Tuesday, September 30, 2008
One thing that you can count on in every campaign is that incumbents -- desperate to hold on to their jobs, salaries, and retirement benefits -- will always say the same simplistic things. They will pass off some jingoistic version of "Don't change horses in the middle of a stream," "Keep a good thing going," or "Stay the course." Then they will tell you that only the person holding the office has any relevant experience, and every opponent is a risky bet. They do not use words like "change" or "new ideas," or "we can do better."
It is amusing but not surprising, then, to see this line repeated by those who have sipped the Kool Aid. Someone named Lillian Pictor offered up a warmed-over serving of it in today's Northwest Arkansas Times that the editors titled, "Why gamble with a sure thing?" That sounds better than "Just more of the same."
Here's how it goes, "If you elect one of the other candidates, you are gambling because they talk big but haven’t been tested. If you elect one of them you are going to change everything, and perhaps not in a positive way. We would be starting at the bottom and in unknown territory. As far as economic concerns, I am certain that the present administration is very aware of the need for good city services and is considering these issues as well as others."
Lillian was talking specifically about the office of mayor, and she said, "Being the mayor is being the mayor; it is different than [sic] being on the council or any other position. I don’t think you would truly know what it’s like until you are actually there." Well, duh! Under that pseudo-logic, every incumbent is always more qualified than any challenger for every office.
George Bush and Dick Cheney have more experience in the White House than Barack Obama and John McCain combined, so "why gamble with a sure thing?" Why even bother having an election? Maybe because some citizens think that eight years is long enough to accomplish your goals or become stagnant and that it is time for energetic new leadership with fresh ideas?
Sandwiched in between the Mayor's Proclamation of Methamphetamine Awareness Month and the Mayor's $110,700 out-of-state consultant making a report on its On-going Recycling Study to make sure that no one else gets any credit for voluntary commercial recycling efforts is an item for the City Council Agenda Session that should concern everyone.
Item No. 3 is an unexplained "Southpass Informational Item" added by the project's head cheerleader, Mayor Dan Coody. There is nothing in the supporting agenda packet that explains what's up. Maybe a resolution to approve the SouthPass Planned Zoning District before annexation? Some contract to commit the city to a huge but unknown infrastructure bill? Or just a lecture from City Attorney Kit Williams that he is afraid that the developers will sue the City if the Council doesn't give them whatever it is they are demanding this time?
There are plenty of good reasons to vote down the SouthPass PZD and annexation, and some of them even have the blessing of the city attorney. Let's just go ahead and vote to kill the damn thing and put it out of our misery before Dan sticks us with another post-debacle tax hike to subsidize the developers.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Election time is a period when many candidates for office will do almost anything to get elected or reelected. They present a polished image of themselves and deny their own mistakes. They tell us how important and sophisticated they are and expect us to believe that they are the only person who can provide leadership. They tout their awards and tell us they alone are responsible for everything positive that happens in the world or the city. It is called slicking the voters, and we need to be able to look beyond their manufactured illusions and hyped images to see what is really important and who they really are before making a decision.
Mike Masterson had a column yesterday about how many people fall into the trap of making evaluations of coolness at an 8th grade level and tend to marginalize those who are more common or less pretentious. It applies to politics as much as to everyday life. Here are some of the points he makes, and they are worth considering:
“Think back to those early teen-age years when the pimples appeared, hormones started surging and insecurities ran rampant. That was when we learned to establish our remarkably shallow and immature system to measure the worthiness of others and even ourselves. We began to believe that if you wore the wrong clothes or didn’t wear your hair in a certain style, you were of little value. If you were overweight or hung out with the wrong crowd, you were unworthy of acceptance and admiration. The same went for the brand of vehicle you drove or the wealth and employment status of your parents. In short, somewhere around our 14th year most of us established commonly accepted criteria to measure the value of others. And every inch of our yardstick involved the superficial and irrelevant aspects of life. …
“Most 14-year-olds still base the worthiness of classmates not on their strength of character, empathy, generosity or compassion, but on irrelevant social and financial standing. I have overheard youthful conversations that ostracize any peer who fails to follow the accepted paths of the social status quo. The problem with such childish marginalizing is that so many adults failed to leave it behind back in junior high. Instead, we carried it through senior high, into college and the workplace. As a result, many full-grown people spend their adult lives still measuring the value of their fellow humans by shallow standards.
“How many times do we instantly marginalize a person we hardly know by what he is wearing or driving, or his career and where he lives We make such assessments every day. I know I have been guilty over the years. …
“Who knows how many times we have misperceived, misunderstood or just flat failed to recognize the actual value in others simply because they failed to meet this adolescent view? I know that I have encountered many truly wise and wonderful people who couldn’t care less about what they were wearing, which vehicle they drove or how they brushed their hair.
"I consider myself fortunate to have recognized early in adulthood that those aspects that seemed so crucial as a teen meant nothing in the larger view of life. The resulting friendships and acquaintances, even with many with a different world view than my own, have enriched life beyond description. …
“There have been many people whom I consider blessings. Not once in assessing their worth to me did my mind turn to their appearance or how much money or things they had accumulated. I found real value in the reliability of their words, the intentions of their deeds, and the depth of their hearts and faith.“
Next Monday, October 6, is the absolute deadline to register for voting in the November 4th elections for candidates from City Council down to President. We won't insult our readers by urging them to register to vote, since we will assume that anyone who visits this site is already registered and votes in every election. Instead, we challenge you to help one additional person to register.
Everything you need to know about registering people to vote in Arkansas can be found at this link to the Secretary of State elections division. If someone is not sure whether they are registered or might have moved since registering or last voting, you can get current registration information and status here.
It's not just us and our peculiar obsession. Other people think that registration and voting is important, too. If you don't believe us, check out the sites hosted by the League of Women Voters, Declare Yourself, and Rock the Vote.
The most reliable way to make sure that someone gets registered is to take them to the County Clerk's Office and getter done right. In Fayetteville, you'll find it in the Courthouse at the corner of College and Dickson, one flight up after going through the security check at the east entrance. And don't wait until the last minute when things get busy and confusion has a chance to do its thing.
Double your influence. Register a friend.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The fate of the Fayetteville High School building and the Walton Arts Center, George W. Bush’s farewell tour and the historic 2008 presidential race will all get spoofed when local journalists present this year’s Northwest Arkansas Gridiron Show.
“It’s the Comedy, Stupid,” the 2008 Northwest Arkansas Gridiron Show, is written, directed and performed by the local Society of Professional Journalists. The show spoofs newsmakers of the past year in sketch and song. The show is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Rogers Little Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. for general seating. The show begins at 8 p.m.
