Friday, October 31, 2008

This Just In: Obama Carries Arkansas

Secretary of State Charlie Daniels today announced the statewide results of the 2008 National Student/Parent Mock Election. The winner of the much-anticipated race for US President and Vice President was Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joe Biden with a vote of 49,088. Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin received 34,393 votes. This is a hopeful sign that our children are less affected by racism than an older generation. Arkansas students also went for the Lottery Amendment and voted against the Arkansas Family Council gay-bashing and anti-fornication proposal.

Around 140,000 students from about 500 schools statewide participated in Mock Election Day, which serves to educate students from kindergarten to 12th grade on the importance of voting by actively involving them in a full-fledged campaign and national election.

“Student mock elections are a valuable exercise in democracy for our future voters and civic leaders,” Daniels said. “Every election year, we seem to have more participants and more enthusiasm for the process. Through this program, our youth get to have a voice in determining the future of our state and country.”

The Arkansas Mock Election ballot included all of the statewide races and the five ballot issues. Fifth grade gifted and talented students from Gibbs International Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock tallied the votes today from a tabulation station in the Capitol’s second floor rotunda.

For more information on the National Student/Parent Mock Election, visit the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website at and

The final Arkansas 2008 Mock Election results are as follows:

President and Vice President
Barack Obama / Joe Biden - Democrat Votes: 49,088
Bob Barr / Wayne Allyn Root - Libertarian Votes: 569
Chuck Baldwin / Darrell L. Castle - Constitution Votes: 398
Cynthia McKiney / Rosa Clemente - Green Votes: 710
Gloria La Riva / Eugene Puryear - Socialism and Liberation Votes: 220
John McCain / Sarah Palin - Republican Votes: 34,393
Ralph Nader / Matt Gonzalez - Independent Votes: 1,513

US Senate
Rebekah Kennedy - Green Votes: 9,795
US Senator Mark Pryor - Democrat Votes: 20,615

US Congress District 3
Abel Noah Tomlinson - Green Votes: 5,681
Congressman John Boozman - Republican Votes: 10,459

Proposed Constitutional Amendments and Referred Questions

Constitutional Amendment #3
For Constitutional Amendment #3 Votes: 18,556
Against Constitutional Amendment #3 Votes: 6,847

Proposed Initiative Act #1
For Proposed Initiative Act 1 Votes: 11,585
Against Proposed Initiative Act 1 Votes: 12,563

Dan Coody Outlines His Plans for Fayetteville

Baptist Convention Casts First Stone

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention, meeting at the First Baptist Church in Bentonville this week, resolved to support the heinous Act 1, The Arkansas Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban. Those Baptist want to make it illegal to do a lot of things, but assuming this position allows them to stand firm against gays and fornicators. They declared that orphans and unwanted children should be warehoused in state institutions at taxpayer expense unless potential adoptive or foster parents meet their standards, because “the Scripture teaches that God’s ideal is that children be nurtured by a father and a mother who are united in the holy covenant of marriage.”

Never mind that there are 3,700 Arkansas children needing foster care and only about 1,100 foster homes are ready to take them. Better that they rot in bedlam than be placed in a loving home with qualified adults who don't conform to the lifestyles of the priggish Arkansas Baptist Convention. These pious meddlers have no better solution, but they are damn sure against sexually active unmarried couples, gay or straight, adopting children or providing foster homes.

If you haven't already done so, Vote Against Act 1.

Educating Chancellor Gearhart

The new UA Chancellor, G. David Gearhart, got a lesson in the politics of the budget this week, appearing before the Legislative Joint Budget Committee to present the University's request for additional state funding. He requested an increase in state general revenues from $114.1 million this year to $129.8 million in the second year of the next budget cycle. The legislators had a couple of things they wanted to discuss.

Why, they wanted to know, should the taxpayers give the University $500,000 a year for operation of a botanical garden in Hot Springs? Good question. Why does the UA need a garden in Hot Springs at all.. The legislators told Gearhart to give some thought to raising admission prices instead of seeking state funds that could be better spent on home health care for the elderly. After all, they said, you keep raising tuition for students every year.

Next up, they asked, why in the hell is the UA charging $50 for a parking ticket? Another good question that deserves an answer. The UA collects about $2 million a year in fines. One legislator said he'd never heard of a parking ticket anywhere in the world costing more than S10. Vice Chancellor Don Pederson said they needed to make them really high, because "students ignore the rules when the costs don’t impact them."

Gearhart did get a break, because it was such an easy act to follow John White, who seemed to have less respect for the legislators than they did for him. Gearhart even apologized for not knowing something, a response John White would not have considered. Senator Steve Faris said he appreciated the change in attitude from the pomposity of the past. "It’s refreshing to have a chancellor at the university now who enjoys returning calls.” Indeed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unlimited Time to Campaign at Full Pay

For the last two weeks, I have seen Dan Coody out campaigning when he should have been at work. We pay him more than $107,000 a year to look after city business, not to be out campaigning for himself in the middle of the day on our time. On Wednesday, I went to the courthouse for early voting, and there Coody was campaigning. He accosted me as I stepped off the shuttle bus and was downright rude as I was trying to get past him to get to the Clerk‘s Office and cast my ballot. It was almost like I had stepped in something and couldn't get it off my shoe. Yuk.

Curious, I contacted City Hall to check on whether Dan Coody had taken vacation time to campaign today and the other times I have seen him harassing voters at the courthouse or streetside. It turns out, I was informed, that Coody does not earn any vacation time to take, so he just leaves to campaign whenever he wants and doesn’t have to ask permission, keep a record, or even tell anyone where he is going.

Dan Coody doesn’t have to fill out a timesheet like other salaried employees, and those timesheets are the only way to track absences. And furthermore, the City doesn’t and can’t dock the Mayor's pay for a partial day absence. He is paid $50 an hour, whether he shows up to work at City Hall, lounges on a Carribbean beach in his Speedo, or takes a day off to campaign.

So, I asked, when Dan and his wife took off for three weeks last December to vacation in Germany, France, Amsterdam, and who knows where else, he didn’t have to clock out or take vacation time? No such requirement for our Mayor. The City Council stayed put and worked out a balanced budget while Dan was on a three-week vacation at full pay.

Could he have stayed six months, I asked, and again was told that it's up to the supervisor to discipline a City employee, salaried or hourly, for excessive absenteeism and poor attendance issues. It also is the City’s stated position that the Mayor has no supervisor except "the people.”

We’ll get a chance to discipline Dan on Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Money Talks

The 10-Day Pre-election Reports filed by candidates for Fayetteville Mayor tell an interesting story. If the election can be bought, then Dan Coody is on track to own it, and Steve Clark will be First Runner-up. Both have also made significant loans to their own campaigns, but those will be easy to pay off if one of them wins. Lots of people with an interest in city government will come forward to retire those personal loans after the election, and that is all legal, regardless of how it might smell.

