Tuesday, March 17, 2009


March 17, 2009
Mrs. Sandra Ramsey, City Clerk
P O Box 248, 226 Perry Street
Helena-West Helena, AR 72342
Re:       Veto of Appointment of Joe St. Columbia to Advertising and Promotion Commission
Dear Madam Clerk:
I hereby pen my reasons for the notice of veto that I submitted to you earlier regarding Mr. St. Columbia. As you may recall, when we consolidated, we had no A & P Commission in the new city. We, in January 2006, established this commission with the passage of a two-cent (2%) hamburger tax. This tax applies to all hotels and to restaurants selling prepared foods in our city. The purpose of the tax is to collect monies, in part from travelers and tourists, to promote and advertise our community and to make it appealing to others as a destination for a visit to shop, sightsee and visit with our friendly residents.
At the time of the commission’s establishment, we appointed Mr. Jay Hollowell, Mr. Don Etherly, Mr. Joe St. Columbia, Mr. Bubba Sullivan, Mrs. Cathy Cunningham, Mr. John Crow, and Mrs. Dominique Campbell-Gates. This process was protracted and testy in that I recommended Mrs. Josephine Webber who owned Phine’s Restaurant. She was shot down by the powers that be.
As you can tell, all of the appointees were from Helena except Don Etherly and three of the appointees were from the city council. Joe St. Columbia was supposedly a business representative based upon his selling of tamales from a concession trailer on the Sears parking lot. I expressed extreme reservations about Mr. St. Columbia’s service. He and the powers that be, disagreed and sought an Attorney General’s opinion. They wanted an opinion from the current Attorney General, Mr. Dustin McDaniel. Mr. St. Columbia’s service was discussed in the council meetings and in the newspaper a number of times.
Attorney General McDaniel issued an opinion on August 31, 2007. That opinion, 2007-217, stated just what I had been telling Mr. St. Columbia and the powers that be. Mr. St. Columbia’s service was illegal and improper.
Now, Mr. St. Columbia’s service constitutes a retrogression; a move backwards. We are trying to move forward. Placing Mr. St. Columbia on the A & P Commission at this time takes us again to unsavory and unwanted tactics and approaches to circumstances facing our community. Mr. St. Columbia has not been open minded about new ideas or a new way of thinking. He and the powers that be believe that only a small group of people should receive any Advertising and Promotion Commission monies. He is against Cad Polk Stadium and the Central Cougar Booster Club receiving funding. By the same token he fully supports other groups with other interests.
Because this veto is about Mr. St. Columbia and not the groups, I will not be too specific about which groups are winners and losers if he is placed on the commission. However, it is clear that Mr. St. Columbia is from the old guard and will protect the status quo of several years ago; before consolidation. Mr. St. Columbia has referred to this veto as a “power play” and game playing by the Mayor. He has failed to show any decorum with respect to the law which clearly provides the office of the Mayor with veto power.
Also, we must be mindful of the balance and diversity of this commission. This community has had enough divisiveness! The impact of placing Mr. St. Columbia on this commission is to axiomatically remove Don Etherly off the commission. This is a blatantly in-your-face hostile political move and should not be tolerated.
Ward two has a tremendous over representation on the commission already. Mrs. Cathy Cunningham, Mr. Pat Roberson, and Kinah Brown each reside within Ward 2. Ideally, each ward would have one representative and two wards would have two representatives. No ward would have three representatives where we are being fair to the citizens throughout the city. No ward should have no representation either. 
Placing Mr. St. Columbia on this commission would place 4 out of seven representatives on the commission from one ward. Can you imagine if we were to provide pothole repair, police or fire protection or anything else in our city on such a disparate basis? I would think not.
Ward two does have a concentration of talented people and is home to many of our business men and women. However, our other wards are not bereft of talent. Ward 1 has Bruce Hudson and Eddie Clark. Ward 4 has John Washington. Ward 5 has Don Etherly, Marvin Jarrett and James F. Valley. Each and all of these men could serve the commission’s goals and purposes well while spreading the power and influence more fairly throughout the city.
We must make our barometer be centered on what is fair and what is best for all persons concerned. Appointing Mr. St. Columbia is taking us down a road that will have to be traveled again following the next election. We cannot be men of temporary political solutions. We must look at the broader picture and the designs we are laying for those who will succeed us. Care and attention should be given to a fair and open process with honorable results. Otherwise, the voters will over-correct the problem and send militants who will not care about decorum. They will carry forward the mantra that we can do whatever we have the votes to do.
I am concerned that, for the sake of the citizens in Wards 2 and 3, this brand of politics is counterproductive and could lead to not so pleasant consequences under a different city council or administration. We need to find common ground and have a fair and defendable process for appointments. Furthermore, I have received no information from anyone other than current serving council members in support of Mr. St. Columbia’s placement on the commission. That speaks volumes!
For those and other unstated reasons, Mr. Joe St. Columbia should not be placed on the Advertising and Promotion Commission of the City of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas and I therefore tender these, my, reasons for vetoing his placement thereon.
James F. Valley, Mayor

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