Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Headline of the Day

”UA graduate student goes after U.S. Senate seat against Rep. Boozman”

The Arkansas Traveler, Page 1

That would be a neat trick.

And a tip of the hat to Uncle Walt, who asks whether the educational lapse is in the Journalism Department or the Political Science Department up on the hill.

Jeff Koenig Withdraws from Mayor's Race

We have been hearing rumors recently that one of the mayoral candidates would drop out, but it was not Jeff Koenig. His announcement yesterday that health concerns have led him to forgo the campaign this year came as a surprise. Koenig is a likeable guy and was a serious contender; he probably would have been able to spend enough money to make the runoff. I would not have voted for him, but I never doubted his sincerity nor his ability to make a valuable contribution to the public dialog about important issues during the campaign.

Speculation is rife about how Koenig's premature withdrawal from the campaign will affect the other candidates' chances and who his backers might now support. One thing that we don't have to guess about is how the other candidates responded to the news and what that says about them.

When contacted by a reporter for a comment, Alderman
Lioneld Jordan said, "This is just an election. There are more important things than an election. I certainly wish Jeff all the best, and I hope he's okay." Pushed to speculate on how it would impact the campaign, he said, "I don't know that it affects my race much, because I'm running my race based on my experience and my voting record."

Steve Clark said it was too soon to predict what Koenig's exit will mean for his campaign but added, "I'm sorry to hear any candidate can't stay in the race. ...My thoughts and prayers are with Jeff."

Walt Eilers, the third remaining candidate, said, “My standing in the race won't change ...This will just mean that there’s just one less candidate for the people to choose from. I think it will simplify the race.” According to The Morning News, Eilers said he hopes the similarity between his business background and Koenig's will position him to pick up some of Koenig's supporters. Eilers is a dues paying member of the Chamber of Cowbirds, and Koenig has served on the Board for years.

"It will, of course, change the dynamics of the race," Eilers said in expanding on his political analysis. "I think this will cause another candidate to step forward and pick up Jeff's banner. I wouldn't even be surprised if the current mayor jumps back in the fray."

Jeff Koenig said when he announced that one of the reasons he sought the office was because the city "suffered from lack of leadership." Mayor
Dan Coody, who once supported Eilers but has now flipped to back Clark, was not quoted in either local newspaper about his reaction to Koenig's announcement, nor did he have anything to say about his future political plans.

Coody Consultant Creates Confusion

Aldermen Kyle Cook, Bobby Ferrell, and Lioneld Jordan have proven themselves to be pretty smart fellows, evidenced by their overhauling a consultant's report on water and sewers rates and fashioning one to fit the real and legitimate needs of Fayetteville citizens and our business community. They should be commended for that good work, but their work is not yet done.

At the Water and Sewer Committee meeting yesterday, all three of our aldermen were completely baffled. Mayor Coody submitted a recommendation to jack up water and sewer impact fees from the current rate of $1,143 to $5,585 for a single family home. It was supposedly based on the report from Duncan and Associates, another Austin, Texas, consulting firm hired by Coody. It was not only unacceptable to the committee, it was also incomprehensible.

Coody did not show up to own his recommendation or the report. As usual, he avoided responsibility and sent staff members to do his work, but neither of them could translate or explain the obscure document. Gary Dumas and Paul Becker could not answer the committee's questions. They just said that there were going to be future capital expenses and that this would be a way to pay for them. Unless there is another unexplained $63 million "hiccup," right?

The Water and Sewer Committee wisely took no action, but they will meet again in two weeks. Maybe they will get some straight answers. Maybe not. Maybe things will change in January. Maybe the next Mayor will be willing to take responsibility for his actions and be held accountable for crap like this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Citizen Quote of the Day

"I support the notion that all human beings should be treated with respect, regardless of station or status. ...I seek a northwest Arkansas that upholds not only laws, but as importantly, decency and civility. Immigrants play a vital role in our community, and they deserve more than demagoguery and our disdain as their reward. I also seek sensible comprehensive immigration reform, which would work to solve these troubles visited upon us by spineless politicians and the extremists to which they pander."

--Jim Miranda, Letter to the Benton County Daily Record

Tuesday's "Two on the Taxpayer's Tab"

This is the second of our weekly dining reviews introduced last week, featuring state credit card expenses of Fayetteville mayoral candidate Steve Clark when he was living large at taxpayers' expense as Attorney General. He says the Arkansas State Police and the Prosecuting Attorney only questioned 43 instances of fraud on his state credit card. Below are reviews of two instances from the State Police affidavit that listed 56 specific incidents of alleged fraud and made reference to 30 others.

3. Alouette's Restaurant, Little Rock, December 30, 1987: Total $423.33, including $114.33 for food, and $309 alcohol and tips. Alleged Guests: Dennis and Karen Molock, Rodney Parham, Lois Mayzure. Dennis Molock and Parham said they went to the late Lois Mayzure's retirement party at the Capitol that night, but they had not eaten with Clark at Alouette's. Mayzure told Parham she had never eaten at Alouette's nor with Clark.

Rodney Parham, Dennis Molock, and Lois Mayzure were state employees who worked for Clark in the Attorney General's Office.

