Monday, December 13, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Authority or Else

Benton County loves law and order. Last January, Bella Vista Officer Coleman Brackney shot and killed James Ahern after Ahern's car crashed. Brackney had been chasing Ahern for speeding before he shot Ahern six times, but his account of the incident was contradicted by the dash cam. Eventually, Brackney pled guilty to a misdemeanor for killing Ahern and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Now another video is making the rounds and letting the public see how Benton County Deputy Sheriff Dana Winn interrogated and arrested local citizen John Lewis. Mr. Lewis recorded the incident at his home that involved Winn demanding respect and arresting Lewis for "obstructing government operations."

The ACLU doesn't much like what it saw on the video, and Benton County residents don't much like the ACLU. This must make them uncomfortable. They will be even more uncomfortable after Mr. Lewis and his attorney, Doug Norwood, win a lawsuit and collect big damages for the violation of Mr. Lewis's constitutional rights.

Good Suit Greed Again

There they go again. The unelected Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations has another idea to make it easier for them to get you to pay for their projects, and they are going to get the legislature to give you the tax goose in January. Front Man Mike Malone says you will enjoy it.

Several years ago, the Corporate Council drafted and had the legislature pass a statute allowing Regional Mobility Authorities, then they got Benton and Washington County to form one, then they offered to let Front Man Mike Malone staff it for free and direct their business from inside the hen house. What they want first is a sales tax to pay $1.4 billion for the Bella Vista By-Pass and other pet projects.

What is slowing down this huge tax increase to fund their wish list is that each county must call for an election and each county must vote to increase your taxes. Under the Corporate Council's new scheme, they would get Front Man Mike Malone and the other corporate lobbyists to persuade the legislature to give them the power to get around those checks and balances. They want their captive Regional Mobility Authority to be able to call an election and do away with separate votes by each county.

This plan allows the Benton County interests to outvote the Washington County citizens and get us to pay for Benton County projects like the Bella Vista By-Pass, even if the majority of Washington County votes against it. It allows them to tax us to fund their Western Beltway, even if our local communities vote against it. It gives them a way around the opposition of certain local officials that are standing in their way.

There's not much you can do to stop this scam, but you should at least know what they're going to do to you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Waltons' Arts Center

The rich are different from you and me. They don't have to play by the rules, and they always get their way. If you believe that things are fair or that merit can ever beat money, you weren't paying attention at events in Fayetteville this week.

You will remember that the Walton Arts Center bought a survey that said they needed a 2,200 seat theater. Then they developed a very specific list of criteria that would determine the location of this new theater and asked for proposals. The University of Arkansas-City of Fayetteville proposal was far and away the best submitted among the 25 submitted. This week the WAC Facilities Committee and the WAC Board voted overwhelmingly to build the big theater in Bentonville at a site to be found later, those specific criteria be damned. City and University officials and local citizens were not even allowed to comment. Bullshit walked.

In fact, there was only one thing that determined the obsequious WAC Board's compliant decision -- what the billionaire Waltons wanted, where they wanted it, and how much money they might toss to transform the old Benton County Sale Barn into a palace for Broadway shows.

Here's what you can learn from this shameless charade and how you can start calling the shots about anything and everything in Northwest Arkansas, from playhouses to regional transportation infrastructure:

(1) Inherit billions of dollars;
(2) Invest a few million in an unaccountable private non-profit
(3) Hire a hand-picked over-paid flunky to run the organization
(4) Sponsor a slanted survey to feign interest in public opinion
(5) Fake the survey results and ignore the official criteria
(6) Make large campaign contributions to compliant politicians
(7) Spend your money however you want
(8) Be smug at the impotence of the unfunded opposition

This is the way things have always worked, and it would be naive to pretend otherwise. The unwashed should be thankful that the Waltons are spending money on the arts in Bentonville, a cultural wasteland that needs all the help it can get. I mean, they could have decided to build a bigger Christ of the Ozarks in Rogers to compete with the sacred projects of Gerald L. K. Smith.