Sunday, November 30, 2008

A New Day?

After nearly a year of sniping at Alderman Lioneld Jordan and parroting every criticism thrown off by the Coody campaign, the Northwest Arkansas Times offered up an olive branch today. In an editorial entitled, "A New Day," the subhead was "Mayor-Elect Lioneld Jordan deserves every citizen's support." The editors said, "It may not mean much coming from a newspaper that editorially endorsed his opponent[s], but Jordan deserves a hearty congratulations, and we offer it here." Even editorial cartoonist Dusty Higgins portrayed Jordan more in the image of Honest Abe than as the hayseed "hick" caricature regularly depicted during the campaign.

After a couple of paragraphs explaining away their support first for Steve Clark and then for Dan Coody, the editors admitted, "the ideas advanced by the victor in this race didn’t differ that strongly from the current administration; he pledged to pursue similar goals while stressing his promise to 'listen to the people' and offer 'experience you can trust.' The message was clearly one that the voters heard, and agreed with. And Lioneld Jordan will become mayor in January because he delivered it convincingly."

"And now, the election is over. The decision is made. And the next four years are about what Fayetteville’s citizens and leaders can achieve together regardless of which candidate one supported in the election. Mayor-elect Jordan believes in Fayetteville as much as anyone we’ve met, and his motivation — pursuing the city’s best possible future — never came into question once during the campaign. Come January, he’ll get busy charting the course to get to that goal."

It is good to see the Times get beyond their past editorial cheerleading for Dan Coody and admit that Alderman Jordan is a better man than they would stoop to acknowledge during the campaign. Let us hope that in the future the news and editorial staff will find the appropriate balance in their approach to coverage and commentary of city politics. They can cover the good things that might be advanced by Mayor Jordan, but they should not be as fawning over Jordan as they were for the Coody administration. Instead, they should play the role of the honest watchdog and serve as a check against folly at city hall.

Citizen Quote of the Day

"Thank you for your timely, compassionate and common-sense editorial about Chancellor David Gearhart's response to the plight of those 19 Arkansas students caught in the politics of cloistered societies. This move of generosity has enhanced my already great appreciation for Chancellor Gearhart. Blessings on him as he continues his pursuit of inclusion and franchising the disenfranchised who otherwise qualify for this educational opportunity. Our university, city and state will gain measurable and immeasurable benefits as we endeavor collectively to encourage those among us who would otherwise be left out."

--Jim Huffman, "Gearhart Does UA Proud," Letter to Northwest Arkansas Times

Some Transitions Are Easier than Others

When Governor Mike Beebe took office last last year, he had little help from the previous governor. The petulant Mike Huckabee had ordered the destruction of office files and records, directed that the hard drives on all office computers be crushed, and depleted the discretionary funds available for the incoming administration. It did not make for a smooth transition.

Fayetteville will experience a transition of administrations from Mayor Coody to Mayor Jordan during the next six weeks. Whether the incumbent administration is helpful and forthcoming will determine the continued progress of our city as we enter the new year. Although a continued skirmishing from the recent political campaign would make good copy for this blog and a chance to keep picking on the Coody administration, it is an opportunity we would gladly pass up to see some degree of comity and cooperation.

House odds are presently 3-2 against Coody being helpful and gracious in defeat.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Putting People First

A blog reader posted below the answer of Doug Thompson, the outstanding columnist in The Morning News, when asked about Lioneld Jordan, Fayetteville's Mayor-Elect. Thompson did not quote from Jordan's campaign website, mention the debates, or even reference a newspaper article on the campaign. Instead, he drew his conclusion from incidents that did not make the news and had nothing to do with the recent campaign. Here's how Thompson tells it:

"So what's this new mayor-elect of Fayetteville like anyway, a friend from Little Rock asked Wednesday.

"There's this party every August in Hogeye, I said. A lot of folks including local media people go to it. Therefore, politicians started coming. Several mayor's candidates came this year.Lioneld Jordan was the only mayor's candidate to bring any food. He was also the only one to send a thank you note afterward.

"Jordan won't speak perfect BBC broadcaster English when you meet him, but he's a gentleman in deeper ways, I said.

"Why did I tell my friend about that trivial incident from August? Because that little incident's characteristic of Jordan. He's considerate, which is something similar to but not the same as being polite or responsive.

"I was writing this column Wednesday night. A couple of guys from the paper came back in the office that evening. They told me that Jordon was down at the Yvonne Richardson Center. He was helping dish out free dinners. There was no media announcement that he'd be there.

"Jordan didn't win this race just because he's a nice guy. He won because he convinces people they matter to him. If he's faking it, he's a better actor than Robert De Niro."

That is a hopeful assessment of Jordan. You can tell much about a person's character by what they do when they think no one is watching. We will be watching what he does once in office as well, and we will be quick to point out whenever we are disappointed if he fails to meet the standards he has set for himself and his administration. Will he continue to put people first?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Local Blogger Quote of the Day

"While I am rejoicing in Lioneld Jordan's victory this week, I have had a very poignant reminder that, despite my reasons for no longer supporting him, Dan Coody has done a lot for Fayetteville over these past eight years. ... The particulars of the election are behind us now and hopefully, I can put my disagreements with the outgoing mayor aside. So perhaps, I can resolve the conflicting feelings that reside within me by saying, 'Congratulations on your big win Lioneld, and Dan, thanks for the good you've done in helping to keep Fayettevile a good place to live.'"

--Al Vick, "Bittersweet," Manyhats Speaks

Mother Trucker at the Helm.

Trish Hollenbeck has a good article today on the coming shake-up in Washington County Government. There will be a new Washington County Judge, Marilyn Edwards, the first woman ever elected to that position, and five of the 13 Justices of the Peace on the Quorum Court will be taking the oath for the first time in January.

