FBI 2009 Crime Statistics Just Released
November 21, 2010
The FBI have now released an update to their 2009
national crime report. As reported below, crime was down about 5% but the Hot
Springs Metropolitan Area (all of Garland County) has moved up to number 6 in
the entire country
(click here to see the statistics). Cities such as Detroit, Memphis,
and Pine Bluff have higher serious crime rankings. You can also
click here to see the New
York Times Almanac which rates Hot Springs as the "Most Dangerous City in the
U.S. as a per capita rating. In addition to the story below, also scroll
down to see June 7 and May 9, 2010 stories on crime in the Hot Springs area.
FBI Latest Crime Statistics Just Released
September 14, 2010
However, the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area (all Garland County) again led the nation as number
one (1) in the Property Crime
and Burglary categories per capita with the highest rates of any Metropolitan
area among the 379 in the nation. We fell back a couple of notches from
2nd (behind Laredo) to 4th in the Larceny Category. Here is the link to
download and sort the results yourself. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_06.html
Separately, the City of Hot Springs (inside city limits) lost its distinction of having the highest property crime rate
of any city with a population of 35,000 or greater this year with North Little
Rock and Miami Beach exceeding Hot Springs this year by small margins.
Nationwide, the murder rate dropped 7.3% but
the City of Hot Springs murder rate rose by 400% in 2009 and has already
exceeded the 2009 rate in 2010 and the year isn't over. Those
numbers don't include the Pearcy Massacre
because it was in the county and the reported and/or unreported murders in the
National Park are not included in those numbers. Perhaps, this was because the
actual murders may have occurred elsewhere and the bodies then dumped inside
GGGG and Watchmen Officers File Suit Against Election
June 11, 2010
A joint lawsuit was filed by
officials of the Garland Good Government Group and The Watchmen of Garland
County on Tuesday - June 8 and then withdrawn on June 10 after the Garland
County Election Commission Chairman, Charles Tapp resigned. Readers will
recall that an identical suit was filed in 2008 when the Commission closed all
but one single polling place for the museum vote. The Commission chairman
announced that the purpose for closing 37 of the county's 39 polling places was
to save money. Hey, he could have saved even more by closing the other 2.
Everyone from the Arkansas Secretary of State's office to numerous irate voters
(click here to hear from
some) agreed that the actions were illegal or improper. Following
are photos of the over-crowded Hot Springs polling place which backed up traffic
on Ouachita Avenue requiring Hot Springs officers to direct traffic. The
only other open polling site in the county was inside Hot Springs Village, a
gated subdivision. Also shown below is the press release provided to the
media at Thursday's news conference.
That red truck is
going nowhere fast including traffic backed up behind him on Ouachita
June 10, 2010
Watchmen of Garland
Officers of the Garland Good Government
Group (GGGG) and the Watchmen of Garland County recently filed suit against the
Garland County Elections Commission following a series of illegal and
embarrassing actions attributable to the Commission. These actions are
consistent with previous actions taken during the museum bond issue of 2008 when
an identical situation occurred. We remain focused on the individual’s right to
be involved in the election process regardless of where they may live in Garland
County. This is not about the subject of the election. It is only about the
It was never the intention of the
representatives of the GGGG or the Watchmen to cause unnecessary expense to the
county but, rather, to take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that all
legal requirements of the election process be maintained and that adequate
polling places be made available and equally accessible to all citizens who wish
to participate in our uniquely democratic system.
We hereby accept the resignation of the
Garland County Election Commission’s Chairman as a positive step toward
providing appropriate assurances that future voting rights of all Garland County
citizens will be protected. For this reason, we are today, asking that the
remaining commissioners commit to abide by all election laws and strive to
provide access to the polls in all segments of our County in the future.
Due to current circumstances, we are
announcing our intention to withdraw all charges and drop the lawsuit filed last
Tuesday (June 8, 2010) against the Commission and it’s members.
Be assured that the Garland Good Government Group and the Watchmen of Garland
County will continue to be vigilant in protecting the voices and rights of the
people including our right to vote. It remains the goal of both organizations
to represent the public interest while encouraging transparency, ethical values,
openness, and accountability.
Another Update on Crime in Hot Springs
June 7, 2010
We finally did it. After
years of our city leaders denying we have a major crime problem rather than
actually doing something about it, Hot Springs now has the dubious distinction
of being the number one "Most Dangerous Place to Live in the USA."
Tourist and information web sites
such as Kosmix, Newsvine, Freebase, and Squidoo plus even general information
websites such as Wikipedia, Digg.com, Answers.com, Twitter, and tumblr.com
report that Hot Springs, Arkansas is "the most dangerous city in America in
terms of violent crime." Click
here for tumblr.com,
here for Kosmix.com,
here for Wikipedia.
Neighborhood Scout reports that
Hot Springs is the second most dangerous city in the U.S. (click
here to see) and tripwiser.com reports Hot Springs as 13th but most other
similar reports state that Hot Springs is the number one "most dangerous" place
to live in America. These include the New York Times Almanac, Cha Cha,
Ask, YouTube and various others in addition to Kosmix, Wikipedia, etc. One
only has to "Google" words such as "most dangerous city" or "worst crime rate"
to see our city pop up. One of the best graphics display of the most
dangerous places to live is found at
In terms of most dangerous
metropolitan areas, the Hot Springs metro area ranks number 9 out of 330 based
on data taken directly from crime reports kept by the FBI and US Department of
Justice. Scroll down to "Metro Areas" at
www.morganquitno.com/cit06pop.htm. We recently brought this subject up
again at a "town hall" type meeting only to have the city manager once again
point out that the reports could be using "bad" information. Our general
opinion is that crime in Hot Springs is now "under reported" which would make
Hot Springs even worse. Of course, number one "worst" is hard to make
worse. When do you suppose our city leaders and our cliquish police
department will acknowledge the problem and actually start working on it?
Perhaps, when they are replaced in November? Think about it. Is
there any other solution at this point?
Update - June 11, 2010:
Protect America has just rated Hot Springs. We received an "F" grade in
Burglary, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Auto Theft, and Larceny. We
actually received an "A" grade for Murder which means their statistics are not
current. Their Murder data was taken from 2007. See report by
Update on Crime in Hot Springs
May 9, 2010
Most citizens of Hot Springs will
recall that in 2007, the Garland Good Government Group (GGGG) released a crime
study performed by their Public Safety Committee at a press conference held on
the steps of city hall. The study did not offer a Chamber of Commerce or
City Hall version but only provided the facts as found. The unfortunate
facts ranked the Hot Springs metro area as the 9th worst crime area in the
entire country. As expected, the city manager, city leaders, and the
police chief quickly denied the obvious facts included in the report which were
based on Department of Justice, FBI, Arkansas State Crime Lab statistics and
even offense reports directly from the Hot Springs Police Department.
Rather than work to correct the problem, these same individuals had the audacity
to tell the press that the GGGG had used bad data which was flawed.
Okay, its time to once again
review the current crime situation to see what, if any, progress has been made.
It has been reported that our police department is now under-reporting offenses
by combining multiple crimes on a single report (e.g., five auto break-ins
listed as a single offense), placing offenses in an "under investigation"
category instead of filing a report, or encouraging businesses and citizens to
not bother with an actual report. In spite of these efforts, it appears
that Hot Springs now has the HIGHEST PROPERTY CRIME
RATE IN THE COUNTRY for cities over 30,000
population. Although the local newspaper failed to report several recent
shootings, murders, and thefts, we still see more than our fair share on it's
front pages. One recent statistic reported by local and state media is
especially disturbing - Garland County has the highest rate of child abuse of
any county in Arkansas.
If you read the blog
www.HotSpringsTalk.com, you will find disturbing reports of
fraternization between police officers, poor morale, improper promotions,
internal clichés, etc., etc. Although Hot Springs is still far below the
national average ratio of police per citizen, it seems we have far more than
enough police supervisory positions. We have seen this stated as, "too
many chiefs and not enough Indians."
Irrespective of the rhetoric from
those who seem to prefer continuing to ignore the problem, we have attached some
links and concerns so that any interested party can discover the true facts
showing how bad crime in Hot Springs has become. Oh, while you are at it,
compare Hot Springs 2010 murder rate to previous years and see if we haven't
already set a new annual murder record even if the year ended tomorrow.
A copy of GGGG's 2007 Public
Safety Report prelude narrative can be read by
clicking here. Note that Hot Springs metro ranks 305 of 332 (good to
bad) cities ranked in 2009 crime statistics, links, etc.
which can be seen by clicking here.
The 2008 statistics, etc. (bad to good) can be reviewed by
clicking here. The Morgan Quitno earlier reports plus an additional
wealth of crime data are available by
clicking here. With a bit
of research, you can see that these statistical documents are impossible to
misinterpret or misrepresent.
Press Release on Ethics Complaint and Resolution
January 19, 2010
Recently, the Garland Good
Government Group (GGGG) was the subject of a complaint and subsequent
investigation by the State Ethics Commission into possible violations of
campaign donations. There is a prescribed limit of $500 placed on activities by
groups promoting various voter-action campaigns such as tax increases, bond
issues, and ballot questions. Several individuals, (some of which were GGGG
members) were concerned about what laws and regulations may apply to a campaign
for recalling an individual from political office. So concerned, in fact, that
they contacted the Arkansas State Ethics Commission prior to taking any action
and received verbal assurance that Ethic Commission rules did not apply to
Two individuals proceeded to meet
with a local radio station and placed an advertisement for a sum of up to $500.
Through an accounting error, the station charged $502. Now enter the Good Old
Boys. They scrutinized the actions of the GGGG and found a ruling that required
filing a report if the contributions totaled over $500 with no apparent
exceptions for the type of campaign.
Thus, the investigation by the
State Ethics Commission was begun. Because some of the individuals were members
of the GGGG, the GGGG became the target of that investigation. In spite of the
fact that the amount was only $2 including the fact that the radio station
manager notified the Ethics Commission that this was an error attributable
solely to the radio station, the investigation continued.
Following great expense to the
state taxpayers, the Commission found that there could be cause to go to a
hearing and actually take testimony. It appears that either the GGGG or the 3
individual members should have filed a report to explain the $2 and yes, the
advertisement did appear to have been placed by GGGG although most of those
involved were not members. After thousands of dollars of taxpayer money was
spent investigating a petty $2 expenditure, a committee comprised of the 3 GGGG
members filed as a Ballot Question Committee and paid a $50 late filing fee. No
member or group was asked to admit guilt but this action did, effectively, stop
the further wasting of taxpayer money.
Bottom line, the Good Old Boys
once again cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses in
addition to the $30,000 plus of taxpayer money approved by the city to fight the
lawsuit brought by the recalled city director. Perhaps it should again be noted
that the vote to recall was over 87% or more than 7 of every 8 voters.
The Garland Good Government Group
will continue to call for transparency and accountability in government spending
and, unlike unethical politicians, we will never willingly attempt to camouflage
our actions. We consider the noted error due solely to misinformation provided
by and to the State Ethics Commission. However, we are taking the additional
step of forming a political action committee (PAC) to ensure that all future
actions will be timely reported to the appropriate agencies and to the public.
Be assured that any such further
efforts by unscrupulous politicians and their supporters will not affect our
continued concentration on problems which plague our community. Conversely, such
misguided attempts will only serve to strengthen our resolve.
We thank you for your continued
support in helping us achieve open, honest, transparent, and, yes, ethical
government for all our citizens.
GGGG Hosts International Visitors From the Far East
October 12, 2009
The Garland Good Government Group was honored
today by hosting the U.S. State Department and their International Visitors who
were all journalists learning how members of the media operate in our democracy.
All the visitors were participants in the Edward R. Morrow program for
State Department Personnel,
International Visitors, Hot Springs School District Representatives, Tea Party &
Garland County Judge Larry Williams
Welcomes GGGG Visitors Park
Superintendent Josie Fernandez and State Dept Rep
Bob Driggers (GGGG), Marty Zhu and
Josephine Chen (State Dept), Sim Chi Yin and Chi Yin Sim (International
Annie Jieping Zhang, Wenmin Zhang,
Wen-Yu Wu, Tan Peng Cheak, Yanhui Shen, Qingyu Han
Click here to see all 5 parts
of a much more comprehensive story of the International Journalist's visit to
Hot Springs and the GGGG.
Nicaraguan Patriots Visit Hot Springs and the
September 18, 2009
When Americans think of patriots, they link the
title, many times, to heroes of the Revolutionary War. Names like Washington,
Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Hancock come to mind. We use the word patriot to
describe men who are willing to risk their own freedom for the freedom of
Rep. Shelby, Rommel Moreno,
Ariel Teran, Dir. Peggy Maruthur, Bob Driggers, German Zeledon, Augusto Ayala,
Citizens of Hot Springs were privileged to visit
with six such patriots last night. The six men are from Nicaragua. Less than
one year ago, on November 9th, 2008, elections were held throughout
Nicaragua. On that day, five of our visitors were elected mayors of five of the
largest cities in the Central American nation.
