Saturday, July 26, 2008

Coody, Cowbirds, and Credibility

Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody must be desperate. Late yesterday and timed for the larger circulation Sunday papers, Dr. Susan B. Thomas, Ph.D., his tax-paid publicity coordinator, sent out a press release praising the mayor for taking another out-of-state trip. The local news scribes will likely give it good coverage, but there is far less than meets the eye, and they should check the "facts."

Coody says he will be a "featured speaker" at some Chamber meeting up in DC and "will represent the City of Fayetteville and the US Conference of Mayors Water Council at this forum which [sic] will bring together members of Congress and their staffs, water works officials, economic consultants and the media." In that one sentence, there are many questions and inaccuracies, not to say deliberate deceptions.

1. Is this oh-so-important Chamber "forum" being kept secret? Coody's press release hypes his importance but gives no information about when or where this alleged Chamber forum will be held in Washington. There is no mention of it on the U.S. Conference of Mayors website this morning. When you enter the alleged title of the alleged forum, "
Water Infrastructure: Why Congressional Action is Urgently Needed," in a Google search you get no results, absolutely nothing.

2. If this is really a legitimate and necessary trip, it should be covered by city taxpayers or the Conference of Mayors that he claims to be representing, instead of some special interest group. Coody admits that all of his travel and other expenses are actually being picked up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Why would they do that?

3. The U.S. Chamber must not think this little "forum" of theirs is very important. Their website has July press releases supporting off-shore drilling, slamming the EPA "regulatory beast" for trying to deal with greenhouse gases, opposing expansion of whistleblower protections and actions against contractors who submit fraudulent claims to the government, protecting Wall Street bond daddies from legal action by concerned minority stockholders, and blocking employees from organizing for
workplace safety regulations and paid family leave. Strangely, there is nothing about this important Chamber "forum" they are paying all expenses for Coody to attend.

4. Coody says the Chamber "forum" will include Members of Congress. Not so. The attendance list does not include a single Senator or Member of Congress. Not one. Not even John Boozman. There will be some Hill staff people attending, for example, Rep. Zoe Lofgren is sending an intern to attend the forum.

5. Coody says the "forum" will include "water works officials [and] economic consultants." The attendance list is packed with Washington lobbyists from vendors and special interests including U.S. Pipe, Mueller Water Products, Inc.,
the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association, the National Association of [Private] Water Companies, the American Council of Engineering Companies, and the Valve Manufacturers Association. Not a single one of them lists their title as economist or "economic consultant," although there is a whole den of corporate lawyers.

6. Coody says the "forum" will include "the media." The editorial staff of Valve Magazine, a trade publication of the Valve Manufacturers Association of America, are the only media representatives on the attendance list. No one from the networks or the major papers will be there to hear and report on Dan's important featured presentation to the Chamber.

7. Then it occurs to me, we are already pay a big Washington lobbying firm $84,000 a year plus expenses on a no-bid contract that Coody said would make sure that we get fat federal funding for our infrastructure projects. I thought they might have been able to pass the word that we need more money for local water and sewer projects without having Coody trot up there to spend a weekend at watering holes and hob nob with a bunch of lobbyists. What is it exactly that this lobbying firm has been doing for us, and why can't they get John Boozman to deliver the federal funding we need?

At this particular time, it is understandable why Coody would want to take
"the opportunity to once again bring attention to the City of Fayetteville and the serious infrastructure needs of the community." But why is this publicity stunt and travel junket being paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce instead of his campaign account?

n his defense, Mayor Coody is definitely an expert on the rising cost of constructing water and sewer infrastructure projects. He can give his explanations about how Fayetteville citizens had to raise the sales tax and float bonded debt to pay for his $63 million cost over run on the sewer plant debacle. That's one reason we do urgently need increased Congressional funding. Or closer attention to details and better management oversight from the Mayor.

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