Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fayetteville Flyer article based on interview with Lioneld Jordan and Dan Coody

1. In 2008, you named Hugo’s, Herman’s, Powerhouse, Greenhouse Grill, Common Grounds and Mama Dean’s as some of your favorite restaurants in town. Have there been any new additions to that list in the past four years?

I am a regular at Rick’s Iron Skillet on South School, and I would add such recent additions as Tanglewood Branch Tavern, Brick House Kitchen, and Union Kitchen in the new Chancellor Hotel.

2. Everybody likes lists. Name your top five places around town that best embody the unique spirit of Fayetteville.

It is difficult to limit to only five, but I would have to include Old Main, Wilson Park, the Farmers Market on the Square, Nightbird Books, and our wonderful Fayetteville Public Library.

3. What is the biggest challenge Fayetteville faces as a result of the unprecedented growth in enrollment the University of Arkansas is experiencing?

The challenges are virtually the same as with any population growth in our city. We must reach out to all new residents to make them feel welcome and offer opportunities to become involved in our community. I have held an annual Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting on campus to share information about City programs, services, recreational facilities, and volunteer opportunities, as well as to answer questions and address the concerns of students, faculty, and staff.

Another issue is providing adequate parking, since most students have cars. The University has three parking decks on campus, and the City is planning a new deck in the Downtown Entertainment District. We adopted the same kiosk system used in two of those decks on campus, except ours are solar powered and offer credit card, pay by phone, and text reminder options in addition to bills and coins.

The third issue is adequate and affordable housing for new faculty and students. The City does not construct homes and apartments for the general population, but we can assure that new construction complies with our city code and is compatible with surrounding neighborhoods and City Plan 2030.

We have an excellent partnership with Chancellor Gearhart and the University, and we recently established a Town and Gown Advisory Committee that includes local residents, city staff, and university staff and students to work together in planning for future growth and addressing these and other related issues in a proactive fashion.

4. A cover story in a Little Rock publication last year claimed that Bentonville has "the kind of momentum that might threaten Fayetteville's status as the queen city" of Northwest Arkansas. Do you agree with the author?

No. Northwest Arkansas is the fastest growing region of the state, and new opportunities for jobs, recreation, and entertainment benefit all area residents. Fayetteville’s leading role in establishment of the Razorback Greenway, a trail system that will stretch from Walker Park to Bella Vista is one example, the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is another wonderful development for all area residents and their families, and we are in discussions concerning passenger rail service in the area. I don’t see this as any threat. The University’s continued growth expands the cultural and educational opportunities that have made Fayetteville unique for more than 140 years. Razorback Stadium and Bud Walton Arena have no plans to move anywhere. Where else can one walk from Nightbird Books to the Dickson Street Bookshop and find equal indulgence?

One indicator of Fayetteville’s prominence is that our hotel and restaurant sales exceeded the combined total sales for Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville for the first six months of this year–even after the opening of Crystal Bridges and before the opening of our new Chancellor Hotel.

The Walton Arts Center is planning a multi-million dollar expansion of its Fayetteville facility, including additional theater and performance space. New events and festivals in the last four years are making our city even more vibrant – Artosphere, First Thursday, expansion of the Arkansas Music Pavilion, Fest-of-All celebrating our diversity, the annual Block Street Party, a Cheese Dip Festival, Fayetteville Roots Festival, Offshoot-Seedling Film Festival, the growth of craft breweries, opening of The Iceberg center for entrepreneurs and startup businesses, the successes of numerous green businesses from the University’s Genesis Business Incubator facility, and the new downtown home for studio artists at Fayetteville Underground. Fayetteville is the best place in Arkansas to live, work, and play, and it will continue to be the “Queen City” of Northwest Arkansas.

5. Are there any specific types of businesses that Fayetteville should be actively recruiting or working to attract?

Our community and economic development strategy has focused on Green Jobs that pay a living wage, specifically targeting the Knowledge Economy, the Experience Economy, Clean and High Tech Economy, the Creative Economy of Arts and Culture and the Medical and Healthcare Sector. The Fayetteville Forward plan was developed by hundreds of citizens who participated in the visioning process and continue to drive policy in Action Groups on the Creative Economy, the Green Economy, Local Foods, the Education Economy, the Health Economy, Inclusion, and others. We secured the Northwest Arkansas campus for the UA Medical Sciences, created the Green Jobs Training Centers of Excellence, secured the relocation of Delta Electronics (the first new manufacturing plant in decades), and added more than 1,060 new jobs in the last year, despite a continuing national recession. My staff and I will continue to work closely with the University of Arkansas Research and Technology Park to incubate innovative green businesses and offer support to secure their future success in our area. In addition to attracting new businesses, we have worked to assist with the expansion of existing industries and support our existing retail businesses with efforts ranging from new state funding through our improved relationship with Governor Beebe and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to the “Find It In Fayetteville” campaign to developing a manual on How to Do Business in Fayetteville and streamlining the approval process to address the previous frustration and reputation for being “business unfriendly.” Business Week recently named Fayetteville among the Best Small Cities for Startups, and Forbes named us No. 4 in Best Places for Business and Careers for 2009.

