Friday, March 16, 2012

Coffee with Mayor Stodola

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 10:49 AM

MAYOR MARK STODOLA
  • MAYOR MARK STODOLA
I was slow off the mark this morning because Mayor Mark Stodola and I spent more than an hour talking about this and that at the River Market. No tables were overturned. A fair amount of the conversation was of the agree-to-disagree sort.

Some odds and ends.

* DISCLOSURE: Mayor Stodola said without equivocation that he supports application of financial disclosure law to members of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority. They are not now covered.

* VETS CENTER: Stodola is unshaken in his belief that a better outcome could have been reached had the VA sought the city as a partner in finding a new location for its day center, now mainly at 2nd and Ringo. Officials hope to move to 10th and Main, but the city isn't happy about the choice. He said, for example, that a building at 900 W. Markham, though much closer to City Hall, would be a far better site. He indicates the city will continue to exercise its usual rigor in enforcing rules on land use where major building renovations are proposed. (Documents on that fight at this link). The possibility that vets might take their fresh air in front of the building seems a great concern to the city. He insists that, if the city says a variance to allow landscaping, parking or other changes is necessary, it will get a fair hearing at the Board of Adjustment. He questioned the size of the rent the VA will pay and whether it had pre-arranged a deal with the property owner. But he said the center might well wind up at 10th and Main, as a signed contract provides.

* BIKE TRAILS: Stodola says the city is completing another application for federal funding (with Sen. John Boozman's support, even) for a River Trail extension built on the bluff behind the Dillard's headquarters. If that fails again, he said his preferred option is creating a bike trail corridor on the problem stretch of Cantrell in front of Dillard's and Episcopal Collegiate on the north (Dillard's) side of the road. He said the curb cuts there are minor obstacles, at issue mainly at morning and evening rush hour. He said the city had looked into a path around the back of the Episcopal school but said it would be even more expensive than the cantilevered project behind Dillard's.

* OPEN GOVERNMENT: He said the city had no role to play in the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce's decision to refuse to detail spending on the campaign to raise the city sales tax. Didn't it win my complaint at the Ethics Commission, he asked? (Yes, I responded, but Ethics commissioners did promise to fix a gaping hole in the law that the chamber and its consultant, the Markham Group, exploited.) Though the money was to benefit the city, Stodola didn't think it was his place to urge disclosure of the spending. He noted that the campaign had provided a breakdown of general types of expenditures (but no specific recipients except the Markham Group). I tactfully suggested that a strong mayor could influence such decisions and that the city, as a beneficiary of the money, owed a demonstration of belief in openness.

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