Election items for Nov. 4

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Voters will have a slew of candidates, local millages, and state amendments to consider at the polls on Nov. 4. 

Besides picking a Senate representative for Louisiana, 14 proposed Constitutional Amendments, and renewing taxes, below are races involving Bossier Parish politicians:

  • Incumbent U.S. 4th District Representative John Fleming drew two opponents, Libertarian Randall Lord of Shreveport and Democrat Justin Ansley of Bossier City.
  • Public Services Commissioner Foster Campbell is running for re-election against Keith Gates of Winnfield.
  • The Bossier City Marshal race sees Carl Wayne Richard challenging current department employee Jim Whitman.
  • The race for District Attorney sees long serving incumbent Schuyler Marvin take on Whit Graves.
  • School Board races are — District 1 incumbent Jack Raley is stepping down and being replaced by Billie Brotherton. District 2’s Brad Bockhaus is unopposed. District 3 sees Frank Kelly being challenged by incumbent Tammy Smith from District 4.  That leaves Richard Phipps II, Elizabeth Foster and William Lott to replace Smith in District 4. District 5’s Mike Monsour is unchallenged, as is Glen Bullard in District 6, J.W. Slack in District 7, and Kenneth Wiggins in District 8. Incumbent Eddy Ray Presley is being challenged by Eric Newman for the District 9 seat. District 10’s Samm Darby is unopposed while Shane Cheatham is the sole candidate for District 11, as is Dennis Bamburg for District 12.
  • District Judges Mike Craig, Jeff Cox, Mike Nerren and Parker Self are unopposed. Two judges are retiring and being replaced by unopposed candidates — Charles Jacobs will replace Judge John Robinson and Jeff Thompson will replace Judge Ford Stinson. Bossier City Judge Tommy Wilson is unopposed.
  • Plain Dealing Mayor Wiley Robinson is being challenged by Donna Canales.
  • Incumbent Marshal Ronnie Murray has two opponents, Tim Cannon and Chuck Spraggins.
  • Justice of the Peace districts will see — In District 1, longtime incumbent Tom Carleton is stepping down. Bill Shelton has filed for the position. Linda Hamiter, Cliff Cannon and Terry Sullivan will vie for District 3. Julia Budwah and Lorraine Ragsdale, the incumbents in Districts 4 and 5 respectively, are unopposed. District 6 will come down to Ron Eastridge, Charles Gray, David Cook and Michael Keith.
  • In the races for Constable, Scooter Rushing and Brandon Oswalt have filed in District 1. District 3 will see Jerry Jenkins, Stephen Smith, John Craft, Rick Blalock and Eddie Chandler vie for the position. Ron Matlock is the sole candidate in District 4, as is Charles Sholz in District 5. District 6 will see Jeffrey Weems, Wayne Berry and Kenneth Stephens vie for the spot.

Bossier-Webster District Attorney

Incumbent Schuyler Marvin said to be a good DA, you have to think outside the box.

“I’m not scared to try anything. If you tried something and it didn’t work to your satisfaction, I’m fine with that. But you’ve got to be willing to try different things,” he said.

He also noted being DA is about helping people and touted the Teen Court program as a way to do that.

“The kids who have been in trouble, actually become the judge and jury in the next kid’s problem. They are way more tough than some of the jurors in my criminal cases.”

He said the office’s budget is still high but are operating with less and the volume of work is increasing. My(assistant district attorneys) numbers haven’t changed. The volume in Bossier is more, but in Webster we operate a little differently. In Bossier, we have an ADA assigned to a particular judge. In Webster, every ADA goes in front of all the judges. That’s worked great and is not anything I would ever consider changing.”

He was also excited about trying to further the office’s truancy program.

“We didn’t have truancy in Webster Parish when I got elected, and I brought truancy here.

It’s been hugely successful,” said Marvin. “If you keep a kid in school, chances are you’re going to keep him out of the criminal justice system later.”

Whit Graves is challenging Marvin for the DA seat. He said he sees a problem in attention to detail and preparation by the current staff.

“We’re seeing too many cases that are unjustifiable with similar facts in the treatment of the two people are dramatically different. A lot of this comes from not paying attention to details of the case when they come from the police departments and not taking into consideration every aspect of the case,” said Graves. “Preparation is one of the problems I am seeing with the current district attorney’s office. Almost every assistant district attorney works there on a part-time basis.”

He said he wants to see the staff be better directed to achieve the objectives that will serve the area’s residents.