The real difference will be in the administrative staff, as County Administrator John Gibson and County Comptroller Boyd Darling retire, taking with them a combined 33 years of experience. Add to that the retirement of JP H. L. Goodwin, Jr., longtime Chair of the Finance Committee, and you can expect a steep learning curve for The Replacements, as good as they might be.

Judge-Elect Edwards has made two decisions that raise questions about her political sensitivity if not her judgment. She has decided to hire Dan Short of Elm Springs as the County Administrator to replace Gibson. Short is already drawing retirement pay from previous public employment. She has also requested an additional $50,000 in the budget so that she and Mr. Short be provided with brand new Dodge Durango SUVs to tool around in.

First impressions are often lasting, even for someone who has been on the public payroll for 32 years.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We have much for which to be thankful this year. The long national nightmare of Bush-Cheney will soon be over. We are thankful that we have family and friends visiting us for Thanksgiving. We will also be thankful when they leave and let us get back to blogging. We are thankful that our average daily readership is now over 900, and you should be thankful that you get what you pay for here.
We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are enjoying the holidays.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Morning After the Night Before

At long last, the political campaigns are over, and everyone can enjoy the Thanksgiving respite. There seemed to be more run-off elections this year than we recall. There are any number of explanations for that, but we'll stick with the story that there were so many public spirited candidates offering to serve the public and that voters were confronted with so many good choices.

Springdale and Greenland voters decided to stay with the incumbents in the city council races. The only one that was close was the challenge by political newcomer Josh Jenkins, who got 49.6% and came within 42 votes of replacing Jeff Watson.

Doug Sprouse will be the next Mayor of Springdale. He had the support of the newspapers and captured 62.7% of the vote over Alderman Mike Overton, who had a substantial advertising and expenditure advantage.

Lioneld Jordan's victory of 57.3% over incumbent Dan Coody is the most surprising of the evening. Coody outspent Jordan by almost 3-1, had the endorsement and very favorable coverage from the Northwest Arkansas Times, had a full time city staff person whose job was to make him look good and get press attention, used a full-time Government Channel touting his good deeds, had the backing of developers, and got the support of a poet. To hear Coody tell it, Jordan was supported only by union thugs and extremists. We will await the analysis of the political scientists to explain this phenomenon.

The only real loser was the editorial staff of the Northwest Arkansas Times. They exposed the degree of their influence by backing the losing candidates for both Mayor and County Judge.

And don't tell us we won't have Dan Coody to kick around anymore. That lucrative lifetime pension can still be had if he serves just one term on the city council, and Adella Gray will certainly make way for him to do that in 2010.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Election Day Open Line

There are several run-off elections in Northwest Arkansas today. The mayoral races in Springdale and Fayetteville have drawn the most attention, but there are some hotly contested city council seats on the ballot as well.

Does anyone have any solid predictions (not mere wishes) to post before 7:30? Let's start with turnout, then go for results.

Of more interest, how about some informed analysis once we get some votes reported? Will the Early and Absentee votes set the trend for the final tally? Did all the last minute electioneering make any difference? Will those voting today be more likely to favor one of the candidates more convincingly?

According to the television news, the Washington County Election Commission will report the Early Voting (3,004) and Absentee Ballot (544) totals at 8:00 p.m. You can see the results on its official website as soon as they are announced. Baring unforeseen shenanigans, the unofficial final results should be available by 9:30 p.m. tonight.

Dr. Susan Thomas Ph.D. Calls It Quits

Dr. Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Public Information Czar for Mayor Dan Coody, submitted her letter of resignation yesterday. That was a smart personal public relations move, giving the appearance that it had nothing to do with the possible outcome of today's election and for getting out of a terrible situation in which she had found herself in recent years. Doing her master's bidding in some rather unpleasant deeds could not have been enjoyable nor healthy for one's self-respect.

In her letter of resignation, Dr. Thomas said her new job with the Texhoma Council of Governments "offered the potential for career advancement while also allowing me to be closer to my family" in Texas. She also said it had been a pleasure to serve the citizens and the “wonderful community” of Fayetteville. Apparently, she did not say it had been a pleasure to serve Dan Coody by taking control of the Government Channel, denying responsibility for the $68 million sewer plant debacle, and arranging daily ribbon-cutting ceremonies for every new speed bump.

When asked about the resignation of Dr. Thomas, Coody said he wished her luck. Then he threw in the salt by adding that he had no plans to replace Thomas with the comment that "this is not on our front burner." That is bureaucrat-speak for "Don't let the door knob hit you in the ass."

Dr. Thomas is not the first of Coody's top staff to jump ship. Planning Director Tim Conklin left for Springfield, Missouri, to take a job in transportation planning for Ozarks Transportation Organization. Gary D. Dumas, Coody's $112,000 Director of Operations, has been looking for jobs elsewhere, as far away as Wisconsin. Most recently, he failed to make the three finalists for a job in Fort Smith.

We wish Dr. Thomas well in her new postion and hope that she has learned from her experiences here what not to do or let happen again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Politicizing the Neighborhood Associations

We are working on an entry concerning abuse of city resources for partisan political activity. We are presently awaiting a response from the Fayetteville City Attorney and the Neighborhood Coordinator before posting, and we will await their responses until noon. We know that the City Attorney is very concerned about any political viewpoints being expressed on the former forums that were banned from the Government Channel, so this should be an easy call. More later.

UPDATE: We have received no response from the City Attorney Kit Williams, but Neighborhood Coordinator Julie McQuade commented here with a very informative message from her official perspective. The nut graph was: "No one should be distributing partisan political messages as an officer or representative of the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods."

The messages in question were sent from the account, asking the Neighborhood Association officers to distribute a rather negative and decidedly partisan message from the Dan Coody campaign to the membership. From information received, some of the NA contacts distributed the campaign messages to their members, and some ignored it. The logs of the city computer servers might document how many were distributed by whom, but that is now almost irrelevant.

