1. This is a two part question: This has been a year of controversy for Shreveport’s top public safety officials. Former Fire Chief Craig Mulford was indicted and eventually fired violating administrative policies in regards to the Fire Station 8 scandal. Shreveport’s Police Chief Willie Shaw is being sued for allegedly retaliating against a detective who investigated the same case.
A. If you are elected, would you appoint new leadership for the fire and police departments? Why or why not?
Yes, I intend to appoint new leadership in any department that is not serving the public’s best interest. Scandal-driven politics not only tarnishes the image of our city, it also obscures far more serious concerns of the public interest, such as the job of effectively administrating public safety. In my administration, department heads will be held accountable for ensuring that the public is served efficiently.
The selection process for the new fire and police chief will include input from a newly appointed, diverse Citizen Advisory Board including employee representation to improve department morale among our public servants in the Fire and Police Departments.
It is incidences like these that make the need for transparency in city government obvious. Not only would I appoint new leadership in those departments, I would also implement a transparent reporting system throughout all departments to ensure that the city’s integrity and message are guaranteed.
B. If you opt to appoint new leadership, what are the priorities for that new leader or what qualities would you seek?
I would seek to appoint competent, reliable leaders who are in tune with the current situation in the city, and who are driven to take the performance of their departments to a new level. Embracing 21st Century Technology to serve our citizens and reduce redundancy is a strong passion of mine. These new department leaders’ priorities would be to significantly improve the efficiency, efficacy and consistency throughout those organizations.
2. Another two part questions. According to the most recent State of the Municipal Infrastructure report, Shreveport has an estimated $1.5 billion infrastructure needs. The report attributes the deteriorated condition of the city’s drainage, streets, public buildings, parks, etc., to the lack of maintenance and years of “kicking the can down the road.” The city is under a consent decree to fix its water and sewerage system. A $175 million general bond issue voters approved in April 2011 is a start to addressing some infrastructure needs, but not nearly enough of what is needed to maintain Shreveport’s infrastructure on a yearly basis.
A. What other funding sources have you identified to finance infrastructure needs in Shreveport?
Reintegrating the infrastructure is absolutely essential if we are going to attract and retain the kind of investors we need to turn our economy around.
A $1.5 billion estimate represents a considerable challenge. However, Shreveport is poised on an economic boom if we manage and leverage our water resources effectively. My proposed Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan will open the avenue to investment from Public Private Partnerships. These specialized funds for infrastructure are expanding, and monetization of existing, underutilized assets can be realized in Shreveport, which will greatly relieve the tax burden of the citizens. Additionally, we have the public monies the citizens have already approved and will tap into all available Federal and State Funding. No doubt to some degree, we are going to have to reach for our bootstraps on this issue in the beginning, but through efficient administration and professional management, it is certainly within our means.
B. What is your plan to implement infrastructure improvement so that the can is not continually kicked down the road?
Of course, introducing transparency measures will bring accountability to those responsible for maintaining the infrastructure, which will discourage “can kicking” behavior preemptively. Additionally, I will impose a project time line for all contracts let so contractors will have payment tied to a performance and date of completion matrix. Having motivated and proactive management for all infrastructure programs and projects would also facilitate the punctual completion of improvement projects. Including a budgetary line item for each project to support a Reserve Maintenance Fund will also reduce the ability for officials to hide behind deferred maintenance issues such as decay and neglect by providing this funding upfront in the planning and execution of the project.
3. It proverbially can be argued that a thriving downtown is an indicator of a city’s economic health.Nickey’s has been in Red River District for a long time. Some businesses have located there but can’t find economic success. Meanwhile, the Barnwell Center, an iconic building, sits vacant and Texas Avenue is a ghost of its former self. What is your vision for downtown development and how do you specifically intend to attract businesses there?
In addition to improving downtown Shreveport through close adherence to the Master Plan, re-development and special projects such as the Shreveport Common and Cross Bayou Corridor, there would be a special focus on the improvement of the downtown area because it is the economic and cultural centerpiece of the region. Economic Development for downtown Shreveport will be the highest priority. We must address the large vacancy rates and bring commerce back to the city.
