by Max Brantley
The Democrat-Gazette further mined Census data yesterday for the finding that white people are no longer a majority of Little Rock's population. They constitute about 48.9 percent of the city's some 193,000 residents; blacks account for 42.3 percent. The rest are some racial mix. Presumably many are Latino, though that is not a racial category for Census purposes. More than 13,000 people, or 6.8 percent of the city's population, said they were of Hispanic or Latino origin.
The city and county's population growth, in the 5 percent range, was puny by comparison with suburban counties, such as Faulkner and Lonoke.
There's plenty of politics to be mined from this, naturally, beginning with a city board that is roughly 33 percent black (three of 10, plus the white mayor.) Ward-only elections would likely change that balance somewhat, a key reason why downtown power brokers have long favored keeping the decisive handful of board seats elected in expensive citywide races, not by wards.
Speaking of downtown power brokers: The Census illustrates, most likely, some of downside of the city shipping money off to the private Chamber of Commerce for putative economic development. It's debatable whether that effort has directly influenced job creation here, but the general population demographics hint that many of the new job engines that locate here — and create demands on city services — have workforces that live in outlying cities and counties. Quality of schools and perceived crime problems (both unfortunately often linked to race) have played a great role in this (which makes the Chamber's attacks on the schools all the more mystifying). New factories aren't the only employers with suburban workforces. The city and school district payrolls are also full of people who flee the city after knocking off work. Points to ponder along with Mayor Mark Stodola's cheerful praise of the diversity of the city when questioned by the D-G.