Saturday, August 30, 2008

By Invitation Only

You will remember that the City of Fayetteville Official Website invited everyone to the Second Grand Opening of the Westside Sewer Plant. You might recall that the invitation to residents was posted on the city's website on August 22 and that the deadline to RSVP for the "free lunch" was August 21. Too bad you missed it.

Today we learn that the Coody Administration printed and mailed 200 four-color special invitations to the event to a select but undisclosed list of friends. Did you get one? I didn't think so. But you did get to pay for them, and no one at City Hall had any ethical qualms about it.

The cost of the 200 special invitations to Dan's Big Barbeue was $382.38 paid from the Wastewater System Improvement Project fund account. In other words, our sales tax dollars that we had to pony up for the $66 million cost over run on Dan's Debacle were used to invite an elite group of people to his party to hear him try to spin his way out of responsibility for the problems that put the project over budget and three years late. Rich.

The barbecue was "donated" by the businesses that had ciy contracts to work on the sewer plant and were well paid with tax dollars for their services. It was good, I hear.

I don't know who conceived and planned this whole shoddy spectacle, but no doubt the policy and publicity adviser in charge was someone on the city payroll. It was not so good.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eye of the Beholder

"This project is a work of art," boasted Mayor Dan Coody during his staged Second Grand Opening of Fayetteville’s new West Side Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Not everyone agreed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Resistance Struggles On

If you care about Fayetteville's Government Channel, there will be a discussion of the most recent suggested policy for such programming at the Telecom Board meeting today: Cox Channel 16, at 5:30 in Room 219 City Hall. You'll also be able to call in or send an email. (The phone number and email address should be on the screen or available at 444-3436.)

The Northwest Arkansas Times is against trying to continue public forums on the Government Channel, and they don't care much for the proposed requirements for fairness, preferring to let our Mayor control and dominate the programming between now and November 4th. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a more thoughtful analysis of the controversy.

Maybe things will be resolved after the election.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dan Coody Should Resign

In another grand display of poor management and fiscal irresponsibility, Mayor Dan Coody has let the city stumble unprepared and without warning into another situation facing an additional $1 million per year cost overrun in expenses for biosludge disposal associated with his bungled wastewater project. Coody rushed from City Hall yesterday to avoid questions and left his Water and Sewer Director, David Jurgens, to break the surprise news to Chairman Kyle Cook and the Water and Sewer Committee. Jurgens estimates that any long-term solution could cost $8 million and would wipe out the Water and Sewer Improvement Project Funds.

Back in April 2006, Coody's Director of Operations who has been one of his top assistants since 2001, Gary Dumas, announced that he could save the city $300,000 a year by contracting with the troubled landfill in the Cherokee Nation. Coody thought he could get a cut rate and still protect the environment? Right. Earlier this year, Dumas learned that he didn't make the cut as a finalist for a city manager job in Fort Smith. Yesterday, we learned that Dumas is still looking for a job elsewhere and is a finalist for a position in Janesville, Wisconsin. We wish him luck.

Coody has known for years that there was a problem with the contract for dumping Fayetteville's sewer sludge in a landfill owned by the Cherokee Nation. Almost a year ago, former Northwest Arkansas Times reporter Adam Wallworth had a story quoting the operators that they were running out of disposal space. They were also facing $1 million in fines for unacceptable environmental practices, but Mayor Coody's notion of sustainability was more related to his political career than to the ecosystem or best management practices.

For years, other cities have successfully operated sustainable composting operations that have positive environmental results. Others have found biosludge to be an economical and environmentally sound source of energy to replace fossil fuels. Dan Coody just kept on dumping it in a risky landfill on the cheap. Now that landfill is closed, and we will be paying an additional $1 million a year to dump it somewhere else and keep a bad thing going.

Tomorrow, Mayor Coody will be holding the Second Grand Opening of the Westside Sewer Plant, celebrating and again denying that it came online three years behind schedule and $66 million over budget. He appears to be thinking that if he can get on the former Government Channel ten times next month and blame it on someone else, the media will buy his excuses and the people will forget the debacle. He could better spend our money and his time typing up a letter of resignation.

Who Are You Going to Elect to School Board?

The past few years have seen intense interest among Fayetteville residents about numerous decisions by the Fayetteville School Board. That is why it is surprising that we're heard so little from or about the candidates for the two At-Large positions on the September 16th ballot. Less than three weeks to decide, and it is a very important decision.

Thanks to the League of Women Voters, the candidates will debate tonight in Room 219 at City Hall. The first debate, which starts at 6 p.m., is for Position 1 and will include candidates Stacy Furlow, Jim Halsell, Mike Malony and Conrad Odom.

The second debate starts at 8:30 p. m. and is for Position 2 between candidates Susan Heil and James McGinty.

Thanks to the permission of Dr. Susan Thomas Ph.D., the debates will air this weekend on the Fayetteville Government Channel 16. The Position 1 debate will be replayed at 9 a. m., 2 p. m. and 9: 30 p. m. Thursday; 8: 30 p. m. Friday; and noon, 5: 30 p. m. and 11: 15 p. m. Saturday. The Position 2 debates will be replayed at 11 a. m. and 8: 30 p. m. Thursday; 3 p. m. and 6 p. m. Friday; and 11 a. m., 4: 30 p. m. and 10: 15 p. m. Saturday.

