Saturday, October 28, 2017

Evi's Schnitzel Haus and Biergarten Zum Roten Fluss: Germany Comes to Shreveport

Evi Bradford
There is so much written and posted about Shreveport these days that is negative that sometimes it's really necessary for us to stop and look at the bright spots.

I'd like to highlight one of those bright spots here.

By now, most in Shreveport know we now have a fabulous German restaurant in town.  Evi's Schnitzel Haus first opened on North Market but quickly realized that the perfect location for their business would be the empty Tudor-style building on Shreveport-Barksdale Highway which originally housed Steak & Lobster and most recently Athena.

Since their move into the new location business has taken off, word has spread, and even better, the
community has truly embraced and fallen in love with this family.

Evi Bradford was born and raised in Giessen, Germany; she grew up working in her mother's restaurant and while it wasn't her favorite thing to do, she learned her way around a kitchen and around the food service industry.  She married an American serviceman and they have a beautiful family here in Shreveport all of whom work in the restaurant.

When you go to the restaurant you will see her boys at the door to greet you and Evi in the kitchen but when things slow down she will run out and sit down and talk to you.  She likes to know her customers and likes to hear their stories of Germany.  She's as warm and sweet as anyone I've ever met and has a smile that makes you feel like you've known her forever.  She laughs easily and when she does her eyes sparkle; it's easy to tell she is doing what she loves.

Jaeger Schnitzel
Evi describes her food as "German comfort food."  At the restaurant you can get the tenderest, most delicious schnitzel you've ever tasted; there are a variety of sauces and gravies that can top your
schnitzel.  Jaeger Schnitzel has a rich brown mushroom gravy while the Zweibel Schnitzel (my favorite) is topped with brown gravy and delicious carmelized onions.  There are several other varieties from which to choose.

If you want something smaller, brats are available, or Curry Wurst.   I almost always order the Geschnetzeltes which I can only compare to a beef stroganoff.  It's delicious.

Sides include Gurkensalat, which is a thinly sliced cucumber salad with a touch of dill, or you could go for the traditional Sauerkrat or Rotkraut.  Also popular is the Spaetzle, a sort of soft egg noodle, or Spaetzle with cheese.

The menu at the restaurant is continually growing with new additions coming soon like Rouladen and goulash.

A happy pretzel
The restaurant is family oriented and the staff and customers alike are always friendly; people come in and end up sharing memories of their trips to Germany.  As a testament to how this community has embraced the family,  One wall of the restaurant is covered with a German Schrank, or large cabinet unit, which is filled with items customers have brought to Evi such as German beer steins, Volksmarch medals and canes, commemorative plates, and glassware.  The only thing in the Schrank that Evi actually contributed is two teacups that belonged to her mother.

The family has big plans for the restaurant and they now have opened a new venture: Biergarten Zum Roten Fluss, or Beer Garden on the Red River.  It's located at the foot of the bridge at 1303 Shreveport-Barksdale Highway.

The Biergarten is in a sort of soft-opening right now - the decor is not finished and not very German yet, but that's coming.  What's fabulous about the Biergarten is the huge selection of imported German beer, both in bottles and on tap, that you can select.  Not a beer drinker?  There' is also an excellent variety of German wine to choose from as well as other traditional bar choices.  Right now it's only open Thursday - Saturday, but those hours will expand soon.

The Biergarten is also offering a few light food choices that are different from the restaurant: we had a huge, soft pretzel that was delicious, and Knackwurst.  You can also order wings and fries.  Right now they're offering a "value meal" which is eight wings, fries, dipping sauces, and a flight of four German draft beers for $20.

Evi gave us a sample of a wonderfully rich beer-cheese soup she's going to introduce there soon, and there will eventually be a cold cuts and cheese platter available.
Giant Jenga

The Biergarten also offers some fun pub games like this giant Jenga style game.  In nice weather
there is a patio on the front of the building which will be a great place to sit outside and enjoy your beer or food.  There's a large stage at one end of the building where they will bring in live music, karaoke, and fun contests, like drinking out of the German Beer Boot.  I'm really looking forward to see what they do with Oktoberfest next year!

This family is committed to Shreveport-Bossier and is growing their business because of the love and support our community has shown.  When you have a good product and you don't skimp on portions or quality, and you offer top-notch customer service, you will be successful in the food service industry and Evi Bradford and her husband know that.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Caddo Commission Opens the Proverbial Can of Worms

The Caddo Commission meeting last week, on October 19, was a choreographed waste of taxpayer time as obviously the vote on the Confederate monument was already in long before the meeting ever took place.  The vote to remove the monument was 7-5, but everyone knew two things going in to the meeting:

1. The vote would be to remove; every Commissioner had already signaled their vote.  There was no suspense whatsoever and no use for the citizen comments.  The intention to remove was made perfectly clear when the Commission rejected the recommendation of their own Citizens Advisory Committee. 
2. The vote would be purely symbolic.  The Commission knows that the monument does not belong to them - this is not contested.  The Commission also knows that there is a pending lawsuit filed by John Settle for the purpose of determining who owns the land underneath the monument.