4. Alouette's Restaurant, Little Rock, February 10, 1988: Total $419.17, including $115.67 for food, and $303.50 alcohol and tips. Alleged Guests: Steve Barnes, Scott Van Laningham, and Blair Butterworth. Van Laningham told investigators he had never been to Alouette's. Barnes said he didn't know a Blair Butterworth and that he paid for his own dinner.

Barnes and Van Laningham were reporters at the time. Blair Butterworth is the name of a Democratic political consultant in Seattle, not to be confused with Bob Butterworth, Florida Attorney General at the time and later a law school dean at St. Thomas who gave Clark a job.

The third course will be served next Tuesday. Bon Appétit!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Siloam Succumbs to Sin

"Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! ...Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink," sayeth Isaiah.

Visitors and residents of Siloam Springs will now be facing temptation at home, without having to drive across the state line to that land of wickedness known as Oklahoma. For the first time since John Brown chased the dram shops out of Siloam more than 60 years ago, beer and wine are flowing in the streets. The
Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission approved a private club permit for the Italian Grille and Steakhouse at 1981 U. S. Highway 412 in Siloam Springs.

Woe is them, now that an adult can have a glass of wine with dinner. Next thing you know, they'll be masticating in the restaurant then stopping by the Wal-Mart to purchase an adult toy on the way home.

Mr. Marlow's Opus

Much attention was paid last week to the Northwest Arkansas Music Awards presented at the Dickson Street Theater. All of the winners are to be congratulated for their talent, but I thought the Lifetime Achievement Award to Joe Giles and the induction of Effron White into the Hall of Fame were especially deserved.

Perhaps more important was the recognition of Rogers High School band director Dale Marlow, finishing his 31-year teaching career, as the Rogers High School Teacher of the Year. "Why," you might be asking, "if he is so good, why isn't he paid as much as the football coach?" Good question.

His mission and his contribution, Marlow said, was serving "to get kids involved in music, not only at school but for a lifetime. ...My philosophy and practice is always to treat students with honor and respect. I have always prided myself on being as open and honest with students as possible. You can fool adults, but students are quick to spot fakery and insincerity."

Good teacher. Smart guy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Local Listeners are the Real Losers

Winners of the Arkansas Associated Press Broadcasters Association awards were announced Saturday at the AAPBA banquet in Little Rock. Not a single award or even an honorable mention was given to a radio station in Northwest Arkansas. And maybe that's fair, since we have a pretty poor and plumb predictable paucity of news on the radio in these parts.

Tom Wolfe, stuck in a traffic jam outside Greensboro in 1965, gave a description of radio that still rings true in the Ozarks. "And right there it dawns on me that as far as this situation is concerned, anyway, all the conventional notions about the South are confined to . . . the Sunday radio. The South has preaching and shouting, the South has grits, the South has country songs, old mimosa traditions, clay dust, Old Bigots, New Liberals and all of it, all of that old mental cholesterol, is confined to the Sunday radio."

Now, before you white wine and brie Birkenstock liberals go to telling me about how great KUAF is, I already thought about that. That was going to be my refrain, too, but they didn't even scratch, got blown out by KUAR in the Class A competition. Don't stop payment on your begathon check, but look with envy at this:

NON SPOT NEWS - First Place: Kelly MacNeil, KUAR, Little Rock;
ENTERPRISE or INVESTIGATIVE - First Place: Karen Tricot, KUAR, Little Rock, Second Place: Ron Breeding, KUAR, Little Rock;
FEATURE - Honorable Mention: Ann Nicholson, KUAR, Little Rock;
PUBLIC AFFAIRS - First Place: Karen Tricot, KUAR, Little Rock;
CONTINUING COVERAGE - First Place: Kelly MacNeil, KUAR, Little Rock;
SPORTS COVERAGE - Second Place: Ron Breeding, KUAR, Little Rock;
ACTUALITY - Second Place: Kelly MacNeil, KUAR, Little Rock;
NEWSCAST - First Place: Kelly MacNeil, KUAR, Little Rock; and

Why we not have?

Citizen Quote of the Day

"I know this is going to revitalize south
Fayetteville, but in all honesty, I don’t know what was wrong with south Fayetteville to begin with."

--Robert Williams, quoted in the
Northwest Arkansas Times about the plan by Hank Broyles to sell the failed Aspen Ridge development to
Place Properties, which wants to build 17 three-story apartment buildings with 288 units and 840 bedrooms that the developers call a "student community" in what was once a moderate income neighborhood with single-family homes.

Field of Dreamers

It was in no way a scientific sample, but it was enough to convince me that the Future of Fayetteville High School Select Committee 2 overlooked one essential factor when choosing and recommending the site for a 21st century high school. They ignored public opinion, the key element in passing a millage increase necessary to build a world-class high school anywhere. That was as presumptuous as it was foolish, but it is an error likely to be repeated by the School Board.

I heard discussions and nearly unanimous agreement by those who offered an opinion everywhere I went yesterday -- at the Farmers' Market on the square, on Dickson Street during Springfest, at the Red-White game in Razorback Stadium, and back to Dickson Street for music. Some thought that the Select Committee was the School Board and that it had already made a final decision, others had been following the issue more closely. Only two people among the dozens I encountered expressed any interest in voting to increase their property taxes to build a new high school on Morningside Drive, and not one thought a millage increase would be approved by voters.

