Friday, April 27, 2007

Big Bucks Bonanza in Bentonville

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott received a $22 million bonus this year allegedly because of the corporation’s 2006 sales figures, not its earnings or stock price - both of which were pretty much flat. No information is available on the increase in salary, bonus, or benefits awarded to “associates” who actually work in stores and handle the sales.

Yesterday, the Bentonville-based corporation filed a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission about CEO Scott’s big bonus, claiming that “Our associates respect that Wal-Mart has a well-recognized culture of opportunity. They are proud that their CEO started as a manager in the trucking division and has stayed with the company for 28 years. They’re also proud that his leadership -- through sustainability initiatives and the $4 prescription drug program -- reflects the company’s purpose of saving people money so they can live better.”

Wal-Mart does not claim that they are paying low wages so that their employees “can live better,” and there is some serious question about the efficacy of its low-wage culture. Professors James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler III, at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, have a fascinating commentary on, "Low Costs Versus High Wages?," where they almost snicker that “Wal-Mart Stores' CEO argues that he has ‘no choice’ but to pay low wages to meet his customers' demand for low prices.

“Although offering minimal wages and benefits is the most common way companies try to lower their costs, our recent study of American management practices reveals that such bottom feeding may not be the most effective strategy. In fact, low wages paradoxically generate a variety of negative employee behaviors that add to the overall cost of doing business.”

You won’t hear anything like this coming from the UA Walton College of Business, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart, but the study by the USC professors found that in “almost all industries, productive, higher-paid workers can more than cover the costs of their salaries and benefits, if they are managed appropriately. For example, Costco Wholesale pays its workers $17 an hour on average, while its competitor, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club, pays only $10 an hour on average; 85% of Costco employees enjoy company-provided health insurance, compared with less than half of the workers at Sam's Club. Significantly, these high wages and benefits do not come out of the pockets of Costco's shareholders. In fact, Costco has outperformed Wal-Mart on the stock market over the last five years. The real reason for the difference in compensation and benefits is that Costco employees have much lower turnover, better interaction with customers and are more productive than Wal-Mart's workers.”

The USC professors don’t directly address the added corporate costs of spying on employees, but they do note that because “Sam's Club employees require layers of close supervision, they are much less productive than Costco's largely self-managing workers. The results speak for themselves: Costco generates slightly more sales than Sam's with 38% fewer employees.”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stone Soup for Seven Hills

Get your Stone Soup tickets now. The annual fun-fund raiser event for the Seven Hills Homeless Center is set for Saturday, May 5th, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at George's Majectic Lounge on Dickson Street. Tickets are only $20, and that includes gourmet soup from several Fayetteville restaurants, a keepsake soup mug, live music by "Recovery," and a silent auction for cool stuff that you didn't know your needed.

It sucks to be homeless. Come on out to George's and have a good time while doing good for our community. Seven Hills Homeless Center provides a place of shelter and support, where individuals and families in need can receive the compassion, guidance, information, and assistance that will allow them to overcome obstacles and set them on the road to a healthy, stable, and productive life. Your contributions will help them to continue doing that.

Tickets are available at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, and they’ll probably let you pay at the door, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sex Discrimination in UA Faculty Salaries?

The Northwest Arkansas Times reports today that the employee union at the University of Arkansas is whining about the fact that women faculty members are paid less than male professors. The union sent a letter to Chancellor John White asking him why women were paid less than men, who approved those salaries, and why the salary gap is getting even worse on his watch--men make an average of $11,000 more annually for recent hires.

White was "unavailable" to comment when the reporter called him, but the call was shuffled off to Provost Bob Smith. Smith's explanation was laughable. Sideshow Bob said, "It may be something we have as baggage from the past." Right, Bob. That sure explains why the salary gap for women is worse this year than last, or why it is greatest at the Assistant Professor level where all of the faculty have been hired since 2000.

Why don't the UA Board and Administration, mostly rich white guys, just admit that they pay men more than women because that's what they've always done and the way they think it should be? Instead of pretending that they actually care about sex discrimination, why don't they just tell the press, the union, and the women faculty to STFU? No one any longer expects a straight answer from them anyway, and no one expects them to get the idea of equal pay for women.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Celebration of Excellence

The Fayetteville Public Education Foundation thanked donors and awarded more than $103,000 in grants and scholarships at its Celebration of Excellence banquet last night.

Major donations that were recognized included $140,000 from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation for new computer labs at Fayetteville High School, and George and Rosemary Faucette were recognized for a $10,000 contribution to the foundation.