The forerunner of the Caddo Commission, The Caddo Parish Police Jury, donated that parcel of land to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903, a donation which is recorded in the Police Jury minutes.  That no property deed was ever executed is the Parish's evidence that they own the land, but in fact, the heirs of Larkin Edwards may be the owners of that parcel and the entire courthouse square as no deed for that entire block can be found either.

It's a can of worms.

 The official parish position is that they own the land -- that the courthouse has been there since the early part of the 1900s and ownership has passed to the parish through what amounts to frontier rights. An opposing position is that the courthouse square belongs to the descendants of Larkin Edwards, a friend of the Caddo Indians who sold much of the land that was the original Shreveport.  
There is no record that proves Edwards ever sold the land that is now the courthouse square. Early maps show it was to be a Public Square.

Women weren't allowed to vote and had virtually no property rights in 1903 so it's not surprising that no deed was issued.

And what of "squatter's rights," or adverse possession?

This one will be a tangled knot for the judges and attorneys to unravel and is sure to play out in the courts for years -- all at a cost to the Caddo taxpayer.

The cost to move the monument will be exorbitant.  Despite claims in the meeting last week that the monument is "just a piece of concrete," it is in fact a priceless and irreplaceable work of art, regardless of how one feels about the subject matter.

The 20' x 20' base is indeed concrete, but Clio, The Muse of History, is carved from white marble and the four generals are carved from hard gray Texas granite.  There is a 12' tall column upon which a youthful soldier of white marble stands, and he is about 7' tall.

Much, much more than a piece of concrete.

The ownership of the monument is not contested.  It belongs to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a heritage organization founded in 1894.  The UDC is a non-profit organization and is currently raising money for their legal defense fund.  You can contribute either online or with a check.  Go to the UDC website or Facebook page.

At any rate, the meeting on October 19 was pure choreography.  The room was standing room only filled with "citizens" who wanted the monument removed.  To someone who had not been paying attention to this process, one would believe the entire city wants this monument removed.  At one point in the meeting, Caddo Commission President Steven Jackson asked those in the room in favor of removal to stand and I'd say 95% of the room stood up.  Pure choreography (I doubt he would have suggested that had he not already known the answer).

Some of the citizen comments were simply outlandish nonsense, some had valid points or concerns, and maybe the most moving was the 81-year old woman in the wheelchair who spoke for removal and reminisced about how dangerous it was for blacks back in those days.

I heard one comment after another about "Bloody Caddo" - a phrase I've seldom heard in my 58 years living here.  I've read lots of history about our neighboring parishes, Caddo and Bossier, and know plenty of atrocities took place here as in many other places in the South, but I've never heard "Bloody Caddo" mentioned by so many people in so short a time as in that meeting.  Was that coincidence?

One woman came up and spoke about the stench of the smoke and blood, and about brains being blown out, body parts in trees, and such.

It went on for a couple of hours and it was after 6:00 before the Commissioners began putting their two-cents on record, but of course it was already done.

It was a circus, a sham.

Within hours the United Daughters of the Confederacy filed for an injunction to stop the removal as everyone knew would happen.

The Caddo Commission resolution for removal does not say when the monument will be moved, where it will be moved or stored, and does not mention any kind of structural engineer to examine the monument in order to prevent damage.  Since they don't own the monument the Commission (aka taxpayer) will be responsible for any damages cause in the move.  They will also, in all likelihood, be responsible for damages incurred as the monument loses status on the National Historic Register because of the removal.

Commission President Steven Jackson said the attorney fees will not cost anything as legal action will be handled "in house" but don't we pay the salary for the parish attorney now?  And if he thinks the Commission won't have to outsource some of this legal work and hire an attorney, he's way off the mark.  This is going to go on for years and be very, very expensive.

The only winners will be the attorneys.

You can thank the Commission for that.  By the way, they will be bringing up millage renewals soon - remember that as you consider how prudent this Commission is with your tax dollars.

Anyone want to start looking for the heirs of Larkin Edwards?  Start here.

Previous Posts on This Blog:
On Mysterious Flowers and Monuments (9/17/17)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Chance for Change at Caddo Parish Animal Services is Here

The advocates for the animals at Caddo Parish Animal Services may finally have some hope on the horizon.  If you haven't yet seen the Work Session agenda for October 16, take a look at item 8.III, the second PDF file which is entitled "Proposed Internal Audit Process."

This might be very, very good news.

As you recall, Commissioner Matthew Linn has a proposal on the table to amend the Home Rule Charter to allow for an outside audit of departmental procedures in Caddo Parish government.  This was a subject of some hot debate in the October 2 work session and on which I reported here.  The proposal, if the Commission allowed, would have to come before the voters of Caddo Parish and of course this would be costly and time consuming.

Now there appears to be a compromise on the table.

You can read the entire PDF of the new proposal by Mr. Wilson, but I'll excerpt some points here.

