The Little Rock City Board discussion of a pay raise for Mayor Mark Stodola devolved last night into a tangential debate on the cumbersome current form of city government. The core issue — Stodola’s pay — failed to muster a sufficient number of votes for change last night and will come up again next week.
The “strong mayor” model — coupled with continued city administration by a city manager — has had its drawbacks.
The Arkansas Times has long endorsed a mayor-council government such as that in North Little Rock. Properly implemented, it would still require a professional chief of staff as a top administrator and the mayor could continue to glad-hand, influence policy and be a can-do symbol of city government. (It would be hoped.) This is no knock on City Manager Bruce Moore by the way. I think he’d make a great mayor.
Fact is, though, the mayor-council discussion will go nowhere if it’s up to the City Board to decide the issue. Because the establishment remains in control of city board decisions through the three at-large director positions and the reps for the silk-stocking wards, business-as-the-Chamber-of-Commerce-prefers will remain the order of the day.
But a serious misstep could rouse the electorate to change things.
That could have something to do with the clear reluctance of the City Board to raise Stodola’s pay from $160,000 to $179,000 to match Moore’s, as a careful campaign on the issue was orchestrated to produce.
Five votes were mustered last night on a compromise proposal by Director Dean Kumpuris to give Stodola a $6,000 raise. One more vote would have passed the measure and Director Lance Hines was absent. City Director Stacy Hurst, who opposed Kumpuris’ proposal, said a $4,800 raise, in line with the 3 percent raise given city employees, was more like it.
Do I hear $5,500?
But let’s do talk about city government. Its failure to provide definitive leadership on Tech Park development even though city taxpayers are, to date, virtually the sole funders of the pipe dream, is but one example of City Hall shortcomings. The city board’s general insensitivity to lower income neighborhoods — coupled with devoted attention to the interests of major business interests — is another. We could use a touch more representative city democracy.