by Max Brantley
The Democrat-Gazette editorial page hit a new low today in its hysterical opposition to an expanded veterans service center on Main Street. It compared the Department of Veterans Affairs with an authoritarian Germany. Godwin's law strikes. If the words Nazi or Hitler were not used, the intent of the Germanic imagery was clear enough.
The VA just published a notice informing its subjects what was coming. Now we’re all supposed to fall in and follow orders. Jawohl!
The VA gave months of notice and then moved ahead with plans fully allowed by current city zoning to establish a center for vets' education, treatment and miscellaneous service bigger than the one that operates — without reported problems — in a smaller building 10 blocks from City Hall. Imagine what the property rights crowd normally would say if the city cooked up an ordinance after the fact of a legal contract and significant expense to negate that contract.
The City Board will vote tonight on a hurryup "emergency" ordinance to throw a roadblock in front of the VA by requiring a conditional use permit. It will face opposition from the representative of the ward in which the center is to be located, which ought to tell you something. Mayor Mark Stodola seems, however, to have the votes to beat veterans services on Main Street, no matter what the additional cost might be to federal taxpayers.
I'd ask two things: 1) Take a visit to the deplorable location on Confederate Boulevard (what's that neighborhood, chopped liver?) that Stodola and the D-G seem to think is just a fine place to dump the people who return from foreign wars in need of assistance; 2) Remember them and U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, another implacable foe of the VA's plans, when they trot out the tear-stained tributes to troops on Memorial Day.
I have only nominal representation on the City Board (they are typically only proxies for the taxpayer-subsidized Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce), but I'd ask that they resist Stodola's ex post facto attack on veterans services.
UPDATE: Kathy Wells, a neighborhood organization leader and general civic gadfly, opposes tonight's ordinance on broader grounds. Read on:
Please vote down the proposed ordinance on tonight’s agenda that would require conditional-use permits for every community service program in the city. From all we learned in that Group Home Task Force a few years back, from City Atty. Tom Carpenter, the subjection of group homes and residential programs to these permits would likely run afoul of federal Fair Housing laws. Please research the potential for losing lawsuits on this issue before enacting any ordinance.
The Ark. ABC Board and staff have made it clear over the many years of protesting alcohol permits to them that they firmly hold to supreme jurisdiction over issuing alcohol permits in Little Rock. For the city to claim it can grant or withhold a permit for a beverage shop is false, from all I can learn. Why would you knowingly enact a law you cannot enforce?
Using this ordinance against the relocation of the Vet Drop In Treatment Center to Main & 10th St. would be a clever trick. So sharp, you would cut yourselves on it.
There’s been a lot of speculation about that Drop In Center, and what harm might come to the community if this opens on Main St. I personally visited the Center, researched the crime reported to LR police, and concluded this would benefit our area, by moving homeless veterans off the streets.
We need more of that, and better city efforts to do so, as my letter of Jan. 17th reminded you all. By the way, no reply to that inquiry has been forthcoming, so far.
Below is my statement to my neighbors about why I support the Center on Main, for your information.