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Comprehensive coverage conundrum

Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
mtilley@thecitywire.com

There was a recent meeting of the steering committee that is part of this $340,000 comprehensive planning study by the city of Fort Smith to figure out something about something related to the city’s development future. Something interesting or important or maybe nothing noteworthy happened at this meeting. The City Wire did not attend the Feb. 17 meeting, so I don’t know.

With each month the city expends about $19,000 on this study, I begin to question if city officials are really all in with this effort. To begin with, the city hired consultants who just a few weeks into the process didn’t realize we had a commercial airport in Fort Smith. These consultants during their initial visit used a presentation that listed the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center and the Young Emerging Leaders as “ongoing” and active organizations.

Just a few weeks ago this process unveiled what it considered important discoveries. They included: We in Fort Smith have exhibited a lack of deliberate action with respect to supporting and/or subsidizing commercial development in and around the city; The riverfront area has not been adequately developed; There are a lot of dollars for products and services leaving the Fort Smith area; and, The regional economy is not doing well.

You, Kind Reader, could have randomly gathered up 10 Fort Smithians for a Happy Meal discussion at your local McDonald’s and come up with a list of more insightful findings. And if you only billed the city $1,000 each for those 10 Happy Meals, we’d all have been better off.

It was the Feb. 17 meeting notice that may have been the deal breaker with respect to our willingness to give this process further time and attention. We learned from a Monday morning (Feb. 17) city e-mail about a Monday evening meeting. We found that to be telling. This process is so critical to the city’s future that media outlets in the area received less than 8 hours notice to cover one of their meetings in this $19,000-a-month-process. By their actions, people and organizations will ultimately let you know what they consider important.

We sent an e-mail asking the city if there had been a previous notice sent on the meeting. It could have been that the date and/or time was wrong. We finally had to call a city staffer late in the afternoon when we did not get a response to that e-mail.

It turns out the city had placed an ad about the Feb. 17 meeting in the local newspaper. It was one of those tiny classified ads that one might not see unless looking for a cheap dishwasher, transmission parts to a 1983 Ford Bronco or signs of an out-of-touch government. This tiny newspaper advertisement and lack of media notification comes from a comprehensive planning process with a vision statement that includes “Uniting people, institutions and government” as a goal.

Sure, an archaic Arkansas law that requires public meetings be published in the local “paper of record” is why the city buys a meeting notice ad in the classifieds. But that’s the minimum effort required for the city to technically be in compliance with public notification rules. By their actions, people and organizations will ultimately let you know what they consider important.

Or maybe a newspaper is where city officials believe people still get a majority of their news. Maybe the “I only get my news from the newspaper” crowd is the demographic the city prefers to attend the meetings.

Fort Smith officials have shown a pattern with respect to communicating with the public, and the pattern has little to do with respect for communicating with the public. We might remember there was a time in early 2012 the Fort Smith Board of Directors decided to “save” $7,400 by cutting televised board meetings. After several months of public ridicule, the Board “found” the money to restore the televised meetings. This was several months before the Board found $340,000 for a study with a vision statement that includes “Uniting people, institutions and government.” More recently, we learned that the city failed to adequately notify most members of the media of a Feb. 18 meeting of the Central Improvement Business District.

The city’s communication disconnect is not limited to meeting notices. For example, the same city that appears to aggressively push a “Shop Local” campaign recently hired an out-of-town contractor over a local contractor to build the $11 million aquatics park. By their actions, people and organizations will ultimately let you know what they consider important.

This essay was ready to be published when on Feb. 28 we received notice from the city of a “Comprehensive Plan Open House” to be held 3 to 7 p.m., March 17, at the River Park Events Building. That was the extent of the notice. No agenda. No format and no summary of the purpose of the event. Your guess is as good as mine as to who will attend to represent the city, and what information will be updated or presented or requested. By their actions, people and organizations will ultimately let you know what they consider important.

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It could be that the city is doing us all a favor. There is something to be said for not being frequently reminded about a $340,000 taxpayer-funded process that has little to no potential to make transformational improvements in governance and economic development.

I said all that to say this: The City Wire may not attend remaining meetings of this so-called comprehensive planning process of which I’ve previously labeled as a questionable outlay of time and money.

By their actions, people and organizations will ultimately let you know what they consider important, and I fear our coverage may cause a few folks to consider important this incomprehensible comprehensive study.

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Comments

Unfriendly City Government

Yet another example of the city government's did connect from the city. Business unfriendliness is another symptom. They are so far 'above' those they govern in their minds and that disrespect shoes in all their actions.

Total Disconnect

Great article Mr. Tilley and thanks to The City Wire for getting the word out to people that there is a Total Disconnect between our Local Government and the people that they are paid "very well" to serve. It always their way or the highway and this administration has always lacked accountability and responsibility for their actions and decisions that are difficult to understand by normal people that go about their business on a daily basis to support this group that have the nerve to call themselves City Leaders.

To Little Too Late

Too late, Mike ! You cant' have it both ways either. In the past when bloggers came down heavy on the establishment good old boys, you were the first to demonize them. You have been a mouthpiece for the crony propaganda all along. So are we to believe in your epiphany. You're a shill. Your credibility will not be redeemed simply by your rhetoric. Everyone knows where you stand. You can't write your way out of Fort Smith either. NorthWest Arkansans are too smart for your nonsense. You're stuck here, get over it. Let Ryan Saylor take over.

A Bit Late But We Hear The Thunder Now

Everyone deserves a second chance and lets all appreciate the open discussions that are available to the people of Fort Smith to express their views on their city government. After all, the people are the government and good government can only be had when all voices are heard about the quality of life in our city. The City Wire appears to be the only opportunity for local citizens to express their views that favor or disagree with city policies so keep the lines of communication open because all voices need to be heard.

