Category Archives: City Politics

Increasing Parking Meter Fees Make No Sense

According to BUSINESSTALK POLITICS: October, 2017 October 29, 2017

City Administrator Carl Geffken wants to replace the old meters & increase downtown parking meter fees by 100%. The upgrades would come from the existing $350,000 city parking meter fund for the approximately $270,000 cost for upgraded meters and an automated parking deck gate, the increased rates would supposedly repay the city for their costs.

However, as it stands now the city loses about $35,000 per year on parking!

So, let’s see—the city loses $35,000 per year at the present rates—does the City Administrator actually believe the same number of people who pay parking meter fees now will stay the same or go up with a 100% rate increase?

The fact is that the present parking meters probably deter many shoppers who park free at the mall or all over town and not risk an overtime pay penalty—only logical. Comparing our town to larger, more economically robust cities is utterly ridiculous…we simply can’t afford to “keep up with the Joneses”.

Throw in the important factor that a majority of the downtown business owners prefer free parking—so what possible sense does this new plan make?

Sounds like there is no quid pro quo in free parking, but lots of possibilities in replacements with expensive, high tech superior devices that can even be controlled by your Smart Phone—what an incentive to draw customers!

But wait, the Propelling Downtown group’s expensive Gateway Consulting (there’s that “consulting”word again, as always in these expensive proposals) “warns that getting rid of paid parking makes it more difficult to bring them back again for future revenue”! Honestly, that is what the article said. More interesting “logic”.

Which begs the question—if the city already loses money why continue at all, and doesn’t this new proposal stand to lose twice as much or more—who benefits?

That question always needs to be applied, especially to government spending taxpayer’s money. The taxpayers will generally be the losers as usual and the businesses downtown could likely suffer and some may even be forced to relocate or close.

The 501c3’s & 4’s, the “Consulting” firms, and the instigators appear to always be the financial winners in their various projects/schemes—but who are “we the people” taxpayers to question the wisdom and logic of our “leaders”?—Hints: The River Valley Sports Complex fiasco, the Marshal’s Museum expenses, the Convention Center failures, decades old dysfunctional sewers/waste water (hundreds of millions flushed over the years from a 1984 dedicated 1% sales tax & hundreds of millions to go due to uncompleted EPA mandates), poor streets, and distorted graffiti (painted by “Ghetto Artists” on historic buildings) which mystify tourists who come looking for history of the old West & outrage/embarrassment for those of good taste & historical knowledge…a regal historic opportunity lost due to the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, often grotesque syndrome, in my opinion.

So the question now remains, will the City Board & Mayor cooperate in this newest scheme, just as they did in much of the aforementioned disasters? We already know where the City Administrator stands, sadly.

~Barbara McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

Questions re Files/Pitsch/Hutchinson/Ft. Smith

Is it possible—what if? October 21, 2017

This hypothetical narrative, accompanied by some facts, begins with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and could end with the Governor.
The Governor acts like a Progressive with both feet in the DC & Arkansas swamps, an important fact in the narrative.

“Talk Business” broke the story May 16, 2017 in Little Rock that Sen. Jake Files (R) was allegedly the subject of an FBI criminal investigation, absent Lee Webb. Curious! The next day (Hutchinson’s Screw) Rep. Mat Pitsch (R) boldly announced to the media, “He will enjoy serving as the next new Republican State Senator”. Was the fix in? Did Pitsch anticipate Files had fallen on his sword?

Question: At that juncture why did Hutchinson not demand Files resignation? 10/21/17 the Governor still mum re: the Senator’s undergoing a number of investigations, along with his refusal to resign his State Senate seat, all in view of the fact the FBI has/had him under investigation. It is said that during one of the investigatory FBI summons Files stated he was cooperating, yet in a civil deposition he pled the 5th Amendment.

Another question & purely conjuncture: What action against Files, if any, would be taken by & if Hutchinson called an emergency session of the Arkansas legislature? Files remains a sitting member in the current Arkansas Senate and is Chair of the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee. If he remains in the current legislative body would this act not be fraught with constitutional & legal problems?

