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Jonesboro City Council Agenda Commentary: December 1, 2020

Welcome to another edition of the Jonesboro City Council Explication Project, a project by a political nerd for political nerds or anyone who wants to learn more about their city government.

Agenda: http://jonesboro.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=815180&GUID=97A47F8F-0FAF-4573-93F8-F999C4D3CA0C.

1. Call to Order 5:30PM

2. Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation

3. Roll Call

4. Special Presentations

COM-20:074: Presentation by Kim Chase, the HUB

Commentary: I find these presentations incredibly depressing and am continually agog that Jonesboro, full of ~Christian values~, has let things get this bad.

Me, Hardcore Atheist: Yo, churches. Gonna get on this unhoused problem by advocating for people hurting under capitalism? Gonna support the poor and downtrodden? You know, that whole thing your guy Jesus was into?

Churches: Did y’all hear something?

5. Consent Agenda

MIN-20:112: Minutes for the city council meeting on November 17, 2020.

RES-20:181 – 20:195

Commentary: These are municipal liens on property for upkeep the city did to bring areas up to code; they’re now charging the property owners for the cost of the work. You can find them all linked on the agenda if you want more info on any particular lien.

RES-20:225: A resolution to accept the donation of Phillip Evans Community Park from the Habitat for Humanity.

Commentary: Habitat for Humanity owns a park and they’re donating it to the city so Jonesboro can deal with maintenance. Parks are good, although from the attachment it looks like it’s going to be playground equipment focused and less green-space focused?

6. New Business

ORD-20:053: An ordinance to vacate and abandon a 15’ utility easement across parcel number: 01-144154-00910 owned by Jonesboro 2015, LLC; being located west of the Prospect Farms Subdivision and east of Wolf Meadows Subdivision in Jonesboro, Arkansas as requested on behalf of Jonesboro 2015, LLC.

Commentary: All right, there may be errors here! I don’t understand! I should have taken a legal writing class! There’s some land that was a utility easement. An easement: “a property right that provides its holder with a non-possessory interest on another person’s land.” So it seems like they want  this land in order to eventually build a road that will connect this subdivision with Airport Road. This is a wild guess based on me downloading and reading every attachment! Anyway, seems fine! More connectivity is good! I also learned there’s a place called “Loyal Order of Moose” due to this item so I guess that’s something. Seems like a good time for a reminder.

7. Unfinished Business

ORD-20:051: An ordinance to waive competitive bidding and authorize the mayor to enter into an agreement with Ritter Communications to provide fiber connectivity and cloud services for the City of Jonesboro. (Second reading.)

Commentary: Ritter Communications would charge the city $21,345.09 every month for various services. Again, my opinion here is that at least it’s not Suddenlink.

ORD-20:047: An ordinance to amend Chapter 117, known as the zoning ordinance providing for changes in zoning boundaries from R-1, Residential to RM-8, Residential LUO for property located at 2512 and 2514 Curtview Street as requested by George Hamman on behalf of Kenny and Shelia Throgmartin. (Third reading)

Commentary: Folks want to build some duplexes over off Race Street.

ORD-20:048: An ordinance to amend Chapter 117, Article III, known as the zoning ordinance of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas, providing for changes in zoning boundaries from R-1 Single Family Residential District to I-1 Limited Industrial District for property located at 3216 Moore Road, Jonesboro, Arkansas requested by John C. Stuckey. (Third reading.)

Commentary: A rezoning request so property can be used for office space/warehouses instead of residential buildings.

ORD-20:049: An ordinance to amend Chapter 117, known as the zoning ordinance providing for changes in zoning boundaries from R-2, Residential Multi-family to PD-RM, Residential Planned Development Multi-family for property located at Savannah Hills – west of Dena Jo Drive and north of Craighead Forest Road as requested by Michael Boggs with Tralan Engineering on behalf of PDW Properties LLC, Sid Pickle, member. (Third reading.)

Commentary: There’s so much drama here because people treat multi-family housing as a societal ill due to a) internalized racism, b) classism, c) fear of change. Honestly, if it’s not “the streets can’t handle it” or “it’s not fair we have to pay taxes for others to drive on our roads” or “but CRIME!” it’s “you can’t take the trees out! I need those trees! The TREES!!!!!”

