by Max Brantley
After offices open, I'll try to get a sense of what comes next for the proposal to relocate veterans day services to 10th and Main. An emergency ordinance to complicate that move was deferred last night by the Little Rock City Board.
There seems little doubt that, even if the VA moves forward, there'll be a need for city Board of Adjustment review of the design plans, parking spaces and landscaping. I don't think the use of the property would be an issue at that level, though it would almost certainly arise in public comments. A negative decision by the Board of Adjustment could be appealed to Circuit Court, not the City Board.
No matter where you stand on the vets' center, this emergency ordinance was a cluster****, a classic example of no-brain, reactive city gimmickry. To come up with an excuse to block the vets center, city geniuses acting at Mayor Stodola's direction rounded up a laundry list of legitimate enterprises that would be removed from a comprehensive zoning plan and made to go through a cumbersome and capricious conditional use process. In the end, this included drug stores and grocery stores. A parade of speakers illustrated the manifest problems in the ordinance. It didn't stop the vets center and it, again, made city leadership look petty and inept.
Meanwhile, I got an e-mail last night to supporters of the VA with a rundown on last night's action. It included the list of reasons why the VA is seeking to move from 2nd and Ringo. In the event an interest in serving veterans might interest you:
Without your support, the city board of directors may pass an ordinance that can prevent the veterans' day resource center from relocating from its current run down dilapidated home to its new location at the corner of 10th and Main. Here are some facts about the current facility.
* The current veteran center functions to help veterans who are homeless get off of the streets and into housing.
* The current building is not adequate. It is far too small to house the services needed. It is dilapidated and has leaks, bugs, and rodents.
* The employees are two to three to an office and there is not enough confidentiality or space to provide adequate services. Veterans have to eat in shifts because there is not enough dining space. There is not enough space during the meetings for the veterans to sit. They have to stand up around the edges of the room. There is only bathroom for all the veterans to share and there is no separate bathroom for the women or children.
* There are not hordes of homeless people standing around the current center. When the center closes the veterans leave the area to return to shelters or to their own residences.
* The current center has been in operation for 20 years without major incident.
* The number of veterans being served is growing and there will be an influx as they return from the recent conflicts.
* Sadly, there is a growing number of young men and women and their children who are being served by the center.