Friday, July 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

"We hope the council votes against something the chamber wants soon — just to show they still can."

- Editorial,
Northwest Arkansas Times, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plush Perks for Politicians and Public Employees

These are tough times for local government, because they are tough times for the economy. People without jobs cannot buy products and services, and the over-reliance on sales tax revenues to fund local government is generating less revenue than in past years. Much has been done to reduce expenses and attempt to maintain services, and most elected officials and public employees have been willing to continue with frozen salaries and reduced overtime pay. However, a few bad apples continue to draw deep from the public purse for their own convenience and act as if they are entitled to special treatment from the lowly taxpayers.

Some of our state's highrollers have been pinched lately when it became known that they were driving high-dollar vehicles for personal business at taxpayer expense. Some have since given up their state car, and others have started paying income tax on the benefit. House Speaker Robbie Wills told everyone to kiss his ass, that he was keeping the Tahoe and not paying back anything. In addition to state elected officials, more than 400 state employees have been paying taxes on the use of a state-owned vehicle to commute to and from work, get groceries, take the kids to school, and hundreds of other personal uses at taxpayer expense. How many state employees have personal vehicles provided by the taxpayers is unknown, but a lawsuit filed last week seeks to put an end to this practice.

The local media have shown little interest and devoted almost no effort to check on how many county and city officials and employees are getting these personal vehicles at taxpayer expense. It was reported last year that Washington County Judge Marilyn Edwards and her chief flunky, Dan Short, got brand new Dodge Durango SUVs as a $50,000 gift from county taxpayers. How many other county officials and county employees have personal use of county vehicles, and do they pay income tax on this freebie?

Neither Mayor Jordan nor Don Marr get city vehicles for personal use. One of Jordan's first moves was to decline the $500 a month car allowance that the former mayor got from taxpayers. None of the other elected officials -- City Clerk, City Attorney, or City Council -- have cars provided by the taxpayers. The question that remains unanswered is how many passenger vehicles does the city own, and how many of these are assigned to employees for their personal use? Let's have some answers. Let's have some open government disclosure about who the taxpayers are buying cars for and which employees are paying income tax on this luxury service in hard times. Do you think Ray Boudreaux has a car at the executive jetport that he used for courting the Councilwoman? Parking these little perks would be better than furloughing employees so the big shots can continue to cruise in style.

What about the other cities and counties? What do Steve Womack and David Bisbee drive? What about school district employees? What about the University of Arkansas and its holding company, the Athletic Department? How many administrators are getting the free ride whiles faculty and staff salaries are frozen for two years? Is David Gearhart's rig as nice as Jeff Long's or whoever is supposed to be the basketball coach? It's not like they couldn't afford to buy a car with those inflated salaries.

I don't get paid enough to ask these questions, which would require the effort of making a few phone calls and the patience to endure the everlasting run-around, and I have given up waiting on the Northwest Arkansas Times to act like a real newspaper. The Fayetteville Flyer and Ozarks Unbound have a clear field if they want it.

Gall and Greed of the Greasy

Disgraced Republican Benton County Judge David Bisbee is once again trying to slop at the public trough and throw some taxpayer funds to defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson. You'll recall that Bisbee was charged with feathering his own nest by rejecting a low bid for county work and hiring his own firm. An all-Republican Benton County jury acquitted him of three charges after he and his lawyer put on a defense claiming that Bisbee couldn't read or write, so he was ignorant of the ethics law that he voted for in the legislature and later ignored. The jury was hung on whether he was guilty of using his public office to advance the economic interest of Gary Wierman, his longtime associate at Valley Homes.

Now comes Bisbee asking the judge to order taxpayers to pay his lawyer fees! His main man, Asa Hutchinson, filed a sworn statement that his normal fee was $660 an hour, which is not bad for a man who voted against raising the minimum wage for common folks. Hutchinson says he gave Bisbee a cut rate of only $400 an hour for himself and $200 an hour for his son. The Arkansas Public Defender Commission pays private attorneys $90-$110 an hour when they are appointed to represent people facing the death penalty, but the Hutchinson defense team was billing at $775 an hour for misdemeanors. The bill came to $73,044.85, and Dave and Asa think that you should pay them.

If David Bisbee really thought that all defendants deserved equal justice in Benton County, he would have presented a county budget with funds to pay $400 an hour to the lawyers of all defendants who were acquitted or had charges dropped. It could be called the Doug Norwood Retirement Fund or something, but Bisbee didn't recommend a nickel for anyone else's legal fees. He just wants special treatment for himself, and he wants taxpayers to come up with $73,044.85 so he can pay his pal Asa for the illiteracy defense.

If Asa Hutchinson really thought that all defendants deserved to have their legal fees paid if they were not convicted or charged, he would have introduced an appropriation bill in Congress to pay millions to the lawyers who defended the Clintons during the six-year Whitewater witch hunt conducted by Kenneth Starr and the unsuccessful impeachment trial led my none other than Asa Hutchinson. But, he didn't. He just wants special treatment for himself, and he wants taxpayers to come up with $73,044.85 to pay him for the Bisbee illiteracy defense.

