CHOOSING SIDES Brumett draws a line on council factions

Third Ward Alderman Bill Brumett said at Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s monthly town hall meeting Monday night that if some of his city council counterparts “don’t want to get on board and help” the mayor in accomplishing enhancements on which she campaigned and notched a decisive election victory, he’s “ready to move on” without the naysayers.

Brumett made his comments while responding to a question from an audience member on the absences of Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker and how they might be encouraged by other council members to participate in the monthly sessions.

Brown, Stepps and Walker have been absent from each of the four town hall meetings that Hollingsworth has held since she took office on Jan. 1. Boyd has attended at least one meeting, and Hollingsworth said he had telephoned her before Monday’s meeting and said he had a conflicting meeting that might prevent him from attending.

Brumett, however, cut no slack.

Motioning across the stage to Aldermen Wayne Easterly, Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and Steven Mays, the mayor and himself, Brumett noted that each of the city’s four wards had a representative in attendance and said, “The four of us and the mayor are making things happen.”

He referenced last week’s split decisions to appropriate funding toward improvements at Townsend Park and the Merrill Center as examples of progress that other council members had opposed. He added that efforts were made to block a Mays-sponsored ordinance with which Hollingsworth’s nominees for a revised parks and recreation commission could have been appointed to help end extended controversy over the panel. Brumett said he hopes he and his council partners can join the mayor to “move” Mays’ measure “forward” at the panel’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, May 20.

Brumett mentioned continued resistance offered against a new ordinance, also sponsored by Mays and introduced last week, that offered a compromised settlement to an ongoing battle concerning residency requirements for city department heads.

“People have told this mayor that this is what we want,” he said.

Hollingsworth, who had nodded her head affirmatively several times during Brumett’s remarks, said she couldn’t “understand” how anyone could be against appropriating money toward recreational opportunities for the city’s youth at Townsend Park and the Merrill Center. She urged “everyone” to compare the cost “per child” on the proposed facility improvements against the expense of inmate incarceration.

“We can make this happen,” she said on the parks and recreation advances. “We’ve got the money, so what’s the holdup?”

Mays said council members should focus on issues and not themselves.

“Every leader has to be accountable for their own leadership,” he said.

On another matter, Hollingsworth promised a home visit to a Fourth Ward resident who complained of unchecked drug activity and prostitution within the district, represented by Mays and Stepps. The woman said she had encountered uncooperative and disrespectful “attitudes” from several city employees, including police officers, when asking for assistance in ending the offenses. But Mays and Easterly reacted favorably to her concerns, she reported.

Deputy Police Chief Susie Powell related successes in crime reduction achieved by a recent SAFE Team effort and said the squad will next work the nearby area of West 17th Avenue to 22nd Avenue between Linden and Olive streets. The program’s effort is to increase neighborhood pride while weeding out crime and criminals.

“It’s working,” Powell said.

Fire Chief Shauwn Howell received several rounds of applause when he explained what the fire and emergency services department’s recent attainment of an ISO 2 rating would mean to the city. The achievement will translate into lower insurance premiums for businesses and home owners.

“Our public safety is second to none,” Hollingsworth boasted.

Human Resources Director Vickie Conaway announced that the city is on target for up to 150 workers in its summer youth employment program, which will begin June 10 and continue through July 19. Conaway said between 400 and 500 applications are typically received, and as many youth will be hired as budgeted money and private donations allow.

Richard Grimmett of the Fallen Riders Association motorcycle club told officials that his group is eager to help the city better its image by supporting it in positive endeavors. Hollingsworth said she is aware of the organization’s strong reputation and welcomes its involvement.

The mayor announced that a ministers’ prayer luncheon will be held at noon Tuesday, May 21, at the convention center. Seventy-one ministers have registered to attend.

In an audience vote, a majority decided they would prefer a multipurpose center be constructed prior to a aquatic center. A majority also favored keeping the town hall meetings on a monthly instead of a suggested quarterly schedule.