More needs to be said in regard to the forced retirement of editor, writer and veteran newspaperman Jack Schnedler from the Democrat-Gazette. I regarded Jack as my friend and worked with him for several years. I found him to be the most competent person in the newsroom as a writer or editor. When I received a piece from Jack it was as though the late Gazette writer Leland DuVall lived again because there would be no need to edit. And, as a plus, he could make Paul Greenberg mad. Jack survived the closing of at least two newspapers and the Chicago winters, but not Walter Hussman. He does not know I'm sending this and I have no idea if he would approve.
What Walter Hussman and Griffin Smith have done in the last two and a half years, besides corrupting the political process (see Elliot, Joyce vs. Griffin, Tim), has been to reduce staff and to do that they have laid off senior employees, including myself, who earned the most money. There was no regard whatever for the human consequences. One former employee died and one could say that he was a suicide; some have been forced into bankruptcy; some have lost homes or are now in danger of losing their home; many simply cannot pay their debts accrued when they had a paycheck and now have bad credit. Many of those laid off were 60 or over and some had health problems, thus were using the health plan more, which costs the company money. One woman had been with the company for 30 years and was over 60. What can that person do in such a specialized field and in such a job market? These people had given their lives to that newspaper and were cast out without a thought — 26 of them in February 2009 alone. They received two weeks of severance pay AND were asked to stay on two more weeks for a smooth transition. There was no pension plan. There was a meager profit-sharing plan, but you can't have that money until you're 65 ½.
Now you can argue that it was just a business decision, that life is hard and no one promised you it would be otherwise, that Hussman owns the paper and can do whatever he wants with it, that everyone has a right to do what they want with their property, but does that make it right? Griffin Smith, Hussman's senior editor, has failed to honor an implicit contract with his employees and should be ashamed. The community should be ashamed for continuing to support the Democrat-Gazette. Businesses should not advertise in that newspaper because Walter Hussman has harmed them as well since his former employees cannot buy what they advertise. Walter Hussman is a pariah on this city and state.
And you can argue that these people should have saved to be prepared for the unexpected, but that doesn't wash. Walter Hussman has a notorious history of paying little and offering few benefits.
Walter Hussman is a rich man. Can he take his riches with him when this life is over? If there is a heaven, what will he say, what excuses will he offer St. Peter?
No to sales tax plan
This 2011 proposal for a sales-tax increase from City Hall presents the classic dilemma: "What do I get for what I give?" Nobody gets it all; compromise is truly a requirement of good government.
Sometimes, you hold your nose and vote yes. Little Rock does need some more revenue. Sadly, however, city leaders have been dominated by Establishment views, and as before, officials defer to the Chamber of Commerce and developers for the city plan for future growth. They profit and grow on our nickel. Their police and fire stations and parks ought to come from impact fees paid by those new home buyers and business owners. Other thriving cities do this; Little Rock should, too.
The East Little Rock communities decline, lose population, then lose government services because "too few are using those services." Remedies from city hall are too few, and too ineffective. The West Little Rock annexation is promoted, gains population and gets fire and police stations at the expense of us all.
In fact, officials are considering taking a fire truck from the station at Chester and Seventh for the new Taylor Loop Road facility, once constructed. They tell us no decision has been made. Shall we believe that?
There are needed items in the 3/8 cent for capital expenses, notably the police radio, 911 dispatchers, a new police headquarters, and street and drainage projects. These are wrapped around police and fire stations for the west, a port expansion and the creation of a new Technology Research Park near UAMS, plus $6 million unspecified for Economic Development. Last time, in 1993, the capital penny would have provided an arena, later built on a county tax, plus some needed street and drainage work. Voters defeated that tax. I've concluded this year's capital proposal is equally flawed, and merits a no vote.
The 5/8 cent for operations has appeal, notably 20 more code officers, and more money for prevention, intervention and treatment programs. However, officials have not said they will restore the $500,000 cut to PIT funding if this tax is passed. There's money for new bus routes, but there's nothing to restore night and weekend service for all. These were achievements of the 1993 sales tax proposal, and they are being bypassed for the newest thing, the latest fashion.
City leaders rejected the citizen proposal to require city workers live in Little Rock, and more than half live outside the city today. Having more commuters on the city payroll is no vision for growing our future.
Shall we trust officials who get the facts wrong, badly wrong? In a debate Thursday, our mayor disputed that Ward 1 lost population in the 2010 Census; he conceded the error when shown a fact sheet. The record: Ward 1 lost 3,906; Ward 2 lost 621; Ward 3 lost 1,089; and Ward 4 lost 168 in population, according to Metroplan.
Shall we trust a mayor who says we have impact fees, since developers pay for streets in their subdivisions? That's a misdirection — the cost of parks, fire and police off the site are what an impact fee provides. Shall we trust a mayor who says the Rainy Day Fund is locked up, and cannot be spent in today's shortfall, because it would assure bond payments in a financial crisis? That's news to the author of this policy, Larry Lichty.
Vote no to 5/8 cent for operations, and redirect our leaders to better goals and more reasonable proposals.