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Jonesboro City Council Agenda Commentary: January 19, 2021

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. Remember that municipal (city council), county (quorum court), and state government (state legislature) bodies have a bigger impact on your day to day life than the president. You can watch the meetings live on the city’s Facebook page at City of Jonesboro, AR – Government.

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Agenda: https://jonesboro.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=821267&GUID=0B9108A1-E540-466A-9EC4-B7267CE4D958

1. Call to Order 5:30PM

2. Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation

3. Roll Call

4. Special Presentations

COM-21:007: Proclamation by Mayor Harold Copenhaver honoring the National Day of Racial Healing.

Commentary: This feels like the majority-white municipal equivalent of all those white people who rushed to buy anti-racism books in Summer 2020. Will this have the same outcome? I guess I’m glad the city is trying. But when your city runs on at-large elections and your city council is majority white and your brand new city staff treats people of color like garbage in their DMs because they don’t like their activism/support for political candidates….ho ho ho. This seems particularly galling after how that committee to establish a street for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where white people got HET UP about being called racist went. Lisa Melton was all, “we have uncovered racism!” and the white people had an absolute meltdown over her comments. A hit dog is gonna holler.

The National Day of Racial Healing was established in 2017. It’s goals:

  • Reinforce and honor our common humanity, while noting and celebrating the distinct differences of our various communities.
  • Acknowledge the deep racial divisions in America that must be overcome and healed.
  • Commit to engaging people from all racial and ethnic groups in genuine efforts to increase understanding, communication, caring and respect.

We can’t even get white people in Jonesboro to recognize that they engage in racist behavior because they were raised in a culture of white supremacy. They act like being called racist is the literal worst thing ever and huff and puff about how they have Black friends and they would never be racist toward anyone, except for how they keep voting for politicians that implement racist policies. But we’re going to set a national day of “racial healing”. Okay. Sure.

If I seem dubious, well…have y’all met white people who aren’t actively and intentionally anti-racist? Who are self-critical and self-aware enough to not center their whiteness? Who listen when someone says, “yo, that’s racist!” and don’t start spewing defensiveness everywhere? Whew. It’s going to be an interesting four years. Here’s the official proclamation.

5. Consent Agenda

MIN-21:001: Minutes for the City Council meeting on January 5, 2021.

RES-21:001 – RES-21:009

Commentary: All of these are property liens, generally where they city has done upkeep or development on a property to keep that property in line with municipal code and has charged the property owner for that work.

RES-21:010: A resolution authorizing the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas to accept a Walmart Community Grant from Walmart Facility #6377 (Walmart Neighborhood Market on Harrisburg Road) to purchase supplies for the Veterans Village.

Commentary: We’re getting $2,500.00 from Walmart to fit out the Veterans Village. I found the letter notifying the city fairly obsequious in the way most corporate language tends to be. Y’all don’t gotta pour it on so thick, Walmart!

The city is getting some money and Walmart encourages the city to tell everyone how great and cool they are for investing in our community! Meanwhile they subsidize their business model via exploitative capitalism, poverty wages, and forcing employees onto means-tested social programs that Republicans have spent decades undermining. Plus, I’m sure handing out grants comes with some kind of tax benefit. They’re getting way more out of this than the city is, unfortunately, but the Veterans Village is important so I’m in favor of making it good even if we have to prostrate ourselves in front of corporations to do it. Ah, the smell of oligarchy.

RES-20:241: Resolution by the City Council of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas to condemn property located at 2221 Needham Street owned by Carson Investments LLC.

Commentary: This is an apartment complex that got hammered by the tornado back in March. Remember when a TORNADO hit Jonesboro right after the pandemic really set in? That certainly happened and it feels like 900 years ago. Anyway, whoever owns this property decided they didn’t…care? So the city has stepped in to be like, “YO WHAT’S UP THIS IS A DISGRACE!” but in legalese. The pictures are wild.

6. New Business

ORD-21:001: An ordinance to waive bids and purchase Avolve Projectdox Software by the Planning Department.

Commentary: The business describes this software as “an open access business process enabler for building projects within a community requiring non-silo content access, collaboration and review/approval decisions.” It’s for…construction projects? Plumbing projects? Maybe anything that needs plans! It looks like the total is $206,950.00 for everything together. The reviews I found were…not kind. “This software is garbage,” from one user. Welcome to software development, where the critiques will melt your face off. (First reading.)

7. Unfinished

ORD-20:027: An ordinance to permit the selection of the Position 1 Council Member from each ward to be voted on by only the citizens of the ward in which they serve.

Commentary: It’s back! Want to do some actual racial healing in Jonesboro? Email the city council at aldermen@jonesboro.org and CC cityclerk@jonesboro.org (so you can be on the legislative record) and ask them to support ORD-20:027. You don’t have to get fancy with the email. Subject line: please vote for ORD20027. Body: Vote for this! Signature: your name and street name (I would not put your street number if you are worried about privacy, as these emails will be public record).

You may be wondering: how can this promote racial healing? Well, with at large elections, minority voters are often locked out of selecting their candidate of choice because people all over the city in different wards can dilute their vote. This basically means rich white folks with access to generational wealth can run in a ward that’s largely populated by marginalized people and never have to listen to them or work for their vote, and easily defeat a marginalized, less well-funding candidate (people without generational wealth or the privilege of whiteness) who also runs for the seat.

At-large systems can also contribute to depressed turnout in local elections because minority voters know their votes won’t matter, kind of how progressives in voter suppressed states like Arkansas feel when voting for the president. It would be better if we were fixing both positions, but this is an okay compromise.

8. Mayor’s Reports

See minutes for full reports.

Highlight: Tony Thomas is Chief Operations Officer. Hooray for Tony, who is amazing.

9. City Council Reports: January 5, 2021

These comments are for the January 5 City Council meeting. This section runs a month behind. You can see the full report in the minutes.

Highlights:

  • Chris Moore is selected as Mayor Pro-Temp for 2021.
  • Council members were asked to select the committees they would like to be on.
  • Charles Frierson: “I wave a heartfelt goodbye to 2020. It can’t be worse. It is going to be better in 2021.” FRIERSON YOU’VE CHALLENGED THE UNIVERSE. DID YOU SAY THIS THE DAY BEFORE THE COUP? I’m dying. ;_______;

10. Public Comments: January 5, 2021

These comments are for the January 5 City Council meeting. This section runs a month behind. You can see the full report in the minutes.

Kimberly Chase once again gets up to beg the city council to invest in resources to help our unhoused folks in Jonesboro. Yes! I would also like this! There are some of us who would love to volunteer for a place that Kimberly outlines, many of us with skills that we can teach. I really hope the council prioritizes this.

11. Adjournment