension, it is a sickening irony that Larkin fought so hard, at the cost of so much Bossier City taxpayer money, to deny Linc Coleman access to his proposed development from Teague Parkway. That access is, of course, the very type Larkin is now taking from Shreveport taxpayers for his Esplanade development.)
To woefully understate the fact, it took rare resolve for Linc Coleman to stick with this fight. I know a bit about how much abuse he has suffered in the process, the net of which is that Bossier City government deserves replacement. While taking care not to remark inappropriately about what I have observed of this struggle, I believe it is fair to say that Linc Coleman’s rare friendship over the decades with his lead attorney, a former Shreveport and now New Orleans resident, was as important to this outcome as it was impressive to witness.
For Bossier City taxpayers to take this financial hit is not only consequential, it is also 100% the fault of the government those taxpayers have put in office and strongly supported. There is much, much more to be said about which officials most openly disserved the people of Bossier City, and what their motives were. For now, suffice it to say that every single city official was told in every possible way, for many years, by dozens of well-meaning people, that what they were doing was foolhardy, suspect, wrong-headed, and likely very costly to the people they swore an oath to serve.
Whether the damage will finally sink Bossier City Hall’s bad-business-as-usual ship of state remains to be seen. Regardless, a completed Walker Place will well serve as a monument for all to remember just how irreparably broken a government can become, and what a difference is made by the honesty and perseverance demonstrated by Linc Coleman and his team.Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.