Monday, June 30, 2008

Oh, Just Ignore the People

Fran Alexander's regular column in the Northwest Arkansas Times is always worth reading, and today's is no exception. Her topic is the proposed Northwest Arkansas Regional Mobility Authority. I get the impression that she doesn't much care for it, and she doesn't care much for her newspaper's editorial last Sunday.

You might have missed the editorial, but essentially it argued that the City Council should have joined the Authority immediately and not bothered to ask their constituents thought about the idea. "Gee, we really have to think about that," smirked the editors. "There are other times when elected officials need to exercise leadership and consider whether their action (or inaction, in this case ) is going to ultimately change the outcome. If the outcome will be the same, what’s the point of delaying a decision?"

Maybe because the people, ordinary citizens, deserve to be heard? Nonsense says the Northwest Arkansas Times, as if time and appearances were of the essence. "Elected officials can get addicted to deferring action so that they can seek the consent of 'The People.' That’s a comfortable place. But citizens elect representatives to make decisions because 'The People' don’t always have the time or the inclination to become thoroughly versed on every issue. Citizens are too busy trying to make money to pay the taxes that fund government," say the editors.

And what was the big hurry? Why should Fayetteville have rushed up approval without any public hearing? What would be lost? Apparently only a chance for the editors to criticize a couple of city council members who wanted to know what their constituents thought about it and to depict one of them in a cartoon.

Fran Alexander examines the proposal in some detail then concludes, "Cutting to the chase, we all know Fayetteville will have to be represented on this board now that the authority exists. But treating Lucas and Jordan as spoilers is condescending. Wanting to know what’s in it for Fayetteville if traffic is diverted away from town is hardly faulty economic logic on the part of these aldermen. Jordan was even depicted in a political cartoon as a hayseed for not wanting to vote immediately. Well, gee, I’d sure rather have a hesitant questioner (hayseed he’s not, by the way) looking out for the town than slick bond daddies dancing for decades with our money, but maybe that’s just me. It may be painful, but critical thinking requires that we question authority — whether authority likes it or not."

Democracy is slower than dictatorship, but that is one of its advantages. If you are interested in participating and having your opinion considered, Aldermen Shirley Lucas and Lioneld Jordan are holding their regular monthly open-to-all Ward 4 meeting tonight at 7 p. m. in Room 111 of City Hall. The Regional Mobility Authority is the first thing on the agenda, and this will be the only public hearing before the vote Tuesday night and your only chance to ask questions or be heard. Not that the editors of the Northwest Arkansas Times think you care, have anything worthwhile to say, or even deserve that chance.

There will be no public forum on the Government Channel discussing this topic, but you can watch Mayor Coody's press conference about bottled water.

Ray Dotson: Bowling for Bidness

Ray Dotson, a stagecoach scammer and former alderman, yesterday became the seventh candidate to toss his hat in the ring for mayor of Springdale. He announced his candidacy in an area sometimes referred to as downtown Springdale to a huge crowd that some estimated at more than 30 supporters, if you counted family members.

Stagecoach Ray proclaimed, "I'll be a mayor of pro-business." He says he will do everything possible to bring business back to the area to compete with local merchants and to keep businesses here. We know he will give it his all, like he did to screw Lowell for storage of their stagecoach, but just what does it mean to "be a mayor of pro-business?"

Springdale already gives over $150,000 to the Springdale Cowbirds to run their flagging economic development efforts. Does it mean Ray would try to open up the streets for more and bigger billboards? Would he just take more tax dollars and give another $50,000 to the Chamber? And what can a mayor really do to "bring business back" to Springdale?
Ray is going to need a new schtick. Actually, Ray needs to forget about running for mayor, because not even Springdale would elect him.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Anyone Apprised About Appraisals?

Late last year, the Mayor and City Council wrangled about what to do with Fayetteville's unneeded and unused real estate investment known as the former Mexican Original plant on Huntsville Road. It was finally decided to get one or more appraisals then decide what to do. Well, that was more than six months ago, and we haven't heard squat from City Hall since then.

How long does it take to get an appraisal these days? What was the appraised value? What is the best use for that property? Who is supposed to be getting those appraisals? When will you let the public know how much the property is worth? Is this another one of those deals where staff have not followed through? Is it a deliberate stall to prevent any action on the property? What the hell is going on? Who is in charge? Who will get the blame for the hiccup this time?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Minister of Information Control

Chair Richard Drake has sent a letter on behalf of the Fayetteville Telecommunications Board to Mayor Coody and the City Council. It appears to be a finding of fact and a complaint that two issue forums that had already been approved for production on the Fayetteville Government Channel were "unceremoniously yanked from the planning stages" and vetoed by Dr. Susan Thomas, PhD, the mayor's public relations and policy advisor. At its June meeting, the Board voted unanimously to urge the City Council "to allow these two forums to take place."

One of the issue forums dealt with the future of Fayetteville High School, and the other was to deal with the future of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. Both are timely issues of public concern, and both were requested by Alderman Nancy Allen in accordance with the existing Government Channel policies adopted by the City Council in 2006.

Ignoring the city policy and acting on the assumed authority of the Mayor to do whatever he wants regardless of law and policy, Dr. Thomas canceled both of the programs requested by Alderman Allen. Is Mayor Coody afraid that these public forums might limit his ribbon cutting ceremony replays to showing only once a day? Is he afraid that someone might inquire about why he has done nothing about the almost certain moving of the Walton Arts Center to Benton County? Is it just a petty grudge against Alderman Allen who asked him to explain the sewer plant debacle?

