The death of Fort Smith’s prosperity

guest commentary by David Potts

Editor’s note: David Potts is a certified public accountant with more than 33 years experience. Although every effort is made to provide you accurate and timely tax information, it is general in nature and not specific to your facts and circumstances. Consult a qualified tax professional to discuss your particular case. Feel free to e-mail topic suggestions or questions to davidpotts@potts-cpa.com

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.

“Unreasonable.” “Vindictive!” “They read too many books.” “They avoid common sense.” “Fort Smith is the laughing stock of the state.”

Above is a sampling of the comments I heard from various people to describe their personal experience with Fort Smith’s permitting process to build or renovate real property in Fort Smith.

A couple of months ago I began asking business owners, builders, and subcontractors who had worked with Fort Smith’s building permit approval and inspection processes about their personal experiences working with the city. I have heard all my life how difficult it was to work with the city building department. I was surprised by the number and extent of their negative comments. I didn’t hear one positive comment, literally.

In each conversation I was told stories of unreasonable demands, project time delays, and building inspectors that made projection completion difficult. And each person I spoke with had knowledge of at least one business owner who cancelled plans to build in Fort Smith or built in another community because of the city’s demands.

Yet when I talk with people about our Parks and Recreation Department, our Police Department, our Fire Department, even our Sanitation Department, you will get a few wise cracks, but people are generally complimentary of each of those departments. What is going on in our City Planning and Development Department?

The more questions I asked and the more people I listened to the more I understood this is normal for Fort Smith and has been for decades. So it would be unfair to criticize the city employees who administer the process today. They are just doing what has always been expected of them. The problem, I believe, is further up the command structure.

As I listened to people talk about their experiences, several gave specific illustrations where they had worked in Fort Smith and in Northwest Arkansas. Each explained how simple the building process was in Fayetteville or Springdale or Rogers as compared to Fort Smith. The building process in Northwest Arkansas was less expensive to comply with each city’s requirements and less aggravating to complete. One Northwest Arkansas builder asked rhetorically, “Why would I build in Fort Smith where the costs of development [based on the demands of the city] are significantly more but the value of the completed house is substantially less than a house in Northwest Arkansas?” His point is why would a builder choose to build in a less profitable location.

There is great hoopla when the Chamber announces a business is coming to town or a local business is expanding that will create 100 or 500 jobs. But when a culture exists that systematically kills the projects that would add 5 jobs or 15 jobs over decades, the damage is great. It is a lot like compound interest.

Most adults understand the concept of compound interest and the importance of savings. By saving money consistently in an interest bearing account, over time as the interest income is added into the savings balance and it earns more interest, in 30 years or so you have a large savings account balance. I believe that if our city had developed a culture to help businesses build and expand 30 years ago, Fort Smith would have been as prosperous as Northwest Arkansas. Instead we continually experience stunted growth.

In order to understand the problem, you need to understand certain nuances of what goes on in the permit approval process. We all want a beautiful city with a high quality of life. The city develops a comprehensive plan every 10 years or so. The plan is future looking and generally includes plans for community centers, bike trails, parks, and all the amenities a citizen would like to have. It paints such a great picture of what Fort Smith will look like that nobody would say no to approving the plan. But they fail to plan in as much detail one important factor. How will the city pay for all the public spaces and buildings.

The easiest thing for the city to do is to pass zoning requirements and ordinances that require commercial builders and developers to include most of the niceties they planned for. It is easier than trying to pass a sales tax increase.

An example: Apparently the city believes that to beautify Fort Smith any commercial building or expansion requires the owner plant trees. Sometimes to plant trees the owner will have to jack hammer through a parking lot to get to the dirt required for a tree to survive. This specific requirement aggravated one business owner enough that he chose to build his new building in a neighboring community. It was just one of many added requirements that don’t exist in competing cities that force up building costs.

Another constant theme I repetitively heard was the uncompromising way inspectors enforce the building codes. Common sense instructs the public that building codes are necessary for our safety and protection from less than scrupulous builders and investors. So we can agree that inspectors are important and needed. But when they enforce the building code without flexibility, delays occur and costs go up.

For example, one architect told me a story about how an inspector made a plumber tear out a toilet because it was three-fourths of an inch off the required spacing. I’m not a plumber so my description may be lacking. But what was made clear is that the inspector enforced “the code” not because it was a threat to public safety or limiting access to the toilet. It was just slightly less than an inch off what the code required.

