by Max Brantley
She objects, too, to an earlier project to put a bike lane on West 12th Street between Jonesboro Drive and Battery, a portion of which is also in her Ward One.
The plans were done quietly without consulting her and should have been brought before the City Board, she said.
"I resent it. I'm tired of it."
Hendrix, who is black, sees the bike lanes through a racial lens. She thinks the pressure to accommodate bicycles comes from white residents and that the largely black residents of her ward don't support the traffic changes. She said South Main is a busy street with a bus route and the bike lane will be a hazard and slow traffic, as it has done on Twelfth Street.
Hendrix contends that an expenditure of public money on bicycle traffic should have been brought before the City Board. She's filed a Freedom of Information request for financial information about the bike lanes, something she said she was never favored with. She said she also planned to contact the federal Justice Department.
The Main Street project includes some new asphalt surfacing and bike lanes on both sides of Main between I-630 and Roosevelt Road. A public meeting was held on the plan last week, but Hendrix said that wasn't sufficient. "It wouldn't have gotten this far if I had been included," she said. The project is an outgrowth of redevelopment of the South Main business district with restaurants and other businesses.
Her FOI request, as written in e-mail to city officials:
TOTAL AMOUNT OF CITY FUNDING $$$ CONTRIBUTED, TO THE BIKE TRAIL, ON WEST 12th, FROM BATTERY TO JONES STREETS.
TOTAL AMOUNT OF ANTICIPATED CITY FUNDING $$$, TO BE SPENT FOR PROPOSED AMOUNT, TO BE SPENT FOR THE MAIN STREET BIKE TRAIL.
REMEMBER THE TURN AROUND TIME OF THIS REQUEST.
IF EITHER OF YOU HAVE A QUESTION YOU MUST EMAIL THE CONCERN. NO TELEPHONE.
UPDATE: Quite a stir produced in the neighborhood. Hendrix sent along a letter she'd received about the comments reported here. She responded that the blog item was hearsay and asked me if I had a tape recording of her mentioning race in her comments to me. I don't. But I know she mentioned race several times, both of those who oppose the bike lanes and those who support them. But, as the original item also noted, Hendrix was less concerned with race than with being left out of the process and, she believes, disrespected by the mayor. She remains convinced that Main and W. 12th are bad streets for bike lanes. She said Chester Street would be far preferable as a north-south bike route.
LETTER TO ERMA HENDRIX
Dear Ms. Hendrix:
As a resident of Ward 1 I am disturbed that you might, as indicated in the above quote from the Arkansas Blog, see this issue through a racial lens. Does this mean that you dismiss any concerns that your white or other-hued constituents might have? Implying a racial component in regard to this topic seems to be a sad and self-serving approach to doing your job as a city director. If you think there is an impropriety in regard to funding or a lack of respect to you for not being included in planning then make that an issue, but please don't make it racial when it isn't. Why drive a wedge between neighbors just to serve your self?
Equally disturbing, considering that you studied Urban Planning and Development, is that you don't recognize the value of slowing traffic and providing a safe bike lane on Main. Main Street is the spine of a growing, vibrant neighborhood; we shouldn't see it as an arterial street for moving large numbers of cars, as quickly as possible, from one part of town to another. As a regular walker in the neighborhood I can tell you that vehicular traffic on Main Street generally runs above the speed limit and drivers are generally not courteous or even conscious of pedestrians or bikers. The buses need to slow down also. Slowing traffic will be an important step in creating a safe environment for children and adults who walk, ride bikes, drive vehicles, skateboard, shop, eat out, do laundry, and live their lives. I think that includes black people, white people, asian, hispanic; all the folks of various colors and origins you are sworn to represent who live in or visit your Ward.
I am thankful that Mayor Stodola has the vision to support progressive improvements to our neighborhood, especially since our elected representative for Ward 1 obviously doesn't.
Sincerely, Gary Evans
Unless you heard from me personally, about the Restriping of Main Street, rather than, what you have read from Max's AR Blog be careful, about hearsay. OK, and if you care, to know then call me OK.
Personally, I view communication by email as a cowardly act. I prefer man to woman conversation!!!!
EVANS RESPONSE TO HENDRIX
Dear Ms. Hendrix:
Thank you for your prompt response, which could have been used to explain your thoughts regarding the plan to re-stripe Main Street; instead you took the opportunity to imply that I am a coward for using e-mail.
I strongly believe that e-mail is an honorable means of communication and I must defend it before you! Among the professional people I work with e-mail is highly regarded as a time saving device; it allows correspondents to fully and expediently share information while providing a valuable record of that which was said. For instance, e-mail is the best means for coordinating dinner plans among a group of people.
However, after sensing the high degree of hostility and defensiveness in your response, I must admit to a bit of cowardice - I am afraid that a telephone conversation with you would expose me to the sharp edge of your tongue, and that does frighten me just a wee bit.
Besides, this issue is larger than just the two of us, isn't it? The entire community deserves to hear you articulate your thoughts on the plan for Main Street. I encourage you to pick up the telephone, or perhaps send an e-mail, and contact Max Brantley or someone in the press to get your ideas before your public. Thank you for your time.