Tuesday, July 3, 2012

As the Tech Park turns: Who's in charge?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 6:24 AM

DE FACTO CITY HALL: Does Chamber of Commerce call city shots. Tech Park site outcome will be evidence.
  • DE FACTO CITY HALL?: Does Chamber of Commerce call city government shots? Tech Park site outcome will be evidence.

To simplify various developments reported here yesterday on the proposed Little Rock Technology Park, a city taxpayer-funded office building project dreamed up by the private (but taxpayer subsidized) Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce:

The independent, unanswerable board of the authority has made all sorts of placating noises in response to Fair Park neighborhood outrage that residents might be bulldozed for an office building.

But ... the Authority board has NOT taken the neighborhood off the table, not even with partner UAMS withholding money and UALR leadership referring to the unfolding "regrettable disaster." UALR's effort to be a beacon of racial and ethnic advancement is suffering from its role in the potential devastation of a portion of its nearby neighborhood, populated heavily by lower income black people.

Some city board members have objected (some more strenuously than others; some, like Doris Wright, hardly at all). Far better sites have been offered, including yesterday's proposal to use mostly vacant commercial acreage near the Clinton Library and the burgeoning River Market district.

The question: Will the Chamber of Commerce faction's long preference for the poor residential neighborhood near UAMS be deterred by the rising opposition? Or will the Authority's criteria be drawn to exclude all but this option? And, finally, if that happens, will the Little Rock City Board of Directors have the brass to just say NO, for once, to the Chamber of Commerce? Without $22 million in city money, there is no Tech Park. This issue, better than any yet, will demonstrate who calls the shots on spending the accumulated Taco Bell sales tax pennies of city residents. Its elected representatives, influenced by wishes of the neighborhoods they nominally represent? Or a self-selected group of Little Rock business establishment insiders, plus Death Star Bob Johnson, the city water despoiler from Perry County?

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