Now the matter of Files legal difficulties moved up the Arkansas River to Fort Smith pertaining to the now defunct River Valley Softball Complex that Files & partner Lee Webb (D) a county employee that were awarded a contract to build the Complex, another curiosity and potentially corrupt act by the Fort Smith City Government. Webb, as stated is also an active government functionary and appears to be a phantom in the current criminal investigation.

The nexus between the Fort Smith city government and Files & Webb’s contractual agreement has been going on well before at least March, 2014. The Fort Smith Board has refused to divulge why these two elected politicians (huge conflicts of interest & maybe more) were awarded the potentially lucrative contract—no transparency. Was the contract between the two parties (Fort Smith & Files/Webb) a pay-off, a quid pro quo deal, incompetence, or some other arcane involvements? It is known Files & Webb spent well over $2 million taxpayer dollars, plus “in kind” services (e.g. National Guard, Gary Grimes—dirt work) replete with no City oversight—NONE during the 5 year period. Why? After the project was identified as a failure in 2017, $27,000 or more made its way from the AIDC to WAPDD to the City Board and ultimately into the hands of Senator Files. What prompted the Board to continue funding an abject failure?

Could it be there is a working arrangement in Fort Smith comprised of the City Government, Special Interests, coupled to Files & Webb? Have all & more entities abused a plethora of city, state and federal government taxpayer funds, and leverages available to government and their cronies?

For example: The nascent Marshal’s Museum, billed as a private endeavor—not so! How many millions did Senator Files pump into Sam Sicard’s & Richard Griffin’s museum? Perhaps from the GIF, accompanied by grants, New Market Tax Credits, and perhaps a plethora of more taxpayer funded operations.

It appears the powers behind the Museum operation are First National Bank CEO Sam Sicard, Richard Griffin (long time czar of the constitutionally corrupt HUD & owner of a construction company) & a host of lesser lights.

An FOIA directed to the officers & attorney for the museum resulted in the redaction of names of seed donors & other pertinent data in this ultimately government venture.

It appears that both Sicard & Griffin have had substantial financial dealings with Files—to what end & why? Particularly with Files laundry list of failed corporate ventures. All that is left in the Files political quiver is the politically potent Chair of the previously mentioned State Revenue & Tax Committee; that allegedly cemented their former quid pro quo relations? If & when the Museum becomes functional who claims ownership & maintains it and if it fails, then who picks up the tab?

The city & county have contributed thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind resources to the 50,000 sq. ft. Museum behemoth, coupled to federally produced commemorative medallions, paid for by middleclass taxpayers. It looks like these ongoing downtown projects are enhancing the value of the downtown property owners and would not Sicard’s & Griffin’s economic & political pyramid do the same at taxpayer expense?
President Trump has a pool of candidates to select from for nominations for Federal Prosecutors, i.e. the Western District of Arkansas. In the selection of Federal Prosecutors, Senator Boozman, Congressman Womack & Gov. Hutchinson will probably make the choice. Federal Prosecutors seem to be chosen due to their past political deeds and/or political connections, not legal prowess.

In this narrative the Federal Prosecutor selected may be tied to a caveat. The caveat: the individual appointed will not initiate prosecutorial measures against Sen. Files because of what he knows. With that said, could Gov. Hutchinson be the primary force that creates the caveat to be inserted into the appointment? As insurance and for what?

At this point Files behavior has been one of arrogance and smugness. One would think with the legal baggage he is carrying he would present the opposite.

Maybe Files is holding the winning hand after all—that is a headful of dirty linen that may have been carried out by Hutchinson & his minions and of course including the Fort Smith City Government, and some of the insiders who may have leaned on Files for political/financial favors.

If the legal winds are blowing toward prosecuting Files, he may have to play his alleged hold card which is, if the principals in this matter threaten to prosecute Files, will he blow the whistle and reveal all the possible dirty tricks employed by the aforementioned that conceivably could bring down the Hutchinson regime as well as involvement with the FS city government– and Files would skate? Hypothetically the key is their choice of a Federal Prosecutor, accepting the caveat.

This hypothetical narrative, in the main, actually has become all too common in federal, state & local government.