It isn't just distrust of the current Board President and Superintendent, although I heard plenty of that. My Cowbird friends and acquaintances were disappointed by rejection of the Deane Solomon site. In their opinion, there were far fewer opportunities for development anywhere near Morningside, and the existing neighborhoods and other factors meant the profit margins would be much lower. Neither their prospects nor the committee's criteria appeared to be enough to move them.

The UA faculty were strongly in support of building a new high school on the current centrally-located campus. One of the professors I talked with said Morningside would be a good location for a second high school sometime in the distant future, but there was no enthusiasm for moving the high school there now. These are people who usually vote in school elections and usually support millage increases. I didn't hear much yesterday that would indicate they could be counted on to support a move.

Then there is a large group in our community who always vote against any tax increase, including any property tax hike for better schools and public education or the public library. I did not engage as many of this segment as I know lurk on the voter rolls, but we all know they are there and that they constitute at least 40% of those who turn out for any millage election.

The most surprising thing I heard was from college students, who never vote in school elections, owning no property and having no children in school. They have figured out that they are going to get screwed if the University buys the current high school property, because it will require another significant tuition increase with absolutely no benefit to them. They suspect that the UA bigwigs will announce their intentions during the summer when no students are around to protest, but they will be prepared for the millage election with plans for a voter registration drive, an educational email campaign, Facebook and MySpace networking, and organizing absentee voting and early voting rides to the polls.

Even if the School Board sells the Deane Solomon property, rather than buying more acreage out there as now proposed, and even if they sell the current campus to the University or other real estate developers, they will still be more than $50 million short of what they'll need to build a new high school on Huntsville Road and Morningside Drive. That means they'll need voter approval for a property tax increase of 4 or 5 mills to finance construction. No way that's going to happen.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Morning News Besmirches Beebe

"Beebe Explains Taxes," blares the headline on Page 5A of today's issue of The Morning News in a story about Rogers Republican Senator David Bisbee's failure to pay his Benton County property taxes. The article by Scarlet Sims, the award-winning journalist, nowhere mentions Governor Mike Beebe, but the editorial staff slams him by implication with the misleading headline. Was it intentional malice? Was it sloppy journalism? Do the editors and staff of the Stephens, Inc.-owned chain newspaper know the difference? Someone finally fixed the online version.

The story is a good one. Senator David Bisbee, a developer, had financial problems and a $3 million debt on a failed subdivision. Arvest Bank held the note and eventually took part of the property in partial settlement of Bisbee's bad debt. He now says the almost $1,800 in 2006 property taxes are not his responsibility. Arvest paid the $417 it owed last month. Linda Bisbee paid the $1,382 in overdue property taxes six weeks late on the couple's home, cars, and private boat dock.

David Bisbee is now a Republican candidate for Benton County Judge, and Linda Bisbee is a Republican candidate for the state legislature from Benton County. Almost all Benton County Republicans run on a pledge of "No New Taxes" for education, highways, and human services, and they claim that Governor Mike Beebe and all Democrats are tax-and-spend liberals. The Bisbees walk the walk and also favor "No Old Taxes" either.

One Small Step for Mankind

Yesterday, the Request For Proposal Selection Committee chose Greenland Wrecker Service as the Fayetteville Police Department’s primary towing service, with A & B Towing and Hawg Country Towing as its secondary towing services. Congratulations to Fayetteville Alderman Adella Gray and the four cops on the committee; they could have done a lot worse.

According to Police Chief Greg Tabor, the goal of the contract is for the department to be more efficient and to improve customer service when it requests that a vehicle be towed. I don't know much about Cyclone Cox or his Greenland Wrecker Service. I have, quite surprisingly, heard some good things about the prices and services of A & B Towing and Hawg Country Towing.

A major benefit to the public is that Terry's Towing, rejected by the committee earlier this month, will no longer be among the wrecker services used by the police department. That's one small step, and maybe it will be the first step to ridding our city of the notorious predatory towing bandits.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pilot Project on Commercial Recycling

Jammin Java, Common Grounds, Brewski’s, Nightbird Books, Hugo’s, Urban Table ,and Terratots have partnered with Roll Off Service to participate in a six-month trial commercial recycling program in Fayetteville. The businesses can recycle all types of materials by bringing them to one of several dropoff locations throughout the city, where the recyclable items will be picked up by Roll Off and hand-separated at its facility.

The trial project is called the Green Heart Initiative, and it is a result of collaboration of the businesses with consultant Walt Eilers, Aaron Stahl of waste consulting firm P3, and
Brandon Karn of Jammin Java, who helped sign up businesses to participate in the program.

Part of the project will be to evaluate the impact of the program on business, Eilers said, and the businesses are being asked to maintain records of their recycling experience and the cultural or educational changes in the workplace. Some people think it is just a campaign gimmick for Eilers, but it seems like a good one.

The results of this trial program, combined with the earlier study of recycling for apartment complexes by Drs. Jennie Popp and Stephan Pollard at the UA, should help the city design a practical recycling program for business and apartment dwellers. The good thing is that both can be done without having to spend $110,000 of taxpayers' money for another of Mayor Coody's out-of-state consulting firms to tell him what we more easily can learn from local people and local practices.

Blustering BS of the Day

"The U.N. has determined that world population should be decreased by at least one-third immediately and more later. Long ago, it started this reduction through birth control, feminism, homosexuality and war. I reject their plan. …

"Secondly, birth control gives a false sense of security to those who are promiscuous, thus bringing disease just like homosexuality and war. …And thirdly, feminism makes frustrated men and keeps them from a lasting relationship with women, causing both homosexuality and the wars mentioned above….