Wilson already has the authority, and duty, to establish a system for internal audit of the affairs of the parish. It appears now that the commissioners will have more input into which departments get audited and when.  The audit plan will now come before the Caddo Commission "for review and approval."  And "any changes made in the audit plan would require the approval of the Commission."

So, to me, that sounds like a little transparency and oversight.

I know, we don't trust the Commission, but let's stay with this for a minute.

This is the part I like:

A third-party contractor from the approved list from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.  

This is good.

Then this:

"The selected audit firm shall be independent of all the programs, functions, operations, and activities that will be audited, to ensure the impartiality and credibility of the audit work undertaken."
Even better! 

And first on the audit list?

That's right, Caddo Parish Animal Services.

The audit findings will be presented to the Parish Administrator and CEO, and the Commission and that should also me us, the public.

We need that transparency.

Go read the whole proposal for yourself.  I don't speak legalese and we need as many sharp eyes on this process as possible.

This proposal must go through.  It will save taxpayers the cost of an election and it will save much time for the animals that are at CPAS.  The original proposal to amend the charter and to force this audit issue will take at least two years to get into place; this offers a compromise by Wilson and a move in the right direction.

We will still need an effective leader at CPAS.

If you can, go to the meeting Monday at Government Plaza.   Let them know you are watching.

Doug Dominick: District 1
Lyndon B. Johnson: District 2
Steven Jackson: District 3
Matthew Linn: District 4
Jerald Bowman: District 5
Lynn Cawthorne: District 6
Stormy Gage-Watts: District 7
Mike Middleton: District 8
John Atkins: District 9
Mario Chavez: District 10
Jim Smith: District 11
Louis Johnson: District 12

Further Reading:
SIGIS: Caddo Commissioner: Give Transparency a Chance
The Shreveport Times: Caddo Commission Mulls Over Adding Independent Auditor
The Shreveport Times:  Out of Control Animal Shelter
Association of Local Government Auditors
SIGIS:  Problems at Caddo Animal Shelter Continue

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Chance for Caddo Animal Shelter: Let the Citizens Have a Voice

Marley is a typical example of what happens to dogs at Caddo Parish Animal Services.

A dog is brought in as a stray, or is owner-surrendered.  The dog might be perfectly healthy, as Marley is.  On intake, Marley is heart worm negative.  Thin, but otherwise fairly healthy and so considered "adoptable."

Adoptable dogs are put inside in plexiglass and cinderblock kennels with concrete floors.  The walls are painted in glaring neon colors.  The sound of barking dogs echo through the facility.  Over time a dog gets "kennel crazy" - sort of like cabin fever in humans.  A dearth of human interaction, constant noise, complete over stimulation.  It gets to you.

When this happens, the dog might become "aggressive" or just stir crazy and so is then moved to the "rescue only"  side of the shelter which is outside in the elements; there are usually several dogs in a kennel and they often have to fight for food.  Dogs like Marley will lose even more weight and eventually become unhealthy.

Our local rescues can only pull so many dogs.  Their funds are limited and donations get maxed out quickly.  Vet bills add up.

So dogs like Marley enter that downward spiral toward euthanasia.

Then we end up with high kill rates.

When Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn proposed an amendment to the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter in the October 2 work session that would help change the situation at CPAS, most of the commissioners were in favor and recognize that CPAS is "failing miserably," as Commissioner Mario Chavez said in his remarks.

Three of our commissioners, however, don't see a problem, and as I noted earlier in the week, interim Commissioner Louis Johnson thinks we have administrators in place "who are doing a great job."  That may be true in some departments but certainly not with regard to the animal shelter.

Caddo Parish Animal services euthanizes at least half as many dogs as they take in and the percentage is far higher with cats.

CPAS stats: September 2017

Of course part of that is due to the citizenry who refuses to spay/neuter their animals.  But there have been far too many grievous problems and examples of bad policy, procedure, and mismanagement at our shelter that could be improved upon.  Why does this cycle continue?

Commissioner Linn's proposal to change the charter to allow for an outside auditor is a step in the right direction, however some in our community see this as simply "a political ploy" and said "Commissioners like Matthew Linn have no credibility."  (That was a comment on Facebook when I shared my last blog post.  I don't want to call out the commenter by name).

This is disheartening.  Commissioner Linn is trying to do the right thing, trying to implement known best practices in government, and this is something that should have been done long ago.  In fact, had an auditor been involved back when administrators offered CPERS to the commissioners perhaps that tangled mess could have been avoided.

This is mixing apples and oranges.

This is now.

NOW is the time to fix this shelter and turn it into something we can be proud of.

What we need to focus on is not egos but on the animals like Marley who are at this moment suffering because there is nobody in charge to fix this problem and literally no other hope on the horizon for them outside of this proposed amendment.

We all need to unite in this issue.  We need to quit mixing issues and blaming people for past transgressions that have nothing whatsoever to do with this issue.

We have three commissioners who opposed the proposal: Doug Dominick, Louis Johnson, and John Atkins, and they oppose it for different reasons.