These Benton County Republicans are against spending public funds for an HIV Clinic, wastewater treatment, public health care, or unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs. They have no problem with spending your tax dollars to line their own pockets at $400 an hour or to pay their personal bills of more than $73,000. Shame has left the building. The local Teabaggers don't seem to have any problem with this, so maybe the relatively sane few in Benton County shouldn't either.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Boozman, Wall Street, and Main Street

Congressman John Boozman (R-Rogers) voted two years ago for using taxpayer money to bailout of the Big Banks that had made foolish decisions and lost billions of dollars. Boozman supported this George Bush scheme to help Wall Street CEOs keep their bonuses and estates in the Hamptons. He didn't raise taxes to cover the cost, he just loaded it on the national debt for our grandchildren to pay. Now he says the nation shouldn't extend unemployment benefits to 16,000 Arkansas citizens who lost their jobs and can't find work, because that would increase the deficit he created for the bank bailout.

On June 30, Boozman again stood up for the Wall Street bankers, fighting all additional financial regulation of shady banking practices and trying to kill any consumer protection measures when he voted against the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that was signed into law today. Under this legislation, about 650 former customers of Arkansas National Bank Financial at Rogers will receive checks from the FDIC, retroactively covering the loss of their personal savings up to $250,000 due to poor management decisions by ANB officers and board members that led to huge losses and closing of the bank.

Boozman opposed protection for the life savings of small depositors in Arkansas, but he was all for bailing out the Wall Street bankers. Why is that? Take a look at his campaign contributors for the last ten years, and you'll see who he represents. Unless you coughed up big bucks, it is not you. If there's another explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tim is Waiting for You in the Cyber Crib

Dear Sheriff Fife,

Time and again, you have convinced us that your presence in office will continue to interfere with workplace harmony and public dignity. One way to eliminate a public disruption/distraction problem is to replace the person or persons who have caused the problem. One way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization is to elect people who will be able to do a better job or will be able to do the same job without making our county look like a bunch of repressed hillbillies living in 17th century Salem. These are political decisions. We will have other choices for the Sheriff’s position in two years. We have decided to replace you with an employee who will not ignore the harassment complaints of female employees, fire female employees for non-workplace activities, and generally make our top county law enforcement officer look like the love child of Barney Fife and the Church Lady. We are choosing to elect a person who we believe will better our ability to get our legitimate government work done -- in a manner that is both effective and efficient -- without any more harmful national publicity like you brought to our county last year when a female defendant was locked in a closet and forgotten for four days

PS. Get off the computer. Stop checking and rechecking Jessi's pictures.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rogers Among the Chosen Few

Rogers has been named to the CNN.Money Top Ten Best Small Towns, just behind Fishers, Indiana, and Ames, Iowa. They say that being located next door to Walmartville gives it a relatively cosmopolitan feel. The article, however, warns, "Not all is picture perfect: Rogers does contain some rundown areas. Though Wal-Mart has had layoffs in recent years, the jobless rate here remains low."

Rogers is the only Arkansas town in the Top 100 this year. For the last two years, Bloomberg Businessweek has named Springdale as the best small town in which to raise your kids. Local real estate agent Judy Luna says that will teach the snobs in Fayetteville.

Nothing yet posted on the Rogers Blog, but keep checking.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What Boozman Did to Us Last Week

It undermines one's faith in the republic when a Congressman openly ignores his constituents to blindly follow John Boner down the economic rabbit hole. Last week, Congressman John Boozman (R-Walmart Puppet) did just that on two major bills in the House. His disregard for both the welfare and wishes of Northwest Arkansas voters cannot be dismissed as ignorance. It has come to be a harmful mixture of hubris and malice that leads him to flip off even those who voted for him.

Exhibit A. In 2008, John Boozman voted for billions on Bush's bailout of the huge Wall Street Ponzi Banks that plunged the nation's economy into crisis. On Wednesday, he voted against any additional federal regulations of those same financial bandits. The bill, which passed over his opposition, created a federal consumer protection agency, allows oversight of the speculative commodities market, gives stockholders an advisory role on those sweet executive compensation packages, and providing greater transparency of financial shenanigans. Funding comes from ending the Troubled Assets Relief Program bank bailout corporate welfare program that Boozman supports.

Exhibit B. On Thursday, Boozman voted against H.R. 4899, a supplemental appropriation bill that will provide $13 billion in mandatory funding for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, $162 million for the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, $10 billion for an Education Jobs Fund to help save 140,000 education jobs for the next school year, funding for Pell Grants, summer youth jobs, border security, innovative technology energy loans, and emergency food assistance. It is funded by $23.5 billion in offsets, including $11.7 billion in rescissions from other programs that no longer require the funding.

Boozman believes his own polls showing him with a landslide 30% lead over Blanche Lincoln and knows that voters don't care enough to check his horrendous voting record. However, when you have an opportunity, ask our local Congressional nominees Steve Womack (R-Rogers) and David Whitaker (D-Fayetteville) how they would have voted on these two bills. I'd like to know if we will continue to have a 3rd District representative who votes repeatedly against our interests, or if we might get our country back from the bankers and boners who have owned the bozo.