For the 2007-2008 school year, the foundation awarded 44 grants totaling $92,164 to teachers at the district’s schools. The largest individual grant given was $7,011 to Fayetteville High School librarian Cassandra Barnett for digital audio materials. The smallest individual award was $295 to Annee Littell of Leverett Elementary School for a project titled “Getting Parents Reading to Their Children.” The foundation also awarded several college scholarships to high school seniors.

The Fayetteville Public Education Foundation is a blessing to our community and for our children. Your donations are much appreciated and are well applied to improving public education. Send another check to FPEF, P.O. Box 571, Fayetteville, AR 72702.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Three Strikes for Diversity and Fairness at UA

Last year, the University of Arkansas Faculty Senate reported that the number of teaching faculty had been reduced and the number of administrators had grown significantly since John White became Chancellor. In fact, they found that the UA had more administrators than faculty members.

Then, despite all the yammering about how the UA was committed to increasing diversity among the student body, the number of African-American students (and basketball coaches) dropped below what it was the previous year.

Now comes a report that male faculty members are paid considerably more than female faculty members at all academic ranks. The greatest discrepancy is among the new hires in the recent years of the John White era. Among faculty at the Assistant Professor level, men average $66,000 (that's more than the average for female Associate Professors), and women average only $55,000--that is to say, women make 83 cents for every dollar men are paid.

Both male and female faculty members at the UA are paid an average of $12,000 less than their faculty colleagues in the Southern University Group.

So, White Boy White's billion dollar legacy is now clear: (1) rampant growth of high-paid administrators, (2) a higher ratio of students to faculty, (3) a less diverse student population, and (4) growing disparity in pay for women faculty.

Bentonville Book Banners

It appears that Benton County, the intellectual vortex of Northwest Arkansas, faces greater cultural threats than just those challenged high school science textbooks that discuss evolution. A Bentonville man named Earl Adams claims that his 14- and 16-year-old sons, Kyle and Ryan, looked at a dangerous book while browsing for material on military academies. He has complained to the mayor and demanded that the city pay him $20,000.

According to the complaint, his sons glanced at The Whole Lesbian Sex Book by Felice Newman. "My sons were greatly disturbed by viewing this material, and this matter has caused many sleepless nights in our house," he said. Led by George Spence, Chairman of the Benton County Republican Committee, the Bentonville Library Advisory Board members voted unanimously April 3 to remove the book from circulation.

Even the local newspaper expressed surprise that a library advisory board would be exercising such power based on a single complaint and is seeking additional authority to remove even more books that anyone might charge contains ideas that someone finds objectionable. It will be an intellectually stagnant community where one can read only books that are unanimously approved. That might be just what the politicans, preachers, and business "leaders" want in Benton County.

"God was speaking to my heart that day and helped me find the words that proved successful in removing this book from the shelf," Adams said. "Any effort to reinstate the book will be met with legal action and protests from the Christian community."

Library Director Cindy Suter,
who led the effort for the new $9 million, 38,000-square-foot Bentonville Library that opened in October, resigned on Monday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mayor John Gray: Courage and Common Sense

In a time when Rogers Mayor Steve Womack is whipping up fears against Hispanic residents and Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody is flip-flopping on every important issue, it is refreshing to see a public official speaking truth and taking a stand for the right thing. An editorial in today's Northwest Arkansas Times praises the courage and common sense of Greenland Mayor John Gray, pointing out that he has championed a moratorium on new subdivisions until Greenland can update its master land use plan and has raised concerns about inadequate wastewater treatment in some proposed developments.

He chose to take a course that he felt would protect the future of his town. ...So far he’s come out smelling like a rose — and all because he followed the common-sense course. It counts that Gray had nerve enough to say something that could be detrimental to the city’s economy, at least in the short term. Gray has managed to make his first real difference as mayor. He helped convince all the city’s aldermen to temporarily put a freeze on some development until key issues get worked out. Gray’s right, too: We ought to care at least as much about the future as we do about the present. ...We appreciate that Greenland officials are not blinded to the potential for long-term damage if good, solid planning doesn’t happen today."

The big city mayors to the north could learn something from John Gray.

Too Much Science for Rogers Public Schools

The Rogers School Board approved 21 science textbooks for use in Rogers public schools, but that might be too much science and not enough Genesis for some local folks. Rogers School Board President Joye Kelley says she wants a district committee to review a set of supplemental materials that attack evolutionary theory then recommend whether to incorporate the materials into the district’s secondary science curriculum.

