Behind the scenes 

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon? In Arkansas, I'd guess that most people can complete a two-step association with just about anybody else in the state.

I thought of this last week when a dandy little political scrap emerged over a Little Rock development. I thought I'd lift the curtain on the action back stage.

McKibbon Hotel Management, which has built two hotels in the River Market district, wants to build a third, a trendy Aloft Hotel, at Clinton and Commerce. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has had the jump on news about this because the hotel company would purchase the land from D-G publisher Walter Hussman. The real estate firm on the deal, Moses-Tucker, has been responsible for a great deal of River Market area development. It long ago learned its way around City Hall, where principal Jimmy Moses, my neighbor, once worked. The firm also manages the building where I work and in which I have a small interest.

The hotel would exceed the height limits for the River Market district. Moses-Tucker thought they had variances greased. But Central Arkansas Library System Director Bobby Roberts, another neighbor of mine, caught a whisper of the plans from a local contractor. He started raising heck. He'd like the land for future library use. But he also thinks the seven-story hotel will dwarf the charming old buildings the library has renovated nearby.

Roberts rounded up a potent ally, Stephens Inc., the financial colossus. They own the Capital Hotel, a nearby lodging competitor. So now you have Hussman, Moses-Tucker, a major hotel investor and the Downtown Partnership on one side. You have Warren Stephens and his lieutenants, the politically crafty Bobby Roberts and some neighborhood preservationists on the other. Moses-Tucker has worked for Stephens. The Downtown Partnership has great hopes that Stephens will some day redevelop property on moribund Main Street.

What's the Arkansas Times to do? Publisher Alan Leveritt strongly favors the hotel. More density. More action. It's an enticing argument, but, based on his record, I tend to be inclined toward Bobby Roberts on library matters.

I have personal conflicts aplenty (not to mention Times advertisers) on both sides. I went to college with Jimmy Moses and Rett Tucker. Tucker's wife works for my wife. Roberts' wife once worked for my wife. Stephens' chief operating officer Curt Bradbury, who opposed the hotel at a library trustees meeting last week, once was a very small investor in the Arkansas Times. But he angrily returned that interest for $1 after taking umbrage at our politics. He also ended Stephens' advertising with us. Still later, he called a Times reporter an offensive female anatomical slur on account of something she'd written about the Arkansas Arts Center. More recently, Arkansas Blog readers coarsely criticized an op-ed Bradbury's patron, Warren Stephens, wrote about the tax burden on the ultra-wealthy. I gather Stephens was not amused.

Whatever our differences on the core hotel issue, the publisher and I can empathize with the Aloft hotel developer. He was warned by Bradbury last week that he had made an eternal enemy. Trust us. Curt has a long memory.

The Stephens crew didn't help its cause by arguing against the new hotel on the ground that owners of the Capital, Peabody and Doubletree hotels should get a little breathing room to recoup recent investments before a new competitor was approved. Protectionism is hardly what you'd expect from Warren Stephens, self-described in his anti-tax op-ed as an “ardent free market capitalist.”




Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • So many provocations...

    Another bad week demands a Worst Of listing.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • The politics of opportunity

    Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.
  • The end is near

    Practically speaking, it doesn't really matter if Donald Trump accepts the results of the November election.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.
  • Issue 3: blank check

    Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The politics of opportunity

    • Great article. I also believe we can do better, and long for the day when…

    • on October 27, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Investigator, you are none of those things, but simply a serial ranter. At this you…

    • on October 26, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • If they really wanted to knockout the Clinton's, they would have done so with guilty…

    • on October 26, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation