“Things are problematic when an environment polarizes between experts and amateurs. In the last 30 years of American culture, we have evolved into that kind of society. We have experts who make decisions about buildings, and roads, and towns, while citizens are the recipients of those decisions. FFF wants citizens to be part of the decision making process.” - Friends For Fayetteville Chair Anne Murphy, Ozark Gazette, January 9, 1998
Way back in the closing years of the 20th Century, there was an organization in the New York City of the Ozarks known as Friends For Fayetteville.
Coming into being in 1994, FFF was a way for ordinary citizens to come together and try to make their voices heard, rather than as the splintered cries one so often hears at public meetings. It had the force of numbers. FFF’s Mission Statement read:
Our mission is to promote Fayetteville's beauty, economy, environmental quality, health, heritage, safety and sense of community through research, education and citizen participation in planning and development issues.
By 1998, FFF had over 300 members.
Partially as a result of FFF’s efforts the city of Fayetteville was persuaded to preserve the city’s natural environment.
FFF had a finger in so many pies, but admittedly some years it was more active than others.
But it attempted to address many areas of concern to the public, and had a subcommittee. “Public Concerns.” made up of FFF board members and others in the group. This was a research group, which designed to anticipate and understand issues coming into the public arena. In turn, the group would educate the rest of FFF about the issues.
It utilized public access television very well, recognizing it as a valuable way to communicate their views to Fayetteville residents.
I couldn’t belong to FFF because I wrote about such groups, but I attended a few meetings, and had some respect for them, especially for the late Anne Murphy, who might well be described as a force of nature. She had a very imaginative vision for what she saw as the future for Friends for Fayetteville.
Sadly, FFF is no longer with us.
There are a lot of theories, even to this day, as to why this is so, but the fact that it isn’t here is pretty sad, especially when there is still a need for such a group.
Groups like FFF keep city government on their toes, as well as providing inspiration for ordinary men and women. A group like FFF might have an action plan for when an institution like, oh, I don’t know, the University of Arkansas, wants to play around on our streets and counts on only token opposition.
How hard might it be to at least have a start-up meeting of interested citizens? From the conversations I’ve had with people over the years, they are more than ready.
As for the board of directors? Well, maybe it should all be regular residents, and having no seats automatically reserved for anyone from city or county government? I’ve heard that idea raised in the past, but I shudder at the very notion.
Not having such a seat be a good way to be prevent the organization from being politically co-opted, which is just another term for politically neutered or politically corrupted.
Quote of the Day
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Under the influence of this pestilent morality, I am forever letting tomorrow’s work slop backwards into today’s and doing painfully and nervously today what I could do quickly and easily tomorrow. - J.A. Spender