To offset the scientific evidence of evolution presented in all 21 high school science textbooks, a local dentist wants students exposed to a 36-page handout and a corresponding DVD produced by the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle outfit that spends $1.6 million a year looking at Intelligent Design and Creationism arguments. These are the materials that Kelley wants reviewed for consideration. She should also ask the school board's attorney to review the cost of certain litigation.

Now You Can Get an MBA in Outsourcing

The University of Arkansas Walton College of Business has announced a new Executive Masters in Business Administration program in Shanghai to help U. S. companies develop needed management talent in their Chinese ventures. “The curriculum has been specifically tailored to meet the needs of U. S. companies that have operations there,” said Chancellor John A. White. With Wal-Mart and other corporations buying so many foreign goods or shipping manufacturing jobs overseas, the UA recognizes an opportunity to be helpful to the economic interests of the powerful business community.

Beth Keck, Wal-Mart senior director of international corporate affairs, said, “There’s a great need for supply-chain management and retail management.” The UA program will be beneficial as Wal-Mart and other companies expand their presence in China, she said. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Kimberly-Clark, and other corporations have committed to sending rising executives to the program, which costs $50,000.

If the China MBA program is successful, the University may consider expanding other master of business administration programs to other countries such as Russia and India. “We need to do what we can to connect Arkansas to the world,” said Chancellor White.

White did not mention any UA degree programs being offered for Arkansas workers who lose their jobs when Wal-Mart buys massive quantities of Chinese goods or their suppliers close factories in the United States and move their manufacturing operations overseas.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Celebrate Earth Day - Sunday, April 22

The Town Branch Neighborhood Association, Audubon Arkansas, Ozark Headwaters Group of the Sierra Club, and OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology have joined to sponsor and invite you to attend the Earth Day Celebration. It will be held at the World Peace Wetland Prairie, Sunday, April 22nd, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Come on down for Celtic Music, Guided Nature Walks, Planting Trees, Shrubs, and Native Grasses to Restore the Natural Habitat, and other assorted fun and games for the entire family. Bring a picnic, blanket, or lawn chairs. World Peace Wetland Prairie is located at 1121 S. Duncan Avenue. Turn south off of Sixth Street at Brenda's Bigger Better Burgers onto Hill Avenue; turn west on 11th Street to S. Duncan and go about 100 feet. See you there!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Salman Rushdie Speaks at Fayetteville

Salman Rushdie will discuss his experience and how it relates to "The Role of the Writer in the 21st Century" as part of the University of Arkansas Distinguished Lecture Series. Rushdie will speak at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at the Fayetteville Town Center. The lecture is free and open to the public, so don't miss it.

Rushdie was condemned to death in 1989 by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued a "fatwa" - a religious decree - calling on Muslims to execute Rushdie for insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammed in his novel "The Satanic Verses." Rushdie went into hiding in England for much of the next decade, only gradually re-emerging into public life during the last seven years, after the fatwa was lifted in 1998.

Rushdie was born in India to a middle-class Muslim family. He was educated in England, graduated from Cambridge, lived in London and published his first novel in 1975. His second novel, "Midnight's Children," won the Booker prize and was an international best seller. The death sentence that followed publication of "The Satanic Verses" made him an international celebrity at the same time that it forced him out of the public eye. He has published several novels, books of essays and nonfiction as well as a children's book in the years since the fatwa was issued. He moved to the United States in 2000, and now lives in New York. His most recent novel is "Shalimar the Clown," another international best-seller.

During his visit to the University of Arkansas, Rushdie will hold a question and answer session with students at 3:30 p.m. in the School of Law courtroom. He will also hold a news conference at 5 p.m. in Room 342 of the School of Law.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sierra Club Rates Local Legislators

Arkansas Sierra Club has released its Legislative Report card on the 2007 Arkansas General Assembly, and it reveals mixed results for Northwest Arkansas legislators--the best and the worst of the lot.

State Representative Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville) had a 100% Sierra Club voting record this session, as she did in the 2005 session. Representative Jim House (D-Fayetteville) also had an admirable record, supporting the environmental group's position 77% of the time.

The worst records in both chambers were also from our area. State Senator Bill Pritchard (R-Elkins) had the worst record in the senate at 22%. In the House, Daryl Pace (R-Siloam Springs) and Mike Kenney (R-Siloam Springs) who represents northwest Washington County were at the bottom of the House rankings at 8%.