Wake up Americans: Incumbency is a toxic weed—fatal.

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

Beleaguered taxpayer questions

More beleaguered taxpayer questions October 6, 2017

Announced Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 that 7 Police Officers were taking a 4 ½ day trip allegedly for training, costing $23,000, which breaks down to $3,204 for each.

The T.R. is a paralyzed institution when it comes to asking pertinent questions, i.e. in this case, where does the training take place and the name of the organization designated to do the training. At that price I don’t have to tell you that this trip is not to Little Rock. Would the agency designated to do the training be an international organization to which the PD belongs and uses their protocols?

At the same time the Police Department announced it possessed a $790,000 surplus while maintaining Police & Firemen retirement funds are in the arrears, in all probability a lie, but if not?

Two curious purchases, 3 new fully loaded Harleys & gasmasks. How are they to be used? This brings memories of the Bass Brothers.

Also announced today regarding the water park…giant water slides coming, and the justification given, “some people just prefer those types of slides”. How many is “some”? Approximate cost $1.6 million, and I emphasize, that is approximate. Maintenance, insurance, more government hiring’s, etc. etc. and Judge Hudson states “it’s all in the name of profitability”.

As Fort Smithians sleep politicians & bureaucrats are stripping our economic hides to bare bones. Don’t count on the Times Record ever performing their professional duties by investigative reporting.

Incumbency is a toxic weed—fatal.

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

FOIA Transparency Out/Secret Cronyism In?

From today’s Times Record –“The Board asked to reject FOI deal” September 13, 2017

Some quotes from 2 members of the City Board who refuse to accept that the FOIA is a legal document.

“In the email (re the lawsuit & Civil Service Commission) Good also said he questioned if some have undermined the Police Chief’s authority.” My question, how and what authority has been undermined?

Good also said “Give him (Clark) the opportunity to perform his sworn duties”. Question: What specific duty has Chief Clark been denied? Former Chiefs have apparently worked very well with existing Civil Service Commission protocols.

“Giving him authority in policy.” (Good) It appears that Director Good wants Chief Clark to run the PD without Director oversight, public knowledge, and citizen approval by the Official Commission. Forget Administrator Geffken, apparently a tool of Downtown Establishment. Citizens should be apprised of the influence Mayor Sandy Sanders exercises over both Boards.

With a deal to permit Clark to have full reign over the FSPD will prove the Board’s incompetence as shown by the many recent failures and will demonstrate they have fouled their mess-kits again.

More later re the likely hiring of Police Chief’s crony Harold Rochon, fresh out of Detroit.

All is quiet on the home front, absent transparency, e.g. the T.R. & the Fort Smith government.

Director’s Lau & Lorenz made similar quotes interrelated with Director Good’s.

Fort Smithians will rue the day that the FS Board of Directors hired Nathaniel Clark.

Regard this quote from former Captain Copeland from 5 News:

“Around 25 officers at the Fort Smith Department have retired since the beginning of this year, which is about the same time the new police chief, Nathaniel Clark, took office.

Former Fort Smith Police Captain Jarrard Copeland said there are a lot of changes happening at the department right now. According to Copeland, some of them needed to happen, but he doesn’t understand a lot of them. One change includes hiring from the outside of the department for high ranking positions, instead of promoting officers who have worked in Fort Smith for years. “Over half of his command staff have left the department,” said Copeland. “I heard him [Clark] make the comment this is normal anytime you have a new chief, which is not true. I’ve worked under six different chiefs of police and don’t know of a single person that has left because of a new chief until now.”

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

LTE…”The Unexpected”, a Requiem for our culture/heritage/rationality

Submitted to TR July 26, 2017………Published 7/30/17

As an observer with a knowledge of the arts, the downtown project called “The Unexpected” (murals on historic buildings) raises many questions. Who pays? Who critiques the planned art projects and are any standards applied? What is called “art” is a very subjective subject.