"If man wants to cool the wrath of God and thus protect himself from global warming, then man must repent and acknowledge God in all his ways. That way man can still drive his V-8 automobile to a Bible-teaching church with the air-conditioner on."

--Jay Cole, Jr., "Sinners Cause Global Warming," Leter to The Morning News

A Weekly Dining Feature?

John Brummet, a political columnist held in varying degrees of regard across the local political spectrum, had a piece yesterday about Steve Clark and his desire to be Mayor of Fayetteville. He gives Clark credit for overcoming alcoholism and getting his personal life back together. Yet, he speculates, "Clark may still be afflicted, in the way of so many unrecovered politicians, with acute neediness for the public validation and ego-exalting of public office."

As a trailer, Brummet made note that Mr. Clark appeared to be excusing himself and his past by saying that, of all the charges on his state credit card within the statute of limitations, that the investigation by the State Police and Prosecuting Attorney (now Judge)
Chris Piazza focused on only 43 fraudulent transactions. "I'm hoping and trusting," Brummet worried, "that's not rationalization or mitigation. Forty-three frauds is about 43 too many."

How about 56 frauds, spending your tax dollars for personal pleasure and political purposes then lying about it? That's how many I count. Here are only two examples, with the location; the total expenditure; the amount spent on food, non-alcoholic beverages and taxes (collectively noted as food);the amount spent on other charges including alcohol and tips; the guests Clark listed as accompanying him; and the phantom guests' accounts to state police investigators:

1. Alouette's Restaurant, Little Rock, November 25, 1986: Total $368.53, including $126.53 food, $242 alcohol and tips. Guests: Hugh and Carrick Patterson, Vic Freeman and Graham Catlett. The Pattersons said they were at the restaurant and saw Clark, but he neither dined with them nor paid their tab.

2. Alouette's Restaurant, Little Rock, November 29, 1986: Total $422.50, including $144.50 food, $278 alcohol and tips. Guests: Dr. Ruth Steele, Tom Smith, Dr. Linda Beane. Steele, Smith and Beane denied being there or ever eating with Clark.

That leaves 54 other instances. Since there are now 27 weeks until the election, unless we get bored with the project, The Iconoclast will review the rest of the fraudulent expenditures in a regular weekly feature called "Tuesday’s Two Tabs for Taxpayers." Bon Appétit!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

That's Why They Call It the Power Company

Carroll Electric is installing new overhead electric lines in Rogers along West Drive, which borders the Bent Tree, Berry Farm, Warren Glen and Montrouex subdivisions. Thanks to the solid support of the state legislators from Benton County, there is absolutely nothing the city or local residents can do about it. The people no longer have a right to a public hearing to express their opinions or to have them taken seriously, thanks to Act 468 of 2007.

More than 200 people showed up for an informal meeting at Bellview Elementary School to complain and tell Carroll Electric Vice President Mike Dodge exactly what they think about what his company is doing. “As long as we know there is a possibility of harm to our children, how can we sleep at night?” Dr. Cheryl Fulton asked. Others complained about decreased property values, the health dangers of high-voltage wires, and the fear that a utility pole or power line might fall on their houses or in the community pool. Too bad.

House Bill 1367 was introduced at the request of the big utility corporations by Representative David Dunn, Executive Director of the Forrest City Chamber of Commerce. It says a utility can do whatever it wants within its existing right of way, from cutting your dogwood trees to erecting huge metal towers across Dickson Street, and they no longer have to request permission from anyone. It was supported by Senators David Bisbee and Kim Hendren and Representatives Keven Anderson, Eric Harris, Horace Hardwick, and Aaron Burkes.

Those Benton County Republican politicians like to talk about private property and individual rights. They like even more campaign contributions and steak dinners from corporate lobbyists.

If the people of Benton County would recruit and elect legislative candidates more concerned about the public interest than the special interests, we'd all really appreciate it. When they elect clowns to city and county offices, we are merely amused by their antics. When they elect corporate toadies and wingnuts to the legislature, we all must suffer the consequences of their votes.

Theresa Pockrus and the Politicheskoye Buro

The Benton County Zoning Committee met with the county’s Zoning Focus Group last night at the Rogers Public Library to rationally consider and discuss planning issues for the county. As might be expected in Benton County, what they got was something else. Theresa Pockrus, the former Republican Tax Collector for Benton County, offered up a political diatribe on the dangers of communism.

Benton County residents can't say they haven't been warned about the Red Menace lurking in their county government. Last summer, Penne S. Ramsey of Garfield issued a warning about the proposed county nuisance abatement ordinance to infringe on the individual liberty to decorate the compound surrounding one's bunker with old cars and refrigerators. "I just wonder who the communist is who wants to tell me just how to use my property and how clean I am to keep it," she inquired, but the pinko politician was never apprehended.

Attorney Pockrus said she adamantly opposes any zoning for the county, because it would be “moving toward communism and away from capitalism.” You see, she explained, zoning is more about protecting the common good and the collectivist concept of community, subrogating the sacred property rights of the rugged Individual. Capitalist hog lot next to the capitalist lake house? No problem. Better an overwhelming stench of pig shit than a whiff of socialism in
Benton County.