Dan Coody. Raised $66,716 and spent $55,315. Dan and Deborah Coody have loaned the campaign $9,946, and Deborah has also made $823 in non-monetary contributions. Contributors are heavy on real estate sales, developers, architects, and engineers, including several who do business with the city. Dirk VanVeen, ZON Graphics, Rob Merry-Ship, Buddy Coleman, John Rausch, Hunter Collins Haynes, Greg House, James McClelland, Brock Hoskins, Jim Blair, Robert Kuta, Tyson Foods, CDM Engineering, USI Consultant Engineers, and the Arkansas Realtors PAC were generous. Biggest expenditure was $23,227 on television advertising.

Steve Clark. Raised $42,740 and spent $31,728. Steve and Suzanne Clark have loaned the campaign $11,721. Spent $4,996 on phone bank calls. The majority of Clark's contributions come from out of state and out of town, but developer Hank Broyles and Sweetser Construction are locals. The largest contribution was $2,500 from David Herdlinger, the former Springdale City Attorney sentenced to three years in federal prison for mail fraud and taking bribes to fix DWI charges, who now lives on St. Simons Island.

Lioneld Jordan. Raised $24,979 and spent $16,931. No campaign loans. Largest percentage of campaign contributions from Fayetteville of all candidates. Former Alderman Don Marr and his company HR-Factor are the largest contributors, along with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Alderman Nancy Allen, former Alderman Cyrus Young, State Senator Sue Madison, and State Representative Lindsley Smith were also contributors.

Walt Eilers. Raised $16,340 and spent $15,844. No campaign loans. Spent more than a fourth of his money to hire campaign staff. Many out of state and out of town contributors, but developer Tom Terminella, architect Rob Sharp, and former UA administrator Bob Smith are among his local contributors. Two puzzling entries are Scott Van Laningham, identified as a UA Professor, who must moonlight at his other job, and the Southeast Fayetteville Community Center, identified as a non-profit organization, which could endanger its tax exempt status for making political contributions from 501(c)(3) funds.

Sami Sutton and Adam Fire Cat did not file reports.

Times Dumps Coody to Endorse Clark

It was the last hope for Dan Coody, but even his old friends at the Northwest Arkansas Times have had enough. "Why not 'keep a good thing going,' as his slogan suggests? Because we're convinced one other candidate can keep the most important good thing - Fayetteville - going, and without Coody's negatives," said the editorial today in endorsing Steve Clark for Mayor.

Most of the column was explaining why they had abandoned Dan Coody. "Sure, after two terms, there are people who just can't stand the way that Coody governs," they acknowledged as Coody never could. "He no doubt wants to be re-elected, but we're unconvinced that, in his heart, he wants another four years as mayor," and apparently neither does the faithful Times. Maybe they are just tired of having to defend his mistakes and don't want to run his puffed up press releases for another four years.

Neither have they ever understood the popular leadership style of Alderman Lioneld Jordan, and they took the opportunity to demean his deliberative approach of consulting with his constituents and reaching an inclusive consensus on solutions. Newspaper editors don't ask the average citizen before giving their opinions, and they see leadership as acting without hesitation. You know, be The Decider like George Bush and act without taking the time for getting the facts or building consensus. The difference is that bad snap judgements by editorial writers and bloggers seldom have any real consequences, whereas those of elected officials do.

Finally, they get around to saying some good things about Steve Clark. Their choice goes beyond Clark "not being Coody....Our endorsement is ultimately about saying goodbye to acrimony and hello to a renewed effort to advance Fayetteville's future." Especially, they like Clark's views on economic development and his affinity for the Cowbird approach to "shout that we are open for business!" They are also impressed by his Hollywood style. They don't say he sounds too much like a typical slick politician but that he has "a winning, inspirational personality if there ever was one."

The Times also respectfully glosses over Clark's past felony fraud conviction with the euphemism that getting elected Mayor could "complete his comeback from the political wilderness." Maybe we all should. Even if you ignore Clark's claim of only 43 instances of fraud and accept the 56 alleged by prosecutors, Clark stole far less from the taxpayers than Coody has wasted on hiring outside consultants. And, as taxpayers, we would rather pick up the bar tab at a fancy French restaurant now and then than to have a mayor who shirks his responsibility and flits off to France while the Vice Mayor and City Council struggle to balance the budget.

A Thousand Words

For more than a week, we have seen political campaign materials in City Hall, but they must have escaped notice of our city attorney and the city prosecutor. Thanks to one of our readers for documenting the fact that political campaign materials are being stored or displayed there in what appears to be a possible violation of Arkansas law. It is certainly unethical.

Arkansas Code Annotated
§7-1-103. Miscellaneous misdemeanor offenses - Penalties.
(a) The violation of any of the following shall be deemed misdemeanors punishable as provided in this section:
(3) It shall be unlawful for any public servant, as defined in §21-8-402, to use any office or room furnished at public expense to distribute any letters, circulars, or other campaign materials unless such office or room is regularly used by members of the public for such purposes without regard to political affiliation. It shall further be unlawful for any public servant to use for campaign purposes any item of personal property provided with public funds.

Ward 4 candidate Sarah Lewis probably thinks she has benefited from Dan Coody's support, but she should be more careful to obey the law. Coody knows better but does not appear to care. During his last campaign, he was using his city issued cell phone in his campaign and made numerous calls to his campaign headquarters with that "personal property provided with public funds." He was not charged for violation of the misdemeanor statute, but he did repay the city with a personal check after the abuse was reported.

Someone tell the Mayor and his slate to start obeying the law. Someone tell them to get those campaign signs out of our city hall.

No Bid Contracts All in the Family

Mayor Steve Womack apologized to the Rogers City Council on Tuesday evening regarding a no bid contract situation and a breach of trust between the mayor's office, city staff and the Council. Anyone who couldn't see this one coming was intentionally looking the other way, but it once again demonstrates how taxpayers get dicked when government officials authorize no bid contracts.

Donna Johnston is the administrator of the city's Community Development Block Grant Program, which is housed in the Rogers Planning and Transportation Department. Her husband, Don Johnston, was hired by the city as an engineer to work on trail design. After the City Council waived competitive bidding earlier this month, Don Johnston then purchased more than $67,000 in construction materials for trails from his son, Jazz Johnston, a salesman on commission at National Home Center in Bentonville. This cozy family relationship was never disclosed to the Mayor or Council.

That Womack says no laws were broken says far more about the state's weak conflict of interest laws than the propriety of the self dealers involved. That Mayor Womack disclosed the problem to the public and apologized to the City Council is to be commended. That is a much better response than falsely denying there are problems with no bid contracts or trying to shift the blame to the Council who approved the waiver on his recommendation.

It would be nice if Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody could ever bring himself to admit a mistake and apologize the the people and their representatives. Even Rogers Mayor Steve Womack can do that. A much better policy for anyone involved with public funds is to have a nepotism policy and to take competitive bids from the start.