Various viewpoints enter like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” faction, where whatever the “experts” say is ”art” must be believed. There is a malevolent faction which purposefully projects ugliness, misery, distortion of reality and dares the viewer to challenge it. Then, there is a faction which seeks to portray life in a rational, benevolent way, even to inspire. All artists are portraying their own sense of life, how they feel about humankind and the world in which we live. With that in mind, observe what the Fort Smith canvas is portraying. Some projects lack reality or benevolence, some are cartoonish, some are just plain ugly, only a few give a sense of intelligibility.

If any vetting is done it is poorly accomplished. This town has a unique history which could have been portrayed in the tracing of that history in a dignified, educational way. From Indians & bandits, to the Judge & Marshal’s, to the gentility of Southern etiquette & accomplishment. From wagons, horses, blacksmiths, farmers, saloons, ladies, gentlemen and fine structures, like the marble train station and elegant hotels/theaters, to the crowded Avenue lined with fine stores, to throngs of people traversing it. Opportunities to educate, stimulate & inspire, lost forever.

What rational minds see now is a growing array of graffiti. I don’t relish the idea of this becoming known as “Graffiti City”, no matter how “well-meaning” the instigators might be. The “Unexpected” is not so unexpected in this time of political correctness and destruction of decorum, etiquette, esthetics, honor, & rugged individualism.

~Barbara McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

A nostalgic walk becomes surreal–beware politicrats & insiders.

A nostalgic walk down the Avenue—evolving into an embarrassing spectacle July 19, 2017

“Never give a sucker an even break”—W.C. Fields, an expression practiced by the Fort Smith City Government and downtown insiders.

In the year 1985, citizens voted on and passed a 1% street/sewer tax which remains in force to this day. By 2010 the tax had generated $650 million, $200 million more than the recent and 3rd Federal Consent Decree issued to the city of Fort Smith by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

There has been no stated amount of revenue generated by the tax in the last 7 years, but it is fair to say in the ensuing 32 years the total amount could approximate $1 Billion that have fallen into city coffers by the 1% street/sewer tax. And “we the people” are the recipients of bad streets & a failed sewer system.

The most recent EPA mandate of $480 million, plus a $300,000 fine and 12 years to complete occurred in Dec. 2014, totaling 39 years of apparent malfeasance & misfeasance, absent sewer and ground water complete overhauls.

City Manager Carl Geffken now proposing to add another 12 years to the recent Federal Consent Decree, making a grand total of 51 years (1/2 century) of Fort Smith city government refusing to address the failed sewer & ground water deficiencies, while $1 Billion is unaccounted for they recklessly involve citizens’ money in meaningless, curious & unnecessary pursuits without citizens’ knowledge or permission, resulting in a change of the image of the city, likely for private personal gains including the recycling debacle ($52,000 monthly for 3 years) replete with no transparency, the Files/Webb Softball $2 million Complex fiasco (Manager Geffken wants “to move on”…but where is the accountability?), the bribe by Delta Dental to fluoridate Lake Ft. Smith against citizen wishes, citizens’ money poured into the nascent Marshal’s Museum, $700,000 yearly into the failed Convention Center, the Fire/Police Pension Fund shortage, alleged city business conducted surreptitiously by email, ad infinitum.

The Downtown private business owners have no legal, constitutional or moral authority to change the image of our city for private gain without a detailed public explanation and approval of their future intentions, e.g. “Propelling Downtown Forward”, no doubt detailed in their 113 page dossier that the downtown insiders plan to unleash on city citizens which was prepared by Dallas Gateway Planning. From the number of pages it is easy to see that the scope and magnitude of the downtown self-servers is huge.

Citizen insouciance, fear, and ignorance have and are allowing City Managers, Mayors & official Boards to exhibit and practice hubris and self-service while bathing in perfidy, making the citizens monkeys in the city government circus. If citizens arise and become implacable perhaps one will at least have a rail.

Currently City Manager Geffken and selected sidekicks are soon to be off to DC for another 12 year extension pitch attached to the recent 12 year EPA mandate and a little prime time…who pays? And remember, this translates into 51 years before any functional waste water/ground water safe disposal.

Where did the money go & who got it? Cut out the monkey business, downsize city government, stay out of downtown politics (boxcar graffiti, new age Urban Renewal, & Propelling Ft. Smith), and pay our legitimate bills.