A myriad of efforts would be put forth to improve the general environment downtown including 21st Century City amenities to attract urban dwellers, abundant art and culture, increased police presence, the use of GeoDesign and planning, and improvements that make downtown more walkable and bicycle friendly just to name a few. Providing incentives for investors, leveraging the Historic Tax Credits and actively reaching out to certain needed services would also help to attract businesses into downtown Shreveport.
4. The Shreveport City Council voted yes to overhaul the city’s pension system. Employees will contribute more to their pension plans while they their health care premiums are expected to rise 10 percent in 2015. But, their wages have not increased. As mayor, how would you help offset the costs for city employees who are seeing more money deducted from their pay checks while their wage have remained stagnate?
This is a very difficult issue because it highlights one of many significant challenges the city faces due to years of neglected programs and mismanagement. Unfortunately, the city employees are in the cross fire. The pension and benefits plan for city employees have been grossly mismanaged for years and the city was finally forced to deal with this issue because the pension was unfunded. We have a plan to streamline city government and cut the fat at the top. This plan will help address much of the burden that is placed on the majority of city employees and provide compensation to the employees who are actually delivering the services. The solution provided most recently by the council does not address a comprehensive solution to the problem and in essence “kicks the can down the road”. The Pension Plan will eventually fail if it is not addressed and made solvent.
5. In recent years, the mayor and City Council often find themselves at odds over even the simplest issues making progress harder to achieve and leaving a cloud over the city government. What traits do you bring to the mayor’s office that might help to create a more cooperative, creative atmosphere in the workings between the mayor’s office and the City Council?
I believe that by being a No Party candidate and not having an allegiance to one party or even a faction of a party that my greatest strength is I can be unbiased in serving all citizens of the City of Shreveport. Additionally, I believe strongly that by ushering in a new era of complete transparency in government plaza that most of the previous issues regarding a failure to cooperate will dissipate.
I bring initiative, creativity, and a proactive attitude. I enjoy solving problems, unifying diverse groups, and I am a friendly and cooperative person to work with. I think the most important and common goal for our group is the determination to make Shreveport an economically viable, prosperous city that is cleaner, safer and a more fulfilling place to live for all of the people who call our city home.
Former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut once said, "You can't be a suburb of nothing." He knew that his downtown, which during his first term as mayor was suffering from some of the same issues that downtown Shreveport is working to overcome, was a reflection on his leadership abilities, his city and more broadly, the region. Republican Hudnut was the longest-tenured mayor in Indianapolis history, serving sixteen years, and his time in office was largely defined by downtown Indianapolis. His entrepreneurial policies attracted economic development and he aggressively used tax incentives, infrastructure improvements, and development projects to attract business to the downtown area and in turn, all of Indianapolis saw improvement. What does downtown mean to you in the overall importance of the city and what, if any, plans do you have to create or divert additional funding for downtown needs?
A vibrant downtown is an economic bellwether for the region. Believing in the John F. Kennedy quote, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” the downtown area is the most important commercial hub for attracting businesses and growing the corporate presence in the region. We plan to utilize 21st century economic investment strategies that have been successful in other cities in their revitalization plans. These include Economic Gardening, GeoDesign and leveraging information through 21st century tools.
In 2012, DDA commissioned a Parking Study for the city of Shreveport that showed how business expansion, additional residential units and historic building revitalization would be stymied without thoughtful parking additions & improvements. Please explain the steps you intend to take to deal with this issue & how you would pay for it.
Fortunately, 21st century urban dwellers have ditched their automobiles and are gravitating to walkable and bikable cities. This trend alleviates much of the parking pressures that dilapidated downtowns have had to face in unsuccessful attempts to allure suburbanites to return downtown. These new 21st century dwellers bring vibrancy and new economy to 24/7 residential, commercial and cultural mixed-use districts. They need investments in amenities such as grocery stores, retail, multi-modal transportation, zip-cars and improved public transportation. These amenities also provide opportunities for suburbanites to experience a 21st century urban center different from their lifestyle in the ‘burbs. In the words of the Counting Crows, we don’t want to “pave paradise to put up a parking lot.”
