Mayoral Candidates Rub the Lamp
By D.R. Bartlette
Like a genie in a bottle, we asked Fayetteville’s mayoral candidates, what their three wishes would be for our town. Here are the answers.
I believe dreams rather than wishes. I believe if you work long enough and hard enough, dreams come true. I do not believe the same regarding wishes.
1) Dream one is that Fayetteville [would] create or build an office technology campus right away. Such a campus would attract knowledge-based and green jobs and also add to our sustainability efforts. Fayetteville needs a site that represents the Green Valley Network. The ability of Fayetteville to recruit 1,200 jobs, like those going to Conway, would guarantee that our community has the tax base and resources to fund essential services and provide the incentives for the arts, artisans, and creative communities to flourish. An infusion of new jobs would mean added life and revenue for the Dickson Street Entertainment District and the Joyce Boulevard Retail District. Additional revenue could likewise support widespread and diverse public transportation.
2) Dream two is that Fayetteville practice preservation and conservation of its watersheds, streams and lakes. Fayetteville can start by planting 5,000 new trees. These trees will beautify our city and assist in addressing storm water discharge, canopy cover and clean air. Making the quality and quantity of the water in Beaver Lake a priority guarantees that our city and region will thrive well past the middle of the 21st century.
3) Dream three is that Fayetteville [would] become the downtown of Northwest Arkansas. Fayetteville is the most authentic city in Northwest Arkansas. Our authenticity comes from our diverse population and values. Restaurants like Penguin Ed’s, Hugo’s, Pesto Café, Bordino’s, Soul, Shogun, Jose’s and Emelia’s, along with businesses like Underwood’s, Rogers Rec, George’s Majestic, Perry’s, Town and Country, Dark Star Visuals, Collier’s, Bedford Camera and Video, and East Meets West Spa separate Fayetteville from the chain stores that dot the landscape to our north. This authenticity, anchored by our world-class library and university, makes Fayetteville a destination point for decades to come.
My three wishes or goals, for Fayetteville are:
1) That we continue becoming the most livable, walkable, forward-thinking and enjoyable small city in America. Here is how we will get there: stick to the Downtown Master Plan and City 2025 Plan. This sounds easy but it’s not. Fayetteville citizens and our planning staff came together to handcraft our future and design our city. Changing a development pattern, even from an old, sprawl-inducing one to a new, compact, walkable one requires strong political will. Staying with the plans, even when it is inconvenient, is the only way we will have a city that gets better and better, not just bigger and bigger.
2) That we become a sustainable, zero-waste city. We have the capacity and the obligation to reduce our waste and carbon output so that we can leave a healthy environment and productive economy to future generations. Fayetteville has become a national leader for small cities and we have the opportunity to become the hub for the new technologies and advancements for the green, alternative, renewable future we absolutely must achieve. Planting trees and recycling are not nearly enough. We must continue to lead by example and engage our community at all levels to attain our goals.
3) That we continue to upgrade and expand our social and physical infrastructure. That means improving mobility, from streets to trails to public transit; continuing to improve our entry-level housing stock so we don’t become a city where only the rich can live; helping the arts thrive and provide deep enrichment for our lives; and continuing to make our wonderful city more beautiful and economically strong, working together with civility and mutual respect.
Each of my wishes concerns strengthening our economic development and broadening our revenue base.
1) My first wish is for a reinvigorated hospitality industry brought about by completing the renovation of The Cosmopolitan as a downtown presence, renovating the Clarion at Sixth Street and I-540 as a gateway presence to our community and completing the Renaissance Tower project. Bringing back tourism and large conventions would benefit all local businesses.
2) My second wish is for a promotional program and calendar developed in coordination with Fayetteville businesses, the U of A, the A&P Commission and the Convention and Visitors Bureau that encourages UA students, staff, faculty and visitors to shop, dine, and enjoy the live entertainment in Fayetteville. Promoting our unique qualities, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues offers another way to grow revenue and promote job growth.