Full Plate for Springdale Election


Ray Dotson
Nancy Deason Jenkins
Mike Overton
Jim Reed
Doug Sprouse
Ken Watson


CITY COUNCIL Ward 1: Eddie Free, Craig Graves, A.L. Hollingsworth, Kathy Jaycox.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 2: Rick Evans, Danny Farrar, Ed Gillean, Randy Pounders.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 3: Josh Jenkins, Teresa J. Powers, Jeff Watson.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 4: Eric Ford, Ruth Strebe Motes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All Politics Is Local


Steve Clark
Lioneld Jordan
Sami Sutton

Walt Eilers
Mayor Dan Coody
Adam Fire Cat.

CITY CLERK: Sondra Smith.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 1: Don Conner and Brenda Thiel.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 2: Mark Kinion and Matthew Petty.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 3: Bobby Ferrell.

CITY COUNCIL Ward 4: Craig Honchell, Sarah Lewis, and Bernard Sulliban.

Two Americas in Northwest Arkansas

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today, Northwest Arkansas had a median household income of $44,552 in 2007, below the national median of $48,934, even with a whole nest of billionaires in Benton County and assorted NWA multi-millionaires to pump up the averages.

At the same time, Northwest Arkansas’ poverty rate was 15.2% or about 64,000 people living below the poverty level. That is above the state’s rate of 15.1% and the national poverty rate of 12.1%.

The data also show 17.5% of Arkansawyers don't have health care coverage, well above the national average is 15.4%.

Why do you think that is?

Another news story today brought home the growing income disparity in our state. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education released revised figures yesterday ranking the salaries of higher education administrators. Here's the latest list:

1. B. Alan Sugg, UA System President, $538,722
2. I. Dodd Wilson, UA Medical Sciences Chancellor, $530,786
3. Lu Hardin, University of Central Arkansas President, $508,540
4. Les Wyatt, Arkansas State University System President, $464,980
5. G. David Gearhart, UA Fayetteville Chancellor, $363,446

A single mom, with two kids, working as a Data Entry Specialist makes $16,283, which is below the federal poverty line. Minimum wage workers make even less, $13,208.

What are the Chamber of Cowbirds and the Fayetteville Economic Development Council doing to create jobs that pay a living wage? What will Mayor Dan Coody's $150,000 consultant's report do to help working families? Probably not much, because low wage workers and unemployed residents are not among the "stakeholders" they will be interviewing. They will talk with Mayor Coody, who is paid $107,038 a year in tax dollars and frequently jets around the country and the world. They will be talking to the Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives. You get the picture.

The Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families offers five good suggestions that the state legislature could adopt to make a difference, but tax and appropriation bills require a 3/4 vote to pass. None of them will pass, because the Chamber and the Farm Bureau will oppose them, and the Republicans will not vote for them.

SouthPass - It Just Gets Worse

The Fayetteville Planning Commission learned last night that preliminary traffic estimates for the SouthPass development are 40,500 cars per day roaring in and out of the latest idea for sprawl on Shiloh Drive. But that is only part of the problem. The other shoe that has not yet dropped is the staggering infrastructure cost to the city to provide water, sewer, and roads to the developers' project. Then there is that park that the city administration thinks makes it alright to ignore City Plan 2025.

Connie Edmonston, Mayor Coody's Parks and Recreation Director and Head Cheerleader for the SouthPass developers, said the cost of the mega sports park near the old landfill is estimated to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million, but that does not include the cost of infrastructure. The parks department is sitting on $2.8 million dedicated to the regional park that could be used to build and develop neighborhood parks throughout the city. Edmondston thinks she will get another $1 million for the park from the developers, who have not even given the city a deed to the proposed park.

The Parks staff is now trying to tell us that we should build this park not for Fayetteville's families but for "economic development" by hosting giant soccer tournaments. Here's a better idea. Forget SouthPass, and buy that land on Morningside for a big soccer park, since the school district isn't going to use it. Then build some community and neighborhood parks in the city limits on the west side of town, which the Parks and Recreaction Department has ignored for the last six years.

Be sure to ask the candidates for Mayor and City Council where they stand on approving this disaster. So far, Dan Coody and Steve Clark have expressed unqualified support for it. Let's get everyone on record and ask how they intend to pay for this looming debacle and why it is more important than neighborhood parks and the essential goals of City Plan 2025.

Monday, August 25, 2008

... and We're Not Going to Take It Anymore

Not known for saving taxpayer dollars, even the United States Congress realizes that the self-dealing and no-bid contracts to Halliburton, WorldCom, and Bechtel that bled the budget in the Iraq occupation and the shameful rush to profit from Hurricane Katrina must be stopped. The “Clean Contracting Act” has been introduced in both houses to stem the abuses of no-bid contracts. It appears that Fayetteville needs something like that, unless we want more of the same and more hollow excuses that it is easier and quicker if the city does not take competitive bids.

On the City Council Agenda for Tuesday, September 2, are two no-bid contracts. Under "new business" is a $20,000 no-bid contract to
Cloud Gehshan Associates, a Philadelphia consulting company, to do a study of "signage and wayfinding." Maybe the City really needs a study of signage and wayfinding, I don't know, but it sounds like something that our own outstanding UA Community Design Center might at least be allowed to bid on before tossing $20,000 of our tax dollars to some out-of-state consultants.

Then that old bad penny is back again. The
Boardwalk Property Owners Association still wants an ordinance waiving the requirements of formal competitive bidding and approving a cost-share with the Boardwalk Property Owners Association (POA) in an amount not to exceed $69,674.00 to dredge the Boardwalk POA Private Lake. There are serious questions as to whether the City can spend tax dollars to do work on private property, but that hasn't stopped Aldermen Adella Gray and Brenda Thiel from trying to help out their wealthy neighbors in an upscale development. Would that they had as much concern for their constituents who live south of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and don't have sidewalks.

