Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Connie Continues the Con

The Jordan Administration doesn't seem much different from the Coody Administration when it comes to parks for the people. At this week's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Jordan's parks director Connie Edmonston laid out a capital improvement plan that looks like it could have been drawn up on the back of a napkin by Dan Coody, John Nock, and Kit Williams. It is all about SouthPass and a few crumbs for everyone else.

A somewhat misleading headline in the Northwest Arkansas Times says on page one, "City Gets Deed for Southpass Park." The article states that the deed "was handed over to the city of Fayetteville in late July." Maybe so, but it had not been filed at the Washington County Courthouse by 4:30 today. If the City has a warranty deed for the 200 acres, why is Kit Williams sitting on it? There was no mention of whether the developers have paid the city the $1 million for park development as required by the sweetheart contract, so I think it is safe to assume they have not performed.

Anyway, the Parks and Recreation Empire has an annual budget of over well $5 million. The operating budget of $3.7 million comes mostly from the city's general revenues, and about $2.9 million a year from the HMR tax that goes for capital projects. Edmonston says that development of the regional park remains a top priority for the Parks Department, more important than community and neighborhood parks. That's not what I remember Jordan telling us back during the campaign, but nothing has changed.

For 2010, the Parks capital budget is less than $1.5 million, but more than two-thirds of that goes to the Southpass Regional Park, allocated $941,000 and ranked the Number One priority. By comparison, Wilson Park will get $110,000, Davis Park is allocated $50,000, Gulley Park will get $15,000, and Walker Park in the low income area of the city gets a big goose egg.

The 5-Year Capital Plan is equally disappointing. Walker Park gets nothing, and SouthPass Park swims in $4.9 million. Wilson Park gets $110,000, Lake Fayetteville gets $125,000, and Gulley Park in trendy Ward Three gets $735,000. No mention of those Heritage Parks that Jordan mentioned in his State of the City Address. You get the picture.

Nothing has changed, and nothing will change as long as Jordan abdicates responsibility to Connie Edmonston. Mayor Jordan should either get control of this department and put things right, or he should stop pretending.


  1. It's encouraging to see you try to hold Jordan accountable, you sure are throwing slowballs.

    You've missed a few other things. His utter reluctance to push for medians on Garland until Petty jumped in and organized the community. His vote against Don Marr's explanation of the neighborhood master planning timeline to make a town branch plan a priority even before we have all the info we need to make the decision. His refusal to play hardball with the pension board in fear of upsetting some of his union friends, the stupidest ones.

    Where's his backbone? Why are you powdering his ass with slowballs like this?

  2. Le plus ca change...the playground on the landfill which no dis-interested citizen wants with its brand spanking new sewer line (see for yerself behind Thep Thai on So. School)--which has to go to the old Noland plant!
    And an absurd vision of 4$000 units which none of us will live to see built.
    I say the d-velopers are fixin' to flip the property.

  3. So- what's the Budget and concept for Buddy Hayes Park. Does anybody know it exists?


  4. I was thinking of asking the same, Ambrose.

    Even without the gigantic payout to "Southpass Park" the idea that Walker Park gets nothing is offensive.

  5. Where the hell do you guys get the idea the playground will be on top of the landfill?

    Red herring? I thought you had more journalistic integrity than that. Even if you are anonymous, we thought we could respect you...

  6. Red herring? I thought you developers could read better than that. Who said anything about the playground being on top of that landfill?

  7. What about tennis courts? Last I heard, tennis courts are the big need these days.

  8. From the archives of The Iconoclast...

    Here's a link for the full Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and below is one citizen's characterization of the deal that was posted on this blog [December 2007]:

    "PUBLIC input gathered during the master planning process indicated only limited interest in a community park (see pg 4.1 for the one exception). Of the 150+ comments offered during ten public meetings, only 2 or 3 of them ever mentioned the need for a multi-sports complex (see pg 4.11). Moreover, respondents in a community wide survey of over 1100 residents ranked neighborhood parks as the number one priority, followed by a trail network (#2) and senior center (#3). The priority ranking for a multi-sports complex was eight (see pg 4.21).