These types of stories seem to be plentiful. Over the decades a culture has developed where city administrators believe in order to do their job well, in the name of “the building code” and the comprehensive plan, they inadvertently drive up building costs, delay approval of building projects, send out uncompromising building inspectors to enforce the code even when it doesn’t make sense. What they fail to consider is that businesses choose how and where to spend their money, not the city. If project owners feel they will not get an appropriate return on investment, they will choose not to invest in a project or choose to relocate. This kills jobs and future growth.

Change in the building permitting and inspection process is needed. I’m not advocating an elimination of common sense and I’m not advocating elimination of laws and regulations that protect the public from fire hazards and other safety issues. I am advocating that we recognize that one of the most important factors to future growth of jobs in Fort Smith is the administration of Fort Smith’s building permit and inspection process. A new mindset is needed where they understand their success is dependent on private business’ choice to locate in Fort Smith. Our city needs to learn to work with business owners, builders, and subcontractors to assist in business growth and expansion to provide economic opportunity in Fort Smith.

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If it had not been for the increase in population in our Hispanic community in the last decade, Fort Smith and the surrounding area would not have experienced growth. That would mean for each new child born another being dies or leaves. A large number of those leaving are native born and they leave in order to find a bright future because their home town can’t seem to find a way to provide them viable opportunities. This means our schools are educating our Fort Smith bred and born children with our tax dollars to benefit other towns and other communities. Many parents follow their children when they retire. Finding a way to attract business investment, including the steady growth in small business investments is needed to keep Fort Smith from a slow death.

Fort Smith has a comprehensive plan. But can we honestly claim Fort Smith has a comprehensive vision that provides economic prosperity and opportunity for the future generations of our children?

Let me emphasize that I believe this problem is a not created by the people working in the permitting and building process today. I believe the problem is older than many of them. However I believe we need to update their job descriptions with a line that says “help Fort Smith prosper by finding a way to make the building permit and inspection process in Fort Smith as economically feasible as any town in Northwest Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.

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Comments

City Leaders and Maintenance of power

My family has had property here, businesses here, and built many residential and commercial buildings here through the years. We have never had a friendly 'partnership' style experience in Fort Smith as has been the experience in other area cities. Our family has always believed this is because if the region were allowed to grow the be the hub it would without the constant resistance, the relative power of those currently determining what happens here would be diluted so much that their influence would be over.

Arrogance Of Power

Its certainly appears that some weak city leadership has an attitude of superiority that is manifested in an overbearing manner with the presumption that its their way or the highway! Generally this happens when the top echelon of management is dependent on subordinates for their survival and allows the lower level to interpose or interpret the rules and then assumes a position of support for the errant decisions. It almost an unconscious reaction because they do not have the ability to manage and right the ship.

Specifics

It is good you received some specific anecdotes of how NWA code is simpler and cheaper. Besides overly rigid inspectors, can you be more specific in examples of requirements and fees that exist in Fort Smith that don't exist in Fayetteville, Rogers or Bentonville? You gave a brief example of trees. A quick glance at the Fayetteville city website lists two entire chapters on tree preservation regulations and landscaping requirements for developers including a "Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee" and landscape regulations for parking lots of more than five spaces, concrete curb requirements and irrigation systems. And bicycle rack requirements? Are these business requirements truly less stringent and less costly in comparison to Fort Smith? Tree Preservation: http://www.accessfayetteville.org/government/city_clerk/documents/code_book/CHAPTER%20167.pdf Landscaping: http://www.accessfayetteville.org/government/city_clerk/documents/code_book/CHAPTER%20177.pdf On the other end of the spectrum, Springdale has an anecdotal reputation for lax codes, yet has almost no new commercial and limited new residential development, particularly in comparison to their neighbors, despite being centrally located within the NWA metro. Oddly, Springdale is considered a less desirable location. Why aren't businesses fleeing Fayetteville and Bentonville for the lax business environment of Springdale or any number of surrounding small towns with limited rules and enforcement mechanisms? Could it be there are much bigger economic factors at work? Is it not possible people are predisposed to look for any and every fault in Fort Smith regulations due to longstanding preconceived beliefs that have existed, as you say, for decades and all your life, which I assume pre-dates any comprehensive plan? And if Fort Smith has always maintained such prohibitively high aesthetic standards on businesses, why do almost all the older business corridors appear to adhere to no standard beyond a prefabricated steel wall and roof?

