Patrolling for absent reason

In the 2001 film, Zoolander, evil fashion mogul, Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) becomes so frustrated at the apparent credulity and foolishness around him that he screams, “Doesn’t anybody notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

Mugatu, we feel your pain. After sitting through Monday night’s Pine Bluff City Council Meeting, any rational person would come to the same place. While we honor the noble principle of majority rule, right about now, we’d like the majority of the membership to take a hike.

We needn’t plumb their ineptitude any deeper than their decision to relocate the police department’s patrol division to the abandoned National Guard armory on the north side of town. The police don’t want this. Nor does the mayor. That’s almost all one needs to know.

Even for this manifestation of the city council, the armory decision represents a monumental misstep.

A quick review of the superficial financial facts makes the case. To get the armory minimally functional for the patrol division, the facility will require almost three quarters of a million dollars in renovations. This assumes that early site work reveals no unforeseen dangers such as structural or suitability issues.

Then, in the words of the late game show host, Monty Hall, there’s “door number two.” The management company that owns The Pines mall has offered to spend up to $100,000 to renovate a 5,800-square foot space that the patrol division could occupy rent-free for three years with a five-year agreement.

According to the mall’s chief executive, Andy Weiner, after the initial 36-month rent-free stay — in which the city would be responsible only for an estimated $1,600 in monthly utilities — the police department would be charged rent of “less than $1,000” while continuing to be responsible for utilities.

As reported in the Commercial, Weiner framed the offer by saying, “We want to make this so easy for the city that you can’t refuse it. There will be no taxes or maintenance or insurance costs for the city. It’s a win-win for the mall and the city. What having the police there will be doing is selling this community to tenants.”

Weiner also said the mall space could be readied for occupancy “within six weeks.” He said the improvements would be funded by “investors in the mall and this community.”

To put the matter in broader context, Weiner said the presence of police at the mall could help the city in regard to the public’s perception of The Pines being unsafe. Weiner said mall merchants would also appreciate the patrol division being located there, and admitted that having the police on board could lead to the mall attracting some national merchants that otherwise aren’t interested.

“We’re not asking police to patrol the mall,” he stressed, adding that simply having police vehicles and uniformed officers there would help shoppers and merchants to feel safer.

This then begs the question as to what spillover effect locating the patrol division in the old armory might have. Stuck by the railroad tracks in a wooded backwater between parks, it is proximate to few homes, fewer businesses and little else. As it is largely landlocked by city property, it would spur no great stability or development. It’s also away from major thoroughfares.

Maybe we’re not the ones who’ve taken the “crazy pills.”