The first request from the Coody campaign to distribute the message was sent
on Thursday, 11/20/2008 11:36:10 A.M. A second message was sent on Sunday, 11/23/2008 4:01:30 P.M.with the notation, "I apologize for having to send his [sic] again, but several people have asked that I do so because the first message did not go through as sent." Both messages were essentially the same, attacking Lioneld Jordan and the letter supporting Jordan from the men and women of the Fayetteville Fraternal Order of Police.

The Mayor and his wife can legally ask anyone to forward their negative campaign propaganda. Whether it is ethical for them to ask Neighborhood Association representatives to do so in violation of the By-Laws is a question of character.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Columnist Quote of the Day

"Whoever gets elected mayor in Tuesday's runoff, please keep Fayetteville out of any more real estate deals.

"Let's learn from the Mountain Inn gravesite and SouthPass.

"My check into the SouthPass issue reached an early conclusion that nothing else shook: The City Council's resolution to let the mayor make this deal was vague enough to authorize just about anything. ... Some phrase in that resolution that any deal was "subject to further council approval" would have been nice.

"So now it looks like we're going to get a very nice park whether we can afford one or not. I like nice parks. ...I just wish this deal had come along when the city could afford it."

-- Doug Thompson, "No More Real Estate Trading, Please," The Morning News

Naked Lunch

Phillip and Tina Sherman of Bella Vista have sued McDonald's for at least $3 million after nude photographs of Tina were posted on the Internet. Phillip seems to have left his cell phone at McDonald's on Sixth Street in Fayetteville on July 5. Tina soon learned that the nude pictures of herself, which she had sent to her husband's phone, had been posted on-line by clever burger-flippers, along with her name, address, and phone number. The brisk response of phone calls and text messages was unwelcome, and Tina says she was mortified and cried uncontrollably.

To compensate them for their foolishness, the Sherman's have filed suit against McDonald's Corp., Matthews Management Co. and Aaron Brummley, a local manager, for negligence and negligent supervision. They want no less than $1 million for outrage; no less than $1 million for public disclosure of private facts; and, no less than $1 million for casting the Shermans in a false light. They claim that they and their family suffered severe mental and emotional distress, physical injury, pain and suffering, embarrassment, damage to their reputations, fear, and loss of earnings. They also want to be paid for the cost of moving to a new residence.

Let this be a lesson kids. Don't be sending nekkid pictures of yourself to anyone's cell phone.

Fucktard of the Faubus Motel

Here in Fayetteville we have a poet who sniffs at the unwashed masses who work for a living, a mayor who mongers fear of employees asking for living wages, and a newspaper that labels all who dare question authority as fringe radicals and extremists. Still, we have not quite matched the intellectual and moral paucity of Madison County, a benighted province last in the news for someone skinning a dog and nailing it to the fence of a citizen who questioned the official demonstration of how to kill a raccoon with a nail gun.

Now James and Linda Vandiver, owners of the Faubus Motel in Huntsville, replaced the United States flag at their business with a Confederate battle flag following Barack Obama's victory last week. They insist it had nothing to do with race. Right, just like Orval Faubus closing Little Rock Central High School had nothing to do with race.

In a statement to the Madison County Record, Vandiver said, "On election night, we lowered Old Glory from our flag pole because we are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave (except for our military). The sound principals [sic] for which Old Glory stood have been abandoned. We raised the rebel flag of the Old South in protest. Since political correctness forces people into a limited frame of reference, we wish to say this loud and clear, this was not about race. We resent having a Marxist in the White House no matter color he is. If Mr. Obama had tried to enter the White House as an ordinary citizen, he would not qualify for a security clearance because of his past associations. We decided if Obama can refuse to properly salute the flag and his buddy, Bill Ayers, could stand on the American flag in a trash-filled alley, then we could take Old Glory down in honor and respect."

Furthermore, the political wizard ranted, "We are angry with a biased, agenda-driven media. We are angry that for the past eight years President Bush and the Republican Party have been blamed by the Democrats and their cohorts in the media for the incomplete and irresponsible way that the group A.C.O.R.N. let down potential voters in the state of Florida in 2000. A.C.O.R.N. has used our tax dollars to carry out, contrary to the law, a partisan "get out the vote" effort of scandalous proportions. The other arm of this nefarious organization bullies and harasses banks and lending institutions to make the risky loans that have jeopardized our nation's financial security."

Vandiver forgot to mention "union thugs" and "simple carpenters" as the prime factors in the decline of western civilization.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Professor Lectures Voters on Democracy

UA Poetry Professor Michael Heffernan has issued a statement from the ivory tower, helping the misguided and uninformed average citizen to avoid making a grave mistake in casting their vote in the mayor's race. Heffernan says that Lioneld Jordan is not worthy to lead the city, then he goes on to expound on the reasons that sophisticated persons of good breeding, like himself, should vote against Jordan.

Professor Heffernan wields his pen to prevent the election of Alderman Jordan, whom he describes as "a ward-healer and an opportunistic political hack who has had a fairly routine run as an alderman." Jordan doesn't meet Heffernan's ideal of a leader who can make a decision without wasting so much time listening to the voice of the people. "Add the prospect of a Mayor Jordan doing town hall meetings every few months, and you get the chaos of government by open mic," writes the learned poet who disdains such pandering to the people by letting them speak about local issues on which they are unqualified to express opinions.

Then Heffernan gets personal in explaining why Jordan is unqualified to lead. "Lioneld Jordan should continue to work for the people of the university, in the service capacity where he has done his job for more than two decades. He might even get himself a college degree." That is the real reason that the great poet cannot abide the election of Jordan. Heffernan is an esteemed poet who shudders at the thought of a lowly worker aspiring to hold any office, especially a staff employee without an academic resume comparable to a renowned professor like himself and others who frequent the rarefied atmosphere of the faculty club. Jordan is qualified only to serve them personally, not politically.