I need people opposed to multi-family housing to give the same energy they give to fighting against its development to the fact that renters in Arkansas are financially exploited and largely unprotected by the law due to the power of realtors and property owners. How much do I want to bet they’ve never written one email to any representative about exorbitant rental rates or in favor of more legal protection for renters? I’m no fan of landlords at all, but people deserve places to live! Not everyone can afford a house!

Multi-family housing does not cause the type of crime these people complain about, poverty does, and also I can hear y’all white ladies saying “crime” and meaning “Black people”.

Anyway, if a community meeting held by the developer isn’t required for rezoning, it should be because that’s most transparent and fair way to address concerns before it gets to the council level. Everything is linked in the record for this item if y’all want to slog through it.

ORD-20:050: An ordinance to waive competitive bidding and authorize a contract with Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield to provide insurance coverage for city employees for 2021.

Commentary: I’ve gone on this rant many times before but imagine: a government run healthcare system we all pay into with marginal taxes (meaning: people with wealth pay more!), making it so everyone can get preventative care as well as any health issues that crop up. Healthcare that is not dependent on your job, or who your parents are, or if you were born into wealth. Imagine what Jonesboro could do with the money we’d save purchasing healthcare!

David introduced me to Participatory Budgeting—we could put that money there! Or we could use it for the arts! There’s so much that could be gained by not forcing employers to handle healthcare for their workers and not forcing workers to be tied to a job just so they can maintain insurance—giving more power back to workers.

Anyway, ordinance seems solid, let’s get folks some healthcare coverage.

ORD-20:052: An ordinance to waive competitive bidding and authorize a contract with Arkansas Delta Dental to provide dental insurance coverage for city employees for 2021.

Commentary: *stares in socialized medicine*

RES-20:139: A resolution by the City Council of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas, to enter into a contract to purchase property located at 907 Congress Circle and sell city property at 215 E. Allen Avenue and 202 E. Gordon Street to Tim Thrasher and Tim Allison in order to relocate the operations of the Building Maintenance Department.

Commentary: This was postponed on September 15 and is back on the agenda. The Building Maintenance Department needed better digs, so there’s a property swap going on. This seems like a pretty sweet deal and the new digs for the city are nice, and they provide an area with more space which is also outside a residential area. One of the properties that the city would sell in this deal seems like it might not be developed at all? Anyway, solid workspaces can make jobs easier, safer, and more comfortable.

ORD-20:043: An ordinance to the City of Jonesboro to place various traffic signs at designated locations as determined by the Traffic Control committee. (Third reading.)

Commentary: Pretty much what it says on the tin!

8. Mayor’s Reports: November 17, 2020

Commentary: There were quite a few! These can all be read in their entirety via the meeting minutes for the November 17 meeting. Highlights:

  • Business interruption grant applications available arkansasready.com.
  • Arkansas was in the red zone for COVID on November 17. It’s worse now! 😀 Thanks to everyone who went to tiny spreader events over the holiday.
  • Nice-Pak will expand and add 176 new jobs.
  • Christmas in the Park is happening until January 4 at Joe Mack Campbell Park. Jaycees Parade is on December 5. Fireworks on December 31. If you go around people, WEAR A MASK.
  • “JoyFest” opens downtown on December 5. WEAR A MASK.
  • Fisher Street Community in Action is collecting toys for kids.

9. City Council Reports: November 17, 2020

These comments are for the November 17, 2020 City Council meeting. This section runs a month behind. Full comments available in the meeting minutes for November 17.

  • Long: tells everyone Happy Thanksgiving.
  • Hafner: walks on RES-20:205 successfully. Resolution passes.
  • Gibson: reminds the public there’s a five minute limit on public comments.
  • Coleman: says that the Fisher Street Community in Action building is mostly closed so gifts for kids should go to 300 N. Fisher or people should contact him so he can pick the gifts up.

10. Public Comments: November 17, 2020

These comments are for the November 17, 2020 City Council meeting. This section runs a month behind. You can read the full comments in the November 17 meeting minutes.

