Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Mayor Gets Stuffed

At the first meeting of the Tontitown City Council this month, the City Attorney was directed to prepare an ordinance on nonfeasance, a step that eventually could lead to removal from office of Mayor Joe Edgmon or any other local official not doing their jobs. Alderman Scott McNair brought up the ordinance after an argument between Edgmon and Building Official Shane Harrison. Apparently Mayor Edgmon wanted to terminate Harrison, who said, "I just want to come do my job to the best of my ability and not have to worry about the knives being thrown at my back.”

Last Friday, Mayor Edgmon fired Code Enforcement Officer Harrison because he said it had become difficult for the two men to continue working together. “It got to the point where we were at an impasse,” Edgmon said. “It’s too difficult for us to work together on things. He feels like he’s being harassed and just his overall demeanor with my office... I felt like it was time.” The Mayor's action came as quite a surprise to everyone, including City Attorney Mark Dossett who said the mayor could under Arkansas law terminate an employee and the City Council could override the mayor’s decision. “I did not know anything about it, ” Dossett said. “He didn’t get advice from the city attorney on how to do it in a way to best protect the city or prevent any potential problems. I hope he got some legal advice somewhere.”

It wasn't really a legal issue, it was a political one, and The Decider met the Over Riders. The City Council voted unanimously to reverse the firing and rehire Harrison at a special meeting Monday, and he was back at work on Tuesday. Alderman McNair said it was a management issue. “The mayor has no leadership skills, no managerial skills.” Alderman Becky Alston requested that the council consider a vote of no confidence on the Mayor next Tuesday. “It will let him know that the council either has confidence in him or they don’t,” she said. “If he cares about the city, he will change his attitude and change his ways, ...but I don't have any confidence that he's willing to put aside his personal grievances."

The smart money is not betting on Mayor Edgmon. He seems to think he can run the city unilaterally without the trust, confidence, support, and cooperation of the City Council. Whether he is lacking in management skills or political sense, the result will always be the same if the Council is committed to fulfilling its role and doing its job.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Against the Property Tax Increase

There might be reasons to support the City's proposed increase in property taxes.

It could be a progressive reform measure to replace the regressive sales tax with a property tax, but the Mayor has not proposed doing that. He just wants to stack the property tax on top of the existing sales tax.

It could be that the City needs additional revenue for essential programs even after cutting out the wasteful spending, but the Mayor has not proposed to cut or reduce a single existing program. He just wants more money without being bothered to present a detailed budget proposal to the citizens.

Let's hope the City Council does not fall for his pig in a poke. Institute a hiring freeze. Shift some of the revenue from capital projects to operations. Cut out the fat. Pass a road impact fee. See if the Sam's Club is the promised bonanza. Demand a detailed budget proposal. Do those things, then see if we really need to increase property taxes.

Light Bulbs of the Oligarchs II

Dan Coody did not start the light bulb festival; neither has he provided the leadership to take control of the event or to manage its operation, its costs, and its massive waste of energy. The Chamber of Cowbirds is still in control, and the taxpayers are still stuck with the tab for the Chamber’s follies.

What began as a scam to sell 200,000 light bulbs to the city in 1993 quickly grew into what promoters claimed were more than a million light bulbs by 2002 during Coody’s first term. His tax-supported Advertising and Promotion Commission said the light bulb display was a way to increase tourism during the winter months. That was the year that the city picked up the expense of the Chamber’s Visitors Bureau by creating the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the operation stayed in the Chamber offices. Former Mayor Marilyn Johnson Heifner, who worked for the Chamber, became the executive director of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission. It was a cosy deal and taxpayer funding for personnel and tasks that used to be done by the Chamber.

In 2004, the Fayetteville Chamber of Cowbirds moved the start of the light bulb festival to the Saturday before Thanksgiving to see if they could get a head start on the holiday shopping season. The opening festivities included a hair products company handing out free samples, a vendor selling portraits during the ceremony, and a vendor selling glowing decorations. Gene Higgins of Fayetteville said, "It's actually pretty weak. They should be selling food and crafts and things." Donna Hughes of Fayetteville also said she would like to see the festival have more of a commercial element. "If it's for kids, they ought to have stuff for kids and then they could use that money to pay for more things instead of using our tax dollars." That year, the city Parks and Recreation employees were diverted to put up the light bulbs and paid another $5,000 for an additional 50,000 light bulbs.

For the 2006 event last year, Shelly Stewman, tourism sales manager at the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau, shared interns with the Chamber to accomplish their shared goals. "We discussed how to use an event as a marketing tool," Stewman said, for example, a business new to Fayetteville introduced itself through participating in the parade. Boy! The city also laid out cash to buy a bunch of colored light bulbs last year. They seemed to be a big hit with shoppers coming from out of town, so the city decided to junk them and buy more white light bulbs this year, said Jeff Coles of the Parks and Recreation department.

This year, the City will assign employees to work approximately 2,000 hours on the light bulb deal and pay all the electricity. Two thousand hours is 50 employees working a 40-hour week. In addition to the regular commercial emphasis, the Convention and Visitors Bureau is offering a mass wedding ceremony on December 6, like those Moonie deals or Huckabee’s mass wedding event in Alltel Arena. The promotional theme this year is “A Razorback® Holiday.” You probably thought it was Christmas.

The Chamber is a private group and can do whatever it wants, but they should do it on their own dime. Mayor Coody won’t cut them off from public funding, but at least he could stop spending general revenues on the light bulb scam and pay for it out of the budget of the Advertising and Promotion Commission that is funded by the sales tax on hamburgers. The Chamber of Cowbirds could still take all the credit for the light bulbs as they do on the local website and the state tourism website.

Coody could also get serious about his local action plan for saving energy and reducing the city’s $2 million annual energy budget. Instead of paying a guy to tell employees to turn off the lights when they leave the office, he could pull the plug on a million light bulbs burning 24/7 for six weeks to keep the Chamber happy. That won’t happen either. As Marilyn Heifner once said, "You can't just do something and walk away from it. It takes a continual feeding to feed that monster." They’ll send you the bill.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Even Better Than a Free Credit Report

Want to know if you're the victim of identity theft or find out why you got turned down for that car loan? Then volunteer or go to work at the Fayetteville Public Library, and they'll run a free Criminal Background Check on you. The catch is, they won't tell you in advance or share a copy of the report after the fact, at least not with you.

Librarians across the nation have courageously defended the right to read and stood up to the FBI's snooping into the borrowing records of patrons, but Fayetteville is different. The library director defended the secret criminal background checks by saying, in effect, that it was necessary to ignore the constitution to protect the children against possible harm. That's the same argument that the book banners use.

