Government by fiat | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Government by fiat

Posted By on Sat, Apr 29, 2006 at 12:17 PM

The Jonesboro Sun article on the collapse of a John Q. Hammons hotel deal there makes clear that you either do things the way he says or you don't get the deal. It wasn't enough that the City Council readily voted with little public discussion to call an election for a tax to pay three-fourths of the cost of the convention center Hammons required for his hotel.

The City Council voted to place the issue in the hands of the voters on June 13. But Hammons apparently wasn't pleased with the way aldermen handled it.

A section of the ordinance to levy the proposed 1 percent sales tax to fund the convention center project was rephrased. The original document stated that the City Council "has determined there is a need" for the convention center. Aldermen changed it to say that the City Council "has determined there is a need to allow the citizens to determine the need" for a convention center.

Several members of the Jonesboro City Council understood that they are doing the public's business, not merely rubber-stamping backroom deals.

Alderman Tim McCall expressed his frustration with the outcome.

"I'm disappointed that Mr. Hammons made the decision not to pursue the development," McCall told The Sun. "I'm also disappointed that Mr. Fowler and Mayor Formon are upset with the City Council's elected duty to ask questions."

He said the council's public airing of the issue was needed.

"I felt public discussion was warranted since the City Council did not play a role in the negotiation process," McCall said.


Alderman Alec Farmer said he asked questions about the proposal because he had an obligation to the people of Jonesboro.

"I was not elected by John Q. Hammons, and I was not elected by Wallace Fowler," Farmer said Friday evening. "I was elected by the citizens of the city of Jonesboro to represent them, and in good conscience, I could not endorse a proposal that I knew little about. I don't know what else to say."

Alderman Mitch Johnson said that it was unfair to blame the council for Hammons' decision.

"I think we're trying to do a good job of managing the city's money for the citizens and that's why we wanted to leave it up to them," Johnson said. "The ultimate decision to make that much of a major investment by the city should be by the citizens of Jonesboro, not necessarily the council."


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