Wednesday, July 03, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Not helping Jacksonville

(This November 2012 editorial by Jonathan Feldman about a Jacksonville City Council candidate won first place for editorial writing from the Arkansas Press Association.)

We are not often so disappointed in a city council candidate that we feel obligated to inform readers of the likely pitfalls if he were elected. But Rizelle Aaron’s behavior has been deceitful and erratic since he entered Jacksonville’s political arena in 2009.

Aaron is running against Alderman Terry Sansing in Ward 2, Position 2 in a divisive campaign that is similar to many of Aaron’s civic endeavors. Aaron has been a disruptive voice who has set racial relations back 40 years or more.

Aaron has accused The Leader of bias, although our readers know that we have supported the African-American community since we started this newspaper 25 years ago.

We lauded the late Dr. Charles Hopson, the former superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, as he tried to improve the district before he was unfairly ousted by the state Education Department. We have recommended Jacksonville High School principal Henry Anderson as the next superintendent of PCSSD or as the head of a Jacksonville-area district when it wins approval in the courts.

The Leader has celebrated Arkansas’ African- American culture like no other newspaper in the state. We have covered the local chapter of the NAACP, the Dick Jeter community and a recent candidates forum at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. We also asked the hard questions about the fatal fire at the Max Howell Apartments where a black family of five perished.
Often we have written of the benefits of health-care reform, President Obama’s most controversial policy initiative that will help minorities and the poor.

We have written about the timeless music of the Arkansas Delta, from Albert King to Son Seals, who are seldom mentioned in the state media or in its history books.

Recently, we were informed by community members that Aaron was telling his supporters and opponents alike that he had sued the newspaper — presumably, The Leader — for reporting on his criminal background and false education credentials in 2010 when he briefly ran for mayor here. He denies saying he sued this newspaper, but we have reason to doubt him.

Aaron presumably felt we were pulling our punches because of the alleged lawsuit. Here are some highlights of his record that should concern Jacksonville residents:


Aaron often tells critics that he secretly records private conversations. It can be assumed he intends to embarrass anyone he felt had crossed him. The legality of secretly recording conversations aside, Aaron’s intentions are clear: He wants to threaten and intimidate his opponents, most of whom are city employees.


To address the challenges facing Jacksonville, city council members should have professional experience that can help provide insight for the development of the city’s economy, schools and infrastructure. Aaron hasn’t been employed during the few years that he has been politically active. These are hard times, but a professional background and experience are important for any candidate to bring to the council.

He says that he is a disabled veteran, yet he has campaigned all day in front of the community center. How can an under-employed candidate with little work experience help Jacksonville attract businesses?


We do not expect all city council members to have college degrees, but we do think they should be honest about their education. When he announced his candidacy for mayor, Aaron claimed to have a bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology from National University at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The school could not find him on their list of graduates.

To complicate matters further, on a Miranda warning waiver Aaron signed Nov. 19, 2007, he wrote that he had just one year of college.


During several Pulaski County Special School District board meetings that Aaron attended, he spoke against establishing an independent school district for Jacksonville, citing concerns that racial disparities could return if local officials were to manage the district. He would have us believe that school officials in Little Rock have Jacksonville’s educational interests in mind. More likely, he opposed an independent district because the mayor, like thousands of other Jacksonville residents, supports the plan.

Aaron would rather oppose city officials at every opportunity than see that he shares some goals with those he fervently wants to turn out of office. He has since changed his position and is now in favor of creating a separate Jacksonville district, as he said during a recent candidates forum. Jacksonville deserves better.