Mr. Dominick opposes primarily the cost to the voters.  By that theory the Caddo Commission should never place any more issues on the ballot.

Mr. Johnson, who is up for re-election October 14, believes things are great the way they are.

Mr. Atkins favors a new committee.

As I recall, the Commission rejected the recommendation of their last formed committee so I don't see the purpose of this.

As Mr. Linn pleaded in the October 2 sessionn, "Give transparency a chance."

I would add, let's give animals like Marley a chance, and the hundreds of other animals who will face stress, hunger, exposure to disease, and euthanization before this is resolved.

Call or email your commissioner and ask them to support this proposal; and remember, all Mr. Linn is asking the Commissioners to do is to bring this issue before the voters.  Ultimately, we get to decide whether or not to change the Home Rule Charter.  Why can't we have a voice?

Doug Dominick: District 1
Lyndon B. Johnson: District 2
Steven Jackson: District 3
Matthew Linn: District 4
Jerald Bowman: District 5
Lynn Cawthorne: District 6
Stormy Gage-Watts: District 7
Mike Middleton: District 8
John Atkins: District 9
Mario Chavez: District 10
Jim Smith: District 11
Louis Johnson: District 12

Further Reading:
SIGIS: Caddo Commissioner: Give Transparency a Chance
The Shreveport Times: Caddo Commission Mulls Over Adding Independent Auditor
The Shreveport Times:  Out of Control Animal Shelter
Association of Local Government Auditors
SIGIS:  Problems at Caddo Animal Shelter Continue

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Caddo Commissioner: "Give Transparency a Chance"

Caddo Parish Commission Work Session: 10/2/17
The Shreveport Times published a powerful Letter to the Editor last week about the abysmal failure of the Caddo Parish Animal facility that needs to go viral:

Jack Whitehead writes:

Something's wrong here: we have a Caddo Parish administrator in charge of an animal control operation that is obviously out of control. Check the record. Woody Wilson keeps doing the same thing in hiring incompetent animal shelter managers while expecting a different result.  
When does someone start asking meaningful questions about Dr. Wilson's competence here? Does he get supervision? Then, too, what will it take for him to even start thinking about privatizing our "if in doubt, kill 'em" animal sheltering program?  
Management by government isn't working. Management via private means, with public financing, would give us a chance to find managers motivated to make this operation work — for the animals and for us, the citizens. We could do right things right, if we just tried, for a change.

You know the cycle to which he refers.  Something horrific happens at CPAS, like mistakenly euthanizing the wrong cat or dogs tagged for rescue mistakenly being euthanized,  and the animal community gets up in arms.  We all march down to the Caddo Commission meeting, rail at the commissioners for their ineptitude, and nothing changes.  We might write letters or blog posts, we might organize meetings with our commissioners, but nothing changes.

Many politicians and citizens not involved in the animal community refer to us as "those crazy animal people."

We now have a chance for change, and I'm not talking about yet another new director of CPAS.

At the Caddo Commission work session on October 2, Commissioner Matthew Linn introduced
a proposal to amend the Home Rule Charter under which the Commission operates and allow for a provision for the Commission to hire an independent auditor.

Simply put, the way the Commission now works, the parish audits itself.  It's the equivalent of  Parish Administrator Woody Wilson writing his own test and grading it himself.

What Linn has figured out is that an outside audit is needed if anything is going to change.  It's simply good government.  Why wouldn't we want to follow known Best Practices in government and allow more transparency in what is going on in our local government?  There are legislative guidelines for local governmental bodies to follow and the Caddo Commission is not following those guidelines by virtue of their charter.

My theory is that Caddo Animal Services is just a distraction for whatever is going on elsewhere in the parish. Why does Mr. Wilson keep installing people to head that department who are inept?  If we are all up in arms about a mistakenly euthanized cat then we aren't paying attention to anything else.  The Parish Administrator should have fixed this ongoing problem and inept department by now.  I'm not saying anything nefarious is happening elsewhere in other areas of parish government, but how do we know?

Local animal advocate Cindy Marrus passionately appealed to the Commission on October 2, and in
Cindy Marrus: CPC Work Session 10/2/17
her three minutes recapped the latest atrocity at CPAS and pleaded, "How can you allow what's happening out there?  Aren't you embarrassed?  Don't you have pride?  Don't you care?"  Her tone was pleading and sorrowful - she wasn't ranting.  (You can listen to her remarks here; skip ahead to about 8:56).

Under Linn's proposal, the Commission could call for an audit of any department under their purview, including Animal Services.  You would think this would be a welcome change to the Home Rule Charter which currently does not provide for this.

During the meeting on October 2, Linn noted that he had provided literature about Best Practices in auditing and local government to the commissioners and some had even attended a meeting about it. He's done the research.

Ultimately, the voters have to approve this; all Linn is asking the Commission to do is to bring it before the voters.

Three commissioners voted against the proposal: Doug Dominick, John Atkins, and Louis Johnson.

