A very reliable source says Mayor Mark Stodola has been calling people who objected to an appointment of Stacy Hurst to the Airport Commission to say that he indeed intends to do so. UPDATE: The deed was done later at the City Board meeting.
Hurst is a former city director who lost a Republican race for state House. She has demanded the seat on the Airport Commission — long a coveted city slot in certain elite circles — as her due as a former city director.
In another life, Stodola was a Democrat. In an alternate universe, Stodola is a strong mayor.
Hurst ran a reprehensible race for state representative against the winning Democrat, Clarke Tucker. She involved the Little Rock School District (a district she and most members of the City Board don’t support) in an underhanded and unfair way. She demeaned the legal profession (Stodola is a lawyer) with an orchestrated mud-throwing campaign at Tucker for taking a pro bono criminal case. She was rewarded handsomely by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson by a $109,000-a-year job as head of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. But it wasn’t honorarium enough for Hurst.
Let’s leave Hurst out of it.
What’s wrong with this is two-fold:
1) We have a weak mayor, both systemically and in practice. We need mayor-council government. There’s no wonder the Little Rock players who want a new Arkansas Arts Center went to North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith first. That city can get things done.
2) The Little Rock City Board of Directors, with its controlling at-large directors themselves controlled by the business community, are an undemocratic snooty club worthy of a bit part on Downton Abbey. A “custom” that city directors who leave the board get to put a pre-emptive call on a city board appointment ahead of the hundreds equally or better qualified? You’d think they were earls and countesses with inherited rights. Anybody who’s been to the kabuki theater that is a city board meeting, thinking what was said in the meeting had some influence on pre-arranged votes, has learned the sham of Little Rock democracy the hard way. Unanimous planning commission and planning staff opposition to a bank in a residential neighborhood? Board tells them and neighborhood to go to hell, part of a little payback, by the way, by Stacy Hurst who felt the Heights neighborhood
“betrayed” her by supporting Tucker
It is this simple. Governance in Little Rock equals six votes of the 11-member board, counting the mayor. The mayor is irrelevant. To get your votes, you kiss butt when you can, certainly if you expect to receive YOUR honorarium when retirement comes, as Hurst did.
The mayor — nominally called strong because he has appointment power — gets sand kicked in his face regularly.
Said my source about the calls he’s placing about the Hurst appointment:
The mayor has been making phone calls today telling folks he would nominate Stacy for Airport C. Because he could not get votes for other folks.
He’s also saying this.
He told one of them that she would hold heritage funds from city.
If you’ve been waiting for the mayor to have his great moment leading Little Rock in a fight for progressive values and equality for LGBT people, here’s some advice: Don’t hold your breath.
Hurst will get a seat vacated by Kathy Webb when she was elected to the City Board. The positions are unpaid but are believed to carry high status.