I spent an enjoyable hour visiting with Preston Lewis, the alderman for Maumelle’s Ward 3, Position 1. We talked about everything from Maumelle’s water situation, a new Maumelle school district to the new trail section going in along Maumelle Boulevard.
We discussed his latest move to post the audio of the council meetings on Facebook. Another alderman had proposed videotaping the meetings and putting them online for all to see. I think if you really want to see a meeting, you should go. They meet twice a month, sometimes for several hours. As a board member of several organizations through the years, I can tell you that board members have to sit through many meetings where not a whole lot happens. That is probably true with the Maumelle City Council, at least according to local observers.
I have yet to attend a council meeting, and I’m not sure I will. City government leaders and the alderman have accepted the responsibility to attend the meetings on my behalf and I like it that way. I asked someone who attended the last meeting what happened and they replied, " I don’t think, anything." I’m sure that’s not always the case.
Mr. Lewis is a busy guy. He has a day job as a speech therapist working primarily with the elderly working to regain their swallowing abilities. But he never stops working for Maumelle.
Among the many things he’s been involved with include being at the forefront of the recent water study to help determine the fate of the city’s water system. He favors the city keeping its own water department as being economically advantageous in the long run. I was critical of Maumelle Water Management when they shut off my sprinkler system last summer without telling me. Mr. Lewis suggested I should tour the water facilities in order to know what I’m talking about. That’s probably not a bad idea. I’ll think about it.
He’s the same Preston Lewis who wants Maumelle to have its own school district. As matter of fact, the whole council wants us to have our own district. At first, I was opposed to this idea, but the persuasive alderman convinced me it was the best move for the area. Our two elementary schools fared well in test scores while our middle school and high school have questionable and below-average testing scores.
Mr. Lewis’ argument is that we pay the highest property tax in the state and we should control our schools and our kids should go to our schools. His point is that only 58 percent of our kids go to our "local" schools.
Where do the other kids go? Sixteen percent attend private schools, 12 percent attend the public charter school, neighboring cities of North Little Rock and Little Rock get 4 percent and other schools get 10 percent. He has a point that should be explored.
What would it take to change it? We would have to pull out of the Pulaski County Special School District and form our own district with our own school board, etc. A big undertaking for sure.
We talked about the sidewalk being worked on right now adjacent to Maumelle Boulevard. As I understand it, this will continue the connection of Maumelle’s trails to the Arkansas River Trail, "connecting 38 parks, six museums and 5,000-plus acres of federal, state and local parkland," according to the Arkansas River Trail website. I tried to figure out where we connect but after looking at several maps of the trail system, I really can’t figure it out. We’ll have more on that as it nears completion.
Mr. Lewis clarified the "connection" to the River Trail. It really doesn’t connect until you get to the bike overpass at I-430. But the federal government paid for 80 percent of the cost.
I’m just grateful they don’t put out the orange barrels until 9 a.m., after most of the school traffic has cleared.
I don’t think this will be the last public office Preston Lewis will occupy, but for the time being, be grateful that he is putting in a lot of hours for the city of Maumelle. Even though they get paid $6,000 per year, it probably comes out to about $1.50 an hour.
Thanks to all you aldermen who go to those meetings for us.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore owns a creative consulting firm, Neal Moore Creative. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter, @kneelmore.