by Max Brantley
Tell me again why Mark Stodola needs a pay raise to $165,000?
Here's a report from Kathy Wells, vice president on the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhood's appearance before the Little Rock City Board last night. CLRN objected to reappointment of water commissioner Tony Kendall, among those who sold the utility down the river in an inexplicable settlement with developer Rick Ferguson on developing a subdivision uphill from the city's water supply.
LR Board tonight demanded a presentation from Central Ark. Water regarding the settlement of the Rick Ferguson lawsuit, to be held Jul. 31 at their scheduled session. CLRN urged that Jim Harvey, retired CEO of the water utility, also be asked to appear. He never endorsed the settlement and the Commission carefully avoided asking his opinion up to his retirement.
Directors deferred the proposed re-appointment of Tony Kendall to the CAW Commission. CLRN urged Kendall be rejected; he voted for the settlement.
Directors Erma Hendrix, Michael Keck, Stacy Hurst and B. J. Wyrick spoke receptively about the concerns raised by CLRN regarding this settlement and whether this was an abuse of public trust.
Mayor Mark Stodola said he took no position on the settlement, because he did not have any information on it until citizens presented concerns tonight. He wanted details, Stodola told CLRN.
No information on it? Exactly what planet has he been living on?
UPDATE: I had a brief conversation with City Director Michael Keck who said he and at least some other members of the board are quite serious about demanding more information from the utility about the deal. They aren't happy, he said, about the speed with which this settlement was aired and approved. He and others are particularly concerned about the failure to wring any commitments from Ferguson on how he'll develop other acreage in the watershed. Amen to all that.
Something is rotten here. If I were a Deltic Timber official -- after the considerable investment of a high quality my company had pumped into LR (the only really measurable growth the city has enjoyed) and after getting beat by one of the great grass-roots organizing efforts ever seen in local politics -- I'd be more than a little pissed, and not a little curious, about this rollover to Ferguson on the part of the water utility.
UPDATE II: Mayor Stodola called, a little miffed about getting beaten up here. Miffed, too, that the city board had little advance or formal notice of the terms of the settlement. For the record, he says he also would not have approved any settlement that didn't make provisions for the thousands of other acres that Ferguson controls in the watershed. Not, of course, that the City Board has any power over the Water Commission except the appointment power and the mayor's famous bully pulpit. All noted.