Cynthia Nance, dean of the UA School of Law, will emcee the show this year. As usual, the musical director is Emily Kaitz, a local singer/songwriter.
On stage this year, the Gridiron pokes fun at the search for efficient fuel, an unhealthy time at the Washington County Health Department and how Bella Vista is dealing with its goose poop problem. For sports fans, the Gridiron sees the world through Razorback Football Coach Bobby Petrino’s eyes and looks in to see what Frank Broyles, former UA athletic director, might be doing in retirement.
Gridiron writers are always happiest in an election year and what an election year it is. Six candidates for Fayetteville mayor compete in the “Singing Bee” where they must finish the words to a song about their campaigns. In Springdale, where six more candidates are vying for mayor, the Gridiron treats them to some group therapy.
On the federal level, Third District Rep. John Boozman gets some advice from a campaign aide. The “Sarah-cuda,” John McCain’s vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, gets her own song this year to tell everyone how wonderful it is being a conservative.
Three people who lost primaries or elections grace the stage this year: Hillary Clinton explains why it’s Barack Obama and not she who is the Democratic choice. Mike Huckabee gets some advice for his new Fox News job from Don Imus; and Al Gore sings about, what else, global warming. Other targets include Gov. Mike Beebe, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and his lottery proposal, and the so-called Hillside Flasher. There are still more surprises, some of which will come from Letitia Mae and Elmer Stufflebeam, a perennial Gridiron favorite couple.
Tickets are $25 each. To purchase tickets and for more information, go online to nwagridiron.com.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Will this bickering never end? Last May, as a part of the "reorganization" of the Government Channel, Dan Coody directed Dr. Susan Thomas PhD to fire Cable Administrator Marvin Hilton and have him escorted from his office by an armed police officer, thus ending his 13-year career.
Then in June, Hilton, who has a degree in communications from the University of Kansas and 20 years experience in public access programming, was the only applicant for a volunteer citizen position on the Telecommunications Board. The City Council Nominating Committee rejected his application, because, said Alderman Adella Gray, "We just didn’t feel like it was a good fit."
The Telecommunications Board position remained vacant for three months until September 16th, when Alderman Kyle Cook brought forward the nomination of Marvin Hilton, and the City Council unanimously approved it. Mayor Coody has not yet announced whether he will veto the appointment, like he did Planning Commissioner Candy Clark, but Hilton's name appears as a member of the Telecommunications Board on the city's website.
Now comes a broadside attack on Hilton, we have been informed, from Sky Blalock, Manager of Community Access Television, just days before the Telecommunications Board Sub-Committee meets on Monday to discuss the C.A.T. contract renewal. Reportedly, Blaylock sent out an email attack complaining about Hilton's appointment and trying to generate a campaign to have the Mayor and City Council reconsider the appointment, suggesting that they would be receptive to pressure during their own election campaigns. Blaylock was said to claim that she had extensive documentation and depositions that prove Hilton was a loser and would complicate the contract renewal process.
Bad timing for all involved, and it is unclear whether the purge campaign was approved by the C.A.T. Board. Picking a fight with a member of the Telecommunications Board during contract renewal discussions is poorly considered politics. I don't know Hilton or Blaylock, but this move could present a strong challenge to the Coody-Thomas evisceration and capture of the Government Channel for the annual Bonehead Bouquet.
Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams has delivered a memo to the City Council telling them that they cannot consider the failed past non-performance of developers, cannot consider whether the development violated the anti-sprawl spirit of City Plan 2025, cannot inquire whether developers have sufficient financing to complete a project, and cannot use common sense in deciding whether to approve a Planned Zoning District submitted by Southpass Development Company, LLC . Got that? Got it. It would be illegal to use common sense.
Like the much quoted line from Charles Dickens, “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.”
Attorney Williams does say that the Council can consider the development's "placing a burden on the existing road network" and the "impact on public facilities and services." We know that the existing road network is insufficient to handle the traffic generated by 4,000 people in the proposed development, and that is reason enough to deny approval of the sprawl merchants.
What we do not know is the development's "impact on public facilities and service," because Developer Dan Coody and his administration have provided no financial information about the total cost to the taxpayers for providing the infrastructure for this development beyond the current city limits. Until the mayor can provide a firm cost -- not one subject to surprise cost over runs like his $63 million sewer plant debacle -- then it would be irresponsible to even consider voting for approval of the SouthPass project.
Neither the City Council nor the citizens have any idea what this scheme will cost or how many times we will have to raise taxes to pay for infrastructure to serve the developers. We do not know the "impact on public facilities and services" that might have to be delayed or denied in order to cash the blank check demanded by SouthPass. That's a good reason to vote against it, and a legal one, even if the city administration doesn't want anyone using common sense based on experience.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Dr. Malcolm Cleaveland, UA Professor Emeritus of Geosciences, made a 400-miles round trip to testify yesterday before the Governor's Commission on Global Warming about SWEPCO's proposed coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County. You would think that a government body established by statute would be interested in hearing the opinion of an expert witness on the topic. Acording to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Professor Cleaveland "opposed the plant in a vigorous presentation" until State Representative Kathy Webb, Chair of the Commission, cut him off and told him to sit down when he passed his two-minute time limit. Two minutes. Is it any wonder that so few Arkansas citizens invest the time and effort to testify on important public policy issues in Little Rock?
Here in Fayetteville, where the citizens have informed opinions and wish to actively engage pubic issues that affect their lives and the future of our community, they are often ignored or treated with contempt by arrogant elected officials who don't want to hear their views. School Board President Steve Percival has banned one district patron critical of Bobbynu from ever speaking at a school board meeting, and he often limits what concerned citizens can discuss about relevant topics before the board.
Mayor Dan Coody ("Going, Going, Gone"), does not care much for citizen opinion and input, either. He might allow those who agree with him to go on forever, but he frequently interrupts speakers who question his proposals and cuts them off. His recent move to abolish the public issue forums initiated by Aldermen and citizens on the public's Government Channel reflects this disturbing attitude, and now Telecommunication Board Chair Shelli Bell, who did the administration's dirty work, wants to limit the public comments of citizens who disagree with that decision.
Criticism of [wo]men and measures is essential for an effective representative government, and true public servants will welcome honest differences. Being denied the opportunity to speak on public issues before government bodies leaves the citizens of Fayetteville only one effective alternative for changing things -- voting for new leadership for our city government and on the school board.