    Posted by Jonah at 8:15 AM
    Sunday, January 20, 2008

  9. Times Editorial :Just the facts | PART 1
    Northwest Arkansas Times, September 15, 2004

    A recent story in the Times, on its face, appeared fairly harmless. Beyond an update of
    the city’s efforts to develop a public-private partnership for the ultimate purpose of
    establishing a community park along Interstate 540 and Cato Springs Road, the work
    centered on the commendable efforts of the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Division to
    convince residents to visit that night’s City Council meeting in a show of support for
    that body’s favorable consideration of the project. Which, of course, sounds most
    reasonable. After all, if our hometown receives a product worthy of the talk that has
    preceded it, Fayetteville will become home to one of the most desirable, talkedabout
    recreational sites in the region. Already taking up space in the dreams of city planners
    are impressive sports fields worthy of hosting major tournaments, walking trails, water
    play areas, picnic areas and more.

    As we’ve previously noted, our support of this project is strong. The addition of the park
    would add to the quality of life in Fayetteville and the region for decades to come.

    But one aspect of this episode left us scratching our heads. The Fayetteville Parks
    Department used a mailing list created by virtue of the city’s soccer program to send out
    more than 1,000 flyers to local soccer youngsters urging them and their parents to show up
    at last week’s City Council meeting in a show of support for the multi-million park idea.

    Connie Edmonston, director of the parks division, was up front about the intent. "There’s
    this possibility of a major change, and this is to keep the citizens informed about what’s
    going on." So the postage and envelopes and fliers all went out, and guess what? The
    council meeting was stacked with a number of enthusiastic supporters for the project,
    their attendance having been promoted by the use of taxpayer dollars.

    According to Edmonston, mailing those fliers was a public service, especially since the
    public was kept well informed about an important topic that could soon involve their tax
    dollars. On its face, harmless. Right?

  10. Times Editorial :Just the facts | PART 2
    Northwest Arkansas Times, September 15, 2004

    Let’s consider this act for a second. At its core, it begins to reveal how ridiculous it is.

    We have a legislative body, elected to set policies and establish budgets for the
    operation of certain city departments. An item of importance to one of those departments
    arises before the City Council. So the top official of that department uses a mailing list
    gathered for the purposes of running a recreational program and uses it to mail out flyers
    with a political purpose in mind: Vote FOR the park proposal, these folks are urged to
    suggest to the City Council.

    This would be no different than the secretary of defense busing families of American
    soldiers to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in a massive show of support for legislation to
    give soldiers pay raises. Effective? Perhaps, but certainly not why the House and Senate
    gave the Pentagon money to spend. If those people want to show up on their own, that’s one
    thing, but to be drummed up at the behest of the military itself is quite an orchestration
    of another kind.

    Tax dollars are collected from a lot of people, some of whom support the park proposal and
    others who do not. It has for a long time been considered inappropriate to lobby for or
    against a proposal by using taxpayer dollars. And it was in this case. Edmonston
    considered it a public service because it had the potential to push a decision the way the
    Parks Division wanted it to go, not because it served the neutral service of informing the
    public of a chance to give its two cents’ worth on the issue.

    Government simply should not lobby itself, using taxpayer dollars to manipulate the
    political process.

    City Attorney Kit Williams responded to our inquiry about this issue by saying how
    important it is that city government avoid even the appearance of doing something
    improper. Williams talked about past elections when public officials worked diligently to
    inform the public while declining to endorse a specific position. In this instance, he
    said it’s possible that public officials worked so fast to do the right thing and inform
    the public, they simply didn’t have a chance to pause and consider whether their actions
    were going too far, or if what they were doing could be misinterpreted. In any case,
    whenever there’s public money involved, it simply can’t be used for lobbying or
    politicizing within the constraints of local government.

    This lobbying went too far, and hopefully serves as a good lesson that no public servant
    can use taxpayer revenue to fund a one-sided lobbying effort designed to influence the
    City Council one way or the other.