Within two weeks of the election, each had been
told that the vote count was incorrect and that another candidate was the real
winner. All of the new “winners” were candidates supported by Nicaraguan
President Daniel Ortega. Similar election result “corrections” occurred in 43
municipalities in Nicaragua.
The six individuals visiting Hot Springs were
here to tell their stories and to learn how to handle the situation in which
they find themselves. They are here on a State Department funded tour of
several cities in the United States. In Washington D.C., within 48 hours, the
group met with 11 different organizations attempting to gain information to help
their nation solve its problems. What better place to come than a nation that
has overcome such obstacles in its past?
Mr. Bob Driggers, of the Garland County Good
Government Group, welcomed our visitors and noted several local representatives
in attendance. The names of the six Nicaraguan patriots that were present at
the meeting held at the Transportation Depot are:
Augusto Ayala elected Mayor of Juigalpa
German Zeledon elected Mayor of Jinotega
Rommel Moreno elected Mayor of Corinto
Francisco Valdiuia elected Mayor of Masaya
Ariel Teran elected Mayor of Leon
Anibal Rosales of Granada, a political marketing specialist who helped Mr. Teran
win his election.
After introductions, Mr. Driggers allowed Mayor
Mike Bush to address our visitors. Mayor Bush welcomed our guests and informed
them that Hot Springs has not suffered the financial strain that much of the
nation is feeling. He added that the effects of the national economy are
beginning to take a toll on the area. After his remarks, Mayor Bush had to
Mayor Mike Bush officially welcomes
Augusto Ayala, German Zeledon, Rommel Moreno,
Francisco Valdivia, Anibal Rosales, Ariel Teran, and U.S. State Department
representative Ed Velam
Mr. Driggers then welcomed Dr. Gene Shelby, a Hot
Springs resident and District 25 Representative to the Arkansas House of
Representatives. Mr. Shelby also welcomed our guests and applauded them for the
efforts they were making to help the people of Nicaragua. He mentioned the low
voter turnout at recent school board elections, referring to the fact that many
of us take our freedoms for granted. He also thanked the Garland Good
Government Group for its efforts to make Hot Springs a better place to live.
Representative Gene Shelby, Director Peggy Maruthur
Ms. Peggy Maruthur was the next local
representative to address our new friends. Ms. Maruthur thanked Peggy and Duane
Vandenberg for hosting the group. She then explained her responsibilities as a
Hot Springs City Director and noted that she had been elected by the people to
represent them as a whole and not only those who had more influence than others.
Bob Driggers presents Power Point as Peggy Maruthur and Gene Shelby look on
Before Mr. Driggers presented a short Power Point
on the recent efforts of the Garland Good Government Group, he recognized the
presence of Director Elaine Jones (BOD Dist. 2) Quorum Court member Bud West
(J.P. Dist. 9), and Garland County Treasurer Jo West Taylor.
Following the Good Government presentation, Mr.
Ariel Teran began an explanation of recent events in Nicaragua. Mr. Teran, a
graduate of an American University, and spokesman for the group, presented a
short video entitled, “A Democracy Becoming a Dictatorship.” The video showed
attempts at peaceful demonstrations and disruptions by youths being paid $10 a
day by President Ortega. One scene showed a journalist being stabbed by a man
with a machete. The video also showed a statement made by the Nicaraguan
Attorney General and pictures of vandalized radio stations. Included were clips
taken just two weeks ago of protesting students being accosted by paramilitary
The Good Government Power Point had been
presented with Spanish Text. The video shown by Mr. Teran had English text.
One of the lines read, “To be silent and not act now…would be a great
Augusto Ayala, German Zeledon, Rommel Moreno, Francisco Valdivia, Anibal
Rosales, and Ariel Teran
Mr. Teran described how he had been personally
affected by the recent events (see:www.ticotimes.net/dailyarchive/2008_12/1201082.htm).
“This is not a left or right issue. It’s a matter of Nationality,” Mr. Teran
explained. He also explained that 2010 elections would be held by the
congressmen of Nicaragua to choose the Electoral College. Mr. Teran expressed
the fears of many that President Ortega may attempt to bribe the congressmen
into his camp. Later in the meeting it was mentioned that money was being sent
to Ortega by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Mr. Teran explained that the problems began in
2006 when the opposition split into two groups. This allowed Ortega to win the
Presidential seat with 38% of the vote. Ortega had been defeated by
Violeta Barrios de Chamorro
in the 1990 presidential election, but he remained an important figure in
Nicaraguan opposition politics. He was an unsuccessful candidate for president
in 1996 and 2001 before winning the
2006 presidential election.
Mr. Teran said, “Ortega has 34% of the people,
but he doesn’t have the congressmen. With the help of God we can make a
Once the question and answer period began, the first question came from Mr. Driggers who
asked about current American assistance to the opposition (of Ortega). Mr. Teran stated that the U.S. government is currently not pushing to help the
opposition. “We are not seeking financial assistance,” he said. “We just want
the U.S. to sit down with us and listen to what has to be done.”
The other patriots got up and spoke. An
interpreter translated for the audience. “Everything is contaminated,” stated
Mr. Ayala. “We want to go back to our country and be watchdogs like you,” he
Mr. Rosales showed proof of the corruption. Dr.
Moreno shared his experience of being elected as mayor and then having his
position taken from him. They expressed how they had worked hard and won
elections against Ortega’s representatives who were well funded. Mr. Zeledon and
Mr. Valdivia also described their experiences and thanked the residents of Hot
Springs, as the others had done for the warm welcome they had received.
Tom Brown, Good Government Group member and descendent of U.S. President John
Adams with Ariel Teran and Anibal Rosales
Mr. Teran showed pictures of ballots that had
been found at the dump in Leon, where he had been declared the mayor. The
ballots were clearly marked as votes for Mr. Teran. “We took the ballots to the
police and we made the national news,” Mr. Teran said. The case was never
Mr. Driggers made a few concluding remarks and
thanked Ms. Barbara Anable for set up and refreshments. At this point, the
entire Nicaraguan delegation gave Ms. Anable a standing ovation.
There was a good deal of discussion after the
meeting was adjourned. In an interview with Mr. Teran, he stated that his
father had been the founder of the baseball team in Leon. Leon has been a city
that has had a lot of media attention during the recent political upheaval.
Ariel Teran and City Director Peggy Maruthur
This is the second day in a row that the WOW has
combined a leading story’s report with commentary. It cannot be helped.
On September 3rd, I was fortunate
enough to attend and report on an event that included the U.S. Secretary of the
Interior, one of our U.S. Senators, one of our Reps. to the U.S. House of
Representatives, and two other high ranking officials. I thought this would be
the biggest thing I would be attending this year. With all due respect to the
public servants I listened to that day, I have to say that this event inspired
me more than any similar event that I have yet covered.
An audience member enlightened me about the risk
that these men were taking by coming to our country. We were all well aware of
the risks they had already taken in their own country. Apparent was the
courtesy, kindness, integrity, and humility of our visitors from Nicaragua.
They were taking a stand for the principles of freedom, just like the difficult
stand that our Revolutionary War patriots took. It was a moving experience.
Web sites our friends left:
Editors Note: Chris' website is
GGGG Endorsed Recall Successfully Concludes
August 11, 2009
The People Have Spoken!
ever?" History was made in Hot Springs when the first ever recall election
in the city and, apparently, the first in Arkansas since 1927 was concluded.
The result was nothing short of a "Landslide" victory. By a vote of 488 to
69, the citizens of Hot Spring's district 4 stated loudly that they were tired
of the antics and free spending of their director. The total "Landslide" of 87.61 percent to
12.39 percent means that more than 7 of every 8 people wanted their second term
director removed. A huge "Thank You" is due to all the volunteers from the
GGGG, the Watchmen of Garland County, and many private citizens who helped in
this effort. What happens next? Hopefully, the remaining city
directors will allow the people of district 4 to elect their own representative
rather that "appoint" another one of their "good ol' boy"
compadres. How the
remaining board members react remains to be seen. Their record on allowing
the citizens their right to a "voice" and a "vote" is not good. As far as
future efforts are concerned, numerous people are pushing for the
recall of the last "good ol' boy" appointee. Stay tuned, it apparently
ain't over yet.
GGGG's Letter to Governor Beebe
August 3, 2009
March 24, 2009
The Garland Good Government Group (GGGG) established in 2006 as a non-profit
government watchdog group whose mission statement is: To promote transparent,
ethical, and representative government for the betterment of our thriving
community. To demand openness and accountability in all governmental activities.
To foster civic involvement, community improvement, and participate in good
government. To acquire and provide access to information so the public can make
Consistent with these goals, the GGGG is
extremely concerned about a proposed water intake, treatment plant, and related
facilities that the City of Hot Springs has proposed at what is, undoubtedly,
the most polluted point of the Ouachita River in the Hot Springs area. The
proposed intake is at the Carpenter Dam area of Lake Hamilton. While we commend
the city for its early planning of this project, the proposed area is a choke
point of Lake Hamilton and the Ouachita River
relative to water pollution. This area combines the nonpoint pollution drainage
of approximately 30,000 homes and 5,000 businesses in Garland County, thousands
of septic systems, approximately 4,000
sewer pumps that
fail regularly and have no source of backup power during power outages, and most
of Garland County’s 287 active NPDES permitted pollution sources, many of which
are often in noncompliance with EPA regulations. Additionally, this proposed
plant is located downstream from the recently completed
Treatment Plant. Yes, the city is unnecessarily proposing the development of a
raw water intake and treatment plant downstream from one of their own sewer
treatment plants when numerous other sites are available including one of the
cleanest water sources in the nation located only 10 miles northwest of town.
look at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) activities in
Garland County shows that they have taken legal action 69 times in Garland
County over the past 24 years for water pollution violations. 24 of these
actions were taken just in the last 4 years compared to 45 for the previous 20
years. In addition to the ADEQ's legal actions, Garland County and the City of
Hot Springs have filed many criminal cases for water pollution violations in
District Court in the last 4 years which, combined, likely exceed the total
number of legal actions taken in the prior 20 years. These facts indicate a
growing problem rather than a declining problem. Documents detailing two such
recent violations are attached to this letter and are indicative of the large
number of violations such as the one against the city in 2008 which covered 359
discharges of raw sewage into Lake Hamilton and another against Westwood Village
P.O.A. covering 149 sewer violations which only covered 34 months of their 20
plus years of non-compliance.
Springs is located only a few miles southeast of one of the nation’s cleanest
sources of water, Lake Ouachita. This lake is the source of water for the North
Garland County Water Users Association and is consistently ranked as the second
or third cleanest lake in the country by the EPA. Unfortunately, the City of Hot
Springs has inexplicably determined that they must go to the dirtiest area of
the Ouachita River downstream from numerous pollution sources to locate their
potable water intake. While the Arkansas Health Department and the Arkansas
Department of Environmental Quality have taken active roles in restricting the
development of land to lots of 5 acres or larger on Lake Maumelle, the source of
water for the Little Rock Area, it appears that nobody is looking out for the
safety of the primary water source for the nearly 100,000 residents of Garland
The purpose of
this letter is to ask you to ensure that the Arkansas governmental agencies
which you oversee review this unbelievable decision that is expected to be
finalized as early as August 4, 2009 by the Hot Springs Board of Directors and
that those agencies are, in fact, properly monitoring this project. It is
unfathomable that the Arkansas Health Department and the ADEQ are in agreement
with the decision that has been made and is about to be ratified by the board of
the City of Hot Springs to locate a $100 million treatment plant in this
location when much safer sources of water are available. An additional $100
million will also be required mostly due to design problems caused by the
selection of this poor location. For example, a multi-million dollar bridge is
proposed to be built for bringing treated water pipelines across Lake Catherine
since the treatment plant will be located on the opposite side of the lakes from
into this matter and your response will be very much appreciated.
Attachments to Governor Beebe included: 69 Garland County Lawsuits related to
pollution, Current violation photos, ADEQ violations, etc. Similar letters were
sent to State and Federal EPA and State and Federal Health Departments.
cc: Teresa Marks, Director
Arkansas Department of Environmental
5301 Northshore Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72118-5317
Chief of Water Division
Arkansas Department of Environmental
5301 Northshore Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72118-5317
James McSwain, Jr.,
Arkansas Department of Environmental
5301 Northshore Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72118-5317
Dr. Paul K. Halverson, DrPH, FACHE
Director, State Health Officer
4815 West Markham
Little Rock, AR 72205
Deputy City Manager for Public Works
GGGG's Open Letter to City Directors
March 24, 2009
March 24, 2009
To: Hot Springs
disappointed to discover on the front page of our local newspaper (Sentinel
Record – Friday, March 20, 2009) that two of our city directors have a
business relationship with Rodney D. Myers, a local developer who has served
time in federal prison. For those not familiar with Mr. Myers, in 2005 he was
reportedly charged in a 22 count federal indictment related to the failed real
estate development called Burchwood Harbour Apartments. He pled guilty to 3 of
those charges and subsequently served 15 months in federal prison plus 3 years
of probation. He was released at the end of 2006.