I suppose it doesn't matter. The Telecommunications Board has no power. The cable administrator was fired and has not been replaced. If the Council took action on the policy, the Mayor would veto it and Gray-Thiel-Rhoads would vote to sustain. Dr. Thomas will not be reprimanded. And we will still get to see Dan's press conferences and self-promotions on the Government Channel every day.

Coody has not been held accountable for much worse transgressions of the public trust, so what's one more insult to the public?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Catch a Mexican by the Toe

State Representative Jim Holt Jon Woods (R-Springdale) has decided to crank up the Fear Factor to get people to sign a petition. He and a small group of Republicans are pushing an initiated act to make sure that Hispanic graduates of our high schools do not get in-state tuition or that sick children do not get medical attention, unless they can provide proof of citizenship.

A woman named Jeannie Burlsworth is heading up the petition drive, and she thinks Northwest Arkansas is a good place to gather signatures. “I went up there last week. I was so disappointed because it’s starting to look like Mexico up there,” she said. She says she’s received about 45,000 signatures on petition pages so far, and she has until July 7 to turn in 61,974 valid signatures of registered Arkansas voters to get on the ballot. Scott Leachman and Tammy McCannon of Rogers easily collected lots of signatures outside the state revenue office in Bentonville last week. “Give me a pen!” said Rogers public school teacher Elizabeth Smith.

To spur additional signatures, Rep. Holt Woods told a meeting of the
Washington County Republican Women that Mexican gang warlords in Springdale and Rogers were putting out hits on good Americans in Chicago and across our fair land. When questioned, Rep. Holt Woods said he didn’t know all the details, that the information was “outside of my expertise," and that Kelley Cradduck of the Rogers Police Department Internet Surfing and Gang Squad had told him something sort of like that.

Cradduck said he didn’t know of anything akin to a “hit." Springdale Police Sgt. Shane Pegram said he didn’t know of anything like that, either. “We have no such case. We have no intelligence to suggest any of that... We’re not aware of hit orders coming out of Springdale.” Rogers Mayor Steve Womack said he knew of nothing similar, either, and “That’s pretty scary stuff. That’s spooky to a lot of people. I would assume that a legislator speaking in his official capacity on this kind of subject would not misrepresent this, but I certainly am not aware of that type of intelligence.”

Rep. Holt Woods said later that he was sticking with his story. “It’s impossible for the mayor or myself to be up to date on every little thing that happens, but... this is what I was told. As an elected official, I have to take that information and go with what I have.”

Yep. Even if it is total bullshit, it seems, as long as it will help him get another 16,000 names on the petitions and more Republican votes in Springdale.

Fayetteville School Board Meeting

For the second time this week, the Fayetteville School Board will be meeting. On Tuesday, they met in secret session for several hours then voted 6-0 to allow Assistant Principal Kirk Sutton to keep his job for 2008-09 provided he completes a 12-step program, develops an education plan for students on the consequences of alcohol abuse and submits to random drug screenings.

The board is scheduled to meet again today at 5 p. m. in the Adams Leadership Center, 1000 W. Stone Street. On the agenda will be discussion as to whether to sell the high school to the University of Arkansas for $50 million, about $12 million less than the appraised value. Then they will consider the possibility of merging the financially-troubled Greenland School District, which would assure that Fayetteville teachers would get no raises next year. They are on a roll, huh?

Another agenda item will be trying again to get someone to apply for and actually accept the job of Superintendent. The first try got few applicants and a flat rejection from the only candidate interviewed. Tonight they will think about hiring a professional headhunter to find someone who will take the job.

A final item will be to hear a report on the district's communication strategy. Maybe that is something they should have considered before they got us in this fine mess.

Who Tried to Raise Our Property Taxes?

Remember last fall when Mayor Dan Coody proposed raising our property taxes to pay for the record growth of expenses in the city budget since he took office? The sky was falling, and we were told the city must raise property taxes by $1 million in October without a vote of the people. Doug Thompson laid bare Coody's convoluted demand for more taxes, months before the mayor would finally submit a late budget for 2008 to the City Council for consideration in November. Just show him the money and don't ask questions.

"We had the impression that the city administration got the cart before the horse with its proposal, looking for additional revenue before the City Council actually reviewed the 2008 budget,"
said The Morning News. The City Council agree by a vote of 5-3. Aldermen Shirley Lucas, Nancy Allen, Kyle Cook, Bobby Ferrell, and Lioneld Jordan voted against Coody's tax hike. They vowed to take a close look and make the hard choices to trim the fat from the budget. Only Adella Gray, Brenda Thiel, and Robert Rhoads supported the $1 million property tax increase that Coody wanted to impose.

April sales tax figures are in, and they show clearly that we did not need the Coody tax increase bonanza. Fayetteville sales tax revenues are
up 11.7% over last April, from $1,197,293 in April 2007 to $1,337,377 in 2008. Compare that with the lower revenue growth in Bentonville (+3.6%), Rogers (+3.4%), and Springdale (-7%).

Read my lips. I'm glad that the thinking majority of the City Council had the courage and good sense to stand firm against the unnecessary Coody tax increase proposal. They stayed and worked through a frugal and practical budget for our city while Mayor Coody was off vacationing in France with the cheese-eating surrender monkeys. They were right; he was wrong.

Don't be too surprised if Dan doesn't try again to raise our property taxes before the end of the year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dan In Debacle Denial

Sadly, we have seen this before. Maybe not this Mayor, maybe not this issue, but we have seen it. According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, denial is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings. Freud suggested that it is a defense mechanisms for dealing or coping with anxiety, such as explaining problems away or blaming others for problems. It entails ignoring or refusing to believe an unpleasant reality. However, it does not resolve underlying problem and, if overused, can lead to psychological disorders.

