Although a resolution declaring Pine Bluff a “Safe” city was pulled by its sponsor before the final meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council this year, two speakers still opposed the legislation.
Council member Steven Mays had introduced the resolution which, among other things, declared that no city employee or law enforcement officer “should inquire of an individual seeking services, or with whom he or she otherwise interacts, the individual’s resident status, unless such an inquiry is required by Arkansas or Federal law.”
Mays pulled the proposal during a meeting of the Ordinances and Resolutions Committee which took place before the regular council meeting Monday and Mayor Shirley Washington announced that prior to public comments and two of them were unfavorable.
“We voted you into office to serve us, the people,” said Mike Adam. “Vote this down.”
The Rev. Jesse Turner was also critical, saying that the legislation was an attempt to “back door Pine Bluff as a sanctuary city which would have a grave impact on federal funds.”
Since the proposed resolution began by saying residents of the community should “be free of the fear of being ripped from their homes and returned to hostile and potentially deadly environments,” Turner asked Mays for “any knowledge he had about residents being ripped from their homes.
Turner suggested that instead of this kind of legislation, Mays should “find businesses to replace those that have left,” citing Sears and J. C. Penny, and also saying he had heard that Lowe’s was also leaving. That statement brought a number of council members to tell Turner that Lowe’s was in fact not leaving.
On another subject, Mays and Council Member Bruce Lockett cast the only two no votes on a resolution calling on the Mayor to negotiate an agreement with the Urban Renewal Agency to increase the removal of public nuisances (condemned buildings) in the Urban Renewal area.
Although he voted for the resolution, Council Member Ivan Whitfield said he had several concerns, including the fact that while the city has given Urban Renewal funds from the five-eights cent (Go Forward) sales tax, the city now has to negotiate with Urban Renewal to get things done.
“That doesn’t sound right,” Whitfield said.
He also said that he believed Urban Renewal should hire their own attorney instead of using the city attorney.
Whitfield was assured that any agreement between the city and Urban Renewal would be presented to the full council which would have to approve it.
Lockett said he opposed the resolution because he had a problem with a public entity like Urban Renewal “going into the demolition business.”
He also said that since Urban Renewal bought equipment to perform demolition with tax money, he did not see how the city would be able to recoup the costs associated with the demolition.
Mays described Urban Renewal as a “government inside our government. There’s a bunch of confusion and something’s not right.”