It is shocking to the citizens of our
community when they read in their local newspaper that well known members of our
community including two who presently serve on our city board of directors have
a business relationship with an ex-con. We urge the other members of the city
board to carefully consider the implications of these relationships. Questions
arise: for example, many people suspected that the real reason for the recent
firing of all members of the Hot Springs Planning Commission, the Hot Springs
Board of Adjustments, and the Hot Springs Historical Commission was camouflaged
by using “term limits” as a flimsy excuse for their dismissal. Perhaps the
actual reasons may now appear somewhat more obvious as to why the ex-con’s
associates serving on the Hot Springs City Board pressed the other city
directors to fire all existing members of these volunteer boards and
committees. The camouflage almost seems to disappear when we note the numerous
other business associates of the ex-con and his city director friends who have
applied for these positions and are scheduled to be selected at the next city
As another example, purported
conditions of his parole prohibit Mr. Myers from future development schemes,
real estate and mortgage manipulation, the formation of LLCs (Limited Liability
Corporations), bank dealings, as well as various other prohibited activities
which could expose future victims to similar abuses. However, recent news
articles found at
www.ArkansasBusiness.com indicate that Rodney D. Myers
is an ex-con who has not upheld the conditions of his parole and he and other
associates now appear to have formed a number of LLCs which have created more
land development schemes. He and his associates appear to have transferred land
deeds from various individuals, LLCs, or companies to other individuals, LLCs,
or companies while at the same time retaining true ownership within their
group. We wonder if this is a renewal of the prior pattern of business
dealings. It certainly appears to be a violation of Mr. Myers’ parole.
By this letter, we are requesting that
the volunteer board firings be rescinded and the former boards be re-established
with the previous membership. If this is not legally possible, we ask that the
replacements be scrutinized and carefully screened before the selection
process. Realtors and related businesses have many obvious “conflicts of
interest” in serving on city committees that determine the platting, design,
zoning, usage, etc. of properties which such businesses control, plan, or sell.
For these reasons, individuals with such interests should be required, under
oath, to disclose any and all associations with real estate companies, land
development companies, mortgage companies, or contractors. They also should
disclose any companies, LLC’s, or other corporations to which they or their
spouses are associated. Business people who do business with or receive money,
land, or services from the city should be excluded from boards that deal with
Without question, we strongly oppose the placement of any person who has
business associations with a known criminal, ex-con, or convicted felon on any
city board or committee. Almost all of those persons your board has proposed
seem to have such improper business connections or apparent conflicts of
interest. Further, we strongly request the immediate removal of any such
associated persons from city boards and committees on which they currently
serve. This includes our request that you immediately take steps to remove the
two known current business associates from their positions as members of he Hot
Springs City Board of Directors.
County Quorum Court votes to not increase your property
November 24, 2008
After many phone calls, personal visits,
and other lobbying by members of the Garland Good Government Group (GGGG), a
vote of 6 to 6 effectively killed the proposed property tax increase for 2009.
County Judge Larry Williams and County Finance Committee Chairman, Ray Owen were
pushing for the implementation of an increase in property tax to meet an
anticipated shortfall the county's 2009 budget. The GGGG unanimously voted
at its November business meeting to oppose the tax increase for the following
reasons and to present these reasons to the Quorum Court at today's meeting.
is the worst possible time for a tax increase - uncertain current economy and
2. Justices would be reneging on their
promises made when the half cent tax was imposed.
3. Justices are considering yet another tax
without a vote of the people similar to the city hall attempt.
4. Taxing citizens now would literally kill
any funding for a new jail that we desperately need.
The JPs voting with us in obtaining a tie vote which
means that the tax proposal did not pass were: Jorge Garcia, Larry Griffin,
Jimmy Harmin, Darrell Mahoney, Sue Vaughn, and Bud West. Mickey Gates was
absent but sent a letter expressing his opposition to the proposed tax.
Please call or write these people and thank them for properly representing their
The JPs ignoring the overwhelming voice of the
citizens and voting to raise taxes were: Lawrence Adkins, Tom Anderson, Ed
Foshee, Kenneth Johnson, Ray Owen, and Gertie Parker-Watson. You may wish
to express your opinion of their actions to them and remember their votes when
you again have an opportunity to vote for your county representative. It
is unfortunate that the election did not follow the proposed tax increase.
Could it be that this was by design?
June 1, 2008 UPDATE to story
We are very
saddened this evening to learn that Mr. Bill Edwards passed today away at 6:30
Bill Edwards - a True Hot Springs Legend
May 30, 2008
Bill Edwards at the age of 79 with
over 35 years of service on The Hot Springs Board is in intensive care today in
the Hospital. He was born in Hot Springs in the roaring 20’s, lived here through
the depression, the wild gambling and mafia times and then joined the board
during a period of normalization for the City. He is one of the longest living
survivors of a heart transplant in the world. His transplant took place in the
early 1980’s. As of the end of
2007, Tony Huesman is the world's longest living heart transplant patient,
having survived for 29 years with a transplanted heart. Huesman received a heart
1978 at the age of 20 after
viral pneumonia severely weakened his heart. The
operation was performed at
Stanford University under American heart transplant
Shumway, who continued to perform the operation in the
U.S. after others abandoned it due to poor results. Another noted heart
Kelly Perkins, climbs mountains around the world to
promote positive awareness of organ donation. Perkins is the very first heart
transplant recipient to climb to the peaks of Mt. Fuji, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the
Matterhorn, Mt. Whitney, and Cajon de Arenales in Argentina in 2007, 12 years
after her transplant surgery.
Bill’s accomplishments are
every bit as great as these others, but on a local level. Bill has helped more
people in Hot Springs with their problems than anyone you can name. Just last
month he was working with a 90 year old lady on whose home off Albert Pike
needed far more in repairs than she could afford on her $600 per month Social
Security check. Bill checked on every possible way to get her repairs and
finally helped her get a reverse mortgage from a local bank. It is doubtful that
during his 35 years of service there has ever been a month or even a week that
he wasn’t working on helping someone like this, with he exception of his
extended hospital stays at various times.
We ask everyone to pray for
Bill to get through this struggle as he has done so many times before. Bill's
current condition involves seizures related to a tumor on his head spreading.
After all he has done for the community, we owe him a lot.
Survey Results are Changing - Recall Proves Popular Updated
to May 11, 2008 from Feb 10 story
You may have noticed that in only one day, the GGGG
survey rankings have changed dramatically. The most notable changes are in
the rankings of importance for recalling directors. In fact, the
importance of recalling director Weatherford has moved up two positions from
number 3 in importance to NUMBER 1 in importance (of the 30 survey issues
listed). Recalling director Weatherford is actually now ranked as more important
than reducing violent crime and removing the downtown bottleneck although those
issues remain as number 2 and number 3 in importance according to latest survey
results (click to see latest results).
The importance of recalling Mayor Bush also
increased by two positions from the eighth most important issue to sixth.
Interestingly, the removal of the city manager ranks higher than the recall of
the mayor. This item now ranks fourth, up two positions from sixth.
Other directors who changed positions are director Daniel who moved up one
position to thirteenth, director Jones who moved down in importance from
twenty-third to twenty-fourth, and director Maruthur who moved down from
twenty-ninth to thirtieth. (click to
see latest results).
It is apparent from the increase in the number of
surveys submitted and the position movement by director Weatherford and the
mayor that the recall announcement is being seen as a positive action by the
GGGG. Prior to the announcement of the recall petition drive and recent
publicity, less than half as many surveys were being submitted. The
results are also indicative of favoring the recall of those 2 selected by the
GGGG. It should be reiterated that other directors were not
selected because the next two highest ranked directors can be voted out in the
November 2008 election. Also please realize that the city manager can only
be removed by the board of directors. However, he has no contract and
serves solely "at the will of the board." You likely already know that he
has shown interest in or applied for city manager positions in Arizona, New
Mexico, Texas, etc. Most recently, he was a 2007 finalist for the city manager
position in Naples, Florida. What this means is simply that he is,
apparently, working to remove himself from the position. We will continue
to update our survey results. If you have not already submitted a survey,
we want to hear what issues you think are important to our community.
Please click here to fill out and submit a survey or
click here to review recent survey results.
UPDATE (2/11/08) to above story:
Director Smith just moved up another position to now rank number 8. Also,
building a new jail just jumped up two positions in importance.
UPDATE (2/12/08) to above story:
Director Smith has now moved up yet another position to now rank number 7.
It appears the public are almost demanding that he be added to the recall.
Please remember, this director is up for election in November.
UPDATE (2/13/08) to above story:
Director Smith has moved up yet another position to now rank number 6 and
director Daniel has moved up to rank as number 12.
please understand, these directors are up for election in November.
UPDATE (2/14/08) to above story:
Director Daniel has now moved up one position to now rank number 11. We're
not sure what the heck is going on.
UPDATE (2/18/08) to above story:
Mayor Bush has moved up yet another position to now rank number 4 in a tie with
the city manager. Director Daniel has moved up another position to now rank
number 10 and director Maruthur
has moved back up from 30th to 29th position. The new jail has dropped out
of the highest ranking section.
UPDATE (2/20/08) to above story:
Director Daniel has now moved up another position to now rank number 9.
The A&P tax, new jail, and funding for police all dropped one position.
The police funding is not not even in the high priority range. The
greatest position change was in director contracts, up two positions.
UPDATE (2/22/08) to above story:
Director Daniel has moved down one position to number 10 while director Jones
moves up one position.
UPDATE (3/6/08) to above story:
Numerous items have changed position. The most significant is that the
recall of Mayor Bush has now moved up to number 3 in importance. Removal
of the downtown bottleneck, a new jail, and funding for police and fire have all
moved down somewhat.
UPDATE (4/21/08) to above story:
Responses to the survey have diminished to the point where we will be
terminating public input after April 30. The only change since our last
report was that items 14 and 15 switched positions.
UPDATE (5/11/08) to above story:
A few items have changed position. The most significant is that the
eliminating contracts with city directors moved up two positions. The most
notable is that the removal of director Jones moved up one position as did the
removal of city manager Myers. This final move caused the removal of Mayor Bush
to moved down from number 3 to number 4 in importance.
UPDATE (11/25/08) to above story:
A few items have changed position. The most significant is the elimination
of illegal meetings of directors (outside of posted meetings) which moved up 4
positions. The recall of both Smith and Daniel moved down one while
empanelling a grand jury moved up one position.
"Super Tuesday" Petition Drive - a Huge Success
February 5, 2008
A "test run" of the GGGG recall petition drive was
conducted by 7 volunteer members of the GGGG on "Super Tuesday" at 4 polling
places. Due to the weather, our 6 pm meeting, and other factors, we did
not have petitions even at these 4 polling locations for much of the day.
In spite of the small test effort, many more signatures than anticipated were
obtained. What was most amazing was the phenomenal public response.
We knew from our survey that many citizens wanted most of the directors recalled
but we had no idea how passionate they were and the number of people who felt
this way. Volunteers at some locations reported that some people came just
to sign our petitions and actually did not vote. Several people who signed
petitions also volunteered to assist in the effort and others made cell calls to
friends and neighbors to come sign the petitions. In short, the "test run"
was nothing short of amazing. In keeping with the pollsters who
forecast the winners even before the polls are closed, our forecast is for a
total and complete victory. In fact, at the small gathering of GGGG
members during storm warnings that evening, victory for the effort was declared.
Indeed, if such a small number of people can obtain such a large number of
signatures in such a short time, the recall effort cannot help but succeed.
Thank you to our volunteer members and to the citizens who signed our petitions.
You have provided the vim, vigor, and vitality necessary to confidently continue
Recall Petition Drive for Mayor and Director Begins
February 3, 2008
The GGGG held a news conference on Friday in front
of the old Baptist Hotel on Malvern Avenue. The kick-off event was very
professional and factual. Documented information as to why the action was
taken was provided to the press, the public, and numerous city officials in
attendance including the city manager. The bottom line as to why the GGGG
is taking such dramatic action was summed up by one of our members who queried,
"Why do we continue putting out brush-fires when we know who is setting them?"