No one has yet mentioned that a city administrative employee is a member of the Boardwalk POA and among the potential beneficiaries. They have been trying to slip this one by us for more than a year now, and they will not give up. It is time that the City Council took a silver stake to this monster, then they should have the City Attorney prepare an ordinance setting out the legal and ethical requirements for executing city contracts. It is obvious that the current administration of the bidding process is subject to abuse. Until then, if the elite get their private lake dredged, I'd like the city to come mow my lawn and wash my pickup about once a week.

I wish someone had the time to total up how much tax money has been spent in the last eight years on No-Bid Contracts and Out-of-State Consultants. I will acknowledge that the current administration needs consultants to tell them what to think, but they could put those contracts out for bid, and they could let local businesses bid on them. There are some smart people in this town, and we should draw on their expertise instead of ignoring and insulting them.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The House that Dan Built

In case you missed the first Ribbon Cutting of the Westside Sewer Plant two months ago, the constant reruns of Mayor Dan Coody's cutting the ribbon with Cowbird scissors on the former Government Channel, or Mike Masterson's shameless apologia for his good friend "Danny Boy," you are about to have another opportunity to hear the mayor make more excuses and deny that it was his fault the WSIP debacle came in three years late and $63 million over budget.

This week, Mayor Coody is staging yet another Grand Opening
to "celebrate" the flow of effluent through the Westside Sewer Plant with a ceremony and luncheon on Thursday, August 28th at 10:00 AM. I'm not kidding. He says the "ceremony is open to the public," which must mean those citizens who don't have day jobs or can take off work to celebrate getting flushed. By the way, it is too late for any resident to RSVP for lunch. The announcement posted as "News" on the City's website on August 22 slyly announced that the deadline for lunch reservations was August 21. Too late, you moocher.

Not to worry if you can't get off work for the big Grand Opening. It will be taped by city employees and shown repeatedly between then and the November election. Set you TiVo for Coody Channel 16. Keep a good thing flowing -- downhill.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

BS on our Ballooning Budget

Fayetteville's sales tax collection for June was $1,397,419.08, an 8.3% increase from last year. It serves as a clear reminder that the City Council did the right thing last year in defeating Mayor Dan Coody's plan to raise property taxes to cover his $2.3 million budget deficit. It is ironic that the three Aldermen (Adella Gray, Brenda Thiel, and Robert Rhoads) who voted for Coody's tax increase last year are the same three who voted against requiring Coody to submit a balanced budget this year.

Raising taxes and increasing spending is a familiar plan from Dan Coody. In 2005, Coody was facing a $2.2 million budget deficit, and he pushed through a 2-mill property tax increase. Then the City Council discovered that he and his staff had submitted bogus numbers, and they cut the property tax back to 1.3 mills. Coody still presented another deficit budget of $663, 768, even after the 1.3 mill property tax increase.

Then there was the sales tax bonded debt that we had to pass to cover the $63 million cost over run on the sewer plant debacle. Prudent management might have prevented that from ever happening or being caught earlier, but Mayor Coody says he is a "big picture vision" man who doesn't want to be bothered with
the "mundane, time-consuming, nuts-and-bolts stuff ."

Such a history of financial irresponsibility is what makes it insulting when The Coody says, "We're going to continue to be conservative in our spending and budgeting," when asked about the continued increase in sales tax revenues . An unsuspecting reporter for
The Morning News said Coody's remarks reflected "his stay-the-course caution." Uh huh. Coody's course has consistently been to raise taxes, increase spending, and submit deficit budgets that endanger the city's financial reserves.

Since Coody took office in 2001, he has tripled the size of the city's total annual expenses from $35.8 million to a whopping $126.8 million. It would have been even higher this year if the City Council had not rejected Coody's proposed tax increase and worked so diligently to rein in spending. They had to do it alone, too, while Dan Coody and his wife were off on another foreign junket.

"One thing taxpayers deserve is budget conservatively and spend wisely," Coody once said. Despite his considerable skills in other areas and his winning personality that charms the media, it is too bad that he has failed us in that important regard and has demonstrated that he is unable to do either.

Editorial Observation of the Day

"Thumbs down to the Rogers City Council candidates who continue to pledge only to continue what the city has been doing. While there is nothing wrong with where the city is and how it got there, the improvements of the last few years were not accomplished through a more-of-the-same attitude.

"If Rogers is as good as it is going to get, then that attitude is sufficient; but if the city is going to improve as it has, then it is time for someone to offer up an idea that is anything but more of the same."

--"All Thumbs," Benton County Daily Record

Friday, August 22, 2008

La Divina Commedia

Schadenfreude is rude, but it is not inappropriate to note that the federal bankruptcy filing by Brandon Barber's Lynnkohn LLC this week listed a debt of $5.13 million for the 1.5-acre lot on Dickson Street in Fayetteville that was to be home to his little lamented orphan, the now abandoned Divinity Hotel project.

It is unfortunate that Barber sunk $5.13 million into that lot. He should have been as smart and as politically connected as
John Nock and Richard Alexander, who got the City to create a Tax Increment Finance District to acquire and clear an even larger lot for $3.7 million and sell it for a mere $300,000 to their East Square Development Co. LLC. Barber could have had his own blighted mudhole by now.

Barber probably could have bought the Fayetteville High School campus instead of the Dickson Street lot.
Steve Percival, Howard Hamilton, Susan Heil, and Bobby New might have been ready to sell off the school property for $5.13 million and title to Barber's property on Deane Solomon Road adjoining their preferred site for the new mega high school.