We are concerned about Mayor Coody and his inability to deal honestly with his $63 million sewer plant debacle. He can pretend it didn't happen, or blame it on someone else, or cut that ribbon a hundred times on the Government Channel and claim it came in under budget and ahead of schedule, but it is still his problem. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has seen it, too, and today's advice column lays it out in clear and convincing terms that even Dan Coody and his highly paid public relations and policy advisers should be able to understand:

"If he runs again, Mayor Coody can expect lots of questions about the defining event of his time in office: The $63 million cost overrun for the new sewer plant on the west side of town. The plant also came in three years behind schedule and had to be rescued with an increase in the city sales tax a couple of years ago.

"It was not Dan Coody’s finest moment, regardless of how he’s brushed off responsibility for it. He’s dismissed the original cost estimates as unrealistic. He said he wasn’t told that the project was behind schedule until too late. But my-dog-ate-it excuses won’t work. Dan Coody was the mayor at the time of the sewer plant catastrophe. If he didn’t know what was going on, he should have. The 63 million bucks stop at his desk.

"Dan Coody’s done a lot of good things for Fayetteville. But he’s had an eight-year run, and it’s time for somebody else to see what he can do. It needs to be somebody who doesn’t overlook a $63 million oopsie. Even if Dan Coody doesn’t think the somebody else is up to the job."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Miami Vice

Mayor Dan Coody has taken our city to a new dimension. Last night it was a Fifth Dimension concert in the famed South Beach section of Miami Beach, where he has been participating in the annual convention of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Lots of fireworks and hardy partying, much more fun than staying in Fayetteville to talk with Amory Lovins at the library.

This junket is official city business, paid for by you know who.

As Esquire magazine observed, "The U.S. Conference of Mayors is more or less an association, and their annual meeting is more or less a convention. About two hundred of them stay in the same hotel. They listen to speeches, have small group sessions. They learn. They teach. They network. And at the end of the day, they drink a few beers and give one another awards over roast beef in a ballroom. They hang out." This year they got to hear speeches from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, too.

We did not win or even get an honorable mention for the Wal-Mart Climate Award this year, nor the Livable City award either. On the Eighth Anniversary of the Kohl's tree cutting, we lost the Community Trees Award to Camden, New Jersey, of all places. And despite a determined effort, we didn't even take home the Jantzen swimsuit model. But Mayor Coody always learns a lot at these conventions.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting released a Zogby Poll they commissioned to help mayors get reelected. It said voters believed that "Going Green" would help the economy and improve their cities, so mayors should talk about that at every opportunity. Our Man Dan is a quick study.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Measure for Treasure

The April Reports for Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant Taxes that fund the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission are now available. The rankings of reported sales and taxes remitted are both interesting and surprising. Slim Chicken's reported more total sales than the Powerhouse. Taco Bell reported more sales than La Huerta. Harp's Delis reported more than Eureka Pizza. Subway reported more than Theo's. Logan's Roadhouse reported more than Doe's and Hog Haus Brewing combined.

Once again, Jose's Mexican Restaurant and Cafe Rue Orleans were not listed among the Top 66 local tax remitters. This is of interest, because owners Neal Crawford and Maudie Schmitt are members of the A&P Commission and decide how to spend that money, whether for the Fayetteville Arts Festival or dues to the Chamber of Cowbirds.

On the Hotel side, the Clarion again led the field, followed by Hampton Inn, Inn at Carnall Hall, Marriott Courtyard, and Holiday Inn Express. The Cosmopolitan came in sixth, but that was still far ahead of the owners' Renaissance Marriott allegedly scheduled to open in 2005-2010.

Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure;
Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure;
What goes around, comes around, and that's not conjecture.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Preacher

Spiders and their webs have long been the stuff of metaphors and similes in sermons of damnation. Way back in 1741, Jonathan Edwards told the wayward souls in his flock, "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; ... all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock."

the sinners of Northwest Arkansas are reminded of that old time theology by the Letters of the Apostle Jay, who writes, "It seems that the local spiders know just exactly where to place their webs in order to trap the maximum number of bugs. Well, of course they do. A web is designed to catch prey to be eaten. The World Wide Web is no different. ...Someday the world will be so entangled in this web that the spider will just walk right in and have lunch." You see where this is going.

Verily, Jay Cole the Junior says unto us, "The government won’t stop the allurement of pornography because it is too profitable and so many officials are paid off that it can’t be stopped. But I wonder just how many men could be spared from this government induced addiction to Internet pornography if they discovered that they were not really looking at women at all. I wonder how many men would stop looking at pornography if they realized that they were actually looking at male homosexual cross-dressers, female impersonators, skilled make-up artists and other men
who have had sex change operations. ...
Satan is a master of deception."

Be careful there, Reverend. Such invocations of phobic avoidance often involve projection as well as displacement and symbolization. Using homophobic examples to instill fear in one’s audience may reveal an unconscious fear of loss of control over one’s own sexual impulses, an external projection of an inner anxiety and a relatively primitive and transparent defense mechanism. Better stick with spiders and lay off the snakes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Poll: Can Coody Tell the Truth?

This is not about the mayor's race. This is about whether Dan Coody can tell the truth or give anyone a straight answer to a simple question. I'm afraid we all know the answer, and we don't have to conduct a poll to know the answer. The margin of error is plus or minus 100% on anything he says.

The latest example is the news that he has hired a polling firm to conduct a poll. When asked about it, he squirmed around and admitted to a reporter that he conducted the poll. First he said,
“I just wanted to see what my numbers were like and I was very gratified with the results.” Then he said, he received the survey results just as he was leaving for some conference in Florida and has not had time to study them.

