Barry Haas, who's been fighting the good fight for a better environment in these parts for years, isn't happy. Jim McKenzie, the director of Metroplan, the council of local governments (you pay him, in other words), wouldn't let Haas and other environmentally friendly types attend a negotiation session between Central Arkansas Water and developers who hope to build on land overlooking Lake Maumelle (and thus present some risk to water quality.)
His report on the event is on the jump, reprinted with his permission. Jim is invited to send in a response.
UPDATE: Kate Althoff, another tireless lake defender, has added comments on the jump as well.
LETTER FROM BARRY HAAS
At 9:00 a.m. this morning I tried to attend a meeting at Central
Arkansas Water (CAW). I had learned about the meeting from Kate
Althoff of Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed (CPMW) earlier this
week. When CPMW met, we decided one or more of our group should
attend this morning's meeting as observers, knowing we would not be
allowed to participate but only to observe. As you know Kate is the
primary representative for CPMW on the Policy Advisory Council (PAC)
working to develop (hopefully) a comprehensive watershed management
plan for Lake Maumelle. I serve as CPMW's alternate representative,
and as such attended PAC meetings beginning in the fall of 2005 going
through December 2006.
This morning's meeting had Jim McKenzie of Metroplan, Jim Harvey,
Bruno Kirsch and attorney Bruce McMath for CAW, attorney Chuck
Nestrud representing Deltic Timber, Rick Ferguson and his attorney
Hal Kemp, and Tim Daters plus his partner ?? White of White-Daters
Engineers representing whom I do not know (although I know they are
Deltic's engineering firm). Pat Dicker, Pulaski Co. JP, her husband
Herb Dicker, a neighborhood group leader, and I attended this morning
and planned to listen to the discussion, Pat and Herb Dicker are
also both members of the PAC. I understood this morning's topic
would be the proposed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that
Ferguson and Deltic have proposed signing with CAW. The MOUs are
contracts that would govern how those entities would be allowed to
develop their property in the Lake Maumelle watershed, independent of
any watershed management plan that might be adopted by the CAW Board.
Anyway, before the meeting began Jim McKenzie came over and told the
Dickers and me we could not stay and listen. Jim described the
meeting as a 'negotiation' or somesuch and said it was not a public
meeting, not subject to FOIA, etc. When we objected strongly, he
insisted we leave, said it was his decision and his decision alone,
and when we mentioned alerting the press to our being asked to leave
Jim indicated so be it. We were told that nobody other than Jim
McKenzie, objected to our presence, not any of the three attorneys
representing CAW, Deltic or Ferguson, nor anybody else there for the
meeting (I suggest you confirm that for yourselves, if necessary).
Stakeholders have worked for two years now to first defeat Senate
Bill 230 in the 2005 legislative session, and then to work as a
community to draft and then implement protections for Lake Maumelle.
I came to Arkansas way back in 1967 to serve the last 3 of my 4-years
active duty at Little Rock Air Force Base on a Titan II nuclear
missile launch crew. I didn't serve one day of that four years so
that government could operate in secret on such an important issue as
protecting our drinking water quality. This morning I seriously
considered telling Jim Mckenzie that I was not going to leave and he
could have me arrested if he felt the public didn't have a right to
know what was being negotiated re their drinking water quality.
I've known Jim for years, respect the work he does, but I think he
was dead wrong both this morning and for allowing himself to be
injected into this whole Lake Maumelle issue by former L.R. Mayor Jim
Dailey. it is clear that Deltic and Ferguson felt things were going
badly with the PAC late last summer and decided to turn to political
heavyweights like Dailey to try and improve the way things were
going. In my humble opinion Jim's 'representation' (of course, he
would not characterize his role that way) of the major developers
since that time has hindered the work on the watershed management
plan and inhibited the progress that should have been made, including
the adoption of the comprehensive watershed management plan by the
LETTER FROM KATE ALTHOFF
I would like to add a few comments concerning the events of this morning meeting at CAW.
The basic issue is how to maintain the quality of our drinking water. One answer is to protect the source of that water, Lake Maumelle. The consultants tell us that the number one threat to the water quality of Lake Maumelle is the change in land use within the watershed from forest to development. This leads to the next question to be solved. How can high water quality be preserved while at the same time protecting the personal property rights of landowners within the watershed? The answer is to spend $1.3 million dollars of ratepayer money to hire an independent consultant, bring together representatives from all the different competing interests in the land, and work together to find a compromise. The result after 13 months of work between all parties is a comprehensive watershed management plan.
Now comes part two. The biggest landowner, Deltic Timber, does not like the way the comprehensive watershed management plan is looking so they express their concerns to Mayor Dailey of Little Rock. Mayor Dailey then requested that Jim McKenzie of Metroplan act as mediator for negotiations between Central Arkansas Water and Deltic Timber. The bottom line is that Metroplan is working on a "compromise" to the compromise reached by all the representatives who agreed upon the watershed management plan.
Barry Haas' report of today’s events is just the latest in this matter.
There are those who will argue that this meeting this morning is contract negotiations that are not subject to public review. I believe that argument is not valid in that all the negotiations refer to the watershed management plan which was developed with input from the public.
Let us stop the compromise of the compromise. Please stop wasting the time and resource of citizen volunteers when they step forward to serve their community.