Q&A: Mayor Adrian Perkins speaks on Shreveport going into 2022
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - In his first interview of the year, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins spoke with KSLA News 12 about how 2021 was for the city, as well as looking towards this next year.
Mayor, how would you describe 2021 for the city of Shreveport?
“I would describe 2021 with mixed emotions. Obviously there is a lot to brag about as far as economic development goes. The unemployment rate in 2021 was lower than what it was pre-pandemic. A lot of people were back to work in our city. We announced the largest economic development project in a couple of decades here, so economic development-wise we did really well here. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still here. It was raging through our community in 2021. We lost a lot of family members and citizens of our community. Also crime; we are not happy with the way violent crime is at all in our community. So we have some things to celebrate about 2021 but we also know that we have areas we need to improve in as well.”
Last year there were several bond proposals on the ballot. The one for public safety passed. Can we get a timeline for when we will see things that bond will be affecting as well as the plan for the city needs in the bonds that were not passed?
“Timeline for the bond proposition that passed is 2023. We cannot spend those funds until 2023. We are still a year out from that but with this year we have to make sure to utilize that time as best as possible. There’s a lot of planning that can go into how we are going to set up that new police facility, how we are going to move around our officers to those substations. So a lot of planning is going to take place this year so in 2023 we can get those shovels in the ground and get those projects up and moving as soon as possible. The other city needs as far as our water system, as far as our roads, we are going to continue to make do with what we have and what are have is an operating budget. We know our operating budget is much healthier today than when we came into office, we inherited a million dollar deficit, but it’s still not large enough to really put in place those large scale projects with our roads, with our water system to get it up to where we need it to be. We are going to make do with what we have and one of those benchmarks we need to stay ahead of is the federal consent degree that we are under to make sure we have an appropriate sanitation system here in the city of Shreveport. So we are going to make sure that we are going to cooperate with the Department of Justice, the EPA and we are going to have to stay on top of that project to make sure that we have clean water and a great sanitation system here. We will do it. We know we have enough resources and we will have to get innovative as well but we will be able to do those things.”
Recently the civil service exam scores were released for the SPD Chief applicants. Can you talk about your response to the scores, what’s next in the selection process, and an update on how things are going in the selection process for the next fire chief?
“We got those scores just yesterday and we’ve been sifting through them. I’ve been working alongside CAO Henry Whitehorn who is a former police chief so obviously I got someone with a lot of expertise sitting right beside me on this. We are looking at it right now and will be making a decision in 2022 for the permanent fire and police chiefs and are in the process of choosing the leadership right now. The leadership that we choose we know for a fact need to very much embrace and internalize our values. When it comes to a police chief we are looking at someone who can really help us continue to bridge the civil law enforcement divide here and really pursue community-oriented policing as aggressive as possible and make sure our community is as safe as possible. Those are the characteristics and traits we are looking for. No timeline as of now, but I will tell you we are not looking to put together a committee. We are going to make the decision here at city hall on both of those positions. We will move forward with it in that way but I do not have a set timeline as of now. We are going to take as much time as we need. We are not going to rush this decision because of how important they are. The two chiefs of public safety that will be leading our city into the future and we need to make sure we do our due diligence and we get the right people in those jobs.”
One of the major announcements towards the end of last year was potential pay raises for city employees. It’s on the city council agenda next week. Have you spoken to the council members and believe this is going to get passed?
“Yeah I started my day off with an 8 a.m. call with a council member, I had a 9 o’clock call with a council member and when I finish up with this interview I have another call with another council member. We are talking a lot about these pay raises and really the sticking point is making sure we have a sustainable model to give out these pay raises. So right now, we are still very much encouraged that we will get it through. We know we have the dollars on hand for the next couple of years, but we need to make sure we are setting the city up in a financially strong position moving forward and not going backwards like what we inherited. That’s the conversation right now and I am confident we will get this passed.”
One thing on every residents mind is crime in the city. The Real Time Crime Center is up and running and the city is working with businesses to set up cameras. Last October, the national public safety partnership was announced between the city, SPD, and the DOJ. What can residents expect when it comes to combatting crime this year?
