Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Over the hump

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 4:55 PM

The Wednesday night line is open. Closing out:

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* THE MALZAHN ERA BEGINS: Arkansas State University introduced new football coach Gus Malzahn (pictured) today. Malzahn's move to ASU meant a reduction in pay (from more than a million at Auburn to about $850,000 a year at ASU), but with a guaranteed five-year contract. He said it was the "right place at the right time."

Malzahn promised "fast-paced football." Asked about stepping down from the SEC to the Sunbelt, he said modestly that he was a "high school coach who happened to be coaching college." But he said he wanted to be a head coach and added, "I'm an Arkansas guy. There's something to coming back home."

Gov. Mike Beebe, an ASU grad, lobbied Malzahn during the negotiations. "He wants to win," Malzahn commented. He called Beebe "my kind of guy." Malzahn was accompanied by his wife Kristi, but she did not step to the speaking platform with him. Malzahn had a friendly press crowd. During the press conference, dominated by 25 minutes or so of jabber by Athletic Director Dean Lee, no reporter asked a question about pay, contract terms, sources of revenue, ticket sales or other pertinent business questions.

* WHEN MAMAS OF DISABLED KIDS AIN'T HAPPY, NOBODY'S HAPPY: That embryonic plan to create service centers around the state to oversee delivery of services to developmentally disabled people that I mentioned the other day as a potential idea to staunch Mediciad cost increases? I'd say from this account of state backing and fillinig that you can just fuhgeddaboudit.

* EASTER SEALS AND THE BLIND SCHOOL: The Board for the Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf met last night and heard further from Doug Martin on his proposal to buy Blind School land at the east end of Lee Avenue for a single-family residence. He'd raze the largely vacant former Easter Seals training center there, which would be welcomed by the surrounding residential neighborhood. The Board heard a state opinion that Easter Seals had violated its 99-year lease of the land on which the building sits by leasing space in it to psychiatrists. But it took no action, including on proposals to hire an appraiser to value the land or to end the lease with Easter Seals. The board was split on those issues. Neither Easter Seals, which had originally proposed to sell its lease and building to a commercial businessman, nor the businessman attended. The remaining question is whether the school will fall back into continuing inertia on the long problematic property or do something. Even the sale to a quiet business would have been better than continued deterioration of the property.

* CRYSTAL BRIDGES A 'MORAL TRAGEDY': Another commentator snoots at Alice Walton's new museum and finds many political dimensions to plumb in the source of the money, the growing chasm between rich and poor and statements made by some of the art itself. I'd say a museum that inspires this much analysis has succeeded on at least some level.

* OBAMA AINT DEAD YET: Poll shows President Obama leading Republicans in Virginia, a state considered critical to election of next president.

* CREDIT UNION EXEC GETS 26 MONTHS FOR THEFT: Judge Leon Holmes today sentenced Joyce Judy, former president of the Arkansas Employees Federal Credit Union, to 26 months in federal prison for taking $500,000 from a depositor to invest in a deal that itself turned out to be a scam. Her attorney had asked for probation so she could continue to work to raise money to pay back the loss. She was ordered to make restitution to the insurance company that covered the loss and also serve three years on supervised release.

* THREE CHEERS FOR MARK PRYOR: Our senator voted not once, but twice, today against one of the hoariest (and whoriest) of Republican gimmicks, a balanced budget amendment. Let's quote him:

As H.L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, clean, and wrong.” This quote describes the balanced budget amendment. While a balanced budget amendment makes for an easy talking point, it is an empty solution. Moreover, it’s a reckless choice that handcuffs our ability to respond to an economic downturn or national emergencies without massive tax increases or throwing everyone off Medicare, Social Security, or veteran’s care.

There is a more responsible alternative to balance the budget. President Clinton led the way in turning deficits into record surpluses. We have that same opportunity today, using the blueprint provided by the debt commission as a starting point. We need to responsibly cut spending, reform our tax code and create job growth. This course requires hard choices over a number of years. However, it offers a more balanced approach over jeopardizing safety net programs and opportunity for robust economic growth.

If Pryor really did come home to run for governor this would be one in a long list of why he'd be preferable to Mike Ross.

* DON'T FEED THE GEESE: Temporary signs (see lower right) are now up in Burns Park that tell park visitors Do Not Feed the Animals. The animals particularly in question — Canada geese — are grazing on grass in the background of the shot, provided by the Parks and Recreation Department. I mentioned the no-feeding effort this morning.

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