Environmental Voting Records of Northwest Arkansas Legislators
Rep. Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville) 100%
Rep. Jim House (D-Fayetteville) 77%
Sen. Sue Madison (D-Fayetteville) 56%
Rep. Marilyn Edwards (D-Fayetteville) 54%
Rep. Jon Woods (R-Springdale) 54%
Rep. Bryan King (R-Berryville) 54%
Rep. Keven Anderson (R-Rogers) 46%
Rep. Donna Hutchinson (R-Bella Vista) 46%
Rep. Aaron Burkes (R-Garfield) 38%
Rep. Eric Harris (R-Springdale) 38%
Rep. Mark Martin (R-Prairie Grove) 38%
Sen. Ruth Whitaker (R-Cedarville) 33%
Sen. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette) 33%
Sen. David Bisbee (R-Rogers) 33%
Rep. Horace Hardwick (R-Bentonville) 31%
Rep. Roy Ragland (R-Marshall) 31%
Sen. Bill Pritchard (R-Elkins) 22%
Rep. Daryl Pace (R-Siloam Springs) 8%
Rep. Mike Kenney (R-Siloam Springs) 8%

Rob Moritz has an article in the Morning News on environmental votes in the 2007 session.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fayetteville Citizens Pass Impact Fees

Fayetteville voters appear to have passed the ordinance assessing road impact fees on new developments by a one-vote margin. The preliminary but uncertified totals are 2,015 FOR impact fees and 2.014 AGAINST.

“This is a good win no matter what happens,” said Alderman Lioneld Jordan, the primary sponsor of the fees to make developers pay their fair share for creating sprawl and traffic congestion.

Those supporting the ordinance reported spending about $1,000 for one newspaper ad, a website, and some handbills. The opponents, led by real estate developers and salesmen, spent more than $40,000 on radio, television, newspapers, and outdoor ads in their unsuccessful effort to defeat the measure.

The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and its captive Fayetteville Economic Development Council, a group partially funded by public tax dollars from the city and additional public funds from the UA.

"It’s unbelievable, ” said Mike Henry, a local realtor who led the fight against the impact fees. "I mean the voters have spoken, so if that’s the way it worked out then that’s the way it worked out."

In addition to the real estate interests who blew $40,000 in the failed campaign, the other big losers are Mayor Dan Coody, who displayed a total lack of leadership, and Alderman Adella Gray, who broke her campaign promise to support impact fees.

Celebrating Intellectual Freedom

The Big Read kicks off with Judith Krug on Intellectual Freedom. Saturday, April 14 at 10 AM. Fayetteville Public Library, 401 W. Mountain. St. (571.2222 /

Judith Krug, executive director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, will be the keynote speaker as the Fayetteville Public Library kicks off The Big Read on Saturday, April 14 at 10 a.m. A staunch supporter of educating the public about their rights to free access of all expressions and ideas, Krug will speak about the freedom to read. .

Krug will also be joined during her discussion by local residents Cassandra Barnett, a Fayetteville High School librarian, Mark Killinbeck, a University of Arkansas law professor, and Drs. Kathleen Paulson and Janet Titus, who will speak about freedom of speech.

The Fayetteville Public Library will host activities April 14-21 that relate to the themes of Fahrenheit 451. The events include "17 on the 17th," 17 book discussions throughout Fayetteville on April 17; a talk by Nancy Giles, a radio, film and television personality who also provides commentary for Sunday Morning on CBS; a screening of Good Night, and Good Luck with a panel discussion about American life during the McCarthy era; storytimes with local firefighters; a screening of the 1966 movie version of Fahrenheit 451 and a performance of Ray Bradbury's The Pedestrian directed by Kassie Misiewicz of TheatreSquared.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Live Forum on Road Impact Fees

Perhaps you've experienced the traffic congestion resulting from population growth in Fayetteville as residents of outlying subdivisions make their way to work, school, or shopping. Maybe you think we need road improvements to handle all this traffic resulting from growth and development? Maybe you wonder how we will pay for the new infrastructure, or just wonder how the city government will stick to the taxpayers this time?

The Fayetteville Government Channel (Channel 16 on Cox Fayetteville) will present a live forum on the topic, "Who Pays for Fayetteville's Street Improvements and Public Infrastructure?" The easy answer is--you do, every time you buy groceries or anything else, because we are paying a regressive sales tax to pay off over $60 million in bonds to make up for past mistakes and unbridled development.

The real question to be discussed is "Should the Developers Keep Getting a Free Ride or Start Paying Their FAIR SHARE with Road Impact Fees?"

Tune in at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4th, to watch the discussion. Kyle Kellams, KUAF Radio Host and News Director, will be the moderator. You can also ask questions and make comments during the forum by calling 575-8299 or emailing:

If you are a registered voter in Fayetteville, you get to decide. The election on Road Impact Fees is on April 10th.