Last week the City Council voted to uphold their original decision to close some Rail Road crossings in Shreveport in order to facilitate a new crossing in the Shreve Park area. Much has already been said about this, but I thought I should add my two cents to the conversation.
I believe that the Council made the wrong choice for the right reasons. I say this because I firmly believe that the closings never should have occurred without a public hearing, and much better means of communicating to those who would be affected. The Council has got to be more open to the citizens who voted them in, they need to implement policy dictating the needed levels of communication for all major decisions.
One thing that I think would help is actual websites for the City Council members, so that citizens can be kept up to date on things going on in their district and the city as a whole. It could list upcoming public hearings, have a place to sign up for email alerts, show detailed maps of the districts, have the agendas for the meetings, contact information, maybe even polls and a blog for council members. Right now all you get is a picture, some contact information, and a vague map of the districts. We need to take advantage of all the technology available to us.
The decision was made for the right reason though, and I understood why they voted the way they did. If Shreveport is going to be seen as business friendly, we must keep our word. If we are known as promise breakers, no company will trust us when we try to convince them to bring their operations to Shreveport. We cannot be seen as going back on our word when companies such as Coca Cola have invested millions of dollars based on our promise, and especially not when we had already signed a contract with Union Pacific.
On a brighter note, the Council took a big step in the right direction by unanimously passing an ordinance requiring better notification of future crossing closing so that the people know what is going on and have a fair chance to argue their side before the Council.
The way this was all handled is unfortunate, and I truly felt for the people who spoke against the closings- but in all honesty it was way too late to change anything. I am very sad that this has caused so many people to be hurt, and to lose faith in their elected officials, I can only hope that we all learned a valuable lesson and will not repeat our mistakes.