Coody said he paid for the paid for the poll
to get an assessment of the mayor’s race because Fayetteville is recognized as a national leader in the environmental movement. Strange, then, that the poll didn't ask a single question about the environment or the city's perceived leadership in the environmental movement. Whatever that means.

Then, Coody also claimed it was important to him to know "
if my progress is going to be sustained." You know, things like will the next mayor have the courage and good sense to call a press conference on the steps of city hall and tell everyone to stop drinking bottled water? There were no questions about the poor judgment of jumping on a big jet and burning thousands of gallons of fuel to attend a conference where people talk about global warming. No questions on the poll about such things as the $63 million sewer debacle that came in three years late, the one he tried to tell us was on time and under budget.

No, the only questions on the poll were about how well Dan Coody would do in an election for mayor.

Last October, Coody announced and flooded the Government Channel with his announcement that he would not run for reelection. Now he's not so sure. He would miss that salary and the chance for those big retirement benefits the city taxpayers would pay him if he could get elected to another term.

Dan Coody should put an end to this constant prevarication. He should go with dignity and let people remember the good things he did.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Springdale Cowbirds Shirk Responsibility

Spingdale pays their local Chamber of Cowbirds $100,000 annually from its general fund to promote economic development, $60,000 from the advertising and promotion tax, and another $17,000 from the Public Facilities Board. That's $177,000 in taxpayer money, and what do they get for it? Excuses.

In 2004, Springdale issued 242 commercial building permits valued at $125.7 million. Three years later and
more than $500,000 paid to the Chamber for economic development, the commercial construction figures last year had fallen to only 161 permits with a value of $40.5 million. So far this year, they plummeted to 48 permits and $11.6 million. That's quite a serious drop, but you won't hear the Cowbirds taking any blame or explaining what went wrong with their alleged economic development strategy. In addition, sales tax revenues have tanked for 19 straight months.

Blame Bush. "It mirrors the national economy," said Perry Webb, Chief Apologist for the Springdale Cowbirds. "Construction runs in cycles, and we're down now. Nobody thought we could maintain the high levels we had perpetually." No, but they probably expected something for all the money they paid the Chamber every year. You did worse than "business unfriendly" Fayetteville.

Useful Idiot. Alderman Bobby Stout said the Council has passed ordinances that are unfriendly to businesses. The sign and billboard ordinances are hostile to business. I don't think that's your problem, Bobby. Springdale has more billboards than any city in Northwest Arkansas, and it has the worst economic growth. You'll have to do better than that.

Fayetteville used to pay the local Chamber about $100,000 a year for economic development, but even
Fred Hanna could see that was a waste of money and put a stop to it. Springdale might catch on after the next election.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Winging It

It is one thing to under report your sales and collection of the 2% Fayetteville Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant tax. It is quite another to pocket the sales tax collected that is owed to the state. They aren't as likely to let it slide with a wink.

Yesterday, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration served a Business Closure Notice on Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, 32 W. Joyce Boulevard, in Fayetteville. If you are a fan of the Minnesota-based chain, better scurry on out to North Sprawlville and take the Blazin' Challenge. Ask them if you can have it tax free.

If only they had a bigger sign . . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lawn Order: All New Episodes

There are 400,000 stories in Northwest Arkansas. Here are seven of them. And these are just the ones who got caught and the dastardly deeds that so disturbed the peace and dignity of our communities that vigilant citizens felt compelled to raise a hue and cry.

I regret to, but must, admit that Benton County has the best ones this week, but I am confident that Washington County will regain the crown when the more creative class of students return in September to make life more amusing.

Washington County

Assefa Gabriel Egziabher Jr., 31, was charged with residential burglary and third-degree battery, accused of breaking into a house and hitting his mother, causing pain and bruising.

Jennifer Brooke Boyd, 25, was charged with second degree forgery, accused of cashing a forged check to bond her boyfriend out of jail.

Benton County

At 12: 39 a. m. Monday, a caller on Melbourn Drive in Bella Vista reported two or three kids squirted ketchup on her house.

At 1: 16 a. m. Monday, a caller on Hayle Lane in Bella Vista reported someone knocked on her door, ran away, and ran over her newspaper.

At 9: 25 a. m. Monday, David Murray, 14275 Arrowhead Lane in Garfield reported someone was stealing his newspaper.

At 12: 19 p. m. Monday, a caller on Wilber Lane in Bella Vista reported someone stole Freon from her air conditioner.

At 4: 40 p. m. Monday, Karen Conduff reported someone used a counterfeit $200 bill at Lucky C Mart, 2401 W. Olive Street in Rogers.

Amory Lovins Coming to Town

I just received a note from Nick Brown about a unique intellectual opportunity. Amory Lovins, the founder and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute and author of Soft Energy Paths, Natural Capitalism, and Winning the Oil Endgame will present at the Fayetteville Public Library, Walker Community Room, from 9:00 to 10:30AM, next Monday, June 23. It'll be a rare opportunity to listen to and pick the brain of one of the world's most insightful and intelligent thinkers about renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy policy.

This is yet another interesting meeting that I will be unable to attend. Like the Green Building Council and almost every other event related to sustainability, this one is also scheduled during work hours for those of us who work for a living. If you can attend these lecture and roundtable presentations, you are lucky to be your own boss, be retired,
be a consultant, be a city employee, be a Cowbird, be a house-sitter, be a kept spouse, or be drawing unemployment. Otherwise, you might start thinking these events are scheduled for the convenience of the presenters instead of being intended to reach an audience of average citizens who would like to know more about the topics.