Mr. Dominick said his concern is the cost of bringing this before the voters: if done in a special election (which nobody suggested) it would cost $225,000, but done during another regular election, like our mayoral election for example, the cost would be around $20,000.  Dominick also suggested that this should wait until the committee that meets every four years to discuss the Home Rule Charter convenes.  They last met in 2016 so my question to Mr. Dominick is how many more animals are you willing to see killed before you wait for this committee to meet in three more years?

Mr. Dominick suggested that a committee to audit financial issues might be okay but not operational issues.  "That's a whole 'nother ball of wax," he said.

But what if operations are your problem?

John Atkins expressed concern about changing the current charter and said that he believes the Commission could achieve the same results by forming an audit committee, which in essence is the same as I said before: writing and grading your own test.  This is not transparent and subject to a host of political shenanigans, vote trading, bargaining, etc., - not that I'm suggesting anyone would do that, but clearly an independent audit is preferred and is a known best practice.

Incredibly, to me, Louis Johnson said he thinks things are just fine the way they are.  He said, "We have people in place who are doing a great job...".  It seems that Mr. Johnson confused the issue as a no-confidence vote against Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, and that's simply not what's on the table. While Mr. Johnson said that we can offer compassion to the woman whose cat was euthanized, he said he was offering "a confidence vote for what we have in place."  So, the abysmal failure of CPAS is just fine with Louis Johnson.

Mr. Johnson, by the way, is serving as interim Commissioner after the resignation of Ken Epperson.  The election for this seat will be October 14.

Remember, all that Mr. Linn is asking them at this point is to bring this issue before the voters - asking for the authority to have an independent audit of parish departments if needed. In concurrence,  Lyndon Johnson noted "what we're doing is not working," because the charter right now does not allow for independent audits.  In the meeting Johnson also noted that "we know there are issues with animal services and we need to make a change and see if we can do something different."

Steven Jackson said, "I felt sort of remiss when I heard about this.  This is not a slight on's about asking the citizens what is their preferred method for best practices."

Commissioner Chavez agreed: "Caddo Parish Animal Services has failed...We keep putting our trust in what's not working.  Something's got to give."

The list of atrocities at CPAS is lengthy, from selling animals out the back door, to bestiality, and countless accidental incidents of euthanization. It's been going on for over a decade.  Clearly the Commissioners, nor anyone else, know exactly what's going on there.  Just try and volunteer at CPAS - good luck on that.

In truth the only person that knows what's going on in all departments of parish government is Parish Administrator Woody Wilson; the Caddo Commission does not because there's no transparency.  As Parish Administrator, we expect that Woody Wilson would want to utilize known Best Practices in government and offer transparency to voters, animal advocates, citizens.  He should be advocating for this change in charter.  He is not.

Linn said at the work session, "Yes, it's going to cost $20,000 to put this on the ballot but it's worth it to let the citizens vote and see if they want us to follow what is known as Best Practices...Give transparency a chance."

I think he's right.

Everyone in Caddo Parish should advocate for this, and to appeal to your Commissioner to support this.  Don't we want transparency?  Don't we want to ensure accountability?  Look at what the City uncovered when the water department was audited!  We have a chance to change.

If the Commissioners could fix CPAS, they would.  They can't because they can't get involved in the departmental operations there.  This proposal would give them the authority to do that and to uncover the Wizard behind the screen.

Find your Commissioner here. Ask them to support this amendment.

Further Reading:
Shreveport Times:  Caddo Commission Mulls Adding Independent Auditor
Shreveport Times:  Out of Control Animal Shelter
Association of Local Government Auditors

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Courthouse Compromise to Appease All

Caddo Courthouse interior
There are few historians in our area I admire more than John Andrew Prime.  Mr. Prime was recently a member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee appointed by the Caddo Parish Commission for the purpose of determining the fate of the contested Caddo Parish Confederate monument which stands on the north side of the courthouse on a small parcel of land given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy by the Caddo Parish Police Jury in 1903.

That Citizens Advisory Committee voted to make a recommendation to the Caddo Parish Commission to leave the Confederate monument in place and to erect two additional monuments: one to Reconstruction and one to Civil Rights.  This recommendation was the result of months of town hall meetings with the citizens of Caddo parish and the result of study of hundreds of emails and comments from these citizens.

In the end, the Commission rejected the hard work of the committee and in a recent meeting voted to move the Confederate monument.

Mr. Prime, on the other hand, a voice of reason in all this madness, is on the right track.

Mr. Prime realizes that a community divided can only fall upon itself.

Mr. Prime has proposed a grand compromise.

If a Confederate monument standing on courthouse grounds insults Lady Justice and impedes the right of a fair trial for some of our citizens, then we should move the courthouse.

It's not a folly or a whim.

It makes good sense.

