The cost of buying tourists UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

The cost of buying tourists UPDATE

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An interesting account in the Democrat-Gazette today of the amount North Little Rock has spent to establish a maritime museum on the Arkansas River, its main attraction so far a World War II submarine. The tab in city money has been $2.8 million and there are, of course, continuing operating costs, for an attraction that has been averaging about 30 visitors a day since it opened. Mayor  Pat Hays plans to spend hundreds of thousands more to put a retired Naval tug there and says he's still hoping to land a homeless destroyer, though there's no mention of our report the other day that my hometown of Lake Charles, La., seems to be farther along on providing a new home for the destroyer Orleck.

Private money has been spent, too, and more may be on the way.

An additional word or two on top of what I've written in the past: I love military exhibits as well as anyone. The Imperial War Museum in London and the Normandy battle sites and Gettysburg are among my favorite travel memories. But it is fabuously expensive to maintain old Naval vessels. See the Orleck, rusting away in Orange, Texas. See the battleship Texas, a frequent stop in my youth near Houston. Nice a tribute to vets as they may be and as much as I or anyone else like them, cold, hard math ought to enter into the deliberations. The arithmetic on Mayor Hays' fleet just looks dubious to me. The same for his taxpayer-subsidized sporting goods store in Dark Hollow, particularly when the city is struggling with ruinous electric rates and shortages in some vital services. Still, I know voters like his can-do attitude and I suspect all these things won't affect his likely re-election this fall.

UPDATE: Bubba Lloyd, who's opposing Hays in November, doesn't have anything to say about the sub, per se, but he jumps the mayor today about fire department spending.

BUBBA LLOYD NEWS RELEASE

Walter “Bubba” Lloyd, Jr. filed as a candidate for mayor of North Little Rock on Monday, calling on incumbent Mayor Patrick Henry Hays to authorize funding for a new fire station in the east part of the city without closing any current fire stations.

“The firefighters of this city have been clear in saying that we should not be closing any fire stations,” said Lloyd, a North Little Rock businessman. “But the mayor seems intent on going down this dangerous path. This is yet another example of an incumbent who has been in office far too long, forgetting the real needs of the citizens of his city.”

Lloyd said that if Hays does not take this action now, it will become Lloyd’s first official action as mayor in January.

“We have a mayor who has lost touch with the people,” Lloyd said. “I hear it all over North Little Rock. I assure you that I will listen to voters in all neighborhoods of North Little Rock. It seems that rather than listening to folks in places like Rose City, Park Hill, Lakewood and Levy, our current mayor prefers to listen to wealthy out-of-town developers and folks in so-called sister cities on the other side of the world. He has become far more comfortable posing for pictures in Esquire than visiting with North Little Rock residents in their homes. When he became mayor, he had the right priorities. But too many years in office can change a man and skew his priorities.”

As an example of skewed priorities, Lloyd said that though the city of North Little Rock has almost doubled in size geographically since Hays became mayor, no new firemen have been hired.

“Minutes mean lives,” Lloyd said. “And we’re putting the lives of North Little Rock residents in danger by spreading our firemen thinner and thinner. This is just one example of how this mayor has ignored basic services in our city, focusing instead on things like submarines and his own extensive travel schedule. While we’re keeping up an aging submarine on the river, our people are drowning in debt with increased electric rates and fewer city services. The hard-working people of North Little Rock deserve a mayor who once again will focus on the basic services that should be the bread and butter of any municipal government – things such as police protection and fire protection.”

Lloyd said that when he becomes mayor, the vast majority of his time will be spent in North Little Rock rather than traveling to meetings across the country and around the world.

“I’ll either be in my office at City Hall meeting with residents or in my car, driving the streets of North Little Rock and noting things that need to be done by the various departments of city government,” Lloyd said. “I will make it a goal to drive through every neighborhood in North Little Rock at least once a month. I will be a much more familiar figure on the streets of North Little Rock than I am in the four-star hotel lobbies of Washington, D.C., where our current mayor feels so comfortable. We need a mayor who remembers how he got to City Hall.”

Lloyd said he will personally visit with all city employees on a regular basis to hear their concerns.

“We need to improve the morale of our city employees,” Lloyd said. “They work hard, and they deserve more respect for their efforts than they have received in recent years. In fact, all of the taxpayers of North Little Rock deserve our respect. They work hard, and the mayor of this city must ensure he works equally hard to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently. It’s high time we returned city government to the people of this city.”

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