3) My third wish: If I couldn’t wish for three more wishes, I’d ask for a consensus economic development plan agreed to by Fayetteville stakeholders and supported by an active recruitment team, a $10 million venture capital fund, a coordinated Fayetteville business recruitment plan and a private business park in each quadrant of Fayetteville.
With all three wishes generating revenue for Fayetteville and its residents, we could honor the pay commitment to our police, fire and city personnel and leave money to finish our trail system, maintain our parks, create more mass transit options and resurface our streets and highways.
It’s great to dream, but we have to plan our work and then work our plan.
Adam Fire Cat
1) I’d like our debt caught up to at the bare minimum of a 50 percent debt-to-annual-budget ratio. Our debt limit set by the state at [just under] $223 million. This is the amount we are allowed to borrow up to this year. The present administration has borrowed [over] $201 million of that going in this year. This has left our debt-to-budget ratio at a record-breaking 159 percent.
Consider our bonds like a credit card, if you will. We have maxed it out. It was said that we have an “A+” bond rating. The only thing that means is that we’ve made our payments on time, not that we should owe this much money. This leaves us in a financially dubious position from which we are unprepared for the future. In the event of a natural disaster, we cannot afford to cover our annual budget. We legally cannot borrow more than $21 million, and this year’s annual budget is [almost] $127 million.
In the analogy of the ant and the grasshopper, we used to be the ant. In the past four years we have become the grasshopper, concerned only with today. When it’s said that we are doing this for the future, I disagree. We spend this money for today and leave the debt for our children and grandchildren to pay, all for the sake of immediate gratification.
This is a trend I wish [were] ended.
2) I would wish to prevent excessive ordinances from becoming too intrusive in our personal lives. Always, there is someone who is more than happy to give away our freedom like so much candy at Halloween. I am more libertarian in my application of such ordinances.
3) That we live practically. Our needs must supersede our wants. When the city is prosperous, we are prosperous. When we aren’t doing so well, then we should stick with the essentials as a rule.
1) First, I would wish that our all of our citizens would have the opportunity for decent jobs that pay a living wage in our developing Green Economy. I find the emerging Green Valley efforts promoted by the Fayetteville Economic Development Council to be promising, and it has the potential to create or bring new high-tech and clean-tech employment opportunities to our region. The Green Jobs movement also makes good economic and environmental sense, and we need to partner with the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to assure a trained workforce for jobs in energy conservation and alternative energy, such as manufacturing and installing solar panels and wind turbines. While other candidates promote economic development solely to expand the city’s tax base, I think it even more important because it can offer good jobs that allow families to live a decent life, afford health care and educate their children.
2) Second, I would wish that all of our citizens would have a place at the table in the public policy process in this city. As an alderman, I have conducted 104 monthly ward meetings where citizens can learn about government operations that affect them and express their views, and have them taken seriously. I would expand this process as mayor to hold quarterly Town Hall meetings, regular news conferences and call-in shows, and a progress report to the people each month. It is their government, and public officials should be public servants.
3) Third, I would wish to continue my support for parks, trails, bicycle lanes and the acquisition of significant natural areas and greenspace. I would expand the Parks and Recreation operations to include community gardens, restoration of native grasses and trees in our parks, and a division of historical and cultural heritage to celebrate our community.
If I had three wishes for Fayetteville they would be a better recycling program where 100 percent of the people participated, greener businesses and find more programs for youth and homeless.
1) Recycling is a big deal, especially with how much money that can be made and with the different facts that make it obvious that recycling is the best way to go. For example, each ton of recycled newspaper helps save 17 trees and recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV set for three hours.
2) Greener business can help our economy and our planet making it a more enjoyable place all around.
3) More programs for youth and homeless are always good to help control both. If we could find a way to help the homeless people out with finding a job it could also help the economy. The youth are the future, no matter where you live, and we want them to stay in Fayetteville. So, give them a reason. Bring in more young-person friendly businesses and find other ways to get them to help out around the community. This will help them stay out of trouble and, hopefully, spend less money.
Those are my three wishes for Fayetteville and I hope to accomplish these when I become mayor. Everyone needs to vote!