This week's Times: The LR Tech Park | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This week's Times: The LR Tech Park

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 6:41 AM

NFS: Neighborhood organizes to oppose taking of land for tech park.
  • NFS: Neighborhood organizes to oppose taking of land for tech park.
The appearance of an organized opposition in a Central Little Rock neighborhood to expropriation of the neighborhood by the Little Rock Technology Park Authority prompted news coverage yesterday (on Channel 4) and elsewhere. Three sites are under consideration, but the neighborhood across I-630 from UAMS feels particularly at risk because the Authority Board members targeted it specifically for study.

It's a good time to mention that the Arkansas Times' cover story this week will be an in-depth examination of the public agency's work by Leslie Newell Peacock. It should be on-line tonight.

Noted: Interesting phrasing in the Democrat-Gazette (pay wall) about how the legislature created this authority and how the legislature "commissioned" a study on sites for the office park. The legislation was written by and for representatives of the taxpayer-subsidized Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which dominates the membership of the controlling authority board and thus the decision making. The chamber, in secret, ran the city sales tax campaign that provided the authority with $22 million. The chamber is running the administrative office for the authority, including destroying public documents, such as rankings by authority board members on the civil engineering firm contract proposals, as it deems appropriate. The legislature was merely a pass-through on all this. The chamber's cutouts will decide which neighborhood is taken.

Some day the Authority/Chamber might explain why a five-minute drive to UAMS or UALR was deemed such a critical part of the equation; why significant chunks of unused or underused land adjoining UALR at Asher and Fair Park weren't considered for the project, and, most of all, what other public sources of money will be tapped to pay the rest of the $50 million-plus cost of getting the project off the ground.

PS — I learned today that the Tech Park Authority, which will have immense impact on the lives of ordinary citizens even if the idea flops, apparently isn't subject to public disclosure laws that requires annual filing of statement of financial interest by many other public officials, including the Little Rock Board of Directors and the Little Rock Planning Commission. So says City Attorney Tom Carpenter. The problem is that the lengthy list of agencies covered by disclosure laws was adopted before this authority was created. What say we fix that? Oughtn't there be a law that requires financial disclosure by an agency with power to condemn land, spend tax money and uproot people from their homes? Maybe the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce could get such a law passed.

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