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.
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?
The Little Rock City Board agenda includes a resolution asking state Education Commissioner Johnny Key, functionally the school board of the state-controlled Little Rock School District, for a community impact study of the schools in the district Key has decided to close to save money. Practically, it's meaningless. But symbolically it's not. /more/
KTHV has a report on Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore's appearance Tuesday night before the Little Rock City Board of Directors to talk about recent school closure decisions and a coming vote on a half-billion in new taxes for the state-controlled district. /more/
Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will increase their contributions to the Little Rock Technology Park by $25,000 each for two years, park Director Brent Birch says. /more/
Aaron Reddin of The One, who organized the effort, said the city has posted notices at four camps in the past few weeks demanding that people vacate the premises within five days. When the deadline runs out, code enforcement has in some cases thrown away people's belongings, he stated. /more/
Ritter Communications, a technology company based in Jonesboro, has signed a five-year lease for 1,328 square feet on the fifth floor of the Little Rock Technology Park, becoming the largest tenant to date in the Tech Park's first building at 417 Main St. /more/
Blue Sail Coffee Roasters of Conway will open a coffee shop in the Little Rock Technology Park in mid-March, owner Kyle Tabor said Thursday. The park's first building, at 417 Main St., is to open Feb. 24, but Tabor said he was reluctant to open before construction, on the first floor of building, is complete. /more/
The Senate today voted 20-9 to pass Sen. Bryan King's bill that says a fourth commitment to the Arkansas Department of Correction means the person sentenced must serve at least 80 percent of the sentence before parole eligibility.
Russell Racop has filed, as promised, his lawsuit over the State Police's refusal — under guidance from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge — to release records that provide information that led to the firing of current Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Director Boyce Hamlet as a state trooper.
IndieWire breaks news long whispered downtown — a more ambitious successor to the Little Rock Film Festival is in the works, with backing from writer/director Jeff Nichols, a Little Rock native. His "Loving" has won wide acclaim recently.
UPDATE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the expanded concealed carry legislation, but some additional legislation is promised, at a minimum to exempt UAMS and the State Hospital from the expanded list of places where concealed weapons are allowed for those with a new permit that requires an additional day of training.