key entry points

As always David, an excellent essay! I appreciate your writing style. You write with reason about the physical experience and you appeal to the reason of others. Even though your main focus is on various specifics of the physical experience, you always seem to point to the mindset and how that needs to be changed. This indicates to me that you do recognize that the doing and having is coming from the thinking. That being said, from what you have written, I have excerpted parts of three statements that I believe reveal key entry points from which to launch an exploration into the questions of, "What makes Fort Smith 'tick' the way it does?" And, "How do we get it to 'tick' in a more prosurvival way?" The three excerpts are: "Over the decades a culture has developed"... "A new mindset is needed"... "I believe the problem is older..." David, in part 15 of my blog series, The Fort Smith Experience, I am going to begin this exploration. As I do, I will certainly greatly appreciate any contribution of any kind that is made by anyone.
As always David, an excellent essay! I appreciate your writing style. You write with reason about the physical experience and you appeal to the reason of others. Even though your main focus is on various specifics of the physical experience, you always seem to point to the mindset and how that needs to be changed. This indicates to me that you do recognize that the doing and having is coming from the thinking. That being said, from what you have written, I have excerpted parts of three statements that I believe reveal key entry points from which to launch an exploration into the questions of, "What makes Fort Smith 'tick' the way it does?" And, "How do we get it ...>> Read the entire comment.

1970's..Glory days coming to an end

Ok..then something is very different here so what is it? We can readily envision how a lot of people working a little can have a noticeable effect but it becomes harder for us to realize how just a few people concentrating their efforts while working unbelievably hard for an enormous amount of time can do so much more especially since I made it all up about what the lot of people did to begin with. How does one person turn a giant airplane..isn't a stick sometimes moved only a few inches? What could even just one or two people do if they memorized these codes, could call in an unlimited number of complaints anonymously 100% of which the city has check, and they also worked at it real hard. What havoc could they create for the many if they were retired and merely didn't want a business to exist in a location because it might inconvenience them slightly? Perhaps when people here see a fern hanging on every job Johnny they'll get curious enough to do wonder why.

Things Nees To Change

Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I know of story after story of businesses having unfavorable experiences with the city and even others more who either gave up and left or didn't come in the first place because of our reputation. We have talked about this for years and I've never understood why things have never gotten better. So sad. It is costing our entire community growth and revenue. I agree with all of your points!

Death of Fort Smith's Prosperity

David, you are spot on with this report. I have extensive experience with the City Building and Planning Departments and find them very difficult to deal with. I have spoken to several businesses recently who have purposely located in Barling and other locations outside of Fort Smith because of this obvious disregard for developers and a resounding desire to say only "know you can't do that"! With that answer, the subject is closed without any offer of assistance like "let me see how we can help make this happen"! If we don't do something NOW to change attitudes of these departments, the City of Fort Smith will eventually stop expanding.

The Death of Fort Smith's Prosperity

We should not be critical of the requirement for businesses to plant trees. It was reported last year that Fort Smith only has 14% of the tree canopy that it should have. When a business changes the environment for profit, it is only right that they also do something good for the environment. Have you not seen how precious any scrap of shade to park under becomes in the heat of our summers? Add to that the need for growing things to change CO2 to O2 and not requiring trees is very short sighted. An attitude of "I'm going to make money now and to hell with the future health of the town" should not be tolerated.

who cares what you think!

Who cares what you think about "tree canopy". If you would like to incurr the cost for these buisness owners. Then by all means do it to save your trees. I bet you are one of those tree hippies who likes to yell about global warming too. Just to let you know it is dumb to sit here, and say that buisness owners should plant trees, shrubs, and have nice frontage when you do not have to incurr the cost.

Rising Prices

Excessive regulations on business raise the cost of doing business for business owners that are forced to pass along these costs to the consumer in the form of higher prices. The people that get hurt the most are seniors on fixed incomes and the lower wage earners who are just entering the work force. When prices rise the city wins because sales tax is on a percentage basis of the entire sale so rising prices are the best friend of the sales tax collectors.

The Death of Fort Smith's Prosperity

Any rude cretin could ask any commenter "who cares what you think?", but if everyone behaved that way, there would be no discussion. The tax payers are affected by the breaks given to businesses, usually without the consent of the taxpayer. It works both ways; businesses have to also do their part to preserve the quality of life in a community. We are reaping today the effects of business at any cost, the hell with the environment, in our unprecedented weather extremes.

Evil In Our Mist Paula

Business is evil if they create jobs and make a profit and don't plant trees but government is good because they take your money and force people to plant trees. What?

Better if a tree get's the idea on it's own to survive

They're just about all dead now, those tree's someone had planted in the parking all over the Historic District, probably the same guy that's here wanting a business to either landscape and plant trees or go somewhere else. I've been to many successful cities and I'm not getting flashes of a horticultural mecca that I'm afraid we're headed for here.

Good Comment Paula

Everyone should plant a tree and enjoy watching it grow into maturity and breathe the fresh air that the tree will provide for a lifetime. With that said, should the city mandate that everyone plant a tree on their property or should it be a matter of choice for property owners? We have great parks in Fort Smith and planting trees in those parks should be a priority for all to enjoy on public land but private property is private and the city has no business telling citizens what they should plant on their property. It looks like fort smith city leadership is like an old forest because it has a lot of dead wood that seems to want to dictate what people can and can't do on their own property, however, I do agree that the city has not done enough to promote tree planting on public right of ways and public parks.

Let us not forget that a big

Let us not forget that a big reason for the only 14% tree canopy has LOT to do with large manufacturing base here and the acreage that goes along with it. Jobs are more important than trees.

"Strong Mayor" versus "City Administrator" form of Government

Fort Smith used to have a "Strong Mayor" form of government, but presently has the "City Administrator" form of government. As described above, this form of government hasn't worked too well. The other nearby growing cities in Arkansas have "Strong Mayor" forms of government, where the mayor is the CEO, people have a voice, because the Mayor is accountable to the people, as it should be. In the "City Administrator" form of government, the city administrator isn't accountable to the people, only to the directors and unfortunately, there are always enough votes to remain on the same ole path.

Usually nobody pirouets up to the podium

to take responsibility for anything. Case in point. Right now we are spending over $320k for a study whose findings we do not have the money to implement anyway and people don't have the slightest idea who wanted it in the first place. Best I can come up with is one or both of the two things we have going is supposed to confirm what was wanted to begin with.

Weak Leadership

Unfortunately weak leadership results in anemic city growth, high taxes, and the continued expansion of big government.

Fact Check

Jack, FS has not had a strong mayor form of government in nearly 100 years. I think in the '20's we changed to a city commissioner form. That is we had 3 commissioners with one designated as mayor. That is probably the worst form of government there is as no one is in charge. Each had 1 vote and responsibility for a portion of city operations. It was so bad that the legislature, at the instigation of a few leaders in FS, authorized the City Administrator form in the late '60's. Only 3 cities use this; FS, Barling and Siloam Springs. Others have a city manager form and LR has a strong mayor with a city manager to run things. What I think you advocate is the city council form with the mayor as the CEO. The NWA cities use this. As in all government it is more the individuals involved than the form that is important.
Jack, FS has not had a strong mayor form of government in nearly 100 years. I think in the '20's we changed to a city commissioner form. That is we had 3 commissioners with one designated as mayor. That is probably the worst form of government there is as no one is in charge. Each had 1 vote and responsibility for a portion of city operations. It was so bad that the legislature, at the instigation of a few leaders in FS, authorized the City Administrator form in the late '60's. Only 3 cities use this; FS, Barling and Siloam Springs. Others have a city manager form and LR has a strong mayor with a city manager to run things. What I think you advocate is the ...>> Read the entire comment.

Try This Fact

Stamp out cronyism and watch Fort Smith boom like NW Arkansas, and just for kicks add a few Bikes, Blues, and Barbeque type events Downtown and watch hundreds of millions of dollars pass thru private business cash registers. It looks to me like some of the people who are paid very well to promote tourism can't see the forest thru the trees because they are ordered to keep their blinders on.

Council w/Mayor as CEO, Provides Accountability to the People

Thanks Observer for the Fact Check! The lack of accountability provides the fuel for the downward spiral in Fort Smith. Do you think a "Mayor/CEO", accountable to the voters, would allow strict interpretation of zoning, regulations and have an extreme UDO, which eliminates many small business people from pursuing their dreams? Do you think a "Mayor/CEO" would have countless expensive studies, forgive loans to special groups, allow untimely billing, not honor the competitive bidding process, not concentrate on providing the basic, essential services to the people at the most efficient pricing, or most importantly subject good citizens to being subpoenaed by the police department, for actually practicing their constitutional right, to petition their government, like during the Prepared Food Tax? I believe this type of leader would be voted out, but it goes on in Fort Smith.
Thanks Observer for the Fact Check! The lack of accountability provides the fuel for the downward spiral in Fort Smith. Do you think a "Mayor/CEO", accountable to the voters, would allow strict interpretation of zoning, regulations and have an extreme UDO, which eliminates many small business people from pursuing their dreams? Do you think a "Mayor/CEO" would have countless expensive studies, forgive loans to special groups, allow untimely billing, not honor the competitive bidding process, not concentrate on providing the basic, essential services to the people at the most efficient pricing, or most importantly subject good citizens to being subpoenaed by the ...>> Read the entire comment.

