OPINION | EDITORIAL: Flowers is the best mayoral candidate

If Pine Bluff was a sports team, the owners would have fired the coach long ago.

In that same vein, we recommend that you, the "owners" of Pine Bluff, take the city in a "different direction" on Tuesday by supporting Vivian Flowers for mayor over incumbent Shirley Washington.

Razorback coach Sam Pittman is as nice of a person as you would want to meet, so we have read. And yet, with one or two more 4-8 seasons as he had last year, he will likely be relegated to the history books.

Washington, as well, is a pleasant sort, so we have observed. But in the world of holding people accountable, we do not believe she deserves another four-year term on top of the eight mostly dismal years she has already had in office.

When she took office, Pine Bluff was losing population and jobs, businesses were leaving and there was a high crime rate. If anything, things have gotten worse. And our story has gone far and wide.

Over the past few years, Pine Bluff has been named "the murder capital of the U.S.," "the worst city in America," "the most dangerous city in America," "the most miserable city in America" and the "fastest-shrinking city in America." Our 28 homicides last year put us at more than 11 times the national average. Let that sink in.

We also find fault with her governing style in that she has shunned the body of the City Council as she stayed cozy with Go Forward Pine Bluff entities.

Almost in tandem with her eight years in office is the seven-year term of the Go Forward Pine Bluff-sponsored sales tax. The tax is said to have brought in around $30 million. As Go Forward officials are quick to say, everything Go Forward has done has been supported by the Pine Bluff City Council. That is true, and because of that, the buck stops at Washington's desk, meaning she could have used her authority to spend those tax dollars in ways that were at least less foolish than allowing the city to buy worthless properties and buildings downtown, a la Go Forward. You, citizens of Pine Bluff, are the proud owner of the old bus station, which sits on tainted ground, and the bombed out-looking Crown Motel, among other defunct properties and buildings.

You also own those three "renovated" buildings on Main Street that, at last check, would require a new owner to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on -- more than a million on one of them -- before moving in and using. Instead, she took a backseat to Go Forward, allowing them to dictate exactly how the public's tax dollars were spent. Soon, we're supposed to have a go-kart track. Happy?

Again, those dollars could have been used to add lighting and cameras to crime-ridden areas in an effort to stop murder and lawlessness. Or how about simply putting in sidewalks, getting rid of ditches, picking up litter and fixing the streets?

Or how about finishing what she started? Her grand proposal to turn the old First Ward School into a homeless shelter has fizzled. The shelter was the answer to what she said was a significant homeless population in Pine Bluff. Now it will open as a part-time day room where people can get a shower and wash clothes. That will be a benefit, but a day room is not a homeless shelter.

Vivian Flowers has preached transparency and accountability for years. Where Washington gaslights the public by saying the city was cleared of wrongdoing by the state Legislative Audit because of the way money was used in Pine Bluff, Flowers points out that no, that was not the case. Flowers was also against the Go Forward tax from the first because she saw that it lacked public input.

Not that Flowers is incapable of working with outside entities to make Pine Bluff better, but we do not believe Flowers will prostrate herself to those entities the way Washington has. In that sense, Flowers seems to be the whole package. Let's give her a chance to change Pine Bluff's trajectory, which is in dire need of a correction.

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