At this point in time the present display of boxcar graffiti does in no way depict our city’s true long & varied history in any manner. Perhaps real history in the artists’ next presentation will be embraced.

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

The Fort Smith Quick-Sand Money Pit

The Fort Smith Quick-Sand Money Pit July 7, 2017

“Propelling Downtown Forward”—Why? Who pays? Methods of money received? Source of funding? Who benefits?

We the people (citizen taxpayers) must, in this case, be afforded the opportunity to vote on this massive hundred million + utopian project that requires 113 pages of explanations/expectations if the Board succumbs and passes “Propelling”. The genesis of this plan comes from a non-profit 501c3-c4 called 64.6 Downtown (?) formulated by Gateway Planning of Dallas. The cost & source of funding not reported.

“Non-profits”, funded in the main with taxpayer monies, little to no oversight, impregnated with notoriously high salaries & overstaffing, e.g. the Convention Center.

The two major propellants of this self-serving scheme appear to be Richard Griffin & Sam Sicard. They are heavily invested on the Avenue with government cash, grants, New Market Tax Credits, HUD, WAPDD. The cash coming from Sebastian county, Fort Smith, the Ark. State Capitol, and divisions of the national government, e.g. the nascent Marshal’s Museum (initially billed as a private endeavor), ad infinitum.

It is not the city’s responsibility in any manner to prepare, build, and/or sustain a stage for private businesses, as is the intent with the utopic “Propelling Downtown Forward”.

The City Board is scheduled to decide the fate of the Propulsion plan July 11, 2017. Actually it is determining the fate of the taxpaying citizen.

In light of the recent past City Government fiascos, either by design or incompetence, the only honorable position for the Board to take is to quash “Propelling”, if not, then afford a citizen vote. Such a massive potential undertaking under the aegis of a small number of downtown stakeholders is financially & politically extremely dangerous and if enacted another forced theft of taxpayer dollars.

The question that immediately arises, do the City Administrator, Mayor, & Board have the will, the courage & moral fortitude to reject the insider political pressures that they are experiencing re: “Propulsion”.

To refresh the minds of citizens re recent past failures and improper spending of taxpayer monies by the City Board, e.g. forced fluoridation; the nascent Marshal’s Museum; the failed Convention Center ( Legris and two city staffs are soon off to New Orleans for another “convention”!); current Trails and a proposed 87 miles system, apparently without an enforceable bid process in place; the 1985 1% street/sewer tax that generated $650 million in the first 25 years of the ongoing tax + an additional 7 years specifically earmarked for sewers/streets that never occurred, followed by a $400 million EPA mandate (see above, should have already been paid for many times over) accompanied by a $300,000 EPA non-performance fine, and Manager Carl Geffken wants an additional 12 year extension totaling 24 more years to meet EPA mandates and citizen needs, i.e. no sewer/street refurbishing completion; the $2 million (city, state, national) Files/Webb softball debacle; the hundreds of thousands spent in the recycling cover-up (i.e. $52,000 per month x 3 years); a lawsuit against the city pertaining to illegally conducting city business via email (lack of transparency); & a police/fire deficit in their respective retirement funds.

Added to this list of tawdry failures, Police Chief Nathanial Clark was apparently hired for two reasons, he is black and his plans are to install minorities in police command positions, while publicly stating he was going to install a paramilitary unit in the police dept.—Chilling, and why? Also, for the public’s edification the Chief has prevailed on the Board to dissolve the efficient and honorable Civil Service Commission in order to eliminate citizen oversight & scrutiny of the FSPD.

Our Founding Documents intended America to act in the manner of a Constitutional Republic where merit, education, competition, accomplishments reign supreme not “set-asides, quotas”, etc. which are addiction liabilities.

