by Max Brantley
Mayor Stodola, Lance Hines, Gene Fortson, Joan Adcock and the Little Rock Regional Chamber Chamber (but I repeat myself) are smug this week, having quietly given the doughty Occupy Little Rock group notice of eviction from their camping spot effective May 16. That takes care of THAT, they're thinking.
You'd think Poland, Czechoslvaki and others would have taught the authoritarians something. You can kill people, knock down tents and burn signs. But you can't kill ideas.
There's a future for Occupy Little Rock and I believe they see it and will act on it, by plunging into the belly of the beast. They could, for example, help shame county government into protecting Lake Maumelle, rather than letting the Koch Brothers, Deltic Timber and their paid regulation assassins kill it with an absence of regulatory protection. They could work nonstop to get the Arkansas ethics reform act on the 2012 ballot. This would reduce the influence of corporate money in politics (see the multiple corporate donations that are powering Chamber of Comerce puppet Fred Allen in his state Senate race against Sen. Joyce Elliott, hated by the Waltons, Hussmans, Stephens and rest of the anti-union, anti-public school, anti-tax, anti-regulation crowd.)
My exhortation is inspired by this article in the Washington Post. Fascinating.Thanks to Ezra Klein's valuable Twitter feed for calling it to my attention. It's about how the Occupy Wall Street group — including a number of currently employed Wall Street people — is "burrowing" into the regulatory system to effect change. They know the fine details and they know how to use process to work against the interests that normally dominate. This approach can be replicated in Little Rock. It requires no tents or city parking lot. And if you think the Lance Hineses of the world are made uncomfortable by a few tents on an asphalt patch in the shadow of a busy freeway miles away from his home, think how uncomfortable he'll get when Deltic, Stephens Inc. and the Chamber don't routinely and unquestioningly get their way before the City Board, Quorum Court, legislature and other levers of the public.
In New York, the occupiers have taken up making a regular appearance in the public space of a fancy office building. There's a good bit of public right of way outside or near, say, the headquarters of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Stephens Building, to name a couple of symbolic gathering spots for daily meetings and strategy sessions. Just saying, as the article does: Don't like the system? Work it.
UPDATE: The activists are way ahead of me. Arkansas Community Organizations is gathering information about the planning for the Technology Park. This letter has also gone to authority members. I hope they recognize that their private e-mails, if used in the furtherance of public business, are open under the state Freedom of Information Act (I'm looking at you Jay Chesshir, Dickson Flake and Co.)
I am also told that residents of the areas targeted by the Technology Park Authority (I'm pretty sure you won't find any of the board members are residents of those neighborhoods) and concerned members of the community are forming a coalition that is called the "We Shall Not Be Moved Coalition" to urge the Authority to build the park on land where there are no homes. This is kind of a metaphorical eyesore for Lance Hines and his ilk, I'm sure.