Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Regional Mobility Authority

Fayetteville has joined with the other major cities and Benton and Washington counties as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Mobility Authority. It was done after citizen input, due deliberation, and consideration of the ramifications. The City Council did so by a 7-0 vote, and that is a good thing, gaining a seat as a voting member on the Board.

It is important that Fayetteville's mayor be a member of the Authority and that he take an active role in its work. Here's why. Scott Van Laningham, vice chairman of the private unelected Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives, told the City Council the authority plans to start meeting in August after all the city councils in the two counties have had an opportunity to vote on whether to join. Who made him the boss of a public entity and gave him the power to decide when it meets? Mike Malone, an employee of that business cabal, has agreed to serve as a volunteer staff member for the organization. Agreed with whom? The Regional Mobility Authority has not met and has not agreed with anyone for anything.

In addition, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission is purported to have agreed to provide office space, Malone said. Well, Malone can't make agreements for the Regional Mobility Authority. Whether the REAL Regional Mobility Authority wishes to have office space and technical support from the NWARPC is a matter to be decided by the Authority, not by Van Laningham, Malone, and their club. It is a decision not to be made lightly, because it is the Regional Planning Commission that was duped into ranking the Springdale and Bella Vista Bypasses the top transportation projects for this region and your tax dollars. Many of us don't agree with that.

Fayetteville's mayor must take a leadership role with the Regional Mobility Authority and assure that we work together for sustainable transportation solutions for our region. Fayetteville's members of the Regional Planning Commission, Aldermen Thiel and Lucas, need to take stronger positions on selecting regional priorities as well. The Regional Mobility Authority can be a good thing for the public, or it can be just another captive conduit for corporate control. Let us work together for the transportation priorities of all our citizens.

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