One More Thing Jack

Do you think a Mayor/CEO, accountable to the voters, would force citizens to take the City to Court just to be allowed to VOTE on a Prepared Food Tax? Yes, it happened in Fort Smith.

Yes

Do I think that things would not go to suit you if we had a mayor council form of government? Yes. None of the things you complain of would happen without the vote of the city board or council whatever you call it. A mayor is not a dictator nor is the city administrator. What I gather, to some extent, is that you want the city to just look the other way and not enforce codes. Or maybe you are complaining that the city looks the other way for some, so called cronies, and not for all. Either way the codes should be enforced or repealed.

Pure BS Observer

A person who sends out big black SUV's with uniformed policemen to serve subpoenas on citizens to harass those who are lawfully getting petitions signed for the right to vote on a new Prepared Food Tax is in my opinion acting like a dictator. You are dancing all around the issues again and most people feel that city Hall enforces codes differently on their City Hall friends than on regular citizens. If you would read and understand what the majority of complaints are saying about favoritism and good ole boy politics, it may enlighten you! Nobody complained about the codes, only the uneven enforcement and the inability of the code inspector give a new business time to meet the standards.

Observer, Accountability To The People Is A Huge Difference!

You brought up the statement, a Mayor or a city administrator is not a dictator? I ask, which would most likely have the power to perform as a dictator, a Mayor/CEO type or city administrator? Would you not agree the one who is not elected nor accountable to the people, could perform, with the right inner circle, much like a dictator? In most American cities, could a Mayor, elected and accountable to the people, survive his position after having police in big Black SUVs deliver subpoenas to good, decent citizens whose only crime was collecting signature against a forced taxation known as the Prepared Food Tax? Do you really believe a mayor could survive such a unfriendly act against the local citizens in any other community? Could a Mayor, elected and accountable to the people survive after subjecting the citizens to 3 water and sewer rate increases to then turn around and take $2.1 million out from that same fund and provide utilities to 60 acres of private riverfront property? Could a Mayor/CEO type survive forcing city sanitation over private companies when 71% of the citizens were satisfied with their private trash hauler? Observer, I'm not proposing the city look the other way for anything, but I do believe the job at the top is to serve the people of the city and having someone accountable for their actions to the citizens makes a huge difference.
You brought up the statement, a Mayor or a city administrator is not a dictator? I ask, which would most likely have the power to perform as a dictator, a Mayor/CEO type or city administrator? Would you not agree the one who is not elected nor accountable to the people, could perform, with the right inner circle, much like a dictator? In most American cities, could a Mayor, elected and accountable to the people, survive his position after having police in big Black SUVs deliver subpoenas to good, decent citizens whose only crime was collecting signature against a forced taxation known as the Prepared Food Tax? Do you really believe a mayor could survive ...>> Read the entire comment.

Same old saw

This started as a discussion of perception of FS as a difficult place to negotiate the permit maze. Now it is about the form of government. One of the reasons that the city administrator form was approved was to remove the day to day operations from political pressure. That of course, is not really possible. But the phrase "accountability to the people" is just that. Whomever applies the most political pressure gets his way. Even with a mayor council form each ward has an elected councilperson. The council still makes the decisions. We have a republic. Even in city government, not a democracy. The administrator is just a hired hand. He can be fired at anytime without having to wait for an election. This has happened here. If the administrator is not doing his job to please the board, who are elected, he is fired. You boys always bring up the subpoenas in the lawsuit concerning the petition drive. When one files a lawsuit expect subpoenas. Black SUV's? How about police cars...that's what they are. They are all over town. What no black helicopters? Little men sending radio waves into your heads? Wait, I know, the NSA is feeding all your personal information into a sealed room on the third floor of the Stephens Bldg. Get over the conspiracy theory BS.
This started as a discussion of perception of FS as a difficult place to negotiate the permit maze. Now it is about the form of government. One of the reasons that the city administrator form was approved was to remove the day to day operations from political pressure. That of course, is not really possible. But the phrase "accountability to the people" is just that. Whomever applies the most political pressure gets his way. Even with a mayor council form each ward has an elected councilperson. The council still makes the decisions. We have a republic. Even in city government, not a democracy. The administrator is just a hired hand. He can be fired at ...>> Read the entire comment.