Lines of Communication?

Are you that naïve, sir? The cronies don't care what anybody says. They will do as they please. TCW is a safety valve to vent. If you wanna communicate, show up en masse at BOD meetings, then see what happens....The thieves will adjourn to exective session while the cops clear the room. Everybody get off your butts and vote the bums out.

Naive Maybe

But do believe in the system and agree that if you don't agree with the "cronies" then "everybody get off your butts and vote the bums out." Be very thankful to some independent citizens who spent a lot of their own money to maintain your right to vote on a new tax because if you remember, they tried to pass a new Prepared Food Tax without allowing you to vote. Its my opinion that people deserve the people that they elect and should be thankful that in America people still have the opportunity to vote them out. Do remember a BOD election where only 150 people voted in a city Ward so it can be said that people deserved the representation that they did not vote for. To "show up en masse at a BOD meeting" may cause some temporary pause in the way business is conducted so we agree that real change can only happen when people go to the polls "and vote the bums out."
But do believe in the system and agree that if you don't agree with the "cronies" then "everybody get off your butts and vote the bums out." Be very thankful to some independent citizens who spent a lot of their own money to maintain your right to vote on a new tax because if you remember, they tried to pass a new Prepared Food Tax without allowing you to vote. Its my opinion that people deserve the people that they elect and should be thankful that in America people still have the opportunity to vote them out. Do remember a BOD election where only 150 people voted in a city Ward so it can be said that people deserved the representation that they did not vote for. ...>> Read the entire comment.

What luck...

"What luck for the rulers that men do not think." ~ Adolf Hitler

"Enemies Of The People"

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." *** Thomas Jefferson

Not Jefferson

There are many quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson which were never made by Jefferson. The above quote was never made by Jefferson. In fact, the above quote only appeared in print for the first time in 2002 in a book by Michael Collins titled Cornucopia of Evil (Kingsbury, Tex.) People have been mis-attributing this quote to Jefferson since then. To look up whether Jefferson actually said or wrote something, go to the official Jefferson website, Jefferson Monticello. Here is the link to show this quote was never made by Jefferson. http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/two-enemies-people-are-criminals-and-governmentquotation

Thanks to "looked It Up"

It is listed on many sources as one of the many quotes by Jefferson but never the less, it rings true today that government can and often does, infringe on basic rights of individuals protected by the Constitution.

Maybe Thomas Jefferson

Ok "looked It Up" expert, if you will do a little further research on John Petrie's collection of Thomas Jefferson Quotes it has those very words listed as being said by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Do you claim that your source of information is more accurate than the John Petrie source? Hmmmm Did Thomas Jefferson appear to you in your dreams and deny that he said those very words?

Comprehensive Disconnect & Spin

Interesting observation from Mr Tilley, but still the question beckons, how long will the average taxpayer of Fort Smith allow the egregious manner of spending and governing to go on at city hall? How many times do the taxpayers have to be duped into more frivolous spending before saying enough is truly enough? Mike's example of city hall discontinuing televised meetings to save $7,400, only to turn around a couple of months later and authorize spending $340,000 of taxpayer's money for another comprehensive or consultant study is just another of the numerous past examples of a complete disregard of the taxpayers by city hall. City Hall's main concern should be to provide basic, essential services in the most efficient manner, while encouraging a free and competitive environment for its' citizens to pursue their dreams. I too have had my struggles with Mike in the past, but I am thankful for the fact TCW has began to question City Hall's spin and does presently allow the citizens a voice when other local medias do not.
Interesting observation from Mr Tilley, but still the question beckons, how long will the average taxpayer of Fort Smith allow the egregious manner of spending and governing to go on at city hall? How many times do the taxpayers have to be duped into more frivolous spending before saying enough is truly enough? Mike's example of city hall discontinuing televised meetings to save $7,400, only to turn around a couple of months later and authorize spending $340,000 of taxpayer's money for another comprehensive or consultant study is just another of the numerous past examples of a complete disregard of the taxpayers by city hall. City Hall's main concern should be to ...>> Read the entire comment.

Basic Essential Services Like

Snow Removal and sanding of city streets when ice is present and there is a clear danger for people that must go to work. Hospital workers, radio and TV workers, police and fire workers, first responders, and many others that must use city streets to get to their work place. Fort Smith really dropped the ball Monday because there appeared to be no effort made by city management to make sure that the streets were made safe and we were told that the city management had taken a snow day off.

Are You Talking About

Our "great city newspaper" editor who refuses to print "letters to the editor" that are critical of City Hall behavior? Thank God for The City Wire for allowing real opinions to be posted because every citizen or visitor should be allowed to express their thoughts. How can we get better as a city without paying attention to the people that are satisfied or critical of city services?

The last survey was about riverfront development and

it appears this one is too. It is coming up with conclusions that are absolutely no different than what was known to be wanted to begin with plus it has enough of the same ones sprinkled throughout itself that this should not be a surprise. Am I just imagining that none of these river front projects are coming from tax money? If so what's the big hubbub about a school tax? Maybe there are some matching funds that could be missed.

Everyone who reads this

Everyone who reads this article and comments needs to remember, there are two sides to every story. And if you see something broke, what are YOU doing to fix it? Whining does not get anything accomplished.

Neither does fixing something

and breaking something else during the repair. You have to do the right thing and steamrolling over others in order to accomplish your goals...breaks things.

Streamrollers

"Steamrolling over others in order to accomplish your goals....breaks things" is such a true statement because steamrollers have not been used as a tool on street construction for 50 years so I guess you are suggesting that our style of City Management is 50 years behind what is normal in todays world of progress for other cities.