3. Developing a 24-hour downtown will depend greatly on expanding downtown residential opportunities. Those cities with the most successful downtowns know this. "The way to have a really vibrant downtown is to have residents there who can support the businesses and provide that life on the street to make the area seem more lively and safer," says Sheila Grant, editor of Downtown Idea Exchange and Downtown Promotion Reporter. What are your plans, if any, for encouraging, incentivizing, and assisting additional downtown residential?
The greatest challenge for young professionals who desire to live downtown is there are no current developments that cater to their needs. The real estate options available are either priced out of their range or the young professionals earn too much to qualify for one of the subsidized housing units. The word “expanding” is critical because Shreveport must be open to all qualified investors and not pick and choose who can or who cannot bring their development here based on the “good old boys network.” If we are going to be successful, we need to be OPEN for business and fair and equitable to all. Additionally, the advisory and citizens boards must have diverse representation to include the demographic the city is attempting to attract.
4. Over the past several years, the city and parish have taken great interest in the 9-block art and culture district called Shreveport Common. Recently, there was another development study begunon Cross Bayou. First, what are your feelings on both areas and second, do you believe that both can be developed at once, or do you prefer finishing one project first before moving on to another?
I am a strong supporter of both developments and have participated in every planning session and workshop for the Cross Bayou Corridor. These projects demonstrate a perfect usage of the Master Plan that the citizens approved because we can guarantee that both developments will complement each other and not compete for resources. Both of these developments fit well with addressing the needs of downtown revitalization and infill. Additionally, they will create a domino effect of growth and investment in the inner city. I have lived in cities where projects such as these two very important projects were the catalysts to growth and revival. I look forward to continued support of both of these projects and will add to their success through our Economic Gardening and GeoDesign initiatives.
5. A number of downtown buildings are suffering from lack of care. Roofs have caved in and they have sat vacant for years affecting the value of all around them. What are your ideas on how to get these long-term vacant buildings back into commerce?
There needs to be a third-party redevelopment authority to handle processing these properties by moving them faster from waste to commercial viability. There are currently two measures on the ballot and in the state legislature addressing these issues and my plans are to fully utilize both internal and external resources to move downtown Shreveport forward.
6. Downtown Shreveport has the lowest crime rate of any area in the city, but the lack of nighttime foot traffic, homeless loitering and panhandling and past fights at some of the riverfront clubs has created a perception of danger. What are your ideas to counter this perception?
That is not the current perception by me nor by my friends. We spend a great deal of time downtown at the various events and venues. Urban areas have homeless populations and panhandling. It is a part of the urban landscape. There are numerous successful programs from communities across the United States that help the homeless community and do not marginalize them. So as the question states, it is a perception issue and not a crime issue. Whenever a perception issue exists, education is the preferred answer. And I believe strongly that Shreveport can become an inclusive society for all of our citizens.
7. What is the first thing you wish to accomplish downtown and why?
We have many exciting plans for downtown Shreveport but the one that is gaining the most praise, attention and buy-in is to re-stripe Texas Street from the Church to the Bridge by reducing automobile traffic to one lane in each direction. The additional space allows for diagonal parking to replace parallel parking increasing street parking by almost three times the current availability. These plans include island respites for outdoor cafes, walkable and bikable safe zones and an open market feel of commerce. These plans return downtown to a friendly and welcoming environment. We can maintain all of the charm of Shreveport by utilizing smart planning and attracting visitors and investment.
Additionally, all of Shreveport services must be service oriented, consumer friendly and supportive of the overall goals of the city. The days of bullying and special favors are over. Shreveport will move into the 21st century by offering complete transparency and open access for all people who have the best interest of our city and our downtown at heart.
Shreveport made great strides this past year in branding itself as a proponent of tolerance and equal opportunity for all. The “Shreveport Fairness Ordinance” passed our City Council by a vote of 6-1 on Dec. 10, 2013, and extends the same nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community that other vulnerable groups receive in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The Greater Shreveport Human Relations Commission, a volunteer commission also created by an ordinance on June 10, 2014, will be the body that educates, mediates, and hears grievances regarding the Shreveport Fairness Ordinance. If the nine-member Commission is not fully functioning by the time you take office, will you make it a priority to make the necessary appointments and direct the City Attorney’s office to work with the Commission to establish basic policies and procedures as outlined in the ordinance? Will you appoint someone in your office to be a liaison to the Commission?
