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.

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