If Dan Coody can somehow wedge himself onto the stage and get a speaking part, maybe we can watch a replay of the presentation about 20 times on the Government Channel.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All Coody, All the Time





June 22-28, 2008


8 Repeats of Coody's Press Conference on Bottled Water

6 Repeats of Coody’s Sewer Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting

1 Repeat of City Council Meeting: June 17

0 Citizen Forums on Issues of Public Concern

Set your TiVo now! Look for the updated program guide in the Cable Administration section on the city's lame website, but don’t bother looking for Telecommunications Board Policies. Contact Dr. Susan Thomas PhD, Public Relations, Policy, and Government Channel Adviser at

SUNDAY, June 22

11:15 p.m. Waste Water Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting

4:30 p.m. City Council Meeting: June 17

MONDAY, June 23

8:30 p.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

9:00 p.m. Waste Water Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting

TUESDAY, June 24

8:30 a.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

1:00 p.m. Waste Water Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting


2:30 p.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

3:30 p.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

10:15 p.m. Waste Water Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting


3:15 p.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

11:30 p.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

FRIDAY, June 27

8:30 a.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

9:00 a.m. Waste Water Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting

9:45 p.m. Waste Water Treatment Plant Ribbon Cutting


3:00 p.m. Mayor Coody's Press Conference On Bottled Water

Shackelford Summarizes Sewer Debacle

"For the record, however, city residents should not feel at all hesitant, or guilty, about roundly criticizing this city’s leadership for the enormous cost overruns and construction delays that this unwieldy effort will always be remembered for. Had everything described above failed to turn out as well as it did, it’s no stretch to suggest that even considerate minds would have found themselves pondering the removal of our mayor and city aldermen.

"An old acquaintance passed along a story published by the Northwest Arkansas Times on March 27, 2001, reminding me that way back in 2000 city officials were telling the public that this massive infrastructure undertaking would cost taxpayers between $60 million and $90 million. By 2001 Interim Public Works Director Don Bunn was busy saying those estimates were far too rosy — and that the final figure would run closer to $110 million. “I can tell you we are extremely confident of the cost,” Bunn said at the time. …

"The original date of the new plant’s grand opening (September 2005) came and went like a train in the night. By September 2006, Fayetteville voters were headed back to the polls, ultimately approving a tax increase to foot the bill for tens of millions worth of cost overruns. At the time, Coody blamed consultants for the project’s increased costs and delays, and said that people involved with the project did not sufficiently communicate the issue to him.

"Critics would say that’s an excellent example of passing the buck and avoiding blame. Heck, even the sewer project’s most passionate supporters have to admit that those early estimates were so far off as to show themselves to be educated guesses — and poorly educated ones at that. At this late date citizens are just thankful that they don’t have to return to the polls a third time and bail city officials out of a jam by imposing yet another financial burden on themselves. …

"Embarrassments aside, the effort was probably worth it. Still, it would be nice if, in the future, Fayetteville leaders discover a way not to be so ridiculously off course in their projections. Next time, perhaps….

"I don’t know about you, but I reached my limit for public projects careening wildly out of control this time around."

--Scott Shackelford, "The Public's Waste," Northwest Arkansas Times

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bad Bidness

Another City Council meeting tomorrow and another slew of no bid contracts being brought in by Mayor Dan Coody. There are good reasons that bids be taken and advertised, even if the present mayor chooses to ignore them. Taking bids on major projects and equipment purchases is intended to allow all businesses an equal opportunity to make a sale to the city, insure a uniform and orderly contracting process, to protect public funds by increasing the likelihood the best price will be obtained, and to reduce the potential for fraud, favoritism, improvidence, extravagance, and other abuses of discretion by public officials.

On Tuesday's Council Agenda is
an ordinance waiving the requirements of formal competitive bidding and approving the purchase of spare parts for the West Side Wastewater Treatment Plant's ultraviolet disinfection system from Wedeco, Inc. in the amount of $54,300.79. The thing hasn't been open a week, and they already need spare parts? What kind of spare parts are so special that they can't be bid and must be purchased from a single supplier at whatever price the company and the mayor agree to deal? And is this another $54,300 in cost to be added to the $63 million over run debacle?

Here's another good one.
An ordinance waiving the requirements of formal competitive bidding and approving the purchase of sewer televising equipment from Cues, Inc. in the amount of $27,627.78. Sewer televising equipment? Now there's a fascinating program the Mayor can put on the Government Channel to replace those pesky citizen forums on public affairs.

To assure top quality production value for his sewer television program, Mayor Coody is also requesting passage on the Consent Agenda of a resolution approving the purchase of operational and security equipment and cameras from Spytown USA in the amount of
$26,771.82 for the West Side Wastewater Treatment Plant; and approving a contingency in the amount of $2,500.00. Spytown USA? WTF? Are we competing with Lowell?

Even when Coody agrees to take bids on purchases, it doesn't seem to work out well for the taxpayers. You probably saw the article in today's
Northwest Arkansas Times about how we're going to have to pay an extra $10,200 for an animal shelter incinerator. They are going to reject a bid of $43,478 from Air Pollution Control Products Inc. of Virginia and go with the $53,700 bid from Bestech Environmental Resources Inc. of Alabama. The city admits that there's nothing wrong with the equipment, but they say the references weren't adequate for a company that has been in business for 40 years and has sold over 500 units. They say the low bidder is not a lowest responsible bidder, so they want to pay an extra 10 grand to another out-of-state bidder with the right number of references on a piece of paper. Sheesh!