Yes, of course. I would provide a smooth transition between administrations. I would appoint liaisons for all communities that need them. Absolutely yes.
Both the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce of Shreveport-Bossier City endorsed the Shreveport Fairness Ordinance because they know that treating people fairly is good for business. How would you use the existence of the Shreveport Fairness Ordinance to promote the City of Shreveport to individuals and businesses that are considering a move to Shreveport?
It’s extremely unfair that we have a monopoly on talent [said tongue-in-cheek]. As mayor she wants to highlight how much talent we have in this city. Much of Shreveport’s talent has moved away to achieve success. Bill Joyce and Brady Blade are great example of this. In her economic gardening program she would build a database talent. Work with PACE and Interfaith. Go beyond tolerance…
The Independence Bowl is a great sporting and marketing event for our city. We all want it to be successful. But the Duck Commander sponsorship of our I Bowl has made a lot of people uneasy – the Duck Commander Phil Robertson has add degrading and dehumanizing things about over half the people of our city. Phil Robertson claimed black people were happier under racial segregation, were more godly before they were on welfare, and never had reason to complain in the pre-Civil Rights Era. And no wonder Robertson heard no complaints: Louisiana had hundreds of lynchings from Reconstruction until 1968. People like the Duck Commander who try to whitewash discrimination that took place in the past give encouragement to those who want to continue practicing it in the future. About gay people, Robertson has said: “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, and they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil,” all of this from a man who has encouraged men to marry under-age women before they start thinking for themselves.
Who knows what else Phil Robertson will have said by the time the I Bowl takes place – just this month he said that AIDS and other STDs were God’s punishment for the immortality of gays and others. What do you plan to say to national media outlets that will cover the I Bowl when they inevitably ask you about the controversial comments of the sponsoring company’s patriarch?
I’ve been a studio teacher at MTV and Viacom, and knows that reality TV is scripted. The audience doesn’t really know that. How do you handle controversy? The greatest thing to growth is embracing controversy. I will take this as a national platform to develop a beautiful marketing plan about all of the talent in Shreveport.
This country’s top companies want to be able to attract the best workers in order to be competitive on a global scale. This is why over two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, such as health insurance benefits, to the domestic partners and children of their gay employees. The City of New Orleans extends health insurance benefits to the domestic partners and children of its gay city workers. Although attorney Mike Johnson – a long-time anti-gay activist who is now entering local Bossier City politics – and the National Alliance Defense Fund went to court to try to keep New Orleans’ gay employees from receiving the same benefits as their heterosexual coworkers, the Louisiana Court of Appeal, 4th District upheld the constitutionality of those benefits. In order for the City of Shreveport to be able to attract the best workers, will you as mayor work to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of the city’s gay employees and their children?
Yes, my ex-husband and I had a domestic partnership under California law. This is a difficult issue because some marriages last 24 days and get these benefits but domestic partnerships can last 25 years, and do not receive those same benefits. There needs to be a better way to recognize domestic partnerships within Shreveport.
Currently 19 states plus the District of Columbia allow civil marriage for same-sex couples. Since the Supreme Court ruled in June of 2013 that the federal government must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in states where they are legal, there have been over 20 federal court rulings finding state gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional. All of these rulings have found the arguments against same-sex marriage to be without any rational basis. As we all know, Louisiana federal judge Martin Feldman broke that string of victories for marriage equality by upholding Louisiana’s ban. This leaves Louisiana as one of only 17 states, which include only 26% of Americans, with an intact ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Feldman wrote that Louisiana has a legitimate interest in linking children to an intact family formed by their biological parents. Can you explain how banning gay people from marrying will provide an incentive for heterosexual couples to marry and stay married for the sake of their planned or unplanned biological children?
No, I cannot explain it. Gay people did not destroy my marriage. My marriage fell apart because of an issue between her and her husband. Many people think I’m the “most conservative” candidate but this does not apply to my views on social issues.
