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3132: A Sad Tale of Leadership Gone Awry

May 01, 2012

For several decades, citizens in Shreveport have anticipated that 3132 would extend to the Port, just as leaders and planners had said it would.

When 3132 was extended from Bert Kouns to Flournoy Lucas, most citizens felt that the completion of the loop to the Port was nearing. And the Shreveport City Council seemed to agree because they purchased a trapezoid-shaped tract of land on the south side of Flournoy Lucas Road to accommodate the interchange.

The Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments and the Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission did not seem so interested in assuring that the anticipated corridor for 3132 was protected when they allowed Twelve Oaks subdivision to expand into the area shown for the extension.

Along comes Bossier developer Tim Larkin with plans for a subdivision west of Twelve Oaks. The property has no frontage on any existing road except Railsback. Expecting that new residents will enter from Ellerbe onto Railsback Road, Larkin applies for his entrance. But the residents of Railsback Road become incensed and that entrance is vetoed.

Larkin negotiates with developers of Twelve Oaks to purchase land from them just west and south of the 16-acre trapezoid owned and protected by the City for the interchange for the 3132 extension. A small portion of this land touches Flournoy Lucas Road, just west of the city’s property. Larkin applies to create an entrance to his property at this site, but his application is rejected by Louisiana DOTD because it is too close to the proposed interchange for 3132. Why? Anything built there will kill 3132 as a controlled access highway with eligibility for federal highway funding.

Larkin seeks to use property owned by The Glen. He indicates he would improve the road and they would both use it. The Glen offers to sell the property to him, but rather than pay for it he walks away.

Unable to get an entrance he can fully control and unwilling to pay for additional property to create a legal one, Larkin uses his political clout to try to pressure Louisiana DOTD (which has already rejected his plans) to relent. At that time State Rep. Jane Smith uses her influence with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office to work with Larkin to get him his entrance. They come up with a scheme that would allow Larkin his entrance next to the city-owned property and that would require the city to assume responsibility for Flournoy Lucas Road and other nearby thoroughfares. This would allow the mayor, his appointees on the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and the City Council, where he has strong support, to rubber stamp any developments free from input by the DOTD.

When “caught in the act” by the editorial page editor of The (Shreveport) Times, all involved could have done the reasonable thing. They could have apologized and said they realized what they had done was wrong. They could have even said that they failed to recognize the wider impact. They could have side-stepped the controversy that has ensued.

The Mayor could have saved face but he chose to simply step further into the great 3132 crevasse. He could have said that in his effort to help a developer who wants to invest in Shreveport, he was not as mindful as he should have been about the residents and others who have invested in the area. He did not. He has become belligerent and has blundered forth using his considerable political weight to further divide instead of being conciliatory.

Tim Larkin could have said he should have considered entrance issues for his landlocked property before he bought it and should have anticipated concerns about increased traffic in residential areas. Instead of pointing out how much money he has spent, perhaps he should have considered how his property would be accessed before spending money, just as any thoughtful and organized business person would do. He should have apologized for trying to influence politicians and government entities for his own personal good. But he did not. Hiring consultants to help him keep from blundering as he has done in many meetings, he has continued to manipulate the situation to his own benefit, babbling about all the money he has spent and never thinking about the money the taxpayers have funded for 3132 and all the studies related to it over the years.

DOTD could have continued to say “no” to Jane Smith, the Jindal staff and their political buddy, Tim Larkin. But actually they could not. We all know that government department heads and key staff live and die by how they react to requests from “the top.” Their jobs and future were at stake. They offered to turn the roads over to the city so Glover could be blamed. And Glover, foolishly, agreed to accept them. When the issue came to public light and Glover had to back down, DOTD officials came up with a scheme to give Larkin his entrance at taxpayer expense, threatening expropriation of The Glen’s land if the retirement community did not choose to sell.

The City Council could and did take a bold step to protect the city-owned tract. But recent reports indicate they may be wavering in favor of the developer who has tried to manipulate local and state government to his personal benefit. How they react remains to be seen.

NLCOG rolls along as if it’s a new day for 3132, the route that has been in the works for decades but never completed. As they hire groups and go through planning processes that are clearly designed to give work to engineers and planners and delay projects as much as they advance them, they seem to indicate that the public is a bunch of rubes. And maybe we are. We want to believe in government. We want to believe in our officials and we are somehow expecting things to come out differently when we have seen similar scenarios come and go over the years.

The situation with 3132 is different only because it came to light. As we see the workings of governmental bodies and officials and read through their e-mails, we have the sad realization that this kind of thing goes on all the time. Yes, maybe we are rubes.

Shortly before assuming the presidency of the new United States of America, George Washington spoke these words:

“Integrity and firmness are all I can promise. These, be the voyage long or short, shall never forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men; for of the consolations, which are to be derived from these, under any circumstances, the world cannot deprive me.”

Will we see the integrity we want in government? The ending to this convoluted tale has not been written. Perhaps there are still those in government who will stand up and exhibit some Washingtonian values.

Marilyn Joiner, the author of the article, is marketing director for Willis-Knighton Health System and has, therefore, monitored the 3132 controversy since it was revealed in April, 2011. A resident of Shreveport since 1973, she has followed the proposed plans for the loops around the city and, like others, believed government leaders were committed to its completion. Now she is not so sure.

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May 27, 2014
Elliott Stonecipher, spokesperson for the Finish 3132 Coalition, offers an update on the project.
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