In view of the above listed incompetency’s, wastefulness, lack of oversight, absent a stated & detailed enforceable transparent bidding process, and management mediocrities, citizens should expect the Board to recognize their frailties and resume their sworn responsibilities that address citizens’ needs, not the downtown special interests and pay the city’s financial obligations in a timely manner, e.g. Zero Budgetry. Not to revitalize (pay for) the insiders’ Downtown Avenue skeleton that would enhance the value & profit of their personal private properties, would subsidize existing businesses (structurally & monetarily) and underwrite new construction, along with the introduction of privately owned new entertainment venues—all the responsibilities of individuals, i.e. genuine private enterprise.

Our republic was founded by & until recently has functioned AS
A NATION OF SELF-SUFFICIENTS, NOT A NATION OF DEPENDENT BEGGARS.

Citizens, if Propulsion is installed you will be paying dearly for the Downtown Stakeholders’ apartments, work units, town homes, residentials, small grocery, dry cleaners, convenience shop, gym, sidewalks, trails, rerouting truck traffic, street cars, etc. etc. by their own printed words.

To the FS City Board: Either quash “Propulsion” or grant a citizen vote.

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

Phantom recycling

Gentlemen,

3 years you dumped the recyclables and nobody “knew”, in 3 weeks you have 2 companies submit bids choosing the highest bidder while rejecting the lowest bidder who has worked to develop an intelligent recycling plan with no explanation or consequences, all this following your inability to negotiate at least a break-even contract. All the while you state the recycling program will lose $14,000 per year after spending $53,000 per month on a phantom recycling program for 3 years.

Why is it that Altes and every other recycling company can make a profit and the FS city government, with all the tools it has at hand does not entertain the idea of packing and selling for profit?

This and all the other recent failures add up to gross incompetence or is there a deeper issue?

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

Transparency needed–“Propelling Downtown” project

“Propelling Downtown Forward Plan”….who pays, what is the legal authority, what are the details, and is it Constitutional? June 19, 2017

Recent city government history indicates a government of incompetence, malfeasance, lack of transparency, massive foolish spending and cover-ups. While the City Manager Geffken wants “to move-on”.

Fluoridation, nascent Marshal’s Museum, street/sewer tax, softball complex, recycling, continued subsidizing of the Convention Center, proposed 87 miles of trails, fire & police retirement fund deficits, a new police chief by his own words in public print wants to install a paramilitary police force and put police Command under the control of minorities or anyone else without Commission Approval is a dangerous & an unintelligible means of building and sustaining an accountable policing agency.

All the above is against the will of the people, without detailed knowledge/planning, without approval and is mostly unconstitutional.
What Sicard & Griffin and other lesser lights, e.g. McIntosh, White, are proposing is simply that Fort Smith taxpayers will pay for their utopic visions of rehabbing their buildings, businesses, and developing their raw property for their own personal economic gain, always under the umbrella of tourism, jobs & new industry, which is farcical.

Bring “Propelling” to a citizen vote.

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com

New attempt at Urban Renewal using tax money for private property

June 13, 2017
“Propelling Downtown Forward plan”…and how does Griffin, Sicard and all their downtown cronies plan to pay for the Garrison Resurrection?

This is to inform each of you that in the 1960’s the federal government passed what was known as “Urban Renewal”, wherein city taxpayers paid for the reviving & restoration of privately owned downtown properties.

A vote was forced in Fort Smith and Urban Renewal was overwhelmingly defeated. R.A. Young (ABF) was chairman of the proposal to use city taxpayer dollars for his & others’ private property enhancements in downtown Fort Smith.

The “Propelling” appears to be the same proposed theft by another name. In view of the city’s massive spending, cover-ups, and failures one would think you folks would be more tentative. In addition to Files/Webb, Recycling, there is the matter of injecting millions of taxpayer dollars (city, state, national) into the nascent Marshal’s Museum originally billed as a “private endeavor “and the city’s 24 year history of misappropriating the 1% city street/sewer tax.

Another issue in question is Griffin’s use of the New Market Tax Credit designed for use in blighted areas and his long time involvements in HUD.

Just as any private property owner must be responsible for their property so do the owners of downtown properties. The City Government is not constitutionally or legally empowered in any manner to subsidize privately owned property. Hopefully you will refrain from cover ups and incompetence and let the light shine in…referencing your constituencies.

Joe McCutchen
www.arkansasfreedom.com