After 26 months of "study" trying to justify the developer's dreams of Bobbynu, the Cowbirds, and their obedient house organ to build a new high school out on Deane Solomon Road, the Fayetteville School Board reluctantly accepted the facts and voted unanimously to move forward with a 21st century high school facility on the present campus adjacent to the University of Arkansas. They are to be commended for that.
"We’ve had many spirited discussions,” Board President Steve Percival said. “It’s time to move on.” He is right in more ways than one, and it seems that the staff is ready to get with the program. Assistant Superintendent Dick Johnson said there already had been some positive dialogue with school officials and city officials about redeveloping the streets and infrastructure around the school. UA Chancellor David Gearhart sent a letter expressing his hope that the university, the school district and the city could work together to develop a plan for the area. Alderman Lioneld Jordan, chair of the city street committee, sent a letter offering the street committee’s help on dealing with some of those issues that could add an additional acre for building as well as adding additional bike lanes and sidewalks. Mayor Dan Coody also sent a letter saying he and the city staff could "help facilitate an exchange of ideas."
Board member Tim Kring said, "We had to look at all the options. I'm glad to see where we are. We have to ask our community to focus on helping us move forward." By that, Kring means we need to start thinking about how to pass a millage increase to build a world-class high school. Until recent years, Fayetteville has always been willing to step up and pay for almost any proposal for additional funding for education, then there was the debacle of 2005 when voters finally said no by an overwhelming majority. That was a referendum on Bobbynu. Now that he will be gone, the District has an opportunity to improve communication and regain public trust. Let's hope that they do.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Thanks to the League of Women Voters, Fayetteville citizens have an opportunity to be better informed when making their choices for Mayor and City Council. Local League activists have organized a number of forums with the candidates, and these will be shown several times in the next few weeks on the Government Channel 16, one of our three public affairs channels on the Fayetteville cable system.
Last week, the League conducted joint interviews with the Quorum Court candidates in JP District 5. Yesterday, they interviewed the candidates for contested City Council seats in Ward 1, Ward 2, and Ward 4. Tonight, they are sponsoring a forum with the six Fayetteville mayoral candidates, beginning at 6: 30 p.m. in the Walker Room at the Fayetteville Public Library.
On Thursday, the Sierra Club will host a candidate forum on environmental concerns in the UA Law School courtroom, with City Council candidates interviewed at 6:00 p.m. and mayoral candidates at 7:00 p.m. Those are open to the public and will be taped for showing later on Community Access Television, Channel 18 on the Fayetteville cable system.
If you want additional information on the mayoral candidates, the best online source is The Fayetteville Flyer, which has posted two interviews with each candidate and provided links to their campaign websites.
Ignorance is no excuse, at least for Fayetteville voters. You can judge the candidates on that point for yourself.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Fayetteville is fortunate to have an effective legislative delegation serving in the Arkansas General Assembly, and freshman State Representative Jim House (D-89) is a solid member of that team. House surprised even some of his supporters with his record of common sense and good votes during the last two years, and we are glad that he is seeking another term. During a candidate forum taped yesterday and sponsored by the League of Women Voters, it became clear why we should reelect Jim House.
Jim House reaffirmed his support for early childhood education, need-based college scholarships, and long-range planning for a future light rail system. He said he was proud to have been a co-sponsor on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, because, "I worked with many fine women in the state Health Department, and many of those weren't able to get the same pay for the same work as men." House also supports cutting the final three cents of the state sales tax on groceries and funding the Fayetteville satellite campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to train more health care professionals.
While Representative House made sense, his Republican opponent made noise. Springdale insurance salesman Gene Long repeated the standard talking points, claiming that Arkansas was not business-friendly enough and that taxes were too high. He advocated cutting state spending but did not say which programs he wanted to eliminate, and he said he was against the ERA because it would let homosexuals get married. Long said that education was important, but public records revealed that he had not bothered to vote in a local school election during the last 12 years. On and on with such nonsense.
Clear choice. Vote for Jim House. "Jim House will bring a breath of fresh air to politics and public service at a time when it is desperately needed," said General Wes Clark. "Jim’s perspective as a career state employee, a farmer, a father, and a man of faith, truly represent the values and interests of Arkansans. We need state and local leaders like Jim House who are committed to fight for our veterans’ needs, strong and affordable healthcare, and a durable job market. With his experience, commitment and leadership, Jim House will fight tirelessly with the courage to make difficult decisions." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Non-profit organizations often depend on the knowledge, dedication, and talents of volunteers, and such individual efforts are to be applauded. When such organizations contract to do a job and are paid with public funds, then taxpayers have an investment in their success and in expecting competent management of their money. Fayetteville Downtown Partners is one example, and it needs more responsible leadership.
Daniel Keeley, President of Fayetteville Downtown Partners, is said to be a competent landscaper. He is on the staff of Citiscapes and received an award from that magazine for being the "Best Landscape/Exterior Designer" in Fayetteville. He is a member of the Home Builders Association of Northwest Arkansas, and his projects include work for the Rupple Row development by Alexander, Merry-Ship & Alt Real Estate Group, Inc., and Nock Investments, LLC.
Keeley has been less successful as head of FDP, the group responsible for the Fayetteville Arts Festival. He said the funding goal for this year was $50,000, but he failed to submit an application for funding from the Advertising and Promotion Commission, which provided $35,000 the previous year. When the Fayetteville City Council passed a resolution in May asking that the A & P Commission renew the funding, Keeley spoke but did not support it. When the City Council unanimously approved $12,500 for FDP to manage the arts festival, Keeley was unable to explain the details of the budget and floundered until Board Members Sarah Lewis of the Fayetteville Council of Neighbrhoods and Dede Peters of the Fayetteville Arts Council testified and rescued him.
Under Keeley's leadership, even with the public funding, the 2008 festival fell far below that of previous years. We can do better and have. Downtown Partners estimated about 3,000 people attended events in 2008, compared to about 11,000 in 2005. Sales by participating artists this year were only about $30,000 compared with about $49,000 in 2006. Keeley said that FDP spent only about $11,000 in staging, promoting, and advertising this year's festival and kept about $20,000 to put aside for next year’s festival.
Fayetteville Downtown Partners is a good organization with some great board members, but they are in dire need of better leadership. Keeley needs to step aside as President and allow more competent leadership to begin now the process of preparing for the 2009 Fayetteville Arts Festival. It is far too an important part of the cultural scene in Fayetteville to suffer another year of floundering. Dede Peters, a true artist who understands the process and the value of public-private partnerships for support of the arts, would make an excellent replacement.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
It was a poorly attended gathering in Springdale sponsored by the Washington County Republican Women, but there was one tough question and some telling answers. The six candidates for Fayetteville mayor were asked what were the most important personal qualities they thought a mayor should have.
