In explaining why individualized trash collection preference is a right of citizenship beyond the whims of collective governance, Fort Smith Director Philip Merry Jr. says the city is not necessarily a city in the unified and conventionally understood manner. It’s a “summation of its neighborhoods,” he informs, suggesting we are a confederation of residential pockets separated by geography and historical shifts in home construction patterns and acceptable lot lines.
Amen, brother Merry and kudos to you and your wonderful band of block-voting brothers and sisters on the Board. We’ve been asking for smaller government, and we’re getting what we’ve asked for good and hard. (With apologies to Mr. Mencken.)
The thing is, Kind Fort Smith Reader, you may have a Fort Smith address, but you RESIDE in a neighborhood, not a city. I mean, this is a nice place and all, but when I tell folks I live in south Fort Smith, it’s important to note my home is not near those snooty folks at Riley Farms with their fancy homes, chemically-treated lawns, SUV-packed driveways and Greenwood School District taxes. Nosirree, we’re mortgage-holders down at the base of Fianna Hills where the weeds in my untreated lawn can get up to about 5 and one-half inches without the neighbors complaining to the city’s grass gestapo.
Obviously, clear distinctions are necessary to avoid the embarrassment of misidentification of my category of Fort Smithiness.
More importantly, such distinctions help avoid the dictates of ne’er-do-wells in other neighborhoods from encroaching upon my lifestyle through the overbearing fiat of what some four-eyed legal wonks would describe as a properly organized municipal board of directors. This majority-will-of-the-people stuff can get out of hand with these governing boards who think they can tell us what to do. And this is what Merry warns us about with his General Theory of Obstructive Neighborhood Summation.
Indeed, we may consider an across-the-board de-annex. Fort Smith already appears on a dysfunctional path to becoming the third-, fourth- or fifth-largest city in Arkansas by the 2020 Census. Let’s cut to the chase and merely concede the seemingly inevitable and divide into about four cities populated by about 20,000 folks. There’d be South Van Buren (north Fort Smith), Fort Smith Proper (downtown area and historic environs), North Greenwood (south Fort Smith) and West Barling (east Fort Smith).
And think about all the stuff we’ve been tricked into thinking was necessary for the collective good. Thankfully, Merry and his merry band — who absolutely do not discuss city business with other directors except at official meetings — have opened the door to a new way of thinking. To their credit, Merry and his merry band have certainly put the “Nay” in neighborhood. Following are a few examples of the oppressive capacity of a municipal government.
• Water and sewer system
Who needs it? Lemme install a septic tank. There are a lot of septic tank companies out there in the private sector trampled upon with this taxpayer-supported water and sewer system monopoly. This country was built by people who had water wells and septic tanks. Let’s sell Lake Fort Smith to the federal government, or the U.S. Navy or the Chinese.
• Chaffee Crossing
Who needs it? Enough already with using my tax dollars to build infrastructure out there for private-sector operations. Doesn’t do anything for my neighborhood. Let the private sector develop the rest of Fort Chaffee. Or sell it to the Chinese.
• Franchise fees
Who needs a municipal government negotiating on the hood’s behalf? Am certain my neighborhood could negotiate a higher fee with Cox, AOG or AT&T. Especially those folks with AT&T. Would have them on a strict, two-year deal. They so much as a paint a utility box or add a new line and we add on extra charges and start anew on the two-year contract. We’d use the money from our new negotiations to build a community pool or hire Van Halen for a block party concert. And if the utilities don’t wanna play ball, we sell the franchise rights to the Chinese.
Speaking of franchise fees, what the heck with this right-of-way business? The city “claims” to have access to damn-near 10 feet into my front yard. I don’t think so. Doesn’t seem fair that my family has to live with decades-ago decisions about road placement and right-of-way rules. Property rights won’t be watered down in my neighborhood. It’s un-American.
• Fire Department
OK, so we do need a fire department, but who says we need all these fire stations. There are enough houses in our neighborhood to rotate the trucks and firefighters. We could sleep two firemen in our garage for a week or two each year. We can sell the fire stations to Marshals Museum folks. Instead of one big museum, we have them scattered about town, with each location featuring a different period in the Marshal’s history. Wouldn’t be convenient for tourists, but this is more about the convenience of neighborhoods and not a bunch of camera-toting overnighting outta-towners who just make the wait longer at the Olive Garden. Or we sell the stations to the Chinese.
• Fort Smith Public Library
Who needs it? Ever heard of the Internet?! Our family does our book reading on them electronic tablets. Someone needs to explain to me why I should pay to support a facility for folks with an old-fashioned affinity for books. Our neighborhood would make a deal with the Crystal Bridges folks for a satellite operation at the Miller branch of the library. Or we’d sell it to the Chinese.
And our fancy and modern landfill and city sanitation operation that a great majority of U.S. cities would kill to own is about to become less efficient. We better hurry and sell that thing to the you-know-who before they get wise.