Update: Since posting the above, The Morning News issued a clarification: "This article previously reported that Jazz Johnston said he earned a commission on items sold to the city of Rogers. After the article was published, Johnston said he did earn commissions on sales, but did not receive any commission on the $67,170 in construction materials he sold to the city." Let it be known that on January 16, 2009, we received an email from stating, "Fyi. I did not make 1 red cent in commission and my dad purchased the meterial i was the lowbidder on only....."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Son of Dan's Sewer Debacle

Everyone is well aware of Dan Coody's $66 million cost overrun sewer plant debacle. It would be hard not to know about it, since Dan had two ribbon cuttings and an invitation only barbeque paid for by the consultants, vendors, and engineering firms that were well paid by public funds. Then we were inundated with constant reruns on Coody Channel 16 for weeks.

Today the taxpayers got a bill for $176,011 that will come from increasing our water and sewer rates. A Washington County Circuit Court jury awarded that amount to Jeanny Romine for inverse condemnation of her home. By ignoring the problem and allowing raw sewage to run acros her property for seven years, Dan and his staff have landed us in another fine mess -- and an expensive one. By the time legal fees are totalled, we're looking at close to a quarter of a million dollars down the drain, so to speak.

Leaking raw sewage poured into Romine's yard for years resulting in mold, stench, structural damage to her house and other problems. The raw sewage that was spilling onto Romine's lawn continued to run into the city’s storm drain system and eventually into Scull Creek, a stream that flows through Wilson Park and along the city's new trail system. Wouldn't it have been wise for the city to fix the problem to stop the water pollution, instead of ignoring it for seven years until 2005?

Romine first reported the problem to the city in 1998. Instead of fixing the problem, city officials said it wasn't their problem if raw sewage from two neighbors was running downhill on her property, In 2004, when KNWA television was preparing to run a news story about the problem, Mayor Dan Coody tried to talk the reporter out of airing the story and called Romine "an eccentric" and said he did not think the story had much merit. The jury disagreed.

Things need to change in the way city officials respond to citizens. They need to start listening and doing the right thing, thinking more about how to fix problems instead of trying to deny responsibility.

Undermining the New High School

For the last few years, it seems that the entire Fayetteville community has been discussing and debating the futue of Fayetteville High School. What should it be, and where should it be. After a considerable bit of unnecessary melodrama, the School Board's decision was unanimous to build a world-class high school for the 21st century on he current campus adjacent to the University of Arkansas.

The next challenge facing the Board and the patrons of the district is learning how much the new facility will cost and how to pass the necessary millage increase to assure that it is done right, on time and on budget. After the last millage increase was overwhelmingly rejected, it will not be an easy task. Chances seemed to be improving with the announced retirement of Bobby New, the superintendent who has done much to destrory public trust and polarize the community. The District has launched a new blog that discusses issues and accepts reader comments and responses, hopefully signaling a new openness and committment to better communication. It took another step forward last week, when the autocratic Steve Percival stepped aside as president of the School Board and a new slate of officers was elected.

All of the pieces seemed to be falling into place for the future of our children and public education, as well as a successful educational campaign and millage election for the new high school facility as early as next year. Then Downer Dan Coody knocked the props out from under the school district before they even got started by proclaiming that the local economy was so bad and people were hurting and this is no time to even consider, much less pass, a property tax increase. "I think now is the worst time since 1929 to ask for a tax increase," Coody said.

That probably kills the chances for approving a millage increase for a new world-class high school. The usual no-tax crowd who vote against school and library funding and a strong stance against it by the belligerent mayor will make it more than difficult to overcome. Even former School Board President and Coody campaign supporter Judy McDonald said, "I hope they can pull out something. It’s going to be a hard millage to win.” No kidding.

Sorry kids. Some things seem to be more important to the politicians than quality education for our children. Or cost of living raises for city employees. Or a balanced budget.

Democrat-Gazette Endorses Lioneld Jordan

The two major newspapers in Northwest Arkansas have now made their endorsements for Mayor of Fayetteville, and neither one picked Dan Coody. The Morning News endorsed Steve Clark, and now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has endorsed Lioneld Jordan.

"LIONELD JORDAN has a reputation for working hard. He’s the city alderman in Fayetteville who’s never missed a city council meeting in his nearly eight years in office. Alderman Jordan has brought the same dedication to the monthly meetings he’s held in his ward," said the editorial. "He’s also known for his thorough knowledge of city government, for his ability to understand complicated city business, and his just plain love of his hometown."

"As an alderman, Lioneld Jordan hasn’t always been right. But he’s consistenly shown a willingness to dig into issues and take every side into account. As his supporters have noticed, when he disagrees with anybody, he tells them why. And his explanations tend to be well thought-out" unlike the current mayor they could have added. ...[Lioneld Jordan] does his homework. And he’s served as vice mayor, which would be good experience for the top job."

Like the Morning News, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette offered a mixed assessment of Coody's administration. "The wastewater project, the downtown hole in the ground, the cancelling of issue forums... he must take responsibility for all of them along with the city’s accomplishments during his tenure." Hard to deny, but you know he has and will.

Adam Fire Cat, Dan Coody, Sami Sutton, and Walt Eilers have yet to be endorsed by any newspaper or any professional or civic organizations. Coody is smugly confident that he will get the Northwest Arkansas Times endorsement, for what that's worth these days.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Greenland Mayor Gray Recovering

Greenland Mayor John Gray, the bold and much beloved progressive stalwart of local politics, is in the hospital after a motorcycle accident near Jasper yesterday. He lost control of his Honda Rebel, struck a guardrail, and flipped off the motorcycle and into a ravine. Gray, 65, was airlifted to Washington Regional and admitted in critical condition, but his condition was upgraded to fair this evening.

Mayor Gray drew notice by instituting a moratorium on new commercial and residential development in Greenland until the city planning guidelines were revised and approved. On the day of his accident, Gray had a letter published in the Northwest Arkansas Times urging readers to support the Green Party candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress. "Rep. Boozeman and Sen. Pryor are two prominent corporatists who have rubber-stamped Bush's grabs for power and many of his illegal acts," he wrote. "They are free traders who have enabled the current financial disaster. Both are opposed in the coming election by well-informed, true patriots. Please, for the sake of our nation, vote these corporate imperialists out of office!"

We wish Mayor Gray a speedy recovery and a quick return to work at city hall. In the meantime, someone make sure he gets an absentee ballot.

When the Truth Is Not Enough

"O Tempora, O Mores," said Cicero in bemoaning the times and customs of Rome. Well, we are now in the last week of an election campaign, and we should be wary of lies, big and small, in these final days. Usually these will be lies about an opponent, but sometimes they take the form of stretching the truth about one's own greatness. Sometimes, candidates and their supporters will tell a fib about insignificant matters when the truth would serve them just as well.

