City officials weren’t happy with the Little Rock Technology Park Authority’s dismissive comments Wednesday about a city ordinance passed Tuesday asking more study time and more consideration of non-residential locations for the proposed office building the independent authority wants to build with $22 million, at least, in city sales tax money.
Word got back to the Authority. Late this evening, Chair Mary Good, who was the most dismissive of the Tech Board at Wednesday’s meeting, distributed a letter to all concerned. She and her board still intend to focus first on choosing the best residential neighborhood to tear down for the office building, but she says they will then put aside that selection for a study of other sites and not consider the neighborhood site further unless strong neighborhood support builds.
Mayor Stodola and Members of the Board:
This is a response to the ordinance you adopted on June 19 regarding the selection of a site for a Technology Park in the City of Little Rock. The Technology Park Authority Board will follow the provisions of the ordinance.
These statements will outline and clarify key steps that will follow:
1. Three potential sites for the Technology Park were identified prior to the appointment of the members of the Technology Authority Board, and they are currently being evaluated. The engineering study that is underway along with the site consultant report will allow the board to identify one of the three as the best potential site of the three being evaluated. These analyses will provide valuable information to the members of the Tech Park Board and also to the public regarding the factors that are relevant in choosing a site for a successful technology park.
2. Once the best site has been identified, that site and the other two will be taken off the table and will not be given further consideration unless there is substantial neighborhood interest and support for further consideration. We ask that any such interest be communicated to the Technology Park Board through either At-Large City Director Joan Adcock or the Ward Director in whose ward the site is located.
3. The Board will proceed to consider and evaluate other potential sites as outlined in the City Board’s ordinance.
I trust this information is helpful, and thank you for your service to the citizens of Little Rock.
Mary L. Good, Chair
Little Rock Technology Park Board
Not exactly warm and fuzzy.
NOTED: Mary Good continues to misstate a critical fact about site selection process. Three sites were identified before the Tech Board was chosen. But one was dropped and another was substituted later, by Board member Dickson Flake. That’s the Forest Hills neighborhood across I-630 from UAMS, seat of hot opposition to the plans. Rohn Muse, a neighbor who’s led the We Shall Not Be Moved coalition, took the microphone at Tuesday’s Board meeting to again correct Good on her continued misstatement that the three sites under review were all products of a consultant’s earlier study. Good apparently didn’t hear Muse, any more than she heard the board’s debate and vote on the ordinance, which indicated a clear board interest in a meaningful search for other alternatives. Good indicated Wednesday she wasn’t much interested in that. The city’s $22 million apparently has some persuasive power after all. Whether it will in the final site choice remains to be seen.
If I had to wager, I’d still predict the Chamber of Comerce, which has been salting Authority Board audiences with shills for its plan to take a residential neighborhood close to UAMS, will continue to build support among
slumlandlords in the neighborhood happy to unload their rental property. The Authority will find fatal flaws, particularly driving distance, in any other site recommended. It will “reluctantly” decide that a neighborhood, preferably Forest Hills, must go. It will provide information that a significant number of owners of property favor the idea. Those that don’t? Tough. Here come the bulldozers and eminent domain. (And, I should add, a lawsuit challenging constitutionality of use of condemnation for a building to be leased to private enterprise.)
Question: Why is Joan Adcock the designated go-to? It’s not a confidence inspirer. (UPDATE: She reportedly told a neighborhood meeting Thursday evening that they had “won.” Just because Joan Adcock said it doesn’t make it so. Be aware of at-large city directors bearing supposed gifts. They work first for the business establishment, which is driving the Tech Park bus. Director Kenneth Richardson remains properly skeptical. No one is safe until the board passes his no-condemnation ordinance for private homes.)
High irony: Somebody is in the field with a poll this week sampling Little Rock male voter sentiment on the city’s plans to ask voters to reauthorize some or all of a 3.3-mill property tax for road and drainage work. (If it’s like the sales tax campaign, the poll is part of a Chamber of Commerce effort, specific expenses won’t be disclosed and there will be a huge financial gratuity to a chamber pet project from the proceeds if the tax passes.)
The questions included:
1) Most important issue facing city today — economy, education, public safety, health care, etc.
2) Are U.S., Ark. and Little Rock moving in the right or wrong direction?
3) Favorable/unfavorable on Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce (a sure sign their grubby paws are on this), the Board of Directors.
4) Questions about reauthorizing the 3.3-mill tax: Would it matter in the decision if the city asks for 3 mills, instead of 3.3? Would I be persuaded if I knew this is not a new tax? Do I think passage of the sales tax eliminated the need for a road and drainage tax, since the sales tax included capital money for roads and drainage? Would I be more likely to vote for the tax if it directed a portion of the money for parks and the Zoo?
5) The poll came with a buttload of “push” information, about the work done with the last big bond issue backed by this property tax.
They didn’t ask the open-ended question of what it would take for the city to pass this tax. My answer: I happen to generally favor a continuing commitment to roads and drainage so that deferred maintenance doesn’t require yet another tap of poor people’s pocketbooks at the Taco Bell to pay for it. But the City Board must demonstrate an equal concern for all neighborhoods. It must fix a situation in which the Chamber of Commerce is running a $22 million-going-on-$50-million unaccountable public agency that is slavering to bulldoze poor black people’s homes. It must demonstrate a willingness to consider a system of governance that ends the business establishment’s stranglehold on policymaking. It, finally, must sign a blood oath that not a single effen dime of the millage would go to the technology park.
But I dream.