Walt Eilers said trust is the most important quality and that he’s a man of his word. Sami Sutton agreed that trust is most important and said that she hates liars. Steve Clark also included the ability to earn the public trust. Lioneld Jordan said one should be responsible for their actions and accountable to the people. Adam Fire Cat said humility was a necessary characteristic.
Dan Coody was not about to concede it necessary that a mayor should have humility, be trustworthy, or be responsible and accountable. No, he went with what he thought was his best personal characteristic and said communication was the most important quality a mayor should possess. I think maybe he meant skill instead of personal quality, but the moderator let it pass.
I doubt that Dan was referring to his skillful but illegal use of his official city cell phone for campaign communications, because he got caught doing that once before and had to write a personal check to pay it back.
Coody probably didn't have in mind his promise four and a half years ago to have regular bi-weekly press conferences, take serious questions from citizens and the media, and give straight answers to the public and their elected aldermen, because that one was was quickly broken and forgotten long ago. Besides, even Greg Harton wasn't fooled by that one.
Then there was the Official Dan Coody Mayor's Blog, paid for with our tax dollars and displayed on the front page of the city's fancy website. Seventeen months ago he said, "I’ll be posting regularly to this site beginning later this week . I intend to use this space to discuss current issues that I believe will be of interest to our citizens." That was another broken promise. He hasn't posted anything in six months, and there are only 20 total entries. There are eight photographs on the blog, and six are pictures of Dan. Heck, Dr. Susan Thomas Ph.D. was getting paid to write the entries, so it couldn't have been too much work. The Mayor's true commitment to communication is starkly revealed by his not allowing citizens to post feedback or ask questions on his blog.
Coody's major communication change in the operations of the city's official Government Channel 16 has been to fire the longtime cable administrator and turn it over to his hand-picked Public Relations Advisor. As a result, Dan has been able to program more of his press conferences trying to explain away the $63 million sewer plant debacle or lying about banishing bottled water from City Hall. The other change he directed at the Government Channel was to abolish the important and popular Public Issue Forums that could be requested by citizens or Aldermen. Not good.
Yes, Dan Coody might be right that his strongest skill is commmunication, but that's not saying much. Consultant Walt Eilers tried to give him some pointers at the Chamber meeting on Friday and advised, "You need to listen. If you're always talking about yourself, you're not listening." In other words, Dan, “It is not about headlines for the mayor,” he added, “It’s about getting the damn job done.”
Sadly, Dan Coody always thought those were the same.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
In a letter today from a member of the Waterman Woods Property Owners Association, one of Walt Eilers' supporters defends his history of insisting that ordinances be enforced. "We had an issue here where a number of unrelated individuals, college students, were living in one house. The number of people not only violated our neighborhood covenants but also exceeded the number allowed by city zoning codes. Walt, in trying to protect Waterman Woods and the city of Fayetteville, took up the cause. He initially used diplomacy and tried to work personally with the offending renter, but was rebuffed. Subsequently, by going through proper channels, using the complaint procedures and the city’s enforcement system, Walt succeeded in keeping our neighborhood a good family environment.
"Unfortunately, Walt has become the brunt of rumors concerning this event by a rival mayoral candidate. Most of us know that politicians will say almost anything to be elected. That is one of the many reasons that I am supporting Walt Eilers for mayor. He is not a politician, but rather a businessman that loves living in Fayetteville and knows he can make a real difference in this city. Without his hard work and diligence, this neighborhood would still be fighting a growing problem in Fayetteville.
"The rumors that you hear may claim that Walt is not supportive of the university students. This is just not true. ...Those of you who know the real story of the aforementioned event in Waterman Woods know that Walt did the right thing for our neighborhood and for Fayetteville. If you don’t know the real story, just ask any resident of Waterman Woods."
That should settle the issue.
"Mayor Coody has had eight years to develop a commercial recycling program, and yet the city currently only offers cardboard recycling. Through the hard work and determination of local small business owners, we have developed a commercial recycling program in eight months that will allow businesses, organizations, and apartment complexes to recycle all plastics, aluminum, and cardboard—and we did it all without spending a dime in taxpayer money." -- Walt Eilers
Incumbent District 1 JP Thomas Lundstrom (R-Springdale) describes himself as one of the most conservative members of the Washington County Quorum Court, and brags that he has probably voted “no” more than any other JP in the county. Lundstrom is “totally opposed” to any county zoning, and he thinks the spay-neuter program is a waste of money. Flipper Tom said he objected to paying $60,000 to furnish the Terminella Building, although he did vote in favor of it. “I’m just opposed to taxes,” he said, then added the trite quip that government should be run like a business.
JP Lundstrom must have been thinking about such free enterprise wonders as the bankrupt American International Group Inc. or local developers like Ben Israel and Brandon Barber. He did say he believes the county should buy the old Fulbright Library property next to the courthouse, which would provide room for a parking deck and give some financial relief to the developers, although he said he doesn’t know of any pressing issue for space and new facilities or any other public purpose in doing so.
Sharon Green, the challenger for the District 1 position, seems to think there is a difference between public service and free enterprise bidness. “You have to be accountable to a higher source than just a business,” Green said naively in an interview sponsored by the League of Women Voters. “In a business, you are accountable to yourself, not to anyone else. As a government officer, you are accountable to all of the residents in the county.”
Green also favors reasonable zoning regulations, continuing the spay-neuter program, and other sensible approaches to modern county government. She said she saw her role as a JP to hear the residents of Washington County and give them a real voice in government. Ms Green will soon learn that Springdale loves the stingy voice of Tom Lundstrum and that they love his callous late 19th-century opinions about government.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
For quite some time, we thought that Dan Coody spent more time out of town than in his office. He has cut back on his extravagant travel to exotic places since he flip-flopped and decided to run for reelection, but we figured he must have captured the Traveling Trophy for mayors. When was the last time you heard about Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin, Springdale Mayor Jerry Van Hoose, or Rogers Mayor Steve Womack flitting off to Amsterdam to study bicycle riding? When did County Judge Jerry Hunton attend a swim suit contest on South Beach? How many of our City Council members get invited along on these junkets?
