I am writing this letter to speak to the recent events surrounding the Downtown Development Commission (Minden Main Street Board) and the decision of Mayor Davis and the vote of the City Council to change the language of the 1990 legislation that formed the Downtown Development Commission.
The mayor’s proposal would give all authority to the mayor and put outdated restrictions on commission appointees. The Downtown Development Commission was intended to be an independent body. This new legislation would completely change the authority of the commission, which until October 2011, when I was given the title of Economic/Downtown Development Director, included all responsibility for budgeting and finances for the commission. Until that time, the entire salary of the director was paid back to the city each quarter. The addition of economic development to the job blurred the authority of the commission.
When I was hired as the Downtown Development Director in 2009, it was my understanding that in order to serve on the commission, one must be a resident of Minden or a business or property owner in downtown. This is the rule by which members of the commission had been replaced for years. I don’t know when the error in the rules concerning commissioner selection was originally made, but I do know that the error dates well before my tenure and as far back as the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I recall both Chris Broussard and Jeff Slack serving as commissioners during that period and neither lived in the city limits.
In 2009 when I became the director, the following people were serving on the commission: Kerry Easley, Mervin Ardoin, Norman Cone, Audrey Flournoy, Linda Miller and Debby McGinty. The seventh slot was vacant, if my memory serves me correctly. In actuality, all of these board members, according to the 1990 legislative act, should have been ineligible to serve on the commission, as none both lived in the city limits (qualified voters) and worked or owned property downtown.
In the spring of 2014, we had a seat on the commission become available. Mervin Ardoin, who had previously served on the commission, had expressed an interest in returning to service. I told him I would have to double check the rules, since he had sold his downtown property since the last time he served on the commission and did not live in the city limits. It was in researching the rules that I discovered that the legislative act required that a commissioner both work or own property AND be a voter in Minden.
I immediately informed Mayor Davis of my discovery and the fact that this would mean that several of the commissioners serving on the board at that time would be ineligible to serve.
There were also outdated instructions on requirements for filling the board such as “a member of the retail merchants committee,” which no longer even exists.
Mayor Davis and I decided that I should contact Representative Reynolds to update the legislation. I did just that, however, it was too late for Representative Reynolds to file a bill as there was no time to advertise the bill according to the law.
Mayor Davis made the decision to allow the commissioners to continue serving, with the understanding that Representative Reynolds would introduce the legislation in the 2015 session to clear up the matter. At the December 2014 meeting of the commission, the wording of the changes in the legislation were discussed and voted on by the commissioners. The proposed changes from the commission read, “The commission shall be composed of seven members, no more than nine, all of whom shall be qualified voters of Webster Parish with a vested interest in the Downtown Development District and the Minden Main Street Program.”
Mayor Davis’ comment (Minden Press Herald, March 3) that the commission uses city funds so the members have to be residents makes no sense, as the city has several department heads and city employees who spend funds every day, have city credit cards and are not residents of the city.
The DD Director before me did not live in the city limits either. Many of the people who have served on this commission faithfully over the years own businesses, property or work downtown but lived outside the city limits could never have been a part of the commission under the proposed rules. Whose interest is the mayor actually serving , the downtown or his own?
Since the Downtown Development commission has included folks from outside the city limits for over 15 years (that we know of,) and has functioned and served the downtown well, why would the mayor and council think that the commission did not have the best interest of downtown at heart?
The commissioners selflessly served downtown and the citizens of Minden. What a shame that they have not been heard. The mayor’s proposal is NOT in the best interest of downtown, its property owners or its merchants.
I urge the citizens to contact the city council members and the mayor and encourage them to create legislation that is in the best interest of downtown.
I have done my best to remain silent, this has nothing to do with me and my situation, this is about the future of downtown Minden.
With kindest regards,