Sunday, January 4, 2009

Business as Usual Must Stop

It might be a solution, but the process is a serious problem. It is the same attitude that got the city into the SouthPass contract without understanding the community investment, political and financial. It is the approach that left us with a big hole that is to become an impervious surface parking lot. It is an echo of those officials and bureaucrats who bought and made us pay for a multi-million dollar incinerator with no place to put it. It is the arrogance of power in city administration that must end.

The Northwest Arkansas Times reports today that Gary Dumas, Director of Operations for the City of Fayetteville and former Mayor Coody's Dick Cheney, plans to propose that all parking near Dickson Street -- including the Walton Arts Center lot, the UA lot on West Street, the Mansfield Properties LLC (Greg House et al) lot by the train station, and the massive expanse owned by University Baptist Church -- be converted to paid parking lots operated by the city. Dumas plans to make tickets for violators in the $40 to $50 range. He told the Times that he's been meeting privately with the parking lot owners to negotiate details of the contract that would put the city in charge of cleaning the private lots, collecting revenue from the machines, patrolling the private lots, and enforcing violations for a 10% commission on parking fees.

Maybe that is a good idea, maybe not, but it is a bassackwards way to make policy decisions. A proposal to move to paid city parking was considered and voted down by the City Council just three years ago, but somehow Dumas is ignoring that and off instigating major policy changes on his own. He says he will probably have one more private meeting with the parking lot owners before he presents the final contract to the City Council, maybe in February, and he doesn't plan on meeting with Dickson Street business owners to discuss details of the contract before he presents it to the City Council. So this is essentially a contract being negotiated by Gary Dumas and the lot owners without consultation with affected businesses and citizens and without authorization from the Council.

There is a difference between individual initiative and imperial edicts. We thought the new Jordan administration was going to put a stop to this arrogant approach to public policy. Ignoring the views of affected citizens is not leadership, and taking the time to publicly discuss such ideas at town hall meetings is not indecision. Mayor Jordan needs to put a leash on Herr Dumas and any other city employees who don't understand that simple concept.

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