Observer And His Friendly Approach to Governing

No Observer, we are talking police in Big Black SUVs delivering subpoenas to innocent, law abiding citizens of this great city. Delivering subpoenas to these folks homes, in front of their neighbors, their kids and for what? The only thing these good folks were guilty of was collecting names to petition their city government against a forced Prepared Food Tax our city administrator forced onto the citizens of this great city. Whether it is permits, zoning, strict regulations, maybe that is how you and your inner circle visualize how a friendly local government should work, but you can't get away with calling Big Black SUVs a conspiracy theory BS, because it happened.
No Observer, we are talking police in Big Black SUVs delivering subpoenas to innocent, law abiding citizens of this great city. Delivering subpoenas to these folks homes, in front of their neighbors, their kids and for what? The only thing these good folks were guilty of was collecting names to petition their city government against a forced Prepared Food Tax our city administrator forced onto the citizens of this great city. Whether it is permits, zoning, strict regulations, maybe that is how you and your inner circle visualize how a friendly local government should work, but you can't get away with calling Big Black SUVs a conspiracy theory BS, because it ...>> Read the entire comment.

Answers For Jack

Survival would not be possible without the people who benefit from the huge waste of taxpayer dollars in Fort Smith. If the person in charge reported directly to the voters, they would be long gone and in the unemployment line like the majority of people that are looking for work. I really don't think that we have ever seen a City Leader attack the very people that pay their salary before in any city in a way that compares with the subpoena fiasco in Fort Smith.

More rope is available if needed Observor

Whomever applies the most political pressure gets his way. ------- Have you been trying this for decades upon end while almost everyone else hasn't? Hmm. Water never puts in more effort than it has to on the way to the bottom either. Now explain to us how the last administrator made it so long back then even after the FSPD sometimes provided 'bumper cars' for him on the drive home. Would he have still been there if they hadn't let him hit someone else? You seem to relate a person losing their job years and years after they should have as being quite 'Johnny on the spot'!

99.9% of the people won't do it but..

Our codes do not factor in the fact that from a few people down to one or two, this town has indeed attracted some very extreme individuals bent on making us the 1 city out of 30,000 to have total code compliance down to the last nail. Individuals who apparently have the unbelievable power to call in unlimited complaints on some citizens anonymously..or if they choose absolutely no complaints or others living under the exact same conditions if and when they so decide and believe it or not they can/will/have done this to others for decades. I don't know how much I paid to have this city ran equitably and fairly but I do know this..I have wasted my money. Why can't over a quarter million dollars of salary running this city figure out how to stop this?

Ft. Smith's prosperity? David Potts

Yes, David has nailed it here in the Fort. I think the origins go back 3+ decades to extreme micro-managing by the FS Board of Directors, and the extremely paternal regime of Wally Bailey et al in the Building/Planning/Zoning departments. These guys seem to be well-intentioned regarding building safety, but if you start thinking about "innovative or practical" and that doesn't align with their thoughts, then woe to you! Other departments make visits to glean creative ideas from other municipalities. I don't think our guys have ever even visited the likes of Centerton, AR for an idea on attracting & fostering building & commerce. RJC

Sometimes Hint

Sometimes when the underling has the goods on the Boss, the Boss actually becomes the underling and he who breaks all the rules and then gets promoted, has much difficulty telling other people not to break the rules.

The Death of Fort Smith

I have known David for over 15 years . He speaks from the Heart & CPA experience of working with small businesses . Being a second generation small Busniess owner founded in 1948 in Fort Smith and now owned by my son, I have had over 40 years experience with David's Talking Points. The nature of our Busniess brings us in direct contact with businesses planning , building & remodeling in Fort Smith and northwest Arkansas. I have heard very few complaints from Businesses and Developers in northwest Arkansas.While Regulations & Ordinances are necessary I know of too many instances ours included where the FS inspectors have had an Undue hardship and costs burden to Building projects in Fort Smith. Without architects adjudicating in your behalf you would incur unnecessary expense & loss of time because of inconsistent application of Regulations & Ordinances. So I encourage you to contact your City Director to ask them to do some Due Diligence concerning David's Talking points.I will! This town is my home. I do not want to see Fort Smith wither away because of the misplaced attitude of "Them vs Us" .

The nature of the regulator

The nature of the regulator is to regulate. Regulation by its very nature is a collection of petty things. How tall? how long? how thick? how many chairs? how much space between supports? etc. etc. Collectively these things are important. Individually they require common sense for enforcement to work effectively. However, since the personality of those drawn to regulation is to focus on how to block and delay based on trivial matters not facilitate a progress through logic and reason the petty tyrants of the City's regulatory bodies have managed to prevent most of Fort Smith's economic grow opportunity over the last 4 decades. When I left Fort Smith to attend the UofA I found Fayetteville to be a small sleepy college town and Rogers was a wide place in the road where they sold fruit and made BB guns. Now, nearly 40 years latter these are growing metropolises with more services, better facilities, better income opportunity and are better places to live than Fort Smith. So Fort Smith whats it going to be? Keep your old leadership and your departments of officious and obstreperous bureaucrats in place or clean house. If we don't make major changes we will become even less relevant and the community will continue to atrophy and decay.

