Being generous, I said earlier that City Director Kenneth Richardson couldn’t get more than four votes of 11 on the Little Rock City Board for an ordinance to prohibit spending city money to condemn private homes for the Little Rock Technology Park.
He got two, his own and that of Erma Hendrix. And Hendrix withdrew her second, leaving Richardson standing alone, bloodied but vowing to continue the fight against mass relocation of his neighborhood.
The City Board thus unequivocallly expressed its support for condemnation of homes — dozens, maybe more — to make way for the Little Rock Technology Park. If a single director favored a search for other property first — property such as the vacant Alltel buildings that wouldn’t dislocate people — they weren’t quoted in news accounts.
I’m embarrassed. I correctly identified yesterday’s Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce-distributed tech park PR feint as a well-chewed bone to the neighborhood. I should have noted, as Richardson did, the timing minutes before the Board’s “stuff yourself” vote on consideration for neighbors. Yesterday’s edict from Authority chair Mary Good, following a template devised by Chamber boss Jay Chesshir, the man behind the curtain on the Tech Park, was issued without a vote or meeting of the Authority, naturally. It:
* Did NOT rule out condemnation of property.
* Did NOT promise to evaluate other sites.
* Did NOT give neighbors a voice in site selection.
* Did NOT offer anything but promises of “resources” in relocation. (Though not money; just resources — copies of want ads for rent houses, perhaps.)
* DID NOT give a shred of indication that this venture is still anything but a Dickson Flake/LR Chamberof Commerce project — conceived in the dark, controlled in the dark, unresponsive to impact on targeted neighborhoods, but wholly funded by city taxpayers’ pennies paid on grocery, utility, clothing and other sales taxes. And, ominously, it was noted last night, only the city of Little Rock can issue the bonds to REALLY get this boondoggle off the ground.
In other words, city taxpayers, the Chamber isn’t yet through putting the bite on you. That $22 million from the new sales tax was just a down payment.
The city will have legal hurdles to jump in preserving its right to condemn private homes for this boondoggle. The Constitution seems to prohibit it. Not that the Constitution has ever stopped the legislature from passing unconstitutional laws, such as the Chamber-written law creating the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce’s technology park condemnation machine. Just remember: If they can come for Richardson’s neighbors, they can come for you.
PS — How empty is the Little Rock Chamber Technology Park establishment of a committee to look after the neighborhood? The same agencies shoving this down the throats of neighbors — the Chamber, Little Rock, UAMS and UALR — control the majority of seats on the new committee.