Battle Lines | Street Jazz

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Battle Lines

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 9:54 AM

Just for fun, a look at the bad old days, when progressives were labeled with the term “aginners,” and nobody seemed to trust anybody else. Most progressives in Fayetteville only counted City Board members Dan Coody and the late Julie Nash to be among their number.

According to Nash, the “traffic stop” mentioned below was the result of city employees pulling her over one night and telling her of their problems with the city administration. Unfortunately, when push came to shove, none seemed willing to come forward to back up her claim.

It was that kind of city, in the bad old days of the early 1990s.

Years later, it was my great pleasure to work for a time with Julie Nash’s daughter at the Ozark Gazette.

This originally ran as part of my “Street Jazz” column for Grapevine, and is an excerpt from “Ozark Mosaic.”

Julie Nash: Battle Lines
Written by Richard S. Drake

It has been an eventful couple of weeks, hasn't it? Every time I think I’ll  just let politics slide for a few weeks or so, and concentrate on other(just as interesting, if not more so) subjects, I open the paper and headlines hiss and, leaping out from the page, grab me roughly by the collar. What can I say? It's fate.
The once respected Northwest Arkansas Times featured an ugly, as well as misleading, headline this week (May 30), proclaiming “Nash: Chief and Manager on Drugs?” To the average  reader, it might appear that City Director Julie Nash had accused Chief Richard Watson and City Manager Scott Linebaugh of being dopers. A careful reading of the article, however, would show that Nash said nothing of the sort.
Following on the heels of the now infamous “traffic stop” incident, the Fayetteville Board commissioned former state circuit judge Mahlon Gibson to investigate. At the close of the investigation, Gibson concluded that the incident never happened. Nash maintains that it did, in fact,  occur as she said.
During her second deposition, Gibson asked Director Nash if she would consent to a polygraph test. She replied, “I'll run one. I’ll run a drug test. But there are going to be a lot of people in there with me when I do it.”
When Gibson told her she wasn’t accused of being a drug user, she said, “No, but I’ll be happy to take one. But the city manager, chief of police, and about fifty other people will be taking it with me.”
I’ve heard the same thing, many times over, from working people. I’ve heard Tyson employees say, “Sure, I’ll take a drug test, but Don Tyson had better, as well.” Far from accusing anyone of being a drug user, the employee is pointing to the unfairness of drug tests in general. If I’ve got to take one, others will also, is what they are saying.
It’s pretty obvious that only someone with an inflated sense of self-importance or else unfettered by the bonds of rationality could construe such a statement as being an accusation of anything.
City Manager Scott Linebaugh said that Nash’s statement represented “just another wild accusation.” Of course, since Nash enjoys the trust of some city employees, she might well be perceived as a threat to Linebaugh’s political potency.
Fayetteville resident Dee Wright is circulating a petition calling on Director Nash to resign. Wright says that Nash should share the financial burden of the investigations (both Gibson’s and the police internal report) even though neither was done at her instigation. Wright, who is reported to have an interest in running for City Board herself, says that the cost of the reports has been “enough out of our pockets already.” An election to replace Nash, should she resign, would cost the city additional funds.
I have to wonder where Ms. Wright was when City Directors voted to spend vast sums of city money on defending an unwinnable lawsuit. She has also been strangely silent over alleged violations of the state constitution, with regards to the infamous incinerator bonds. During last year’s Quorum Court race, many were not impressed with Wright’s shallow grasp of issues facing the county.
Meanwhile, in what could hardly be considered as a tribute to the late (and much admired) journalist Ernie Deane, The Morning News has chosen Boyce R. Davis to fill his space. Mr. Davis writes a column called The Wry Side, though there was nothing at all wry about his column on May 26 entitled, “Local Governments Need Do-Right Rule.” He contended that in Northwest Arkansas “We have too much pandering of every conceivable special interest group by elected representatives and those it appoints to special tasks.
“The Fayetteville city Board of Directors, the Washington County Quorum Court, and  the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority all spend too much time letting just any mouth that goes on autopilot open at their public meetings.” Italics added.
He further complains that credibility  is accorded those who do not merit it.
Now, where have I heard this before? Oh, yes, now I remember. It’s the same tired old argument trotted out by those who would limit public debate on various issues. It’s  just before some legislative body votes to spend  eight trillion dollars on out-of-state consultants.  When citizens rise up in protest,  they are ridiculed as being part of a “group”  that opposes progress.
And as for those “special  interest” groups that Davis has such a phobia about? I have seen only parents concerned about their children's future. I have seen only those concerned with political abuses in this county, and the anger an average citizen feels when it is apparent that, if you aren't armed with a college degree, you are not considered “credible.”
The sad truth, Mr. Davis, is that there is very little “pandering” to citizen groups in this county.
Or maybe you were speaking of those bankers and bond salesmen who see Northwest Arkansas as a financial playground? Were you referring to universities with out-of-control athletic departments? Out-of-state lawyers who are taking money, by the sackful, from city treasuries?
Or perhaps it is city officials who violate the state constitution? If these are your targets of criticism, Mr. Davis, I’d be proud to stand with you. But I don't think they are. I think you are one of those who equates lack of formal education with lack of political acumen. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Things are getting rough in Washington County. The political (and financial) stakes are very high, and the battle lines are being drawn. The winners will determine  the quality of our lives for the foreseeable future.

Grapevine - June 7, 1991



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