The Little Rock City Board agenda for next week includes a $1.3 million project with the Manhattan Road and Bridge Company to build a pedestrian bridge over the Union Pacific tracks on the north side of LaHarpe/Highway 10.
This is to provide another piece of the long, long delayed connector to the Arkansas RiverTrail. It is Phase 1. Still up in the air is whether the path will continue along Highway 10 on a new course in front of the Dillard headquarters or veer to the back of the property for a cantilevered path overlooking the Arkansas River. That latter expensive project, funding uncertain, has long been favored by Mayor Mark Stodola but rejected by Dillard officials.
This project has always ground along very slowly. A $1 million state grant to build this bridge has been sitting idle for years. Leslie Newell Peacock detailed the debate over the Dillard’s HQ “gap” and plans for this bridge in an article last September. The river trail (which currently runs along the south side of Highway 10, on a narrow sidewalk in front of Episcopal Collegiate) has been completed to the Dillard property line on the west side of the headquarters.
Also on the agenda:
* LITTLE ROCK SCHOOLS: A resolution calling on the state Board of Education to set an election for return of control of the Little Rock School District to voters, rather than the state. Good luck with that. Don’t bother sending it to Brett Williamson, Diane Zook, Fitz Hill or Charisse Dean, particularly. They seem to LOVE failing charter schools and have continued a forgiving path for a Southwest Little Rock charter school that has NEVER achieved academic proficiency, unlike 45 of the 48 schools in the Little Rock School District. But they insist that Little Rock meet every jot and tittle of the law, including financially sound operation (something that the charter school in question has not yet achieved.) Maybe Little Rock’s resolution would be better directed at the Walton Family Foundation, which has turned out all its assets to preserve the failing Covenant Keepers charter school (most likely because it does harm to the Little Rock School District.) A new state law, the resolution notes, gives the state board more flexibility from past rules in returning a district to local control after it has been placed in academic distress. We’ll see if the law has meaning or if, as in the past, special “Little Rock rules” apply.
PS: The Waltons are actually on the city board agenda, too. A real estate entity controlled by the Walton fortune has a proposal for zoning changes to allow it to redevelop the closed Mitchell School at 24th and Battery as a charter school to leach more than 500 students out of the Little Rock School District. Approval is recommended by the Planning Commission and city staff. As a planning issue, it’s non-controversial because it’s a continuation of historic use of the property. It is NOT non-controversial in a broader sense even if ongoing assaults on the Little Rock School District aren’t relevant to planning decisions. I could wish for some strong commentary from board members for the Walton minions. But this board has done more historically to harm the Little Rock School District than help it, from benign neglect to malign actions to encourage white flight. Some members continue to demonstrate deep animus toward the district (think Joan Adcock and Lance Hines). I expect Walton cheerleading from them.
* PULASKI SCHOOLS: The Board also will vote on a resolution endorsing a bond refinance vote for the Pulaski County School District, which serves a small part of the city of Little Rock, primarily in the Chenal Valley area. The Board’s last endorsement in school elections — for a Little Rock District bond refinance — didn’t resonate with voters. The proposal was overwhelmingly defeated.