This interview is the second in an ongoing series that will help us all learn a little more about who’s running for mayor here in Fayetteville. Look for a new interview every couple of days (i.e. as soon as these folks respond). Links to these interviews will be easily accessible in the Mayoral Candidate Zone located in the sidebar over there to the right.
In order to create a repository of information rather than a battlefield for supporters, comments will be closed on these interviews.
Fayetteville Flyer: How long have you lived in Fayetteville?
Dan Coody: I have lived in Fayetteville, and have loved every minute of it, for over 20 years. I have been politically active from the beginning. I was first elected to the Fayetteville Council under the City Manager form of government in 1990 and I have worked to make our community more progressive ever since. As a City Director I talked to our mayor and city manager in 1991 about starting an alternative transportation system. The concept was poo-pooed as an unrealistic waste of money. Think of where we would be now if we had started our trails program 17 years ago! Also, I helped pass Fayetteville’s first smoking ordinance in 1992. Until then one could smoke anywhere, including in our grocery stores and banks.
During this time, Deborah and I bought and restored old homes downtown. One was 215 N. East, which we still own. The19th century home had been “remuddled” into several apartments and the poor old thing was suffering from decades of neglect. Now it is home to counselors, non-profits, architects, with some residential use. Another was a 1905 house that was halfway torn down just off Dickson St. We rebuilt and sold it to buy a wooded tract of land on Mt. Sequoyah. We built for ourselves a very small home that was in keeping with our low-impact, energy-conscience lifestyle. Everything was built in with clear-finish cherry woodwork, heated with a very high efficiency wood stove, and cooled by ceiling fans. It felt like we were living in a vacation cottage. We were there for 9 years and it is the best place we have ever lived. It was 586 square feet. After my dad and brother died, we built a place next door where I could move my mom up here so Deborah and I could look after her. She lived here for about 7 years. She loved Fayetteville.
We also developed part of this land into one of Fayetteville’s first low-impact developments called Sequoyah Preserve. We built a narrow street along the contour with natural drainage, heavy tree preservation, and covenants for living in a wooded site. It is a great place, with great neighbors, to have next door.
FF: I write a music column and I always ask every band I interview what they’ve been listening to lately. So, what about you? Any favorites? Any local favorites?
DC: My favorites are jazz (especially piano), acoustic Ozark mountain music, Texas Swing, Heavy Russian Classical Piano, and complex indigenous folk music, like Bulgarian. Favorite piece is Barber’s Adagio for Strings. My favorite local musicians are Claudia Burson and Co., Nathan McCleod, all the local acoustic Ozark music groups, Jura Margulis, and many more. The Summer Jazz Concert last night showcased local musicians and their compositions. It was incredible. Thank you, Robert Ginsberg and the NWA Jazz Society! Fayetteville has a wealth of talent that needs to be shown to the rest of the world. If I win another term, I will work to start a regional music festival that highlights our homegrown artists and brings in other top talent for all of us to enjoy.
FF: You’ve been around here long enough to know where to get a good bite to eat. Where would you take a newcomer to Fayetteville? Any favorite local dishes?
DC: Favorite dish? Pa Nang Curry (#19, 4 or 5 star, extra peas) at Taste of Thai. Best coffee? Turkish (with Baklava), at Petra Cafe. Coolest design is Bordino’s, Best Post and Beam and beer is Haug Haus. Best Hole-in-the-Wall, Colombia Mex Mercado. Best Mexican Breakfast, El Camino Real.
FF: Are you a Razorback fan? If so, have you ever called the Hogs? It’s OK if you haven’t. We have a friend who is a die-hard fan but who’d never be seen uttering the words “Woo Pig Sooie.”
DC: I love watching the Razorbacks play, both in-person and on T.V. My favorite is basketball. Watching the incredible athleticism of those young men and women is awe inspiring. My dad was a big track star in school and made his way through college during the Depression on scholarships for track, basketball, and football. After he died I found old letters from Coach Thompson trying to recruit him from Texas to play for Arkansas in the 30’s. It’s a small world.
I have taught many visiting dignitaries to call the Hogs. They laugh out loud every time. A great time is had by all.
FF: We read on your blog that you’ve done a fair amount of traveling over the past year. What are some of your favorite destinations?
DC: I have been invited to visit several places to represent Fayetteville. Being an ambassador for the city is a new thing for a Fayetteville mayor. That is a key reason we have gotten on so many progressive maps and have attracted the attention of so many international green companies lately. Almost all of the trips have been paid for by those who do the inviting. My favorite was the trip to Alaska (paid for by the mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich (D), who is challenging Ted Stevens (R) for his Senate seat) with about 20 other mayors to see the effects of global warming first hand. That gathering was filmed by and is shown on the Sundance Channel. I addressed a national climate protection summit in Seattle about Fayetteville’s work on urban planning as it relates to environmental impact. On July 28th, I am addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some members of Congress on the importance of increasing Federal investment in water infrastructure for cities such as Fayetteville. Water is going to be the biggest “next big thing” ever. If we do not conserve, protect our watershed and our water supply, and invest in our infrastructure for the future, we are setting ourselves up for some unnecessarily hard times, much like we have done with oil and energy. The biggest difference is, we can live for a week without oil. Try doing that without water.