Its All About Attitude

When you have city leaders who are arrogant and intoxicated with power the city employees just follow the leaders.

NWA envy

Funny how there were so few complaints or hyperbolic hand-wringing (death of prosperity!!!) until NWA began its explosive growth. Ah, say the old-timers, if only we could go back to the days of no standards or regulations. Back in the good old days, when anything goes. Back when we'd turn a blind eye to smelter plants that belched out toxic pollution still in the ground today, refrigerator plants that leaked toxic chemicals into the water and rendering plants downtown that reeked of rotting flesh. Potts is right in one respect: the current group of city employees inherited a mess from a previous generation of leaders -- a city that had no minimum aesthetic standards on the books (and it showed), no planning and blissfully believed low-skill manufacturing would drive the economy forever. The result is much of post-industrial rubble you see today. Fortunately, things are slowly changing. You now have a decades-overdue university, a stronger and diversified ABF, Golden Ventures, a growing health care sector, new companies at Chaffee Crossing and other signs of hope. Sorry things aren't the same as 40-50 years ago, glass-half-emptiers.

Yep Its NWA Envy

Back in the old days we had a city leader who may have been drunk very often and now we have a city leader who is often drunk with power! Can't we just balance the books and collect true ups from Van Buren and buddy built loans? Why does it take a real judge to say "let the people vote on a new tax?"

Yet another new generation in the present,

that would have known better back then. Happens ever so often. Now that you have enlightened us about what we did wrong in the past, why don't you tell us exactly how things will be here in 2064? Fair is fair...so tell us since you have this skill we didn't. Actually we're not saying that a tanning factory is fine right over a cities underground water supply just as long as it generates jobs, but we also don't want to go off the deep end in the other direction either.

By request: In the year 2064...

Mayor Muñoz, a third-generation Fort Smithian of Mexican immigrants who originally settled in Fort Smith way back in the year 2004, wonders what the city will do now that the last synthetic food processing plant has been fully automated and the 188th "Flying Saucers" are to be retired from the Federation Space Force. Jack Swink IV, the visiting mayor of Jonesboro, population 1.3 million, says the crony Fort Smith building inspectors and corrupt robots are to blame for the latest macroeconomic crisis to befall the city. Springdale found itself in a similar predicament after the Tyson Synthetic Biological Materials plants were all automated in 2048. Fortunately, the primary employer in Springdale, Nanomech International Conglomerates, is hiring for its global corporate headquarters. The internationally recognized enterprise is filled with graduates from the world renown nano-robotic and subatomic particle research university, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Despite 50 years of strict development regulations and "liberal" political leaders, Fayetteville is now the most prosperous and populous city in the state with just under 1.7 million residents. Bentonville, once the envy of the region, is now a ghost town similar to Old Detroit, 20 years after the last Wal-Mart corporate job moved to @WalMartLabs in San Bruno, California in a last-ditch attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Amazon, the undisputed integrated retail leader for the past 40 years, is considering buying the former Wal-Mart corporate headquarters building to use as warehouse space, drone delivery hub or spaceport for deliveries to the moon. Back in Fort Smith, Mayor Muñoz isn't sure what to do about a growing population of illegal Chinese-robot immigrants. His latest plan for riverfront development hits another snag when more money is needed to finish the last stage of the Ben Geren Water Park. Another long delayed project, Interstate 49 was completed last year, just as the first Hover Cars make roadways a relic of the past. Mayor Muñoz is now trying to get funding for a spur to connect to the Jonesboro-Fayetteville Hyperloop.

Skills and Bills

Someone said we are paying about 900,000 dollars per year to run the city Administrators office along with the Mayors office so you would think for that kind of money some enlightenment would come from the people getting the big bucks. Maybe someone forgot to pay their light bill and their offices are in the dark kind of like the time that they forgot to bill Van Buren for water and when they forgot to collect that loan of taxpayer money to a builder. It seems to me that they can't "go off the deep end" because they are already under water!