A simple carpenter has never made any contribution to the world that compares with that of Professor Heffernan.

UPDATE: We now learn that Mayor Dan Coody encouraged Professor Heffernan to make this attack on Alderman Jordan. "Get with Deborah and let's do some good!" Indeed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dr. Thomas the Bogus Blogger

Remember back in May 2007, before Dan Coody announced he wasn't running for reelection and before he announced he wanted a third term? He started a blog on the City's official website and said, "Welcome to our new website and the Mayor’s Blog. 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."

It turns out that was a lie. The Official Dan Coody Blog didn't ever have those "regular" postings that Dan promised. Nothing has been posted since last March. Now we find out that Dan didn't even write his own blog entries. They were all forgeries written by Dr. Susan B. Thomas, Ph.D. or other staff minions, but Dan tried to fool all of the people all of the time that he was writing those posts hisownself.

Since Dan hasn't been paying attention to his blog or anything else at City Hall, it is not surprising that someone has decided to help him out with an Unofficial Mayor's Blog. You'll learn more there than from Dan's "Official" Mayor's Blog maintained at taxpayer expense and written by taxpayer-funded ghost writers.

Lifetime Pension Still an Issue

When Dan Coody flip-flopped and decided to run for a third term as mayor, Marsha Melnichak spotted something amiss, and even the Northwest Arkansas Times could not overlook it. Dan Coody needed two more years in office to collect on the Guaranteed Benefit Lifetime Pension of at least $53,000 a year. Coody had considered running against Nancy Allen for City Council, which also would have counted toward his pension, but it would not have increased beyond the current level. With another term and another 28% salary increase, Coody would be in much better financial shape if he could get back in the mayor's office.

Performance of public employee retirement program investments have begun to raise concerns. The city currently pays more than $12,000 a year into Coody's Guaranteed Contribution retirement plan, but that is looking less attractive in these times of financial distress. The Guaranteed Benefit paid from city general revenues is becoming even more lucrative now.

In watching a rerun of the recent debate, the issue came up again. Coody has said he isn't interested in the guaranteed retirement benefit. He even called a second press conference to deny it. Some will believe him and take his word for it.

Lioneld Jordan, who has served on the City Council and is also running for mayor, has filed a notarized Affidavit with the City Clerk rejecting the guaranteed lifetime pension for which he would be eligible after two terms. That is straight up and considerably more binding than Dan Coody's unverified statement at one of his press conferences, something about as convincing as his press conference that he would not run for reelection to make himself eligible for the lifetime pension.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

At the Shriners' Convention?

Some people have the silly misconception that the mayor's job is to manage the city, keep a watchful eye on city projects, take care that the taxpayers' money is wisely spent, look for ways to cut waste from a bloated budget, avoid multi-million dollar cost overruns, promote appropriate programs and community development, help the business community to create new jobs, and listen to the ideas, suggestions, and concerns of local citizens.

Others think the mayor should be something like the Secretary of State, traveling the globe at public expense and attending meetings about more important things. Dan Coody is of this mind, He has been absent from City Hall more than 10% of the time, reporting being out of town at least 231 days. Although he has limited his busy international travel schedule since changing his mind this year and deciding to run for reelection, he reported eight trips during the first part of this year to such places as Miami Beach and New York City.

Last year, Coody reported 15 trips, including Anaheim, Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and the European leisure trip of the century with his wife, three weeks from December 1st - 21st in Paris, Amsterdam, and Germany. It sure beats staying home and working on the budget or having to hear citizens complain.

Not all of Coody's travel has been at taxpayer expense. Foreign governments and special interest groups have been quite generous.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cut a Yellow Ribbon

You know there is an election campaign going on when the start of early voting is announced with Robo Calls from Mayor Coody bragging on himself, fancy four-color mailings from Dan Coody to every household, and the expected Ribbon Cutting to celebrate some city project built by an out-of-state contractor with our local tax dollars.

Today, the City Clerk sent out a Blast Email Announcement about a Photo-Op Ribbon Cutting on Thursdsay afternnon. Anyone who doesn't have a regular job is invited to watch Dan Coody cut a ribbon and take credit for every sparrow that falls in the city. This time it is the Gulley Park stream restoration project, finished some time ago but lending itself to campaign publicity this week. Stand close to the mayor, and you will get your picture in the Northwest Arkansas Times.

As shown in the above picture from 2003, Elk River Construction out of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, incised (cut into or carved out) several bank sections of Gulley Creek and "restored"almost a quarter-mile section of it. Think reconstructive surgery.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Siloam Springs and the Constant Struggle

Siloam Springs is seriously set on stamping out sin. They have passed ordinances against selling vibrators, they strip search citizens for minor offenses, they rail against demon rum, and they send out police alerts against selling your soul. Yet, Satan never sleeps in that city, and even the 100% Americans are subject to temptation and moral turpitude.

Reverend Dalton Webber, 80, former commander of American Legion Post 29 in Siloam Springs who had served as Chaplain for the state American Legion for three years, was asked to resign after it became known that he molested a fourth grader, the son of a member of his Carlsbad Assembly of God Church congregation in 1994, while living in a trailer in front of the boy’s home. The church settled a $1.75 million civil lawsuit filed by the family of the boy. Rev. Webber was also president of the board for Miracle Ranch Orphanage Foundation in Anaheim, Calif., from 1977 to 1980, when allegations were made that 15 boys had been molested by him.

Webber was said to be the liaison between the Siloam American Legion Post and the local Boy Scouts, but Bryan Feather, Scout executive for the WestArk Area Council, said “Mr. Webber is not an official liaison for us. To be registered, he would have submitted an application, which includes a thorough criminal and personal background check. We also require all volunteers to be accompanied at all times by a Scout leader as part of our youth protection program.”