The member had a valid point so following an investigation and survey, the GGGG
unanimously voted to recall the directors who the investigation and survey most
indicated were responsible for most of the "brush-fires" or improper actions or
conduct by our elected officials. Note that the Sentinel Record
report of Saturday, February 2 was incorrect because the GGGG vote was, indeed,
Many have asked why we weren't recalling other
directors. The answer is, we may. Please fill
out our survey form by clicking here. We are using the results of this
survey to assist in determining what the citizens of our fine city want us to do
on their behalf. If the survey and evidence warrant recalling other
directors, be assured that we will do so. You can also attend our next
open meeting Thursday - February 5 at 6 PM at the Garland County Library
Auditorium. Our speaker is Steve Arrison, Executive Director of the Hot
Springs A&P Commission and Chairman of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism
We note with interest that a couple of news items
relative to the improper Certificate of Occupancy (click
here to view the documents) are being sent as a "Letter to the Editor" of both the Sentinel Record and
Watch for them. We have seen the draft of one and it is quite enlightening.
There is also some
interesting information at
www.RecallMayorBush.com and at
www.RecallWeatherford.com. The audio of the news conference is
by clicking here. The last voice is not identified but is that of city
manager Kent Myers answering questions from channel 4. It is interesting
how he deflects the purpose of the news conference from the mayor and director
that are being recalled to a racial inference and criticism of the developer.
Note that the emphasis of the GGGG portion of the news conference is directed
solely at the actions of the people being recalled. One of their
improper actions is the overruling of the city's professionals and back-dating a
certificate of occupancy for that building. The history of the building
and whoever presently owns it are totally irrelevant issues that only Myers and
Final Public Safety Awareness Week Event Successful
Despite Limited Media Coverage
December 9, 2007
The hot dogs were great, the cokes were cold,
everyone was in a festive mood but, most of all, our public safety officials
were superb. These professionals brought their fire trucks, police units,
boats, dogs, hazmat units, ambulances, literature, etc. Everyone was quite
impressed with the equipment and the capabilities of the individuals that
Law enforcement representatives with equipment and
displays included Hot Springs Police, Garland County Sheriff's Department, U.S.
Forest Service, and the National Park Service Rangers. Fire Department
representatives with equipment from Hot Springs, Morningstar, Piney, 70 West,
and the U.S. Forestry Service were on display. Additionally, EMTs
displayed Lifenet Ambulances and Hot Springs / Garland County Animal Services
provided demonstrations and equipment.
Hopefully, we will all remember just how important
these folks are to the safety and security of our community and remember to
support them throughout the next year until we have the next recognition event.
An occasional "thank you" wouldn't hurt either. Check out the photos of
the event by clicking here.
Public Safety Awareness Week Kick-Off Event
December 3, 2007
The kick-off event for the Garland Good Government
Group's 2007 Public Safety Awareness Week was held this morning. Our
honored guests were law enforcement professionals from the city of Hot Springs,
Garland County Sheriff's Department, U.S. Forest Service, Hot Springs National
Park Rangers, and the Arkansas State Police. Additionally, we had fire
department professionals from the city of Hot Springs, Morningside, 70 West, and
Emergency Management professionals from Lifenet. Pictured below are many
of the representatives from these fine organizations.
It was indeed an honor to have this diversity of
public safety professionals attend our kick-off event. We encourage all
citizens to make an effort during "Public Safety Awareness Week" to thank these
people and all of our community's public safety personnel. Stop and think
about how safe you would feel if we didn't have such special people looking out
for us. The next time you see these fine folks, give them a wave or a
"thumbs up" to let them know you appreciate them.
We thank Garland County Judge Larry Williams and
Mayor Mike Bush for their proclamations which officially declares December 3 - 9
as "Public Safety Awareness Week" in Garland County and the city of Hot Springs.
We also must thank these two gentlemen for their participation in our "kick-off"
event plus Police Chief Bobby Southard, Sheriff's Deputy Judy Daniell, and Fire
Chief Ed Davis. The Garland Good Government Group's fantastic event
committee consists of Diane Silverman, Sherri Meritt, Dr. Blake Robertson, Wayne
Roberts, Rick Gale, and Bobbie Morningstar.
The big Finale' to the week will be on Saturday,
December 8 at Hot Springs' Transportation Plaza from noon until 3pm. There
will be police, fire, and EMS units from all over Garland County for your
examination. There will be numerous demonstrations by public safety
officials including police and fire dogs. There will even be free hot
dogs, chips, and cold drinks. Bring the kids. And please don't
forget to tell our public safety officials how much there are appreciated in
case we again forget to tell them for the rest of the year.
City Directors Vote To Take Authority Over County
Residents November 7, 2007
Well, the city board of directors met again Monday
evening and voted 4 to 3 passing a resolution to "study" and prepare zoning maps
enabling the city to impose planning and zoning in the first one-mile of county
properties immediately outside of the city limits. Several residents spoke in
opposition but no one spoke in favor of the resolution. Those directors voting
against the resolution were directors Maruthur, Jones, and Smith. Those voting
to ignore the wishes of the people and continue with the study were Weatherford,
Daniel, Edwards, and mayor Bush.
Several citizens expressed concern that this action
would only be the beginning of the city forcing affected areas to be annexed in
the future. The mayor did his typical bit of grandstanding and announced,
"there will be no forced annexation as long as I'm mayor." He has had these
delusions of grandeur for some time but it does continue to demonstrate his
dictatorial side and how important he considers himself. The city attorney
misrepresented what state law requires stating that the state mandates that the
city "shall" impose zoning in the first 5 miles surrounding the city. The exact
wording can be found by
clicking here so that citizens can decide for themselves.
Bottom line - If the zoning maps and study results
in an ordinance, county residents will be told what they can and cannot do with
their personal property. In the humble opinion of this writer, as long as the
city doesn't have water, sewer, and basic services to all residents of the city,
they should not try and impose their dictates to county residents. Until the
city ceases "selective code enforcement" with city directors using city
departments to intimidate anyone who dares speak against their unethical
actions, why would county residents want these people imposing similar codes on
them? Until directors cease misusing their positions to help themselves and
their friends instead of the safety and welfare of their residents, why would
anyone want this particular group of self-serving politicians representing
them? This is especially true when one realizes that county residents have no
elected representative to complain to. Unfortunately, most city residents don't
really have representatives that actually represent them either.
Stay tuned. It is about to get even more
Unadvertised Town Hall Meeting Well
October 26, 2007
Much to the surprise of the masses, our Hot Springs
board of directors held a Town Hall meeting last afternoon at 5:30 PM in the
Central Fire Station on Broadway. Several items are worthy of note.
First - Although we didn't see the notice in the
local newspaper, we understand one was published which stated that no question
was "off limits" and that the public could ask any questions of our board of
directors they wished. The harsh reality was that the public was not allowed to
ask anything they wanted and except for Maruthur and a couple of short cute
answers, the directors did not answer even the 'milk-toast' questions that were
allowed. This was accomplished by the use of a moderator (H.S. Chamber
President) who is excellent at polishing questions intended for directors and
redirecting them to city staff. In fact, the moderator began the meeting by
stating that the directors were "here to listen" which was the same as saying
they were not here to answer any questions.
Second - The meeting was well scripted. Questions
were hand-picked by the moderator as "subjects" to be addressed and anyone
wishing to speak about those particular subjects could do so. Except for a
brief discussion of the city's crime problem, no controversial subjects with the
potential to make directors look bad were addressed. For example, excessive
trips by directors to Japan, Reno, Washington DC, New Orleans, etc.; the
downtown bottleneck, director's conflicts of interest, the defeated city hall
bond issue, improper use of tax revenues, etc. were not subjects open for
Third - The audience was predetermined. This
appeared to have been accomplished by the minimal advertising to the public that
a meeting would be held plus requiring city employees to attend. Director
Maruthur asked that city employees and their spouses stand and 31 were counted.
She then asked those who live outside of the city to stand and 11 were counted.
The meeting began with about 50 people in the audience but grew to 68 counted at
one point. When the 31 city employees (not counting the directors and city
manager) and 11 lived county residents are subtracted, the remaining 26 were
assumed to be city residents. If the members of the Garland Good Government
Group were subtracted from this number, it would appear that only a handful of
city residents even knew about the meeting. While this and the recent
referendum were used to demonstrate that the public was "apathetic" or didn't
care about city issues, the writer feels this was simply proof that the meeting
and the referendum were very poorly advertised. Hot Springs citizens are
concerned about their city and the direction the current leadership is taking
Fourth - There were a few fresh moments of truth
when directors actually spoke. For example, Director Smith, fresh from his
latest court fiasco that same day, asked how many people in the predetermined
audience "think that Hot Springs has a crime problem?" He appeared to be
shocked when almost all of those non-city employees and a few city employees
raised their hands. When the rhetorical question "who in their right mind would
want the job as mayor even for $200,000 a year?" was asked, the mayor said, "I
Fifth - The head "good ol' boy" for the city stood
at the very end of the meeting and outlined all of the great things our city has
and insinuated that all the new businesses, jobs, park expansions, Oaklawn
money, theme parks, and new restaurants were due to the "good ol' boy"
leadership. As for this observer, all of these good things have happened to our
city in spite of the "good ol' boys" and NOT because of them. Our city
has potential much greater than what has been accomplished. We sincerely hope
that our citizens continue their strong support to help the entire area reach
our goals of ending government by self-serving, egotistical politicians,
providing for improved traffic flow, achieving a fair and equitable tax
structure, improving our quality of life, properly addressing our drug problems,
and reducing crime so that all citizens can feel safe and secure in their
City Manager's Bid For Naples, Florida Job
Some in Hot Springs are saying it is a sad day
although others are glad. The reason for all these emotions is the fact that
our city manager, Kent Myers, did not make the "short list" for the city manager
job in Naples, Florida. This website certainly did our small part in not
interfering with this opportunity by changing his name to Special K, thus
preventing web searches from finding references to him on our sites. We also
misspelled the title, "city manager" for the same reason. Hey Kent, next time
let us know further ahead of time when you have resumes out and we'll change
those names sooner. We absolutely do not wish to interfere in any way with your
finding employment elsewhere.
Members and Guests Celebration
October 14, 2007
Some 36 GGGG members and invited guests celebrated
our third straight major success at Phil's Restaurant in Howard Johnsons Friday
evening. It was really neat having the entire restaurant to ourselves. Those
who were present were treated to not only a good meal but to very informative
reports from various committee chairs. No official action items were presented
but in view of the general consensus to accept the
City Mananger's offer to come speak to our group, he will
be invited to speak at our December meeting. Although it was strongly
recommended that we allow him 3 minutes, we will likely extend that time. We
also plan to have a state official speak that evening so it is possible we will
actually have to limit both speakers. We will keep you advised.
As to our impending goals and future projects, an
overview of our plans was provided at the celebration. However, the final
proposals are still incomplete. The executive committee is working toward
incorporating all of the recommended projects into a single plan. Once this
work is finished, it will be presented for the approval of the full membership.
As you know, we do not adopt projects without the approval of 75 percent of
those present and voting at a meeting open to all members. All paid members are
voting members. Hopefully, our next project(s) and/or plan will ready to be
presented at the next business meeting.
City Manager is a Lame Duck - Now What? (a guest
commentary) October 3, 2007
City Manager Kent Myers announced that he is
actively seeking other employment, we wish him success. His resume is complete;
therefore his work here is done.
Now what is the next step? We have had over a decade
of lack of preventative maintenance on city buildings to the point of needing
serious work. We watched as the City over annexed beyond it’s service
capabilities, (Fire, Police and Code to mention a few). We have experienced the
pain of too much of a good thing, whereas the Parks Division has created more
parks than they can safely budget leaving playground equipment in a sad state of
repair. We were helpless when the Manager, (backed by the Majority of the
Directors) ignored a federal agreement, fabricated a financial study and
unjustly overcharged the rural community for sewer service. All this was done in
order to create an illusion of excellence, diverting money away from the
un-glamorous superstructure or the very foundation of our City’s existence so
that we can plant flowers and send people to Japan. We have created an
organization that is and was intentionally top heavy in management in order to
control the votes of the Directors. Our Mayors have gotten progressively weaker
and complacent, (most have not had the experience to run a city). That created a
problem in which too much power was diverted to the City Manager’s position.
Wherein lays the solution? It will not be easy for
we must correct the mistakes of a decade of camouflage and sugar coating. If we
are to keep a government controlled by a City Manager, we must have a good one
who can recognize the problems and has the experience to build back the
infrastructure that has been destroyed. We must gain the trust and support of
the people in order to fund the under budgeted Police and Fire Departments. We
must have more than a figure-head Mayor that is willing to control a City
Manager if required. We must re-program our department heads to be self thinking
and not just "yes men". Those who cannot be trained must be replaced. We must
consider a Water and Sewer Commission and take away that responsibility from an
overloaded, one sided City Government and put it back in the hands of the
How long will it take? The Police and Jail alone
will not see much of an improvement for about 2 years after funding. Then we can
hopefully see a decline in Crime in Hot Springs. What is our first step? Honest
evaluation of our present situation. We must recognize that we have a serious
problem before we can get better.
