Little Rock's sad state 

Mayor Mark Stodola delivered his state of the city address last week and the message wasn't uplifting.

We haven't had a street surfacing program for four years. The police headquarters is a health hazard. A new west Little Rock fire station can't be staffed. No cop cars have been replaced in three years. Prisons and jails can't take all our criminals. The parks are blighted by lack of maintenance. Dozens of city service jobs stand empty.

So, the city will be pushing for an increase in the sales tax, at a half-cent since adoption in 1994. Most Arkansas cities charge more. But most Arkansas cities don't disappoint their citizens so often.

It was more than a little ironic to hear the mayor talk of deteriorating inner city neighborhoods and the struggling public schools. City leaders have, for decades, encouraged policies that encouraged inner city blight and abandonment of public schools. The city allowed Chenal Valley to develop outside the Little Rock School District, turbocharging white flight. The city has encouraged interstate highway corridors that divide rich and poor neighborhoods and send city workers speeding home to distant suburbs.

Even in the cratered downtown, the city has harmed itself. We let the state build office buildings with parking decks and unfriendly street level frontage. Suburban commuters need not set foot on Little Rock soil while working here.

Stodola is late to the vision thing, too. Just this week, I learned of another cultural institution lured to North Little Rock's Argenta neighborhood by big-hearted philanthropists and a can-do city government. In Little Rock, we create task forces; we draw up initiatives. We just don't do much. The downtown, a significant chunk controlled by one of the state's wealthiest citizens, withers. The River Market neighborhood is an exception thanks to brave private developers, a former president and a dynamic library chief.

I had to laugh at the mayor's call for "walkable" neighborhoods. The city has forever not required developers to build sidewalks. I could only shake my head at the litany of beggared city services, particularly the lack of sufficient parks and fire services in western Little Rock. How many times have city officials — staff and elected — told us that westward annexations pay for themselves? That impact fees would only torpedo prosperity?

Stodola's right to tie city development and healthier people. Europeans live longer, in part thanks to socialized medicine. But compact, concentrated cities help, too. People walk more, even to reach the better mass transit. They shop in small amounts more often and there are more neighborhood markets with fresh vegetables to serve them. They aren't spending hours carbound driving to and from Cabot.

City planning that encouraged suburban development has now borne bitter fruit. The suburbs have their own shopping centers. Between them and the Internet, the Little Rock sales tax base has been shot to hell.

Amid all this, the city wastes money. There's the $200,000 taxpayer dole to a Chamber of Commerce that works against the interest of workers and the public schools. Then there's the recent misspending and extravagant ways, with no consequences, the Times uncovered at Little Rock National Airport. These things happen because our government is unrepresentative. At-large board seats — and thus the moneyed interests — control government. The same special interests dominate appointments to the most important commissions.

A poor economy is the least of the mayor's worries in winning voter support for a tax increase. The biggest is city government itself.


Speaking of...


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Sunday's open line

    Here's the Sunday open line.
    • Oct 23, 2016
  • Community group seeks changes in LR School District budget

    #StandUp4LR, the grassroots group organized to regain local control of the Little Rock School District, now run by the state has issued a statement today critical of Superintendent Michael Poore's budget process for next year, particularly insufficient community input.  It also recommends a moratorium on new charter school seats in Little Rock because of the damaging impact that has on the School District.
    • Oct 23, 2016
  • State Police make arrest after gun pulled

    State trooper fires at armed man, makes arrest.
    • Oct 23, 2016
  • More »

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
  • Asa's team

    It's a measure of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appointments that the most widely praised appointment so far was of a man ineligible to hold the job.
    • Mar 3, 2015
  • Supremely discredited

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

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • 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
  • State university secrets

    Today's subject: lack of accountability at state universities.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Five Fun Fall Activities

Five Fun Fall Activities

Autumn temps are perfect for outdoor activities

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

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trumped in Arkansas

    • What a funny article, I hope sarcasm was your intent! First, since this was written…

    • on October 23, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • We are leaving in 3 hours. An I never said that anybody said I DID…

    • on October 22, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Here's some more information for the investigator from the Enquirer. It's a confession from somebody…

    • on October 21, 2016

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