Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tattoo You

Julie McQuade
is an important person in Fayetteville, and she is very powerful. She recently sent out an email announcing that Mayor Jordan "has asked me to handle PR for the new administration," but "I will still be Neighborhood Coordinator, assigned to Long Range Planning and the Council of Neighborhoods will still be my highest priority. " We have recently seen her skillful melding of public relations talent and her job of whatever a neighborhood coordinator does.

Low Life Tattoo and Piercing applied for a conditional use permit to operate its business in an area that was not zoned for tattoo parlors. Alan Ostner, a former Planning Commission Chairman and currently President of the Jennings Plus Neighborhood Association, testified that the use is not appropriate for a residential neighborhood but should be located in another area with appropriate zoning.

Julie McQuade was mightily upset and fired off an email to the Planning Commission. How dare some Neighborhood Association ask for enforcement of the zoning laws! "I was shocked by some of the comments at the Planning Commission regarding Lowlife Tattoo. The implication that only undesirables and criminals get tattoos was extremely small-minded and offensive," she fumed then confessed, "I happen to have 2 tattoos and 1 body piercing and I think I’m considered a fairly respectable Fayetteville citizen."

That will teach those pesky neighborhood association officers to take a position on an issue and offend Julie McQuade, respectable Fayetteville citizen. They should fear that they would be punished by the withholding of that good coordinating that Julie gives them, so they will keep their opinions to themselves in the future rather than suffer the public rebuke by Julie McQuade, the mayors PR flack and Neighborhood Coordinator.

We asked Ms McQuade whether this censuring of citizens who expressed their opinions reflected Mayor Jordan's idea of Open Government we had been hearing about. "I cannot speak to Mayor Jordan's idea of Open Government - personally or professionally," she replied. Pretty coy response for a hired Public Relations flack.

We also asked McQuade whether she thought that kind of attack might make people less likely to attend her open house tomorrow night "to build community [and] encourage participation in
the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods." Oh no, she said, "I voiced my personal opinion on the matter, just as those with differing opinions were allowed to do. My personal opinions have absolutely nothing to do with the Council of Neighborhoods, the Planning Division, the Mayor, or the position of Neighborhood Coordinator." We see.

It turns out that Julie McQuade sent this email before Mayor Jordan took office, but it was just made public this week in an article in The Morning News. It was sent during city office hours on Monday, December 22, at 9:48 a.m. We have also been informed that the email was sent from a city computer in City Hall during a time when Ms McQuade was being paid by the taxpayers to be coordinating neighborhoods. It also seems that she confused the reasonable citizen comments with apocryphal reactions in a newspaper editorial printed the day before her searing email.

McQuade's argument must have been effective, getting the Planning Commission to disregard the comments from the neighborhood association and grant a variance for a conditional use permit by a 6-1 vote. Only James Graves resisted.

Let this be a warning. Don't go around expressing your opinion on issues of public concern, or you could be chastised and publicly humiliated as "extremely small-minded and offensive" by city bureaucrats like Julie McQuade, acting as "respectable" private citizens during office hours. It might be worth it, however, if she would show us those two tattoos and that piercing she proudly mentioned in her persuasive personal email to the Planning Commission.

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