Mr. Prime wrote in The Shreveport Times on September 20, 2017:

On the other hand, removing the courthouse to a bigger, better location provides a remedy for the justice complaints and most other ills opposed by the howling anti-history mob. Turning the current courthouse into a museum, dedicated in part to telling the local story of the Civil War, the Reconstruction that led to bloody decades that led in turn to today's era of Civil Rights, also offers an alternative sure to kindle further public debate and discourse, as well as a tourism opportunity of the first order. No doubt the public, as well as historians from many walks of life in Shreveport and Caddo Parish, could offer suggestions for the building.  
 An alternative to building a new courthouse might be to repurpose a building on land already indebted to the city or parish, with copious parking, easily accessible by modern highways. 
What about Mall St. Vincent, the recipient of public largess recently through $16 million in upgrades by the city, owned by Canadian developers following insolvency declarations and reportedly available almost for the asking? It's right off I-49 and I-20, has tons of parking, and is easily accessible from most parts of Shreveport.

How about that!  A solution to appease all sides!


The Caddo Parish Courthouse is actually outdated for modern use and a new courthouse is certainly needed.  The current building is architecturally and historically significant and has been renovated through the years to include new elevators, plumbing, and electrical upgrades.  It's perfect for a museum.

Why not use currently owned Caddo parish land on Cross Bayou for the site of a new courthouse?  Shreveport has a Triple A bond rating which means we can borrow money at a low interest rate - why not use that?  And I'm willing to bet that private investors would even step up to invest in this civil compromise if for no other reason than to put an end to this issue that is certainly going to cause terrible division within our city.

We don't want to be New Orleans.

If this monument controversy goes forward it will ensnare the city in years of litigation; it's already in the courts thanks to John Settle's lawsuit, but even if that is dismissed, as the Caddo Commission has requested, that won't end the issue of who owns the land under the monument.  This will go on for years and only enrich the lawyers.

The Commission rejected the first compromise offer which the Citizen's Advisory Committee proposed.  Certainly they will have the good sense to entertain and at least explore the idea of a new Caddo Courthouse which would benefit the parish and appease both sides of the monument issue.

Should the courthouse be relocated, the current building could be a museum with exhibits dedicated to Civil Rights, famous Caddo citizens, the Caddo Indians, and even Larkin Edwards who owned the land upon which the courthouse sits.  Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn even suggested this at one of the Commission work sessions - his suggestion was to turn the upper floor of the courthouse into a museum.  Why not the entire building?! We can even erect a monument on the south side of the courthouse to Civil Rights, as recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee.  There is no monument on that side.

This is the potential for organic growth which Shreveport so desperately needs to embrace and will be a chance to assist in the revitalization of downtown. We could even add some retail shops, a coffee shop, a gift shop...the possibilities are there.

But mostly, it's a chance for us to come together.  We can be different.  We can unite.

Are we courageous enough to do it?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Problems at Caddo Animal Control Continue

Elsie: broken leg. January 2017. CPAS
The top part of this post is an addendum to a growing list of grievances against Caddo Parish Animal Services.  

October 1, 2017:  Here we are again.  We have apparently made zero progress in all this time with the problems that plague Caddo Animal Services.

Making the social media rounds this weekend is this video recorded at CPAS as a young woman went to pick up her cat after a 10-day hold only to discover that "somebody made a mistake" and euthanized her cat, Skittles.

The woman recording says on her Facebook page that she has videos of the first part of this conversation in which the CPAS employee says that "this has never happened to a cat before." She switched over to Facebook live because her phone couldn't hold any more video.

As this video streamed out over Facebook, comments and outrage exploded, most with advice for the owner of the cat to get an attorney.

In the video you can clearly see the cat, Skittles, in a plastic box as his owner sobs and strokes his fur.  It is truly heartbreaking.

Skittles was on ten-day hold, brought in by the owner at CPAS request, after biting someone.  He was under observation for rabies.  She visited her cat twice during his brief stay at CPAS, the cat was due to get out Monday, October 2, but then CPAS accidentally euthanized it.

The two cats are not even the same color which makes it even more difficult to understand how this could happen.
Skittles: September 29, 2017

CPAS volunteered to have the cat cremated, at their expense, and return the ashes to her.  He has to be tested for rabies which is why he was on 10-day hold, but he didn't survive the shelter to make it to his tenth day so he has to be tested.  He never showed any sign of illness and was only checked by a vet two times during his stay.

Here are some salient quotes from the video in case you can't make yourself watch:

Owner:  "I don't understand how horribly wrong this went!

CPAS:  "I admit, ma'am, it went horribly wrong.

a few minutes later:

Owner: What is ya'll's procedure for putting a cat down...?

CPAS  We have a process ma'am and like I already said, the process wasn't followed correctly... she didn't pay attention to what she was doing and she accidentally put the wrong cat..."

A few seconds later another worker speaks up:

CPAS: Me and Elijah are the ones that do the cat side and there's a hard copy that this is supposed to have when an animal is put down...this is what the vet signs off Elijah and me are gonna be back there ...I left, I should have stayed, if I had stayed in the room this never would have happened so now me and Elijah is gonna have to have to sign off plus the now me and him are just gonna be when they're doing it, we're gonna be  there when they do it...they're gonna look at the paper they're gonna look at the number they're gonna look at the description ...we're gonna have me and Elijah say yes, this is the right cat...we know every cat on the cat side.