“There are a lot of competent people that are currently working for the district attorney’s office. What is missing is the proper direction and expectations of those staff members. They have the ability to do the work.”

Finally, Graves wants to see a Young Marines program in Webster and drug rehabilitation.

“I’ve got to try and coordinate with both parishes and their sheriffs to get a (Young Marines) program for our children who are almost out of control but can be brought back in and directed in the proper way to exist in our society. Other programs would be trying to rehabilitate through drug and alcohol substance abuse education, especially young people who have gotten in trouble for the first time.”

Bossier City Marshal

Bossier City Deputy Marshal Jim Whitman discusses his plans for the office.

As most know, the City Marshal’s office is responsible for courtroom security and service of legal papers – including the seizure of property, and whatever else the City Court mandates.  But Whitman explained that the Bossier Marshal’s office also includes a regionally noted cyber crimes unit, which has long processed cell phones and computers for a number of law enforcement agencies.

Whitman said he would like to expand the Marshal’s office cyber crimes unit a little more, adding a deputy to the Marshal’s staff in that unit.

Whitman also sees a need to upgrade the Marshal’s vehicle fleet.  He said that the fleet still includes some Ford Crown Victorias, and they will likely be replaced with either Chevy Tahoes or Suburbans.  And the plan includes following the city’s lead of moving to using CNG or alternative fuel vehicles. 

Whitman said he would also work to upgrade some of the equipment used in the cyber crimes unit lab.

In response to a question of adding any other personnel beyond the cyber crimes unit, Whitman said he’d have to replace himself if elected.  “But that’s a wash, I do the work of a deputy.  I don’t like to waste money, I’m not going to hire just to hire.”

Shreveport Deputy Marshal Carl Richard has worked in Marshal’s offices for 22 years, started that career in the Bossier City Marshal’s office in 1992.  He left Bossier in 1996 and has served as a deputy Shreveport City Marshal since 1997. 

He said that he’s familiar with every aspect of the Bossier City Marshal’s office, including the work of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforce, of which the Marshal’s office is member.

As it concerns court security, and along with security cameras and metal detectors, he discussed the advantage of having highly trained deputies in the courtroom.  Richard said he would favor sending court security deputies to the US Marshal’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia for training.  And he noted that former City Marshal Johnny Wyatt sent him to the training center when he worked for the Bossier Marshal’s office.

In addition, Richard would also send deputies to the US Marshal’s course for fugitive investigators that would increase training for serving high risk warrants and fugitive apprehension.

Richard plans a dedicated full-time two-man warrant team to execute bench warrants issued by the City Court. Richard would also like to create a joint task force between the Shreveport and Bossier City Marshal’s office to serve warrants on either side of the river.

And he’d maintain the ICAC presence in the Bossier Marshal’s office:  “I think it’s very valuable and I would keep it – forever.  I have children and I want to protect children … I would keep the deputies (presently) there in charge of it.  You can’t find experience like that.” Finally, Richard said he’d like to “do more with less” by using the office’s discretionary fund to save tax payer dollars.

New Millages

A proposition for a new millage concerns more secure funding for the Bossier Parish Council on Aging (COA).

Tamara Crane, Executive Director of the local COA explained that since 1974, this agency has been providing services to seniors with the goal of allowing the aging members of our community to stay at home and not be forced into institutional living for lack of alternatives.  Such alternatives/services include Meals on Wheels, assisting caregivers, and light housekeeping to name a few of the services.

Crane also noted that Bossier Parish touts our community as a good place to retire – and that our community should be one that works to allow our senior citizens to enjoy independent living to the greatest extent possible.

Funding sources for the many programs offered by the Bossier Parish COA include the federal Older Americans Act – which suffered budget cuts last year — and the state Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs (collectively, about 50 percent) and support from the Bossier Parish Police Jury and Bossier City (25 percent).  Additionally, the Town of Benton provides space for COA programs.  Finally about 25 percent of the agency’s funding comes from client contributions, donations, grants, and a small amount of Medicaid funding because the agency is a transportation provider.

Finally, Crane said that if parish voters approve the new 1 mill (1/10 of a cent) property tax, both Bossier City and Bossier Parish would discontinue their annual support of the agency.

Millage Renewals

One of the millage renewals is the 10-year renewal of the 7.57 mill property tax “for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, equipping, maintaining and operating the public library facilities and system” in the Parish.  This annual millage  collects about $7.2 million that’s dedicated exclusively to funding the library system.