  • Patti Lack: a discussion of Legistar (this is where I link to for legislative history/text of ordinances and resolutions). The UI isn’t great but it’s also not terrible as some that I’ve used? This is definitely a tech experience thing. You have to poke Legistar a bunch, but if you’re determined you can learn it pretty quickly with regular use.

    Also, I’m not sure that this is something the City Council would fix? It sounds like what she’s asking for is UI/UX improvements, which might not even be in Legistar’s wheelhouse unless they have a team for it and if they don’t have a team for it is a proprietary thing that would disallow Jonesboro from hiring UI/UX developers? Seems complicated! Legistar is basically a very fancy spreadsheet, like all databases. I wouldn’t say no to the city prioritizing UI/UX improvements,  because Legistar gives off some strong 1998 website vibes, but some of her complaints aren’t going to be helped  by changing the UI. Sometimes, folks do actually have to put in the time to learn a new tool and that’s just how it is.

  • Kimberly Chase: another depressing plea to the council for a shelter. These always make me so sad.

11. Adjournment

If you made it through, congrats!

Miscellaneous

#1 — During the last city council meeting: I ran into some local people in the comments who like a teeny bit of fascism! It’s not a great use of my time to argue with these people (I KNOW, OKAY?), but sometimes I hit my limit of ignorance, bigotry, and these people licking the boots of the cops. Here are some things I ran into:

  • All Lives Matter: Don’t use this. It’s bad. Here’s why.
  • Back the Blue: This and the “thin blue line” phrase are fascist dogwhistles. If you didn’t know, now you do, so stop using them. Further readings on the foundations of policing in America:
    • “Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas” by Sally E. Hadden
    • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
    • “The End of Policing” by Alex S. Vitale
    • This PDF: The History of Policing in the U.S.

    All the resources and the history of the violent foundations of our country and region are there and available, oftentimes for free through public libraries (community members can also get limited borrowing rights from the Dean B. Ellis library on the A-State campus). The police are a racist, patriarchal tool of the state that’s become highly militarized and fascist.

#2ORD-20:030, which would have amended the sidewalk ordinance, was referred back to committee and will pop back up in February 2021 in Public Works. The reason given: people were too busy with the election to consider the issue! Probably helped: we pushed back really, really hard. Thank you to everyone who wrote in. I appreciate your time and civic engagement very much. Team Accessibility for the win! ❤️

#3 — Redistricting will begin soon! The reason we’re in this mess is because progressives didn’t get out and volunteer for candidates in 2010 and then they didn’t get out and vote and in 2010 we got shellacked at the local level. The Democratic Party is not a stranger to gerrymandering at all (please see: California, Arkansas). The answer to “who should be in charge of redistricting?” since the GOP has gone Full Authoritarian on the democratic process isn’t “the Democratic Party”, it’s an independent redistricting panel that has to work transparently and be accountable to the public. I’m open to different ways to staff those panels, but the answer isn’t “the party in power gets to choose”. I have no idea if the GOP supermajority in the Arkansas legislature is going to do what the Wisconsin GOP did behind closed doors, but here’s the thing: these people hate having a light shined on them (see: what happened in Wayne County, MI, a few weeks ago). They count on people not caring or checking out. So, be radical about ensuring you get to choose your own reps instead of them getting to choose their voters: care about redistricting.

For further reading on this, I suggest:

  • Ratf**ked & Unrigged by David Daley
  • The Great Suppression by Zachary Roth
  • Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman is similar to a really riveting horror movie about the GOP strangling representative democracy and throwing it into a closet so they can yank it out and wave it around when they need to look legitimate. You’ll see some very familiar names in this book.

You can also listen to some podcasts about it:

#4 — I’ve started a contact group for people who would like to be emailed/sent a text when these posts go up as well as action items when I have an item we need to write in to the city council about, including context/explainers/resources to check out so you can decide whether you want to write in support or opposition (yes, opposition…I’m not the boss of you). If you would like to be added to this group, please let me know. Knowing that an item is up is half the struggle and the other half of the struggle is getting people to be vocal. Your email/number is safe with me. I know how to BCC and don’t do mass texts.