Owner: You don't have to KNOW a cat if you just pay attention to your job!

CPAS:  Ma'am the person that did this wasn't paying attention...they're going to be disciplined...

A few minutes later the owner is audibly sobbing, stroking the cat in the box.  Dogs are barking in the background.  Sobs.

She then asks when she can pick up the cremated remains. The woman and her friend are then led back out of the building (it's a rare video glimpse of the back inner sanctum of CPAS - the institutional cinder block walls, cold and sterile.)

This is simply yet another example of the ineptitude of CPAS and when in the world will people have enough of this and demand change?

My question is why is a cat that is being held for rabies watch being held with the stray cats that will be put down?  Why wasn't Skittles held in isolation with a warning tag on the kennel which would prevent such a thing from happening?

The questions abound.  The room for error here is epic.

There's more:

On September 21, 2017, Caddo Commissioner Mike Middleton spoke with a local radio station about the discovery that dogs brought to the pound have been sold on Craigslist:

Middleton tells KEEL listeners that he can confirm that the sale took place and the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office is currently investigating. Middleton also says he has seen “incriminating evidence” and has been told that the employee being investigated works at the shelter part time. When asked if he suspected that other dogs brought to the shelter had been illegally sold, Middleton said, “I feel like it’s been going on…there’s more than one dog involved, but I don’t know the length of time.”

I have heard this before from friends who previously worked at CPAS years ago.

When will this change?

What happened to this young woman's pet is not an isolated incident.  We simply can't keep pretending like it is.

Added:  Shreveport Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch's response:

January 2017: UPDATE: This post is apparently becoming fluid as I am hearing about more and more examples of abuse and neglect. If you have a story to share please email me. If you know someone that has a story or experience to share, please encourage them to email me. 

In early December, a stray dog wandered into a man's yard in Shreveport. She was not leashed, had no known owner, and was just looking for something to eat or a pat on the head. The property owner went inside his house, got his own dog, and rather than just chase the stray away or call animal control, he instigated an attack on the stray dog who would then die from the injuries she sustained in the attack.

No charges were filed on this man for this inhumane and cruel action.

This is the event that prompted me to write a letter on December 21 to the Caddo Parish Commission who oversees the Caddo Parish animal shelter. The purpose of my letter was to draw attention to the problems at the shelter and in our perception of animals in general. I made four very basic suggestions although there are many, many more things that need to happen as well. I realize the changes that need to be made can not happen overnight.

I mailed a copy of my letter to twenty-seven city and parish officials and leaders. Only one city leader, Caddo Commission President Matthew Linn, bothered to respond. He offered no answers, but he was gracious and I appreciate that he took time to answer me.

I received one other response: Lex Talamo from The Shreveport Times. Her report is here.

I also verbally shared concern with Amanda Atwell at KTBS when we were discussing another issue, and she has now run two stories on the shelter.

After the attack on Ellie, the stray dog, many advocates became outraged primarily because no charges were filed against the property owner. This is infuriating because it reflects the "animals as property" mentality that exists in this city. "It's just a dog," right?

I refer back to the Ellie story because that was the spark that ignited animal advocates to once again seek change at CPAS.

Consider the revelations that have come out in just the weeks since the Ellie attack in December:

Rascal: tagged for rescue. Euthanized.Jan. 9

No reason was ever given for the decision to euthanize Rascal who was a young dog in perfect health:
"I get a message that the dog had been euthanized. And um, they didn't know why," said Mandy, who preferred to remain anonymous. She volunteers for a local rescue, and regularly picks up dogs from CPAS, and fosters them until transporting them to other dog rescues in North Texas. She was supposed to pick up Rascal, a small Boston Terrier mix on January 9. Instead, she received a message saying the shelter opted to euthanize him, with no immediate explanation given.

The same thing happened with Roxie, a four-year old dog

Roxie:headed to rescue. Euthanized Dec. 21

CPAS said in a statement to KTBS that Rascal was not tagged for rescue and that Roxie was aggressive.  She doesn't look very aggressive to me in that picture.

Along with the accidental or inadvertently euthanized dogs, there is growing concern over feeding protocol at CPAS.

Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, located in Nashville, came to CPAS in January to pull two dogs. They left with seventeen:

January 4, 2017

So now we're getting national attention. This rescue has over 720,000 followers on their Facebook page. The rescue posted a follow-up a couple of days later:

January 6, 2017

One of the dogs they pulled on a previous visit in December is a St. Bernard named Barton Fink.  This picture on the left is what he looked like when they pulled him: wet from being hosed down in his kennel at CPAS, pneumonia, miserable. On the right is the same dog in a photo posted by BFDR on January 6:
Barton Fink: December to January

Yes, it's the same dog.  Now, why would CPAS leave that dog in that kennel without medical attention?  If a citizen treated a dog this way, it would be animal cruelty.  Not, of course, that anyone would prosecute that charge -- we don't seem able to prosecute the animal cruelty laws in this city very often.