Committee member Lane Gabel sounded like he was already brainwashed. He said, “The democratic process decides” which areas should be zoned. “I’m not willing to accept that 60 percent of counties in this country are leaning toward communism or that 100 percent of our cities are leaning toward communism.” Like she said....

Fellow travelers and useful idiots abound, it seems.
Benton County is just lucky to have Theresa Pockrus on the front line, Ann Coulter on Fox News, and KURM on the radio.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sign City Cowbirds Mull Granting Permission

Springdale is the only major city in Northwest Arkansas that doesn’t ban unsightly billboards, and their excuse for a City Council last night backed down from passing any billboard or sign regulations, waiting to give the Springdale Chamber of Cowbirds more time to consider giving their permission to let the Aldermen vote on whether to limit signs.

Alderman Jesse Core, who has been trying to pass a sign ordinance since last August, asked, “How many meetings have we had on billboards? There is no reason to drag this out.” But it appears that there is: someone also wants to slip in approval for a new Walgreen’s before the proposed sign regulations might go into effect.

The Springdale Cowbirds meet today in their plush tax-exempt headquarters to discuss whether they will allow the City Council to pass an ordinance to regulate billboards and other gaudy business signs in Chickenopolis.

Mong Proves Bush Flat Wrong

Only one week after the world's enthusiastic response to President Bush's major address on Climate Change, renowned Benton County scientific experts have refuted the "theory" of global warming. Bob and Nadine Mong of Bella Vista today exposed the scam of climate change and global warming. Citing evidence from Oklahoma's U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Big Oil), John Coleman of the TV Weather Channel, and the Washington Times, they turn a phrase to flatly deny the hoax, "The really inconvenient truth is that for six years now there has [not] been no global warming."

That should end the debate. At least in Benton County, where the only good science is the Dismal Science.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Site Too Far

Congratulations to Tim Hudson and the members of the Future of FHS Select Committee 2 who have worked tirelessly and for free -- pro bono publico -- in the public interest. They have devoted significant time and efforts to developing the appropriate criteria for determining the best location for Fayetteville High School. Most of the time, they did so with good cheer, only occasionally whining about the passionate opinions expressed by a concerned public.

They determined that
cost to the taxpayers, space, proximity to the population center, aesthetics, fit with City Plan 2025, parking and access, impact of construction on school, access to emergency services, access to the University of Arkansas, and existing infrastructure were most relevant to the decision. Tomorrow they will frame a recommendation between the current central site and the Morningside Drive site for presentation to the School Board on Thursday. What the University of Arkansas decides to do now assumes even greater importance in influencing the final outcome, and no one should pretend otherwise.

The decision against recommending the Deane Solomon site is a sign that rationality prevailed to slow the march of
Bobby New and the Cowbirds to push rampant development to Sprawlville west of I-540. The closing of Jefferson and the construction of Owl Creek; the abandonment of the accessible Boys and Girls Club near the high school for an isolated site on Ruppple Road in the far west; and the ill-advised multi-million dollar purchase of the Deane Solomon site from developer Tracy Hoskins near one of Brandon Barber's failed developments cannot be undone. However, future decisions can be more sensible and in the public interest instead of special interests.

Of course, Steve Percival Howard Hamilton, Susan Heil, and the other members of the School Board can ignore the Select Committee's recommendation altogether and go with the Cowbirds.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Issues, Integrity, and Involvement

Fran Alexander, one of my favorite columnists, offered up a little wisdom from long experience in local politics in today's paper. It is worth repeating and sharing, I believe, because she knows of what she speaks.

In my early voting years," she confessed, "I was more issue oriented in choosing my favorite runners, but now after suffering the slings and arrows of hoodwinking, schmoozing and downright lying from some whom I have supported, I’m more prone to first determine how a person rates on integrity. Some people cannot even define integrity with both hands on a dictionary so, when I find a person I believe I can trust and who will listen, these traits far outweigh how much detail they may currently know about my particular, passionate issue. I figure if they are interested enough to listen, inquisitive enough to learn, and question enough to indicate they can think critically, then they care enough to hold an office, where they will make decisions that directly affect me and the town I live in."

Then, Alexander adds another element that weighs heavily in her decision -- whether the candidates have been involved in the details of government and public affairs for some time, or whether they just recently decided it would be neat to get their pictures in the paper and stroke their ego. "
So far this season Fayetteville has had several candidates announce for the aldermen races and four announce for mayor. ...As announcements are made and Web sites created, as handshaking begins in earnest and campaign materials are printed, we need information about these people. I am always curious, for example, why if I’ve never seen some of them at City Hall. Politics, after all, is not an isolated homebound sport."

That's good advice all around. Take heed as you consider the candidates, and you'll be more likely to make a better choice.

Two Wrongs and NWA Times Can't Get It Right

"To paraphrase a line from the third Harry Potter movie, the editors at the Northwest Arkansas Times have once again put their powerful intellect to work and come up with the wrong conclusion," said a wise observer of the newspaper's editorial page with reference to one of Executive Editor Greg Harton's recent muddled columns.

"Questioning the motives of the people who are voluntarily gathering data for the biggest single investment this community will make is a strange approach for this newspaper to take," the writer noted. Except, it is not so strange when you consider that Harton has been personally involved in testifying in favor of the Chamber and FEDC position to building a new high school in the western suburbs, and the news articles reflect his bias. Furthermore, with his history of anti-worker editorial columns, he couldn't resist the opportunity to take a cheap shot at the union representing members of the university faculty and staff, implying that its concerns were irrelevant and should be ignored.