Even more disingenuous was the Director's claim that "Anybody with a badge is someone people would trust, and that’s why we need to do this.” Right. Where have you been for the last seven years in Bush's America?

Several volunteers have resigned in protest of the criminal checks that were done on the staff without their knowledge or consent and without a board policy authorizing the investigations. Hooray for citizens who will stand up for fundamental principles.

Lights of the Oligarchs

Fayetteville has spent well over half a million dollars in taxpayer money on its Christmas light bulb spectacle, but few dare mention why the taxpayers got stuck with the bill, how the Chamber claimed all the credit for the event, or who is making money on the little project. It has been a scam from the get go, with taxpayers bending over for the Chamber as usual. It is not the first time that a den of moneychangers has been in the temple to make a buck by commercializing Christmas for their own financial gain.

Back in 1993, a fellow named George Smith was publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times, and he also had a little undisclosed side venture called Wonderland Decorations, Inc. that was in the light bulb business. Mayor Fred Hanna said Smith started pushing the light bulb project and had himself appointed chair of the Chamber’s Lights of the Ozarks committee. Smith then secured a sweetheart deal on lights from a Dallas firm that imports Christmas lights from overseas, which the Fayetteville Chamber of Cowbirds bought for $3.89 a strand and resold to the City for $5.00 a strand – a quick 29% profit at the taxpayers’ expense – although the City Council was told they were getting the lights at cost

The City also gave big grants of at least $34,000 to the Chamber in 1993 and 1994 for the light bulb spectacle. In 1995, the Chamber asked for another $20,000 from the City, but they were turned down because they had never submitted the required reports or accounted for the money they received in the past. The Chamber then said they didn’t really need the money anyway, because they still had a cash reserve from the 1994 light bulb festival and saw no need to provide a timely report to the city. But in November of 1995, Brian Swain, assistant director of city administrative services, said the Chamber finally provided documentation about last year's spending, so he gave them a check $13,626 and promised to give them another $6,374 as soon as he got an invoice. Your money.

By 1998, former Mayor Marilyn Johnson, then employed as Director of convention and business development for the Fayetteville Chamber of Cowbirds, said she wasn't sure how many light bulbs were on display, but the number was in the "millions and millions." In 1999, it appears that city employees were actually assigned during work hours to string the light bulbs on the square for the Chamber, estimated to be 1.5 million bulbs that year, under the supervision of Harold Dahlinger, city director of building maintenance. In 2000, the city used inmate labor from the city jail to install the light bulbs for the Chamber, estimated that year as 60 miles of light bulbs.

The established practice was clear by then: the Chamber had the city taxpayers on the hook for their light bulb scam. They didn’t even pretend that it was to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus or even to spread good cheer for the holidays. Fred Hanna said it was a way to “promote” the city. The Chamber said it should draw shoppers to the square, but most retail businesses there are closed at night and the increased traffic does not mean increased sales for anyone except the company that imports the light bulbs, those who resell them to the city at a mark up, and SWEPCO.

Next: The Coody Years

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Floyd's Flock Bashes Wal-Mart

As if Wal-Mart doesn't get enough crap from Wal-Mart Watch and those damn unions wanting decent wages and benefits, now they have gone and drawn the ire of members of the First Baptist Church of Springdale. In a letter to the editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times today, Lynn Branham of Springdale attacked Wal-Mart as a profiteering porn merchant, suggesting yet another reason that the retail giant is not "family friendly." Mrs. Branham also details the tactics she has employed to subvert the corporation's merchandising of morally-objectionable products and print materials.

Lest we be smited for editing her prose or misrepresenting her position, here is her passionate and unexpurgated complaint:

"Wal-Mart exposes our children to pornography. I have put up with a lot from Wal-Mart over the recent years: racy magazines at checkout lines; displays of “personal lubricant” in high-traffic areas; trashy clothes for teenage girls; and fluorescent intimate apparel on the outskirts of the lingerie department. There the undies are so bright anyone entering the adjacent sporting goods section would be in danger of a radiation burn! But now I’m really mad. Calendar season has arrived, and once again I find my family visually assaulted with pornography — a la Sports Illustrated, Maxim and others prominently displayed at middle school eye-level in the front of the store. I got fed up this year and took matters into my own hands. I grabbed all of those pornographic calendars and “reassigned their placement.” Then I found a manager and complained. I have done this several times now.

"I thought I had won a small victory when I walked into Wal-Mart this week and didn’t see any calendars. Then I went to the pharmacy. There was the calendar display and the porno pictures were actually facing the toy section! Yes, porn was silently assaulting the children in the toy department. How’s that for sensitive product placement? Again, I removed the pornography and complained to a manager. He apologized. I wondered if he had children that frequent the toy department.

"Here is a suggestion: Perhaps a more appropriate place for these porno calendars would be among the neon thongs and gravity-defying, retina-damaging, radiation-emitting bras in the adult novelty — I mean, lingerie — section. There, the upstanding men interested in finding when the next full moon waxes would be able to get a really good look while standing among the glowing merchandise and the women interested in bright, shiny colors. Of course, the only appropriate place for pornography is out back in the dumpster. The store manager kindly said he would pass on my concerns. I decided that I would help him."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blend It Unlike Becker

Sales tax collections are down, the Chamber and the developers beat the road impact fees, the cost of sprawl has been shifted to all taxpayers and general revenues, and now Fayetteville faces a $2.36 million shortfall in its general fund. Mayor Dan Coody and his staff seem afraid to make any tough policy choices and necessary budgets cuts, so we'll have to rely on Aldermen Bobby Ferrell and Lioneld Jordan to find judicious cost savings.

Mayor Coody and his administration know they have reached the limit on increasing the regressive and unreliable sales taxes to cover the costs of operating the government. They now talk about having a more diverse revenue stream, meaning they want to raise property taxes. Fayetteville Finance Director Paul Becker continues to push for a .9 mill property tax increase to take care of some of the shortage. The best option for Fayetteville, Becker said like a true unelected bureaucrat, is to increase both county and city property taxes.

Ward 2 Alderman Kyle Cook has good sense and said he thinks it is time to start taking a long-term approach to city revenues instead of continuing to jump and squirm and always playing crisis management at the last minute and every year having some knee-jerk reaction to the budget. That would be a welcome change.

Alderman Cook agrees with calls to diversify the city’s revenue base, but he doesn’t want to just keep piling more taxes on the people. During a budget meeting this week, Cook asked Becker what it would take to replace the city’s sales tax with property tax. No answer yet. The key point is that the property tax would have to be instead of sales tax, not in addition to it, Cook said. “I’d give up 1 cent of sales tax and make it up with property tax any day.”

