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Jonesboro City Council Agenda Commentary: June 1, 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 (or stream them after) on the city’s Facebook page at City of Jonesboro, AR – Government.

If you would like me to email you when these posts go live message me and share what email I should use (only I will ever see it).

Today’s agenda recap comes to you late because someone, who shall remain nameless, got confused about the days due to a certain federal holiday. 😀 Benefit: you can go watch the meeting on Facebook as it has already taken place!

Agenda: https://jonesboro.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=859799&GUID=D9AB53DF-8BFF-4253-93DD-9C53F24827B8

1. Call to Order 5:30PM

2. Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation

3. Roll Call

4. Special Presentations

5. Consent Agenda

MIN-21:044: Minutes for the City Council meeting on May 18, 2021.

Commentary: If you only have time to read one thing about your city council, make it the meeting minutes.

RES-21:076: A resolution of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas to approve Change Order NO. 1 for the Animal Control Renovations Project.

Commentary: This is for improvements to the Animal Control building, which will total $203,604.32. Meanwhile, only slightly related: did you know the city no longer provides free traps + pickup for animals? There’s a private business that does this now. So, you know…screw poor people who need this public service, I guess. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Anyway, remember that privatization means your government keeps taxing you but you get fewer services and it’s bad, actually!

RES-21:077: A resolution to renew a 5 year contract with AT&Y for E-911 equipment and services.

Commentary: Pretty much what it says on the tin. I’m not sure from the invoice how Jonesboro pays AT&T, but it’s $5,250.00 per month or a one time fee of $245,000.00. The contract itself is pretty readable if you want to know exactly what’s involved.

RES-21:079: A resolution of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas to contract with Centennial Bank for sponsorship of one athletic field at the Joe Mack Campbell Sports Complex and one outfield sign at Southside Softball Complex.

Commentary: Centennial Bank is buying advertising.

RES-21:081: A resolution authorizing the City of Jonesboro Grants and Community Development Department to submit an application with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the FY18 Competitive Funding Grant for Buses and Bus Facility Program.

Commentary: From the resolution: the city is applying for $140,663 with a local match of $28,132.60. Public transit is good!

RES-21:082: A resolution authorizing the City of Jonesboro Grants and Community Development Department to apply to the Department of Justice–Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for the FY21 Bullet Proof Vest Partnership Grant.

Commentary: Continually wonder what life would be like for all of us if we would just pass common sense gun legislation instead of flooding our country with deadly weapons! That universe sounds nice. Since this is a grant, the city still has to put forward $34,622.15 to get the $34,622.15 match. I’m all for grants, but I’m also very suspicious of how often police in Jonesboro are being shot at to need investments like these.

RES-21:083: A resolution by the City Council of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas, for the City of Jonesboro to enter into an agreement with the Northeast Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (NEAIDC) for funding of economic development services.

Commentary: A committee was formed (NEAIDC) to oversee how public money was spent in relation to industrial and economic development. Jonesboro gets to appoint four members to this body. I assume the mayor nominates these members and the council approves them. The city budget includes $394,750 for the endeavor, and this resolution basically releases that funding.

RES-21:084: A resolution of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas to accept the low bid and enter into a contract with Richard Baughn Construction, Inc. for the Craighead Technology Park Industrial Lead Rail Expansion Project – Section I subgrade work.

Commentary:The low bid here means, I’m guessing (no really, I find these invoices very confusing to read due to the amount of numbers) $944,659.75. Sort of curious why the highest bid ($1,680,533.49) was so high.

RES-21:085: A resolution of the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas to accept the low bid and enter into a contract with Trac-Work, Inc. for the Craighead Technology Park Industrial Lead Rail Expansion Project – Section II Track Construction.

Commentary: The high/low bids here are also hilarious. Why is the low bid $1,505,330.75 and the high bid $2,180,017.00. That’s so much more.

6. New Business

RES-21:087: A resolution to fill the unexpired term for Jerry Reece on the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

Commentary: Jerry Reece was appointed to this board to represent the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (MAPC). Reece has resigned, but since his term isn’t up, Mayor Copenhaver has recommended that Kevin Bailey serve out the remainder of the term, which will expire on May 7, 2022. I would really like to see more women nominated for positions like this, honestly!

ORD-21:021: An ordinance for a private club permit for Improving Lives, Inc. d/b/a The Social of Jonesboro to be located at 1004 Chancery Lane, Jonesboro, Arkansas (first reading).