Harton either doesn't understand or intentionally conflates two separate arguments. Selling off the current centrally located high school campus and building a new mega-school in the boonies is a bad idea for students and patrons of the Fayetteville School District, and good arguments have been made based on solid empirical data that it would be better to build a world-class high school at the present location adjacent to the University. That the position is articulated by concerned UA faculty and staff is no reason for the newspaper to discount it.

A separate argument, reported in today's Northwest Arkansas Times, is that buying the present Fayetteville High School campus is a bad idea for Arkansas taxpayers and students at the University of Arkansas, and good arguments have been made based on solid empirical data that the University does not need and cannot afford to increase its bonded indebtedness to buy the property fom the school district, considering announced priorities and budget constraints. That the position is articulated by concerned UA faculty and staff is no reason for the newspaper to discount it.

Greg Harton has a journalism degree from that fine program at Arkansas State University. He was trained to recognize good data and distinct arguments, so it is unlikely that he is confused. It is more likely that he is trying to confuse the readers about good arguments being made in opposition to his personal biases on the question.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

“When I heard John Boozman was hosting a sustainability conference at the University of Arkansas on April 21, I nearly fell out of bed. This superficial environmental concern is a direct insult to the intelligence of UA students and the good people of Northwest Arkansas. Unless Boozman had a divine revelation overnight, he is not fooling anyone. For those with Internet access, it is easy to discover his 0 percent environmental rating from the Sierra Club and 0-10 percent ratings from the League of Conservation Voters ( This anti-environment record loudly speaks for itself.

“In 2007 alone, Boozman voted against CAFÉ fuel efficiency standards, clean energy legislation, renewable electricity standards, mining reform, wildlife protection, forest protection, global warming intelligence estimates, clean water legislation and clean air legislation. He also voted to continue billions in oil subsidies, expand oil drilling and for liquid coal fuels. …

“Given this voting record, do you feel Boozman has credibility to host an environmental forum? I do not.

“I believe his participation is a public relations stunt to manipulate voters into believing he actually cares about the environment. This is like President Bush hosting a climate change and peace forum.”

--Abel Tomlinson, Letter to the Editor, Northwest Arkansas Times

Springdale Cowbirds Have No Shame

Springdale Chamber of Commerce President Perry Webb felt no shame as he requested that the new $51,000 GMC Yukon Denali be granted a property tax exemption. It would save the Chamber from paying $519 that would go mostly to public schools. Why not? After all, the County Equalization Board granted them a property tax exemption on the Chamber’s 4,182-square-foot building back in 1997, so why not go to the trough for a free ride on their shiny new gas guzzler? Only suckers have to pay taxes.

The Chamber's sense of entitlement to special treatment and tax exemptions failed to convince the Washington County Assessor, who denied the request on the mammoth SUV.
“It’s not public property or used exclusively for public charity,” they were told. No kidding?

Now their over-reaching on the Yukon Denali exemption could result in the Chamber having to start paying taxes on their plush offices as well
. The Fayetteville Cowbirds paid $4,135 in property taxes on their Mountain Street building right next to City Hall, but the Springdale Chamber didn't pay a dime for the last ten years. They should have been paying about $4,200 a year.

Granting these preferential tax exemptions -- whether it be the Chamber's fancy office suites and flashy SUVs or Jay Cole's airplane hanger he says is a chapel -- has consequences for other taxpayers, Jewette Farley, former president of the International Association of Assessing Officers, said, “It creates a big-time problem, because it forces everybody else to pay more taxes.”

Webb said two things that are very revealing about how the Chamber operates.
He and two other chamber officials made the request for exemption from paying taxes at the Equalization Board meeting on September 9, 1997, and it was immediately granted without any questions. “It lasted a total of about 30 seconds," he said. "It was just boom, boom, boom.”

The other point Webb made was that the other area Chambers that do have to pay taxes go along in a conspiracy of silence. Those that pay property taxes know better than to complain, because it will draw attention to those that don’t, Webb told a reporter. “I didn’t know Fayetteville was paying. It’s been a conscious decision that you just don’t bring it up.”

The Springdale Chamber has proven itself to be of the genus molothrus -- which is Latin for "just another parasitic
Cowbird." The working stiffs in our county pay taxes on their mobile homes and aging pickups, grumbling but knowing that it supports our schools and local governments. The Springdale Chamber has shown about as much interest in supporting local public schools as they did about continuing Featherfest or speaking up for saving one of the town's few historic landmarks from becoming a parking lot.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Let's Do Lunch

It was no surprise that Steve Clark announced this afternoon that he wants to be Mayor of Fayetteville. He gathered about 25 supporters in a small boardroom at the Town Center to tell them that he was willing to serve time as the city's highest executive official and that he wanted to institute a community service program for everyone age six and older to pick up litter for an hour a month.

Clark was a founding member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. His official biography on the ACFE website says he has "a unique background in understanding the legal system, fraud, ethics and business/governmental regulation," but it neglects to mention that a felony fraud conviction forced him out of public office in 1990. After that felony conviction, his defense attorney said, "If Steve Clark ran for dog catcher right now, he'd lose to a write-in candidate."

