Leslie Peacock will have a fuller report on tonight’s Little Rock City Board meeting, but suffice it to say that my column question, written before the meeting, was answered.
The same old business crowd, centered on the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, still runs city government. It used City Director Doris Wright as a useful foil tonight, as it often has. She offered the killing motion for City Director Kenneth Richardson’s ordinance to prohibit use of city tax money to acquire residential property anywhere in the city by eminent domain. Residential property still could be acquired under his proposal, just not at the point of a judicial gun.
Wright’s motion deferred Richardson’s ordinance for six months. This saved the establishment crowd — Kumpuris, Fortson, Hurst, Adcock, Hines and Wright, all of whom backed deferral — from actually having to cast a vote in favor of eminent domain. But the effect was precisely the same. Only B.J. Wyrick joined Directors Richardson and Erma Hendrix in opposing deferral of the ordinance.
Dean Kumpuris went ahead with his largely meaningless ordinance, which passed, for a short delay of any city expenditures for a full study of potential sites. But the measure retains eminent domain. It has no legal effect over the Chamber-controlled and run Technology Park Authority. Chair Mary Good made it clear in her appeal to the board that she’ll be difficult to be moved from targeting residential neighborhoods near UALR and UAMS for the property. Several city directors scoffed at the “five-minute rule” the Technology Park holds so dear.
The We Shall Not Be Moved Coalition now has a powerful illustration of how little concern the City Board of Directors has for poor neighborhoods. They don’t mean beans if the Chamber wants their land. It ran the secretive tax campaign to raise the tax on groceries and burritos (as one speaker memorably noted) to provide a $22 million kitty for the project. It runs the Tech Park administration. It directly controls three seats on the Authority. It effectively controls most of the rest. Relax and enjoy it. But be thinking about ward elections. It’s time.
Wonderful presentations from We Shall Not Be Moved Supporters. Mary Good complained that people don’t trust the sterling business people on the Tech Park board then proceeded to say something flatly untrue about a critical fact of the site selection process. The site most coveted by the chamber big shots — acreage along I-630 across from UAMS — was not recommended in the consultant report commissioned by a chamber member. It was added at the insistence of the driving force behind this project, real estate developer Dickson Flake. How, indeed, does distrust breed? Like this. See also earlier lies that the Chamber was not running the sales tax campaign.