by Max Brantley
The Little Rock Technology Park Authority now has a website. It includes links to documents prepared for the city taxpayer-financed effort and minutes of meetings of the public agency.
An announcement touts that the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce is handling administrative chores for this public agency "free of charge." That's if you don't count the $200,000 the chamber receives as an operational subsidy each year from city taxpayers.
Noted: The website, in meeting minutes, shows a total score on balloting for the recent selection of an engineering firm. It indicates, as I've written before, that no formal public vote — with a motion, second and recorded vote by member — was held on selection of the firm. It also doesn't reveal the scoring of proposals by individual members from which a cumulative score was derived. Nor does it reveal the actual ballots, because they were destroyed by the Chamber of Commerce staff. City Attorney Tom Carpenter signed off on the destruction of these public documents, Leslie Newell Peacock was told.
A public agency should be managed from a public office. The chamber wears many hats, most of them unaccountable to the public. Whatever small savings are realized by its management are lost in both the appearance and reality (destroyed ballots) of transparency and accountability.
The authority has been promised $22 million from a recent sales tax increase, but it will likely seek much more public financing before it's done. Its first mission is to select a site and acquire the property, by eminent domain if necesary. A leading spot for the site is along the south side of I-630 across from UAMS. Dozens of homes would have to be acquired and cleared to make way for a building that proponents hope will draw technology enterprises. As yet, no private concern has committed to an investment.