Take for example a letter from Aaron Stahl that appeared in the local newspaper yesterday. Mr. Stahl is some kind of consultant, so maybe he should be forgiven his inaccurate remarks and his penchant for time-shifting whoppers. It could have been ignorance instead of intentional deceit, but it was a stretch of the truth nonetheless. Mr. Stahl got wound up about how wonderful Walt Eilers was, then said, "One of his first projects upon moving to Fayetteville was to help save Old Main. He met with influential local leaders, researched and found community support and helped save Old Main. That was his first project here!"

Now, even mayoral candidate Eilers will admit that he didn't move to Fayetteville until August, 2000, just eight years ago. As Walt likes to tell the Stahl story, his first visit to Fayetteville was when he was an employee of a Little Rock marketing firm that was hired to publicize the Save Old Main campaign in 1986, and he says he was supposed to do "a feasibility study to save Old Main at the U of A from becoming a parking lot."

Old Main was never going to be razed to make room for a parking lot, but I guess Eilers thinks that makes for a better story than the truth. The point is, keep your thinking hat on this week. Candidates will be saying all sorts of things they will regret when they come to their senses next Wednesday. So when one of them trys to tell you that they alone are responsible for everything good that has happened in the last eight years, remember it is the custom and the time of lies, big and small.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Benton County: Where the Sun Don't Shine

Just last week the Stephens Media Morning News endorsed Republican State Senator David Bisbee for Benton County Judge in no uncertain terms. "What's the point: Dave Bisbee's legislative experience has prepared him to be Benton County's next CEO. Dave Bisbee is the right choice for Benton County Judge, and it's not really close." The editors went on about "his realistic view of what county government can and ought to be" and his skills in "negotiation, compromise and communication."

Shortly thereafter, Bisbee pronounced his theory that quorum court member can meet one on one without violating the state Freedom of Information Act, and that he would encourage justices of the peace to meet privately if he's elected county judge. County Attorney Robin Green, who is supposed to advise the Judge and Quorum Court on FOIA matters, didn't wish to comment. UA Journalism Professor Katherine Shurlds disagrees with Bisbee's interpretation and says the only reason for elected officials to meet outside the public's view is to keep information from the public.

Justice of the Peace Marge Wolf, R-Rogers, likes Bisbee's plan for secret talks and said she thinks the media can get in the way of the discussions by committees, so thy should be able to have private meetings about public business. Bill Williams, the Democratic nominee for County Judge, disagreed and said justices of the peace may be uncomfortable presenting ideas in public because they don't want to look foolish, but that's not a good reason for holding private discussions. Private meetings create distrust and suspicion that ruin credibility, he said."We have one of the strongest sunshine laws in the United States. We should be proud of that."

Today, the Benton County Daily Record endorsed Bill Williams for County Judge, noting that he once had been a photojournalist with the Arkansas Gazette and was a public information officer for the City of Little Rock, praising his outstanding communication skills that included listening to the people. They did not need to mention his strong support for the Arkansas Freedom of Unformation Act and his commitment to doing public business in public view.

Of course, Benton County is heavily Republican, and those GOP voters will probably select developer Bisbee with never a second thought about his scheme to allow closed door meetings and secret discussions about their county government. If so, they deserve to get what they want. Real hard.

Educate Thyself, Slacker

Props to the Northwest Arkansas Times for printing capsule bios and short statements on priorities from all the local candidates today. It should prove helpful to anyone who has been paying attention to everyday life instead of these campaigns for down ballot races. Check out their informative snapshots of candidates for County Judge, Quorum Court District 5, State Representative District 89, Fayetteville Mayor, Fayetteville City Council from Ward 1, Ward 2, and Ward 4. You'll find similar summaries on all contested local races.

The Fayetteville Free Weekly also has a feature on the candidates for Fayetteville Mayor. Even better, the outstanding Fayetteville Flyer has three pieces on each aspirant in their "Mayoral Candidate Zone," links to websites for all six candidates, and a comment feature for citizen-readers to share their opinions.

You will be responsible for choosing which candidate to support, but, if you screw up, it won't be because you didn't have enough information about them. You'll have to bear the responsibility for your own poor judgment or for not taking the time to be well informed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

SOL: Save Our Library

One of the things we always show visitors is the Fayetteville Public Library. Nothing makes us more proud of our city than the beautiful LEED Certified structure, teeming with activity every day and holding treasures for inquiring minds of all ages, a place for coffee, conversation, and community events. Those of us who hold it sacred have been disappointed that not everyone shares that reverence nor believes it deserving of enthusiastic support.

Last month, we caught a glimpse of a discouraging and disappointing conversation we thought we'd never hear. With library usage continuing to break monthly records and citizns seeking even more convenient hours, Mayor Dan Coody told the library board and staff not to ask for a budget increase of more than $402 for next year. Library Director Louise Schaper and Board member Don Marr explained that the library needed an additional $65,913 for staff wage increases, extending hours on weekends and nights, and expanding digital media access. Coody was not persuaded.and recommended no additional money for expanding service or resources. Other things were more important than the summer reading program for children or being open longer hours for the convenience of working families.

Then the stockmarket took a dive, and that could reduce the operational funds available from the Fayetteville Public Library Foundation by as much as $200,000, requiring additional cuts in existing services at the library in next year's budget. Facing indifference from the mayor and uncertainty from the market, our public library is in a world of hurt. It will not be expanding services but reducing them.

The Friends of the Fayetteville Public Library will host its annual silent auction from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, November 15, at the library. Please donate any items that you can and come bid on books and more for a good cause. The money raised from the auction will allow the group to provides additional funds for library programs and services.

Sami Sutton's suggestion that the community needs to hold fundraisers to support essential services is starting to sound like good advice. Dan Coody is suddenly opposed to raising property taxes to support the library, to provide cost-of-living raises to city employees, or to balance the budget, so a bake sale looks like the only option for those of us who love our public library.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What's Your Excuse This Time, Dan?

Four months ago, Conway landed a Hewlett-Packard facility that will employ about 1,200 people in highly skilled technical positions with starting salaries around $40,000 and many much higher (The per-capita personal income in Arkansas is $30,600 a year), anticipating an annual payroll of more than $48 million. Why didn't they locate in Fayetteville? We have Cowbirds and the FEDC. The University of Arkansas has far more high tech resources than UCA, and Conway is in a dry county. Why wasn't Fayetteville selected as the site? Can't we compete with Conway for knowledge-based jobs?

Mayor Dan Coody dismissed suggestions that he blew it, claiming that there was no way to have landed the HP plant, because they wanted to be close to the Little Rock metropolitan area. Uh huh.

Today, Nordex USA, a leading manufacturer of wind energy turbines, announced plans to locate its US manufacturing facility in Jonesboro. Nordex will invest approximately $100 million in the new facility, which will employ 700 people at an average wage of $17.00 an hour. Green jobs that would have been ideal for our community, but they are going to Jonesboro instead. Jonesboro, Dan! Aren't we the Green Valley? We have I-540 and the University of Arkansas; Jonesboro has U.S. 63 and Arkansas State, and they are no closer to the Little Rock metropolitan area. . They don't have Dickson Street, new planter boxes around the square, spiffy new trails, the Walton Arts Center, or a sustainability coordinator. Hell, you can't even get a beer there, unless you're a member of the country club. We won't be making wind turbines, but you can bet our mayor will be making excuses.