Commentary: Restaurant (new? not new? I can never tell.) wants to serve alcohol. This will have three readings, so buckle in for the anti-alcohol folks to speak against it even though we all know the council will approve it unless the dude applying is revealed to be a secret cannibal or something.

ORD-21:022: An ordinance to the City of Jonesboro to place various traffic signs at designated locations as determined by the Traffic Control Committee (first reading).

Commentary: This ordinance would set new speed limits, established No Parking Zones, and place new stop signs. The whole list is in the legislative item. When you open the link it will load on the “History” page; make sure to click on “Text” link next to it to see the list.

ORD-21:023: An ordinance regarding abandoning and vacating a utility easement in a part of Lot 2 of Staton Minor Plat on Wood Street as requested by Michael Boggs from Tralan Engineering on behalf of C3, LLC (first reading).

ORD-21:024: An ordinance to waive competitive bidding and authorize purchase of a blower fan for the city incinerator for the Sanitation Department (first reading).

Commentary: “Waive competitive bidding” generally seems to mean they have a preferred buyer (perhaps a company/service they’ve used before and like) or the need is very great and time-sensitive.

ORD-21:025: An ordinance to amend the Jonesboro Code of Ordinances Chapter 2 Article 3, entitled City Council, establishing City Council rules and procedures for 2021 (first reading).

Commentary: I wrote about this here, too. This would change the way activists and organizers engage with the council and therefore, if you are the type of person to engage with our city council (and you should be! because they have a direct impact on your life!), this is relevant to you!

The document is here and proposed changes are in red.

  • City council members will be counted present even when attending virtually. This is a good accessibility change.
  • Sets a later deadline for agenda items to be received. There’s a few reasons why I think shifting to Thursdays is a good idea but the main one is: Wednesday is a church day for a lot of council folks, who also often have other jobs and kids. That extra 24 hours might be very useful for them. The downside: residents will have less time with the agenda, but it’s normally up by Friday, so there’s a whole weekend + weekday to read over it. Plus, once you get into the habit of reading committee and council minutes (you are building that habit, right?), it’ll start taking less time, because nothing will be a huge surprise.
  • For people speaking on any item, there will be four speakers for and against max, and each person will have three minutes to speak. I’ve attended meetings where it was a free for all on how many people got to speak, and I’m serious: this is a good rule to set. We should not only respect the finite time of our elected representatives, we should respect our time and the time of our fellow residents. I’m a big proponent of using technology to increase accessibility. Under this rule, activists and organizers can plan to put their best, most concise public communicators on the floor and direct everyone else to email. The best way to do that: use aldermen@jonesboro.org and CC cityclerk@jonesboro.org, put the item you’re writing in about and your position clearly in your subject line (ex: Support for ORD-21:025), and that way it will not only go to every council member, it will also go on the public record. Other advice: use an email you’re fine having publicly available.
  • The council will expand the time they have to act on an ordinance from three months to six months and adds a rule that says once an ordinance fails it can’t be brought up again for another six months unless there are extensive changes. This can be either a positive or negative change; like anything, it will depend on how it’s used by council members and residents. I’m generally in support of more time to work on things and ensure residents (who are busy) also have the time to be engaged.

There are other items in this proposal. I encourage everyone to read over it and write in to the council with your support/disagreement over the various proposals so the council knows how at least some of the public feels. Don’t wait until the third reading—they’ll be swamped with people who hate everything because they hate government and anyone who sets boundaries. Be concise (list formats can help with this) put something like “Feedback on ORD-21:025” in your subject line if you agree with some things but not others (or “Support for ORD-21:025” / “No on ORD-21:025” if you wholesale agree/disagree), send to aldermen@jonesboro.org and CC cityclerk@jonesboro.org so it can’t be shoved down the memory hole / given the “Oh, I never saw that email” treatment. Then give yourself ten civics points!

7. Unfinished Business

ORD-21:020: 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 Medium Density District to C-3 General Commercial District – Limited Use Overlay (LUO) for property located at 7201 E. Highland Drive, Jonesboro, AR as requested by Joshua Neely on behalf of Jeremy Baltz (second reading).

Commentary: Flipping an area zoned for Humans to Live On to an area for Humans to Do Business on instead. This is the area via Google Maps, but the legislative record has all the official maps.

ORD-21:015: An ordinance to vacate and abandon a 12′ alley located at 101 South Church as requested by Halsey Thrasher Harpole Real Estate Group (HTHREG), LLC (third reading).

ORD-21:016: 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: The legislative record contains the streets that will get new signs for speed changes and stops (click the record number and make sure you’re in the “Text” section and not the “History” section). Summary: new stop signs.