Rev. Webber was scheduled to perform a puppet show at Northside Elementary School on Veterans Day, but that was canceled after his forced resignation. We assume that he will no longer serve as program director for the American Legion's annual Family Funfest in Siloam Springs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

School District Gives Employees 4% Bonus

“There is no doubt that sound financial management doesn’t happen by accident,” said Fayetteville School Board member Steve Percival said. No kidding. While our city administration was been draining reserves and its employees have had no cost-of-living increase in two years, the Fayetteville School District is dedicating $2.3 million to provide a 4% bonus to all employees.

District Chief Financial Officer Lisa Morstad said the administration is encouraging employees to spend the money in Fayetteville to help boost the local economy. “We’re just trying to work on economic development,” she added. That makes much more sense than spending taxpayer funds for out-of-state consultants who take the funds and spend them somewhere else.

Congratulations to the FSD Board and administration for a job well done! As Steve Percival said, "Sound financial management doesn’t happen by accident." Multi-million dollar cost over runs might happen by accident, but sound financial management is the result of attention to detail and being responsible and accountable for the public's money.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Talking About Trails

The National Trails Symposium opens in Little Rock today. Why Little Rock instead of Fayetteville, you ask? Little Rock was recognized recently by Prevention Magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association as the best walking city in Arkansas. Cities were evaluated on 14 criteria, including the percentage of adults who walk to work, number of parks per square mile, use of mass transit, and percentage of adults who walk for fitness. This year, a Best Walking City was also named in each of the 50 states, from an evaluation of its 10 most populated cities. We must applaud and acknowledge Little Rock as the state's leader in trails and a great place to bicycle and walk.

Talking about trails has proven to be a good political strategy everywhere. The mayors of both Little Rock and North Little Rock live trails. Jim Dailey, former Mayor of Little Rock, said, "The artistry of our landscape, the health of our citizens, and the desire for innovative economic stimulus that harmonizes with the environment have given us a mandate for developing the Arkansas River Trail." Mayor Patrick Hays says, "The North Little Rock River Trail is one of the most scenic bicycle and walking trails in the country." He likes to brag on himself by claiming that he was the "father" of the trail, inventing and actually helping lay out sections of it during the periods when he was in town.

Alderman Kyle Cook deserves recognition for his leadership on the Fayetteville Sidewalks and Trails Advisory Committee that pushed for starting a trail system and for joining other members of the Fayetteville Street Committee in insisting that $2.1 million in trails funding be included in the 2006 infrastructure bond election where it received broad public support and was passed by local citizens. Trail innovator Terry Eastin of Fayetteville is also leading a campaign to establish a $2 million Arkansas Trails Grants program, and she has the backing and enthusiastic support of our local community leaders in that effort.

Many people are pointing out the connection between trails and health, and Little Rock's Medical Mile project, coordinated by Eastin, is a linear outdoor health museum. It is "lighting the way" for us to learn how to work with the medical community and bring hospitals and physicians across the country "on board" with trails, she said. Healthcare is a big business in Little Rock, which has helped provide major support for the trails system. We can only hope that the medical industry in Northwest Arkansas will someday make a contribution to funding our trail programs.

Today's Opening Keynote for the Symposium will be Dr. Richard Jackson, an internationally recognized environmental health expert and co-author of Urban Sprawl and Public Health, in which he suggests that the way we built cities and neighborhoods in the last 60 years is the source of many chronic diseases: “The modern America of obesity, inactivity, depression, and loss of community has not ‘happened’ to us. We legislated, subsidized, and planned it this way.” That sounds like a good argument against the folly of approving huge developments at the edge of the city and pouring in $28 million in public funds for infrastructure (more than 12 times the city's trail funding). It makes a strong case for sticking with our 2025 Plan instead of subsidizing sprawl.

October 2, 2008, marked the 40th anniversary of passage of the National Trails System Act. It was part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, back when liberals were spending public funds on domestic infrastructure and social programs instead of the present Bush debacle of running up record deficits to fund foreign occupations while bailing out the banks and insurance companies. It opened the door to federal involvement in trails of all types, from city centers to remote backcountry. Virtually every trail in the country has benefited from the Act and many trail initiatives over the last 40 years can find their roots in it. There are now eight National Scenic Trails and 18 National Historic Trails, totaling over 48,000 miles. In addition, the Act authorized the designation of National Recreation Trails. There are currently 1,051 trails in the System, totaling over 19,000 miles.

We are glad that Fayetteville has completed 16 miles of multi-use trails in our city, and we look forward to someday seeing the eventual completion of the remaining 113 miles proposed in the 2002 Fayetteville Alternative Transportation and Trails Master Plan.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Look Who Funded California Prop H8

There will be a nationwide protest tomorow against passage of California Proposition 8, and the Fayetteville contingent will also be urging action to Repeal Act 1, the recently passed ban on adoption by unmarried cohabitants and fornicators. The Resistance has organized a March beginning at 11:45 from the UA Student Union and trooping to City Hall for a 12:30 rally.

It seems to be a generalized protest against passage of the measures. Locally, Washington County Election Commissioner Tom Lundstrum (R-Springdale) serves on the Board of the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, the group that drafted and campaigned for Arkansas Act 1. Now we find out that two local Wal-Mart executives were major financial contributors to the campaign supporting passage of California Proposition 8 to prevent marriages between people they have never met.

Richard Dalton, a computer-assisted reporting specialist, compiled an analysis of Prop. 8 campaign contributions for the Associated Press. The analysis is based on campaign finance reports submitted to the Calif. Secretary of State's Office since 2007 and contains data current as of November 3rd. You can search the database for Arkansas contributions to see who has contributed money to the campaigns supporting and opposing California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage by clicking here.