We have a start; let us now plan for the rest of the
future. Hopefully it will be a project of all the people and for the good of the
people, not just for the glory of a City Manager.
City Manager Makes Short List for New Job in
October 3, 2007
We have known for over a month of jobs applied for
by our current City Manager from Arizona to Florida. In view of the fact that
he did not make the short list for some and that we did not wish to influence
his applications, we declined to print this information as news. However, in
view of the fact that he has continuously failed to comply with numerous
"freedom of information" requests (see below) and the city hall bond issue which
he promoted, is now upon us, we feel compelled to inform the city of his desire
to leave Hot Springs. Mr. Myers applied for jobs during 2006 so we anticipated
that he would continue to do so until he was successful.
Mr. Myers is now on the short list of 10 people from
61 applicants for the job of City Manager of Naples, Florida.
Click here to read the story. Interviews will begin
on October 22.
here to see his application and resume.
One of our current primary concerns relative to Mr.
Myers' proposed bond indebtedness of over $14 million was that his financing
plan was quite risky. His plan was, and is, based on gambling revenues and
possible increases in state turn-back funds, not solid and dependable revenue
sources. We not only questioned the financing plan but the obvious lack of any
plan or study justifying a new city hall. Additionally, we remain concerned
that Mr. Myers could move on to another town and leave us to pay for the
boondoggle he created. It seems, at the least, the latter concern has proven to
For these reasons, we would be remiss if we didn't
inform the citizens of our city of Mr. Myers' intentions prior to the election
on Tuesday, October 9 while our citizens still have time to consider all of the
facts before casting their votes.
City Manager's Latest Response to Our FOI
September 23, 2007
The following e-mail was sent to the City Manager as a
follow up Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Following that is the reply.
From: Blake Robertson
Sent: Sat 9/15/2007 7:14 PM
To: Kent Myers
Subject: FOI request
Mr. Myers, I am turning to email in this last correspondence to you to
end our conversation concerning my request for city information mainly because
I don't have the time to keep going back and forth to City Hall hand
delivering letters. I really don't think that you nor your city information
officer have answered my request completely. Frankly, I am offended by the
memorandum that I received from her through you. The City has been selling the
prospect of the new City Hall and that is the reason that the Hot Springs
Board of Directors was considering the measure and luckily for the citizens
that GGGG intervened. That is the reason that the city officers have been
going to various Clubs and organizations to "sell" the new City Hall. Your
information officer can call it educational but I understand where she is
coming from. I am not asking that she or any other city employees do an
allocation of time but it might not be a bad idea for many major corporations
do that to make sure that they are operating effectively.
Honestly, I don't appreciate your public information officer lecturing
me on Thomas Jefferson because I am a history and political science major in
my undergraduate degree. Frankly, Thomas Jefferson was an aristocrat and had
actually put in the constitution "Pursuit of Property" speaking of the
ownership of slaves. Finally, he put "Pursuit of Happiness" to satisfy the
majority of the membership in the Body. His writing are wonderful but if you
don't understand the man you don't understand Jefferson.
Yes, we all have a similar mission but with the attitude that was
lifted from her written memorandum - I am not sure that the bridge is
completely open. We will continue this on another day.
Sincerely, Blake Robertson, Secretary of GGGG
The following reply was
received from Kent Myers on September 16, 2007. Do you wonder if he
Thank you for your comments. Sorry we were not
able to meet your request to your satisfaction
City Manager Responds to Our FOI Request. Sort
Of. September 15,
As the members are aware, our secretary sent a
letter to the City Manager requesting information under the freedom of
information (FOI) act for disclosure of how much money, time, and resources the
city has spent on the new city hall campaign. The original request letter was
responded to by the City Manager
to see responses) by a letter dated September 4, basically denying any city
hall campaign even exists.
Our secretary sent another more specific letter and
we personally visited with the City Manager who acted as though he doesn't
understand FOI requirements. His excuse was that they were not calling the city
hall proposal a "campaign." After the second letter and we personally explained
what we were requesting, the City Manager promised to address our requests more
specifically. This information should have included time spent, what the
involved employees make per hour, all material and labor costs, etc. Note his
second attempt dated September 11 still does not provide the requested
information. We are now reviewing our options including submitting the
information to state agencies asking for them to direct the City Manager to more
properly respond and cite him for his continued violations of the "Freedom of
We will keep you informed.
More Crime on the Streets of Hot
September 5, 2007
We noted with interest that our City Manager is once
again trying to discount the obvious. He says the Garland Good Government Group
(GGGG) is using dated information and insinuates that our city doesn't have a
crime problem. How can anyone be so blind to not recognize a crime problem when
two of our officers are assaulted in two separate incidents on the same day. An
assault on one of the officers has not yet been reported by the local news
because it happened late yesterday. A Hot Springs police Capitan was assaulted
by three young hoodlums while in his vehicle. Unfortunately for the hoodlums,
the officer is rather large, in great condition, and a boxing trainer. When he
finally managed to exit his vehicle, the thugs retreated. Reports are that he
did manage to capture one and arrests are anticipated for all three. On the
second page of today's Sentinel Record is a headline, "HSPD breaks up
large fight outside local club." Note that yet another of Hot Springs finest
was assaulted. While looking at the newspaper, also check the police log. It
is huge every day. We simply must begin supporting our local police by helping
to get them the money and resources they need.
The information the GGGG presented at our press
conference yesterday is based on facts. It includes FBI statistics, information
from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Arkansas Crime Information Center, and
local police department files. We will post this information here in the very
near future so everyone can determine the facts for themselves. It is true that
our police records show a decrease in overall crime but these include
misdemeanors. Except for HSPD numbers, our statistics are for felonies and
above. Our City Manager may not want to know the true facts but they are there
and they are painfully evident. Our city leaders are now trying to convince
citizens that a new city hall is more important than public safety but our
citizens are smart enough to know otherwise. The proverbial wool will not be
pulled over the people's eyes again. As our report narrative concludes,
"Ignoring our crime problem is not working."
What Happened to Our Membership List and Officer's
Pictures? August 23 , 2007
We have had to answer that question at least one
dozen times recently. We though we may as well answer it for our readers as
well. The truth of the matter is we took it off because our city leaders were
apparently doling out their method of "old west" justice for those GGGG members
who had dared to stand up to them or had, in some way, criticized them. Yep, we
have even lost officers due to what the city did to them and members due to fear
of what the city can and will do to them.
We already had over half of our now 100 plus members
who did not wish to be listed because they own businesses or do business with
the city. It is terrible that any citizen would even need to be concerned about
retribution from the city they pay taxes to but this is the current situation.
It appears that our leaders are using code enforcement and others to harass or
give trouble to builders, businesses, and even just property owners in the
city. We ask you to please document and make us aware of such occasions as we
now cataloging these events and plan to turn them over to the proper
We don't expect to again list our officers or
members but wish to reassure the public that we will continue our work. With
your help, we will take the necessary steps to identify those who do not respect
the rights of others to have or voice opposing opinions. Following this
documentation process, be assured that we will work to expose and remove these
people from their elected positions and/or from their work in service to our
Watch out for those city vehicles that now say
"Neighborhood Services" on them. That is the City Manager's new name for "Code
Kudos to the
August 22 , 2007
We so seldom have an opportunity to thank the board
but we must in this case. We know we may have sort of shamed the board into
more appropriately using their surplus by our comments at the August 6 meeting
but, by golly, they did come back at their next meeting and do the right thing.
They gave the employees a raise. Albeit, not a large raise or a raise for
everyone but it is a start. With minor exception, our city employees seem to be
a very well qualified and courteous bunch of people. Far too often, our city
leaders come up with ridiculous ways to spend the citizen's money and seldom
even think of the real people that really make Hot Springs run. It is well past
time to recognize and begin to appreciate our hard-working city employees.
Thanks board members for finally helping our city employees. Don't stop now.
4 Board Members Off to New Orleans for Fun and
Frolic August 21 ,
We tried hard at last evening's city board meeting
to convince our directors that sending most of the board to New Orleans in
November was not a great idea. In fact, we told them it was not a prudent use
of the taxpayer's money. We even mentioned that a director going to Japan 3
times, Reno, Washington D.C., and New Orleans was perceived by the public as
being excessive. After hearing us out, the board once again demonstrated their
disdain for being 'good stewards' of our money by voting 5 to 1 to go ahead and
go to New Orleans. The vote would have been 6 to 1 but director Daniel was out
of the room with a coughing spell. You can catch their display on city channel
5 any evening this week beginning at 7 PM but this particular item is near the
end of the meeting nearer to 8 PM. You really should watch the entire meeting
to see how rude and arrogant or, in the board's mind, how nice and respectful
the mayor and board conduct themselves. It is likely more entertaining than
whatever else is on TV anyhow.
Board Decides NOT
to Buy Property for New City Hall
August 7 , 2007
We attended last night's city board meeting but we
are really not quite certain that this was the same bunch of city directors and
the same mayor that was at the "agenda" meeting last Tuesday. The reason we
question this was because those directors and that mayor were resolute in saying
we needed to "exercise our option" and purchase the property for the new city
hall because a "hotel was interested in the property." Heaven forbid a hotel
would get the property our city leaders wanted so badly. Note that the
potentially imposter city directors and mayor at last nights meeting were
unanimous that getting a new hotel to buy the property was just great. It is
difficult to determine if these people were the same folks. Perhaps, we could
do DNA tests prior to future meetings to avoid the infiltration of imposters.
This could be important because way too many people seemed to have that "dropped
jaw, blank stare" look indicative of the mental activities that occur upon
realizing so many people have totally reversed their common strong opinions.
It appears that a hotel related company has offered
to purchase the city's option. Camden Express LLC headquartered in Magnolia, AR
apparently operates the Holiday Inn Express in Camden and is a legitimate
organization. We will check into this further in the near future. Could it be
possible that this is a sham in which that organization will decide they don't
need the property once the election is held, especially if the city hall bond
issue passes, and will sell it back to the city for, say $100,000? We're not
saying that will happen, we are just a bit skeptical that so many people could
reverse themselves so quickly and be so happy about it. In response to the
mayor's question at the agenda meeting, "what do we do with the property if the
bond election fails?" most directors thought it would still be a good
investment. In fact, director Weatherford even stated that it was a great
investment and that the city "could make money on it." Director Daniel and
Smith had similar comments.
If we rule out the possibility of imposters posing
as directors and the mayor, we have to ask if, just perhaps, the GGGG had some
impact on our leaders actually changing their minds. Naw, not likely. Okay, we
admit it, we're just plain bumfuzzled.
Oh, a late note, one of the directors who want to
manage million of dollars of our money just had a garnishment of his wages
approved by the court. See the court papers by
Board Decides to Buy Property for New City
July 31 , 2007
Well, our city directors decided at today's "agenda"
meeting to tell our citizens they were going to proceed with building a new city
hall whether or not the citizens want one. Yep, item 30 near the end of the
"new business" portion of the agenda reads as follows:
Consider Resolution No. R-07-193 Authorizing the
Exercise of an Option to Purchase Certain Real Property from L.I.P.S, LLC (DHS
Property Located at 115 Market Street). See item 30
What this rather innocent looking ordinance really
means is that the city directors are determined to purchase the property for
their new city hall. The "Certain Real Property" is, in actuality, the planned
site for their new city hall. A final item on Monday night's agenda is the
refined video presentation designed to persuade the voters to spend another $14
million or so so they can build their new monument. Does it strike you as very
insulting that your directors would go ahead and vote to buy the property for a
new city hall before the citizens decide by their ballots that they even want or
need it? It strikes some of us as an outrage and a real "slap in the face" to
the public. Oh, you can show up Monday at 7 PM and express your views on their
improperly spending another $1.3 million of your tax money that was supposed to
be used only for paying off the civic center but the board has already decided
they are not going to listen to you. These sorts of things appear to be
discussed behind closed doors and finalized at the Tuesday afternoon "agenda"
meetings. Sort of makes you wonder why they even have "board meetings" doesn't
A Short Parable Titled "Mr. Smith Goes to
July 18 , 2007
Once upon a time, a Hot Springs city director was
sued by multiple people for not paying his bills. After several months and
several municipal type judges recusing themselves, a court date was finally set
(perhaps Tuesday - July 17, 2007) with a visiting judge from a neighboring town
(say, Arkadelphia) agreeing to hear the cases. The city director managed to
pay off and settle young Billy's case the day before the court date. However, a
case which was brought because the director refused to pay painter Marc for
painting his house, was heard.
