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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The midweek open line: Guns, politics, charter school handouts

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 4:22 PM

The line is open. To finish:

click to enlarge PACKING: County Judge Pendergrass with his 9-mm. - KEVIN PIEPER/BAXTER BULLETIN
  • Kevin Pieper/Baxter Bulletin
  • PACKING: County Judge Pendergrass with his 9-mm.
* PACKING HEAT IN BAXTER COUNTYFunny story in the Baxter Bulletin about a rise in pistol-packing by employees of the Baxter County road and bridge department. (Maybe funny isn't a good word here.) They're concealed carry permittees. They can't carry in county buildings. But now there's talk about whether the county ought to have a policy for its employees. Some problems, apparently, stem from a new boss in the department, Chris Huett: Said JP Ken Bodenhamer:

“Chris can be arrogant, and he can rub people the wrong way,” Bodenhamer said. “It’s not a good situation out at Road and Bridge. I think he’s fearful of his employees. It’s kind of scary with all this talk about guns. It’s like the Wild Wild West out there.”

County Judge Mickey Pendergrass defended Huett, but also said he's fine with employees carrying concealed weapons on their county jobs. He carries a pistol himself (see photo) The local sheriff chimed in that he believes people are safer when criminals think more people are carrying weapons.

* DYSFUNCTIONAL WASHINGTON: Well, it functioned after a fashion. Some Republicans, not Dr. No Boozman of Arkansas, joined Democrats in defeating a filibuster and the Senate then approved an increase in the debt ceiling. Said Sen. Mark Pryor:

Last year, we saw an irresponsible few bring our country to a grinding halt, putting our economy and our credit rating at risk. We can’t let that happen again. This bill will prevent our nation from defaulting on our obligations while giving our families, businesses, and markets the certainty they need. Going forward, I hope we will work together to responsibly cut our spending and reduce our deficit, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.

Boozman and all Republican members of the House from Arkansas would rather default on just debts than vote to raise the ceiling.

* TOM COTTON'S GRANDSTANDING: Extremist Republican Rep. Tom Cotton's gimmick of the day was an invitation to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to come to Arkansas, Hot Springs Village to be precise, and explain why old-timers can't get higher interest on their savings. Cheap money from the fed is a terrible thing, Cotton seems to say. Tell that to consumers, whose lending rates remain high for a still-poor economy. And guess what those rates would be if banks had to pay more to get money from the fed? Nothing is ever so simple as the economic evangelists like Tom Cotton want you to believe. But black/white, even if dishonest, seems to work better with voters than nuance. 

* A PLEA FROM SCHOOL COALITION ON CHARTER SCHOOL MONEY: Legislators today received a letter from a broad coalition of education and grassroots groups not to take $10 million from a tight budget to build facilities for the some 6,000 students in charter schools, to the detriment of more than 400,000 in conventional school districts, many in poor areas with long-neglected needs.  Here's the letter.
The letter is in part a response to a strong lobbying effort from legislators beholden to the Billionaire Boys Club, slowly winning the battle to create a dual system of education in Arkansas — charter schools with a raft of preferences and exclusions from the law — and everyone else. The billionaires are not there yet, but the Waltons and others are pushing for full equalization of all spending, even construction money. The letter said in part:

A few are making the argument that it is now the state’s constitutional duty to meet the ongoing facilities needs of Arkansas’ open enrollment charter schools – but this claim is untested and uncertain. Charter schools in Arkansas were intended to be laboratories of innovation and not a permanent replacement for traditional public schools. We know with absolute certainty though, that Arkansas is constitutionally required to provide adequate facilities for our traditional public school students. This $10 million could be better utilized to meet the constitutional requirements that the state Supreme Court has mandated before we speculate on how those requirements affect charter schools.

While charter schools cannot raise local millages to fund facilities, many impoverished traditional public schools face similar challenges due to a lack of a strong local revenue base. The current wealth index does not compensate enough to eliminate this challenge. The students in these low‐income traditional public schools, most of them in rural areas, have a constitutional right to adequate facilities that we are not yet fulfilling.

Maybe a charter school in Bryant could get construction money. Local folks don't seem to want to raise taxes to replace portable classrooms at the regular school district.

* ARSON SUSPECT REPORTEDLY ADMITTED INVOLVEMENT; BLAMED ACTIONS ON DRUGS: The woman charged with a series of arsons in the Forest Place apartments was in court for a bond hearing today. Testimony included an investigator who said she'd admitted setting some of the fires and said she might have been responsible for others, She reportedly said she'd been affected by drug use.

* BEER AND WINE TO BE SOLD TO PRIVILEGED AT RAZORBACK GAMES: The University of Arkansas is taking steps to sell beer and wine to people who hold club seats at Razorback football games. The AP report isn't clear on how the university gets around the nominal prohibition on consumption of alcohol on state property. Of course, booze has long been served in the skyboxes at Razorback Stadium. The artifice has been claiming these were rented premises under the control of renters. This new move also will include licenses for beer and wine sales at basketball and baseball venues, though no immediate plans for sale were announced. Sounds like the scam here might be that the "concessionaire" is doing this, with full approval of UA, of course. No word yet on which brewer will pay top dollar for pouring rights. (UPDATE: Arkansas law won't allow exclusive beer contracts as it does with soft drinks.) No alcoholic swill in the cheap(er) seats. These are considered "public" areas. What a load.

click to enlarge CURRENT POLICY: From UA 2014 fan guide.
  • CURRENT POLICY: From UA 2014 fan guide.

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