Now we learn that Mayor Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock has been giving Our Dan a run for our money. The Lord Mayor of Dogtown took three international trips in the last few years, and he bilked his city treasury for $23,573.73 between January 2007 and May 2008 for travel to "approximately 26 cities in the US including Key West, Minneapolis, DC, Newark, LA and Seattle for US Conference of Mayors meetings, LA and Houston for Rivers of Trade Corridor meetings, several Arkansas cities for AR Municipal League meetings, Albequerque and Fayetteville AR for ICLEI meetings, Seattle for the American Public Power Association, Norfolk for an Argenta/Rockwater trip, Houston to meet with Bomasada officials, Seattle to attend an Air Mobility Rodeo, St Louis to attend a Soccer Association meeting, and Rogers AR for a sustainability conference among others."
We are so glad to be internationally famous because our mayor travels as much as the Dogtown mayor. Well maybe. We haven't seen a summary of Dan Coody's travel logs or the total cost to taxpayers and special interest groups that bankrolled it. I searched the city's official website, but I could not find that information. I also searched the Northwest Arkansas Times, but I should have known better than to expect anything there. Does anyone know? And what about all those frequent flyer miles? Do those go back to the city, or does our mayor put those on his personal travel account?
Mayor Coody and Mayor Hays have other things in common besides their love of travel at someone else's expense. Mayor Hays wants to drain a wetland and use a TIF to build a Bass Pro Shoppe in North Little Rock. Mayor Coody used a TIF so developers could dig a sinkhole and sold off the fragile Wilson Spring wetlands to a developer.
Penney and Curt Wolfe, whose son Billy attended Fayetteville High School, filed suit in federal court on Wednesday against the Fayetteville School District and Byron Lynn Zeagler, an assistant principal at the high school. They claim that district personnel failed to protect their son from physical and online harassment and beatings by bullies at the school. You will recall that this case was foreshadowed by an article in The New York Times on March 24th and subsequent national media attention.
When asked about the article, Mayor Dan Coody said, "I read it. After all the good press I have brought to Fayetteville, this does not help." Yes, it was all about Dan Coody. He said nothing about how bullying is a problem, or how the city could work collaboratively with the school district to improve student safety, just disappointment about the negative publicity. Image was more important than reality.
Coody went on to cast aspersions on The New York Times, the favorite whipping boy of right wing politicians, for undermining all the good publicity he had gotten. "I understand there is more to the story than what 'fits' the media's perspective." That was red meat for conservative bloggers and all they needed to pile on the press. Dr. Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., Walton Family Endowed Chair of School Vouchers and Charter Schools at the University of Arkansas, was even more concerned with bashing The New York Times than he was in blaming the incident on the existence teachers' unions.
Mayor Coody should be called as an expert witness in the case to testify about how media bias in reporting on the incident has prevented him from getting more good publicity by claiming credit for everything good that happens in Fayetteville.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
"Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest," observed the late Lady Bird Johnson.
Yesterday, the Fayetteville Public Library Board and staff hosted an informational session for the mayor and city council, because Mayor Dan Coody told the library not to ask for a budget increase of more than $402 for next year. “ I’m going to remind you that you appointed us to be advocates for the library,” said Don Marr, library board member and former alderman, and he was. Director Louise Schaper asked the city for an additional $65,913 for staff wage increases, extending hours on weekends and nights, and expanding digital media access.
Coody presented a summary budget to the City Council earlier this month that included a 1.6% increase, enough so that employees would be eligible for the same raises as other city employees but nothing for extended hours or services. Yesterday, Coody said, "We have many needs and fewer resources than we would like." He refused to commit on recommending additional funds for the library, telling them that there were other things more important. His travel to conventions in far away places and no bid contracts to out-of-state consultants, perhaps? “We’ll just have to see,” said Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Ferrell, who like Coody did not agree to support the library's request. Ward 2 Alderman Kyle Cook hemmed and hawed but made no commitment.
Ward 1 Alderman Adella Gray, in an unusual break with Mayor Coody, said, "We’ll do all we can to find all the money we can. I’d love to have it open 24-7. I feel this is such a very important asset for all of our citizens, for the whole city of Fayetteville. Yes, I’ll support it."
The most vigorous support for the library came from Ward 4 Alderman Lioneld Jordan. "I’m from the south end of town. Down there, there’s not a lot of computers, and there’s not a lot of folks that can spend a lot of money on books. But they can come here," he said then added, "I will support this library with whatever they need, whenever they need it. I will support the money. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Whatever they need moneywise, I will support."
The city's budget is a reflection of priorities -- priorities of those who hold office and priorities of those who elect them. Differences in ranking these priorities are already becoming clear with regard to the 2009 budget for Fayetteville. Now is the time to let your Aldermen and those running for office know what funding choices you think are most important and ask whether they agree, then help achieve those goals when you vote in November.
George Arnold, opinion editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette northwest edition, watched the mayoral debate sponsored by the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods and called it fairly. "Dan Coody had a bad night," he said. "The mayor of Fayetteville is in a serious race to hold onto his job for a third term. ...But the other night, Dan Coody must have felt like the evening’s target for everybody else. He was forced to defend himself and his record, which meant he often sounded defensive."
"Give a politician a chance to dance around and he’ll take it every time. The squirm-inducing questions came from the audience," Arnold noted."There was the inevitable question about Fayetteville’s hole in the ground. That’s the Big Dig where the Mountain Inn used to stand. ...Meanwhile, the same developers are trying to get city approval for another grandiose project on the south side of town. ...And there was the question about the water and sewer project, which included the new west-side sewer plant. The project came in some $63 million over budget and three years late."
"All these questions had Mayor Coody bobbing and weaving. Which is nothing new," admitted Arnold. "Try as he might, he can’t explain the sewer plant and big hole away. They happened on his watch. The other night, he even had to short-change later questions to go back and try again to tell the audience why none of these things had really been his fault. Judging by their reactions, few seemed convinced. ...But the murmurs and chuckles that greeted some of Mayor Coody’s pronouncements that evening must have given him pause. It wasn’t what he could call a friendly crowd."
"Dan Coody’s specific problem," said the editor, "is that the narrative for the mayoral campaign lends itself to some simple—and memorable—sound bites. Like '$60 million and three years behind.' Or 'the big hole.' Anybody who’s paying attention in Fayetteville knows what those phrases mean. The audience at last week’s forum/debate seemed inclined to lay both at Dan Coody’s feet. We only have to wait until November to see if voters do the same."
Columnist Mike Masterson is having one of his good days, and his words today ring true in our little corner of the state. "Sad to say that the medium that historically exposed corruption, prompted social reforms and helped preserve an informed democracy has all but abandoned its First Amendment obligations," he laments. "Where are all the newspaper exposés, the subsurface reporting so prevalent in our culture just two decades ago? Where are the watchdog reporters whose courageous work made them invaluable to our culture and republic? ...After 38 years in this business, I assure you that there has been profound backsliding in the quality, courage and effectiveness of newspaper reporting across the nation. Instead, the 'official version' is passed off as truth. As a result, credibility, circulation and our very democracy have suffered."