National Priorities Come Home to Roost

After 34 years, the Head Start program in Lincoln has closed, due to a reduction in federal funding. It promoted school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through educational, health, nutritional, social. and other services and by emphasizing involvement of parents in their children's learning.

Kathleen Randall, director of the Economic Opportunity Agency in Washington County, said finances and a lack of significant funding increases were the main reasons for the closure. She said they have been telling John Boozman and Arkansas’ other congressional representatives for the past few years that more funding was needed. "I believe in this country that when people truly think something is important, it will get money," she said. "When children are truly the most important thing, they will receive everything they need, and they don’t."

Congressman John Boozman (R-Pinnacle Gated Community) has voted for every measure to fund the hostile occupation of Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, and more money for highway construction in the federal budget that will grow to a record $482 billion deficit in the next fiscal year. He also voted to reduce funding for Head Start.

You can email Congressman Boozman to thank him for cutting funds for the Head Start program, and you can volunteer in his reelection campaign to show your approval of his funding priorities.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Political Signs and Signs of Politics

Ward 1 Alderman Adella Gray says she will sponsor an amendment to the Fayetteville Sign Ordinance that would allow more than one political sign now allowed on a residential or commercial lot during the 60 days before an election. It could be voted on as soon as September 2.

"I just feel like if folks want to put more than one sign in their yard, then they ought to be allowed to," Gray said. "There are many, many elections that we want to put more than one sign in the yard, and I’m sure there are other folks in the city who want to do the same. They ought to be allowed to."

If Alderman Gray's amendment is enacted, it will mean that residents could have political yard signs for both Dan Coody and Matthew Petty. All other candidate signs would likely be declared in violation of the sign ordinance and taken down by City Code Enforcement as they are now. Alderman Gray's amendment cannot stop the incumbent's attempted suppression of opposition, and Gray admits, "I know lots of places where there were bunches of signs and nothing was done about it."

In the last two mayoral elections of 2000 and 2004, I had a yard sign supporting Dan Coody. This year I had a political sign for another candidate in the same spot in my yard. City employees took it down and slapped a sticker on it explaining that it was too close to the curb in violation of the city sign ordinance. I still see Coody and Petty yard signs in my neighbors' yards that are closer to the street and have been allowed to remain unmolested.

Allowing more than one political sign per home or business is a fine idea. Sending out city employees to take down the signs supporting particular candidates is selective enforcement, and it is a shameful abuse of power by the current mayor and his tax-paid toadies.

For Whom the Dell Polls

It is still a few days until municipal filing closes and we get back to discussing the local races, but our pals over at the Fayetteville Flyer have provided a wonderful service by conducting and posting interviews with the five candidates who have filed for Mayor in the "Mayoral Candidate Zone" section.

If you want to know more about those seeking to be Mayor, we recommend that you read the interviews to get a good sense of who they are. In their own words, you can read about Adam Fire Cat, Steve Clark, Dan Coody, Walt Eilers, and Lioneld Jordan. Actually, these are pretty insightful. For the wonks who want the more contrived presentations, the Flyer also provides links to the campaign websites of four of the five candidates.

The Flyer is also conducting an online poll on who was "most impressive" in their interview. As of 8:00 this morning, 193 votes have been cast. Dan Coody is getting less than 25%. Adam Fire Cat is leading Steve Clark. It is probably as accurate as anything designed and programmed by Diebold for the real election in November.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whoever Desires to Be First Among You

All too often, public officials become pompous and arrogant, thinking that they are the only person who can do their job and taking credit for all that happens. At least the good stuff. They are smooth talkers and self puffers, but they forget that their job is to serve. They also seem to have forgotten the words of Jesus that "many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."

As the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20 reminds us, "whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant." A few years ago, I saw one of our Fayetteville Aldermen working with the crew of one
the city recycling trucks that collects our curbside recycling, separating plastic, glass, cans, newspapers, and cardboard from the bins. It made a lasting impression on me that an elected official would seek information about our recycling stream by serving without pay as part of the collection crew.

Today's Northwest Arkansas Times captured a similar moment on the University of Arkansas campus. There is a front page photograph of new UA Chancellor David Gearhart welcoming new and returning students. He is not wearing academic regalia or even a coat and tie; he is not behind a podium bragging about himself and all his accomplishments. Gearhart is wearing a baseball cap and a t-shirt, helping students unload their cars and move into the dorms. That is student centered institutional leadership, and that is the appropriate attitude of a true public servant.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Burlsworth Bleats in Besieged Benton County

Jeannie Burlsworth, founder of one of the groups that failed to get enough signatures to vote hatefulness into law, is in Jim Holt Country trying to warn the unsuspecting folks of Benton and Washington Counties about those dangerous undocumented maids and chicken pluckers who are taking our jobs and trying to get health care and education for their kids. Trying to find the wedgie to exploit instead of understanding the real consequences of a failed national immigration policy, she asked, "Are you tired of illegal aliens benefiting from the privileges of citizenship in Arkansas?"

Speaking to a crowd of 13 people at the Rogers Public Library last night, Burlsworth
blurted out, "I think we are being targeted by the Mexican government," and "I don’t want to leave the decisions over to the Mexican consulate. We don’t want to leave the decisions up to the drug smugglers. We don’t want it up to the terrorists (and gangs )." Hit squads, I bet, being run out of the Embassy no less.

