The Forest Hills Neighborhood Association gave the Little Rock Technology Park Authority board a piece of their minds tonight in a meeting at the Willie Hinton resource center. Speaker after speaker addressed the board, a one-way. emotional conversation for nearly 45 minutes, in which residents wearing "Not for Sale" stickers expressed fear and anger over the board's right of eminent domain to take their homes to make way for the park and at which at times grew heated. One woman said the plan to take about 30 acres of a residential area for development of the park was part of a racist "pattern of our experience when the opportunity for wealth arises" — a pattern of making the poor suffer for the goals of the upper class. Residents described their homes, their gardens, their years in the neighborhood.
State Sen. Joyce Elliott
Williams, speaking to both the board and the neighborhood association, said that the market value of a home threatened with a taking by eminent domain "should be a minimum" price in negotiations and that pain and suffering caused by moving should be taken into account. Dr. Anika Whitfield, who lives near the Forest Hills neighborhood, told the board that instead of leveling a neighborhood "we should be talking about another location," including the War Memorial Golf Course.
A low point of the evening came when Authority board member Bob Johnson, the former representative and senator, told the crowd of mostly black, lower middle class residents that he had been in their shoes in the 1990s when a utility "was abusing eminent domain" and he fought to protect his Pawpaw's land. Please. The residents of Forest Hills are the equivalent to Deltic Timber, which sought to take Central Arkansas Water's right of eminent domain away so it could make big bucks developing big homes in the watershed of the city's water supply? Johnson bragged about writing "the most restrictive eminent domain law" in history and getting the Senate to pass it, though it failed in the House. If you have forgotten the details of what sparked years of fighting to protect our drinking water, read here.
Joan Adcock was the final speaker, noting the commitment the city got from UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn and UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson that they would act in a fair manner to develop the park. Can't post the letter from home; will in the a.m. at work.