“In 2022 residents can expect us to be doubling down on our efforts as far as making Shreveport safer. We have the Real Time Crime Center up and running already. There’s 150 cameras they have access to at this point. We are finalizing a deal with SWEPCO to where we are about to start hanging cameras on polls throughout the city so we will have multiples of that by the end of this year to really reduce crime. So that’s going to be a technology tool we are going to use, but also with pay raises are going to help retain the officers that we already have in our city. We are still over 100 officers down. Those pay raises and the bond are going to do a whole lot when it comes to retaining and recruiting more officers. We will hopefully be able to see that gap close in 2022. That’s a big ambition for us as far as public safety goes. We have a lot of plans for 2022. We are focused on making sure our city is going to be safer so residents should expect the administration to be as proactive as possible but I am going to tell the residents what I tell them each and every time: we are going to need y’all to remain as close to us and supportive of us as possible as well. This isn’t just something the city of Shreveport can accomplish with reducing crime in our community. It’s something we all have to accomplish as the city of Shreveport. If you see something, you have to say something. You have to alert us as to what’s going on. We have to make sure we are doing all that we can in our households to keep people safe and have people making the right decisions as well.”
There’s going to be several major developments for not only Shreveport, but northwest Louisiana in 2022. The Amazon Fulfillment Center will be opening and last month, several companies announced multimillion dollar investments coming to NWLA. How do you see job growth going for the city this year?
“I know it may be hard to fathom for citizens out there listening in but 2022 has the potential to be even bigger than 2021 when it comes to jobs in our community. We are still poised to get thousands of jobs here in Shreveport so now it’s more important than ever to make sure we have strong workforce development programs, that our citizens are getting paid livable wages so they are working out there and bringing in enough dollars to have a stable household. Right now, economic wise, we are doing phenomenal and I can tell you there’s a lot more in store for 2022. We are bringing in a lot of businesses, we just have to make sure that we as a community are prepared to fill in those jobs and make those businesses even better.”
What is the main thing you want residents to know going into 2022?
“I want to talk about two things: community development when it comes to public safety. Community development spending will be twice as much in 2022 than we have in 2021 and 2020 as well. That number is doubling on a range of things including housing to workforce development. It really goes through a holistic approach on solving the crime problem in Shreveport. You can’t just put a bunch of officers out in the street and expect crime to go away. You have to make sure you’re giving people opportunities and community development is doing a phenomenal job at that right now and they will continue to do that in 2022. Before the end of this month Ledbetter Housing, apart of the Choice Neighborhoods Project, is going to be opening up and receiving applications. There’s just so much in store the community development has for the citizens here and I’m excited about that. That has to be apart of our public safety plan so I want the citizens to know about that. The second thing is this year we will be spending $3 million to help bridge the digital divide here in Shreveport. One of those projects is going to start off quite early, within the next couple of days. We will be putting WiFi at Hattie Perry Park. There will be free WiFi broadcast in the park to the residents around the area that don’t have access to reliable, affordable internet. That is a huge, huge thing for our community. We all know how difficult it was for some families during the pandemic when it came to virtual learning, virtual work so this $3 million investment in bridging the digital divide will go a long way and be transformative for a lot of citizens. In general I want people to know in 2022 we have the potential to make it even better than 2021 and 2020. 2022 can be a year that’s one for the decades here in Shreveport, but that really depends on all of us being engaged and having faith in our community that we can continue to progress. I just want the citizens to know I know there is a lot out there that we are concerned about but again, if we really lock arms and have faith in our city, invest in our city, 2022 we can solve those problems and push our city to a completely different level. We have to stay engaged and have to have faith. We have to continue loving our city and we will be more than fine and continue to prosper.”
This year there will be a mayoral race in the city. Have you had those conversations and are considering running?
“Absolutely. I’ve already made an announcement a couple different times that I am running for re-election so this is a re-election year for me, but I can tell you that the business of the city won’t skip a beat because it’s a mayoral year either. We are going to continue to do our job, we are going to continue to try and make this city safer, we are going to try and continue to bring in jobs to give people opportunities, ad we are going to continue to use technology to improve our quality of life. We are not going to slow down on that whatsoever. Yeah it’s a mayoral year, but we are going to continue to work hard for the city of Shreveport.”
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