Countdown to the end of this era of fiscal irresponsibility, only 198 days left until the Mayor has promised to step down.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

John Boozman's Unemployment Line

Congressman John Boozman (R-Pinnacle Gated Community) voted against the Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008 on Thursday. This legislation would bring much-needed relief to 3.8 million unemployed workers to assist them with rapidly rising gas and food costs, while they continue trying to find work and provide for their families in this sluggish economy.

Many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. The unemployment rate surged to 5.5% from 5.0%, the biggest one-month jump since 1982, climbing to the highest level in nearly four years. For five consecutive months, the U.S. economy has lost a total 324,000 jobs. The number of people looking for work climbed 861,000 to 8.5 million in May. These laid-off workers have spent years paying into our unemployment insurance system, yet the system is abandoning them when they need help the most. So did John Boozman.

Extending unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans likely to be hardest hit during the economic downturn, people who want to work but have lost their means of support through no fault of their own. John Boozman doesn’t think they deserve it.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this legislation extending unemployment benefits would be one of the most cost-effective and fastest-acting forms of economic stimulus. Indeed, extension of unemployment benefits provides $1.64 in stimulus for every dollar spent, making the policy one of the most effective stimulus measures. John Boozman doesn't seem to care.

The bill passed by 274-137. All of Arkansas’ other Congressmen – Berry, Snyder, and Ross – voted for the bill. Boozman needs to explain to us why he voted NO. We need to hold him accountable for it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blank Lincoln Reports on Reality

The Rogers Hometown News this week reprinted a press release from United States Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-INO) boasting that she co-sponsored a resolution proclaiming June as National Internet Safety Month. It passed more quickly than her ongoing efforts to exempt the Wal-Mart heirs from having to pay estate taxes or legislation to provide fat farm subsidies to her family and friends who own plantations in the delta. In fact, it was so non-controversial that it passed by unanimous consent only seven days after it was introduced.

There is also more and less to this story than our vigilant local press reported. It is of some interest that Lincoln's co-sponsors of this resolution to warn of the dangers of the Internet and urge the protection of the Innocent included her morally-righteous Senate colleagues Larry Craig (R-ID) and David Vitter (R-LA). That's amusing.

Senator Lincoln's official press release waxes nostalgic about the past. "When I was growing up in Helena, Main Street was the place for a good deal of social activity. On Saturday mornings, I would often head down to the drugstore and other shops on Main Street with my grandfather where I would meet my friends. ...That is not the world we live in today. Main Street then and Main Street today are very different."

Why would Blanche say such a thing? Is telling an untruth necessary to make her point? There is no Main Street in Helena. The principal business district street is Cherry Street. It is much different today from when Lincoln was young. Her grandfather was the mayor, and the white-owned businesses dominated downtown. Maybe that was her real point about how things have changed? The Internet had little to do with that

Friday, June 13, 2008

Opportunity for Public Service

Fayetteville residents care deeply about educational issues and the future of our public schools. The upcoming School Board election on September 16th presents an opportunity for citizens to step forward and demonstrate their commitment to the teachers and students of today as well of those in the future.

Thanks to
Rose Ann Pearce of The Morning News for alerting patrons that recent legislation has changed the dates for circulating petitions and becoming a candidate. The new information about filing does not appear on the Fayetteville School District's website or the Washington County Election Commission's homepage.

The only race in the Fayetteville School District this year is for an At-Large Position that will be decided by all voters in the district.
Petitions are available at the County Clerk's office, and candidates can pick up petitions and begin collecting signatures on June 18th. The deadline for filing petitions signed by at least 20 registered voters in the district is noon on July 18th to qualify for the ballot. The Northwest Arkansas Times reported incorrectly that the filing deadline was August 4th

The incumbent board member is Susan Heil, who has not yet announced for re-election. She told a reporter
last month "at this point it is likely she will run again, but she hasn’t made a final decision on the matter." She has supported selling the high school to the University, building one mega-school, adding 9th grade to the high school, and closing Jefferson School. If you're for that, she's your candidate.

Coffee shop talk is that
Jim Halsell will be a candidate for the position, and he should be encouraged to run. He has been very active as President of the Washington Parent Teacher Organization and was instrumental in an securing the agreement between Washington Elementary School and the UA School of Architecture to build a new "outdoor learning environment" at the school. Unlike the incumbent, he is believed to support the BuildSmart plan for a world-class high school on the present campus adjacent to the University and near the Blair Library and the Walton Arts Center.

Halsell was recently
honored among the "The Best of the Best"at the school district's 11th annual Outstanding Volunteer Banquet. That is indicative of his dedication and leadership by example that is so necessary for a thoughtful and effective school board member, and he would be an excellent choice.

Ready to Rumble?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Selling Short on Stone Street

Curious. The Fayetteville School District paid good money for an appraisal of $61.28 million for the current 40-acre high school campus adjacent to the University of Arkansas, then the school board took Superintendent Bobby New's advice and voted 6-1 to offer the property up to the UA for $59 million, a cool $2,280,000 below appraisal. Last week the University of Arkansas, led by Trustees Jim Lindsey and John Tyson, considered Chancellor John White's suggestion to pay a premium price and came back with a lowball offer of $50 million.

Deal breaker? Apparently not. The group that has been pushing to sell off the high school and build out on Deane Solomon is not insulted but inspired. They say "take the $50 million," because "time is of the essence," and we might not ever have the chance to dump the high school for $11.28 million below appraisal (and even more below replacement value). They want the school board to sell quickly and take the loss before some of the members finally give thoughtful consideration to the advantages of building a world-class high school on the current site.