Leadership is a rare quality, but we still recognize it when it appears. Alderman Cook’s proposal is both sensible and fair. Along with prudent reductions in current spending, it should get a full hearing before Tuesday’s forced vote to raise property taxes.

Benton County Quorum Court Candidates

It has been less than two weeks since Benton County Justice of the Peace Burt Schindler resigned, calling the Quorum Court dysfunctional. This week that august body defeated a county nuisance abatement ordinance by a vote of 3-9 and declared Schindler's seat vacant. Governor Mike Beebe will make an appointment to fill the vacancy sometime soon.

With a county population of 200,000, each Benton County JP District should have more than 15,000 people, some of whom might make fine members of the Quorum Court. The two self-nominated candidates from Bella Vista thus far do not appear to be among them.

Bill Crawford
boasts as his qualification his experience of 11 years as a Deputy under Benton County Sheriff Andy Lee, which some think would be an immediate disqualification for the position. The other applicant is Jim Parsons, who says he has lost many political races in Benton County, "so I feel that I know what the people of this county want." I'd guess from the record that they want someone else.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shell Game with the City Budget

Mayor Dan Coody and his department heads are playing a shell game with the City Council and the citizens of Fayetteville. They want a tax increase for funding services and their salaries, but they have not made the hard decisions nor presented a detailed budget for various levels of funding. That's what they are paid to do, and they have failed to do their jobs.

They had a little meeting yesterday where department heads threw out a few hot button scare tactics, but Mayor Coody didn't even care enough to show up, much less present a proposed budget. Chief of Police Greg Tabor said if his budget was cut, calls to 911 would not be answered as quickly. Maybe he thinks citizens don't know that they pay for 911 service with a charge on their monthly phone bills, not a proposed increase in property taxes that most police employees, who live outside the city limits, would not have to pay. That's the kind of faux information this administration provides, when the people deserve the truth.

Finally, Parks and Recreation Director Connie Edmonston suggested that the Lights of the Ozarks spectacle might be cut back to save money. That's something the city's new Sustainability Coordinator should have suggested long ago. We're still waiting on a recommendation from Mayor Coody on this or any other proposal to cut expenses, including the lavish amounts spent on outside consultants. That's something else the people deserve and should demand before they have their taxes raised yet again.

The City Council is having a special meeting to consider the tax increase on Tuesday, October 30. Ask your Aldermen to tell you exactly why you should pay more taxes and why there is no fat to be cut.

Murry Stone Says America Sucks

In a pointed letter to the editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times today, Murry Stone declares that America sucks, and he knows the reasons why. In fact, he is a brave man to be willing to impart such knowledge and express such bizarre sentiments when most rational people will probably dismiss him as a selfish, bitter, racist nut case or a typical neo-con Republican.

Says Stone, "John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were told that 'integration' of our schools would be the 'moral' downfall of the United States. They integrated our schools anyway, and here we are. So I blame liberals, liberal organizations and their damn rap music crap for our country’s behavior. But it started with integrating our schools, and integration also started all our education problems that we have today. Liberals have taken the First Amendment and ruined our country with it. ...Our country is becoming a disgusting place to live. And I don’t see it getting better either. Our country is destroying itself from within. This country has too many different races of people in it, we are losing God every day, and the liberals have over-used our First Amendment. And it’s going to get worse, I think."

Not much evidence for that last clause, Murry. By the way, you're not the same Murry Stone who lives at Hillcrest Towers, are you? You know, Hillcrest Towers, a subsidized housing program to help the elderly and less fortunate that resulted from Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and his liberal Department of Housing and Urban Development?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

su cabeza está en su asno

The Restaurant That Dare Not Speak It's Name is in big trouble up in Rogers. Last month, a code enforcement officer told Arturo Rodriguez that the name of his restaurant could not be displayed in public. Then this week, David Ibarra, who claimed to be a certified translator, told the Rogers City Council that the name of the restaurant was highly offensive and should be removed or covered immediately. The City Council agreed that the name of the restaurant in a strip mall at North 17th and Hudson, translated or otherwise, doesn’t belong on a business in Rogers.

This is all pretty ironic, when neither the mayor nor any aldermen can even read the sign. Even more hilarious is that the Benton County Daily Record says it polled "several sources" and found the word could "be interpreted in many ways," yet
harrumphed, "That name is being withheld from this story because of its possibly offensive meanings." Hey, even the Bible can be interpreted in many ways, and they don't hesitate to print the name of Wal-Mart, which some people find offensive.

Mayor Steve Womack insists that the name should be changed because
“the sign is inconsistent to what the community stands for.” Then, maybe Rodriguez should rename his restaurant, "We don't like Hispanics, and we'll harass your ass any chance we get."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chamber Moguls Meet in Little Rock

Thomas Donohue, President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, was in Little Rock yesterday giving a pep talk to Arkansas Chamber members and hired employees. The speech is fulsomely covered today in the Hussman Democrat-Gazette and the Stephens Morning News. Other views can be found on two local blogs, Richard Drake's Street Jazz and the AFSCME University Union Voice.

Tom's speech and the U.S. Chamber's political policies have also been noted in the recent issue of the Arkansas Times and the blogger On the Virg. This is a group without heart or soul.

Kos Tonight in Fayetteville

Darn. My day job has a non-negotiable deadline tomorrow that has interfered with my blogging, and now it will keep me from being able to go to Kos tonight -- either one. For those of you who can, Markos Moulitsas will speak at 7:00 tonight in Walker Hall up on the UA campus. Free. Please post reports of his lecture in the comments section here to make me feel even worse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pigs Fly for Mama's Hungry Eyes

Hunger is the most extreme form of poverty. Not far away from the gated communities and corporate office parks, it is with us in Northwest Arkansas. The Ozark Food Bank is working to address the problem for the 90,000 area residents facing hunger daily, and here’s your chance to help and to feel righteous while getting a tax deduction. You can enjoy a barbecue dinner, drinks, dancing and browse through decorative pigs for a good cause at the organization's annual When Pigs Fly donation drive at the Fayetteville Town Center this Friday at 6:30. Tickets are $50 and are available from Kelly Colebar at (479) 872-8774 or by e-mail at

The mission of Ozark Food Bank is to “fight hunger through advocacy, education, community awareness, and the distribution of food to those in need." Last year it distributed 2.2 million pounds of food to more than 100 food pantries and human service agencies in Northwest Arkansas. Although the needs of low income area families, especially senior citizens and single parents, have increased this year, the food bank is almost $60,000 behind in monetary donations compared to last year. Why? "People are getting laid off and most two-income families can't even afford to donate because of gas prices and such," said Jan Lynn, director of the Manna Center in Siloam Springs.