"Things changed after mega-corporations began buying and then quickly flipping newspapers for millions in profits," he explains. "The biggest losers were, naturally, the readers who for decades had relied on their papers to inform them and to keep governments honest. Also losing were the newspapers themselves because they chose to abandon the very product that made them uniquely necessary to society. ...Most newspaper watchdogs have been defanged. Their raspy bark is barely audible. Elected officials smirk and do pretty much as they please and go unquestioned. "
"Perhaps this disturbing decline of my beloved profession might be reversed with a return to our First Amendment obligations. But first the newspapers must recognize that each of them is like an individual. It reflects a heart and a soul as well as its own distinctive personality and character, or lack thereof. To succeed, it must demonstrate uncommon courage, devotion to truth and integrity upon which the people can wholeheartedly rely to place their interests and needs foremost. Otherwise," Masterson concludes, "we might as well be peddling sweet, fluffy Krispy Kremes."
It is a smear on good name of Krispy Kremes to compare them to the once proud independent voice that has become the obsequious Northwest Arkansas Times.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The race for Position 1 on the Fayetteville School Board has drawn six candidates, all of whom are to be commended for their willingness to serve and the campaigns they have waged. In reviewing their records of service and involvement, Jim Halsell stands out. When we met him at the Farmers Market last week, we were very impressed with his openness, his knowledge, and his positions on the issues. We also found it inspiring that the offering plate on his table was to make donations to support the FHS Band trip expenses to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Jim Halsell has a record of dedication to the public schools. He has served as President of the Washington Elementary Parent-teacher Organization, chaired the effort with the University of Arkansas to build an outdoor classroom, served as a Scout Master, and was named a Volunteer of the Year by the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation. Jim and his wife Michele, who is managing director of the UA Applied Sustainability Center, are fully involved as committed parents of three children attending the Fayetteville public schools.
Jim Halsell is also right on the important issues facing our schools. He backs the construction of a world class high school on the current campus in central Fayetteville. he is committed to hiring a qualified superintendent with experience as a teacher and a collaborative leadership style. He supports walkable neighborhood schools and the adoption of green building techniques for all school construction. Halsell is also discussing optimal school size and is open to revisiting and listening to patrons about the past decision to add 9th grade to the high school.
Jim Halsell holds an undergraduate degree in business and a masters degree in communications, both from the University of Arkansas and both of which should serve him well as a member of the school board. He has been endorsed by a number of local organizations, including the local Sierra Club and the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees at the University of Arkansas.
Jim Halsell. Qualified. Committed. Informed. The best choice. Go vote.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Greg Harton is the exective editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times. His views shape what events get coverage and the angle of the stories. He also has a weekly column called "What Gives?" Readers are often left asking themselves that question after reading it. Today's column illustrates that point, as Mr. Harton shares his insight about the recent mayoral debate and "two issues that left me shaking my head in disbelief."
"First," says Harton, "the candidates were unanimous in their support for light rail, which taken in context of all the other needs in Fayetteville and the region, is little more than a pipe dream." The candidates indicated that they supported long-range planning for light rail, not immediate construction, but Harton has long opposed even such planning and didn't let the facts get in the way of his analysis.
Second, Harton expresses surprise at "the ease with which Steve Clark, then Lioneld Jordan, then the other challengers tossed out so cavalierly the assertion that Fayetteville’s proposed regional park would be built on top of a 'toxic waste dump.'" Like his anointed candidate Dan Coody, Harton distorts the remarks of the opposition, which did not say the proposed park was on top of the abandoned landfill. Again like Coody, he tries to parse away the difference between a "toxic waste dump" and a "dump containing toxic wastes" to pretend there is no problem except the political one for Mayor Coody.
Harton and Coody can call it whatever they want. However, the City of Fayetteville website provides information about hazardous materials, including "industrial chemicals and toxic waste" that "pose a potential risk to life, health, and property," found in the home. These are among the types of materials routinely sent to the C&L Landfill in the 1970s.
Harton assures us that the landfill "was closed and covered according to the regulations in force at the time ," but he conveniently fails to mention that there are absolutely no federal guidelines or requirements for landfills that closed before 1991. In 2005, the year that Coody signed the agreement to accept responsibility for the old landfill, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality labeled it one of "three landfills now classified by the department as the state’s most troubled." Recent environmental studies on the site have found cyanide, lead, and mercury in the dump, and there can be little dispute by anyone except Coody and Harton that those are dangerous toxic compounds.
Marsha Melnichak, one of Harton's obedient reporters, dutifully promoted Coody's version of the debate and the questions about the landfill. Coody angrily charged that if there was a problem, it is Lioneld Jordan's fault for voting in 2004 for the Mayor's proposal to accept the landfill property and future potential liability. Coody said Jordan knows the area isn't toxic because, as a council member for seven years, he has had all the same documentation on which Coody has relied.
The problem with Coody's self-serving attempt to shift the blame to the City Council is that ADEQ has continued to raise questions about the safety of the landfill well after Coody signed the contract, and thoughtful Aldermen might have new concerns now and be less trusting of Mayor Coody's assurances that everything is swell. When interviewed this week, Claire Barnett, project manager for EnSafe Inc. that evaluated the site for the ADEQ, and Brian Mulhern, risk assessor for EnSafe, said the company is still evaluating the property. Neither would say the Fayetteville landfill site is or isn't safe. So, we are left with the word of Dan Coody, for what that's worth.
The C&L Landfill on the SouthPass property was closed in 1976. Two years later, in August 1978, the nation began to understand the potential risks associated with abandoned dumps, when citizens called attention to one closed in 1953 at Love Canal, New York. They were assured by the New York State Health Commissioner in 1980 that "None of the tests provide scientific proof that Love Canal chemicals have caused human illness."
This week, we were assured by Mayor Coody and Editor Harton that the C&L Landfill site is not a problem.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Walt Eilers has had two good ideas in his campaign for Mayor. He organized a pilot program to promote commercial recycling by some local businesses, and he advocated a dog park in each ward. When Dan Coody saw that both were getting good publicity, he jumped on the proposals to see if he could upstage Eilers and take credit for appearing innovative.
