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OPINION | MIKE ORNDORFF: Say no to Issue 1

Force ArDOT back to the table by MIKE ORNDORFF SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | October 16, 2020 at 3:00 a.m.

I start most mornings by meditating for a few minutes before stretching for a light exercise. Typically our toddler Boden is in the background giggling as he plays with my wife Alex.

But on some mornings when it's quiet and the wind is blowing right, I hear the traffic from I-30 and I-630. From our front porch in the Pettaway neighborhood of Little Rock, we can see both interstates.

I push our toddler in a stroller four or five times a week as we go on a run or walk. Every time we cross the walking bridge over I-630 I pray a prayer of gratitude. While others spend hours of their week sitting in traffic, we get to spend extra quality time together that is good for our bodies and friendly to the environment. I'm so thankful that my wife and I get to live in a place that is walking distance from where I work and less than a three-mile drive from where she works.

For over a month now, as Boden and I cross the river bridge next to the Clinton Presidential Center, we've noticed construction equipment getting shipped in and the cranes beginning their work for the widening of I-30. It's been hard for us to watch.

Selfishly I cringe at the thought of increasing the number of lanes from six to 10 and even 12 in some places. I thought for sure we had learned that this pattern of development was unsustainable and a bad investment. But Little Rock is doubling down on a failed model.

For years we've voiced issue with the plan. We've written letters and attended many of the meetings held for public input that turned out to be a mere checking of the boxes before the plan was shoved down our throats.

Our neighborhood is plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the construction. We tried everything we could to find a better resolution. Some neighbors that are architects took the time to draw out a very appealing and safe alternative that would help traffic get into the city faster and make the drive through Little Rock more appealing as well as safer. The suggestion fell on deaf ears.

The fallout hasn't even begun once commuters from Saline and Lonoke counties begin to recognize that they will deal with added commute time for the next four years only to not get into the city any faster. They are going to be furious. ArDOT knows this widening plan doesn't benefit commuters; you can't add lanes and reduce exits and expect to relieve traffic. This widening plan benefits interstate commerce from Memphis and Missouri to Texas. Arkansans are paying for it.

No one listened to public outcry, and the lawsuit was thrown out. The only thing left is to vote no on Issue 1 on Nov. 3, remove at least one-third of the I-30 widening budget ($350,000), and force ArDOT to come back to the table.

If for no other reason, Arkansans should vote no because this tax is permanent. Never again will ArDOT have to ask for permission. Additionally, Arkansans should be upset with the misallocation of the spending of this statewide tax, with much of the revenue going toward a seven-mile stretch in Little Rock. Seems like a raw deal for rural Arkansas dealing with its own maintenance issues.

I'm glad to pay my share toward building safe roads. I enjoy traveling and the things we purchase locally that got here by way of big box trucks. But this is a bad plan, and it is very disappointing to see a Republican Legislature work to have a permanent tax increase placed on the ballot.

We read the children's book "The Lorax" with Boden often, and there is a line that stands out, where the Once-ler tells the Lorax, "I'm figuring on biggering and biggering and biggering." It's all so simple, these lessons we teach our children from birth, yet somewhere along the way we forget what we were taught and what we teach.

On Election Day, let's remember, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Vote no on Issue 1.


Mike Orndorff is a downtown Little Rock home builder and developer.


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