Contributor nameClinton & Diane Bland
OccupationMerchant Manager
State or countryAR
Payment type
Transaction date10/30/2008
Committee - Yes On 8, A Project Of California Renewal
Contributor nameShawn Sederholm
OccupationRetail Management
State or countryAR
Payment type
Transaction date10/28/2008
Committee - Yes On 8, A Project Of California Renewal

A Gold Wind Blows in Washington County

Invenergy LLC, a Chicago-based wind farm developer is interested in erecting two 200-foot test towers near Winslow to conduct tests to determine if there is enough wind to power future installation of commercial power-generating turbines. Invenergy will need conditional-use permits from the Washington County planning office, to construct the towers designed to collect data about wind speed. The Benton County Planning Board recently approved a similar plan for TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kansas to build a test tower in Sulphur Springs.

We applaud the efforts to test and perhaps develop the commercial potential of clean wind energy in this area. Washington County residents and planners also should be glad to know that, in proposing a Wisconsin wind farm, Invenergy offered easement payments of $4,200 a year to property owners who hosted a wind generator tower and $500 a year to other property owners within a third of a mile of the towers. Too bad SWEPCO, which is now pushing construction of dirty coal burning plants in Arkansas, didn't have that generous neighborly attitude when it erected those huge metal towers across Dickson Street and near historic homes in the Old Main viewshed.

Although the two test sites, and apparently the most potential for commercial wind generation are in Northwest Arkansas, the creation of clean-tech jobs are going elsewhere in our state. Just last month, Nordex USA Inc. announced plans to locate a $100 million wind turbine manufacturing facility in Jonesboro, which will employ 700 people at an average wage of $17.00 an hour.

The Dutch wind turbine blade manufacturer Polymarin Composites made the decision to locate its manufacturing site in Little Rock, investing $16 million in the facility that will employ 630 people at an average wage of $15.00 an hour. In addition, parts supplier Wind Water Technology will locate in the Polymarin facility, investing $4 million in equipment and employing 200 people at an average wage of $15.00 an hour. "This outstanding announcement is evidence that Little Rock has jumped into the 21st Century with both feet," said Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola last month. "Providing quality jobs while developing a reputation as a leader in sustainability is why Little Rock is quickly becoming the next great American city in the South."

LM Glasfiber of Denmark is locating its U. S. headquarters and 1,000 manufacturing jobs at its production facility in Little Rock. LM Glasfiber CEO Roland M. Sundén said, "when we considered the kind of amenities that are conducive for LM Glasfiber to attract and retain the people and talent we need, Little Rock was a natural choice for us.” Governor Mike Beebe responded, “Not only does LM Glasfiber offer a global presence, but it will supply skilled and technical jobs to our citizens."

Those are the kind of Green Jobs that we should be landing in Fayetteville, so why are they all going elsewhere? Don't those companies know about all the awards we have received for being a leader in sustainability? Don't they know that we have a global reputation? Don't they know our leaders who attend national and international conventions on sustainability and global warming? As Greg Harton would ask, "What Gives?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mayoral Candidates Debate the Issues

The League of Women Voters last evening sponsored a debate between Mayor Dan Coody and Vice Mayor Lioneld Jordan, candidates in the November 25th run-off election for Mayor of Fayetteville. There is some coverage of the event in the The Morning News and even more detail in the Northwest Arkansas Times. If you missed it and care about such things, you can watch it online. If Mayor Coody and his political advisers think he did well, you should also be able to see endless reruns during the next two weeks on the reconstituted Coody Government Channel 16.

We were watching Dog the Bounty Hunter last night and missed it, but we hope some of our readers attended or watched the debate. Tell us what you think -- and not just that usual partisan crap about how great your candidate is and how the other guy is awful. Who had the better ideas? Do these debates make any difference or change anyone's mind?

Comfortable Compensation for Coody Staff

"We pay our employees very well," said Mayor Dan Coody during a debate at City Hall last night. That was one of the few claims he has ever made that could be considered an understatement. Coody should know about sweet salaries, because 24 of the top 26 city employees making over $80,000 in the 2009 budget are Dan Coody and his appointed staff. The elected City Attorney Kit Williams ($103,860) is also in the Top Tier.

Among the Coody staffers that he pays "very well" are Gary Dumas ($112,438), His Honor Charles Daniel Coody ($107,039 plus $5,000 car allowance), David Jurgens ($104,335), Greg Tabor ($102,21), and Paul Becker ($101,764). Coody also said during the debate that the city was doing an excellent job with diversity, but you will note that this elite group of top paid staff share certain characteristics of race and gender.

Alderman Lioneld Jordan said he would work toward getting a cost-of-living adjustment for the other 736 city employees, because they have not had one in two years. To do that and still present a balanced budget, Jordan said he would start with a salary freeze on city employees that make more than $80,000 a year. "Some of the cuts will come from the top down" in his administration, he said.

Dan Coody has seen his salary increase by approximately $24,000 in the last four years, a nice 28% pay hike when you realize that many city employees make less than $24,000 a year, have had no cost-of-living adjustment, do not get a $5,000 car allowance, do not get unlimited paid leave for vacations or personal business, do not get paid trips to Europe, and are not eligible for the annual $55,000 life retirement that Coody stands to be paid from city general funds.

Some animals are more equal than others
. Perhaps Mayor Coody deserves all that he is provided by the taxpayers, but he doesn't have to be so smug about it nor so disdainful toward those who have less.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bentonville Employees to Get 5.8% Raise

City employees in Bentonville are scheduled to get a 5.8% cost-of-living salary adjustment next year. The raise is based on the Social Security Administration cost-of-living index. Last year, Bentonville employees received a 2.3% cost-of-living adjustment in the 2008 budget year.

Last week, Rogers Mayor Steve Womack proposed a 5% cost-of-living salary adjustment for Rogers city employees, except those making less than $41,600. City employees below that threshold will each earn $2,080 more in 2009 than they did in 2008, representing a $1 per hour raise, which is greater than a 5% boost.

