Monday, January 7, 2008

Thanks, Paula

It was Plato, in The Apology of Socrates, who wrote that the unexamined life is not worth living, and the same can be said about the civic life of a community. Fayetteville is very fortunate to have Paula Marinoni to act as a provocative, stimulating, persistent, sometimes annoying, public critic to ensure a healthy democratic discussion about where we have been, where we are going, what we want, and most importantly why.

Paula has contributed countless hours to our community, founding and fighting battles on behalf of the Washington County Historic Preservation Association, Crosswalk Safety Awareness Day, the West Lafayette Street Historic Neighborhood Association, the Historic
Fayetteville Evergreen Cemetery Association, and the Flower, Garden and Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas. She is a Patron of the Poet’s Roundtable of Arkansas, yet she bravely pointed out that "it is so unbelievably irresponsible" to create a Cultural Arts District with no definition of what it is. She represented St. Joseph’s Catholic Church as a Delegate at the Conference on Honduras in
Copan Ruinas, and she fought the Central United Methodist Church's arrogant destruction of the historic Brown's Grocery on Lafayette.

Paula's most notable success was in stopping the University of Arkansas from demolishing Carnall Hall, now a jewel of the campus and community as Ella's and the Inn at Carnall Hall. She was less successful in stopping SWEPCO from getting approval to construct giant towers in the Old Main viewshed, arguing against demolition of Edward Durell Stone's Carlson Terrace for a softball field and tailgate area, or the leveling of 4-H House for another parking lot. She told
Chancellor John White and the UA Trustees that they had a "parking lot virus" and "putting a parking lot right in the middle of an area that is very historic, with no discussion whatsoever, is wrong. It’s like Sherman’s march to the sea. Grab everything you can and destroy it."

It is an often thankless task, but Paula Marinoni continues to speak out unselfishly for the public good with no expectation of income or reward, and she produces educational programs on historic preservation and gardening on Community Access Television. In 2000, she ran for Mayor and finished just ahead of Mustin and Subroto Lahiri, but now claims, "I’m not running for anything ever again." That can be forgiven, but let's hope that she continues to raise issues and hell. We should all be thankful for Paula's public spirit, and, like the inscription on Sophia Sawyer's tombstone that she has battled to restore, can be glad that
"She hath done what she could." We should also give her a little help now and then.

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