Food donations also can be dropped off at 1378 June Self Drive in Bethel Heights between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. They have 24 pallets of snack cakes on hand, but they need nutritional food such as peanut butter, canned meats & fish, canned fruits & vegetables, 100% fruit juice, and dried milk. Thanks to Tyson Foods, which last week donated 38,000 pounds of frozen chicken that now is almost gone. Tyson's is also sponsoring a food drive among students at Fayetteville, Springdale, Har-Ber, Pea Ridge, Green Forest and St. Paul high schools who have volunteered to collect canned goods.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A "Useful Idiom" but Sloppy Journalism

I think I know what someone means when they use the term "government leader." That would be someone we elect and continue to trust because they behave themselves and advance wise policies and achieve significant results for the common good instead of personal gain or special interests, or something close to that. But what is a "business leader," anyway?

During the last week, I read the term far too often to let it pass without comment.
Brenda Blagg (TMN) and Aaron Sadler (TMN) wrote about Arkansas business leaders who dined with George Bush; Steve Caraway (TMN) and Richard Massey (ADG) told us about Springdale business leaders who held captive the city government; only Laura Kellams (ADG) put the term in quotes when she wrote about select "business leaders" adoring George Bush. Maybe they just use the term instead of writing "businessmen," since reality and political correctness make that term archaic. That shorthand applies a positive connotation to any businessman they want to quote or write about (and it is almost always men), but it still doesn't reflect reality or explain how one earns the title. One dictionary gives several synonyms for business leader including baron, magnate, mogul, and tycoon, but I haven't seen our local scribes use those descriptive terms lately.

Leadership is a relational term that implies followership, but I never see any group of business owners or managers referred to as "business followers." Don't leaders have to have followers, and, if so, why do we never get to read what they think or do? The term business leader also implies involvement in our economic system, so what about the other players? I haven't read much lately about "consumer leaders," or "client leaders," or "employee leaders" in our local newspapers. Do customers and employees have no leaders, therefore justifying being ignored or relegated to treatment as mere pawns by both businessmen and journalists?

The Harvard Business School maintains an online database of Great American Business Leaders that
identifies and chronicles the lives of 20th century men and women who "shaped the ways that people live, work, and interact." They include seven people born in Arkansas, but none are from Northwest Arkansas. It includes Sam Walton (OK) and David Glass (MO) but no one from Arkansas named Ramsey, Hunt, Reynolds, Walker, Tyson, George, Scott, Lindsey, Caughlin, Israel, Barber, Terminello, Dillard, Stephens, or Koenig.

My point is, I guess, that not everyone who has a lot of money and wants more is really a business leader. John Lewis was a true
transformational business leader who cared not just about his own businesses and profits but worked tirelessly for a better community. He had courage, vision and passion that
inspired and harnessed the collective energy of all our citizens. To regularly and casually call those who do anything less a "business leader" is to cheapen the term and to besmirch the name of those who truly were and are.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sarah Fennel Restores Humanity

Don't miss the inspiring feature story about Sarah Fennel in today's Morning News. Sarah is a 27-year old Fayetteville resident who founded Restore Humanity, a nonprofit group grounded in faith, hope, and love and dedicated to creating and funding projects that provide solutions to problems in the world. Last year she donated 40-some boxes of school supplies and clothes for victims of Hurricane Katrina and raised $20,000 to buy shoes and clothing for children in South Africa.

"Whether it's providing school supplies for AIDs orphans, food for a squatters camp or loving touch to infants, Fennel wants to better lives. She started by supporting several projects in South Africa. New goals include opening an orphanage in Kenya and possibly starting a school in Jamaica. "I want to give these children an option, show them that we're here to support them, that there are ways they can take care of themselves," she said. "My hope is that they become empowered within themselves and know they can do whatever they want to do."

A second annual fundraising event to support humanitarian aid efforts in Kenya is scheduled at George's Majestic Lounge on November 17th at 7 p.m.. There will be a silent auction and entertainment by Joseph Israel and the Jerusalem Band. Tickets are $20 and are available from the website,
at Bordino's, Sound Warehouse, George's, and at the door.

While you're there, you might also encourage Sarah to run for Congress, where she could do even more good. She is the same age as Bill Clinton was when he made the race, and perhaps she could be persuaded to accept a draft. Think about it: Sarah works for a peaceful world and trys to improve the lives of children, from Katrina victims to the third world, and she founded a nonprofit to help people. John Boozman continues to support Bush's senseless war, votes against funding for children's health insurance, sat by while FEMA let the children of New Orleans suffer, and takes huge campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporate PACs to help himself and the for-profit special interests. Who do you think would vote your values?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thompson Shuts Down the Smoke Machine

Doug Thompson’s column in today’s Morning News is a masterful critique of the rhetorical and management style of Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody. It cuts to the chase and asks all the right questions about the city’s current budget problems and the proposed solutions.

These days, he notes, Mayor Coody “says the city depends too much on the sales tax. One year and one month ago, the mayor was begging voters to double the city sales tax. Without it, we faced severe sewer rate increases to pay for $62 million in cost overruns on a $120 million sewer project…The solution was a sales tax increase. We had to have one immediately.” Now, with sales tax collections down and a $2 million deficit, “The solution the mayor's proposing is a tax increase, a property tax increase the city council 'has' to pass before Nov. 1…The biggest difference between this year and last year is we've used up one tax and are moving on to another.” So much for rhetorical and logical consistency.

The mayor’s secretive management approach, Thompson says, also reveals two problems and certain consequences. Instead of consistently presenting last minute surprises and demanding immediate action, Thompson says he likes Alderman Kyle Cook’s proposal to temporarily reallocate some of the existing tax revenue from capital to operations and see what shakes out. “They might even make some cuts, cuts they can't make now because a detailed budget isn't ready. Who knows? It might start a new tradition of weighing the city's budget needs before the last minute…This would also mean the council would make a decision instead of rubber-stamping a city administration recommendation before they have all the facts.”

The Coody administration’s response to the budget shortfall, Thompson insightfully recognizes, “so far has been to blame Rogers for taking 'our' revenue away. We might as well blame Rogers for having a lower nonsense tolerance too…Suppose Rogers had a cost overrun of more than 50 percent or more on a sewer project and didn't tell anybody about it until drastic action was needed. The mayor of Rogers would be stripped naked at the next council meeting and ridden out of town on a rail…A $2 million shortfall in the city budget might only get him a light flogging.”