Heather McEntee, Bossier Parish library system director, said the funding is used for “… upkeep of the eight facilities throughout the parish, plus all services offered … books, movies, and technology … we’re always upgrading the technology  – computers and components.” 

Tax receipts also pay the salaries/benefits of the system’s 90 employees, and a percentage of the millage receipts are dedicated to funding new facilities in the parish. Notably, McEntee pointed to construction of the new Elm Grove library facility – there was no request to taxpayers for additional funding for this construction because the funding was reserved from the annual millage receipts for such capital improvement projects.

CBB’s 1.54 mill property tax renewal will also be on the ballot.

The property tax millage produces about $985,000 per year; the park’s annual operating budget is $1.6 million.  The park employs 20 people.

This public park encompasses about 350 acres, with Cypress Lake  (3,300 acres) and Black Bayou (780 acres), all of which provided for a host of fishing, camping and recreation and special event opportunities.  The park features 75 RV spots in the dedicated area and another 20 overflow spots – and on holiday weekends like Memorial Day and July 4th, the RV areas are packed. Additionally the park includes three cabins and three cottages available to the public, along with a primitive camping area and three picnic shelters. 

CBB is also becoming a “go-to” facility for local, regional and national sports and recreation events.  Bossier Parish schools Cross Country event enjoyed record participation, the Regions Archery Tournament.  The USA Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals will be back as CBB and the Shreveport Bossier Sports Commission collaborates to bring more and more visitors to our area.

Public Service Commissioner

Incumbent Foster Campbell, a former Louisiana State Senator (Dist. 36), was elected to the Public Service Commission in 2002; he was re-elected in 2008, taking nearly 80 percent of the vote.  In District 5, he represents 24 parishes.

“I have fulfilled my promise to be an active and independent commissioner who fights for the interests of the people,” Campbell said.  “If re-elected in November I will continue that fight.”

A Bossier Parish businessman and cattle farmer, Campbell has led efforts at the PSC to lower utility rates by tying company profit levels to lower borrowing costs.  He has supported solar power, expanded telephone and Internet service and tougher ethics rules for commissioners.

At the PSC Campbell authored rules exempting battered women from utility deposits and preventing gas and electric cutoffs during extreme weather.  In his former position as a state senator he coauthored the Do Not Call law, passed Youth Hunting Days and created multi-million-dollar endowment funds for education in Bossier Parish and statewide.

“I have held more than 160 town meetings throughout the 24 parishes in my North Louisiana district,” Campbell said.  “And for the first time in history I have hosted 11 full PSC meetings in North Louisiana.”

Gates said he decided to run against Campbell because he spends too much time on the PSC focusing on energy efficiency and phone regulations for jails.

According to the Hayride website, Gates said the phone program for jails was estimated to cost roughly $30 million over a four year period, but actual costs are essentially unknown at this point because the commission voted down an attempt to require the utilities to place information on individual utility bills regarding the costs to the individual consumer and how the money is spent.

“We have watched as our commissioner has sided with the prisoners over the police and the people, with the jailbirds over the jailers,” said Gates via the website. “The actions of our commissioner have jeopardized our public safety by decreasing local law enforcement’s ability to charge for prisoner phone calls.”

Constitutional Amendments

Voters will have to decide to approve 14 proposed constitutional amendments on the statewide November 4 ballot.

Voters can study the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana “PAR Guide to the 2014 Constitutional Amendments,” for a clear and concise review of the proposals. PAR offers an excellent and non-partisan review of the proposed amendments, which includes overviews of the current situation (where applicable), along with what the proposal or proposed change entails, and a look at what proponents and opponents assert about each proposal. 

Visit http://www.parlouisiana.com/guidetotheconstitutionalamendments.cfm to see the amendment on the ballot.

New hotel/motel tax for tourism dollars

Voters will also decide on a two percent Hotel Occupancy Tax Proposition, on the ballot this November 4.

The increased revenue will go to upgrade the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance and Independence Bowl as well as help fund the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commissio.

The tax would be levied on visitors staying at local hotels, motels and campgrounds and is expected to generate an estimated $2.2 million annually without the need to increase taxes for local residents.

The Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance will receive 37.5 percent of the revenue raised from the proposition in its efforts to expand hub destinations at the Shreveport Regional Airport. Another 37.5 percent of the revenue raised will support the Independence Bowl in attracting stronger football match-ups. The final 25 percent of the tax revenue will be used by the Shreveport Bossier Sports Foundation to attract more national and regional sporting events that will increase sports tourism and benefit local businesses.