by Max Brantley
The Little Rock City Board, lacking full membership (and perhaps needed votes), voted to delay consideration of the reappointment of Central Arkansas Water Commissioner Jane Dickey for a week.
Strong opposition to the lawyer's reappointment, after 11 years on the commission, has arisen from activists working to protect the Lake Mamelle watershed. They object to her role in the water utility's failure to buy land that Jay DeHaven now hopes to flip back to the utility; on her approval of a settlement for development of Waterview Estates, a lakeview subdivision, and for her close ties through her law firm to various corporate interests. Her firm, in which she is a partner, once represented Deltic Timber, the largest landowner in the watershed.
Objections to a weakened watershed ordinance being considered by Pulaski County are being raised in public comments.
A powerful statement was offered by former Water Commissioner Craig Wood against Dickey's reppointment. He said it would serve as a statement of dissatisfaction with the current commission's "failure" in recent actions to protect the watershed for 400,000 customers.
One final wrinkle: Director Gene Fortson asked for an opinion on what legal changes would be required for the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock to to choose water commissioners from applicants rather than only being in a role to accept or reject nominations from the commission itself.
Well and good, but just window dressing. The city board HAS the power now to reject a nomination and thus force the Water Commission into a meaningful application process, which it did not hold in Dickey's case.