Governor Mike Huckabee pardoned Clark after his fourth request, and now he is running for Mayor of Fayetteville, not Animal Control Officer. Among the supporters attending Clark's announcement today were Dan Coody and Adella Gray. Supporter Bob Hamilton said Clark is the best candidate to carry on what Mayor Coody has tried to do in office for the last seven years.

Clark lives near the Fayetteville Country Club on Fairway Lane and has been a registered voter in Fayetteville for 18 months, almost a year longer than Jeff Koenig, another candidate for the office who recently moved from Goshen and bought a condominium in town to qualify for office.

Love Your Mother, Celebrate Earth Day

Fayetteville’s Town Branch Neighborhood and the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology will hold the fourth Earth Day Celebration since the Founding of World Peace Wetland Prairie, a city-owned nature park and natural rain garden in south Fayetteville, from 1-5 p.m. Sunday. The prairie is located at 1121 S. Duncan Ave. in Fayetteville.

Nature walks will be led by biologists and nature enthusiasts, highlighting Arkansas native plants and describing the value of natural wetland and its function for storm water abatement and cleansing in an urban environment. Bird-watchers are encouraged to come at dawn or stay until dark and bring a camera or video recorder.

Information from founding organizations and area environmental groups will be offered as well as an opportunity to participate in planting native species, and in helping remove nonnative invasive species. Some small trees and possibly some flowering plants will be available for adoption.

Musicians and poets are invited to perform with acoustic instruments. Activities suitable for small children will be offered. Old hippies and Cowbirds are welcome, too.

Quote of the Day

"It's not about how many strip malls you have. It's about the sense of community and the sense of place. People want to live somewhere where they want to spend their time, whether that's going out for a walk, the ability to interact with others, or amenities.

"That's why our downtown will play such an important role, because it has so many of those qualities. This is where our story is. If you invest in downtown, you're not just investing in a building. You're investing in the overall story."

--Daniel Hintz, quoted in "Strengthening the Story," Benton County Daily Record

Friday, April 18, 2008

Local Art Patrons Recognized

Thanks to Jim Parsons of Bella Vista filing a complaint with the State Ethics Commission against former Governor Mike Huckabee, we have learned about the generosity of six area patrons of the arts. Huckabee previously filed a sworn form that his official portrait in the state capitol was a gift from the artist, but now he has 'fessed up and released the names of 61 political appointees, state employees, and friends who actually gave nearly $32,000 to a private fund to pay for his likeness. The Huckster has promised to file an amended form telling the truth, hoping that will kep him from being fined or sanctioned by the Ethics Commission.

Among the philanthropic friends of the arts and Huckabee who forked over money for the portrait were
former UA Trustee and retired Chairman of Southwestern Energy Charles Scharlau of Fayetteville, $500; UA Trustee Jim von Gremp of Rogers, $500; J. B. Hunt Corporate Secretary Johnelle Hunt of Rogers, $200; former Finance and Administration Director Dick Barclay of Rogers, $100; Prosecuting Attorney Robin Green of Rogers, $50; and former Higher Education Director and current UA Dean Linda Beene of Fayetteville, $25.

Beaucoup Boodlers

Arkansas political news this week included a story about State Representative Robbie Wills (D-Conway), who spent campaign funds on gifts for fellow legislators during his efforts to become Speaker of the House and also declared that a flight from a Colorado ski resort vacation back to Arkansas to ride in a parade was a legitimate campaign expense. Wills made promises to raise money for a Republican legislator he thought would be unopposed in exchange for support in his Speaker's bid. It raised questions about his judgment for the Northwest Arkansas Times, but it also points up the obscene influence of money in state politics.

The Arkansas Times Blog wrote of the above episode, “Maybe it's legal. But it stinks. If the law allows this kind of boodling, the law is an ass. Campaign funds should be legally [used] only for election expenses…. How much help does an unopposed candidate need?” Representative Wills has no opponent this year, but so far he took $53,895 in contributions, spent $33,319 on whatever, and still has $20,575 cash on hand, including a $2,000 check he took from tobacco giant Philip Morris after the filing deadline when he knew he would have no opposition.

Unopposed legislators taking contributions from special interests does not pass the smell test, especially when they take the money after the filing deadline. It differs only in form from taking the money and putting it in your pocket in exchange for influence. The difference is that campaign contributions are supposed to be disclosed so the public knows who is bankrolling the politicians, and a review of required reports for unopposed local legislators is revealing.

Representative-elect Jonathan Barnett (R-Siloam Springs) does not appear to have filed any of the legally required reports by the April 15 deadline, so we don't know much about him, other than his attitude about complying with the ethics law. State Representative Jon Woods (R-Springdale) has not filed any of the required monthly reports since that for January. He took $5,250 that month, not a penny from his district but gladly from Stephens, Inc., Wal-Mart, Entergy, Southwestern Energy, Realtors, Pharmacists, etc. Senator Kim Hendren (R-Gravette) reports a haul of $10,600 with $23,855 in the bank. He took $3,000 from Stephens, Inc., including $1,000 of that after the filing deadline.

Rep. Donna Hutchinson (R-Bella Vista) took $6,485, including money from ENPAC and Stephens, Inc. after the filing deadline when she knew she would have no opponent. Stephens, Inc. was the source of $1,500 of her total $6,485. House District 94 candidate Les Carnine (R-Rogers) failed to report his cumulative contributions as required, but he ended up with $8,381.68 in the bank after filing expenses. Most of that came from groups outside his district, like the Wholesale Beer Distributors PAC, but including Richard Abernathy of Bryant, one of the finalists for Fayetteville School Superintendent.

