BARRY HYDE: Another one with the job creation plank. How about just keep the courthouse running?
of North Little Rock announced yesterday for Pulaski County judge
, as I noted yesterday.
He was a competent and engaged state legislator and runs a successful construction business. An ill-chosen strategy cost him enough votes that he lost a race for state Senate by a handful of votes last year, but I saw him as a solid Democratic candidate.
Then I read remarks he made yesterday to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. My heart sank.
He congratulated retiring Judge Buddy Villines,
Buddy did a great job with infrastructure, But the main focus will be trying to be a part of … economic development.
The article went on to quote Hyde as saying that Villines' priorities "focused on improving the quality of life" and added that quality of life "is tied to workforce."
Shoot me now. Another politician with the same tired chamber of commerce bullwhiz
If we just pass out enough tax money to private business, they will trickle upon the noble worker who will then shop at Walmart and other big boxes that Barry Hyde or other contractors will be happy to build. Quality of life is sure to follow.
Spare me. It's the same outmoded thinking that has Little Rock believing that taxpayer-financed construction of some buildings or labs will inundate us with high-tech riches. This thinking chooses to ignore that successful research and business development projects all have something lacking in Little Rock — major private investment. That is not the Little Rock way. By corporate welfare payments alone we are known.
Buddy Villines got it and did what he could with the modest tools available to a county judge.
Improving the quality of life in a city is critical to economic development. The techies swarmed San Francisco, a lovely city with all kinds of public amenities, because it's such a wonderful place. They ride buses to day jobs in Silicon Valley. Where businesses have developed in the city by the bay, entrepreneurs have moved into grim warehouse districts and skid rows and burned venture capital and sweat equity to succeed, not tax money.
Entrepeneurs don't want to live in a craphole of a city with crummy streets, parks, schools, and utility service. Buddy Villines got it. If you haven't, take a read of the brag sheet he prepared
for his retirement announcement. Verizon Arena. Convention Center expansion. River Rail Trolley, Big Dam Bridge, Junction Bridge, Two Rivers Bridge. Two Rivers Park, Maumelle River Trail, Rock Island right of way acquisition. Sidewalks all over. Coleman Creek Trail. Health clinics. Countywide recycling. Compost and mulch programs. Watershed protection that could serve the area well for decades.
Villines declined to join other public agencies in sending tax money to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
He was circumspect about it, as in all things. But he understood that was taxpayer support for a political lobby with views unhealthy to many of the people he represented. Let them pay their own way.
If you don't think infrastructure invesment such as Villines did isn't good for activity, just try to find a parking spot in the Big Dam Bridge parking lot.
Sorry, Barry. Bad start: Throwing down on Villines and suggesting a county administrative officer, with mostly a road fund to work with, can create high-tech jobs.
He made it worse by touting his important role in the Arkansas Lottery
, an enterprise moribund at birth that caught the tail end of a gambling fever that has given way — except to the very poorest — to other enticements, from on-line gambling to proliferating casinos.
The county judge operates the courthouse, figures out ways to fund the county jail and runs garbage and other services in the unincorporated areas. It is not a corporate welfare agency. Infrastructure counts. And here's one: Install high-speed WiFi throughout Pulaski County, or at least high-density areas.