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Doubling down

Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
mtilley@thecitywire.com

This continued effort by a few members of the Fort Smith Board of Directors to micromanage city operations is troublesome, puzzling and frustrating.

Let’s recap.

The Fort Smith Board over several months dicked around with a plan approved more than five years ago to fully automate the city’s trash collection service.  At least four members of the board wanted us to believe that a proven and widely-accepted municipal function was somehow a hardship on enough city residents to require tinkering.

Fort Smithian Joel Culberson initiated a referendum to put the automated trash issue on the ballot. His effort was unfortunate in that it was not too far removed from requiring a ballot initiative to provide water and sewer services equally to all city residents.

Culberson’s initiative reached the ballot, and 80% of Fort Smith voters said they wanted automated trash service. 80-fricking-percent.

For those of you who thought this would send a clear message to the Board to knock it off already with the counting-of-paper-clips form of governance, well, think again. Not only are we counting paper clips, but we’re examining the bend and diameter of each clip.

Before we continue, let’s assume that Fort Smith City Directors Philip Merry Jr., and Pam Weber have the most golden of honest intentions – pure beyond any Messianic measures.

Under that assumption, it appears that Philip and Pam have decided to double down on micromanaging.

Philip, knowing that City Directors-elect Keith Lau and Mike Lorenz have little interest in stirring up unnecessary controversy with narrowly-supported animal control measures, attempted to push the aforementioned measures through during an expedited meeting schedule in December. The bottom line is that Philip wanted to push through in 30 days what the community has not been able to come to terms on during a more than 18-month cycle of hearings and task force reports. Philip failed with his effort, but to suggest this was a selfish and irresponsible action is to be kind.

The double downing continues.

Pam called a public meeting – held in a popular, packed and loud restaurant – to discuss city beautification efforts. The meeting, held with minimal public and media notice, did not facilitate public input and proved difficult for the media to cover because of the noise. Other than to show that they can call a meeting where ever and anytime they please, little was accomplished on a subject that is so critical to the city. To suggest this was a selfish and irresponsible action is to be kind.

The double downing continues.

Pam decided she wanted more trees planted in downtown Fort Smith. To do this, she attempted to drag under the bus a respectable Fort Smith-based businessman who is one of best ambassadors this city has. (Unfortunately, this businessman may not be aware that Pam created the conflict that resulted in his discomfort.)

The deal was, this businessman bought too many trees for a federally funded project in downtown Fort Smith. Pam was made aware of the details of how such projects are funded and what may and may not happen with those dollars. But Pam decided her interests were superior to federal requirements and attempted to suggest the city staff was nefarious in its dealings with said businessman and attempted to convince other that the city was overly difficult to deal with. She did this during a 2013 budget meeting that had NOTHING to do with money spent on trees during the 2012 budget cycle.

You may have heard many stories about this issue, but the deal is you can’t go mixing federal funds on one project with another project that doesn’t have a federal approval. The feds don’t care how pure your intentions may be, they don’t allow – and for good reasons – the shuffling of funds at the local level for purposes that may appear similar.

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The dissension created by Pam’s request muted more serious considerations necessary for improved oversight of the 2013 budget. To suggest this was a selfish and irresponsible action on Pam’s part is to be kind.

The recent micromanaging efforts of Philip and Pam reflect the actions of public officials who have no appreciation for or no understanding of the basic protocols of municipal governance. Or both.

Either way, Philip and Pam would do the city a great service by refraining or resigning.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.3 (27 votes)

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Comments

doubling down

I find your comments narrow minded and biased and actually offensive. Using obscene words puts you at a new low.

Urban speak

The urban speak used in this opinion piece only helps to demonstrate the sheer frustration the entire community has had over the continued Pam and Phil histrionics. This is an opinion piece so I would expect a focused narrative. On the flip side, there is no defense. The only one that comes to mind is a selective passion, and even then, it must be transparent, timely, and essential to overall goals. Goals, by the way, that have yet to be fully articulated.

Doubling Down

Apparently Mr. Gossack and staff need some micro-managing. The City of Fort Smith, thanks to his management, gave away approximately $280,000.00to Van Buren, supposedly because Van Buren was not billed in the right time frame, insurance quotes were not obtained, in the right time frame, thereby costing the city more money and now we have had to give a very successfull developer $150,000.00 because the time frame for billing was not followed. Tell me again how Mr. Gossack and his staff are managing the city funds and looking out for the citizens of Fort Smith. This is all in one year. And, in the meantime, how many more boxes of important documents are "in the basement waiting to be removed by workers"? If private enterprise ran their business this way they would declare bankruptcy. Not the City they just add more taxes and tell us how great the management is.

Thank You, Michael

Very well put. You cited your position and provided examples to illustrate. Everyone should be this thorough when presenting arguments. Instead we get a lot of ad hominems and dismissals from people who aren't interested in looking at facts. It would not hurt my feelings at all for those two to step down.

