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Thursday, June 21, 2012

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer the Tech Park Authority

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 10:22 AM

TOO IMPORTANT TO REMOVE: Popatop Liquor was exempted from Tech Authorithys neighborhood removal targets. Hundreds of homes werent. They arent stabilizing elements, apparently.
  • TOO IMPORTANT TO REMOVE: Popatop Liquor was exempted from Tech Authorithy's neighborhood removal targets. Hundreds of homes weren't. They aren't 'stabilizing' elements, apparently.

Some make the case of overkill here on the Little Rock Technology Park Authority. I invoke the hoary legislative tale of the fox who, against his better judgment, gives a lift to a scorpion over a rain-swollen stream and gets bitten for his generosity. "Sorry, it's just my nature," the scorpion says as they both go down in the flood.

Anyway. I have to add this. Little Rock officials who crafted a conciliatory outreach to neighborhoods Tuesday night at the City Board are none too happy with the Technology Park Authority's go-to-hell response yesterday. Board Chair Mary Good sniffed at the meaninglessness of the Board ordinance calling for a site selection delay. She said the Board had no time to do any site study on its own. She also said anybody with alternate ideas would have to comply with the Authority's criteria, written to favor the neighborhood site that Tech Park creator Dickson Flake has wanted from the first and which Good still clearly seems to prefer. Good sneered, too, yesterday at the work of the UAMS College of Public Health. A class project there illuminated the potential harmful impact on the neighborhood and also revealed some salient facts about a much different land acquistion approach by a Richmond, Va., tech park admired by backers here (gradual, non-residential).

In the end, the city of Little Rock has the hammer. A $22 million hammer. The Tech Park is penniless without city tax money. It can ignore the wishes of poor minority neighborhoods all it wants, but will the City Board turn over the money if the Tech Park Authority continues to operate unaccountably and autonomously and callously?

My word this morning from a city insider who has his finger on the pulse of this debate: "A stronger message will be sent. They just don't get it."

Yep. That was clear enough yesterday when Flake, who does real estate work for the Catholic diocese, told me why one of the proposed neighborhood removal target zones was drawn to omit a Catholic church. It's a "neighborhood stabilizing" institution, he said. Popatop, a major liquor store, was similarly seen by Flake as too vital to be included in a neighborhood removal zone.

Hundreds of homes and an orphanage WERE considered expendable, however.

If homes are not "stabilizing" elements of a neighborhood, I don't know what are. Is it really a neighborhood if no one lives in it? Should you be interested in what some real, live neighbors have to say, read here from the UAMS report.

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