Saturday, September 13, 2008

'Tis the Season for Political Poaching

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.

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