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Air Conditioning for Hot Springs Tenants

Public health & safety not a concern to state legislator

At the (recent) city board meeting, Mayor McCabe’s job is not to weigh in on the issues but to simply take the vote. At Tuesday’s board meeting, he pushed directors for a motion to table an ordinance proposed by Director Phyllis Beard requiring landlords to provide cooling 15° below the outside temperature. But the most egregious act by the mayor was denying the rights of citizens and tenants of Greenbriar apartments to speak. Presumably because the local ABC affiliate had video cameras there. Citizens were given some vague excuses of “unintended consequences,” that hinted of a backroom meeting without Director Beard who had proposed the ordinance. Once the table was measured, the businessman, Richard McGrew, who had come in to speak against the ordinance, didn’t even bother to stay for the rest of the meeting, well, at least inside of city hall.

McGrew was there, also to speak, though he couldn’t get the opportunity without the citizens getting the opportunity. He sat on the left side of the room and clearly felt as though he had won something. Representative McGrew had on his public servant cap just to get him political power. Businessman is a hat that does not come off. McGrew is alleged to have admitted that requiring his low-income rental units to have adequate air conditioning would be too much of a burden on his business. Speaking personally to one of his tenants, I learned that despite having a young toddler, they went without air conditioning for over two weeks. I also learned of rampant roaches, unusable driveways, and intimidation tactics by his property manager who is unlicensed, in part thanks to McGrew’s work in the state legislature.

To be fair, McGrew’s legislative salary pales compared to the money he makes on state contracts and for being a slumlord. So, it certainly was not the low income or fixed income residents that he showed up to represent at the Hot Springs City Board meeting. He was not there as our public servant. He was there because his properties are so poorly maintained that some realtors around town just do not do business with McGrew Properties. It is because they’re aware of inhumane living conditions. Only a slumlord would show up to defend an out of state slumlord and yet another unlicensed property manager. That McGrew takes advantage of our most vulnerable population seems to be a well-known and unhidden secret.

Phyllis Beard stood her ground calmly yet passionately, for the residents of Greenbriar Apartments. The apartments are known for terrible maintenance issues and poor living conditions, according to a friend and former resident of the apartments. And when Greenbriar apartment tenants complained, they were evicted. Yes, this is legal. Should it be? That’s not the most important argument today. Inventing an air conditioning charge and having maintenance workers remove their air conditioners in 102-degree weather is unconscionable but a win for McGrew Properties. Who wasn’t it a win for? Well, the family of a homicide victim being laid to rest on Saturday. One grandmother’s doctor wrote a note citing health concerns if her air conditioner were turned off. The doctor’s concerns were ignored. It was a shame seeing board members in nice cold air-conditioned City Hall condemning the vulnerable population to deadly heat. I wish City Director Garcia had been there.

Here's the conundrum; it’s possible that the city board does not have authority on this issue, and shorter grass is all they really want to vote for. If it’s the state legislature’s jurisdiction, they are currently not in session. You can call on Governor Huckabee to call an emergency session if you like wasting your time. Or call AG Griffin, who is in charge of protecting consumers in Arkansas. But what the residents need is help with deposits because they are on a fixed income and when they move, they lose housing vouchers. You can call on local landlords you know to accept more section 8 vouchers.

You can donate food directly to the residents at: 315 Convention Blvd, HS AR 71901 or you can donate to their fund here:

“Ya’ll have no idea how much it means to have support from people we have never even met. It shows there is still faith in Humanity. Everything big or small is deeply appreciated, prayers included,” said one tenant.

Let your city board member know that neither Richard McGrew nor any other slumlord belongs on that ad hoc committee. And whatever you do, show up to vote in November. Demand tenants’ rights and vote out Richard McGrew.

Cortney Warwick McKee

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