The issue of a new court's building for Benton County will be in the minds of many county residents for a long time. It would probably continue to be an issue even if a plausible plan were presented to the voters tomorrow. The real issue for an observer on the side lines is a question of credibility of our county government. How did the negative response of the voters escape the county judge and members of the Quorum Court during the planning process?
After all the discussions during the planning process and having beautiful designs prepared by professionals it came down to a question of "who on the Quorum Court was actually listening to their constituents"? We hear all kinds of comments about the public failing to be involved but no one seemed to ask the right people for their opinion. The county judge's uncertainty of the outcome of the vote must imply he had some reservations earlier in the process or he expected a much great voter turnout in the city of Bentonville.
There appears to be a major disconnect between the views of the citizens of Benton County and the "wants" of the city of Bentonville. Apparently the citizens of the county who were being expected to pay for a centerpiece (which could be described as a showplace) for the square saw an alternative more to their liking. All the features described as desirable in the sales pitch are equally as valid next to the jail as downtown. And, the safety issue is certainly more attractive closer to the jail than near the downtown center.
As the newspaper prints letters to the editor from the citizens on this issue, it would be difficult to overlook how the "people" feel about the location of the new building and the cost associated with the type of construction being proposed. Didn't anyone on the Quorum Court take time to go outside the city and talk to someone like the farmer on a county road who was out building fence? Did they all skip the local coffee shop discussions in their haste to support the program? Has county government gotten so "pro-support" of any idea that has financial incentives attached that they no longer want the input of the voters? I'm sure 100 percent of the interested voters want a new court's building -- they just want one they can afford and be proud of but in a location that makes sense for those people who use it the most.
It has been almost 20 years since I was directly involved in the county decisions on the Quorum Court. It is increasingly difficult to stay abreast of their decisions as the size of the court has increased and the newspaper coverage is limited as electronic media takes center stage in the lives of a large percent of our population.
We have to work harder to know what is happening in Washington, Little Rock, Benton County and in our cities. Reading an entire ballot in depth is more than just a casual need today. We have seen so many "hidden" clauses change the true intent of a piece of legislation such as we witnessed several years ago on the term limits change snuck into a desirable sounding ballot title.
The credibility of government from the White House down to the lowest level is in question. When we witness the number of people involved in the abuse of tax payers' money in the recent investigation about bribes in our State Legislature it is hard to discern who we can trust when we go to the polls. Large sums of money seem to be involved in every meaningful decision made by government at any level today. For the citizen in any of the far distant reaches in rural Benton County the last resort is to cast a vote asking to be heard. The 6 percent of the voting population made a point in this election. Unless someone pays attention to the location factor and starts asking questions of the voters we will never get a court's building approved.
As I mentioned, it has been over 20 years since I left the QC, but if the members who get elected to represent their area do not know their constituents, we will not have people involved. Many of the people I relied on to provide voter input are gone now but the principle of having serious respected people in any QC District listen to the comments at coffee shops and make telephone calls kept me abreast of what mattered to the voters. Can't the politicians ask the affected people for their input today, or are the politicians tied to the money?
Editor's note: Leo Lynch, an award-winning columnist, is a native of Benton County and has deep roots in northwest Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the author. He is a retired industrial engineer and former Justice of the Peace.Editorial on 04/03/2019
Print Headline: Are elected officials listening to the common man?