Another out of state rescue, American Boston Terrier Rescue and Rehabilitation, in Texas, is also shocked at the conditions in our shelter:

Posted January 9, 2017

And a few days later:

Posted January 13, 2017
This is Marley, the dog they pulled:


To be fair, this dog was emaciated on intake - CPAS did not cause this, however, to feed this dog in the same way as you would dominant, healthy dogs, is inadvisable. This dog needed immediate medical care.  This dog, and many of the emaciated dogs you see on social media right now at CPAS, likely have Refeeding Syndrome and simply can't be cared for in the same way as healthy dogs.  To do so is tantamount to abuse.

Lex Talamo's story in The Shreveport Times documents the following euthanasia numbers at CPAS:

From The Shreveport Times: January 14, 2017

The improvement is due primarily to the new director, Chuck Wilson, working with rescues and allowing more dogs to be pulled than the previous director, however there still remains a fear among rescues and volunteers that speaking out about abuses they see will hurt their ability to pull more animals. This is a justifiable concern but isn't something wrong with that?  Doesn't that sound punitive?  

I will allow that Mr. Wilson inherited a terrible situation. I'm thankful he is working with rescues and allowing more animals to be saved. And to be fair, he can't do one thing about the people in this town who won't spay/neuter their animals. They just keep pouring into the shelter and there is literally no end to it.  

Section 8-63.(h) of the animal control ordinances under which Mr. Wilson must run this shelter states:

"Any person adopting an unspayed or unneutered animal from the department must sign an agreement to have the animal spayed or neutered within 30 days or by six months of age for a female or nine months of age for a male, and must leave a deposit in an amount established by the director with the department to be applied toward such veterinary services...The department shall perform follow-up investigations to confirm compliance with this section, and failure to comply shall constitute a waiver of all rights of the adopting party and in and to the animal, returning full custody of the animal to the department ..."

Does that happen? Is any follow-up EVER done?  Does he have the manpower for that? Does anyone really want CPAS to go out and "reclaim" adopted animals?!  We need a spay/neuter program. Mandatory spay/neuter.

The list of things we need is long: a feral cat program, mandatory heartworm prevention, an active social media presence from CPAS to network adoptable dogs. The shelter apparently needs more space because kennels with five and six dogs in them who must then fight for food is unacceptable. We need a public education program. CPAS needs a veterinarian on site at all times. One of my suggestions in my December letter was to install a tag making machine in the lobby at CPAS; no dog should leave the shelter without an ID tag. Many of the strays could be reunited with owners if they only had identification.

Although many things need to be done, the most critical needs right now is to ensure these animals are properly fed, that they aren't sitting in kennels with broken limbs or in pain, that they receive veterinary care, that kennels aren't hosed out with dogs in them (bleach or other chemicals must be used to combat disease - simple compassion would suggest taking the dogs out during this process). 

It just seems to me that with a budget like this...

Caddo Animal Services Budget 2016

....that we can do better.  Any rescue in town would love to have a budget like this.

While I strongly disagree with any social media voices that come across as unhinged ranting, I agree with their intent. Our quest to effect change at CPAS should not be a witch hunt. Calm, rational communication is needed and specific facts and documentation. 

That being said, I think it is clear that Mr. Wilson has lost the trust of the public and should perhaps step down and the Caddo Commission should recruit a new leader with bonafide credentials in humane and compassionate animal shelter management who will then employ compassionate kennel directors and other staff members who will clean this shelter up and foster a reputation as a low-kill, humane shelter for our animal population.

As long as this post is documenting neglect and abuse, I was remiss in failing to record Tini, the dog who was hit by a car and picked up by CPAS on December 30:


The owners were told they could not reclaim their own dog until January 3, five days later.  After picking Tini up, the owners discovered she had been housed in a filthy outside kennel with a broken jaw, untreated:

Posted January 3, 2017

Tini's owner rightfully wants to know why if someone was answering phones at the shelter on Friday and Saturday that she could not pick up her own dog. They told her she could not get the dog until January 3. Simply unacceptable.

Added 4/24/17:

Outside Reading:
Caddo Commissioner on Animal Shelter: "I Need First-Hand Facts" (The Times: 1/18/17)
Local Animal Advocates in Uproar... (KTBS 1/9/17)
Two Pets are Dead...(KTBS 1/13/17)
Animal Rescue Groups: There is Something Not Right at this Shelter (The Times: 1/14/17)
Animal Activists Still Looking for Answers... (KTBS: 12/9/16)
Facebook Post About Dog Attack Triggers Social Media Storm (KTBS 12/5/16)

An Open Letter to Every City and Parish Public Official (12/21/16)
A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property (12/20/16)
Save Spot the Stunning Super Dog (8/14/16)
The Lucky and T-Bone Story Gets Personal and Nasty (3/18/15)
Change is Needed at Caddo Animal Services (3/15/15)
Snapshots from the Braveheart Trial (1/29/15)