"We can’t build enough schools. We can’t build enough prisons," Burlsworth went on and on. “I'm in a real struggle here. This is very bad. These people are dangerous,” she has proclaimed. She was scheduled for a rerun tonight in the Chapel of the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. That's just wrong. Better stock up on tin foil, Burlsworth, or better yet, go back to Bryant from whence you came. We don't need no outside agitators stirring things up.

Monday, August 18, 2008

John Nock's Water Park?

In 2002, Fayetteville was all abuzz about the Ozark Adventure Water Park that was going to be built on 24 acres just east of I-540 and south of 6th Street. The developer said cooperation in Fayetteville was a big factor in choosing to locate here and that Mayor Dan Coody and Cowbird President Bill Ramsey were particularly influential. Family Recreation and Development even said it planned to move its corporate headquarters to Arkansas from Nashville.

John Nock, an investment banker with American Municipal Securities Inc, was absolutely glowing. The water park would be a $6.4 million project, including an 18,000-square-foot wave pool, a "kiddie pool" with fountains and water cannons, a "lazy river" 750 feet long and 10 feet wide, and a complex of five water slides. It would draw tourists and raise the region’s quality of life.

Mike Masterson went into overdrive
for his friends, spinning a vision of the economic benefits. If our "local officials are astute," he advised, "they will act to ensure that this plum of a park winds up in Fayetteville." By his calculations, the projected bonanza would be "170,000 times $25 or so in gate and concessions equals at least $4.25 million, plus assorted restaurant, fuel and miscellaneous expenditures, all rolled over seven times before departing Northwest Arkansas. Ozark Adventure could quickly become the premiere tourist and summer recreation boon to this region." Then he couldn't resist taunting, "As for the naysayers, can anyone recall any project in or around Fayetteville that hasn’t had them?"

Six months later, in May, 2003, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, "
Family Recreation and Development Corp., had originally planned to have the park up and running by this month, but they have not even closed on a piece of land yet." We were assured that "local investment bankers John Nock and David Lewis, of American Municipal Securities, have been advising the company on the water park," and the developer said, "It’s making some progress. We hope to be able to make an announcement within the next three weeks."

Less than a week later,
Lowell Mayor Phil Biggers announced that the Ozark Adventure Water Park would be built near the intersection of I-540 and Arkansas 264 and should bring in valuable sales tax revenue, job opportunities, and restaurant and hotel development. The project did not receive the financial backing to put the park in Fayetteville, even though John Nock and David Lewis were working with the developers.

At the new location, it was being reported in June 2003 as an "$11 million water park" that should be a regional attraction, bringing in at least 200,000 visitors a year. In May 2004, they held a groundbreaking ceremony for the long-planned Lowell water park, unveiling plans for a $12 million Hawaiian-themed attraction called Makahiki Beach that would open Memorial Day weekend 2005, "complete with at least six slides, a wave pool, lazy river, luau area, and a 60-foot concrete and steel steaming volcano."

Of course, we all know that the much ballyhooed water park never got built. A bunch of rich guys ended up getting richer and getting sued by their partners, a process that wound up this March in the Arkansas Supreme Court.

It's still not too late for Fayetteville to score a water park. John Nock could blow some smoke up the city administration and promise to build one at SouthPass next to Connie's 200-acre regional sports park he has promised to deed to the city if they will annex the property and approve his development. Or maybe he's thinking that eyesore of a bunghole the city has already sunk $3.7 million into could be a wave pool with slides coming down from the backs of those gnarly old buildings.

As for John Nock, we should just trust him.
"As for the naysayers, can anyone recall any project in or around Fayetteville that hasn’t had them?" Kohl's. Divinity Hotel. Mexican Original Empty Building. Deane Solomon High School. Westside Sewer Debacle. Wilson Spring Audubon Center.

No Plan Dan

Dan Coody has been in office for 92 months, and he doesn’t have a comprehensive economic development plan for our city. Not a clue. He has given lots of speeches about the “Green Valley” of knowledge-based jobs, and he throws around the phrase “sustainability” like it is some self-executing panacea to all our problems, but he has no real strategy for what the city government can do to help make it happen.

The Coody serves by his appointment as our city’s representative on the boards of the Advertising and Promotion Commission, the Chamber of Cowbirds, and the Fayetteville Economic Development Commission, but there is a big difference between bringing it and winging it. "[W]e don't have a long-range economic development plan. We don't have a plan for where do we get the tax dollars and the jobs to support the plan," complained Steve Rust, President of the FEDC.

Eight months ago, as he began his eighth year in office, Coody finally wondered out loud "if we are willing to develop an economic plan that balances our economic, social, and environmental needs as a community. This is the most pressing issue we face in 2008. We have to start articulating our plan for the economic future of this city and we have to start right now." Or maybe seven years ago, some would say.

Seven months ago, Coody tossed the problem to his trusted employee Gary Dumas, who said, “We’ve come up with an idea that we think will help us begin that discussion, not just on how we manage growth but how we can define an economic development policy at the council level with input from all of the fractions and fractures within the community, so there will be a public policy to guide the Chamber of Commerce and (Fayetteville Economic Development Council ) and all those others who really invest in the city.” Dumas said that if started soon, it would be at least the middle of 2009 before a strategic plan was developed and a year or two after that before the result of more sales tax would be seen. There is no guarantee of success, he added, but he said there is a need to move quickly.

Coody clearly understood the political implications of needing to get something started after he changed his mind and decided to run for a third term. His campaign website lists his goals for 2009. Number six on his list of promises is to finally "develop a comprehensive economic development strategy," and number seven is "to develop and advance a positive, sustainable business climate."