6. With two years of paid parking on Dickson Street behind us, are there any changes that could or should be made to the program?

There was paid parking on Dickson Street for decades until the meters were removed for aesthetic reasons during the Dickson Street Improvement Project a few years ago, so the arguments against the concept are nothing new. We were encouraged by local businesses to seek more public parking, and both business owners and the Walton Arts Center expressed support for a parking deck as a solution. We held more than 16 public meetings before implementing the current system, met with local business owners, offered numerous opportunities to comment at Council meetings, and made many changes to accommodate the concerns of citizens. Most importantly, we added the residential parking plan to protect neighborhoods that had been requested by the Council in 2005 but never offered by the previous administration.

We chose the kiosk system for several reasons, including the aesthetic advantages over adding 400 parking meters, but also because it was the same familiar system used by the University of Arkansas for its Garland and Stadium Drive parking decks with numbered spaces and a payment kiosk. The differences are that City parking rates are lower than campus parking rates, have employee discount rates, use solar powered kiosks, and offer credit card and pay by phone options to provide more convenience in addition to coins and bills. I brought the plan to the City Council, which unanimously approved the initial program and the suggested changes.

One source of complaint has been that the privately owned lot owners tow vehicles or place boots on cars, something that does not happen to customers in city-owned lots, so we have posted signs informing patrons. We are currently in discussions with private lot owners about the possibility of managing those lots, so that is one possible change in the future.

In 2005, the Coody administration recommended that paid parking hours in the Dickson Street area be enforced for 17 hours from 7:00 a.m. until midnight. The current plan is for 12 hours from 2:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.

My opponent also has been saying the current $15 fine for overtime parking is too high; however, Mr. Coody and his Director of Operations, Gary Dumas, previously proposed in 2008 that the overtime parking fines be $40 in the Dickson Street area.

Mr. Coody has also made public complaint that enforcement for violations was too aggressive; however, the facts tell a different story. For example, in 2007 with only paid parking in the Downtown area, the City issued 16,912 citations and voided 823 tickets. Within the last twelve month period, for both the Downtown area and the addition of 431 paid parking spaces in the Dickson Street Entertainment District, we issued 18,801 citations and voided 2,839 tickets. So, even with doubling the number of spaces, the net citations issued were 16,089 in 2007 and in the last 12 months it was only 15,962 net citations.

7. Do we need a parking deck near Dickson Street? Why or why not?

Of course we do. The Walton Arts Center study in February 2012 identified the need for a parking deck as a priority, and we must provide parking for visitors who drive to enjoy other locations and events in our Downtown Entertainment District if we are to continue its expansion. With the looming loss of 170 private parking lot spaces to the construction of the new apartment complex between Lafayette and Watson, such a facility is even more necessary.

The previous administration first proposed in 2005 to build a $19 million, 640-space deck on the University Baptist Church lot, but they were unable to finalize that plan. In 2007, the Coody administration proposed a public/private partnership to build a 200,000 square foot structure including a parking deck with a minimum of 500 spaces adjacent to the Walton Arts Center, but there were legal questions about that plan, and no final proposal was ever submitted to the City Council for approval.

We now have a plan that will work, a proven revenue stream from those who choose to use it, and a Mayor and Council that worked closely together to enact a feasible plan that is both affordable and constitutional.

 My opponent also has been making claims that the proposed 350-space deck is not compatible and is too large and unsightly; however, the Council has not yet approved the specific site and no architects have been retained to design the deck, so such politically-motivated complaints are totally unfounded. There will be numerous public sessions for citizen comment before approval of a final design by the City Council.

8. What do you think is the single most important piece of legislation you were involved with during your time as mayor of Fayetteville?

There were many important ordinances passed during the last four years, from low impact development to residential energy standards to streamside protection, all of which we were the first in Arkansas to enact; however, nothing was more important than restoring our city to a sound financial position and passing the city’s first balanced budget in more than a decade. We must be realistic and be responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and that is my record.

9. There must be something you wish you'd handled differently while in office. Let's hear about it.

I wish I could have taken more time to be with my family – my wonderful wife, my four adult children, and my five grandchildren. I come to the office before 7:00 and often leave after 5:00 to attend other community events, and most of my weekends are spent supporting local organizations that make this a great community. I love this city, and I love this job, but I miss the chance to go camping with my family, spend a quiet weekend at home with my wife, or read a book to my grandkids.

10. We saved the hardest question for last. Get ready for this one. OK, here it goes. Say something nice about your opponent.

My opponent hired John Coleman as the City’s first Sustainability Director, and John did an excellent job.

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