Thompson concludes, “If we're not going to 'sell out' to business for the sake of keeping revenue, then we'd better get a grip on city finance and stop lurching from crisis to crisis.” Since the Council seldom gets the bad news or a detailed budget proposal in time to rationally consider either budget cuts or revenue needs, Alderman Cook and his colleagues would do well to take Thompson’s advice seriously, act responsibly, and get a firm grip on city finances and spending. Otherwise, Mayor Coody will be half-way justified when he blames them for the problems.

Running Already?

It has been less than a year since the last general election, and it is more than a year until the next one. Several local citizens interested in holding office, and maybe even serving the people, have already let it be known that they are available and ready to run.

An article in today's Northwest Arkansas Times was unable to confirm the rumor that Mayor Dan Coody might not seek reelection but speculates that Fayetteville voters will have at least two candidates interested in taking his job. According to the report, "Walt Eilers, owner of consulting firm Terrapin Consulting, and Jeff Koenig, owner of Upchurch Electric, haven’t made any secret of their intentions to run for mayor in 2008, but both are waiting for Coody to make his 'announcement.'"

Washington County Judge Jerry Hunton has announced that he is not running for reelection. State Representative Marilyn Edwards (D) has announced that she will run for the job and stressed her experience of six years in the legislature and 26 years as County Clerk. Earvel Fraley, who served three terms as a justice of the peace, has announced as a Republican candidate. He received 41% in losing a race for the Beaver Lake Water District Board last year.

Democrat Earl Hunton, a member of the Lincoln School Board, has announced that he will challenge Republican State Representative Mark Martin of Prairie Grove in a legislative district that also includes West Fork and Mountainburg.

Three candidates --Courtney Henry of Fayetteville, Bill Jones of Fayetteville, and Ronald Williams of Rogers--have announced for the area's open seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. That non-partisan election will be held on May 20th.

It also appears that there will be Republican primary contests for at least one Washington County Quorum Court seat and several legislative seats in Benton County. Uvalde Lindsey is the only announced candidate for the open state legislative seat in House District 88.

The campaigns should be very enlightening about the candidates' qualifications and commitments, and that will no doubt provide plenty of opportunities for commentary in the months ahead.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Road Hard

Fayetteville officials and citizens celebrated the opening of Van Asche Drive yesterday, as well they should. The road is an example of what our transportation system might be until we realize the potential of a light rail system. It is everything that the clusterfart at Joyce and North College is not. It is a boulevard with a handsome median, green space, sidewalks, and trail connections. Congratulations to everyone involved in the conception and construction of the project.

The Van Asche project cost taxpayers about $3 million, which seems about right for construction of that design. However, the city got word this week that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department now claims that it would cost $42 million for the planned three mile improvement project on Crossover Road from Mission north to the city limits, and the state says it has only $15.4 million available for the project.
Glenn Bolick, Highway Department apologist, had said the cost was about $20 million when the public hearing was held on the project in May. Even if you believe his assertion that inflation is 30% in the construction industry, that still does not make any sense.

Here's what makes sense. Highway Commission Chairman Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs is a tool of the self-appointed and non-elected business interests calling themselves the Northwest Arkansas Council. This group is behind the proposed Regional Mobility Authority that would have residents raise their own property or sales taxes to fund the Northwest Arkansas Council's two pet projects -- multi-lane bypasses around Bella Vista and north around Springdale. These would be of great convenience for the trucking industry, the poultry industry, and one large retailer. That might explain why the state highway department cannot find much money for Fayetteville in the 2007-2010 State Highway Improvement Program.

Barnett's term on the highway commission expires soon, but the governor is likely to appoint a replacement who is similarly beholden to the business interests represented by the Northwest Arkansas Council. The city should consider reallocating the $7.7 million committed for the Crossover improvement project to one that it can build without getting jerked around by the state.
Look at punching Van Asche on west to Highway 112 or improving Crossover from Joyce north. That would also please the politically-connected residents of Candlewood Estates who had all along opposed the inclusion of bike lanes and a median on the Crossover project.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Business Buzz: Bad News for Barber

Brash Brandon Barber, who tried to push through the Divinity eyesore on Dickson Street and later distinguished himself by taking out several mailboxes while driving on Deane Street, is not quite as confident as when he told parochial locals that there was a new developer in town.

Barber did complete construction of the Legacy Building on Watson Street and reportedly has been able to sell seven of the 37 upscale condos. Subcontractors who performed work on the Legacy filed liens or foreclosures totaling around $1.1 million last month, and condo sales have come to a halt. Lasco Acoustic & Drywall of Dallas filed a lien for $473,752 on September 6; Harness Roofing of Harrison filed a lien for $121,734 on September 7; and EWI Inc. and RGC Glass filed a lien foreclosure action for $124,604 on September 21.
Kimbel Mechanical Inc. filed three foreclosures totaling $100,709 against other Barber properties. There might be other actions yet to come.

The Legacy building is rather attractive and not a bad addition to the Dickson Street area. Its main aesthetic contribution is that it blocks the view of the ugly University Baptist Church when traveling north on School Street. We should all be glad that Barber bailed on the Divinity project when he did. Otherwise, Fayetteville might have had yet another big hole in the ground instead of a promised hotel.

Taking the Lap Dog to Obedience School

The Springdale Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a three-day obedience school designed to help their city officials set appropriate goals. Springdale elected officials, school administrators, and city department heads are a captive audience for the so-called business leaders, who are holed up away from public view at beautiful Mount Magazine State Park Lodge in Logan County to get together on what the business community expects and how the city can deliver.

The three-day gala event is being "facilitated" by 9 g Enterprises, a consulting firm brought in by the Chamber from Texas. Looking forward to three days of instruction on infrastructure and retail job growth by the Chamber and the consultants away from any opportunity for citizen input, Mayor Jerry Van Hoose said,
"I hope we understand what our highest needs are and set a course to meet those needs." No doubt they will.

Richard Massey's article does not reveal who is paying the tab for the city officials and employees at the resort, but
the three-day retreat for more than 100 VIPs is sponsored by undisclosed construction companies, banks, food processors, engineers, and architects. The Chamber's last Five-Year-Plan from 2002 led to a $105-million bond program for the trucking industry and contractors and the idea that Springdale voters should raise their taxes to pay for building a baseball stadium named Arvest. Even with declining revenues, the City has also appropriated $177,000 to the Chamber this year.

Another Developer Ignores the Law

A strip mall development called Stonebridge Square, at Arkansas 16 and Stonebridge Road, has been put on hold after violating the city’s grading and tree preservation and landscaping ordinances by filling in an old beaver dam and removing trees without approval.

