Friday, July 20, 2007

Just say NO to the Little Rock power grab

Most of your usual proponents for maintaining the lousy local status quo are backing an idea to give the mayor of Little Rock added powers, including a veto and control over top executives. Not only is this a bad proposal, it’s just a tad sneaky.

So long as Little Rock’s city board has “at large” representation, ordinary folks do not have an equal say in city government. Let’s do the math. There are 11 voting members of the board, including the mayor. You need six to get anything done. There are three “at-large” spots, which are always occupied by those with enough financial backing to run citywide. It’s the same thing for the mayor. That’s four. Add on at least 2 wards which are mostly affluent, and the special interests always get what they want. Regular neighborhood people are dead before they even begin.

The mayor would be a full-time job under the new proposal. My memory may be all wrong, but I recall the salary for this position being set around $70k. Now, if we have a strong mayor, why do we need a city manager making over 90k? And there is the city attorney also in high dollar territory. In this scheme, the mayor gets to appoint the three highest paid people in city hall. Remember, he already has the 6 votes to do whatever he wants. That is something close to absolute power.

In other words, the newest audacious concept for “reform” of municipal government is, in fact, a bold power grab.

If the bigs wants real reform, they would propose getting rid of the “at large” slots. Put another way, if South Africa can have “one man, one vote,” why won’t it work in Little Rock.

Here is an even more radical idea, why not a straight out mayor-council form of government like North Little Rock?


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