What's your excuse this time, Dan? Tell us again what a great job you are doing and why we haven't had an economic development plan for the last eight years. Have your conflicted out-of-state consultant show us that $150,000 PowerPoint presentation again. Then tell us how many awards you have won, how many times you've been mentioned in slick national magazine, and how many good paying jobs have gone elsewhere in the last eight years.

Keep a good thing going, my ass. Going to Conway and Jonesboro.

Candidate Quote of the Day

"I’ve learned a lot and heard hundreds of stories, ideas, and complaints, and the one common thread throughout all of them is the idea that Fayetteville needs a fresh start. People are tired of egos, half-truths, and outright lies; they’re tired of excuses and inaction and constant fighting between the Mayor and City Council. (The Mayor openly admitted in one debate that he doesn’t talk with half of the Council.) People are frustrated, and rightfully so. Yes, Fayetteville is a truly wonderful community, but we face a number of pressing issues, many of them created or exacerbated by the current administration."

-- Walt Eilers, "Final Thoughts," The Fayetteville Flyer

Morning News Endorses Steve Clark

The Morning News today endorsed Steve Clark, "baggage and all," for Mayor of Fayetteville. The endorsement, they said, comes with admitted concern. From the six-person field of candidates, they seriously considered only three for endorsement. Sorry about that, Cat, Eilers, and Sami.

First, they mused, "If the election were about choosing the most likable of the candidates or the one with the least baggage, our pick would have been Lioneld Jordan, the popular city council member who is likely to make the runoff."

Then they turned to Dan Coody and his "green valley" schtick. "If that were all we knew of Coody, we might buy into his campaign argument to 'keep a good thing going.' But he has been mayor for eight years and we sense that Fayetteville citizens have grown weary of him ....
Part of his problem stems from his decision first to retire, then to run for re-election....Then there was that huge problem with cost overruns for Fayetteville’s sewer plant and the resulting rate increases. The buck stops at the office of Mayor Coody, who clearly didn’t have the right people in place to manage that project. Ratepayers are still smarting, and Coody remains a divisive figure in city government...."

"We find ourselves looking to a candidate we never imagined we would endorse: Steve Clark. We initially dismissed Clark’s candidacy because of his felony conviction when he was the state’s attorney general. He misused a state credit card and paid dearly for it....While some voters still won’t consider him, we must say we think his executive skills, honed as chief of staff for former Gov. David Pryor and as the state’s attorney general, are directly applicable to running the city of Fayetteville. ...More recently, he’s had to experience life with the taint of that criminal conviction and has succeeded in spite of it ....He deserves consideration for mayor, however, not for what he’s overcome but because he offers a new vision for Fayetteville, one that struck us as well researched, realistic and promising."

Some say that Clark is too much of a slick politician, but he is more genuine than Slick Dan Coody. We weren't convinced by Clark's statement that his poll showed him as the first choice of decided voters in Fayetteville, but it was a nice try. Candidates making such claims should release the full details of the questions, responses, and methods if they expect to be believed. We are told that Steve Clark is a good guy, but he should avoid spinning numbers and stretching the truth about his alleged poll. Otherwise, he seems to be running a decent campaign.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dan Coody Campaign Message

Boozman's Approval Ratings Slumping

The question on The Arkansas Poll released today was, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way John Boozman is handling his job as U.S. Representative?" The results of the Public Love Meter revealed that 52% of 3rd District respondents approved and 17% disapproved. That was considerably lower than Governor Mike Beebe's 73% approval with only nine percent disapproving in this district. Yet, Boozman was rated higher than his friend and leader, George Bush, who had a 27% approval rating and a 66% disapproval in this corner of the state.

Governor Mike Beebe approval rating: 74%
• Congressman Ross approval rating: 62%
• Congressman Snyder approval rating: 57%
• Senator Pryor approval rating: 56%
• Senator Lincoln approval rating: 54%
Congressman John Boozman approval rating: 52%
• Congressman Berry approval rating: 50%
President George Bush approval rating: 27%

Boozman might think that Northwest Arkansas is different, with party affiliation reported at 30% R, 30% D, 32% Independent, and 6% other. But Arkansas folks in the poll want most U.S. troops out of Iraq (56%), and by 64%-27% they believe that national leaders should be willing to meet and negotiate even with nations considered our enemies. Only 26% favor deporting all illegal immigrants, while 56% support a path to citizenship. They reject by 58% to 38% the ban on unmarried couples adopting or being foster parents proposed by the Arkansas Family Council, on whose board Vickie Boozman served. The lottery amendment is favored by 65% to 33%. The falling economy (56%), health care (15%), and education (10%) were the top three issues, and none of the right-wing wedge issues like abortion and gun control ranked high enough to notice.

Pryor and Boozman will both get a higher percentage of the vote than their approval ratings and more than they deserve, but the Green Party candidates Kennedy and Tomlinson could get more than 30% in those races.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Those Acts and Amendments on the Ballot

Maybe you are all excited about voting for Obama and watching Arkansas painted red on the election night maps, or it could be the chance to vote for Rebekah Kennedy and Abel Tomlinson to make yourself feel good about voting on principle for a change. Maybe you've been spending too much time on Facebook pimping for your candidate for mayor or alderman. Whatever your lame excuse, we know you haven't been studying all of those long ballot questions, so here's a quick guide.

. This is a housekeepping amendment to remove outdated language concerning Arkansas election law. For example, our 1874 Constitution says, “No idiot or insane person shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector,” and this would get rid of that arcane language. We frequently elect idiots to public office, so we should also let them vote. Besides, it sounds better.

. This is a Republican ploy to have the state legislature meet every year. That would mean twice as much time to pass stupid shit like requiring public schools to teach Intelligent Design and requiring a two-year waiting period before allowing rape and incest victims to terminate a pregnancy. It would also make it damn near impossible for school teachers, hourly wage workers, or other people with real jobs to serve in the legislature, because they couldn't take off three months every spring to go to Little Rock. You know who could. Bad idea for the people all around.

FOR AMENDMENT 3. This is the State Lottery amendment that lets fools dream and provides money for college scholarships. It will also reduce global warming, since Arkansas residents will no longer have to drive to Oklahoma or Missouri to waste their money on lottery tickets. No good reason to be against this one, unless you think someone gave you the right to tell people how they can spend their hard earned money.

AGAINST REFERRED QUESTION 1. This is a $300 million boondoggle being sold as a way to fund local water and sewer systems. In reality, it is a backdoor way for the East Arkansas Planters to drain the White River to irrigate crops, seeing as how they have depleted the aquifer. It says it is limited to spending $60 million every two years, so that wouldn't even have been enough to cover Coody's $63 million sewer plant debacle. It is just a big bone for the lawyers and bond daddies in Little Rock.

