Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board – Again – for Fayetteville High School

The voters of Fayetteville School District spoke clearly and loudly about the proposed 4.9 mil increase in their property taxes to build a new high school. The answer was a resounding NO!

Two huge factors unquestionably influenced the vote – the overall expense and calling for the election at a time when many people were already struggling to provide for their families.

I believe the large majority of residents agree that an updated facility is needed. So, it’s back to the drawing board for the school board. It took four years to reach the current point. How many more years for the next plan is anyone’s guess.

A few things to consider (or re-consider) based on some of the issues already on the table:

1. Reconsider the decision to add 9th graders to high school. Building a new high school for only grades 10-12 means a smaller, less costly school.

2. Reconsider the decision to demolish the 1991 addition because it’s “too old” to blend with new construction. It’s only 18 years old and it’s possible taxpayers are still paying for it. Several more millions of dollars saved. It could be that the most cost-effective solution is remodeling the current high school totally and making additions as necessary to accommodate future growth.

3. Reconsider remodeling the existing site and building a second high school on property the district already owns. In that case, I would divide the two schools by grade rather than by the part of town that students come from. This might bring the 9th grade back into the equation if one HS is for 9-10 grade and the “new” HS is for 11-12 grade (or vice versa). Creating two 4-year high schools in different parts of town could have unintended consequences as happened in Springdale, where a sort of “classist” divide has arisen between the old HS and the new Harber High, which has even affected property values in different parts of Springdale. This, despite the fact that the old Springdale High has been remodeled and has some innovative programs that the new Harber High doesn’t have.

4. Actually, while back at the drawing board, reconsider the decision to build a new school at the existing site. One of several reasons I heard for doing so was the nostalgia factor. Something like, “That’s where I went to school and we should keep the high school here.” I don’t understand that rationale. If all the buildings are demolished and a new school is constructed on that site, everything tangible – including the murals that many art students created over the years and which give the current HS a link to the past – is lost. All that’s left for fond memories is the dirt the school was built on.

As I’ve written previously, there are many valid justifications to build a new high school (or even a second high school or even just remodeling the existing school). Now that the millage proposal has failed, the school board must rethink their previous decisions, open the process to the people again because folks have learned much more about this issue than they knew even a few months ago, and move forward with an affordable plan. It can be done.

For more information:


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vote Tuesday in Fayetteville!

Residents of Fayetteville School District have the opportunity to make their voices heard this Tuesday, September 15, regarding the proposal to increase property taxes by 4.9 mils to build a new high school.

This is just a reminder so no one will forget to vote on such an important matter.

I have written about this issue in the past, but I still have mixed feelings about the issue. Bottom line is that I think that Fayetteville needs a first class educational institution to continue to attract good people to live here. As a university town and cultural center of NW Arkansas, we provide a good education for our children. Fayetteville HS in the past has rated highly for academic excellence nationally, but the physical structure needs to keep up with the times and take us into the future. The issue involves the different ways to get there.

One the one hand, it seems that a first class facility could be obtained for less money. I didn’t follow the debate on whether the 9th grade should be included in the new school (basically I think it shouldn’t and a lot of money could be saved by not including them, but if that’s what has been decided through the democratic decision-making process, it’s no longer up to me).

But the big issue is paying higher taxes, and no one wants that unless there is a good reason.

On the other hand, there are some good things that can be said for a new HS.

Basically, Fayetteville voters need to decide about quality of life in the future, and the high school (even if one doesn’t have children who will be attending the school) is an important part of the equation. We need to attract new industry to the area, and people moving here want to know that their children will receive a good education. Fayetteville HS already has a great reputation and rates highly in terms of academics, even nationally. And whether to build a new HS has been through several years of eliciting public input on where and what will be built. What will be voted on is what has resulted from the public process. It’s what the people say they want. And I believe in letting the people decide.

In the interest of full disclosure, two things: 1) my son graduated from Fayetteville HS five years ago. I asked his opinion and he indicated that the physical plant probably needs some improvement. But surprisingly his main question had to do with what would happen with to great murals in the existing building. Those are part of the history of Fayetteville High and will probably be lost in the renovations. And that’s something no one has mentioned in the debate…. 2) I no longer live in Fayetteville, so whatever is decided won't affect me.

