Friday, July 27, 2007

The ominous brooding Mayor Stodola

You may find the first salvo in the propaganda war to fool Little Rock voters into giving total control of Little Rock city government over to the special interests that already call most of the shots waiting in your mailbox.

I will say that the image of a brooding Mark Stodola looking down upon the capital city skyline sure scared the daylights out of me. It is not an image for the squeamish.

If this thing passes, instead of holding down an honest job, the mayor will work full time for the local swells. The beautiful (although somewhat frightening) multi-color oversize post card fails to mention that Stodola gets a 6-figure salary out of this deal, triple the current pay for mayor.

This is a slick and expensive advertising piece, so the financial backing of wealthy special interests is obvious.

Little Rock already has a mayor elected at-large and is, to some degree, a political leader for the entire city. This town is large enough to have a full-time and accountable mayor with authority to run city government. That is how it is in most communities of this size that have a mayor-council form of government. As a matter of fact, North Little Rock has that type of organization.

The problem is the underlying hybrid manager-council arrangement in Little Rock, which includes three at large city directors. One more time, let us do the math. It costs more money to run citywide, so those individuals must raise enough to buy advertising and are more beholden to the special interests who make campaign contributions. They mayor also runs at-large. That’s four votes. Now, follow me. This is important.

There are eleven votes on the council, so it takes six to get something passed. There are two wards which would be considered affluent. Taken together with the mayor and three at-large seats, the wealthy special interests win every important vote.

The slick ad you got in the mail today never told you any of this, did it? They also did not tell you that, under this proposed reorganization, the mayor can hire and fire the city manager and city attorney. (Yes, we keep those high paying positions even though the mayor becomes a six-figure executive.) With six votes always in his back pocket, the mayor will attain absolute control over city hall.

As hard as it is to believe, things could actually get worse for neighborhoods and regular folks.

Little Rock needs a mayor-council form of government, and that is the very last thing the big-shots ever want you to have a chance to vote on. Passing this power grab on August 14 will ensure that a sensible type of local governance, one that treats people equally no matter of street address or socio-economic status, will not be back on the agenda for 15 years. It was in the early 1990’s when we were last lied to on this urgent piece of business.

Demand real reform in Little Rock city government. Demand a change to mayor-council. Vote “no” TWICE on August 14, and in early voting.

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