Neither the 2008 nor the 2009 Fayetteville City Budget includes any cost-of-living raises for city employees. Mayor Coody has been telling people that if Alderman Lioneld Jordan is elected, then the Fayetteville Fire Fighters Association and the Fayetteville Fraternal Order of Police could be able to request higher salaries, and that could lead to salary increases for all 730 of his city employees.

"We don't want to take the lead of so many other cities that are declaring bankruptcy to meet union demands," Coody told the Northwest Arkansas Times. When asked to name all those other cities, Coody has been pointing to Vallejo, California. In that San Francisco suburb of 120,000, we are told that 292 city employees made more than $100,000 last year.

In Fayetteville, we know that our highest paid city employee is Dan Coody, and his salary this year is $107,038.88 plus a $5,000 car allowance. In the last four years, Coody's base salary has increased from $83,312 to $107,038. That's a $24,000 raise, a 28% increase since the last election and an average of 7% a year, but Coody has said there is no money available for cost of living raises for other city employees.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

City Council Balances the Budget

Congratulations to Alderman Bobby Ferrell for his leadership and persistence to fighting for a balanced budget. With the help of fellow Aldermen Kyle Cook, Nancy Allen, Lioneld Jordan, and Shirley Lucas, Ferrell found enough savings through cuts and management of revenues to bring forward a balanced city budget for 2009, and they did it without abolishing essential programs, instituting massive layoffs, or draining the city's reserves. Well done!

Mayor Dan Coody had presented his budget in September, reflecting a $535,000 deficit. The new budget is a vast improvement. Unless we have another sewer plant debacle, massive unanticipated costs from more lawsuits, landfill liability, contracts that obligate the city for untold millions of dollars, hiring an army of out of state consultants, high convention travel expenses, or too may no bid contracts, our fiscal situation should remain sound for the future.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Benton County Brandy

In 1895, the Internal Revenue Office reported that one Bentonville firm produced 21,395.7 gallons of brandy, in period from July 1 to November 19, making it the largest apple brandy distillery in the South. Then the Depression and disease wiped out the apple crops, and John Brown, Sr. banished alcohol altogether. Except for the private clubs that mock the law, making it necessary for locals to drive to Springdale, Oklahoma, or Missouri to get a cold six pack of beer.

Perhaps you have wondered how the apple blossom was chosen as the official state flower. Back before chickens and Wal-Mart, Northwest Arkansas was the leading apple producing region in the nation, and there were numerous industries associated with the processing of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. That glorious history is recounted in an interesting article in today's Benton County Daily Record, drawing on historical records of the Rogers Historical Museum and the fulsome knowledge of Dr. Roy Rom, a retired University of Arkansas professor of horticulture who specialized in apple production and breeding research. No offense, but all that research hasn't produced anything that can beat the traditional Arkansas Black.

Today, red dirt developments have replaced most of the orchards. Only in Lincoln does the memory live on during the first weekend in October at the annual Arkansas Apple Festival. That celebration began only in 1976, long after the peak of apple production but with an eye on the new crop of tourists. It was created with that much despised evil, federal money, and the imagination of Lloyd Swope, a community spirited banker.

We will take what we can get these days, but a warm mug of buttered Arkansas Applejack by a crackling fire would be nice tonight.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Walt Eilers & Fire Cat Back Lioneld Jordan

Two former Fayetteville mayoral candidates, Walt Eilers and Adam Fire Cat, urged their supporters to back Lioneld Jordan on Saturday at the Farmers' Market on the Fayetteville Square. Sami Sutton, another former candidate in the race, was unable to attend the news conference but pledged her support for Jordan.

“He’s been my friend and my competitor for a long time,” Walt Eilers said of Jordan. “He has the sort of skills and experience that will help Fayetteville move forward, and I will do whatever I can to help.” Eilers listed Jordan’s people skills, eight years experience, and having a good working relationship with the City Council as reasons why voters should choose him for Fayetteville mayor. He added that Jordan’s support for dog parks, economic development and recycling are in line with his own goals for the city. Jordan praised the Green Heart commercial recycling pilot program organized by Eilers and said it could serve as a model for the city's future efforts.

Adam Fire Cat, wearing a half-black, half-white tuxedo, displayed his unique but straightforward perspective with his endorsement of Jordan. Fire Cat agrees with Jordan’s philosophy of fiscal responsibility and operating a balanced city budget, he said. “To me, numbers are black and white,” he said, referencing the city's growing debt and Mayor Coody's budget deficits.

Dan Coody reportedly was seen standing behind the large crowd during the press conference, then he spent about 30 minutes talking with Kate Ward, a reporter with the Northwest Arkansas Times. It seems from the article that he was making more negative remarks about Jordan.

Quote of the Day

"I was disappointed to see the Nov. 3 Northwest Arkansas Times headline, $ustainability. Only days after we've experienced the most shocking economic adjustments of the past half century, caused largely by personal as well as corporate greed, this is no time to promote sustainability as the next way to get rich. And most importantly, the implication that sustainability is fundamentally an economic tool is wrong-minded. . . .

"There are two ways to define sustainability. The first is by describing its components. They are 1) ecological or environmental sensitivity, 2) social justice and 3) economic viability. This is the now-famous and increasingly used triple bottom line or three-legged stool that so many companies, organizations and governments are beginning to employ. It's no longer acceptable to leave any of these components out of an evaluation of the performance of a company or program. Economic viability is part of sustainability, but emphasizing it to the exclusion of the other two components leads to, well, unsustainability. Without sustainable relationships with ecological systems and among ourselves, we will not attain sustainability.

