by Max Brantley
Is there anything wackier than the Garland County taliban, a unholy alliance of religious righters and teabaggers intent on governmental domination, tax reduction, religion in public life and discouragement of drinking, gambling, tourism and other pastimes that have made Hot Springs what it is today?
We've written about them before. Today, I'm prompted by news from the Garland Good Government Group, umbrella organization for the jihadists. It has commissioned an official-sounding report on — hold your breath — the attendance figures at the recent St. Patrick's Day Parade, a seemingly successful annual gathering that features a TV celebrity and "world's shortest" parade. The frivolity draws crowds to downtown bars and restaurants in Hot Springs.
Why the report? The 'baggers have long contended organizers have exaggerated attendance. They care because the tax that supports tourism promotion in Hot Springs has long bugged the 'baggers.
So they hired an outfit called Worldwide Leisure Management Inc. — the business of Dan Aylward, a Hot Springs Village conservative and former Magic Springs manager who has, among others, opposed the tax increase for the Mid-America Museum in Hot Springs. He will report Friday that, based on an alchemy of crowd estimation metrics and actual observations by 'baggers with sufficient toes and fingers, the 2012 parade drew fewer people than organizers estimated. But, fair and balanced as Fox News, he apparently will also report that the number wasn't as small as some critics thought.
This is good government at work, a news release on the jump assures us. Not, you might be tempted to think, a petty exercise in political sour grapes. Said spokesman Blake Robertson:
“There is no question that the Parade is a good event and should continue in our community. This is one of those wonderful ‘Chamber of Commerce’ type events that highlight the area, generates publicity and creates a positive environment in the community. We believe, however, that we all should be realistic about the attendance and recognize events for what they are and what the real impact might be. Due to last year’s conflicting attendance numbers, our mission statement basically dictated that we conduct this study.”
How many teabags necessary to brew a full pot?
CLARIFICATION: My original headline pinned this activity on Garland County tea partyers. I meant that in a general philosophical way, but I've amended the headline because a member of what's said to be a formal Garland County Tea Party group objects that it has no official connection with this effort. Tea Party sentiments are certainly evident in the "good government" posse, but to avoid any confusion I happily make the change.
Hot Springs, Arkansas: Following controversy from the 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade attendance estimates, the Garland Good Government Group will release a study on Friday which it commissioned on the 2012 events in order to provide an independent third party attendance number, according to Dr. Blake Robertson, the group’s Vice President. Dr. Robertson further stated that it is incumbent on the Garland Good Government Group, as prescribed by its mission statement, to provide factual information to the community to clarify confusion of the type experienced in 2011.
The study, conducted by Worldwide Leisure Management LLC, shows a considerably smaller number of attendees than was reported by the event sponsors but a larger number than many others have suggested for this year’s parade and related events. The report lists the actual numbers in attendance for the 2012 parade alone based on proven methodologies utilized in Europe and theU.S.A. plus actual counts performed by individuals at the events. Additionally, surveys were performed to determine the percentage of attendees who were from out-of-state, from Arkansas, and those who reside within Garland County.
“This study provides a detailed analysis of the attendance from two perspectives and provides the first realistic and independent third party attendance accounting for the event,” said Robertson.
Robertson continued, “There is no question that the Parade is a good event and should continue in our community. This is one of those wonderful ‘Chamber of Commerce’ type events that highlight the area, generates publicity and creates a positive environment in the community. We believe, however, that we all should be realistic about the attendance and recognize events for what they are and what the real impact might be. Due to last year’s conflicting attendance numbers, our mission statement basically dictated that we conduct this study.”
The GGGG mission statement: The Garland Good Government Group is committed to promote transparent, ethical, and representative government for the betterment of our thriving community, to demand openness and accountability in all governmental activities, to foster civic involvement, community improvement, to participate in good government and to acquire and to provide access to information so the public can make informed choices.
“We have now acquired the correct information and will release and provide copies of the study to the media and to the public at a press conference on Friday,” said Robertson.
The firm that conducted the survey, Worldwide Leisure Management LLC provides consultative services to governments, companies and non-profit organizations around the world. Through its principal, the company brings experience with operations in nine countries, four continents, and eight states in the United States.
The press conference is scheduled for 1:30 PM, Friday, April 6 at Hill Wheatley Park (Central Avenue at Reserve Street).