Mr. Smith somehow managed to get the case closed to
the public, which is rare. Maybe it was because he was an important city
director and should be treated differently than just plain folks. The director
showed up with his bank statements in hand and tried to convince the judge that
because of the amount of money he had, he shouldn't have to pay. After the
judge explained that being broke or rich was not relevant as to whether or not
the debt was owed, the real meat of the trial began and all sides were heard
even though the director's wife did interrupt the judge several times. The
judge was not impressed or pleased with the interruptions but maintained his
demeanor. The only thing that seemed to be an issue with the judge was how many
coats of paint were put on the house. The director claimed that only one coat
was applied while painter Marc claimed that two coats were applied and, in some
The judge was so concerned that he adjourned for
lunch so that he and his bailiff could accompany the director to his house and
personally examine the paint. After discovering that there was, indeed, two and
three coats of paint and the director was not being totally honest with him, the
judge went to lunch at a nearby Mexican style restaurant and returned to court
ready to announce his decision. The director was so unhappy with the judge's
decision that he must pay the painter money (approximately $2,285.25) that he
stood up and angrily announced he was not pleased with the judge's decision.
The judge was not surprised that the director was unhappy but his outburst so
disappointed the judge that he told the director to sit down and shut up or he
would be held in contempt of court.
Oh, the fable also includes the obligatory
counter-suit (sort of dismissed) and the right to appeal within 30 days to a
higher court so the story may not yet be over. Someone pointed out that cases
are not normally closed to the public and that the public should have the right
to know how directors handle their own personal finances, especially directors
responsible for handling millions of dollars of the hard-working taxpayer's
money. Someone else pointed out that plumber Rick already had a lien on the
director's house for not paying his plumbing bill. Yet another person
remembered how another director had taken bankruptcy several times. Another
citizen asked how these people got elected. One wise old gentleman pointed out
that these same directors are now preparing to ask the citizens to trust them to
spend several million more of the public's money for a new city hall so they can
put their name on a big metal plaque and everybody can see how important they
are. On his way out, the wise old fellow threw up his hands and lamented,
"heaven help us all."
Who is Left to Speak Out for Me?
Do your city directors speak out for your interests
or only for their own interests? Martin Impeller (1892-1984), a political
activist of the World Wars, was attributed with the original text which has been
many times modified to make a point. Hopefully in one of its most unmodified
versions, we can find reason to stand up and be counted.
First they came for the communists,
and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Now apply this to 2007 and the City
of Hot Springs. The citizens demanded and achieved the right to vote on the new
City Hall Issue. However, the City Manager and some of the City Directors are
moving forward with buying property at inflated prices as though the citizens
should still not have a voice in their exploits. They are either not attuned to
the voices of the people or prefer to simply ignore our wishes. They travel
extensively to Japan, violate State Contractors Laws, file multiple personal
bankruptcies, and engage in multiple conflicts of interest while claiming to
represent the citizens. They seize personal property to their advantage when
there are better alternatives that could be exercised. Department heads find
more importance in free trips than in the management of their own duties.
Most citizens are sitting back, with
mild interest, thinking, "I am not speaking out-- for I am not involved." How
long will rural citizens continue to take that attitude? City management is
already dictating planning within the five mile extra-territorial (ETJ) limits
outside the city. They are already beginning to dictate zoning within the one
mile ETJ limit, and are now considering imposing city codes in both areas. They
have already arbitrarily increased the sewer rates 50% more than city customers
based on an orchestrated study which violated federal agreements which allowed a
sewer treatment plant to be built. Now they are using questionable powers of
eminent domain to seize properties outside the city in rural areas to their own
advantage. They are offering 60 cents per square foot for this property while
paying prime rates of $8 per square foot (proposed new city hall) for property
that the citizens have not had a constitutional vote on, as of yet.
Perhaps more desperate measures are
called for. Perhaps we should demand our leaders change their personal
constitutions by restoring the words, "We the people," to their preambles and
removing the words, "We the Directors and Managers." Maybe, just maybe, we need
to take our City Government back and rid ourselves of the autocracy that now
Note: This editorial was also submitted to the Sentinel Record for
publication by Ted C. Burhenn
Skateboarders Protest, Micromanaging City Manager,
Tax Money Spent Without Asking Citizens July 11 , 2007
Skateboarders - A dozen
or so skateboarders and their sympathizers led by a young fellow from Paris,
Texas showed up downtown Sunday afternoon complete with signs and skateboards.
Except for one brief moment, their touted "acts of civil disobedience" did not
occur. A big part of the reason for this was due to the three dozen or so
motorcyclists who staked out the area where skateboarding was planned. Many
bikers and locals wore t-shirts with large letters, "C O P S" and in smaller
letters, "Citizens Opposed to Punks on Skateboards." Typically, the TV news
media interviewed the protesters but didn't bother interviewing the much larger
group protesting the protesters. The bikers got the point across so well that
the skateboarders quickly left the planned protest area. In fact, such an
impression was made that this group, some of which drove hundreds of miles to
complain about our police, asked the police if they would escort them back to
their cars at the parking garage. Ironic, isn't it, that those criticizing our
police would beg for their help because they feared our bikers. Despite some of
their rough exteriors, these bikers are some of nicest, most courteous and most
patriotic people you will ever meet. It was refreshing to observe those who
have respect for law and order take a stand opposing those who advocate civil
Another interesting development was that the City Manager was seen in shorts and
a baseball cap walking the downtown sidewalks with a couple of our policemen.
It was later reported that our City Manager had met with the skateboarder group
and gave them his blessing to protest downtown. Apparently, he then called
together a meeting of the police and provided his plan for handling the
situation. This is consistent with the numerous charges of micromanagement he
is infamous for. Most citizens have confidence that our trained police
department can take care of such situations without the City Manager's constant
interference. We understand he is the reason Hot Springs police vehicles look
like taxicabs instead of police units. Send in your comments, we'll add them to
what we already have and provide you a few dozen other similar instances of his
micromanagement techniques in the future.
Spending Our Money -
Okay, so the city hall issue is over until the citizens vote for or against it
on October 9, 2007, right? Wrong. Next Monday night's city board meeting will
include an item authorizing another $15,000 being paid to a sawmill appraiser to
appraise the block-long properties along Central Avenue except for the
architect's building at Market Street. This would allow the new city hall to
have access and parking directly on Central Avenue. The word is that the city
directors are prepared to once again slap their citizens down because they now
are working to purchase not only the old Ouachita Hospital but also this
additional property. We continue to ask ourselves why the City Manager, mayor,
and city board are so determined to remove such expensive properties from the
tax rolls when a city hall could be constructed on existing city properties.
Perhaps they could even consider the old Woodmen building on Malvern which,
apparently, has been renovated and could be acquired very reasonably. At any
rate, expect to see the board spend $1.3 million of your hard-earned tax dollars
plus another million or so for the now proposed Central Avenue property. We
have already paid for one appraisal plus $50,000 to hold the old hospital. Oh
well, as we've said before. It is not like it is REAL money. It is just our
Winner of Honorary City Board Director, Position
July 6 , 2007
The excitement is evident as Barbara Anabel was
declared as the winner of the GGGG's Honorary Position 8 City Board Director by
GGGG's chairman during the group's Fiesta party. In addition to the
extraordinary honor of being anointed as Director, Barbara also won a trip to
Hanamaki and a cell phone with limited range.
The new honorary member of the
City of Hot Springs Board of Directors is entitled to numerous privileges. For
example, the Position 8 Director gets to vote on the city hall bond issue (of
course as an honorary director she didn’t
get to vote automatically, she had to help obtain over three thousand signatures
from fellow voters to empower her but that was accomplished)
Although one of the perks of her job is the vacation to Hanamaki, our
Honorary Board member didn’t
receive plane tickets on a 747, no unlimited booze at taxpayer expense, the
buying her food at pricy restaurants, and there are no stopovers in Dallas for
personal business. However, since she will be taking your her own car and
filling it up with her own $3.00 per gallon gas, she will have plenty of room
for an ice chest to carry baloney sandwiches and moon pies. Yes, the trip is
really to Hanamaki Missouri. Her trip also included deluxe accommodations for up
to 4, and a cell phone (minutes not included).
The lucky Honorary Director was chosen from a random drawing at our Fiesta
meeting held at El Chico in the Hot Springs Mall on June 5th.
Additionally, the couple of dozen or so members that were present at the Fiesta
were appointed as Honorary City of Hot Springs City Managers, and received their
dinner at El Chico for free (tax, tip and booze were not included. After all,
they were just honorary City Managers).
We want everyone to enjoy their honorary positions but to be certain they
take unreasonable advantage of them, the following rules were established. Any
honorary Director or Manager that attempts to do any of the following prohibited
acts will be recalled from their Honorary position:
Creating a permanent bottleneck
on any major road in town.
Placing stop signs in front of
their business just for fun.
Collecting millions of dollars in
taxes after the tax’s
purpose has ended.
4) Using foul language just because you are forced to take a tie breaker
stance on a city board vote.
Filing bankruptcy too many times.
Being rude and hateful repeatedly
to the public or other directors.
Spending millions on a project
without voter participation.
Taking excessive numbers of
international vacations at taxpayer expense.
And most importantly not
representing the best interest of the voters.
Note: The new honorary City Board member was so
overwhelmed that she donated her trip to the top petition canvassers. Have fun
in Hanamaki !!
Update to Commentary Below
July 3 , 2007
For reasons which were not initially apparent, the
item to allow a "public comment section" was retained on the city board's
Tuesday evening agenda (item 13). When the item was brought to the floor, it
received a motion from Director Peggy Maruthur but received no quick second so
Mayor Bush declared, "motion dies for lack of a second." First, from the
commentary below, note that this item should not have even been on the agenda.
Second, one must ask, why was it on the agenda? The final analysis would
determine that an ill-conceived plan or perhaps, even a scheme, was devised in
an effort to embarrass us into never again having the nerve to ask our city
board to allow the citizens a voice at city board meetings. Unfortunately, for
the mayor, the plan was too obvious and likely too transparent to their vast
viewing audience. If you haven't seen the city board meeting yet, the reruns
are at 7 PM each evening on cable channel 15. Check them out a judge for
yourself if our mayor is representing anyone other than the "good old boys" who
run him and the city. Also judge for yourself as to the mayor's arrogance.
Finally, make your own determination as to which board members are actually
trying to represent the citizens who elected them. Now please, reread the last
two sentences of the following commentary and see if you agree.
Why are they called 'Public' Meetings or 'Public'
Servants? June 30 ,
Our good members and the public need to know what
happened at the city board agenda meeting Tuesday afternoon. For the fourth
time, we went through the city's red tape, filled out all their special forms,
met all their schedules, jumped through all their designated hoops, etc. and
once again requested a city board agenda item to present the possibility of
adding a "public comment section" to future city board agendas. Our request was
once again rejected and the board will not even hear the request during their
public meeting next Monday evening. It is ironic how our City Manager and mayor
are so quick to point out that there is indeed always a method which allows our
citizens to speak when the truth is that even a request to be heard can be
rejected by the mayor and his board. Our distinguished mayor started the
discussion on this item by stating that he, personally, did not think the board
should even hear this item. No other board member disagreed with him so the
right of our citizens to speak once again took a hard hit. We have pointed out
on numerous occasions that it is hypocrisy to even call board meetings "public
meetings" when the public is not allowed to speak. Of course, most citizens are
afraid to speak to this particular board anyhow because of the rude, arrogant,
condescending manner in which citizens are treated for daring to have the nerve
to speak to such important self-serving pompous individuals.
It is time that we citizens send a strong message to
those who were elected to serve the public that the public will not only be
listened to but will be treated with dignity and respect. It is highly unlikely
that our current board will even consider changing their present modus operandi
but the public can certainly change the board and elect a group that will
operate in a respectful and representative manner.
It is past time that our elected representatives
discover that public meetings are places where the
public can meet and be heard and
public servants are actually elected to serve the public.
Hot Springs Police Get a Manipulated "Black Eye."
Could it Be??
June 24, 2007
By now most everyone has seen the video of a Hot
Springs policeman abusing our innocent young people downtown in broad daylight.
We did a little investigating and came up with some possibilities you may not
have considered. Just for grins, ask yourself the following questions.
Could it be that anyone can put together any kind of
edited video and publish it for the world to see on You-Tube? In fact, isn't
this the site that is known for weird, off-the-wall videos?
Could it be that the 19 year
old 'kid' was cautioned numerous times including the same morning the infamous
"You -Tube" video was made not to skateboard downtown on Central?
Could it be that the 19 year old 'kid' went back
home, got his still camera and his video camera, called his 21 year old friend
and 4 juvenile skateboarders, and told them of a plan to make them all 'stars'
on U-Tube for Skateboarding day?
Could it be that conniving young minds agreed to
provoke an officer known to have a short temper into arresting them by giving
him the old finger, calling him names, and purposely violating the law by
skateboarding in front of that officer?