What's the hurry to take the big loss? They say "the offer appears to have been made with some reservation since the UofA has many other buildings that will need refurbishing in the near future and the $50 Million could easily be spent on those projects, so time is of the essence." Very interesting but not persuasive. They want you to be afraid that the UA will raise tuition and take on another $50 million in bond debt to fix the surplus of buildings they already own, so we should make sure they spend that money to buy more buildings from the school district. Brilliant.

Curiouser and curiouser. "So what's next? Encourage the School Board to act quickly to complete the negotiations for the sale. We believe the acceptance of this offer would get this phase of the process put to bed," sings the lead soprano in the Cowbird Chorus. No doubt it would. Sensible options would vanish quicker than the $11.28 million. Forever.

Why bother encouraging the school board to do anything? Superintendent Bobby New and Board President Steve Percival will do whatever they want, regardless of public opinion. They didn't ask you before they bought the Deane Solomon property. They didn't ask you before they decided to add 9th grade to the high school. They didn't ask you before they decided on one mega-high school. They don't care that you think a world-class school should be built on the current campus. They know what's best. Just shut up and pay your taxes.

Your only chance to make your opinion count is the September School Board election and the property tax millage increase proposal they want you to pass.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Busy Bards of the Blogging Brigade

In a community with less than adequate newspaper editorials and embarrassingly poor television news, it is no surprise that engaged citizen bloggers have some of the best commentary and news of current events in our little media market. This week has been no exception. Here's a quick look at some of what's going on with our friends and neighbors here in the Athens of the Ozark Blogosphere.

The always clever
Fayetteville Flyer has an update on the languishing East Square Mudhole and the flight of the crane that has been the icon for downtown developers. There is also news of a forthcoming book by Anthony J. Wappel, Once upon Dickson: An Illustrated History, 1869-2000, a neighborhood narrative with 370 historic photographs.

Aubrey Shepherd's Aubunique has a poignant essay on the meaning of neighborhood to residents in the Town Branch area of South Fayetteville. Continuing the theme, Val's Bien has some praise for the new Neighborhood Market and the design improvements of the Forest Hills PZD in West Fayetteville.

Valerie Biendara also looks at the
awkward ménage-à-trois involving the City Administration, Marvin Hilton, and the Telecommunications Board, a topic also addressed by Telecom Board Chairman Richard Drake in his Street Jazz blog.

Politicians are topics as always, and Drake also offers an
insightful assessment of Ward Two's outstanding Alderman Nancy Allen. Former Fayetteville Bad Boy Bill Clinton gets mentioned today in the University Union Voice for canceling his commencement address at UCLA, choosing not to cross a picket line of staff employees facing a recalcitrant university administration with values and priorities that sound like they came from departing UA Chancellor John White.

Thanks to them all for making life interesting hereabouts.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

He Did Not Have Sex with that Woman

Benton County's own favorite son and former United States Senator Tim Hutchinson says he and Randi Fredholm, formerly a young member of his staff and now his wife, were not canoodling while she was on the public payroll and he was still married to his former wife, State Representative Donna Hutchinson (R-Bella Vista). We're sure glad he cleared that up and put an end to all those unfounded rumors that they were shacking up for several years in a steamy little love nest on Capitol Hill.

Senator Hutchinson voted to convict President
Bill Clinton for fibbing about his relationship with Monica Lewinsk during the same time that everyone figured Ol' Tim was sneaking back to the apartment after a hard day and getting randy. He won a Diddly Award for his hypocrisy in 2000. George Bush and John Boozman stood firmly by Tim and Randi even when they were a joke to the gossip mongers and everyone else during the losing 2002 re-election campaign.

Now the self-righteous former Senator is having to answer questions about his own private life, and he doesn't appreciate it very much. He can be thankful that he wasn't under oath when asked about his alleged affair that led to the breakup of his marriage, his definition of family values, and his alleged involvement with another woman who was not his wife.

Double Down

Marvin Hilton has 13 years of experience as Cable Administrator and city staff support for the Fayetteville Telecommunications Board. He has experience managing the Government Channel, monitoring the public access contract and handling cable franchise matters. He has 20 years of program production experience for access television. He has a degree in communications from the University of Kansas.

As a city resident and registered voter with "appropriate expertise," Mr. Hilton met the basic
qualifications for volunteer public service, and he was the only applicant for the vacant position on the Telecommunication Board, one of Fayetteville's citizens' advisory boards that "consist of mostly volunteer citizens who are devoted to giving their time and expertise on issues relating to each board, committee, or commission."

The Fayetteville City Council Nominating Committee includes
Kyle Cook, Adella Gray, Robert Rhoads, and Shirley Lucas. They did not support Hilton's application to serve on the volunteer board and will not recommend his appointment to Mayor Coody and City Council. Alderman Adella Gray said, "We just didn’t feel like it was a good fit."

Mayor Coody fired Mr. Hilton from his staff position last month, never explaining why, but the last thing he wants is a whistleblower who might know something about who has been responsible for the political programming and other decisions regarding the Government Channel. It just wouldn't be a good fit.

Talking Like a Pirate in Greenland

The Greenland City Council went into executive session to discuss the resignation of the mayor, over objections from the media that such a closed meeting violated the state Freedom of Information Act, since the mayor had not offered any such resignation and the Council had no power to fire him. Mayor John Gray also objected and demanded that any discussions be held in public. He walked out with the press and members of the public in the audience.

Emerging from the secret meeting, the council presented the mayor with a unanimous petition asking for the mayor's resignation. "You don't listen and carry out the wishes of the council
. You just do what you want to do," said Alderman Lisa Thornton. "You don’t communicate. You don’t understand enough to carry out the directions of the council. You have no leadership skills because you don’t have people skills or communication skills."

