Friday, August 10, 2007
There IS an election going on in LR
There is a certain risk that, by vigorously opposing this matter, I will gain a reputation as the eternal antagonist, somebody who fights every stride for progress just for the sport of it. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I would like to begin by discussing the things about city government that I would improve and enhance.
Little Rock has a good man in the mayor’s office these days and the position deserves more prestige. The capital city should have a truly representative form of government. What we need is a city-council arrangement with full ward representation. North Little Rock has it, and that is the style in most larger cities. It brings accountability right to the mayor’s front door.
Proponents of the proposal before voters today are trying to pull a fast one on us by confusing people into believing that, by passing this new scheme, they will be getting all the many benefits of a mayor-council format. That simply is not true.
This election is a diversion. Passing these twin questions puts off real reform for many years. It has been 15 long years since Little Rock people had a chance to make a change, and it will not come back around for a long time, and there is a very good reason for me making that prediction.
The banking, real estate interests, Hillcrest and the downtown folks who are accustomed to running things, will continue to have the advantage of owning six of the eleven seats on the city board. They will do anything to hang on to those three “at large” seats. When you see Mark Stodola or Dr. Kumpuris around town, ask them how many “at large” directors are on the city council in North Little Rock, or any town in Arkansas, or any city anywhere.
The answer is, of course “none.” It’s undemocratic and blatantly unfair to dilute the voting power of ordinary folks represented in ward council members. This is a question of mathematics, so stick with me. It’s not hard. Promise.
It costs a lot of money (in six figures) to seek office citywide. The three directors who run “at large” have to raise more money and are more attuned to the voices of those who make the campaign contributions. With the three “at large” directors, and a mayor, there are four votes which are overly attentive to big money. Then we add two more affluent wards and you have the six votes to win every time. The rest of us are always shut out when it’s something important. Ask yourself, isn’t that pretty much how it has always been? That is no accident.
The proposal presently being considered in central Arkansas actually means less accountability in city government because the mayor can hire and fire the city manager and the city attorney. If the professionals oppose something the big dollar people want, there are always six votes available to toss out the offending contrary voice.
You didn’t know that did you? It is part of the plan to keep people in the dark, but the mayor will have that kind of authority. Always remember the magic number “SIX.” In the new arrangement, the mayor always has the muscle.
If this thing passes, wise old heads in Fifty for the Future and the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce will announce that, yes, it might be nice to someday go to a mayor-council form of local government, but we haven’t really given this time to work. And, trust me, they will need LOTS of time.
By defeating these two bad ideas, the concept of truly representative local government moves to the front burner. It is nothing but an insult that Little Rock does not already have such a modern form of government.
I will wholeheartedly support a proposal for a mayor-council government for the capital city. In the meantime, we have a duty not to let the city hall insiders derail necessary reform again.
VOTE “NO” TWICE on August 14, and in early voting.
UPDATE: Tildy and Edna have given this a bit of discussion on "Matilda's Rants and Advice," and, wouldn't ya' know it, a new piece of information as been advanced. I feel pretty dumb to not have realized that in a REAL mayor-council arrangement (as is the case in North Little Rock) the city attorney is ELECTED. He is INDEPENDENT. In the Little Rock Power Grab, the city attorney is an employee who can be fired at the whim of the mayor any time he starts giving opinions that go against the local power brokers. Remember that, in the proposed Power Grab, the mayor always has the votes tied up to defeat anything ward representatives, those that represent regular people, may desire.
A million thanks to Tildy and Edna!!!
NOW.. as an added bonus... in honor of today's Democrat-Gazette editorial endorsement (which somehow fails to address even one of the following grown-up fiscally sensible questions) I have decided to include here, at no extra charge SEVEN HARD QUESTIONS FOR LITTLE ROCK POWER BROKERS...
1. What will be the exact dollar amount of salary paid to the mayor under the new arrangement? Please list fringe benefits and non-cash compensation separately. Be specific.
UPDATE: Although TWO expensive full-color advertisements have been sent to my mailbox in the past two days, each fails to mention that Stodola will make $160,000 if the items pass. Why do they not tell voters this useful bit of information?
2. Please list the duties of the mayor in the new method of operation. Be specific. Include supporting legislative documentation.
3. Please state the exact dollar amount of compensation for the city manager in the proposed organization. Please list fringe benefits and non-cash compensation separately. Be specific.
4. Please list the duties of the city manager under the new method of operation. Be specific. Include supporting legislative documentation.
5. Please explain why a city manager is needed in this new proposed arrangement.
6. If the measures should pass, will the city manager be accountable to the mayor, or the city board of directors
7. It has been reported in the Democrat-Gazette that the City of Little Rock may be facing a $3 million budget shortfall. In view of the substantial increase in compensation for Little Rock's mayor, which employees or services will be cut to pay for this new expenditure?
It is also noteworthy that, under this novel proposed reorganization, the city attorney loses all independence, since he can be fired by the mayor. Yes, I know there is the appearance of needing board approval, but the mayor, as you have seen in earlier posts, always has the six voted needed to do anything in his hip pocket. In a true mayor-council form of government, such as in North Little Rock, the City Attorney is an elected position.
Scroll down for several good essays on why this measure makes things worse for neighborhoods and regular folks.
VOTE "NO" TWICE ON AUGUST 14, and in early voting too!