Sunday, July 26, 2009

Duplicitous and Divisive

It was like a bad acid flashback last week. Dan Coody and his camp followers showed up at a Ward Two meeting called by Alderman Matthew Petty to discuss the plans for improvements to Garland Avenue from North Street to Janice Street. Dan Coody lives on Mt. Sequoyah in Ward One, and his wingman Rob Sharp lives in Ward Four, but they both had plenty to complain about regarding the proposed plans.

Back in 2006, the Coody-backed street bond plan called for a five lane swath including a continuous 12' center turn lane, and that was the plan that Coody proposed to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department in June, 2008. Then Coody got beat in November 2008, and on March 31, 2009, the new City Council Street Committee unanimously approved a revised plan that included a continuous tree-lined median and 5' bike lanes on either side.

On April 30, 2009, AHTD responded that it would not recommend the continuous raised median and instead said the 5-lane slab was "most appropriate." The City began trying to negotiate with the AHTD, which had pledged $1.5 million toward the project and has considerable control over state highways, which Garland Avenue is as a segment of Arkansas Highway 112, to get approval for as much of a tree-lined median as possible and for two separate bicycle lanes. It appears that they were having some success, because now the state is saying it didn't outright veto the median proposal, and Mayor Jordan is planning on meeting again with state highway officials in Little Rock.

So, now comes Coody to the ward meeting on July 16 and starts saying that the City was selling us out and should demand the plan with the median or nothing at all, the false dilemma proposed by retired Physics Professor Art Hobson who regularly complains about the car culture. Rob Sharp, architectural drawer of the John Nock Renaissance Marriott Hotel, said any compromise was just plain foolish. Marie Riley, a UA Computer Services employee, and Mike Johnson, a UA Associate Vice Chancellor over the Physical Plant, both of whom live in the eastern Washington-Willow area near Mission Boulevard, chimed in on cue calling anything except a continuous raised median "a sell-out."

Dan Coody and his little band of supporters staged a big show at Alderman Petty's meeting. I agree with them that the raised median is the best proposal for Garland Avenue, but I am appalled by their total lack of honesty. When Dan Coody was in office, he proposed that the section be five lanes of asphalt with a suicide turn lane, much like the one that his administration had backed for the sterile string of strip malls and fast food franchies on Martin Luther King Boulevard back when it was still Sixth Street. That was the Dan Coody plan for Garland, too, and the good thing is that he fiddleflopped around for two entire years from 2006-2008 without accomplishing anything.

Had Dan Coody originally supported a raised median and bike lanes back in 2006, we would now be in the construction phase instead of the obstruction phase. Coody's change to support the new administration's plans for the tree-lined median came only after resistance from the state, because he saw a chance for some media attention by trying to create a controversy to complicate the City's efforts to carefully work through the bureaucratic roadblocks.

Divisive Dan needs to come clean and admit that he was the one that proposed the treeless five-lane disaster. He had a good opportunity to do so at the meeting when he told the crowd that the section of Garland was destined to become a commercial strip, but he couldn't reach deep enough to confess the errors of his past. Instead, as always, he tried to find someone else to blame for the problem that he created.

Duplicitous and divisive, Dan Coody will continue to create controversy in hope for the media attention which he craves. Can nothing rid us of this turbulent politician?