ORD-21:019: 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 to I-1 Limited Industrial District for property located at 6515 C.W. Post Road, Jonesboro, AR as requested by John Stuckey (third reading).

Commentary: Flipping an area zoned for Humans to Live On to an area for Humans to Make Stuff On. Google Maps thinks the land is here, but according to the official documents in the legislative record, the actual location on on the other side of Moore Rd.

8. Mayor’s Reports: May 18, 2021

Commentary: The main item of interest is that we can go back to City Council meetings in person on June 15 as long as you’re okay with anti-vax mouth breathers who want to sit in a small council chamber. If you’re into sharing air with people who don’t care whether you get a deadly respiratory disease then it’s your time! Sorry, City Council, I believe I will remain remote for the time being and I will likely never enter your chamber ever again without a mask for what are pretty solid reasons.

The full transcript of his comments is available in the meeting minutes.

9. City Council Reports: May 18, 2021

These reports are for the May 18 City Council meeting. This section runs a month behind. You can see the full report in the minutes.

  • Long: Talked about flooding and youth involvement in government.
  • Hafner: More drainage talk.
  • Bryant: Impressed with bicycle patrol by the Jonesboro Police Department. Some thoughts on attracting workers to Jonesboro. Requests an update on beautification projects.
  • Street: Thanks Cecelie Cochran for her work (she’s departing for another job in Kansas). Thanks Jeff Presley for his service in the E911 Department (he’s retiring).
  • Emison: Thanked the Jonesboro Residential Healthcare Facilities Board for a $600,000 donation to City of Jonesboro’s Veteran Village.
  • Coleman: There will be more neighborhood clean-ups on June 12 and July 10. Some talk about the Johanson Salary Study Committee which I am clueless about right now.
  • Moore: He wants a promotional video for the Shooting Complex. Commented on how clean Earl Bell Community Center was. There was some cross-talk in the transcript and it’s not really clear who said what and I don’t want to misattribute, so if you want to read this it’s in the minutes.
  • Gibson: Reminded people about the Nominating and Rules Committee meeting, because that was the meeting where ORD-21:025 was passed and sent to the City Council.

Commentary: A few weeks ago in the Jonesboro Sun, the city asked for ideas about how to get more people involved in local government earlier. I sent some in.

  • Unpack all the committee meeting agendas on social media in a list on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Use Instagram Stories to share some of the agenda items with a link to the agenda.
  • Use tags for everything on social media.
  • Stealth teach Legistar by referencing it everywhere.
  • Hire some Youths and get on Tik Tok.
  • Ask the Jonesboro Sun to print upcoming committee agendas (although upon reflection just the meeting times themselves would be fine and less prone to error/out-dated info).
  • Have committee chairs mention their upcoming meetings in their council comments.

It remains to be seen if any of these suggestions will be taken/whether they will stick. The current Jonesboro government is full of people who act like the Internet isn’t the main way people get their news—like, why are we only streaming on Facebook when we should be streaming to Twitter, Instagram, AND Tik Tok?. Basically, you post and talk about something until you’re sick of yourself and once you reach that point then you’ve managed to break through the noise to reach people. Our government does not do that and is expecting a lot from regular people who are trying to survive under unregulated capitalism, exploitative work conditions, and lack of social support. Of course most people don’t have time to do more extremely tiring intellectual work and need lots of reminders and help finding and engaging with information. Jonesboro government has big “tell me you’ve never lived in poverty without telling me you’ve lived in poverty” energy. Anyway, welcome to the 21st century, which is Extremely Online.

10. Public Comments: May 18, 2021

These comments are for the May 18 City Council meeting. This section runs a month behind. You can see the full report in the minutes.

Commentary: There was one public comment by Patti Lack where she’s all “we must hire more police officers!”. Counterpoint: maybe we could invest in some social programs to address the root causes of crime instead of hiring more police? Living in Jonesboro makes me feel bonkers. I’m so terrified of the cops. I definitely don’t want more of them. I want a robust community shelter with thoroughly funded programs to help people cope with inevitable problems like health issues and job loss and needing to build new skills. I want fewer people with guns to respond to 911 calls. I want people trained in de-escalation skills to be prioritized and given more authority than the people with the big PEW PEW PEW machines. I want poverty decriminalized. We’ve been trying the “more cops” approach for awhile and all we’ve managed to do is militarize a racist, fascist power structure that has state power to abuse, murder, and bankrupt people. Maybe we should try something new.

11. Adjournment

12. Miscellaneous

Please read the minutes of the May 18 meeting. 👀