Mays expresses frustration with council, mayor

Alderman Steven Mays – one of nine mayoral candidates – twice experienced frustration at Monday night’s Pine Bluff City Council meeting, and expressed his displeasure once against his fellow council members and a second time against incumbent Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.

During the meeting’s business session, a Mays-sponsored ordinance faltered when Mays cast the lone supporting nod. The measure had called for the amending of current ordinances governing automotive salvage yards. Mays proposed that such firms be granted a 300-day grace period on becoming compliant with city standards.

The council’s development and planning committee had recommended that the ordinance not be approved. A city code enforcement officer explained that a similar measure already in place contains a shorter grace period that is being respected as strides continue in the cleaning and fencing of such facilities. Several council members agreed that Mays’ legislation might constitute a step backward and could jeopardize current gains in beautification efforts.

“Talk sounds good,” Mays protested, referring to the opposing statements as “propaganda.”

Alderwoman Irene Holcomb, the council’s senior member who is in her final term, offered consolation, saying Mays needed to understand that the nay votes weren’t against him but rather just his proposal. Mays nodded his head affirmatively.

Following the business period, Mays mentioned that Larry Heinrich – a homeowner who at the beginning of the meeting had asked the council about removing one of his properties from a resolution declaring nuisances and ordering their abatement – hadn’t received a final response. Redus laughed briefly.

“There’s nothing funny,” replied Mays.

Redus said the council as a whole, the development and planning committee and the inspection and zoning department were “responding properly” to Heinrich.

Mays said that on several occasions, he had sometimes heard disparaging remarks and laughter from the mayor and some other council members after he had commented.

“As of today, I’m asking that it stops,” said Mays. “I’m 50 years old. Give me respect.”

“I think everyone respects you, Mr. Mays,” said Redus.

Alderman George Stepps took issue with Mays’ comments on Heinrich being ignored. Stepps, chairman of the development and planning committee, said he didn’t want “it to seem like someone isn’t doing their job or giving” Heinrich his due consideration. Redus referenced Heinrich back to the inspection and zoning department.

In other business, the council approved two resolutions and an ordinance. The resolutions:

• Directed the city clerk to publish notice of a public hearing on closing an alley within Block 18 of Eureka Heights, Addition No. 4.

• Declared certain houses, buildings and/or other structures as nuisances and ordered their abatement.

The ordinance provided for the rezoning of a roughly 15-acre property site at East 38th Avenue and Ohio Street to Residential Planned Unit Development status. Sixty-five affordable housing units – mostly single-family – are to be constructed there by December 2013.

Four ordinances dealing with the closings of several streets and an alley were tabled, as was a resolution calling for the city to support a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensuring only humans and not corporations have federally protected free speech rights. An ordinance calling for the closing of an alley in Block 18 of Eureka Heights’ Addition No. 4 received its first reading.

Prior to the council meeting, the public safety and public works committees held a joint session to discuss possible site selections for the proposed relocation of the police department’s patrol and detective divisions. There were some sharp verbal exchanges during the talks, which included the participation of Redus and Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones.

In the end, however, both committees agreed that additional time is needed for more study on the matter. Both committees advised the full council that they would aim to give a joint recommendation at the council’s Oct. 1 meeting.