Favorite

Affirmative action 

The Little Rock Board of Directors faces an interesting decision Sept. 19.

It will review 17 applications for the at-large board seat vacated by Barbara Graves, who’s running for mayor, and pick someone to serve the two years remaining in her term. It’s a choice appointment because the person chosen may run for the job in 2008. In many elective offices in Arkansas, persons appointed to vacancies may not run to succeed themselves.

This is an important seat because it is a balance-of-power seat. The city board has 11 members counting the mayor. He counts as a director because his mayoral power is mainly ceremonial. He has no more structural power than any other director.

When city political brokers years ago granted city voters some limited zone representation, the retention of three at-large seats put a critical governor on representative democracy. It essentially gave the business establishment the hammer over issues that tended to divide along class and racial lines. Over the years, the higher-income zone representatives have often formed a majority alliance with at-large directors. Often, the board’s three black members are in lonely opposition. This is not invariably true, of course. For one thing, Joan Adcock, an at-large director, is unpredictable, not to mention a vigorous advocate for the Southwest neighborhood from which she comes.

The at-large seats tend to represent establishment views for the simple reason that they are elected citywide. It costs more money to run for an at-large seat. Grassroots candidates can be swamped by establishment money in at-large races.

Simple arithmetic dictates a break from business as usual. The city has a 40.4 percent black population according to the most recent Census data and it could be higher today. There are small but measurable percentages of Latinos and Asians. A representative government should include at least one person of color among the three at-large board seats and at least four among the 11 members overall. A minority appointment in this instance is the right thing to do, particularly in a city that’s lately begun touting its diversity.

Geography is a factor as well. A vast swath of the original city of Little Rock, from its eastern boundary to University Avenue south of Markham Street, counts only two zone representatives on the board. The Heights and western Little Rock wield a disproportionate amount of power (and are home to all four candidates for mayor this year).

Graves has been a hard-working, well-informed city director. She’s also been a reliable ally of the business establishment, as when she joined forces against the interests of the center city (and voters at large) in voting to approve the Summit Mall.

The board needs more voices from the urban core of town, where people are dying violent deaths in near-record numbers, where housing stock is deteriorating and where petty crime and homelessness are constant neighbors.

I have no preference on the list of candidates. All may be worthy. It just seems past time to turn to someone other than the usual suspect— a familiar white man from a high-income neighborhood. The city board did that twice not long ago in filling two openings on the Little Rock Airport Commission. It should not follow that pattern this time, but look outside the clubhouse.




Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Caution: government at work

    I have several government targets this week.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Pork barrel III

    Mike Wilson, the Jacksonville lawyer and former state representative, for the third time last week won a victory for the Arkansas Constitution and taxpayers and set back pork barreling.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Fishy lawmaking

    Last week, the legislature decided not to press a fight that could have further upended a balance of power in Arkansas already tilted too far in favor of the legislative branch.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Cotton to CIA?

    Political junkies without a real election to overanalyze fill the void with "what if?" scenarios. With the State Fair underway, consider this column a helping of cotton candy for such readers.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The casting couch

    • sigh............ I would argue that the idea of 'freedom from fear' is part of the…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • As to the AR Chamber of Commerce-DO NOT FORGET it supports passage of SJR8, which…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • Freedom from fear is a human right.

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation