Financial reports for city director races were due yesterday and the yawning gap in money for the incumbent at-large directors — Dean Kumpuris, Gene Fortson and Joan Adcock — isn’t the only story. The story is also where their money comes from, particularly since these directors all defend their at-large seats as being representative of ALL the city.
Take Gene Fortson. Please.
Here’s his filing. He’s raised $55,000.
Check the list. Rich white guys are the financial power, from the real estate development, legal and financial sectors. Blass, Stephens, Schueck. Names like that. Lots of corporate money, too. (Could Regnat Populus root out corporate money in city races, too? Good idea, don’t you think?) Good luck finding a Fortson contributor south of Markham Street (except on extension in the Chenal Valley area.)
Joan Adcock, who’s raised $17,000, has silk stocking support, too, despite her long characterization of herself as a Southwest Little Rock woman of the people. She also gets money from a city police union official, the city taxi franchise holder and lots of developer money as well as $1,00 from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC. She did get a contribution from a Mabelvale donor and from the Otter Creek Land Company, which is planning to build a major shopping center with some as yet unspecified infrastructure needs.
This is why and how it works. The three at-large seats allow the business community to control the city board by combining votes from those directors with those of representatives from the upscale wards. Money is necessary to mount strong citywide races. The establishment has the money. It’s the hammer. They back people who will back them, such as with $22 million handouts to Chamber of Commerce pet projects that envision mass teardown of homes in poor neighborhoods south of the Mills Freeway. (Think about it. $150,000 in campaign contributions and a $22 million return in free taxpayer money? Heckuva ROI.)
Someday, simple justice or the inexorable rise of Little Rock’s majority-minority voter segment could change this equation. When that happens, and it will eventually, the people who were held down so long could be forgiven for not forgetting what went before.
Here also is Dean Kumpuris, by occupation, family connection and Heights residence the very definition of Little Rock establishment. He’s raised $83,000 from a blue ribbon list of establishmentarians.
Looking for alternatives? Realistically, they don’t stand a chance. But a protest vote in all three races could be viewed as a vote on the system, which needs to change to more democratic ward selection.
Willard Proctor and Glen Schwarz are challenging Fortson.
Robert Webb is challenging Adcock.
Lynette Bryant and Adam Lansky are opposing Kumpuris.