After the Louisiana marriage decision, blogger Lamar White of Central Louisiana noted “Judge Feldman writes the first sentence of his obituary.” This will be his enduring legacy – the first thing that people will remember about him. In contrast, a large group of mayors across this country have banded together so that they will have a very different legacy. Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is a bipartisan national organization of over 500 mayors from 45 states who support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Their official statement includes: “…cities that celebrate and cultivate diversity are the places where creativity and ideas thrive. They are the places where today’s entrepreneurs are most likely to choose to build the businesses of tomorrow. Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry enhances our ability to build this kind of environment, which is good for all of us. We stand for the freedom to marry because it enhances the economic competitiveness of our communities, improves the lives of families that call our cities home and is simply the right thing to do.” In Louisiana, only the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, has signed on as a member. How will the other Louisiana mayors, who do not sign on, be judged by future generations?
We are a 24/7 society. I saw a colonel of the United States Air Force (Col. Kristin Goodwin) at an event this past Friday. In a room full of WWII veterans, a very conservative crowd, she thanked her wife Kelly and their two children. They were very well-received. Many workplace environments and situations include our social lives.
A Department of Justice study has determined that the FBI’s national hate crime statistics reflect under-reporting because most hate crimes are never reported to police and those that are typically are not categorized as hate crimes by local jurisdictions. For example, from 2006 – 2012, Shreveport reported 0 hate crimes against any minority, even though there was a brutal, well-publicized hate crime committed in 2011 against a gay man in a downtown Shreveport bar for which his attacker was sentenced to 23 years in prison. What do we know from FBI statistics is that LGBT people are far more likely than any other minority group in the U.S. to be victimized by violent hate crime. We believe the Shreveport Police Department handled the 2011 hate crime admirably, but we know that often times LGBT people are reluctant to report crimes against them because they are closeted or fear the reaction of the police. Many cities like New Orleans, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin have an LGBT officer who serves as a designated liaison to the LGBT community, whose contact information is made available to the public. This LGBT Liaison Officer serves a valuable resource to the police department, possibly conducting diversity training, but also regularly meets with an represents the concerns of the local LGBT community to the police department. If elected mayor, would you designate a LGBT Liaison Officer within the Shreveport Police Department?
Yes, domestic violence is different from a hate crime. Domestic violence is violence between people in an intimate relationship. Hate crimes are predatory where someone is attacked for who they are as a person. I would have a separate liaison officer for LGBT issues. I would also strengthen the existing domestic violence task force.
If you were elected, would you be an advocate for offering the same nondiscrimination protections across the state that exists in Shreveport?
As mayor, would you provide health coverage to transgender employees for gender re-assignment procedures?
Possibly, for gender-reassignment surgery, but not for cosmetic surgery. It is not an elective, cosmetic procedure. Transgender people’s brain and body don’t match up.
PACE NOTE: Ms. Provenza was the only candidate who openly expressed familiarity with transgender issues.
Cost and fiscal responsibility seemed to drive the answers on whether the city should pay for gender re-assignment surgery for transgender city employees. Can you think of some other kind of healthcare need for cis-gender people that might be considered too expensive, and thereby justify its being denied?
I’m very appreciative that insurance covered her reconstruction following my mastectomy when I had breast cancer. I appreciate the difficulties transgender people face. I want to lead to city to openness.
#TeamShreveport is a group of concerned citizens who are dedicated to restoring the democratic process as by the people, for the people. As Victoria Provenza for Mayor supporters, #TeamShreveport volunteers their time and resources to collectively create a greater and more vibrant Shreveport.
I was fed up with the lack of growth in Shreveport. I’ve had to move away from Shreveport, twice, as a professional geologist. I was fortunate enough to move my small woman-owned business to home 5 years ago with Global Strike Command; however, about two years ago, with the sequestration of government and dwindling contracts my prime contractors had asked me to relocate my company to Colorado. Being very frustrated that Shreveport did not have a base of professional service jobs, and after graduating from the Shreveport Leadership program, I decided to run for Mayor to lend my unique skill set and experience to the community through public service.
Economic gardening is an innovative entrepreneur-oriented approach to economic prosperity. The program's philosophy helps existing companies within a community grow larger by focusing on strategic growth challenges such as: developing new markets, refining existing business models, and gaining access to competitive intelligence by making publicly-funded resources available. READ MORE