Sports analogy

The Fort Smith BOD is the 2012 Razorback football coaching staff: a chaotic clown show lacking in authority, leadership, focus, discipline, vision, innovation, planning, and so forth. Sure, there are some talented coaches within the group, but the lack of cohesive strategy only results in an uneven, convoluted mess on the field of play. Like the athletic department and board of trustees, the local chamber of commerce and state government talk a good game and drop hints that good things are in the pipeline, but to this point have said and produced little of actual substance. Regardless, with the game on the line and the ball at the goal line, they would rather kick a field goal than go for a touchdown. Now, this is where someone says we should "throw the bums out!", which we've done a couple times in the last 10-15 years. The rah-rah cheerleading of Houston Nutt and Ray Baker only did so much, and sadly, the current clowns make those days look good in comparison. Nolan Richardson won a championship with a fiery determination and innovative pressure defense. Bobby Petrino took his team to the top five with a cold discipline and meticulously planned and executed offense. Where is our innovation? High-skill manufacturing? High-speed fiber optic broadband? Anything? Where is our meticulous plan? Rather than another paid consultant or toothless committee formed to create another toothless committee? Unless someone (or everyone) steps up, we are going to continue to wander aimlessly in the desert while Alabama (NWA) wins one championship after another.

Spot On

I find your comments spot on. Your article tells the reality of the situation. It is time for these two to cut the nonsense out.

Those Two

Phillip and Pam are two peas in a pod. They need to resign....now; no, yesterday!

Really...

The above opinion is shameful and Tilley you deserve a lump of coal for Christmas this year. It amazes me, an educated reader, of your lack of true facts and judgment on these issues. Furthermore, it surprises me how you are able to take such a firm stand on issues such as animal welfare and trash that leads you to call for the resignation of 2 individuals who have devoted countless hours and efforts to bring Fort Smith in an urban direction. The last time that I checked no city, including Fort Smith, was a "one size fits all" city. The new trash system does not work for all citizens mostly those in historic districts and those who have alleys designed for trash pickup. Regarding animal welfare, Fort Smith euthanizes more animals than the city of Detroit as a percentage of population. This truth is saddening. All "urban" cities have mandatory spay/neuter laws to protect animals and citizens. You should read about these laws. There is a wealth of information for you at the click of a mouse. Weber tried to improve the aesthetic appeal of our downtown area to make Fort Smith appear more "urban" and this is how you choose to repay her for her countless hours of effort and numerous calls to raise private funds. The project would have been beneficial to all who frequent our downtown area. You got exactly what you wanted though...NOTHING. I noticed that you failed to properly report as most good journalists do on the forgivenss of Mr. Coleman’s failure to repay his $150,000 plus interest loan. I would think that issue would be pretty newsworthy. Again, shame on you Michael Tilley. And remember, Santa is watching...
The above opinion is shameful and Tilley you deserve a lump of coal for Christmas this year. It amazes me, an educated reader, of your lack of true facts and judgment on these issues. Furthermore, it surprises me how you are able to take such a firm stand on issues such as animal welfare and trash that leads you to call for the resignation of 2 individuals who have devoted countless hours and efforts to bring Fort Smith in an urban direction. The last time that I checked no city, including Fort Smith, was a "one size fits all" city. The new trash system does not work for all citizens mostly those in historic districts and those who have alleys designed for trash ...>> Read the entire comment.

The point is...

Those countless hours you refer to have been in secret, successive meetings. They have been spent tabling agenda items when the votes were against them or rushing an agenda item if they think they can pull a fast one. They have been spent orchestrating red shirted intimidation parades at meetings and patsies on boards. And now we learn that they have been spent by first trying to fund a project with federal funds outside the scope of the intended purpose, and then second by trying to force a city purchase for items first ordered under the scheme. OK, so sometimes politics is about playing the game and conniving in the back room. But what we continue to hear are excuses, convoluted re-engineering of storylines, denials and fabrications. About as close to out and out lying as you can come. Whatever glorious end results rest at the end of their missions, be it dogs, trash, or trees, the citizens of this town don't deserve the games being played.

Weber and Merry should resign. Now.

I truly believe Directors Weber and Merry had the best of intentions when they ran for office 2 years ago. They tried really hard the last 2 years in doing what they felt was right. Unfortunately that is where the fairy tale ends and becomes a nightmare. The two have no common sense, less political savvy than any country bumpkin you could find on the street and did I mention, no common sense. They have become a joke and in the process ruined paper-thin good reputations in the process. They should do everyone a favor and resign. I now know why petitions to have them recalled started. They deserve this fate. They have been manhandled and had their lunch eaten by master manipulator Director Kevin Settle. Anyone that can have Director Settle (no genius)teach them a lesson should be ashamed of themselves. The best Director right now is Director Catsavis. Know why? He puts on no airs of greatness or sophistication. He does not pretend to be anything other than someone who wants to help. Here's hoping we have 2 spots open soon. What a shame.

Amen, Michael

Michael, You are 100% correct about these 2 directors. Pam Weber and Phillip Merry are more interested in their personal agenda instead of what is best for the 80-fricking-percent of the citzens. They need to find a reason to leave the board. Can I get an Amen.

Amen

Amen

Double down

So Michael. You're judge, jury and executioner now? Ever heard of being a journalist and covering stories, even opinions, In at least an educated fashion. You are only allowing people to see your vitriole disguised as opinion. What I see is a sad writer wannabe. As a resident of fort smith, I have gotten no response from directors settle, Hutchings and Goode when i have asked or their input. I have received input from catsavis, weber and merry. We know who is trying to Make this city better and its not Settle and his minions, one of which is you.