Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17, 2008, mayoral debate in The Morning News

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of laptop view of video being recorded during the November 17, 2008, debate between Dan Coody and Lioneld Jordan sponsored by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce at the UA Continuing Education Center.ñ

The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Mayoral Candidates Trade Quips
By Skip Descant
FAYETTEVILLE -- If elected, Lioneld Jordan aims to have an economic development plan within 90 days of taking office as Fayetteville's next mayor.
"After eight years we still do not have an economic development plan for this city. And that needs to change," Jordan told a nearly packed auditorium Monday night during a mayoral debate between Jordan -- a council member -- and incumbent Mayor Dan Coody. The debate was sponsored by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.
The discussion followed eight topics as diverse as growing collegiality on the council to how to mange building impact fees to how to "Keep Fayetteville Funky."
Coody, in his own calm style, spent much of his time explaining various aspects of the last eight years and the vision he holds for the future.
"We've worked to rebuild infrastructure. We're rebuilding the very basics on what you can build economic development," Coody said.
Jordan, who at times sliced the air with his hand to get his point across, reiterated many past segments of his stump speech, such as growing job training and being a better manager of the public's money.
"I don't plan on bringing a millage increase in 2009," Jordan said. "If I'm elected mayor of this city, we will have a balanced budget."
Coody also did not propose a millage increase, but his proposed budget dips into the city's reserve funds.
But when the evening's final question came up -- how to fund cost of living raises for city staff -- Jordan, a union member, reiterated that he does not plan to unionize the city work force.
"If I wanted to unionize this city, I've had eight years, and I never did it," he told the room flatly.
The issue was raised at the last debate and Coody stoked that fire a little further when he recalled a prior conversation he says he'd had with Jordan.
"He (Jordan) did say that if he had the chance, that he would unionize this city so fast it would make my head spin," Coody said.
Jordan denied the accusation, adding that if he did say something to that effect, it was an off-the-cuff joke.
"Let me tell you, I didn't come to unionize this city," Jordan said, and added, any such move would require City Council approval.
But the two men also quipped back and forth around economic development, even though both want to grow green-tech jobs. But Jordan wants to see less dragging of feet and fewer "outside consultants" brought in.
"I'm ready to hear from the business community of this city," Jordan said, subtly hinting at one the main themes of his campaign -- communication.
"And set down and hammer out an economic plan that will protect the businesses that we have and move this city forward," he added. Though Jordan did not offer any specifics to what that plan might include.
"This city needs to move forward economically, and we have not had a plan in eight years," Jordan continued.
"Sounds easy doesn't it?" said Coody, who then went on to call this approach "unrealistic."
"It is not 'unrealistic,'" Jordan said. "It takes attitude."
Coody then embarked on a his own dossier of his work with the Fayetteville Economic Development Council and the recent economic development strategy planning session the city held jointly with the university by bringing in Eve Klein and Associates, an economic development consulting firm.
And it would be almost impossible in this election to not touch on the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant, which upon completion, was three years behind schedule and ended up costing some $60 million more than planned. Coody has half-heartedly taken the blame for the debacle, but adds that part of the problem was his office not having all the information regarding how wrongly the project was heading.
"If there's going to be a project going out of whack, I'm going to know about it and the people will know about it," Jordan said. "The buck always stops at the mayor's office, and when I'm mayor, the buck will stop with me."
"The reason the buck stops with me, is because everybody gets to pass it," Coody said.

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