by Max Brantley
I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess. I watch the Little Rock City Board from time to time on TV.
I was rewarded tonight. Such momentous things as a city policy on selling park land passed without comment on the consent agenda.
But what a spat broke out on a resolution to apply for $3 million in federal block grants. It included $27,000 for a community garden in Oak Forest, whittled down from $37,000 after earlier questions prompted removal of a $10,000 salary for a garden coordinator. Directors Doris Wright, Joan Adcock and Erma Hendrix led the critical questioning tonight. The woman in charge of the garden was described as dictatorial and unwilling to let some Oak Forest residents use the garden, while admitting people from Wrightsville and elsewhere. She's requested a riding mower, push mowers, a laptop computer and video cameras for the garden. The computer for recordkeeping, it was said. Video cameras? Monitoring against vegetable theft, supposedly. She also put in money for contract secretarial help. None of the other community gardens get funding, critical directors noted. Wright wondered why a riding mower was necessary for a garden. A tiller she could understand, she said. Maybe some hand tools to aerate the soil. But a riding lawn mower as well as push mowers?
Director Ken Richardson, who represents the ward, fought for the money and said city officials had met with the garden leader to encourage her to behave better. He also minimized the size of the grant, $27,000 out of $3 million.
You know what they say. $27,000 here, $27,000 there and pretty soon a city in financial straits has peed away real money. And this city has peed away some money.
Check out a Board meeting some Tuesday night on Comcast. You never know what might turn up. Oh: After all the discussion, the block grant item was deferred to a future meeting for more discussion on the Oak Forest grant.
THEN, the board moved to the expected round of budget cutting to meet a downturn in revenue The specific cuts tonight were a done deal. Some projects were scrapped but there was no current impact on employees. But directors are nervous about the balance of this year and next year. Understandably. Michael Keck, I think it was, mentioned the need for some zero-based budgeting. Yes. Maybe start with veggie cams. Oh, but never mind. That's not real money. That's only federal dollars.
Talk of possible employee furloughs was in the air if things don't get better. The ordinance adopted tonight gives City Manager Bruce Moore power to make further budget reductions this year within limits as necessary, on notice to the board. Director Adcock pled to exempt minimum wage employees should furloughs be necessary.