"I'm willing to bend over backward to try and communicate with you," Mayor Gray replied, but "I will not resign." He blamed the action on the "good ole boy system" of small town politics and the shared frustration over a lawsuit by developers challenging the city's moratorium on new construction and developments within the city limits. He minced no words in laying the blame on the City Council for bad decisions and said he was staying to protect the people of Greenland.

Sensing a stalemate,
Alderman Bill Groom said, "I think we've had some serious clearing of the air. I don't think he's going to resign. We're just going to have to live with him. Let's move to the next item on the agenda."

Mayor Gray once said an honest mayor who tried to do the right thing would be a one-term mayor. He might be right about that. He doesn't plan to run again in 2010.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sahara of the Bozart

Today we should see an important "tell' in the cultural contest of our city. The Advertising and Promotion Commission is scheduled to meet for the first time since the City Council passed a Resolution asking that it support the 2008 Fayetteville Arts Festival. Will they deign to approve a small grant to keep the festival alive, or will they dig in their heels and keep the money until a sports event wants it this fall?

The Fayetteville Arts Festival is a fine event that brings visitors to our community and allows our outstanding local artists to exhibit their talents and sell their creations. Moreover, it contributes to the continuing definition of Fayetteville as the cultural center of the region. Whether the A&P Commission thinks it worthy or whether Mencken was right, we'll know this afternoon.

Be watching Mayor Dan Coody and Alderman Robert Rhoads, the two representatives of our city, to measure their leadership on the issue. It will give you some idea of their moxie on the issue of the future of the Walton Arts Center. Bob Davis is supposed to represent the public on the issue and to care about more than just selling an insurance policy to the commission. Tim Freeman of Holiday Inn Express is the newest member. Restaurants are represented by Pat Gazzola of the Catfish Hole, Maudie Schmidt of Cafe Rue Orleans, and Neal Crawford of Jose's.

Who cares about the arts in Fayetteville? There are no members of the A&P Commission appointed to represent cultural organizations. This afternoon we will know if any of the political and business representatives care about anything other than making a buck or pleasing the commercial interests. You can let them know your thoughts, either before or after the vote -- if they actually meet, someone makes a motion, and there is a recorded.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All in the Family

The Lundstrum Family is a close knit bunch, and they are bonafide Republicans. Robin Lundstrum of Springdale has been active in the Arkansas Family Council’s efforts to make sure gays and lesbians are treated as second class citizens, and she chaired the Washington County Republican Dinner featuring Karl Rove. Tom Lundstrom, Jr., worked in the Boozman for Senate campaign against Blanche Lincoln. Tom Lundstrum, Sr. is on the Washington County Quorum Court, where he has stood strong against socialistic ordinances for fire and building codes and zoning.

This year, Big Tom is a Republican candidate running for the Quorum Court, and Junior is the Republican member of the Washington County Election Commission. That not only looks bad, it is. State law says, "No person may serve as an election official if married to or related within the second degree of consanguinity to any candidate running for office in the current election if objection to his or her service is made to the county board within ten (10) calendar days after posting the list of officials.” A.C.A. § 7-4-109 (d).

Big Tom and Junior are hopping mad that they got caught ignoring this ethical requirement. Since Tom Lundstrum, Jr., didn't see any reason to resign, Sharon Green, the Democrat running for Quorum Court, had to ask the election commission to replace him, because she thought it was important for the fairness and appearance of being fair for the Election Commission. Chairman John Burrow, usually a stickler for the law, asked Green to ignore the law and let Junior oversee the election of his daddy. "It’s not personal," Green said, "It’s about conflict of interest." No kidding, Sherlock!

Junior Lundstrum obviously resented being asked to comply with the law against conflicts of interest and lose
the time and money spent by the county for his training as an election commissioner to oversee his father's election. "I’m not sure exactly what point she’s trying to prove other than the law allows it," he said, "on speculation I have a desire to go to prison and throw an election for my father." If he were Burrow and Commissioner Pete Loris, Lundstrum said, "I would take it as a slap in the face that they would let something like that happen if I remained on the commission." He then added that getting kicked off would give him more time to work on his daddy's campaign. More time? Makes one wonder and makes Green's point about how much time he already was working on the campaign while serving as an election official.

Big Tom Lundstrum went ballistic.
By asking that the ethical requirements of the law be followed, Lundstrum said, “ Ms. Green seems to imply that my son and I may somehow attempt to influence the election. ...This objection brings the integrity of both my son and I into question and I regret that she has decided to take that action. ” Then referencing Burrow's poor judgment in urging that the statute be ignored, Lundstrum contended, "even members of Ms. Green’s own party have publicly voiced their disappointment in her decision. However, it appears to me that Ms. Green is more concerned with her own misguided fears and frustrations than she is with the welfare of the voters."

Wrong, Tom, you and your boy are the ones who have failed to consider the best interests of the voters. As the Northwest Arkansas Times explained in simple words even you should be able to understand, "
the appearance of impropriety would be enough to cast a shadow over the situation," and Sharon Green "has every right to invoke a statute that allows for the removal of Tom Lundstrum Jr. from the Washington County Election Commission."

Sharon Green ignored the rantings of Old
Man Lundstrum and said, "
I look forward to a fair and honest campaign and, hopefully, the mudslinging will stop and we will get on with addressing the issues at hand. I’m here for the people of Washington County. I have bigger fish to fry, and that is taking care of the residents of Washington County."

It sounds as if Sharon Green has the kind of judgment and commitment we need on the Quorum Court, which means the voters in Tontitown, Johnson, and Elm Springs will probably vote for ethically-blind Tom Lundstrum, Sr.