by Max Brantley
Argenta News gets it right. North Little Rock was perfectly willing to provide support for a temporary place for homeless people to gather during the day and get food and medical services -- JUST SO LONG AS IT WAS IN LITTLE ROCK. The best bid for the center, from a service ministry in North Little Rock,, has run into a roadblock thanks to official North Little Rock and Mayor Pat Hays' paws are all over the resistance.
He'd been dodging our reporter's calls on the subject. But luck put me in contact with him last night at an open house for Stephens Media's new office on Main Street, Little Rock, for its various Pulaski news operations, including the Times of North Little Rock.
I asked the mayor about the problems that had cropped up for the day center. I got a patented Hays filibuster. Lots of words. Lots of sincere hope. Lots of willingness to work together. Lots of blah, blah, blah. But not a word about a place for the homeless in NLR.
NLR is for ballparks, arenas, and tax breaks for wealthy real estate developers. Yes, and also for unsightly rolling mobile homes and a naval scrap heap on the bank of the Arkansas River. Homeless people are for Little Rock. It recalls how the fine folks of Little Rock dumped unwanted pooches in Argenta in days of yore, a practice that some say led to its enduring nickname, Dogtown.
Anyway, read what Scott Miller, a devoted Dogtowner, has to say about NLR's cold shoulder to street people.
UPDATE: On the jump, a report from Leslie Peacock on a chat with Mayor Hays.
Mayor Hays said he might be able to support River City Ministries’ expansion of its services for the homeless if he had “some comfort level that temporary is temporary.” (The Mayors Coalition on Homelessness has indicated that the $300,000 grant — which is funded for only one year — is a temporary solution to the problem.)
He also questioned why, if RCM is only going to expand its services to 10 or 12 people (as reported by Scott Miller in the Argenta News and Blog), why that would cost $300,000.
His issues with the center: how the homeless would get to the center, since he believes most will come from Little Rock and the effect on potential development downtown. He noted that the Rock IslandBridge, if the Clinton Foundation ever makes good on its promise to turn it into a pedestrian bridge, would empty almost into “the front door of the facility.” (A RV park would be preferable there, I presume.)
Hays also noted something that has been lost in the discussion: The planning department staff recommended FOR granting the special use permit to RCM to allow RCM to go forward. The commission ignored the advice.