AGAINST INITIATED ACT 1. This is the hateful queer-bashing proposal from the repressive and obsessive bigots at the Arkansas Family Council. They would rather warehouse orphans in state institutions than to allow loving unmarried couples to adopt them or be foster parents. It needlessly restricts qualified adults from serving as foster parents and further reduces the number of good homes available for public and private adoption. It takes away rational decision making from judges and child welfare experts and eliminates case-by-case study for the best situation for children. Another indicator of the right choice here is that Tom Lundstrom and Jay Cole, Jr. are for it, and former Supreme Court Justice David Newbern and Rev. Lowell Grisham are against it. Vote NO.

Tales from the Raw Sewage Trial

The City of Fayetteville is in the dock this week. It is being sued for damages for inverse condemnation on a complaint alleging that it allowed raw sewage to run across a Wilson Park homeowner's property for seven years and diminished its value due to the stench and the mold growth in the home.

Also being sued for trespass, nuisance and negligence, are Mark Risk and David and Andrea Fournet, owners of uphill residences for the sewage draining onto the property. Jeanny Romine first reported the problem in 1998, and it was finally fixed in 2005 after she filed the lawsuit. The city also forced Risk and Fourtnet to connect to the city sewer main in front of their houses.

The raw sewage that was spilling onto Romine's lawn continued to run into the city’s storm drain system and eventually into Scull Creek, a stream that flows through Wilson Park and along the city's new trail system. Westbrook Doss, Romine's attorney, said the city never took her seriously and did not respect her, because they thought she was easy to ignore.

According to the Northwest Arkansas Times, "James Mike Duncan, a television reporter for KNWA in 2004, testified that Mayor Dan Coody tried to talk him out of airing the story about sewer spills on Romine’s property. Coody painted Romine as 'an eccentric' and said he did not think the story had much merit."

Whether Romine's claim has merit will be a question for the jury to decide later this week. Whether the mayor respects citizens who report problems with the sewer system will be decided in two weeks.

Local Green Party Endorsements

The Green Party of Arkansas has made serious contributions to the public dialogue this year. They oppose the proposed coal burning power plant in southwest Arkansas for reasons ranging from the global effects of the carbon dioxide emissions on global warming to the local effects of the poisons such as mercury released into the local ecosystems and ground water, and they favor a strong watershed management plan to protect the Lake Maumelle drinking water supply in central Arkansas.

Its mission, says the party, is "to work for human rights, peace, grassroots democracy, social and economic justice, and an ecologically sound and sustainable society." Rebekah Kennedy is the party's nominee for U.S. Senate, and Abel Tomlinson in the 3rd District is one of three nominees for .S. Congress. It is fielding six candidates for the Arkansas legislature this year, and Richard Carroll in House District 39 is very likely to win the seat from North Little Rock.

The Washington County Green Party has also endorsed a slate of candidates in the non-partisan municipal election. Getting their support will be Lioneld Jordan for Mayor, Don Conner for Ward 1 Alderman, Matthew Petty for Ward 2 Alderman, and Bernard Sulliban for Ward 4 Alderman.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Edwards and Clark Win the Daily Double

Marilyn Edwards, candidate for Washington County Judge, and Candy Clark, candidate for Quorum Court (JP5) picked up two key endorsements today.

The Morning News editorial mentioned Marilyn's extensive experience in county government and as a state legislator, both of which give her knowledge and connections that will serve us well. On the differences between the candidates, the editorial hit on a key point: "We consider zoning and land use planning critical to a growing Washington County’s future and see Edwards as more likely to champion such controls."

Candy Clark, JP Candidate for District 5 covering south Fayetteville, got the editorial endorsement as well. "Clark, who favors the county’s downtown Fayetteville land acquisition and remodeling plans, is a former animal shelter director who wants to pursue animal services at the county level from a public health perspective. She is also an advocate for county zoning," it was noted with approbation.

Edwards and Clark also picked up the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 965, whose members are faculty and staff employees at the University of Arkansas. The union said that both Edwards and Clark "share their commitment to protecting the rights of public employees, supporting a living wage for working families, expanding public transportation, promoting affordable housing for low and middle income families, and seeking to make the system of taxation more equitable."

Those endorsements appear to be founded on good reasons that will carry some weight with thoughtful citizens. The opponents who did not get the endorsements can be expected to complain that some deal must have been made, might launch an attack on the motives of the newspaper or the union, or will say that the endorsements are meaningless. We disagree.

It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

"In the Fayetteville mayoral race, things are starting to look like it’s 2000 all over again. Back then, Fayetteville had a two-term mayor running for a third term and being challenged by a large field of opponents. The opponents included a couple with colorful names. The incumbent mayor wound up on the defensive about his record. Then, one of his challengers landed a key endorsement from the firefighters’ union. He got the mayor into a runoff and went on to beat the incumbent. The incumbent in 2000 was Fred Hanna; the eventual winner of the race was Dan Coody.

"This year, Dan Coody is the two-term incumbent trying for a third win. He’s being challenged on his record by, among others, Adam Fire Cat, the waiter with the unusual name. And by Lioneld Jordan, an alderman since 2001 who’s been mounting a strong challenge to the incumbent. Lately, Lioneld Jordan has picked up the endorsement of the firemen’s union, the police association and the Sierra Club. It’s too soon to say that history will repeat itself, but events sure are falling into place for a repeat of the way things turned out eight years ago."

-- George Arnold opinion column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette NW

Poor Parking at the Polling Places

A few months ago, the Washington County Election Commission voted 2-1 in favor of having an early voting location at the student union on the University of Arkansas campus. That failed, because the vote had to be unanimous, and the Republican member voted against it. Republicans have good political reasons for not wanting UA students to vote and for trying to suppress those eager young voters who are not enthusiastic about John McCain and John Boozman. The excuse they gave, we have been told, is that many voters would not find the adjacent parking deck convenient.

Yesterday, on the first day of early voting, County Judge Jerry Hunton closed the parking deck at the Washington County Courthouse. After years of neglect, the deck is crumbling and has become a public safety hazard. We doubt that Hunton intended to suppress early voting, but he has been too busy with other concerns to attend to the deck. Hunton should have been doing his job instead of involving himself in local politics and approving no-bid road contracts for a summer camp in Benton County.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Irony of Ironies: Mayor Coody's Salary

While our city employees are struggling with increased costs of living without a raise and the city administration is proposing to run a budget deficit of $535,000, Mayor Dan Coody has been taking salary increases that would make a banker blush. Here's the record:

2001: $74,041.76
2002: $75,033.92
2003: $79,620.32
2004: $83,312.32
2005: $93,236.00
2006: $95,752.80
2007: $104,715.52
2008: $107,038.88

In today's newspaper, Dan Coody is quoted as saying with a straight face, "I think now is the worst time since 1929 to ask for a tax increase. I just think now is the time for all of us to pull together."