Could it be that they planned to stop the taunting
once the video tape started and start talking about how skateboarding is not a
crime, except the young innocent girl forgot and continued to throw in a few
extra "f--- you cop" even after the video started? (Listen carefully to the
Could it be that a couple of the innocent teens
actually beat the mean officer in the back while he was attempting to subdue
another of their group?
Could it be that they actually injured a 67 year old
civil servant who got in the way during their exuberant filming of police
Could it be that some of these same innocent young
skateboarders provided the graffiti on the downtown parking garage, bent or
broke downtown plants, super glued downtown merchants locks, or ripped down the
"No Skateboarding or Rollerblading" signs?
Could it be that these innocent young people are
successfully using the media to make our protectors look bad?
Can it be that we will continue to be manipulated to
condemn our police department so our youth can retain their innocence?
Hot Springs Directors Have Skewed
June 24, 2007
The burning question residents of the Hot Springs
Metropolitan Area must soon address is simple. Does Hot Springs really need a
new city hall? Many people seem to think that there are numerous projects which
deserve a higher priority than spending over $14 million for a new city hall.
Most of the projects typically mentioned could be generally categorized as
public welfare and safety. Specifically, too few police officers, poorly
equipped fire and police departments, needs for additional fire stations, an
overcrowded jail, the leniency of our courts, our mounting crime rate, and
traffic safety hazards such as the downtown bottleneck. Just this past week, we
saw news accounts of several traffic accidents claiming more lives on our
streets. We saw news reports of bodies being found. We even saw news reports of
people being murdered in our city.
Heaven help us if we become complacent and allow
such loss of lives to become acceptable statistics. What are our leaders doing
about the situation? How about less than nothing? We haven’t even heard of a
plan. The only plan we have heard is how they want to spend our money for a new
city hall. Is the expenditure really necessary or is the true intention of our
city leaders to construct a place where they can display their engraved names so
future generations can read them and think they must have been important people?
Are our city leaders blind to real priorities? Well, they did want a new city
hall so badly that they declared it to be an "emergency" and even voted to deny
their citizens their right to vote on the issue. Thankfully, due to the efforts
of thousands of concerned citizens, we now will now have a voice and a vote.
Do you suppose our city leaders don’t realize how
unsafe our area is? Our leaders were told that of the approximately 350
metropolitan areas of the United States, Hot Springs is rated as the 13th
worst. In other words, only 12 metropolitan areas were found to have a higher a
crime rate than Hot Springs. The ranking is based on actual felony statistics
tabulated by Morgan-Quitno and may be seen at
Look for the most dangerous 25 metropolitan areas at the bottom right of the
page. Books and the basis for their ratings
can be found at
Links to these and other reports can also be found on our website,
You may recall how our city leaders dismissed this report as not using proper
data and how it was inaccurate simply because they (our city leaders) said it
was wrong. It is somewhat more difficult to dismiss recent local headlines
reporting individual statistics which are later compiled into independent
reports such as Morgan-Quitno. For example, this weekend’s news of traffic
deaths, bodies being found, and people being murdered are hard to dismiss as
Should it perhaps, be a higher priority to use the
$14 million earmarked for a city hall plus the $2 million contrived "surplus"
our City Manager reported for public welfare and safety? How much help would $16
million provide toward eliminating traffic hazards, hiring additional police,
improving communications and other equipment for police and fire departments,
and perhaps, even building a new jail? If you split the money equally, that
equates to $4 million for each project. Certainly enough to make a difference
and to save some lives. After just having such a devastating loss of life during
this past week, do you suppose our city leaders are, or are not, concerned
enough to reconsider their ill-conceived priorities?
Boldly walk up to your city director or City Manager
and ask them, "what is a life worth to you?" Then ask how they justified a new
city hall as "an emergency" and as being their top priority.
Editors Note: This item was
also submitted to the Sentinel Record for use as an editorial item. Watch for
What is Wrong
June 19, 2007
We have a city director who
owns a wholesale fireworks company. By the director's own statement, his
fireworks company has provided the fireworks and/or coordinated the displays for
the City of Hot Springs Fireworks Shows for some 25 years. At last evening's
city board meeting, a citizen pointed out that this director had a conflict of
interest and that he should not participate in a board agenda item which would
waive legal competitive bidding requirements and allow the director's company to
once again provide this service to the city without taking bids. The director
made a lot of noise about the fact that some $30,000 in funds were contributed
to the city and this process had been used for 25 years. We totally fail to see
why the source of funding or the length of time has any bearing on the legal
requirements or how his rants could possibly be construed as eliminating a
"conflict of interest" on his part.
Let us throw in another scenario. At the same board
meeting, another citizen pointed out an additional conflict of interest. The
citizen stated that any director who owned a sign company should not participate
in the impending vote to allow temporary signs in the downtown area. You
guessed it, the same director that owns the fireworks company also owns a sign
company and, true to form, he made a lot of noise about the limited area the
sign ordinance would impact and how his company didn't even make "those kinds of
signs." He chided the citizen for not having his "facts straight" and then
proceeded to vote for the item.
Okay, lets just suppose for a moment that the
director's belligerent blather somehow made sense. The limited area the sign
ordinance covered includes yet another of the director's businesses. If the
ordinance passes, he can now place sidewalk signs in front of his own downtown
business. Apparently, in his mind, this isn't a conflict either. He voted to
allow his own downtown business to use temporary signs although other businesses
in town are deprived of this ability.
It appears that this director neither knows or wants
to know the definition of "conflict of interest." He has arrogantly and loudly
criticized numerous citizens who have tried to explain to him what constitutes a
"conflict of interest." We think it may well be time for the Arkansas Attorney
General to provide the definition for him. Perhaps, it is time we all take a
long, hard look at which of our directors are only representing themselves and
which are responsive to the public they were elected to represent.
Editors Note: Also see the letter from "An Observer" in the "Discussions"
section dated June 19, 2007 for some more insight relative to this subject.
You Too Can Be a City
We plan to select one member
of the GGGG to become an honorary member of the City of Hot Springs Board of
directors. Among the privileges that come with position number 8 is that you get
a vote on the bond issue (of course as an honorary director you don’t
just get to vote automatically, you have to get a couple of thousand of your
fellow voters to empower you but this has been taken care of)
One of the perks of the job is that you get a vacation to Hanamaki. Our
Honorary Board member doesn’t
get plane tickets on a 747, there is no unlimited booze at taxpayer expense, the
buying your food at pricy restaurants, and you can’t stopover to do unrelated
business in Dallas. However, since you will be taking your own car and filling
it up with your own $3 per gallon gas, you will have plenty of room for an ice
chest to carry baloney sandwiches and moon pies. Yes, you are really going to
Hanamaki, Missouri (also know as Branson). Your trip includes deluxe
accommodations for up to 4 and a cell phone with limited coverage.
The lucky Honorary Director will be chosen from a random drawing at our
next meeting. For every 16 signature petition form you turned in during the
petition drive, you will receive one entry for the drawing. You must be present
to win. Additionally, of the members present who turned in the most petitions,
the top dozen will be appointed as Honorary Hot Springs City Managers with
expense accounts good for one meal. All managers will receive their dinner at El
Chico for free. Tax, tip, and booze are not included. Remember, this is just an
Enjoy your honorary positions and don’t
take unreasonable advantage of us. Any honorary Director or City Manager that
attempts to do any of the following prohibited acts will be recalled from their
Creating a permanent bottleneck
on any major road in town.
Placing stop signs and blinking
red lights in front of your business just for fun.
Closing the access street to a
multimillion dollar parking garage.
Collecting Millions of Dollars in
taxes after the tax’s
purpose has ended.
Cursing at a public meeting
because you are forced to make a tie breaker vote.
Filing for bankruptcy more than
Repeatedly being rude and hateful
to the public and other leaders.
Spending millions on a project
without voter participation.
Taking excessive numbers of
international vacations at taxpayer’s expense.
And most importantly, not
representing the best interest of the voters.
One of our more creative members submitted
these ideas and provided the rather intriguing gifts.
Deception May Not Be the Right
May 21, 2007
I’m having difficulty finding the right word for
what our city leaders are currently up to. Words that immediately come to mind
are deception, misinformation, and even lies but it is really hard to describe
what is going on. Perhaps it would be easier if the events and actions are
outlined. Since I have yet to decide on the proper word to use, I’ll just insert
an "X" where the word should go.
"X" number one finds the City Manager and mayor
bragging about a surplus that will be created by allowing the taxes for the
civic center to purposely continue for several months past the actual time
necessary to pay off bonds for the civic center. The time was extended in spite
of the Arkansas Constitution which states: "The special tax shall never be
extended for any other purpose, nor collected for any greater length of time
than necessary to retire such bonded indebtedness." That wording seems very
clear even though we now have financial advisors and bond attorneys (who stand
to make a great deal of money) that may have found a loophole or two.
"X" number two finds the City Manager, mayor, and
some board members telling us that the "accidental" surplus from the civic
center tax can be diverted and used to purchase the property for a new city
hall. This diversion was approved by a 6-1 vote although the Arkansas
Constitution states, "no moneys arising from a tax levied for any purpose shall
be used for any other purpose." Additionally, the ballot language used for the
civic center bond vote states that the tax "will be used solely to retire the
bonds..." At worst, their vote both violated the law and the intent of the
Constitution. At best, their vote demonstrated that citizens can never again
trust this board to keep their promises to the voters.
"X" number three finds the City Manager playing a
"shell game" with funding for a new city hall. He has discovered that gambling
revenues from Oaklawn and unapproved "turnback funds" cannot be used as the
basis for a bond sale. Since he has no unencumbered funding, this means he must
contrive a shell game to make it look like different funds are actually being
used. To accomplish this, he devises a scheme which uses the franchise tax we
pay on our electric, gas, telephone, and cable bills to pay for the bonds. He
then convinces the board that he will replace the money taken from franchise
taxes with gambling money and turnback fund increases he expects from the state.
The board buys it. The citizens don’t.
"X" number four finds the City Manager and most of
the board telling the citizens that they do not deserve a vote on the issuance
of some $8.7 million in bonds that would ultimately cost the taxpayers over $14
million. This action was attempted to be passed rather quickly and quietly. This
is the most important of all the issues because their attempt is to both silence
the public and deny our right to vote.
"X" number five finds the board "declaring an
emergency" which will allow the bond sale to go through much faster than usual.
The City Manager says that not declaring an emergency means it could take an
additional 2 or 3 months and "interest rates could go up 2 or 3 percent during
that time." History has never seen that rate of inflation but no one challenged
this as being ample reason for declaring an emergency. The Arkansas Constitution
describes an emergency as being "...necessary for the preservation of the public
peace, health and safety..." Arkansas courts have also held that the public
peace, health, and safety must be impacted for an emergency to be declared. One
cannot help but wonder if our directors even care about our legal liabilities.
"X" number six finds the board voting to legally
change the wording of all Hot Springs Code references from "Franchise Tax" to
"Franchise Fee" and then laughing about their actions. This appears to be
nothing more than a blatant attempt to allow the City Manager and board to
continue trying to sell their huge expenditure as a project that will "have no
affect on taxes." What a deal! This is probably the most obvious issue of an
attempt to "pull the wool over our eyes" and it truly deserves a better
After careful review of available words to describe
the above actions of our city leaders, I finally decided on a word that I have
never heard outside of Arkansas and although it is seldom used today, it was
quite popular many years ago. The word is "Tomfoolery." To save you young folks
from having to look it up, the following definitions were found by an internet
search: foolish behavior, nonsense, senseless behavior, trifling or silly
behavior, fooling around, a silly act.
Synonyms include: antics, balderdash, baloney,
banter, blatherskite, buffoonery, bunk, capers, claptrap, clownishness,
craziness, flimflam, folly, fooling, frolic, harlequinade, hogwash,
horsefeathers, joke, lark, lunacy, malarkey, monkeyshines, piffle, poppycock,
rubbish, shenanigans, shines, trash, trick, and twaddle.
Now I’m really confused because I think all of those
words work rather well
On a serious note, whenever our city wants to spend
over $14 million of our hard-earned tax dollars and we have board members who
have taken multiple bankruptcies or have police rap sheets, yet are making
fiscal and legal determinations on our behalf, we should become skeptical. We
taxpayers not only have the right to voice our opinions and to vote but in such
situations, we think it is mandatory that we speak up and force the issue to
recover our right to vote. The petition to "Recover Your Right to Vote" and
place the city hall issue for a vote of the people is currently priority number
one with the Garland Good Government Group. Please join us Thursday evening, 7
PM at the Maurice Room in the National Park Medical Center. If you need more
information, see our website at
www.Hot-Springs-Metro.org or call us at
282-2811 or 617-4777.
Note: A highly edited version of the above
commentary was printed as a "letter to the editor" of the Sentinel Record
on Thursday, May 24, 2007.
Report on City Hall Activities of Monday,
May 8, 2007
Due to actions by your Hot
Springs City Board of Directors, we now are committed to a bond sale that will
cost the taxpayers of Hot Springs more than $14 million over the next 25 years.
