“What we do here: we don’t base how we run the government on consumer-based government as ‘what’s in it for me?’ We base it on a partnership government that says ‘we’re all partners in this city. How can we all work together?’” — Lioneld Jordan
“So what I have to offer is an entrepreneurial management style and a deep-rooted knowledge and passion for the arts and sustainability and a long track record of getting good things done.” — Dan Coody
By Terrah Baker
When talking with mayoral candidates Dan Coody and Lioneld Jordan, it’s hard to see their political and moral differences at first, as often their ideals on sustainability and diversity coincide. Once they talk about accomplishments during their terms as mayor — Coody from 2000 to 2008 and Jordan from 2008 to today — and their hopes for the future, main themes of their strategies and plans for Fayetteville begin to take shape.
Coody begins to adopt a theme of active innovation, of constantly striving to improve the sustainability services of the community and not remaining stagnant in order to stay a model for the rest of the country. Jordan stresses the importance of community collaboration, expanding on current sustainability efforts, being a servant of the people and always putting financial conservatism first.
Although Jordan wouldn’t say exactly why he feels he differs from his opponent, several references to Coody’s strategies provide some insight.
“My concept of leadership is not calling a press conference to announce some grand proposal or try to take credit for everything that happens. I take a servant’s attitude and listen to my professional staff and the citizens,” Jordan said of his leadership style.
Since he took office in 2008, he said he has worked to keep an open-door policy as he wants to lead a shared government — one where everyone has a voice.
During his term, he has collaborated with individuals through several community and sustainability initiatives, like the one that created the Green Collar Workforce Center. He has also scheduled five town hall meetings a year in order to show his commitment to the people, he said.
“I know a lot of folks say we need to bring in outside consultants, but the people are my consultants,” Jordan explained.
In 2009, the people spoke about the direction they wanted to take the city with the Fayetteville Forward program — which is highlighted as one of the city’s many successes in 2011 by America Today and other rating centers like Forbes magazine. Jordan said because of this initiative, and his support of it, the city has maintained a solid foundation for financially-sustainable growth.
Jordan said another way he kept Fayetteville’s financials strong in his term was to decrease the budget by close to $6 million.
“The most important thing, you must remember, as a leader of a city: you have to properly manage the taxpayers money,” he said.
Which is something he didn’t feel was happening when he first took office. His strategies included everything from cutting paper funds by investing in newer technologies, cutting a $25,000 coffee fund and cutting back on overtime, to taking the city employee count from 780 to 730.
“We didn’t have any layoffs, but when someone left, we didn’t necessarily fill their position,” he said.
Jordan pointed out he did not want to raise taxes, but instead promote business growth. Since July of 2008 to July 2012 — the last month numbers are available from the Department of Labor — 9,741 jobs have been added to Fayetteville’s roster, and over $500 million has been invested in the city by private businesses.
Although not many new programs were started when he took office, he said, because of the uncertainty of the economy at the time, what he did do was build on the previous term’s sustainability and alternative transportation initiatives and included some state-wide collaboration to start some of his own.
Jordan implemented one of his dreams of having a “green-collar training center,” where people who have lost jobs can go to learn the newest environmentally-friendly practices.
Jordan put together a coalition of members from Northwest Arkansas Community College, NWA Labor Council, University of Arkansas, the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor’s Office that met and ultimately founded the Green Collar Workforce Training Centers in 2010 — funded by grants from stimulus money and located at NWACC in Springdale and Pulaski Technical College in Little Rock.
Along with his heading of a streamside protection ordinance — which requires a 50-foot clearance for building by a stream on either side — Jordan also helped pass the most recent building codes, which requires all buildings constructed after September 2012 to be up to 2009 environmental standards.
“This is something no other city in the state has done,” he said.
For his next term, Jordan wants to concentrate on alternative transportation — partnering to build the Razorback Regional Greenway that will lead to Bentonville, and making Fayetteville a more bike-friendly city. He spoke about his dreams of a passenger rail system running North and South throughout the state, and utilizing the Arkansas River for barges to take semi-trucks off the road and ultimately help consumers save.
Coody said he is surprised so many people continue to ask how he and Jordan differ. While Coody prides himself on being an entrepreneur — someone who strives for constant innovation — he feels Jordan’s administration has made the city stagnant.
“I deeply enjoy creating a livable community and building quality of life amenities, many of which we now take for granted, like our trails system,” Coody said.
During his term as mayor, he made some decisions that were not always popular, but were what he thought would move the city forward, he said. By revamping College Avenue and the square, he hoped to bring the city to life and into a new era. That’s also why he fought for the trail systems implementation.
“We visit other cities to see what they’re doing that’s right, and what they’re watching out against. The trail programs elsewhere were very popular and brought an element of creativity to the town,” Coody explained.
Coody likes to study what sets other cities apart, which is another part of his innovation he said. “I don’t just sit back and wait for someone to bring me ideas.”
When Coody was mayor, the city’s sustainability initiatives became nationally recognized. LED traffic lights were used to replace incandescent before LED was a term people recognized, and allowed for an 87 percent drop in traffic light energy consumption.
Coody hired the first sustainability coordinator for the city and in the state after working with the city council on a one-year feasibility agreement. After one year, the city had paid the sustainability coordinator $65,000 and had saved $330,000 in utility costs.
Coody takes an entrepreneurial approach to city finances by incorporating the possibility of private developers and how they could benefit the city.
He used the Wilson Springs Business Park by I-540 as an example. The city had purchased the land for $1.8 million and it had been on the market for 12 years. Coody saw the potential to make the city money and preserve some of the land.
“We sold it for $5.2 million, and the buyers put 45 percent of it in an environmental conservation easement, and it paved the way for Sam’s Club green prototype to locate there. This provided money to jump start the trails program, the botanical garden, repay the fund that bought the land to begin with and build much needed infrastructure,” Coody explained.
He also pointed out that the wastewater treatment plant implemented during his term is scheduled to be paid off by 2015, and there was never a cost overrun, but instead early estimates of the project had been incorrect.
Coody feels he is the right man to take Fayetteville to the next level of sustainability and quality of living with initiatives like improving parking for small businesses, bringing back the downtown city master plan and continuing to build on the trail system.