To achieve his campaign goals, Coody is finally taking the first steps after almost eight years of floundering without any cogent economic development policy. His solution is the same one he always embraces by default when he doesn't know what to do. At the City Council meeting tomorrow night, he will ask the Council to approve an agenda item to spend $75,000 of public funds "to cost-share the preparation of an Economic Development Strategic Plan," -- in other words, spending our tax dollars to hire an out-of-state consultant to come up with a plan that wasn't important to him until he started thinking about that lifetime pension and running for reelection.

The City Council has little choice but to approve Coody's request to hire another consultant. They have waited almost eight years for him to offer something, anything, even if no one knows what it will be until after The Coody leaves office. Whatever it is, it has to be better than the $3.7 million TIF District Mudhole he was pushing four years ago.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Defunct Developer Quote of the Day

“I’m actually grateful. It has pointed me to who I am. God brings these things into your life to bring you a reality check. I was making choices I would not normally make. This has forced me to take a hard look at who I am and who I want to be. I want to be what God wants me to be for the rest of my life."

--Developer Ben Israel quoted in Northwest Arkansas Times.

Fair and Balanced

Today's Northwest Arkansas Times announces that there will be Bible Study today at 3 p.m. out at the local Denny's, 2589 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which they persist in calling Sixth Street. The topic is "Can Evolutionists Be Saved?" For more information, call Ramona at 287-9247.

Richard Drake
's fine Street Jazz blog today announces "This week, we’ll be replaying a 2006 show with Dr. Michael Plavcan, from the University of Arkansas, on the subject of Evolution and Intelligent Design. The program will be shown on Fayetteville's Community Access Television on the following days on times: Monday, August 18 - 7pm, Tuesday, August 19 - noon, Saturday, August 23 - 6pm. C.A.T. is shown on Channel 18 on the COX channel line-up."

I love this town!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ignore City Plan 2025?

City Plan 2025 serves as the City’s guiding policy for future growth and is the impetus for the creation of complete neighborhood plans. It won an Arkansas American Planning Association award for achievement in comprehensive planning and a Congress for the New Urbanism Charter Award for a Region and Metropolis Plan.

Among the essential elements of City Plan 2025 in planning future growth are the boldly stated goals that "We will make infill and revitalization our highest priorities," and "We will discourage suburban sprawl." These are both laudable goals, but it appears that they might be more useful for politicians claiming credit for winning national awards than actually guiding the future growth of our community.

The last item on next Tuesday's City Council agenda, assuming that the Mayor doesn't again walk on a major project that is not on the published agenda, is : An ordinance annexing that property described in annexation petition ANX 08-2897 (CC2008-38), for property located west of I-540 and Cato Springs Road, Southpass Development, containing approximately 855.97 acres. That's right. Hardly "infill and revitalization." Hardy discouraging "suburban sprawl." Hardly "growing a livable transportation network." Hardly "creating attainable housing." It is just more greenfield development that is not in the Fayetteville City Limits nor in the Fayetteville School District. But it has been recommended for annexation by Coody's Planning Director Jeremy Pate and signed off on by the Mayor himself.

How did we get here? Someone at City Hall decided they wanted a big multi-million dollar sports park instead of planning and developing more neighborhood parks. So, the City Council agreed to authorize Mayor Coody to execute an agreement with John Nock, Richard Alexander, and Hank Broyles operating as SouthPass Development to accept 200 acres of park land, a 10-acre water tank site, and $1 million for park development in exchange for the city accepting ownership and liability for an old landfill that is leaking. Although Coody told us with a straight face that we "will see this park begin construction in 2005," the city has not yet received the deed to the proposed park land three years later. Yet, Coody and his staff are now rushing through annexation of the property for the developers, the same developers who were involved in the $3.7 million TIF District Mudhole (Nock and Alexander) and the failed Aspen Ridge condo project (Broyles).

Coody's staff has not conducted a fiscal impact assessment for this huge annexation. They admit that the two lane road is insufficient for the planned development, that there is no sanitary sewer available on the property, that there would be another fire station and a police substation to be built and staffed by the city to serve the 4,320 homes that the developers say they want to build. Like they said they wanted to build a Renaissance Hotel. Sometime in the future, the staff says it will submit a supplemental cost share agreement to the City Council so they will better understand the fiscal impact of the annexation and development that they are being asked to approve next week. That's bassackwards.

If the City thinks it really needs a mega-sports park, then get the deed and annex the park land. Don't ignore the key elements of City Plan 2025, and don't annex the developers' 856-acre greenfield wet dream west of I-540 and assume some unknown financial liability for the taxpayers. Especially not these developers who have failed to perform on past projects, no matter how good of friends and supporters they are with the mayor. Don't do it. Don't even think about doing it until they fulfill the promises that the city foolishly trusted them to keep in the past.

In his 2005 State of the City speech, Mayor Coody beamed about SouthPass and said, "This is another of those opportunities that cannot be passed up." Yes it can, and it should.

Friday, August 15, 2008


City Engineer Ron Petrie, one of our more thoughtful and conscientious city employees, is directing the projects to address the problems caused by developers that have resulted in stream banks eroding into parkland and contributing to excessive sediment in the tributaries of the Illinois River watershed. Working with the Watershed Conservation Resource Center, using matching funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant through the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, and 1,200 tons of rock donated by the Ruskin Heights project, this is a good thing.

Stream bank restoration and stabilization of the
tributary of Mud Creek in Gulley Park and the tributary of Hamestring Creek in Red Oak Park will reduce sediment in the streams, thereby improving the water quality and the aquatic habitat, as well as improving the recreational usefulness and safety for those using the parks. These are far better projects and a much more appropriate use of public funds than the proposed $70,000 no-bid contract to dredge a private lake owned by the Boardwalk POA and closed to the public. Like a bad penny, that dreadful idea will be back on the City Council agenda before November.

