When Lines Get Blurred (Editorial)

Perhaps you read reporter Kate Knable's story last week about the city of North Little Rock promoting the sale to its residents of private insurance for water and sewer line repairs.

Or perhaps you read her story on Wednesday in which she sought to explain why Mayor Pat Hays appeared to be angry about the city's promotion of the insurance in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette when he didn't appear to be angry when he talked to Arkansas Business.

What changed in the interim? We suspect someone correctly took the city - and, by extension, the mayor - to task for endorsing the profit-making efforts of a private company after our story appeared last Monday.

Service Line Warranties of America of Canonsburg, Pa., entered into a marketing agreement with the city, an agreement that allowed the company to use the city's name to promote its water and sewer line warranty programs.

The alderman who pushed the idea, Maurice Taylor, seems sincere in his belief that the programs will benefit the residents of his ward should they face what can be hefty, unexpected repairs. But someone with some experience in city government - we're looking at you, Mayor Hays - should have explained to Taylor the potential pitfalls of promoting private enterprise using public resources.

Matthew Marchant, the mayor of the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, which ended its agreement with SLWA after about a year, did express his discomfort, saying, "Philosophically, I do not believe the city should be using its logo to benefit one company. When a municipality communicates with its citizens, I think there's a special relationship there."

We'd like to believe that special relationship was one of trust, and trust is too fragile to withstand city-backed marketing deals.