"The second way to define sustainability is through the goals, results and impacts of our enterprises. The Iroquois tribes suggested sustainability when they set council goals of protecting the interests of their progeny seven generations henceforth. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission provided the most commonly used definition, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Financial markets, economic developers and corporate leaders aren't very good at incorporating concepts like happiness, sufficiency and fulfillment into their agendas. They've taken the notion that stockholders and other stakeholders demand maximum financial performance, even if it's at the expense of these concepts. I'm not opposed to good old fashioned, all-American capitalism. But in order for sustainability to take hold, we'll have to balance materialism, commercialism, consumerism and financial success with sufficiency, social justice, intergenerational equality and profound respect for nature"

Nick Brown, "The Real Meaning of Sustainability," Northwest Arkansas Times

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Building a 21st Century High School

Some elected officials are afraid to back a millage increase to balance the City's budget or to provide a cost-of-living increase for city employees, claiming that this is an awful time to ask citizens to make any greater contribution. Yet, the Fayetteville School Board appears to be willing to make the tough decisions and forge ahead with seeking public support for building a world-class high school for the future of the community and the education of our students. The Board seems unanimous in its commitment to moving forward with the new high school facility, and we could be looking at a millage election next September.

New School Board President Susan Heil said, "This is going to be very pivotal to Fayetteville as well, new and progressive and showing that we’re supporting education." Chief Information Officer Susan Norton added, "This is not just about building a new school. It’s about a dramatic change in the high school culture that will then help us design a building. We feel strongly that they will embrace the changes and want a new school." We hope that Heil and Norton are right.

This is a bold move by the Board, which seems to have recently gained new members and a new spirit that embraces communication with the public. The success of the proposal for funding and building the campus our city needs will depend on complete openness and transparency in the process. The arrogance and fatal mistakes of Bobby New should not be repeated, and they should not be forgotten.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Threat of Litigation Forces SouthPass Approval

This is rich. The City Council approved the annexation and the Planned Zoning District for the SouthPass Development LLC. The main argument last night was not about sprawl, nor environmental consequences, nor cost of infrastructure, nor even whether the city needed a huge regional park. "If the city council refuses to annex the property or approve the PZD, SouthPass LLC could sue the city for millions of dollars," said Kit Williams, Fayetteville City Attorney. That would have been good advice four years ago.

Imagine that. The same bunch of developers who got the advantage of the $3.7 million Tax Increment Financing subsidy to build a magnificent hotel in downtown Fayetteville and gave us a big hole in the ground, filled to make a parking lot just before an election, might sue the city for failing to follow through on a contract is . . . ironic at best.

Ward One Alderman Adella Gray was the biggest supporter of approval, but everyone else seemed resigned to voting for it. Ward Two Alderman Nancy Allen said, "Every single, solitary person that I've talked to, or gotten an e-mail talking about (SouthPass ), is not in favor of this project, and I speak for them." Ward Three Alderman Bobby Ferrell admitted, "I'm gonna vote for this, but I really don't want to. I feel like I've been forced into it by the threat of litigation." Only Ward Four Alderman Lioneld Jordan voted against all three measures, which passed 6-2.

Who signed that contract? Who signed that contract to take ownership and liability for the old landfill before the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality completed its study of what the dump contained and the potential cost of closing and sealing to stop toxic leakage? Who signed that contract four years before the city staff produced a report that it would cost the city $39 million to provide infrastructure? If the city staff had provided that information before someone signed a contract, we might not be under duress and in this situation.

Who did sign that contract, anyway? Do they still work for the city?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SouthPass Regional Park Landfill UPDATE

"The mayor said ADEQ reports show the landfill site is not a problem."
Northwest Arkansas Times, September 14, 2008

Mike Robinson, Chief, Solid Waste Management Division, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, to Connie Edmonston, Parks and Recreation Director, City of Fayetteville, November 5, 2008:

"To date, site closure assessment work has been conducted by ADEQ – SWMD’s environmental consultant in order to evaluate the condition of the closed landfill. These activities included, but have not been limited to, sampling of soils, groundwater, surface waters, sediments, seeps, and leachate outbreaks. Several landfill seeps and leachate outbreaks have been identified. Sample results indicate these waters are contaminated with metal, volatile organic and mineral compounds which are of potential concern, especially for ecological impacts. ADEQ – SWMD’s environmental consultant is conducting supplemental water sampling to better define the contaminants in the old landfill seeps and leachate outbreaks. Additional water samples are also being collected to further define the offsite surface water conditions.

"The need for corrective action at the old landfill has not yet been determined. Likewise, a corrective action plan has not been developed. However, efforts are continuing every day toward a decision on this project. The site closure assessment will be finalized in the near future, and the ADEQ Director will determine whether there is a need for corrective action. Should it be decided contaminants pose a hazard to public health or contaminants endanger the environment, corrective action may be deemed necessary."

Enthusiastic Republican Voters

The Grand Prize for greatest turnout in Fayetteville goes to Precinct 39. According to the preliminary and unofficial count by the Washington County Election Commission, 54 of its 49 registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday, a record turnout of 110.2%. Precinct 43 was First Runner-Up at 106.7%, and the Show Box was Precinct 40 at 103.2%.

In case your are wondering, John McCain carried all three boxes with majorities ranging from 77.8% to 56.3%

Rogers Mayor Womack Makes It Work

Rogers City Treasurer Jerry Hudlow is only projecting a $300,000 increase in sales-tax revenue, a more conservative projection than usual, but Rogers' employees will still be getting the same generous raises they were given last year and the city will continue its plans for expanding parks and trails.

Mayor Steve Womack yesterday told the City Council Finance Committee that the 2009 budget will include a 5% raise for all city employees except those making less than $41,600. City employees below that threshold will each earn $2,080 more in 2009 than they did in 2008, representing a $1 per hour raise, which is greater than a 5% boost. In addition, the cost of living index in Rogers is 4% lower than it is in Fayetteville.

The 2009 Fayetteville city budget submitted by Mayor Dan Coody reflects a $535,000 deficit and again includes no cost of living raises for city employees.