Little Rock Board widens racial divide | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Little Rock Board widens racial divide

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 6:55 AM

The Little Rock City Board last night, as expected, refused to reappoint Robert Webb to the board of the Little Rock Housing Authority, as the authority had requested. The city board also declined to discuss its reason, continuing a policy of secrecy on appointments that contributes to the appearance and fact of a city controlled by a handful of people unconcerned with the broader community.

Webb has talked about a 1st Amendment lawsuit, with John Walker as his lawyer. I don't know if he has a constitutional right to be appointed to the Housing Authority, but there's little doubt he can prove he's being punished for expressing opposition to the recent Little Rock sales tax increase.

This issue is about much more than Webb's seat on a commission that provides low-cost housing. It's about a divided city. But for four upper crust Heights/Hillcrest precincts, the sales tax would have failed. Black neighborhoods were unanimously opposed. West Little Rock, its infrastructure subsidized by everyone else, didn't give a rip.

The city is nearing a majority black population and the city can't for long sustain legally a board controlled by white at-large board members in continuation of a system designed historically to give the business community/chamber of commerce control over government.

The city narrowly won a sales tax that it needed in many respects. The (secretly run) campaign was paid for by the real estate lobby. In return, Mayor Mark Stodola has adopted its mantra that development pays for itself, against solid evidence that it does not.

The city was divided in its vote. The disenfranchised see only justification for their votes in disdainful treatment of an outspoken black citizen like Robert Webb. Little Rock will reap the whirlwind. It will regret being a sore winner of this election and it will regret perpetuating a system that pits rich against poor and places the interest of an unaccountable private organization, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, above all others. Payback will be a bitch.

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