Tom Hennelly, a Professional Engineer and President of H2 Engineering, representing property owner Gary Combs, says he just misunderstood the law. While a different large-scale development by another developer had once been approved for the property, it didn’t apply to the massive grading and tree removal done in the past few months. This developer made significant changes that were not approved, and the illegal tree removal requires replanting a total of 30 percent of the tree canopy on-site. Hennelly complained about being "penalized" by having to replant perhaps as many as 163 trees.

"Any fool can destroy trees," said John Muir. "They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed -- chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got ..." Fools, it appears, are breaking out all over. This developer destroyed the trees so he could build another strip shopping center with a bank, a fast-food joint, and a White Oak Station and so a dollar could be got.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coming Home to Roost at George's Inc.

Seven supervisory management employees of Springdale poultry processor George's Inc. were indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts each related to intentionally hiring and harboring illegal immigrants. Those charges are felonies, and each carries a maximum 10 years in federal prison. This follows on the arrest of 136 poultry workers at the same George’s plant in May.

John F. Wood, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said the indictments and arrests show that no one is above the law when it comes to hiring illegal workers. He declined to say if that investigation includes whether people higher up in the privately owned company are suspected of knowing about the illegal hiring or if the company might face charges, but he did say, "This is an active and ongoing investigation."

In 2002, Gene George was recognized as a successful business leader and inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, which "honors, preserves and perpetuates the names and outstanding accomplishments of business leaders who have brought lasting fame to Arkansas.” The Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas sponsors the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, and Gary George is a member of the UA Board of Trustees.

I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional

Benton County Justice of the Peace Burton Schindler has had enough of the nonsense and has resigned forthwith, calling the Quorum Court "dysfunctional."

Schindler said "the Red Shirt Gang and the puppets they elected," meaning the Republican Justices of the Peace Craig Brown, Debbie Hobbs, Bobby Hubbard, Frank Winscott, and Chris Glass, endorsed by the Northwest Property Rights Association, have thwarted every attempt to protect the water supply, establish reasonable zoning, and enact a nuisance abatement ordinance.

"The inability of this body to effectively process necessary ordinances which are urgently needed is most unfortunate," Schindler complained in a letter to Benton County Judge Gary Black last week. They done took all the “fun” out of dysfunctional up in Benton County, it seems. At least the Lowell City Council is still funny.

Kos Will Be Here Next Week

As mentioned here last month, the University of Arkansas announced today that Markos Moulitsas, who created the aclaimed political blog Daily Kos, will visit campus October 24 to discuss free speech and the Internet. Moulitsas will speak at 7 p.m. next Wednesday in room 218 of Walker Hall, across from the Harmon Street parking facility. The program is free and open to the public.

"Whether readers agree with the perspective of the Daily Kos on any given stance doesn't matter to Moulitsas nearly as much as ensuring people have the right to disagree and say so," said the UA news release with an aplomb that casually ignores that institution's policies and practices to the contrary.

Moulitsas is the fall 2007 presenter for Difficult Dialogues, a project funded by the Ford Foundation to promote discussion of controversial perspectives on campus and in the northwest Arkansas community. This year's focus is freedom of speech and the media. For additional information, contact Bill Schwab, chair, department of sociology and criminal justice, (479) 575-7270,

Mayor Coody is Right -- and Wrong

The Fayetteville City Council meeting last night dealt with some important issues, but the level of thinking required to solve them was not immediately evident. The revenue problems faced by the city government have been a while in the making, and that applies to both general revenues and other sources of income.

Mayor Dan Coody is quite right when he says of the Chamber's beloved sales tax engine, "The city of Fayetteville relies on the most regressive tax we have too heavily." Coody is partly at fault for that. He commanded the effort to "educate" the voters about the need for a sales tax to repair and improve our city streets, but he opposed the road impact fees on developers who are creating sprawl and traffic congestion. If the city had realistic impact fees, we wouldn't have to rely on "the most regressive tax we have too heavily."

The Mayor is right to promote an increase in property taxes to improve the mix of the city's revenue stream, but he has blundered tactically in addressing the need to trim fat from the city budget and in blaming the City Council for not supporting past proposals to increase the property tax. This is not the time to pick a fight about who was right; it is time to fix the problem.

Flat, across-the-board budget cuts might balance the budget, but the Mayor is wrong to rely on that quick but thoughtless approach. Some departments have more or less fat, some provide more or less important services, and some programs are both unjust and inefficient. The Mayor needs to be less defensive and to see this budget crisis as an excellent time to right the wrongs and put our revenues where they are most needed.

Mayor Coody is also right when he notes that most people think Fayetteville has high taxes when the truth is Fayetteville is the lowest-taxing city in Northwest Arkansas. He is wrong if he doesn't think that is partly his fault for buying into the Chamber's whining about how "unfriendly" Fayetteville is to business. Everytime the city considers making business and industry pay their fair share, whether it is impact fees or water rates, we hear that tired old wailing, and the Mayor and his staff almost always cave in to the Chamber's demands, leading everyone to conclude that they must have been right. That's why some of the Aldermen are also right when they say residents are not enthusiastic about a tax increase, because they know the little guy is toting the freight for the privileged.

Let's hope that Mayor Coody and the City Council will seize this opportunity and work together to reduce wasteful spending and eliminate special benefits for special interests as well as to structure a tax and fee regime that is much more fair to all citizens of Fayetteville.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Budget Vice Reveals True Values

Both Fayetteville and Springdale city governments are suffering the effects of a fiscal hangover from over-reliance on the sales tax to fund operations and capital projects. Now that revenues are down, we can see what our elected leaders and their paid advisers really care about.

Fayetteville is looking at cutting the budget of the Fayetteville Public Library, but they seem to have plenty of money for installing and powering the Lights of the Ozarks spectacle. They opposed the road impact fees on developers, and now they are proposing to raise everyone's property taxes. They continue to provide an airport for corporate officers and university administrators, but they say there's no money for a cost of living wage adjustment for police and firefighters. Oh, they are also going to raise the water and sewer rates on low-income residents to operate the system while continuing to give special cheaper rates to industrial and business customers.

Washington County government is also talking tax increases. The most telling is that Sheriff Tim Helder thinks he has solved all the crime in the county and has plenty of extra money to train, equip, and pay deputies to chase down illegal immigrants in the county, but he wants to lay a sales tax increase on local citizens to expand the jail to hold these undocumented aliens indefinately while waiting for the feds to come get them.

