Eying a race

Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Jason Willett confirmed rumors that he is considering a run for the Dist. 75 seat in the state House currently held by attorney general candidate Dustin McDaniel.

“I have been approached to seek this seat and I will not rule it out,” Willett said. “I am open to considering putting my own name on the ballot as I am encouraging other people in state to run on the Democratic ticket because I believe the next election is going to be one of the most important in my lifetime.”

When asked if his own campaign would conflict with his responsibilities as party chairman, Willett pointed out that state Republican Party chairman Gilbert Baker is also a state senator.

Willett said he will decide whether or not to contend for the seat by the end of 2005, and that his decision would be affected if a “strong Democrat from the City of Jonesboro got in the race.”

Willett graduated from Jonesboro High School and returned to live there with his wife in 1996.

Cool clothes

People who know better than us say that Hollister Co., a retailer that sells Southern California-style clothing (whatever that is), is the latest hot thing for the younger generation.

If it means anything to you, this should, too. The retailer arrives at Park Plaza in the first quarter of 2006. It will take some space formerly occupied by the Luby’s cafeteria.

Behind the scenes

Just the other day, Little Rock City Hall made news with release of the work of a secret task force on new taxes. The group had met without public notice and without participation from grassroots groups before recommending asking voters for a half-cent sales tax for the city and another eighth-of-a-cent sales tax to raise a $25 million economic development slush fund.

Now comes word of the work of yet another low-profile City Hall task force with recommendations on raising more money. This is the so-called “boundary street ordinance work group.” It included a representative from the League of Women Voters and a representative of the Heights neighborhood, but otherwise mainly comprised developers, the people who work for them, and utilities.

The work group’s mission was to come up with a plan to pay for street improvements in growing areas. Now, people who own land along streets pay for the streets. They tend to be unwilling to pay the freight when expensive widening of major arteries is needed, however, and the roads become bottlenecks. Case in point: Kanis Road.

We’re told the group has recommended a “street development fee,” an impact fee that would apply to new development citywide and go into a fund for future street needs. City Manager Bruce Moore is reviewing the work of the group and will make a report to the city board, but hasn’t responded to our request for a copy of the work group’s specific recommendation.

This proposal would not, a work group member tells us, eliminate the need for a new pot of money to jump-start work on existing needs in West Little Rock. This is where talk of bond issues, property tax increases and tax increment finance districts is likely to recur.


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