Noon today was the deadline to file an application to serve out Barbara Graves' term in an at-large seat on the Little Rock Board of Directors. She had to resign to make a race for mayor this year.
The board will make the choice. Interviews are supposed to begin Sept. 19. Interviews will be in public, but the board will deliberate on the candidates in private, most likely to avoid engendering any hard feelings with the future board member. The person chosen can run for the seat in the next election.
The 17 applicants:
Scott B. Allen
Shannon K. Coleman
D. Eugene Fortson
Bobbie N. Grundy
Erma Fingers Hendrix
Antwonique S. Leonard
William F. Rector, Jr.
If you had to pick a favorite on name recognition alone, it would have to be Gene Fortson, a familiar player in the Little Rock business establishment, which has always more or less considered the at-large board seats its seats. It takes money to win a city-wide seat, a fact that favors establishment candidates. Typically, the at-large directors (maverick Joan Adcock excepted) combine with the silk stocking ward directors to constitute the majority bloc on big issues. (Since Fortson applied, it likely means he's gotten advice that he need not give up his coveted Airport Commission seat to serve on the board.)
Just to stir things up, I'd observe this: Little Rock is about 41 percent black according to the most recent Census data, and there are measurable and growing percentages of Latino and Asian residents. In a city with that black percentage, at least one of the three at-large seats should be held by a person of color. On an 11-member board (counting the mayor, because he has no more functional power than any other director), Little Rock has three black members. That sector of the community, not to mention the central city from the eastern boundary to University Avenue south of Markham Street, is underrepresented.