For more information, read my blog article dated July 11, 2009. Also there is a comprehensive article and some great letters to the editor in the Sunday (9/13/09) NW Arkansas Times. I’m not providing links any more because you now have to pay to read the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and all of its affiliate papers. The Morning News has an article on Sunday about how the different NW Arkansas school districts spend their money.

For both newspapers click on NW Arkansas Links on the home page of http://www.JudyLuna.com. Check the left column on the resulting page for the two newspapers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Light Rail for NW Arkansas?

Picture working for Walmart, living in Fayetteville or Springdale and not having to fight traffic to get to and from work. Read the newspaper on the way (if they still exist) or keep up with your email. This could be the reality in 10 to 20 years in NW Arkansas.

Thursday the idea for light rail in NW Arkansas got a boost when the Washington County Quorum Court unanimously passed a resolution to implement a feasibility study on the issue. This is the first step toward getting federal funding for such a project.

This is welcome news to me, as I have been bemoaning the slowness of infrastructure improvements in NW Arkansas for a long time, especially for transportation. But the city of Fayetteville passed a similar resolution on July 7, and Springdale passed a similar resolution on August 25.

Some people think the idea is way too idealistic and can never come to pass, but a growing number of supporters say otherwise. Justice of the Peace Gary Carnahan, who brought forward the resolution is one of them. He compared the idea of light rail now to the development of the NW Arkansas Regional Airport and credited our “nice airport” to visionary people in the area.

For light rail, one of those visionaries is Stephen Luoni, director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center in the Architecture Department. About a month ago, I heard Luoni speak at an informational meeting at the Fayetteville Public Library. It all made perfect sense to me since we already have the rails for a large part of the system. A majority of costs in other areas have been to acquire right of way, and we already have an underused rail system passing through all of our major towns.

The Community Design Center has already thought through many aspects of the project and compared it to similar projects in other parts of the country. Although NW Arkansas is not a major city, such projects in other less populated regions have met with success.

The poster child for light rail projects has been Dallas, where similar objections were voiced two decades ago. Now the Dallas rail system is considered to be one of the best in the country and has generated more than $1 billion in mixed-use, high quality urban development.

The NW Arkansas system would extend from the Fayetteville airport north through Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers and Bentonville and end at the NW Arkansas Regional Airport. It could stimulate economic development, create new housing and commercial projects revitalizing central areas of our towns, and provide sustainable “green” growth instead of the sprawl that results from new highway construction. It would be a less expensive way to move more people, and it could enhance our already-famous quality of life indices.

Other advantages are that it would allow more parts of NW Arkansas to stay “natural” and create so-called Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). This type of development creates a lifestyle not just a transportation system, and it guides smart growth. I could go on, but there’s too much for just a blog article.

For the feasibility study to actually take place, federal funding must be pursued by the NW Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Mobility Authority, and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

I hope they start the process soon. It’s going to take a long time for all of this to happen so we need to start now.

For more information about the system envisioned, visit the U of A Community Design Center website at http://uacdc.uark.edu/. Download a nifty book about the envisioned transit system, or for a small fee, have them mail you a copy.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

It’s Almost Time for Bikes, Blues and Barbecue in Fayetteville Arkansas!

Mark September 23-26 on your calendar and come to Fayetteville for the big BBB event. Each year it grows bigger and better.

What’s to do, you ask?

Show off your motorcycle, ride it in the Parade of Power or the Poker Run. If you don’t have a bike, there will be thousands of them to look at. Most of the major motorcycle companies will be present and some will offer demo rides.

Eat some of the best barbecue around or help decide the People’s Choice Award. The Kansas City Barbeque Society has added BBB to its 2009 Great American BBQ Tour.

Listen to great music – free.

Enjoy breathing good, clean air. Enjoy good, clean family fun. Enjoy the beautiful Ozarks.

And if all this isn’t enough, how about the fact that the proceeds go to local charities and no taxpayer funds are used to host the event. Hundreds of volunteers make it happen.

See you there?

For more information: