SHREVEPORT, La. -- Debate over Cross Bayou Point hit a new, emotional level on Monday as one councilman compared it to Shreveport's troubled and violent times of the civil rights struggle.
While urging his fellow representatives to approve an agreement with developers, Democrat Willie Bradford made the comparison. At one point, holding back tears, he told the meeting that interaction from some citizens has turned hateful.
"Some of the communications that have been coming my way have demonized me and accused me of dividing this city just because I'm trying to promote jobs and economics for our citizens," Bradford said. "Some of the emails that I have gotten, some of the phone calls that I have gotten, have been very disturbing and offensive in nature."
Bradford has proposed a binding memorandum of understanding with developers. That would give Mayor Adrian Perkins and his administration the green light to enter negotiations.
Gateway Development Consortium wants to take on a huge, mixed use building project. It includes hundreds of condos, state and parish government offices, a stem school, and even a soccer stadium.
But developers want the city to hand them nearly 90 acres of land along the downtown side of the bayou, and extending to part of downtown. The city would have to buy some of that land. And some of the land needs costly environmental cleanup.
Opponents say the city does not have the money to make this happen. Supporters say it's a matter of investing in economic revitalization for downtown.
The swing vote on the issue appears to be Bradford's fellow Democrat LeVette Fuller. She would not say yet how she plans to vote. But she sounded as though she's leaning against it.
"My questions on this have not been satisfactorily answered. And most of the people in my community that are reaching out to me are against this and are asking me to vote no," the District B rep said.
But Fuller added, "I'm listening to everyone."
All three Republicans are expected to vote 'no,' including Grayson Boucher. He believes a binding memorandum is not needed.
"I'm not quite sure that Cross Bayou cannot be handled with an existing MOU that's in place," Boucher says. "A binding MOU changes things a bit. If we're just looking to negotiate or talk about it, then I think the existing MOU that was put in by the last city council -- which Mr. Bradford was on -- could handle it."
Boucher says he wants new jobs for Shreveport. But he's against giving away land to private developers.
The council is set to vote on Tuesday.