The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
In Ward 2, It's Green Going Against the Familiar
By Skip Descant
THE MORNING NEWS
FAYETTEVILLE -- Mark Kinion rattles off the names of neighborhoods and streets in Ward 2 like they were the names of his children.
Matthew Petty can wax for hours on ideas and programs he'd like to nurture -- or already has -- to grow what he describes as the "green economy" and society.
Both Petty and Kinion are seeking the Ward 2 alderman seat being vacated by Nancy Allen.
And, if on the surface, both candidates seem closely aligned on key issues facing Ward 2 or the city, their differences lie in the more hard to measure areas of community involvement, experience and commitment to change.
"I definitely don't have a lifetime of experience," reflects Petty, 24. But what he brings to the table, he says, is a proven commitment to research issues thoroughly, fresh ideas for the city council and leadership skills he's been building since he was a teenager.
"I spend upwards of 30 hours a week researching what other communities are doing and how that might work for Fayetteville," Petty explains. He founded the Social Sustenance Organization, a nonprofit which aims to organize the green movement at the local level. The organization is registered with the Arkansas Secretary of State's office as the corporate nonprofit Northwest Arkansas Sustainability Center. Its 501(c)3 federal tax exemption status is pending, Petty says.
This is the kind of organization and philosophy he wants to bring to the city council.
"The council has been a reactionary council," Petty says. "We don't have council members out there researching and coming up with policy."
Kinion, 51, grew up in Fayetteville, graduated from the University or Arkansas and has served on numerous local boards and commissions. He looks to his long history of activity in the community as his resume for preparing him to serve on the council.
"We have a very strong sense of community here," Kinion says. "And we should nurture it and use it to our benefit."
Kinion's big-picture goal is to make Fayetteville a destination -- both for visitors and people choosing to live here. And that means preserving its sense of place and community.
"You can't buy history. You can't buy the connection we have with the university. You can't buy the views we have of the Boston Mountains to our south," he says.
A large part of keeping Fayetteville's sense of place lies in preservation, he adds. Kinion discusses what he calls "the second wave of baby-boomers," or people closer to his age who want to return to their college towns.
"And they want to move back to the college towns that they remember," Kinion says.
It might be easy to brand him as a candidate averse to change.
"I'm not resistant to change," Kinion stresses. "I want to encourage protecting what's unique while we change."
Ideologies aside, several issues have arisen this election season. City finances and budget concerns are a challenge for any city council. Mayor Dan Coody's proposed budget would have the city dipping into reserve funds at the tune of about $500,000.
Both Kinion and Petty eyed this move with caution.
Petty --like Coody -- is not in favor of a tax increase, given the state of the economy. But he would only go into reserves for the areas of the budget that are more discretionary and could be expected to bring money into Fayetteville through tourism promotion or other means.
"If we've already paid for all the essential stuff with the budget, with the general fund, which is what we should do, then I think funding something like the Arts Festival or continuing meeting our goals on the trails, that's a smart use of the reserves because it results in a positive cash-flow and puts us in a better situation," Petty says.
Kinion says because of the shaky economic picture, the city ought to show more caution when it comes to using reserve funding. And Fayetteville should think about how to grow its tax base.
"I would like to see our technical park be as attractive as the Research Triangle Park," Kinion says, referencing the high tech research triangle in the area of Raleigh and Chapel Hill, N.C.
A key element in Petty's platform is looking for ways to grow the green economy. He'd like to do this through job training or working with developers to encourage more environmentally sensitive development.
As an example, Petty said the city should look at possible incentives offered to developers to make homes more energy efficient.
Growing a more sustainable economy requires a broad approach, Kinion says. He prefers to talk about growing attainable housing and some of the traditional blue collar jobs like machinists, mechanics, or even dental hygienists as a way to expand Fayetteville's diversity and fulfill what he calls social sustainability.
"These are technical skills that are always going to be of use, green collar, or not," Kinion says.
Residence: Ward 2 resident for 20 years
Occupation: Retired as a senior executive manager from GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals
Education: Bachelor's in food science technology, University of Arkansas
Political Experience: Served on Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods, Wilson Park Neighborhood Association, Partners for Better Housing
Residence: Ward 2 resident for a year
Occupation: Self-employed community organizer; founder, nonprofit Social Sustenance Organization
Education: Graduate, Arkansas High School for Math, Science and the Arts; attended University of Arkansas
Political Experience: None