In fact, it was so important that the bonds be sold immediately that the board
also declared their actions to be an emergency. It should be noted that
directors Maruthur, Edwards, and Smith voted to allow the public to vote on the
issue. The mayor broke the tie which denied the people's right to vote. There
will be no further input from the public allowed. In fact, a hardly publicized
impromptu public hearing was held during the meeting last evening so the city
now will accept no further public input. It should also be noted that the mayor
broke the normal speaking procedure for public input on agenda items by (at the
last minute) requiring the speakers for other agenda items to speak only during
the public hearing.
Be assured that the Garland
Good Government Group is working to determine how best to allow public
involvement. It currently appears that a
petition for a referendum may be the only remaining opportunity for the citizens
to have a voice in how their money is spent. As soon as our research is
completed, we will publish this information on this site. Hopefully, this will
be completed within the next day or so. If you have questions or concerns or
simply wish to help, please call us at 282-2811 or 617-4777.
A Tax By Any Other Name Is Still A
May 4, 2007
Our illustrious city leaders
are positioned to ease an important issue through with no fan-fare at their
board meeting Monday (May 7) evening. Fortunately for our hard-working
taxpayers, their poorly disguised attempt to rename a tax and begin
calling it a fee is apparent to several citizens who have yet to fall off
of the proverbial "turnip truck." The all too obvious reason for their actions
is that our city leaders are trying to ram the new $14 million city hall funding
through without a vote of the people. Their unfortunate mistake was promising
the voters that this can be done WITHOUT RAISING TAXES. It could be devastating
to their scheme if our citizens were to discover that the franchise "fees" used
as the basis for the bond sale were actually FRANCHISE TAXES. Well fellow
citizens, that is exactly what they presently are. You can verity this by
checking the last five pages of the City Code at
where you will discover that all of the ordinances refer to FRANCHISE TAXES and
not franchise fees as our city leaders are currently calling them. The agenda
for Monday (May 7) agenda is available from the city or at
check out agenda item 20 titled "Consider Ordinance No. O-07-43 Amending
Ordinance No. 2985 Fixing the Amount of Franchise Fees to be Paid to the City by
A T & T."
The city's deceitful attempt to cover their mistake by changing the wording
from "tax" to "fee" would allow the City Manager to "negotiate" future franchise
fee increases with utility companies such as the gas company, the
electric company, the telephone company, the cable company, and internet service
providers and then blame such increases on the utility companies rather than
having to call it an increase in our taxes. If you are wondering how you pay
these taxes presently, look at any of the above mentioned utility bills and you
will see an item listed as a franchise tax or fee. This is the tax amount the
city charges the utility company for the privilege of operating within the city
limits of Hot Springs. It should be obvious that the utility company would not
strongly resist if the city increases this charge whether it is called a tax or
a fee because all such charges are totally passed through to the customer. The
bottom line is that taxes on your utility bills are about to go up but the city
will be allowed to call it fee increases rather than having to call it tax
increases. The whole thing is just a bit too sneaky but is indicative of how our
city is being controlled by a handful of selfish and, perhaps, underhanded
To help inform the public of such shenanigans, we are in the process of
forming the Garland Good Government Group. We hope to also help bring some
honesty, accountability, and transparency to the actions of our local government
entities. Please join us at our next meeting 7 PM, Thursday May 17 at the
Maurice Room of the National Park Medical Center. For more information, see our
website at www.Hot-Springs-Metro.org.
The above article will be revised based on the actions of the city board and
submitted to the Sentinel Record as an editorial.
City Mistakes - A Guest Commentary by
Fred M. Dierks
April 30, 2007
Several weeks ago the Sentinel record
reported council men’s comments about the proposed new City Hall project who
"We need new facilities to consolidate
----" – "City Hall is 50 years old and is outdated." – "The main benefit is to
have everyone together" – "The City has needed a new municipal building for
several years" – "Most thought it OK to use tax money for other purposes for a
new city hall."
This would all be nice, but aren’t there
more pressing things needed by the city. When the city approved the building of
Summit Arena which adds thousands of extra people in town it puts a massive load
on all the city services namely law enforcement, jails, parking traffic, fire
protection et al. I am amazed by the number of tourists that are now brought to
town by locally promoted events. The exclusive franchise of the "Games of Skill"
Casino for the race track will also add visitors in town to spend their money if
they have any left after using their skills. The City Council and City Fathers
have been good at promoting the city, but have been short of proper thought and
planning for this population load..
Mistake #1 Build a 6,000 seat arena and
auditorium with inadequate parking. Broadway was made into an obstacle course
around flower beds to add a few parking places for the project. Executive Suites
was allowed to build right up against the Arena with no incorporated parking,
only a parking lot even further away from the Arena.
Mistake #2 Build a Bath House Row parking
deck with trickling waterfalls in it’s front and a hidden entrance so no one can
Mistake #3 Closing two of the four lanes of
Central Avenue traffic for three blocks causing a serious traffic jam during
convention time and tourist season. Except for this pinch point of restaurant,
art galleries and girlie shows, Central Avenue has four lanes all the way from
Park Avenue to the lake. At times during rush hours the traffic backs up all the
way from the Arlington Hotel to Grand Avenue causing a serious problem of
ambulance delays and police protection for the residents up Whittington and Park
Avenue. These traffic delays are not only are detrimental to the quality of life
of our residents but the idling cars are destructive to the environment and
costly in gas and car maintenance.
Okay. So over 20 years we made a few
mistakes that are so evident now on hindsight but lets go forward and see what
needs fixing before we spend our last dollar of spending power on a new City
Hall. It would certainly be helpful for the taxpayers to be shown an overall
plan of expected city needs and costs for the next few years and how we pay for
it. What will be done with the old City Hall. I hear a parking lot. No! A big
parking deck would alleviate Mistake 1. This could allow giving part of Broadway
back to the citizens by removing it’s obstacle course and would provide parking
where it is most needed.
Mistake 3 can be solved by taking back the
city’s Central Avenue’s four lanes. If adjacent owners want 24 hour curb parking
let them move the curb and their building back ten feet. Or why not help the
property owners with their parking problem by contributing to an improvement
district to build a parking deck say next to Lockwoods. Or – Put a parking deck
at the Goddard Hotel. Or think out of the box and ask why not put City Hall on
top of one or both of these decks.
Mistake 2 is a tough one to fix but
obviously the architect or planner was more interested in looks than use. If you
tear out the pretty walkway and put the road back from Central to the parking
deck you would probably need a another stop light on Central, certainly
something we don’t want. More prominent signs would help but try this: How about
using 6/8 seat golf carts on busy days and hours to deliver people up and down
central and to the parking deck? Operate them on the sidewalk like at the DFW
airport in Dallas.
I was sorry to see the stop lights started
up again on both ends of Bridge Street. Are they necessary to maintain the
shortest parade Ripley rating? If not why not make Bridge St. One way eastward,
replace the Broadway light with a Bridge Street stop or yield sigh, and perhaps
leave a pedestrian push button light on Central that is coordinated with the
other stop lights?
The Central/Ouachita triangle arrangement
is working well and is a worthwhile change. Now if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
After noting the last two City Council
meetings they are apparently going to ram the City Hall project through without
voter approval or more study since they have engaged a company to handle their
bond issue. It has apparently been worked out legally how to finance the project
with excess funds, some for other projects and finally a bond issue for the
rest. For anyone to mention any of the three major mistakes they made, they
don’t want to hear about it. Their PR and efforts to increase tourist attendance
has been brilliant but I sense a bit of arrogance like "buzz off jr.". But I
think the taxpayers of the City have been neglected in the basics; by
indifference to traffic, parking and service problems generated by the City’s
tourism growth. This makes me wonder about the adequacy of other city services
such as police protection, jails, new required road work such as Higdon Ferry
road. I wonder about the judgment of who will design new project or fix the old
ones. Will they hire again the same people that helped them make the three
mistakes mentioned above?
Note: The above commentary also appeared as an
editorial yesterday (4/29/07) in the Sentinel Record.
Shell Games A Guest Commentary
April 19, 2007
Myers says he will use
"existing utility franchise fees" to service the new bonds for the new City
Hall. His strategy, of course, is to designate that (or some specific) source of
"revenue," rather than general fund money (tax revenue), so that he will not
need voter approval for the bonds. But his assertion must mean that there is an
unencumbered stream of surplus revenue from the utility operation. If so, where
is that money accumulated? Myers must be made to explain his stream of
unencumbered money (meaning not pledged or used for any other purpose), and if
there is such money, where is it? My guess would be that there is no such thing
- that every dollar the utilities services bring in is spent. That means that if
"utility franchise fees" were diverted to pay the new bonds, that diversion
would have to be made up, either by general (tax) funds (a no-no) or by - you
guessed it - an increase in utility rates. That is the shell game that is
played, and approved by the Court in Harris v Little Rock. The Court
(with the exception of J. Glaze) subscribes to the notion of "entrepreneurial
government" discussed below, and thinks that a fee is not a tax (although using
a franchise "fee" that everybody must pay might test the limit of that idea).
What the bureaucrats did in Harris was to raise the user fees on
certain recreation facilities (not on everybody), and then use the increased
revenue to service the new bonds. They got away with it. Here, Myers may have
blocked himself by saying (in his blurb April 13) that the existing level of
rates would suffice, which means that he now has a surplus. If he has a surplus,
then why hasn't that been a reduction? But then, contrast that with the quote in
Thomason's piece, in the 2nd paragraph from the end, attributed to some "Finance
Department document," that utility rates will have to be increased to service
the wastewater facility debt after all the contemplated draws have been made to
To recap, somebody
should make Myers explain his implied existence of an unencumbered and unused
stream of utility franchise fees which he says he will use to service the new
bonds for the new City Hall.
The notion of
"entrepreneurial government" is wide-spread, and not found just in Arkansas. It
is, basically, a form of socialism, dressed up as "government capitalism," where
government entities and bureaucrats undertake projects, pretending to operate on
some sort of business model, with themselves in charge, but using taxpayer
money. They depend upon political pandering and the ignorance and disinterest of
the citizenry to keep them in power. This societal illness historically ends in
tragedy, but while it runs, politicians, bureaucrats and judges love it. In the
end, the taxpayers are left holding the bag. State constitutions initially
prohibited almost every variety of it, but over the years those protections have
been diluted and undermined by legislators and judges, so that now just about
anything goes. A reading of the Arkansas Constitution, concerning municipal debt
for example, illustrates the process.
Who is working for Whom? A Guest
Commentary by Ted C. Burhenn
April 13, 2007
Remember when JFK said "Ask not what
your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"? Well I just
returned from the Hot Springs City Council Agenda Meeting, and our City Manager
and most of the Directors are taking that quote to a new level. They are
prepared during the next Monday meeting to take the $2,500,000 (yes over two
million dollars) "surplus" money taken from your tax money, dedicated to the
Civic Center, and spend it on a new City Hall. Total cost will be over Ten
Million. Our City Manager, was quoted last week in The Sentinel-Record as
saying, "There are no plans for a public vote on this issue." The resolution is
worded such that there is very little "wiggle" room for the Directors as to how
the money is spent. They also will most likely approve an additional $11,500 of
your money to have the existing buildings appraised. Only one Director was
willing to oppose the Management Machine and request that the Citizens be
allowed an input. She was placed on hold for at least another two weeks. Even in
the unlikely event that the Directors, as a majority, vote next month to allow
citizen input, they will have already wasted an additional $11,500 in appraisal
fees. This will be in addition to the $50,000 they authorized during last
meeting for an option on a location of management choice.
During that meeting the City Manager was
asked if a financial fact sheet, spreadsheet or ROI (Return on Investment)
existed. He stated that it would be ready last Thursday. What was asked for and
what was received were two different things. Justification comes in computing
how much it will cost us if we stay in the old buildings, with maintenance and
utilities vs. how much the new capital expenses would be with all cost factors
included. Somewhere in all those figures, there should be a break even point. In
other words we should realize a cost savings of our capital expenses and start
to see a return on our investment in a specific number of years. That has not
been provided because in all likelihood does not exist. In simple terms it is
not justified at this time. What has not been discussed is that you will suffer
during the next 10 years (or more) to pay off the bonds required. This means
that your quality of service will go down. Roads will not get paved, repairs to
the parks will suffer.
So much for the problem. Now for the
solution. If you want City Management to spend your money without justification
or your input, you are in luck, do nothing. If however you think that the City
Manager, mayor and directors should be working for you, call your directors or
even better yet take an hour out of your life and go to the meeting Monday. Your
presence alone will send the required message. You can and will make a
difference one person at a time. That was the true meaning of JFK’s words.
News and Commentary Older than the Above can be
Found at www.HotSpringsTalk.com