by Max Brantley
I mentioned the Quorum Court's discussion last night of Judge Buddy Villines' $20 million proposal to gussy up a replacement Broadway Bridge with a hump of nonfunctional ironwork and a tricolor paint job. America's Bridge, he says we'll call it.
The interrupted broadcast of the meeting prevented me from seeing the outcome. Villines delayed a vote because he didn't have the 10 votes he needed to speed the ordinance along, in part because of defection of sponsors Phil Stowers and Shane Stacks, Republicans who were cheered by Koch Bros. minions in attendance for their action. The Kochs had rallied troops to oppose the Lake Maumelle watershed protection ordinance, but also raised sand about the expenditure of road and bridge money on the bridge.
I'm beginning to lean with the Kochheads on this one.
Villines proposes to use up $9 million in reserve money and dedicate annual matching payments for road and bridge payments PLUS new state revenue for four years to pay for the project. I don't oppose spending for aesthetic purposes. But this is no Calatrava design. It's a camel of a bridge designed by committee, capped by Judge Buddy's garish paint scheme. Do it right — at whatever cost a true landmark would cost — or let's just settle for another humdrum transport link in the style of the Highway Department's gloriously ugly Main Street bridge. I remain to be convinced the bridge must be replaced now anyway, or that anybody has adequately computed the financial impact and traffic headaches to be caused by the two-year closure for the replacement.
Don't put me on the Americans For Prosperity speed dial just yet, Teresa, but the Koch boys' blind hogs might be close to rooting up an acorn on this one.