A Board member of the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association has written city and UALR and UAMS officials urging a requirement that members of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority disclose financial interests, as most other city and state board members are required to do.
Seems simple. Karen Walls, who supports the project, said the group will be spending millions in tax money. Disclosure of members’ financial interests will remove appearances of conflict that already exist.
Yes indeed. Is there another public board on which the taxpayer-financed Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce has a statutory seat? (You’ll find no such statutory seat for the neighborhood or the non-aligned public at large.) Is there, in fact, another private agency that lobbies against the public interest that gets a taxpayer subsidy from city government and also effectively controls a board given $22 million and counting of public money ? The board, as you may know, was created by chamber-written legislation and, so far, has been led by the nose — including with a no-notice, no-bid consultant chosen by the chamber member, Dickson Flake, who dreamed up the idea — by the chamber. The chamber even still has administrative control over what public information may and may not be seen by citizens inquiring about this agency.
Coincidences. The godfather of the tech park and Authority member, Dickson Flake, is leading the money raising for a candidate for the state Senate, Fred Allen, so if the effort to tear up Allen’s opponent, Sen. Joyce Elliott, is successful, the Authority will certainly have an “in” at getting the necessary state legislation to make this board operate a bit less like a Little Rock Chamber marching and chowder society and more like a public agency. Allen will have to check with Mr. Flake first, of course.
Another good move would be, as Broadmoor’s Karen Walls notes, to do an evaluation of neighborhood housing impact BEFORE a site for the park is chosen, rather than AFTER, as the Technology Authority’s Board chair unbelievably suggested the other day. This is the typical Chamber/business executive mindset, sorry to say: “We know what’s best for you. If you’ll just be quiet and get out of the way, things would go a whole lot more smoothly.” Democracy is messy, if allowed to flourish.
Coincidences. Joyce Elliott, a neighborhood resident and head of a new federally funded neighborhood initiative sponsored by UALR and the city, has been raising heck about residents’ interests before the Tech Authority Board. Coincidentally, she’s under heavy fire in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, whose owner hates Ellliott’s education politics, for UALR hiring procedures that played — no doubt about it — far too loosely with constitutional restrictions on public hiring of state legislators. The latest coincidental development in that saga is that Little Rock city government — prime enabler and financier of the Chamber of Commerce-devised corporate welfare project known as the Technology Park — has suddenly decided not to participate in a plan devised to legally pay Elliott through the city. Pay her to give Chamber cutouts hell? Not going to happen. Which may mean she’ll soon be out of work. The mayor and the chamber boss can yuk about it on their next publicly funded trip to Paris.
The letter from Karen Walls follows: