by Max Brantley
We could use some unity. But for four high-voting limousine liberal precincts of the Heights and Hillcrest, city voters would have defeated the Chamber of Commerce-backed city sales tax increase. Poor and black people had a lot of bones to pick with city government and overwhelmingly rejected the tax.
There's value in repudiation of past mistakes. City Director Joan Adcock's continued reluctance to endorse anything that reflects badly on the 1957 segregation defense (she never was happy about the Little Rock historic site development) is evidence enough of the need to continue to confront old ghosts.
But City Director Erma Hendrix spoke the plain truth. If the city really was serious about uniting the city, it would end the election system that gives control of city government to three at-large directors, whose expensive campaigns are paid by the business establishment. (Joan Adcock, reluctant to repeal a seg resolution, is one of those citywide officeholders.) We live in a majority-minority city (counting Latinos) and only three of the 11 members of the board, counting the mayor, are black. None is Latino. An official of the Chamber of Commerce has been working mightily for several years to impose this same at-large election system on the Little Rock School Board, which happens to be majority black and serves a majority black student population
The city could also be more open than it has been about its plans to use a majority black neighborhood for the taxpayer financed research park that was part of the recent sales tax campaign. There's an abiding belief that the decision-makers in the establishment know what land will be used, but have kept it under wraps. The chamber of commerce task force that produced the 1957 seg repealer idea might also think about working on a modern-day resolution that says the chamber of commerce will no longer be used for political attacks on the majority-black Little Rock School District and will work to improve it, rather than work to splinter it into multiple charter school districts favored, unlike the public school district, with support from billionaires from outside Little Rock who hate the teachers union. (The teachers union, historians will recall, was on the short list of heroes in the 1957 segregation debacle. My link is to
Ernest Dumas' remembrance of AEA leader Forrest Rozzell. Don't bother searching for the likes of his courage among those nominally known as leaders here today.)
In short, don't get me started. Repeal the damn 1957 resolution. Spend about two seconds doing it, let the do-gooders pat themselves on the back and then get to work on TODAY. Demonstrate in tangible ways that citizens of Little Rock in the year 2011 have reason to believe the people who call the shots in this city have the interest of all foremost. Demonstrate that everyone has a seat at the table when decisions are made.
I won't hold my breath.