Springdale is the absolute worst of the whole bunch. The Mayor is proposing a wage freeze on all city employees, for both cost-of-living and promotions, but the city seems to have plenty of money to continue giving the Springdale Chamber of Commerce $177,000 a year to do whatever they want to do.

Watch closely, keep your hand on your wallet, and take notes on how your city and county officials vote their values. Then you can return the favor, either way.

Why Our Children Are Without Health Care

Thanks to the vast knowledge and keen insight of Eileen Bruno, compassionate conservative of Rogers, we now know why 41,000 Arkansas children don't deserve health care coverage under the state's ARKids First program. Too bad her letter to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wasn't published yesterday so George Bush and John Boozman could have cited it in support of the veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"Health care has become a political issue," says Bruno. "Do we ever look at the reasons so many are without? There are alcoholics, smokers, druggies and AIDS victims. Most of [their illnesses ] are the result of lifestyle. We have so many children without insurance. Some are victims of the household’s money going for their [parents’ ] pleasures. Look at the yards filled with all kinds of must-have toys, many junk and falling apart." There you have it. Arkansas families don't have health care coverage for their children because they are smoking, drinking, and buying toys.

Bruno then wanders off into some less coherent haze by quoting the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times about how Canada, Spain, Great Britain, France, Germany and Japan are socialist countries and how we could cut health care spending to fully fund the war department's budget.

Anyway, you can see why President Bush choose to come to Benton County where he would have a receptive audience for his equally compassionate speech yesterday.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bush League

With President Bush's approval numbers in the tank, you have to wonder who would still be trying to suck up. Now we know. Rogers Mayor Steve Womack, developer Bill Schwyhart, and University of Arkansas Chancellor John White were willing to be seen in public with him today. Will you still respect them tomorrow?

No Chance of a Hat Trick

Dug Begley's article in The Morning News points out that Fayetteville residents are facing property tax increases from the city, the county, and the school district. That convergence makes it unlikely that voters will be enthusiastic about any of them, regardless of the merits, but for different reasons.

Washington County wants to raise property taxes from 1.1 mills to 3 mills, getting $7.4 million to replace Woolsey bridge, Harvey Dowell bridge, Orr Road bridge and Tilly Willy bridge. Most Fayetteville residents couldn't find those bridges on a map, and they might ask why they should vote to raise their taxes while the county government hordes more than twice that much in reserve. Long odds at best.

The Fayetteville School District has let it be known that it will be coming for a property tax increase for renovation of construction of a new high school facility. Fayetteville already has the highest school millage rate in Northwest Arkansas. Asking to bump that by 4 to 10 additional mills while having supported the TIF project is quite bold. The outcome will depend on how the school board handles the decision about the location of the high school, but support for increasing taxes to build a new school west of I-540 would be a very difficult sell.

Having learned the fiscal dangers of always increasing the regressive sales tax to operate city government, the City is considering an increase in property tax rates to balance the budget and maintain services. The real estate interests want the city to continue building infrastructure to accommodate growth, but they don't want to pay impact fees or property taxes. Bill Ramsey and the Chamber of Cowbirds, who also opposed the impact fees, hope to "keep that sales tax engine alive," so they don't have to pay increased property taxes and so others will bear the tax burden. Some City Council members think that additional savings could come from budget cuts or a hiring freeze. Of the three proposals, this property tax increase seems to have the best chance of enactment.

Arrogance Abounds

I don't know much about coaching football, but I can smell the arrogance of elected officials and public employees a mile away. Razorback football coach Houston Nutt is a prime example of an egotistical state employee who thinks he's above criticism about the job he was hired to do.

Seven Southeast Conference football teams are ranked in the Top 25, and Arkansas is in the cellar at 0-3. Nutt, who is quite well-paid, says
he is not concerned with public perception about the job he is doing. “I don’t worry about that at all,” he said yesterday. “All it’s doing, it’s wasted energy. It’s wasted oxygen. Don’t do it. Don’t worry about anything.... When you start worrying about all that, you’re taking away from what you are supposed to do.” No, Houston, it is not taxpayer comment about job performance that takes away from public employees doing what they are hired to do. It's called public opinion, which is supposed to count for something in state government.

“I don’t worry about that at all,” Nutt said. “I really don’t. ...
The contract they’ve given me, it’s real clear. It says 2012. It doesn’t say you’re gone 2007, 2008. It says 2012." That smug response only points out that the University of Arkansas made a bad decision; it doesn't mean that the criticism is unjustified or worth considering.

And George Bush is coming to Benton County to meet with a hand-picked group of business supporters. He will ignore the fact that when he came into office, we had a budget surplus and international good will, both of which he has squandered. He will brag that his annual budget deficit, a result of uncontrolled war spending and tax cuts for the wealthy, is now $163 billion a year. He will brag about his veto of health care for children. Arrogance abounds. It is too bad we can't buy out his contract that runs only to January 2009.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fayetteville's Airport (Part II)

It wasn’t a scientific sample, but at church this morning I asked seven people, “How is the best way to get to the airport?” Six said take I-540 to Lowell, and one said go up Highway 112 through Elm Springs. No one said the airport was on 71 South between the Fayetteville Country Club and that junk yard in Greenland. If they even knew that Fayetteville had an airport, they certainly didn’t use it or even think about it.

None of them knew that it was a drain on the city treasury. The 2007 Fayetteville budget anticipated an operating loss of $82,920 before depreciation of $1.5 million, for a net loss of $1,582,920.00. I doubt that they know we are paying 2.5 city employees for administration and three for maintenance operations, with expenditures of $617,220 for administration and $270,800 for maintenance. To excuse this by saying it is not from the general fund is to pretend it is okay to waste public money.

Ray Boudreaux, the city’s airport director, said in February that operations have had a steady drop, but no one can figure out why. “We’re just going to have to try and figure it out,” he said, inspiring little confidence that he could. “There’s [sic] too many variables to figure anything out precisely.” At the same time, Ray said thanks to two state grants and a $700,000 loan from the city, they were breaking ground on a $1.3 million hanger project to serve the business needs of Million Air and Sky Venture. In the latest available Management Report, he admits that “the second quarter continues the dramatic reduction in operations” and that “air taxi (charter) numbers are way down, off nearly 50% in the first six months of the year.” Yet, we’re likely to see a proposed budget for 2008 that continues to fund this mysterious loser.

Why does the city continue to funnel our money into this financial sinkhole? Because a few very influential people benefit from the luxury of having an airport paid for by the city. Back in 1999, after the Chamber sold us out to the Northwest Arkansas Council, they gave Mayor Hanna a marketing plan calling for the city to promote the airport as a "stopover" destination for corporate jets. The city appears to have taken their orders and is continuing to do what they want to comfort the jet set.