Excuse Envy

The glass half full people think regulation is the key to city growth but is has not worked very well in Fort Smith and Detroit so what are they going to do next? Maybe the code rangers and their bosses should take a field trip to NW Arkansas and Jonesboro to study how real city leaders get the job done because NW Arkansas is 11th in the Nation in Job Growth and Jonesboro is 14th. If our home grown politicos can't lead then maybe they should copy someone else's homework. Just one public event in NW Arkansas brings 400,000 to 500,000 people to that area for bike rally and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact but our home grown talent can't seem to create anything that works other than taking the credit for ABF, Golden Ventures, and the hard work of the private sector. DUH!

People like to take the law in their own hands here

just like in the beginning perhaps. They don't want a business in a location that has the right to be..they complain about the bricks. They want a house totally redone for some reason, all the ones near it with the very same things wrong are not their worry..nor how people feel about the city. Fairness is not their forte not to mention they can do this as often as they want since they can do it anonymously thanks to the efforts of one of the ones involved. Would you ever have guessed over 300 complaints a month with each and every one requiring a visit? Make people put their names on the things like before..my guess is then it drops down to less than 20 next month. One person can drive all over town doing this whenever he wants the way it is...he could even use Google.

Posse Riot

What's so wrong about retired little old ladies,and men, with the time on their hands after years of honest hard work who contribute much of that time to giving back to their community. If part of their efforts is to remind fellow citizens about that which needs to be cleaned-up to make our town simply look better, then what's wrong with that? If these same physically vulnerable seniors need anonymity due to fear of reprisal from the more "independent antisocial" jerks around us, then what's wrong with that? There is no place for ignorant disregard for the betterment of Fort Smith under the cloak of "independence". This is a city, not a backwoods camp. So we are all interdependent. If ya'll wanna live defiantly , then move to the hills in the country with your independent preferences. Nobody will notice anonymously. We'll shake your hand and wish you well.

Let's make it fair for a change Aunty

..this thing you attempt to make sound like a 'friendly reminder' is often far more akin to a paper version of the 'Welcomin' Committee' with guns blazing back during our notorious yesteryear. It's being abused in so many ways I would run out of space long before I were finished. I propose one anonymous complaint per RECIPIENT every 5 years which will prevent your ilk from using a cohort but will also allow you to stay busy with tens of thousands of other Ft Smith citizens in various places around the city. There's two reasons you needn't ever worry about a handshake.

The Jerk

It is fair to say that your response would be as concise as your pen name. It says it all. Thank you for not clogging the bandwith. Fort Smith's progress is inversely proportional to it's volume of gag orders if you would have it your way. How can you be opposed to cleaning-up this place physically as well as politically?

How often do you visit earth?

It's been obvious all along in many many names here, you view yourself as a higher being. No you are not helping the city by driving around looking for things to complain about, you are feeding your obsessive/compulsive desire for perfection.

Posse Pranks

NW Arkansas is 11th in the nation in job growth and Jonesboro is 14th in the nation in job growth and Fort Smith is backing up so it may be time to RECALL the POSSE before they lock down the whole city!

Posse Pranks, NWA may be 11th & Jonesboro 14th, but.....

Posse Pranks, I do not dispute, NWA may be 11th in the nation in job growth and Jonesboro may be 14th. Except for Ft Smith & Siloam Springs, all cities in Arkansas have a Strong Mayor form of government. The Mayor is the CEO and HE is accountable for his actions. Can you imagine a Strong Mayor allowing Police in Big Black SUVs driving up in the driveways, delivering subpoenas to good, decent folks, in front of their neighbors and children, who were only guilty of gathering petitions fighting a forced Prepared Food Tax? A mayor elected and accountable to the people, would NEVER get re-elected for such action. Yet Fort Smith taxpayers had no voice and our Directors should have NEVER allowed this type of negative action towards the citizens they were elected to represent. Hope this shows more clearly some major difference between Ft Smith and other Arkansas cities.
Posse Pranks, I do not dispute, NWA may be 11th in the nation in job growth and Jonesboro may be 14th. Except for Ft Smith & Siloam Springs, all cities in Arkansas have a Strong Mayor form of government. The Mayor is the CEO and HE is accountable for his actions. Can you imagine a Strong Mayor allowing Police in Big Black SUVs driving up in the driveways, delivering subpoenas to good, decent folks, in front of their neighbors and children, who were only guilty of gathering petitions fighting a forced Prepared Food Tax? A mayor elected and accountable to the people, would NEVER get re-elected for such action. Yet Fort Smith taxpayers had no voice and our ...>> Read the entire comment.

Low and Lower

The delivering Of subpoenas "to decent folks" who were petitioning their elected government against a very unpopular Prepared Food Tax was a low point for Fort Smith in city management while many other cities were moving forward with more important issues like business and job creation.