By Louis R. Avallone
The Shreveport Mayor’s race has been wrought with lots of hand wringing, anxiety, and foretelling of the doom and gloom that awaits this great city, if only the voters happen to choose this candidate over another. Many express great concern about the continuation of the backroom deals that have plagued our community – and the wealthy benefactors and power brokers who have made that possible. And while most voters want to elect a leader this time that actually knows the way, shows the way – and then gets out of our way – we must also realize this: There is no “wizard” in Oz to save us.
There is no “magical” leader that will solve all of the daunting challenges of our fair city. Much like the Tin Man needed a heart, or the Lion needed courage, we also have some seemingly, insurmountable dilemmas: We are facing a diminishing tax base, while at the same time needing to finance $200 million in underfunded pension plans, $342 million in water and sewer improvement projects, plus an estimated $400 million of road repair projects that are needed to be done right now.
If the people of Shreveport wish to pick themselves back up this election season, dust themselves off, and take the reins of a proud Shreveport which future generations will build upon, and that we can preserve for our children, it won’t be because we relied upon any one “magical” leader or “wizard” in City Hall as mayor.
No, we will pick ourselves up because more and more concerned citizens stepped-up, and contributed their time and talent towards shaping our community. By becoming more informed about the issues. By recruiting, and supporting, more candidates for the city council and parish commission who are more interested in solving our problems, instead of theirs. By changing our political culture and saying, “enough already” with how it’s been done before.
Is the Mayor’s office an important one? Absolutely. But to invest too much dependence on a single individual is half-baked to start with, because it oversimplifies the tasks at hand, and provides too many voters with an easy way to stop paying attention after the election, when the real governing begins.
You see, voting is not a kitchen countertop rotisserie, where you can just “set it and forget it” on election day. This is because, as Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Governments have a tendency not to solve problems, only to rearrange them”.
So to solve problems, we need the most talented, competent, and skillful people working in City Hall, not more laws or ordinances, or throwing money at issues, more backroom dealings, or appointing another committee or hiring another consultant to study our problems. This time around, for real change, we must change, because our leaders have only that power which we are willing to give up.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some other valuable lessons from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. For example, don’t stand next to windows during tornados. When something knocks the “stuffings” out of you, just stuff it back in and move on. The grass isn’t always greener over the rainbow. When you think you are the most helpless, you still have an amazing ability to help yourself. And, of course, the biggest lesson, there is no place like home.
Well, Shreveport is my home and there’s no other place like it for me. And like Dorothy with her ruby red shoes, we’ve always had the power to help ourselves and get off the proverbial “yellow brick” road, and get back home to the basics of honesty and accountability in government.
The question this time around, since we know there’s no “wizard”, nor the next great city of the south at the end of the “yellow brick” road we’re on now, how long before the so-called “powers that be” in our city realize it’s been a dead end road for them too?