by Max Brantley
I hinted at this last week, in a report on how big business lobbyists were pressing Secretary of State Mark Martin to deliver the vote of his appointee to the Capitol Zoning District Commission in favor of John Burkhalter's plan to build a five-story building across from the Capitol.
If Martin's vote counts — and some think it could be critical on the nine-member panel — he opposes the building plan. The matter was scheduled for a vote last Thursday, but the city of Little Rock intervened to beg for more time, allegedly for more study, but really to do a favor for Burkhalter, who knew he didn't have the votes.
Burkhalter supported Democratic candidates in 2010, particularly Gov. Mike Beebe, who put him on the Highway Commission. Martin is a Republican. Chamber of Commerce (see the City Hall connection?) and construction industry lobbyists have been pushing Martin to go with Burkhalter. The response:
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin announced today his opposition to amending the Capitol Master Plan for construction that would block views of the State Capitol.
The proposed five-story building would be located at 1417 West Sixth Street.
Martin said, “As Secretary of State, I am charged with preserving and maintaining the Arkansas State Capitol. That means I have to follow that viewpoint, as guardian of the building, rather than pursue a political or commercial view.”
“If the Commission amends the rule entirely, without limitations, the Capitol becomes subject to ever-encroaching construction,” he continued, “but changing the rule specifically for one individual would be special legislation, which is generally frowned up.”
He added, “The Capitol is currently visible from many points throughout Little Rock, and I don’t believe any of those vantage points should be blocked.”
Martin pointed out that the Capitol is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of Arkansas’s most attractive public buildings, receiving thousands of visitors each year.
“Because of the Capitol’s aesthetic appeal and historic significance, I believe it should retain its current visibility. I recommend that the Commission take no action,” he concluded.
The Capitol Zoning District Commission consists of delegates from the Secretary of State’s office, Governor’s office, city of Little Rock, area property owners and at-large members.
The Times endorsed this position Aug. 17. We'd like to think we brought Mark Martin to this pass, but most likely we'll just have to put it down to strange bedfellows.
PS — I still plan to take a look at various PAC contribution reports to see if Burkhalter has become a bipartisan giver this year.