Editor’s note: These editorials expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat. The editorial board is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen.
The Log Cabin Democrat admonishes the Mayflower City Council for having so few aldermen show up to its regularly-scheduled meeting that the mayor had to cancel it for lack of a quorum.
On Aug. 25, the six-member council was slated to vote on the city’s wastewater project in order to make repairs required by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). The already financially-strapped city faces tens of thousands of dollars in fines if the repairs are not made.
Half of the council failed to show – Aldermen Andrew Pelkey, Stacin Dawson and Brian Williams – and the meeting was canceled. The month before, the council was one member shy of a quorum and the mayor had to step in and vote. Earlier this summer, the city hosted a public hearing on the issue. Several residents showed up to get more information and have their voices be heard. Only one alderman – Will Elder – was there to hear those concerns. That is unacceptable.
Alderman Williams responded to the Log Cabin’s inquiries and apologized for missing the Aug. 25 meeting, saying that he was absent due to an injury. Dawson didn’t return our reporter’s calls. The number listed for Pelkey on the city’s site is not a working number.
A quick review of the council’s attendance over the past two years revealed absenteeism is fairly common.
In 2019, Dawson missed five meetings, Williams missed three, Will Elder missed two and Mark Hickman missed one. Aldermen are paid $75 per month for attending meetings. If they fail to show, they still receive $25.
So far in 2020, Dawson has missed three meetings, Williams and Pelkey have missed two and Massey has missed one. The council meets once a month on the fourth Tuesday unless a special meeting is called, so that’s usually 12 meetings per year.
We don’t expect perfect attendance. Emergencies happen. But a public servant who was elected to represent the people – people who put their trust in you and went out of their way to get to the polls to vote for you – needs to make more of an effort to represent those constituents, especially when the financial stakes are so high. The ADEQ could fine the city up to $10,000 for each of its more than a dozen offenses. Missing five meetings in a year is a dereliction of duty. Your constituents deserve better. They voted for you, not an empty chair at the table.
Now is not the time to take your foot off the gasThe Log Cabin Democrat was dismayed at the governor’s announcement that starting next week he will cease holding daily briefings on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will instead pivot to weekly briefings or as needed.
This sends the wrong signal to Arkansans and is the latest in a series of bad choices by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Though he always encouraged the use of masks, which has been shown to mitigate the spread of the virus when all people wear them properly, he dug in his heels and refused to mandate them for weeks against the urging of his own health officials. As cases continued to rise and Arkansas was one of a handful of states considered “red zones” for its out-of-control spread, the governor first gave cities the option to adopt a state-generated mandate that had no penalty for ignoring it. When that – unsurprisingly – failed, the governor finally mandated masks throughout the state and said violators could be fined.
After Arkansas moved into Phase II – allowing more dine-in capacity at restaurants and reopening bars – daily case numbers skyrocketed from what they were in Phase I. Hutchinson refused to scale back, even as other state’s governors – Arizona and neighboring Texas – did so when they saw a surge in cases similar to the one Arkansas was experiencing.
Now – a couple of weeks into the school year the governor insisted start onsite and when fall sports he championed are just kicking off – the governor wants to scale back communicating with the people about the pandemic.
His statement on Thursday that “just because we do not have a daily update does not mean we don’t have an emergency” is as empty as his “encouraging, not requiring” masks.