Fayetteville Mayor plays defense in 2011 State of the City address | OpinionBanner, News, Opinion — By Christopher Spencer on January 21, 2011 at 2:18 am
Fayetteville’s Mayor Lioneld Jordan delivered the annual State of the City address Tuesday night.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the City Council and the people of Fayetteville, I am pleased to report to you that the State of our City is sound,” Jordan said at the start of the speech.
It weighed in at 30 minutes, triple the length of his speech last year, and provided an exhaustive litany of the city’s 2010 accomplishments, including magazine mentions and every award received.
Facing a tough economy, the mayor made clear no new city services are planned for 2011 out of the general fund. He explained how $2.8 million was trimmed from the budget and 23 positions were eliminated through attrition rather than layoffs.
This is Jordan’s second year since he took the reins of Fayetteville from Dan Coody. He inherited a national economic nightmare, but strong reserves in the local coffers. Each year, Jordan has chosen to dip into those reserves to shore up a budgetary shortfall.
It’s been tough times financially. No one would argue that.
This was also the first year that the Jordan’s administration took some major public hits.
Maybe that’s why the Jordan’s State of the City address felt less like a highlight reel of 2010′s accomplishments and more of a kitchen sink inventory of anything positive that the city government was connected with.
The Jordan administration pushed an unpopular business directory through the city council (for the record, Ozarks Unbound supported it) and raised eyebrows with the back-in/head-out parking on Block Street.
Paid parking around Dickson Street has been a public relations fiasco where many folks who agree in principle that paid parking is OK for a city center still find the application inconvenient and poorly implemented. Each time, I wait in line to pay for parking, I hear someone grumbling about it in front of me.
Perhaps, the new pay-by-cell program will rehabilitate some of the frustration customers and merchants appear to have toward the parking decisions.
Finally, Fayetteville lost the biggest stage in Northwest Arkansas to Bentonville as the Walton Arts Center announced they would take their 2,200-seat expansion closer to the coming Crystal Bridges arts museum.
Sure, Fayetteville is getting a 600-seat theater as part of the expansion, and Jordan was right to point that out during the State of the City address. But no matter how that revelation is finessed, Fayetteville lost the main creative stage in the region to its northern neighbor.
It’s an ego body blow for the city that has long considered itself the cultural and intellectual center of NWA. To talk to some Fayettevillians, you would think that the city had a monopoly on all things of artistic merit.
That is not the case.
Fayetteville is certainly not in twilight with the loss of the Walton Arts Center main stage, but it does mark the upswing of Bentonville and even Rogers as cultural magnets.
That’s a trend that’s predates the Jordan administration and blame shouldn’t be put on his shoulders. The city put together an amazing proposal that blew Bentonville’s vague “near Crystal Bridges and downtown” plan out of the water.
Fayetteville just doesn’t have the Walton money.
Jordan finished his address with these lines.
“Excellence is not an exception; it is the prevailing attitude in Fayetteville. It is a characteristic of our community that we bring important issues forward and make wise decisions about them, while other cities and towns are often left to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves. Fayetteville is the light and the example of excellence for other Arkansas cities. We are that city on the hill that cannot be hidden, a diverse community working together to honor our past and to continue our progress toward an even brighter future. That is the State of our City as we begin this new year.”
Jordan is a tremendous mayor who does evoke the best in people most of the time. He surrounds himself with skilled advisors and a small army of volunteers who just want to be involved in their government. That’s no small feat.
He’s also presiding over incredible budget challenges and acting as mayor at a time when Fayetteville is learning to share its presumptive dominance of the region with the other Northwest Arkansas cities.
I can understand feeling a bit defensive.
- WAC wants more public dollars to remain an education outreach center | CF at 3:07 pm on February 2, 2010
- Dickson Street Parking Deck Plan Progresses | NWAonline at 12:29 pm on September 19, 2011
- Fayetteville Mayor’s Town Hall Meeing is Monday | Announcement at 4:19 pm on June 4, 2011
- Unlicensed Opinion: A collaboration and conversation with Ozarks At Large |From the Publisher’s Laptop at 10:20 pm on August 10, 2010
- Walton Family Foundation tries strong-arm tactics to force Bentonville expansion by WAC | CF at 12:24 pm on June 24, 2010
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