A Few Words About Springdale

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Anyone who knows me or has read my comments about Springdale will tell you that I’ve been overwhelmingly positive about the changes in the city. The most significant exception, albeit half-jokingly, is my opinion of the marketing and design of the city’s logo, which is as inspiring as a crossword puzzle in German. Any improvements which reduce the number of cowboy hats being worn at government meetings can only be classified as miraculous and welcome. (In all seriousness, I like cowboy hats, but a couple of previous political players who donned them soured my regard for them in the public forum.)

Economics drove many of the changes. There’s been a lot of resistance from many, especially from the older citizens and less progressive people living in the city. Trails, polylingualism, and diversity are things which weren’t embraced in Springdale’s past.  Springdale’s roots are parochial and restrictive. By no means am I falsely claiming that these tendencies were homogenous or shared by everyone; they were, however, powerful influencers which resisted change. This tendency is as much Southern as it is a reflection of Springdale.

By almost all metrics, Springdale is a better city than it was in the past.

Springdale’s growth is directly intertwined with its embrace of modern amenities and dedication toward economic pragmatism.

Behind the scenes, though, we have a few forces which tend to exert a strange warping of the general direction of change. Whether it’s a corporation with an unusually loud voice in the Chamber of Commerce or a church with a disproportionate voice in politics and government, Springdale is not governed as transparently as one might expect. It is the quasi-government that carries a portion of the power in Springdale.

Because of the weird confluence of cultures, Springdale is undergoing an uneven metamorphosis. By any measure, its population is well over one-third Latino. Even though it’s only the fourth largest city in Arkansas, its school enrollment is the largest. About 4 in 10 residents speak a non-English language, and about 8 in 10 are citizens. (The citizenship rate is lower in Springdale than surrounding large cities and Washington County.) 1 in 4 residents was born outside the United States. (Compared to 1 in 9 in Benton County.) As the economy strengthens, the stability of the area allows residents to stay and put down roots. Most of them will not leave, statistically speaking. Despite these facts, the poverty rate is about 18%. Springdale’s homeownership rate is much lower than the national rate of about 64% – and also lower than our neighbors above us.

Having said that, Springdale is suffering from a problem that has blossomed in other places. As demographics shift, those left in the unbalanced position often deviate from their dedicated focus and adopt a less progressive attitude, both in their approach to economics and policy. Pragmatic governance gives rise to politics and issues.

I distrust all politicians who choose ideology over pragmatism, even those who agree with me on issues.

That Springdale is going to undergo a drastic shift in diversity and population is undeniable. Whether those tasked with peering into the future will honor this inevitability is the central question. Springdale will be a majority of non-whites, probably much more quickly than people realize. Springdale will be a crucible of language, culture, and diversity. Anything which fails to recognize this fact is a disservice to the future of the city. Like all cities growing in population, it is not a safe bet to assume that the community will not deviate in matters of religion or non-religion, language, and politics. It is a fool’s errand to engage in behavior which ignores the wave of changes that are coming.

The great thing about city government is that those involved in it traditionally can dedicate themselves to infrastructure and financial planning. There’s usually no room for demagoguery. When those tasked with local governance deviate into political ideology, things often go awry.

The most recent symptom of this loss of pragmatism is the effort of some to pass a non-binding resolution declaring that Springdale is a pro-life city. Even though the decision is entirely devoid of legal meaning, those in favor of the proclamation would rather be able to literally circumvent established law were they able to do so. It is disingenuous of them to claim it will not affect reproductive options. Obviously, this can’t be the case. If the resolution is meaningless, why pass it? Some of the City Council and within the government want to make abortion illegal. Simply say so, without the color of the city government’s authority behind it.

If it is any comfort, I personally cannot imagine that the right to abortion will stand as the law of the land for very much longer. My personal solution for this is to require every male to have a vasectomy by maturation. (They can be reversed.) It’s about time we put the burden of planning on the male half of the population, anyway. Am I kidding or not about the last half of this paragraph?

My argument isn’t in regard to Planned Parenthood, which indeed is a polarizing organization. My point is that the city should tread cautiously in its approach to using city time to make political comments that overreach the governing function of a local city government. We have entirely too much of that nonsense at the state and federal level. As for the latest development and the non-binding resolution, many of you might recall that I predicted that this sort of thing would occur as the composition of the city government changed.

Can they do so? Of course! We can all agree that politicians seem to be unable to stop using their status as elected public servants to wag their fingers and pontificate. It’s one of the things we dislike the most. We choose them to represent us as employees, and they repay us by lecturing us. I’ll admit we collectively behave stupidly, which partially explains the tendency.

Doing so, however, draws contentious scrutiny to the City of Springdale. The arguments in favor of economics simply get abbreviated and silenced by the weight of the stigma of the underlying fight. Businesses and people coming to the area have too many other legitimate choices regarding infrastructure, employment, and residence, especially when considering our neighbors to the north. It’s easier to sidestep the issue by going north. Employers behave in this pragmatic manner all the time. It’s safer to avoid a job applicant with potentially unwelcome baggage. This tendency in part explains why Harrison, which should be a large, thriving city, stills remains behind the curve.

If the City of Springdale cannot prohibit reproductive services inside city limits, those with profound objections to their availability should devote themselves to providing better alternatives. Many people do – and that is an honorable course of action if you honestly disagree with the status quo. I’m not mocking those with regard for human life. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

If the City of Springdale wishes to draw attention to itself by using non-binding resolutions, I would recommend that they choose ones which do not contain the fuse for a public relations fight. We have better people than this. I know that those in favor of this particular non-binding resolution want to send a message. And they probably will. But the converse to the message is generally disfavorable. It’s enough of a risk to dissuade most cautious people from making it.

On another note, it is unwise to appeal to the majority on issues, whatever those issues may be.

I think I’ve made a case to remind anyone who has forgotten that the majority is going to be someone else fairly soon. Giving predominant voice to the majority simply because you can, also provides the opposition with the right to do the same to you when the time comes.

We can do better.

We are better.

We don’t need a resolution to tell us.

P.S. The tenor and tone of any possible replies are indicators of the depth of your regard for civil discourse. Be nice, be concise, and as in life, don’t reduce the room by your presence. Civil servants are supposed to face criticism openly.

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