The King of Grifters this year is new House candidate Uvalde Lindsey (D-Fayetteville) who has taken in $41,470. Those giving him money include $2,000 each from Jim Walton, Lynne Walton, Alice Walton, and Rob Walton, accounting for 1/5 of his total. Other big contributors included Don and John Tyson and Gene and Gary George for the chicken interests; Bill Ramsey of the Cowbirds; Mike Malone from the Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives; Cynthia Coughlin, home detention hall monitor for husband Tom; Martin Schoppmeyer who runs a charter school; Alderman Bobby Ferrell; and School Board Member Howard Hamilton. Jeff Koenig gave him $1,000, and Walt Eilers handed over $150. Lindsey has $27,718 in his campaign account, including the money he took from Southwestern Energy PAC after the filing deadline.

Senator Sue Madison (D-Fayetteville) reported only $3,800 in contributions, but that included $1,000 from AHC-PAC after the filing deadline, leaving a balance of $12,745 in her campaign account. Rep. Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville) reported a $25 contribution, which she appears to have returned after the filing deadline, leaving her with $97.18 in the bank.

This taking of money by unopposed candidates is all legal, by the way, under Arkansas law. That's one way they remain unopposed in elections. Now, pay attention to how these peckerwoods vote on special interest legislation in the 2009 legislative session and see if you can connect the dots.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Congratulations to Our Fab Four

The Arkansas Times has announced the 2008 Academic All Stars, its 14th edition of the only comprehensive effort in Arkansas to recognize academic achievement, though there is no shortage of recognition for athletic teams at Arkansas high schools.

Four students from Fayetteville were among 20 statewide selected for this honor -- Daniel Thompson (ASMSA), David Zweig (FHS), Jane Thompson (FHS), and Emily Keen (SHS). They are all outstanding individuals, and, if you haven't yet subscribed to the Arkansas Times, you can read all about it here. It took more than just good grades to make this elite list.


Another Institution Moves North

The only remaining office of the United Way in Washington County will close and move to Lowell in Benton County, completing the merger sought by the Benton County United Way after it failed to reach its goal for two consecutive years. They also are going to take the tree planted as a memorial to the late Jo Ann Sandlin, who served as the executive director of the United Way of Fayetteville and of Washington County for nearly 26 years.

Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody said, “I see the need to do that. I hate to see them leave Fayetteville out of a purely provincial perspective, but I understand their need to consolidate and whatever they can do to become even more effective, I’m all for.” Will he be so sanguine if Benton County snags the Northwest Arkansas Museum Foundation's Science Center or if the Walton Arts Center joins the exodus?

Bill Schwyhart of Pinnacle Investments isn't just sitting around watching all this transpire, he's making it happen. He has already submitted to the Rogers Planning Commission a planned-unit development that includes the future Walton Arts Center and a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. He is taking advantage of the UA World Trade Center recently built in Rogers for some unknown reason, and he reportedly has hired Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott's son, Eric Scott, to help him develop business with Chinese vendors. Schwyhart and UA Chancellor John White were in that small group of devoted insiders who enjoyed a private lunch with George Bush during his recent visit to the area, and last year he donated $5,000 to the Republican Party of Arkansas, $2,300 to Boozman for Congress, and $2,300 to Huckabee for President. Connected.

Fayetteville could use such engaged leadership from the business community, but the Cowbirds and Jeff Koenig's FEDC have produced nothing in years. Their idea of community development is helping real estate developers get rich by selling off the high school and building a new one in sprawlville. At times like this, I so miss the vision and vigor of
John Lewis.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Governor Womack?

It looks as if the Benton County Republicans are sending up a trial balloon for their next gubernatorial candidate. If Lobbyist Asa Hutchinson couldn't cut the mustard in 2006, then maybe they will gift Governor Mike Beebe with opposition from Rogers Mayor Steve Womack in 2010.

Last week, Governor Beebe said the Arkansas State Police would participate with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency only to the extend of training in identifying fraudulent immigration documents. The state police won’t have any more authority, take on any additional duties, or add any additional personnel as a result of the agreement. “We are not going to do the federal government’s job or raise taxes on Arkansans for duties they are already paying taxes to the federal government to accomplish,” Beebe said rather emphatically.

Benton County Daily Record has the first shot over the bow, a letter from immigration policy expert K. B. Swanson of Bella Vista under the head "Mayor Womack Should Run for Governor." Swanson first dismisses the incident in which Adriana Torres-Flores was locked in a holding cell and forgotten for four days, saying "mistakes happen" and "If she wasn’t an alleged lawbreaker, she wouldn’t have been in that situation." Swanson regrets that "the Great American Sucker" might compensate her for the violation of human rights and personal dignity.

"Thank God for Mayor Steve Womack," Swanson says prayerfully. "He has the political guts and courage to speak his mind. He is so right on — our federal government is once again useless. If more Americans do not start speaking out on this issue, our grandchildren will no longer have a country called
America. Mayor Womack, thank you so much for your leadership. Please run for governor of this great state."

Good suggestion, especially if Womack first resigns the office of mayor.