Yesterday, Coody's Parks Director, Connie Edmonston, a holdover from the Fred Hanna administration, said that City Council approval was not necessary, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board okayed turning Lake Wilson Park into a no-leash zone for dogs on a trial basis. The park is located about 4 miles south of 15th Street and can be reached by traveling the last 1.5 miles on dirt road from the Tilly Willy Bridge. You can get there and back on less than a tank of gas. Of course, Edmonston didn't know when the dog park might be open, even on a trial basis. It could be several months, probably after the election, but the publicity and credit are available now. Coody said it was just a start, "We need a few around town."
On the other issue, Mayor Coody's idea to encourage commercial recycling was to put forward a $100,000 consulting contract with an out-of-state consulting firm then throw in an addition $10,700 to cover a cost overrun for their advice. Coody didn't much like it when Eilers organized the successful pilot project on the cheap, and he tried to ignore it. But just in case anyone might give Eilers some credit, Coody had R.W. Beck Inc., his hand-picked hired consultants, give a preliminary report on how many citizens participate in curbside residential recycling and, on that basis, snagged a headline declarng, "Fayetteville Recycle Program Named Best in State."
If you actually read the article, you learn that the consultants Coody selected really said, "Fayetteville's recycling program captures more materials than most any other city in Arkansas." They didn't name it the best in state, even if the editor made it sound as if the Mayor had gotten some kind of award, but the Public Relations Society should name Dan Coody the Publicity Hound of the Decade. He has become even more ubiquitous than Dick Trammell. Maybe that is what the extra $10,700 in tax dollars paid for.
Sorry, Walt, nice try but you lose. Now you know why City Council members are reluctant to share their ideas with the Mayor and his staff. They read about them in the newspaper the next day as Dan Coody's idea, but there is never any follow through except in claiming credit. Publicity is sustainable, because hot air leaves no carbon footprint.
Friday, September 12, 2008
There are few in Fayetteville who are fans of the arrogance of Cox Communication and their expensive cable monopoly, and most think some competition would be a good idea. AT&T introduced its U-verse digital video service in Little Rock and central Arkansas last week, and it will be coming to Northwest Arkansas soon. The Fayetteville City Council approved the AT&T agreement in February 2007, prompting City Attorney Kit Williams to explain, "With this contract, AT&T is authorized to go forward full speed." Seventeen months doesn't seem like full speed for the corporate giant, but the eventual arrival of competition is probably a good thing. Other telecommunications issues continue to present problems.
No one at City Hall seemed the least bit concerned about the appearance of a rather obvious conflict of interest when Shelli Bell, an employee of AT&T, was appointed to the Telecommunications Board last year. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse, including the Administration's uncerimonious firing of the City Cable Administrator in May.
Mrs. Bell also took the lead in working with Dr. Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Mayor Dan Coody's "public information officer," to abolish the issue forums on the Government Channel. These informative and important discussions of public affairs initiated by citizens and members of the City Council are no more, and our community's public dialogue is less vibrant as a result.
Now Mrs. Bell, who nominated herself to replace Richard Drake as Chair, is trying to limit public input at meetings of the Telecommunication Board. This week she prepared an agenda for the September 18th meeting and submitted it to Dr. Susan Thomas, Ph.D. that proposes to reduce citizen participation by "limiting public comment per person per agenda item" and "limiting public comment for this agenda item and excluding previously discussed topics." This follows the decision to take the Telecommunications Board Forum off of the City's webpage, where it was open to the public to view and read, to a Google Group, raising questions about compliance with the notice and open meeting requirements of the FOIA.
There is no evidence that Mrs. Bell has torpedoed the Board's interest in moving forward with public Wi-Fi internet service around the square and the Dickson Street area. Yet, while Fayetteville has dithered since last expressing interest in May 2007, Bentonville, Rogers, and even Gentry have made free service a reality. AT&T would, no doubt, be glad to charge for wireless internet, but enthusiasm appears lacking for any kind of public service model in downtown Fayetteville. Probably just a coincidence.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Word is that the Mayor's race begins tonight with a candidate forum sponsored by the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods. It opens at 7:00 p.m. in the Parish Hall of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. No advance word on the format or whether the audience members can ask their planted questions. We are told that all six of the announced candidates will participate, so it should be informative, regardless of how it is staged.
There is no live coverage on either the former Government Channel 16 or Community Access Television Channel 18 tonight. Don't make us wait for tomorow's news accounts in the local papers. If anyone attends, please use the comments here to let us know how it went, what happened, who goofed, who did well, who had good ideas, who had none, and who should drop out now.
UPDATE: The debate is now available online, so draw your own conclusions.
Dan Coody and Steve Clark have already said they want the promised regional park, regardless of what it might cost the city. Before the citizens get burdened with millions in debt for the infrastructure required for Connie's Sports Park, the SouthPass developers, and that leaking landfill, we thought we'd offer our readers a chance to vote and express their opinions about the park in the second of our Iconoclast Online Polls.
Two hundred and twenty-one votes were cast during a three day period that ended this afternoon. The reported distribution was 51% strongly oppose the park (114 of 221 votes), and three didn't really care either way. Forty-six (20%) said the park would be okay if the developers paid all the costs and expenses.
One surprising thing is that there were 58 votes (26%) that said they would support raising taxes to pay the estimated $25 million for Phase One infrastructure costs at SouthPass. Support for raising taxes surged beginning about 2:00 yesterday afternoon and continued strong until just after noon today. Our analytics revealed that 54 of these 58 votes to raise taxes and let the citizens subsidize infrastructure costs came from computers with IP addresses (22.214.171.124-223) registered to The Fulbright Building LLC at 217 E. Dickson Street, Fayetteville.
We are still trying to decide whether those 54 votes expressing a willingness to pony up $25 million for infrastructure should be added to the other 46 who said the park would be alright if the developers paid the piper for the infrastructure. If so, that would make 100 votes (45%) for letting Nock, Alexander, and Broyles pay the real costs of their own damn development.
Maybe so. Director Rick Stocker and the Rogers Parks and Recreation Commission Long-Range Planning Committee heard a presentation yesterday regarding possible renovation projects at Lake Atalanta and a city partnership for a regional Game & Fish office and nature center at the lake. Game & Fish Commission officials are excited about the idea of a combined nature center that could include hands-on exhibits, meeting rooms, a conference center, a boardwalk, an aquarium, and an observation deck at the lake because of its close proximity to such a highly populated area, said architect John Mack and landscape architect Dwight Heasley.
Other ideas for Lake Atalanta include trails, an amphitheater, butterfly gardens and a stone mill similar to one in North Little Rock. Heasley said that the objectives for renovation at Lake Atalanta include creating a family friendly atmosphere that is pedestrian friendly, maintains the natural environment, is a destination place for people within a two-hour radius of the city and promotes downtown.
