by Max Brantley
A number of people are organizing in support of the VA's attempt to improve its facilities for veteran services by moving a clinic from an inadequate space at 2nd and Ringo to a long-abandoned car dealership at 10th and Main. Mayor Mark Stodola and Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin have pulled out every trick to stop the move, without offering a viable alternative.
The Little Rock City Board, which meets tonight at 6, will consider a hurryup ordinance written specifically to create a procedural roadblock to the VA's use of the Main Street building. A legal fight is sure to ensue if it passes. For one thing, the owner already has placed a community welfare agency serving veterans with brain injuries in the building. The building is now in use as a welfare center, which current zoning allows by right. The owner will argue the city can't retroactively bar that use without doing the same to any number of other facilities covered by the new ordinance, which also attempts to place some limits on small stores selling beer. The beer measure is a long-sought project of black board members with complaints about problem alcohol sellers. Their wishes were ignored until the vets came along and an "emergency" was declared.
A vigil in behalf of veterans is set outside City Hall at 5:15. Demonstrators will also be there in support of continued city tolerance for the Occupy Little Rock camp between 4th and Capitol along the I-30 access road. Earlier today, at 2:30 p.m. at 10th and Main, a group of veterans including the father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, plan to demonstrate in support of the vets center.
Herb Rule, a Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress who spoke in favor of the vets center before the City Board a month ago when he was not yet a candidate, has urged the city board today on Twitter not to pass the ordinance. He Tweeted: "Give vets respect they deserve. Beat discriminatory ordinance. Let prop owners talk 2 neighbors 2 make right "
Downtown resident Robert Johnston, like Rule a veteran and former state legislator, also has urged defeat of the attempt to shut out the vets center. He provided a list of persuasive talking points. See them on the jump, along with a letter from Arkansas Community Organizations. First, Johnston:
1. The present Drop In Center is inadequate. Too small
2. The 1000 Main location will permit better service, including primary medical care
3. The present location has presented no problems to neighbors. Business and residential neighbors say they have been good neighbors.
4. The 1000 Main location is zoned commercial, in a major commercial area for several blocks N and S, E and W
5. The 1000 Main location is 1/2 block from an AA outpatient treatment center
6. The 1000 Main location has only 7 residences within 2 blocks, mostly multifamily, absent landlord.
7. Our vets deserve a first class, not a third class facility
Against this Tim Griffin says what?
Letter from Arkansas Community Organizations:
Mayor Mark Stodola
Little Rock City Board of Directors
500 W. Markham
Little Rock, AR 72201
Dear Mayor Stodola and Little Rock Directors:
We are writing to urge you to take the zoning ordinance designed to prevent the Veterans Center from moving to 10th and Main streets OFF THE AGENDA. Many of our members are veterans. These services are sorely needed in our city and are best provided in or near downtown. If the ordinance passes, you will further stain Little Rock’s already tarnished reputation in regards to the homeless and all people in need.
The economic draft is real. If members of our community are on the front lines in the defense of our country, we expect them to be treated with dignity and cared for when they return. It is our understanding that this ordinance will represent the second time that City Hall has obstructed the Veterans Center from relocating. This is shameful.
Please support our veterans by allowing the VA to move forward with its plans to locate the Veterans Center at 10th and Main.
Marsha Poole Robert Webb
Donna Massey Gloria Smith
For Arkansas Community Organizations