Yes, the town hall meeting about the March 13 sales tax election was sponsored by the pro-tax Maumelle Chamber of Commerce and endorsed by most of the City Council members, but it was democracy in action. There was a quite a bit of interest with over 200 in attendance and most of the central Arkansas media covering.


“Welcome to democracy,” journalist Neal Moore, who moderated the meeting, said at the beginning.” That was from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s coverage of the meeting written by Jake Sandlin. I was flattered a real journalist called me a journalist.


The meeting began with two presentations, one by Maumelle Vision for the Future spokesperson Marion Scott-Coney and one by Mayor Mike Watson.


Scott-Coney used a series of projector slides for her presentation, covering the basics of the tax proposals. This was the “commercial” portion of the evening with more sizzle than substance.


Mayor Watson did most of the heavy lifting. He relied on maps showing the area around the proposed interchange and other documents to answer the more complicated questions about the financial aspects of the proposed taxes and the bond issue.


The questions were primarily submitted by opponents of the issue and were ably answered by Scott-Coney and the mayor. I especially appreciate the resilience of the mayor, who took most of the harder hitting questions some insinuating this was something he and the Council were trying to slide by the voters.


I thought his answers were on point and transparent about the reasons for the proposed tax and the vision for positive results. But he certainly offered no guarantees, as some would want.


Since I moderated the event, I tried to make sure everyone got a chance to ask any question, with the exception of one individual who chose to stuff the question box with preprinted questions, which he also handed out before the event started.


Aldermen Ken Saunders and Marc Kelly did not attend, but Rick Anderson was there and had a prepared statement read by Chamber exec Alicia Gillen. He received a round of applause from the audience for coming as he had just completed a lengthy stay in the hospital.


All Aldermen should have been there.


It was announced at the meeting that Fidelity Communications was videotaping the meeting and would broadcast the meeting in its entirety at some point. It is already available on social media and Youtube.


I did get several complaints from people who thought the opponents should have been given “equal time.” I suggest they should have their own meeting just as the Chamber did.


There will be another meeting in February sponsored by the Chamber and we’ll have more details when we know them. I expect there to be some changes in the format. Stay tuned. (To read the ballot Issues go to www.votepulaski.net and click on Maumelle Special Election.)


Fire Academy


The Maumelle Fire Department announced it would conduct its annual Citizens’ Fire Academy, a free, eight-week program beginning February 5 designed to give community members an overview of how their local fire department operates. There will be lots of hands-on participation. The purpose of the Citizens’ Academy is not to train an individual to be a firefighter but to produce informed citizens. According to the information from the department, “Our goal is to build a closer bond with our community members. The course is designed not only to inform [the public about] what the fire department does and why, but to also give practical safety knowledge.”


Participants will meet once a week, on Monday evenings. Topics will include fire department operations, specialty teams and education, station tours, auto extrication and others.


Applicants must be 21 years old and live in the City of Maumelle. Apply online on at www.maumelle.org, click on “departments” to find the application.


Ball announces for House District 39 position


Trolling around Facebook, I noticed that Monica Ball, 61, of Maumelle has announced that she will run for the Arkansas House District 39 seat currently held by Republican Mark Lowery. Ball is a Democrat.


A retired teacher from Maumelle, she says, “I am running for Arkansas House District 39 because I believe it’s time that we start putting people before politics. I believe there is a huge disconnect between our elected officials and their constituents, and I am going to bridge that gap here in District 39.”


She told me in a short phone interview that her primary focus would be public education. “I am a proud mother, grandmother and retired educator,” she said. “With over 28 years of experience teaching science in the North Little Rock and Little Rock School Districts, I will be a strong and experienced voice for the families of District 39, our community and our public schools.” I’ll stay in touch with Ms. Ball and we’ll track her campaign as we get closer to the primary. She is unopposed at this point.


Correction


Last week, I referred to Maumelle Alderman Gloria Timmons as Tina Timmons. Tina Timmons is her daughter-in-law who serves as Maumelle’s city clerk. Gloria prefers to be referred to as simply Timmons, but I’m afraid I’ll have to keep her first name to keep things straight. Sorry about that, Gloria and Tina.


See you on the Boulevard.


Neal Moore is a public relations and advertising consultant and freelance writer. If you have a community concern, Maumelle news tip or if you’re just irritated about something, contact him at neal.moore@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.