by Max Brantley
Please, understand. Dassault Falcon's extension of its lease at the Little Rock National Airport is a wonderful thing. A continuation of a $150 million payroll is now likelier, world economic conditions willing. I understand city officials want to take credit for "saving" these jobs, although Dassault had made no indication it was preparing to leave Little Rock and although finding a new airport, a huge facility for a token rent ($920,000 a year for 4 million square feet of land and a quarter-million square feet of buildings) and trained workforce would have been, on the front end, an enormous expenditure.
Tonight was a night for back-patting. The Board did it. The Airport Commission chair Virgil Miller lavished praised on Mayor Mark Stodola and Jay Chessir, director of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Airport Director Ron Mathieu was lauded. The wise men (and one woman) of the Airport Commission were lauded.
Even City Director Ken Richardson, often a voice of working people, let me down.
You'd think that entire payroll was the product of wining and dining on a trip to Paris and city tax money to build a Ninth Street extension.
Did not a single person stop to think that 1,800 workers — down from 2,400 — had something to do with Dassault's decision to stay here? They are paid well by our standards, but low by national standards. They work in a state unfriendly to unions, unfriendly to workers comp, unfriendly generally to workforce protection.. But they do great work at a highly profitable cost to Dassault. We could thank Pulaski Tech, too, for training a lot of these people at a low cost.
Did a single member of the city board or the city power structure think our workers — and their pay — might have had something to do with Dassault's decision to stay? No, it was that high-priced dinner that Mark Stodola and Jay Chessir had with themselves in Paris (no Dassault people were present) that did the trick. Workers didn't get a token nod from anyone.
If there was ever a better indication of how little the city establishment values workers and how much it values power and money, this was it.
ALSO: Yes, your garbage pickup bill is going up for less service for curbside recycling and you will get an unwieldy carriage to do it with — too large for homes on small lots with no places to store them. But the mayor knows what's better for you. This will also reduce labor costs for the profiteering private waste collector, by the way. So it's kind of fitting in tonight's context. Corporations get richer; city officials praise enablers for that; workers get forgotten, if not the shaft.