That's comforting talk from a man who has jacked up his own salary by 28% during the last four years. No wonder he wants to keep a good thing going.

Grapetown Gridlock

"It's hard to work with him when there's only one thing on his mind: I'm the mayor."

-- Tontitown Alderman Arthur Penzo, quoted in the Northwest Arkansas Times

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Let's Name Names

There is a good article by Scott Davis in today's paper about the opening of Scull Creek Trail. In it, he quotes Mayor Dan Coody reflecting on that long-ago time in 1991 when he invented the idea of a city bike trail. According to Coody's account, the mayor, the city manager, and the other city board members "laughed (and said ) only kids ride bikes."

Can anyone name the short-sighted mayor, city manager, and aldermen who were serving in 1991? We would like to list them here, along with home phone numbers, to remind them of their lack of vision for laughing at trails.

Dr. Fred Vorsanger (443-4393) was the Mayor who laughed at trails. Fayetteville had just been ranked the seventh-best city in the country to live by Money magazine, even without trails, and Mayor Vorsanger said he believed that next year's ranking would be higher with the opening of the Walton Arts Center and the planned expansion of the city's parks.

Scott Linebaugh was the City Manager who laughed at trails. He also held a press conference to announce that he passed a drug test to dispel "rumors" after laughing City Director Julie Nash made insinuations to an investigator.

Ann Henry (442-8826) was a member of the City Board of Directors who laughed at trails.

Dan, you go next. It is time to out the Trail Laughers of 1991 who stood in your way and held us back for 17 years.

Snap Decisions or Considered Judgment?

The editors of the Northwest Arkansas Times seem to have changed their tune about the benefits of thoughtful deliberation in a democracy. In an editorial today entitled, "Let's Think Twice," they explain that our county government has "no need to rush" when making important changes. They are all over County Judge Jerry Hunton and the Quorum Court members because they"wasted little time" in thinking through alternatives before spending millions to buy the Terminella Building and are now rushing without judgment to find adequate parking space that will require additional millions and perhaps taking private property by eminent domain.

"Right or wrong, Judge Hunton ... and the Quorum Court have made both decisions in the space of just a couple months," which the editors point out is relatively "at breakneck speed" for public policy deliberations. "Our advice to the county," they wisely offer, "is this: SLOW DOWN! We’re talking about decisions that we’ll be living with for decades ...." The editors see some value in taking time to consider alternatives and listen to other suggestions before hastily acting on important matters that affect the public and the treasury.

There is hope yet, it seems, for the Times editorial board to learn the value of public officials taking time to make important decisions, taking time to seriously listen to the public, and thinking things through in order to reach the best solution to difficult problems facing our community. Last spring, they were with Judge Hunton in complaining that the Fayetteville City Council should act immediately and not consider all the ramifications of the interlocal ambulance agreement. They were flat wrong. The additional two months of discussion and debate by the Fayetteville Ambulance Committee produced an improved agreement that was much better than the Hunton boilerplate draft that he petulantly demanded and the insistent editors blindly supported at the time.

We are glad to see that editors can learn from experience, even if they don't apologize for their past mistakes in judgment. That is far better than some local politicians who can do neither.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Era of Benton County Freeloading is Over

Prosperous Benton County has been getting a free ride for essential public services at the expense of their neighbors to the south, but they are about to get a big dose of public responsibility. For all the free enterprise boot strap rhetoric that flows from the business barons and their captive vassals, it would be hard to find a group of freeloaders more experienced at living off the kindness of strangers for free essential services.

For years, the Washington County HIV Clinic has been providing services to Benton County residents, who now comprise 37% of the patients. Benton County has no such public health service and has been freeloading by not making any financial contribution for the cost of services to county residents. Earlier this month, the Benton County Quorum Court Finance Committee finally agreed, by a 4-2 vote, to recommend a one-year grant of $34,000 to the clinic. Whether that gets approved by the full Quorum Court remains to be seen.

The latest squaking is from Benton County communities being asked to pay their fair share of the ambulance service that has been provided for years by the Springdale Fire Department. Lowell Mayor Perry Long, who has plenty of money to buy stagecoaches and spy cameras but stiffed ORT, doesn't like it one bit. He thinks that Springdale, which is experiencing a budget meltdown, should continue providing free ambulance services to prosperous Lowell, and Springdale is only asking for $91,370 a year to continue serving Lowell residents. Bills are also going out to Bethel Heights for $21,916 and to the Benton County Quorum Court for $58,330 to cover the unincorporated areas of Benton County that have also been getting a free ride on the backs of Springdale taxpayers for all these years.


Wishing to Be the Star

The best information on the local Mayor's race is still to be found on the Fayetteville Flyer in the Mayoral Candidate Zone. There you will find links to all of the candidates' websites and their unedited answers to questionnaires that give you some insight to their personalities and positions.

Another interesting piece compiled by D. R. Bartlette appeared this week in the Fayetteville Free Weekly. The candidates tell us what they would wish if given "Three Wishes for Fayetteville." Again, it is in their own words and is quite revealing about both their core priorities and their sense of themselves.

That's about it around here for balanced views of the candidates and their positions. We here at The Iconoclast are far too cynical to take things politicians say at face value, and the Northwest Arkansas Times is so far up Dan Coody's butt that it should be listed as an in-kind contribution to his campaign. The Morning News and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette might get around to some short and bland summary coverage later, but they've shown little interest in the race so far.

Fayettopians are usually pretty good at wading through campaigns and figuring things out for themselves. And they usually get it right.

Local Blogger QOD on the Campaign Trails

"Solution to environmental damage is to keep trails outside the riparian zone of all streams in the city. A wide buffer of trees or other existing vegetation should be maintained between streams and trails. ...

"Decreasing tree canopy over the streams increases summer water temperature and decreases native life in the streams. Simultaneously, the removal of any vegetation increases potential global warming, especially the kind felt by living things (including human beings) in the immediate area. Environmental damage in stream corridors DECREASES the city's credibility as a "center of sustainability" and makes the city's attempts to enforce stormwater regulations and tree-protection rules on developers appear to be hypocritical. ...

"Stream corridors are the only wildlife corridors in many parts of our city. Stream riparian zones are the only places native plants can be readily found in parts of our city. Stream corridors should be respected for their many environmental and aesthetic values."

--Aubrey Shepherd, "Preventing Environmental Damage When Building Trails," Aubunique

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dedicating Trails or just Trailing?

Happy we are that Mayor Dan Coody has scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony two weeks before the election to publicize the almost completed 4.4 mile Scull Creek Trail. The three-hour event will begin around 11:00 a.m. this Saturday at Gordon Long Park, and citizens will be treated to music by Bent Grass Green, door prizes, hot dogs, and a hot-dogging speech by the mayor to make sure that everyone acknowledges His role in supporting our emerging trails system.