UA coaches and administrators making six figures use the airport so they don’t have to drive to Little Rock or fly coach class from XNA. Some corporations like Superior Industries, that also expects citizens to subsidize their water and sewer rates, keep a plane there for executive flights. Executive Aviation Services provides luxury air travel targeting the business traveler and high-end consumer that "requires a nimble and timely response to their travel needs." Another tenant, Flying Investments LLC will sell you 1/16th of a jet for $275,000 plus an annual maintenance fee of $57.396 for 50 hours of flight time if you buy the gas. The average citizen who foots the bill for operating the airport gets nothing from this corporate boondoggle.

The airport's new mission statement says it is supposed to “foster economic growth and commerce.” To accomplish that, they have a master plan to spend $62 million in a program that will include a fancy golf course, an extended runway to accommodate bigger jets, an airport hotel, and million-dollar homes with attached hangers and runway access. Again, I see nothing in that foolishness that does anything for the citizens of Fayetteville, except use their tax dollars for the personal benefit of those few who own or charter corporate jets. If this is such a good deal, why don’t we see private enterprise getting into the airport business? Because they have a Mayor and City Council that get the taxpayers to provide it for them.

The city claims that the depreciated value of the airport land and buildings is $14.66 million, but it would likely bring much more on the market. If the city sold it and put that in passbook savings, we’d be way ahead of what’s happening now. If they transferred it to the Housing Authority to partner with Habitat for Humanity, we could solve our problems with affordable housing. But that would mean that corporate executives and university bureaucrats wouldn’t have us subsidizing their flying follies, and the convenience of travel by private jet would require them to drive to Springdale.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fayetteville's Airport (Part I)

In 1998, less than ten years ago, the five commercial airlines had about 45 flights a day from Drake Field and boarded more than 272,000 passengers a year. The economic impact for Fayetteville was roughly $20 million a year. Airport revenues were about $1.73 million, with a net income of more than $600,000 per year for the city treasury. Then on September 8, 1999, US Airways Express flight 5638 lifted off for Kansas City, the last commercial flight from Drake Field. How and why did that happen to us?

It started back in 1969 when Frank Broyles asked voters to increase property taxes to build a regional airport to service his football team. Washington County residents approved it, but Benton County voters rejected the idea. So Fayetteville opened a costly new terminal building at Drake Field in 1980 and later spent another $500,000 to expand it to 25,000 square feet with restaurants and shops.

In 1990, the Walton-Tyson-Hunt dominated Northwest Arkansas Council told their loyal servant John Paul Hammerschmidt to get a bunch of federal tax dollars, and they hired Uvalde Lindsey and Scott Vanlaningham to bring the lesser locals to heel. Within two months, the Good Suit Club got the cities of Bentonville, Siloam Springs, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville and Benton and Washington counties to create the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority, just as they now are trying to sell us a Regional Mobility Authority to pay for by-passes in Bella Vista and Springdale to serve the trucking industry.

Fayetteville Mayor Fred Hanna and the local Chamber crowd were all for the idea of dumping “substandard” Drake Field and moving business 30 miles north to shiny XNA. Only Alderman Kit Williams had the courage and good sense to fight it. "Once we say yes to the agreement not to compete, Drake Field will be forever closed" to commercial air service for our citizens, said Williams. "When you look at the economic impact of the people coming through Drake Field, sending that north to Benton County for no good reason, I'm flabbergasted there hasn't been more opposition from the Fayetteville business community."

Steve Ward, executive director of the Fayetteville Chamber of Cowbirds, said "We feel the regional airport is a step forward for Northwest Arkansas, which Fayetteville is a part of." The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority worked through the region's chambers of commerce and secured a letter in February 1997 signed by all major employers promising to use only XNA and requesting that all five airlines serving Fayetteville's Drake Field pull out and move to to Benton County. Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, jumped in and assured the backing of the Little Rock Chamber for the idea to stiff Fayetteville for XNA.

On November 1, 1998, the first commercial flight took off from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Less than a year later, Fayetteville’s Drake Field was an empty shell with no commercial passenger service.

Greenland Sues Developer

They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. The Greenland City Council voted unanimously to file suit against the developer and construction company that failed to follow approved engineering specifications with regard to construction of the infrastructure improvements in Lee Valley Subdivision, as required by the bill of assurance and performance bond.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in Washington County Circuit Court against developer Willie Mooney and Brothers Construction Inc. Some of the shoddy work in the subdivision, documented by city engineers, includes unfinished and clogged drainage ditches, incomplete storm pipes, sewer boxes without lids, and loose light posts. The city says that the construction company failed to use proper materials, methods and procedures to fully comply with the contract provisions, failed to build the improvements as planned and specified, and left some of the infrastructure improvements incomplete and unfinished when the construction company ceased work on the subdivision. Sounds a lot like a certain subdivision in south Fayetteville.

The Washington County Quorum Court doesn't seem to care much about zoning or building standards, but some of our cities do. Taxpayers pay the salaries of planning professionals and elected officials who approve developments, and we expect the developers to be held accountable when they fail to meet city standards. Someone must fix the problems created when developers ignore standard engineering designs for infrastructure or build subdivisions that create additional problems with erosion and storm water runoff. In Fayetteville, it is usually the unwitting taxpayers who get stuck with the bill; in Greenland they're going after those who caused the problems.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Working Together for Our Community

“It’s all about partnerships. … None of us can do it on our own,” said Debi Durham, president of The Siouxland Initiative, an Iowa economic development corporation; president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce; and president of the Siouxland Chamber Foundation. Durham was in Fayetteville yesterday to conduct an economic development training session for Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody and about a dozen others who were invited to attend.

Durham told the group that 80% of growth "comes from within," and that community and economic development essentially is "all about understanding who you are. It’s all about relationships. It’s all about building a trust factor... It’s just constant communication.” That must have come as a real shock to the Fayetteville Economic Development Council that operates in secret, issues "strategic deceptions" to mislead the media, and appears to spend most of its time chasing foreign corporations.

In what also must have been news to the local Chamber of Cowbirds, Durham also advised that economic development is not just about infrastructure issues (such as corporate subsidies for water and sewer rates or building a new high school to facilitate sprawl) but was about "about having a great place where people want to live." She also let slip the secret that the Souix City Chamber of Commerce knows that community and economic success is due to the teamwork of local governments partnering with each other, local unions, and public schools, not just businesses, and that they don't try to take all the credit. I bet Ray Boudreaux and Bill Ramsey nearly fell out of their comfortable chairs when they heard that heresy.