We commend all involved with the exciting possibilities for Lake Atalanta and hope that their plans can be developed and executed for the benefit of downtown Rogers as well as the school children of Northwest Arkansas. Smart thinking and bold action.
Different cities have different visions. Fayetteville once had an opportunity for an Audubon Nature Center at Wilson Spring, but Mayor Dan Coody instead sold the choice property to a developer. The Fayetteville Parks and Recreation director Connie Edmonston wants to build a regional sports park outside the city limits, like the one in Springdale. Rogers Mayor Steve Womack stepped up to save the Victory Theatre as a performing arts venue, while the UARK Theater in Fayetteville has the best poster shop on Dickson Street.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Put the greenwasher on spin cycle for the next 55 days. Mayor P. T. "Dan" Coody is about to demonstrate the power of incumbency to command the media on his whim. Reporters will come from far and wide; editors will sing his praises. Tomorrow is the early preview showing of the Dan Show. It will take the form of a press conference at noon to announce another conference on one of Dan's favorite words, Sus-tain-a-bil-i-ty. It will be brilliant theatre. Credit will be claimed. Children wil marvel. Cameras and presses will roll.
As Christopher Meyer said so well, "'Sustainability' is a meme morphing into a buzzword. As 'climate crisis,' 'triple bottom line,' 'carbon cap and trade,' 'cleantech,' and other phrases enter more widespread use, they are amalgamating, becoming code words that signify that the user 'gets it,' while offering little specificity about what it is that’s gotten." That is why it is so handy for a slippery politician like Coody.
Coody will give us yet another opportunity to hear him say "sustainability," to watch him praise our "regional partner" Wal-Mart for its cutting costs, and to bask in his progress in developing the image of a Green Valley by repeating those words once a day between now and November 4th. He will say stuff like how successful he has been in marketing our city as "the center of the universe for sustainability," and he alone has made us "a nationally recognized leader on the sustainability front." At least we're not Springdale. There will be a big meeting sometime in October. Before the election. Nothing will come of it, except maybe some publicity and a gushing editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Times.
For more information, contact Dr, Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Public Relations Advisor, at 575-8302, or the Coody Campaign Headquarters at 442-3644.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families will launch a Northwest Arkansas satellite office Thursday with a public grand opening and introduction of the first Northwest Arkansas Director, Laura Kellams. The new office is in the Jones Family Resource Center, Suite 127, 614 E. Emma in Springdale, and there will be an open house beginning at 5 p.m., hosted by Northwest Arkansas AACF board members Lynn Donald-Carver, the Rev. Lowell Grisham, Dr. Diana Gonzales Worthen and The Harvey and Bernice Jones Charitable Trust. State Senator Sue Madison and other dignitaries will make brief remarks beginning at 5:30 p.m.
For 30 years, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has been one of the leading public interest groups, conducting research and addressing important public policy issues. They are the good guys. The Northwest Arkansas office will help AACF further its mission of developing and carrying out public policies that ensure all children have the resources and opportunities they need to lead a healthy and productive life and realize their full potential.
Laura Kellams is joining AACF after working as a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more than 11 years, covering politics, government and regional affairs in Northwest Arkansas. Kellams has a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas and has lived in the northwest corner of the state for 20 years.
Welcome to the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and best wishes for a successful operation in Northwest Arkansas.
Mayor Dan Coody took on Ward Three Alderman Bobby Ferrell at the Council Agenda Session last night and made it clear that he would ignore Ferrell's Resolution asking the Mayor to submit a balanced budget. Coody told Ferrell that he was The Decider and had no intention of submitting a balanced budget, despite the Council Resolution passed last month. "I think I made it perfectly clear I’m going to bring forward the budget that I think is best for the city regardless of resolution or policy," he said.
Mayor Coody's preliminary 2009 budget of $35,919,400, which includes no cost-of-living increases for city employees, represents an increase of $896,400 over 2008 expenses and will create a deficit of more than half a million dollars -- about $535,400. Take that Bobby Ferrell.
Revenues are expected to increase by $361,000 next year, so Coody wants to cover his deficit spending by raiding the city's reserve funds for $535,400. That is his idea of good management and executive leadership. Otherwise, Coody would have to cut back on his travels to foreign countries, spend less time in Amsterdam and France, attend fewer high profile conferences with important people, reduce the number of no bid consulting contracts, and hold fewer press conferences and send fewer invitations to mutiple sewer plant Grand Openings to take credit for everything that happens in Fayetteville.
A total of 142 Arkansas high school seniors are being named today as Semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, making them eligible to receive one of the prestigious college scholarships next spring. Eighteen of these outstanding young scholars, roughly 13% of the state total, are from Washington County. Ten of those are from Fayetteville High School, which is the same total for all of Benton County.
The ten Fayetteville students recognized include Emily DeLong, Kyle Erf, Jordan Janawitz, Kaley Jarrett, Rebecca Lindsey, Savannah Mills, Jacob Purcell, Katherine Soerens, Daniel Tchakhalian, and Belgie Wang. Other Washington County scholars were Hannah Coffey and Grace Smith of Prairie Grove; Erin Plum of Elkins; West Fork homeschooler Anna Stitt; Graham Atherton, Kaila Pianalto, and Erin Wright of Springdale Har-Ber; and Stephanie Johnson of Springdale, bringing the county total to 18 National Merit Semifinalists this year.
Up in the shallow end of the gene pool, the Republican stronghold of Benton County had 10 National Merit Semifinalists. As expected, Siloam Springs had zero, the same number as Decatur and Gentry. Pea Ridge and Gravette had one each. Rogers had thee, and Bentonville had five.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
As he began his eighth year in office and before he flip-flopped and decided to run for another term, Dan Coody admitted that the city had no economic development plan. So, in February, he proposed spending $150,000 for a consultant to define an economic development policy for the city. Finally, just last month, Coody signed a no bid contract with his chosen out-of-state consultant, Eva Klein and Associates, from somewhere in Virginia to come here and do a study for $150,000.
What do we have to show for this? No new economic development. Not a single new business. Not even an economic development plan. But Mayor Coody will have a big press conference, a Kick Off Event, on Tuesday, October 14th, 6-8 p.m. to celebrate the consultants coming to Fayetteville to ask us some questions that they can't answer. It will not be another ribbon cutting, but it will be an opportunity for the mayor to get some free publicity -- and to appear that he has done something about economic development besides developing the bank accounts of outside consultants with our tax dollars.
The big event is exactly three weeks before the November election.
For more information, contact Dr, Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Public Relations Advisor, at 575-8330, or the Coody Campaign Headquarters at 442-3644.