If the city wants to start spending our tax dollars on private projects, there are far better ones than the exclusive Boardwalk Lake. The scarred landscape of Aspen Ridge in south Fayetteville, which is private property of the developers,
was extensively dredged and filled for get-rich-quick development in the summer of 2005, and it continues to fill the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River with sediment and other pollutants in the stormwater runoff that ultimately ends up in our community drinking water supply from Beaver Lake.

GOP Nixes Polling Place on UA Campus

After more than two months of discussion between the Washington County Election Commission, representatives from the UA Associated Student Government, and representatives from the UA chancellor’s office, the commission yesterday rejected the idea of having an early voting location on the UA campus. Opening an early voting site required unanimous approval to pass. The two Democrats, Chairman John Logan Burrow and Pete Loris, a Democratic Party representative, both voted to have a polling place in the student union. Renee Oelschlaeger, the Republican Party representative on the commission, cast the lone dissenting vote that put the kibosh on the UA polling site.

The Arkansas Times Blog offers an analysis of why the Republicans would be against making it convenient for all of those liberal students and faculty to vote or make it easier for working class staff to vote during their lunch hour. They might be more likely to vote for Democrats. The Northwest Arkansas Times joined the Republican Party in opposing the on-campus voting site, because "
the UA isn’t doing enough to instill civic-mindedness in either the students, faculty or staff" and those liberal weenie students "don’t need this extra bit of hand-holding." They should walk to the courthouse if they want to vote early, said the editors and the Republicans.

The Commission voted unanimously to establish an early voting location
at the Rodeo Community Center in Springdale. Republican Oelschlaeger had no problem with "spoon-feeding democracy" to voters in Republican-dominated Springdale, and those wealthier UA students can jump in their SUVs and burn a couple of gallons of gas to vote in Chickenopolis.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Question Authority

Last month, the Ozark Regional Transit Board voted to eliminate at least two bus routes because of increased costs, although they have a record number of riders. “The political leadership in the cities and counties won’t set mass transit as a priority unless the public does,” said ORT director Phil Pumphrey. The entire budget is only $2.2 million a year, and the decision to cut routes has real consequences for real people who depend on public ttransportation.

Today, the Northwest Arkansas Times pondered in print, "If we’re not mistaken, our cities and counties recently joined together to form a regional mobility authority, an entity that means to raise public funds (via toll, taxes, etc.) to create options that simply could not exist without its existence. The list of projects its biggest supporters are dreaming about include the creation of a Bella Vista bypass, a bypass around U.S. 412 in Springdale, and a 'western beltway' circumventing Interstate 540 and connecting Greenland to Bella Vista.

"But we’re increasingly becoming convinced that carving out a new highway to the west is a far, far less urgent need than other improvements to transportation. And one cannot sensibly talk about improving transportation options and reducing congestion without putting mass transit high on the list of priorities. At the least, part of any responsible solution has to be the encouragement of individuals to park their cars and keep them off the highway altogether. Progressive discussion cannot be void of mass transit, nor can it be successful if
Northwest Arkansas leaders find it acceptable to see the spare budget Ozark Regional Transit operates on get even smaller.

"...That’s why we hope the leaders of the regional mobility authority — mayors of member cities or their representatives, plus the county judges of Benton and Washington counties — take great care to protect against becoming known as merely a 'road-building authority,' and instead evolve into a transportation authority in the truest sense."

Those suggestions were previously presented by Fayetteville citizens in comments to the NWA Planning Commission.
Lioneld Jordan wrote, "First priority for funding any study should be given to undertaking a 'Transportation Alternatives Analysis', wherein all the transportation concepts should be studied and examined in relation to each other, including improvements to I-540, state highways, city streets, mass transit buses, light rail, and walking and biking trails."

Jordan also noted, "Fayetteville and Washington County have recently become members of the Regional Mobility Authority. This new organization should be involved in any such a major transportation decision that could preempt alternative solutions. This organization should be committed to providing a comprehensive inter-modal transportation system which most efficiently serves the human and economic needs of the metropolitan area and Northwest Arkansas region, and they should be able to consider all available options regarding such a system."

Last week, the Policy Committee of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission showed little interest in mass transit and voted 25-1 to fund an $800,000 feasibility study of the concrete slab for big trucks that they are calling the Western Beltway. Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody was absent from the meeting, and his proxy did not vote.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mike Masterson and the Militia Man

Hollis Wayne Fincher, Lieutenant Commander of the Militia of Washington County, learned today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit didn't buy his argument about having a Second Amendment right to possess a machine gun and a sawed-off shot gun. Oscar Amos Stilley, Fincher's attorney and a big shot school voucher advocate with Arkansans for School Choice, was unable to convince the trial judge that Fincher was in a legit militia, and now the appeals court has rejected the rest of Fincher's constitutional defense . Stilley also has his own legal problems now.

Sympathetic local columnist Mike Masterson previously complained about the investigation by AFT agents and suggested that Wayne Fincher was being prosecuted for his anti-government opinions in violation of his First Amendment rights. He hyped the "Free Wayne" bumper stickers almost as vigorously as he pimped the "Justice for Jamie" stickers for that dead girl he writes about every week.

