A ‘breakup letter” with Amazon was meant to pitch Little Rock as a great place for others to locate. Love, Little Rock said the T-shirts and social media vehicles ginned up for the occasion.
Reporters tried unsuccessfully yesterday to get information from
Was the work within the scope of the city contract? If so, details should be open, Campbell argues. If not, could and did the chamber draw on the $300,000 for its expenses? Past experience indicates it will take a lawsuit to answer these questions because the Chamber considers its business, no matter how much public money it gets, as secret. Campbell says he’s inclined to go that route.
I’ve been down this road before. The chamber reveals nothing about its work for the city, except the broadest sort of general statements on the entirety of its general operations. The city says this is good enough for them. The theory is that the chamber is contracted to work on economic development for the city and how it spends its money is its own business.
Argues Campbell in his letter about work done by the chamber on the Amazon rejection gimmick, announced in tandem by Stodola and Chessir.
Mayor Stodola specifically discussed these actions (including the withdrawal) as being a form of economic development, which puts those actions within the scope of the Chamber’s contract with Little Rock and makes all records related thereto subject to the AFOIA.
Stodola had correspondence from Chessir on Wednesday, the day he received my own FOI about the matter. He didn’t respond to the request until the next day, long after the publicity stunt had been rolled out.
I wish Campbell luck. I supported the lawsuit that ended city payouts to the chamber because they blatantly violated a constitutional prohibition against municipal payments to private corporations. That successful lawsuit prompted the legislature to propose a constitutional amendment, subsequently passed by voters, to legalize taxpayer subsidies to chambers of commerce. (I can’t help but add that the architect of that amendment, then-Sen. Jon Woods is now under indictment for taking kickbacks from state grants to a Bible college.)
In a better world, a business lobby would raise its money from its members, not taxpayers. The issue is accountability to the diverse people who are paying the salaries of
The chamber is a fellow traveler in the activities of the Arkansas corporate lobby. It is currently supporting the effort to shut courthouse doors to damage lawsuits. It supports pro-business legislation on workers comp and unemployment benefits. It opposed the Affordable Care Act. The Little Rock chamber led the effort for
Yes, the business lobbyists are entitled to hold all these views and advocate them fiercely. But something’s wrong with taxpayers paying salaries for people working against their interests.
I hope Campbell gets somewhere on disclosure. Because someday the Chamber really will go after a legitimate business, not simply pull a dopey, derivative (heard of “I Love New York”?) one-day social media stunt based on the city’s obvious unsuitability as a site for Amazon to expand.
The city taxpayers, who pay
We should be able to see