Thursday, December 4, 2008

And Bill Bowden Makes Four of a Kind

The Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives now has all its ducks in a row. It began last year when they drafted and pushed through legislation to authorize creation of Regional Mobility Authorities with amendments that did not require voter approval of increases in tolls or fees. Now they are lining up the rest of the pieces to get what they want from their subsidiary Northwest Arkansas Regional Mobility Authority, specifically easy picking local sales tax dollars to subsidize their priority construction projects the Bella Vista By-Pass and the Springdale By-Pass.

It began in October when Washington County Judge Jerry Hunton appointed a Nominating Committee from the members of the Regional Mobility Authority. That was seven weeks ago, but neither the minutes of that meeting nor the names of the Nominating Committee have appeared on the NWARMA website. Bill Bowden of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has revealed that Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin and Prairie Grove Mayor Sonny Hudson are members of the Nominating Committee.

This nominating committee must have met last month, because it was announced that Benton County Judge-elect David Bisbee was being promoted for Chairman. Then they met again this week and anointed Springdale Mayor-elect Doug Sprouse.for Vice Chair and Mayor Hudson as Secretary-Treasurer. Hudson is also Treasurer of the Northwest Arkansas Planning Commission that has approved a $750,000 feasibility study for a $400 million Western Beltway to XNA and the Walmart Distribution Center.

The two top priorities for funding are the proposed Bella Vista bypass and the Springdale northern bypass, said Mike Malone, Executive Director of the
Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives, who has been assigned by the unelected private business group to oversee the public Regional Mobility Authority. The approved placement of Bisbee and Sprouse to head the authority reflects the group's private agenda, Malone acknowledged. According to The Morning News, Malone explained that Bisbee will be vitally interested in the Bella Vista project and Sprouse would be just as vitally interested in creating the Springdale bypass, so the Council is quite pleased.

The pawns will be formally in place next Monday, when the Nominating Committee offers up the well-vetted Bisbee and Sprouse to serve. The business interests also secured the nomination of Dick Trammell to serve on the Arkansas Highway Commission and advance their interests in coordination with the local vassals. Trammell has worked for the Walton banking interests for more than 30 years, currently serving as Executive Vice President and Secretary of the Arvest Board.
Arvest Board Chairman Jim Walton called him the "spark plug of the community," meaning that he is the King's loyal Rook.

The King's messenger has also been chosen. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Bill Bowden attended the annual fall meeting of the
Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives yesterday. He emerged from the gathering and repeated as fact their claim that "the region needs an estimated $6.72 billion in highway work over the next 10 years," but only about $4 billion will be available for the entire state over the next decade. Consequently, you might conclude that we should be eager to raise as much as $4.2 billion in local sales taxes to build the highway projects demanded by the Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives. Bowden certainly does not question that sacred premise.

And you probably thought the Regional Mobility Authority might serve the public interest and consider mass transit and alternative transportation options? Get real. It is only about building multi-lane concrete slabs to serve the corporate interests. A royal flush.

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