Masterson says that Commander Fincher is a Constitutional scholar, and he tells us that Judge Hendren pronounced a sentence that was too harsh. Masterson thinks maybe a small fine and a suspended sentence would have been appropriate. I suppose, to Masterson, that brandishing a machine gun and a sawed-off shot gun to protect our county from the black helicopters and liberals should not be punished with jail time.

Maybe just let him go with a good spanking? After all, it's not like he was trying to let teenagers read books about spanking the monkey.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Part of Balanced Don't You Understand?

Alderman Bobby Ferrell last week sponsored a resolution asking that Mayor Coody submit a balanced budget to the City Council this fall. It passed 5-3, with Ferrell, Nancy Allen, Kyle Cook, Shirley Lucas, and Lioneld Jordan voting for the balanced budget proposal. Fiscal sustainability it is called.

“It’s really very, very simple,” Ferrell said. “We don’t budget anymore than we anticipate taking in. It’s as simple as it can be. You forecast your spending not to exceed that revenue coming in, period, which means that you don’t forecast to spend reserves. To me, it’s a no-brainer. And, yes, there is an intent here for people to tighten things up.”

"That’s what we try to do," said Dan Coody, who hasn't submitted such a budget in years, who always dips into the city's reserves to fund current operations, and who then raises the sales tax to fund cost over runs like the sewer plant debacle. “I can tell you right now there will be cases where I will ask to use reserves,” said Coody's budget man Paul Becker defiantly. "I don't want to tie their hands with this type of request," Coody squawked, and when asked if his budget would exceed revenues replied, "I don’t know yet."

The Mayor implied that the only way to have a balanced budget was either to lay off employees or cut out programs. Maybe he has a limited imagination and only two management tools. There are lots of ways to cut out fat and waste in government at all levels, and it would be refreshing to see an elected official do that for a change.Coody took the easy way out last year, trying to raise property taxes instead of living within his means. When the City Council rejected his tax increase, he pouted and left the county for a vacation overseas. The Council worked on without him, and now revenues are running ahead of projections and no services were abolished.

Today, Coody's Pep Squad on the editorial board of the Northwest Arkansas Times took up his cause and demonstrated that they don't know any more about balanced budgets that does our mayor. They go on about how a balanced budget could require cutting out police and fire services and berate the Council for asking that the mayor submit a balanced budget without explaining how he should do that. They complain that the resolution "seeks to force the mayor and his administration to tighten the budget and make the cuts before the budget proposal ever reaches the City Council." That's what the executive is supposed to do, so what's the problem?

Think of it this way, boys. If Walter Hussman sent you a memo from his Board of Directors and said balance the budget at the Northwest Arkansas Times, don't you think he would expect you to do so, not spending more than you brought in? Would you whine that he didn't tell you how? Would you complain that the budget is his Board's problem and responsibility and not yours? If you submitted a budget with expenses exceeding revenue and proposed to make up the difference by dipping into WEHCO, Inc. stockholders' equity, do you think he would consider that submitting a balanced budget?

No, and neither do the City Council or the taxpayers of this city. We want responsible management of public funds, and we deserve leadership that can and will provide that. Instead, we get the blame shifting we have come to expect from this mayor.

Let's Keep a Good Thing Off the Channel

Dan Coody's effort to keep citizen issue forums from the Government Channel has been effective. After firing the City Cable Administrator then assigning public relations assistant Dr. Susan Thomas, Ph.D. to take control of programming and jerking issue forums requested by an Alderman, the administration has effectively guided the Telecommunication Board toward its desired goal of more Coody publicity and less citizen commentary.

Not everyone has fallen for their game nor fallen into line. One of the Telecom Board's subcommittees is struggling to resist the mayor's scheme by proposing a revised policy to continue the forums, but that brave effort is unlikely to make much difference. It has to be approved by the full board, which seems accommodating to the administration's demands, then it goes before the City Council, where the mayor has three sure votes and veto power. Even if the new policy were to be implemented, it is unlikely that any citizen forums could be produced and aired before the November election, and that appears to be Coody's primary concern.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has called a censor a censor. "The board has been in an uproar for months now—ever since Susan Thomas, the unelected information czar of Fayetteville, killed one of the best and most popular features on the Government Channel, or at least sent it into a deep coma. We’re talking about the forums devoted to topics of public interest in town. Ms. Thomas called a halt to those forums after the city attorney—Kit Williams—wondered out loud about their possibly being unfair to somebody or other. The problems weren’t constitutional or legal, he added. But his reservations were enough for Ms. Thomas, whose formal job title at City Hall is public information officer. In this case, she’s acted to squelch public information by shutting down the forums. This is happening in Fayetteville—a city proud of its reputation for vigorous debate."

Like Coody's specious claims about broken bones on the square and a wave of citizen complaints about his opponents' yard signs, the editorial said, "Ms. Thomas’ worries that the forums might be unfair never seemed well grounded in fact. Quite the contrary. For years, going back at least to 1992, these shows have provided worthwhile information on topics of interest to local residents. There haven’t been any significant complaints about the forums, which present all sides of an issue. What could be more fair than that? And what were the subjects of the two pending forums that were cancelled by Ms. Thomas? Why, the future location of Fayetteville High School and possibly moving the Walton Arts Center out of town—two of the hottest local issues around. How can limiting discussion of them help inform the public? Answer: It can’t—and it shouldn’t be allowed to. Not in the free republic of Fayetteville."

The City Council cannot fire Dr. Thomas . The "city administration’s unelected minister of propaganda" answers only to Mayor Coody, who is quite pleased that she is following orders without complaint and has taken most of the heat for his designs. If Fayetteville citizens want a return to open government, they will have to fire Dan Coody.