The Fayetteville Alternative Transportation and Trails Master Plan was the result of many people over many years. Laura Kelly of the Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks; the visionary Terry Eastin; successive City Trails Coordinators Chuck Rutherford, Steve Hatfield, and Matt Mihalevich; local legislators who secured state funds; city employees who were pushed to complete the project before the upcoming election; Alderman Kyle Cook, Chair of the Sidewalk and Trails Task Force, who has been a staunch advocate of the system and fought to make sure that a $2.1 million package was on the ballot in 2006; and especially the city's Taxpayers who approved the Trails bond issue with 61% of their votes.

Mayor Coody has been saying recently that He "invented" the trail program back in 1991 when He was on the City Board. Alderman Cook has a somewhat different view. "I would say the citizens and all the people, before the mayor and myself, should get the credit. As far as I’m concerned the people that started it deserve the credit, but the fact that it’s getting done is great," Cook said. This Saturday, Dan Coody will make sure that His version is the official one.

Last summer, Mayor Coody received the Janet Cooke Award, which was sponsored by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and was presented at the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The press release said it was awarded to Coody because "through his leadership, the city of Fayetteville’s Alternative Transportation and Trail Master Plan has created 129 miles of multiuse trails and 163 miles of on-street linkages to the city." That wasn't quite true. At that time, Matt Mihalevich admitted that only about 16 miles of trails had been completed. When asked by a reporter how 16 actual miles morphed into the mythical 129 miles in the press release, Coody said with a straight face that He did not know where the information came from, but He did not offer to return the award.

Walt Eilers spends lots of campaign time running on the city's trails, Sami Sutton supports clean trails in her platform, Steve Clark supports more trails in his platform, and Lioneld Jordan has been advocating additional state funding for our trail system. Dan Coody will be dedicating the almost finished Scull Creek Trail on Saturday, and that's what will be given great news coverage and editorial inflation in the Sunday Northwest Arkansas Times and will remain linked from His campaign website.

Don't let Dan Coody's political cooptation of a legitimate community event dampen your enthusiasm for celebrating a milestone in our growing trails system. When He trys to tell you that He "invented" the trails program and that it can only continue if He is reelected, just smile. Ignore His crass self-promotion and enjoy a day exploring the trail with family or friends.

UPDATE: Blog reader jae adds the following documentation on giving credit where due for Scull Creek Trail: "It should be noted that the original Transportation Improvement Plan brought forward by Mayor Coody DID NOT include any trails (see related news article). It was the Fayetteville City Council Street Committee that added the extension of Scull Creek Trail to the proposed list of bond-funded projects." We're taking bets on whether the NWA Times will mention that.

Springdale Smackdown

The Springdale Cowbirds sponsored another mayoral debate in a church to decide which of the six aspirants would get their blessing and be anointed to rule over their shell of a city with dwindling revenues. It was even worse than the first debate before the Republican Women. According to The Morning News, "Allegations of status quo politicians, bickering aldermen, bankruptcy filings and tax liens sharpened exchanges at the local version of the McCain-Obama debate . . . ."

Former Alderman Stagecoach Ray Dotson accused Alderman Mike Overton of being a known bankrupt. Overton admitted as much but charged that Dotson had been slapped with a tax lien, which trumped bankruptcy. Ken Watson declared the obvious, that "With all the bickering and fighting on the council, nothing gets done." Nancy Deason Jenkins said all of her leaprous opponents "are part of the status quo. They have to go." Philistines Jim Reed and Doug Sprouse said they would lay off city employees, if they had to choose between layoffs or building an additional interchange on I-540.

Then it went down hill from there.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Econ Dev 101

Well, we are now seeing what we partnered up with the University of Arkansas and spent $150,00 for Eva Klein & Associates to give Mayor Coody an economic development plan -- or a lifeline for business support in the upcoming campaign. Not much. Everyone except Ms Klein and her banker must have been as disappointed as we were in her sophomoronic PowerPoint dog and pony show at the Town Center on Tuesday evening.

The mediocre quality of the performance made us again question the whole idea that the City, the University, the Fayetteville Economic Development Council, and our citizens cannot jointly develop a serious and successful economic development plan. It also reminded us of the no bid process by which Ms Klein’s company was mysteriously chosen to take our money.

Since Dan Coody obviously hoped to put on a big show and boost his flagging campaign, we were at first inclined to suspect the poor choice was his. This probability was also supported by the fact that Ms Klein has a BA in French and a masters degree in French literature from the Université de Paris, and we know too well how impressed Dan is with all things French.

It is much more likely, however, that Phil Stafford is the man behind the curtain in this expensive charade. Back in January, he announced that IDEA Partnerships, LLC was embarking on design and pre-leasing of a new 60,000 SF office and laboratory multi-tenant building in the Arkansas Research and Technology Park. Stafford, Executive Director of the UA Technology Development Foundation, selected the group to be the Foundation’s development partner for the project. Eva Klein, managing member of IDEA Partnerships, LLC, is also vice president of the Association of University Research Parks .

Just six weeks later, on March 18, Mayor Coody brought forth a proposal to hire an unnamed outside consultant to develop an economic development plan for him, and he got the council to approve a $75,000 match with Stafford's outfit. Director of Operations Gary Dumas said it would be a "visioning process" and that the University, along with Dan's staff, would select that consultant and present a contract to the City Council for approval. When Alderman Nancy Allen questioned the cost and the process, Coody rolled his eyes and sighed. Stafford and Alderman Robert Rhoads told her that objective outside consultants were superior to having the Council and interested locals try to figure it out on their own.

At the August 18th meeting, Coody and Stafford announced that Eva Klein & Associates had been selected as the most qualified impartial consultant. Alderman Allen again questioned the expense, and Stafford told her that the city would gain from the objectivity and experience of Eva's consulting group. It passed 7-1. At the next meeting of the council, Alderman Lioneld Jordan tried to have the vote reconsidered, because of the conflict of interest concerns raised by a constituent, Mayoral Candidate Walt Eilers, only to discover that Mayor Coody had already signed the contract. Too late. The Northwest Arkansas Times turned a blind eye and ignored the story. Klein dismissed the concerns and told the Morning News, "It creates no conflict. In fact, we're even more invested in the success of Fayetteville." So much for Coody's and Stafford's bullshit that we needed to spend $150,000 on an objective outside consultant.

So here we are, out a lot of money and with very little in return. It doesn't even appear to have gotten the political publicity that The Coodies hoped would help the campaign. The local newspaper appears to have no concern in performing the locally-neglected watchdog role of the Fourth Estate to sniff out and expose conflicts of interest. Maybe some concerned citizen will stop by the Town Center "visioning seance" tomorrow and ask Coody or Stafford when they first discussed the $150,000 no bid contract with Klein and the real reason she got our money.

Was it a quid pro quo? We will never know. But we do know it was another waste of taxpayers' money.