FF: There is a perception among some that Little Rock has overtaken Fayetteville as the new cultural center of Arkansas. Do you agree or disagree?
DC: I have not heard this before. Of course, the Presidential Library is great, and there are some good galleries and restaurants there, as you would expect for a city so much larger than Fayetteville. In my opinion, pound for pound, Fayetteville is the best in the state but there is still lots of room for improvement. The WAC is the busiest art center in Arkansas, and I continually keep up pressure to make Fayetteville a more visible home for the arts. That’s one reason I helped initiate the Fayetteville Arts Council. Public art is finally coming into play with the Peace Fountain, the Steve Hoover sculpture on Center-Prairie trail, and hopefully, incorporated into the rebuilding of College Ave. I support the 1% for art movement, which means that 1% of a construction project’s cost is earmarked for public art. Also, having an affordable place for artists to produce work is key for our artistic future. Deborah and I actively participate in the arts community. We have not missed an arts festival in Fayetteville and we always take something home and we support local theater performances.
FF: What was the last book you read and how was it?
DC: I am reading a book now called, “Apollo’s Fire; Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy”
A great book is a biography of General LaFayette by Nathan Lane. It is a “must read” for anyone interested in American history. The influence he had on the New World and Europe is hard to comprehend. He was born into great wealth and aristocracy, but dedicated his life and his fortune to change the world. After helping us win our independence (at the age of 19) he helped bring liberty to Europe, worked against slavery and for women’s’ equality throughout his life. He was centuries ahead of his time.
FF: Have you seen the new Batman movie? If so, what’d you think? If
not, what are you waiting for?!
DC: Deborah and I made a vow several years ago not to go to a movie until we could secure a stadium seating theater here. I started calling on Malco and Regal in 2001 to encourage them to upgrade Fayetteville’s theaters. Remember the Razorback 6? It makes my feet stick to the floor just thinking about it. It took so long to get them to commit (6 years), we got out of the habit of going to the movies! I have gone once (Ironman) and the new theater is GREAT! We will go more often when we have more time.
The new theater has been a boon for us. It has spurred new development at the mall area, helped boost our tax revenue and it is a much better place to watch a movie!
FF: You’ve been mayor of Fayetteville for nearly 8 years now. Is there one accomplishment you can think of that you are most proud of?
DC: I can think of many accomplishments I am very proud of but the most important is the city’s sustainability effort. Cities under 250,000 can’t relate to the green movements of Chicago, Seattle, Miami, or L.A. But they can relate to Fayetteville. That’s one reason we have become a national leader in this field. Our successes have been recognized by the N.Y. Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, USA Today, GreenBiz.com, Sotokoto (a Japanese environmental lifestyle magazine), MediaZoo (U.K.), and many others. The International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives held their annual conference here last summer and it attracted 160 city leaders from all over the country, from Alaska to Florida, Santa Monica to Maryland. It was great that Fayetteville won the inaugural national Mayor’s Climate Protection Award in L.A. in 2007. That really helped secure our position as leaders in the sustainability movement. When we make progress here and it is copied in other towns, that multiplies our efforts and that’s good for everyone. It is crucial that we do as much work as we can to conserve energy, develop renewable fuels and alternative transportation, turn wastes into resources, and design efficient buildings. Enormous opportunities to capitalize on the new, green economy are at our door. Of all the reasons I am running for another term, one of the most important is to continue the momentum to firmly establish Fayetteville’s future in the coming Green Economy. This would not only secure a diverse and sustainable economic base, it would help us protect our environmental future. Everyone else can talk a good game. But my track record is one of the best in the country. There is absolutely no doubt that this very important work will continue if I am re-elected.
FF: These days, everyone has a blog. Heck, you have one yourself. What do you think about small, community-based blogs? Do you see them as a benefit to local residents or do you believe that community journalists could do more harm than good?
DC: Whether a blog is good and helpful for a community depends on the integrity
of the bloggers. Those who try to understand the truth, ask meaningful questions, disseminate factual information, and express thoughtful opinions are very important for everyone. I thank the Fayetteville Flyer for doing just that. Those who dispense hateful accusations and conspiracy theories as fact are corrosive to the democratic process and diminish the credibility of this valuable public forum. Blogs are beginning to compete with the standard information format of print and television. It is important to differentiate between mean-spirited, personally motivated rants and substantive, thoughtful dialogue.
In closing, I would like to add that I am pleased that all the other candidates have climbed onto the bandwagon for keeping Fayetteville on its present course. For those of you who were not here 8 years ago, the course we are now on, toward a better quality of life, a greener future, an economy that can withstand a national downturn, and efficient service delivery, has not happened by accident. While my opponents will insist we need to change leadership, few will say we need to change direction. But if we change leaders, a change of direction is inevitable. Passion, perspective, and experience are not transferable. I am the only candidate who you know will keep our course and continue to seek improvement in those areas where we need it.