Favorite

Brantley: Broken 'Promise' 

click to enlarge Sen. Joyce Elliott image
  • Sen. Joyce Elliott

Almost eight months ago, a group of public and private agencies announced a joint venture to lift the fortunes of children and families in inner city Little Rock.

With TV cameras rolling, Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock was introduced as the leader of the Central Arkansas Promise Neighborhood. Modeled on the famous Harlem Children's Zone, its aim is to coordinate health, education and other services in a comprehensive way from birth to jobs.

Partners: UALR, the city of Little Rock, UAMS, Children's Hospital, the Little Rock Preparatory Academy charter school, the Central Arkansas Library System, the Little Rock School District, New Futures for Youth. Churches, including Second Presbyterian, and private foundations have promised money and volunteers. The consortium won a highly sought federal planning grant.

But last week came a complication. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Elliott's hiring might run afoul of state law because UALR was her paying agent. A state law prohibits hiring of a state legislator by a state agency, if Promise Neighborhood be such.

That law was passed in 1999 after a powerful legislator, Ed Thicksten, got hired by a state agency he created and funded while he was a state legislator, and after another sitting legislator laid groundwork to lobby for a state university. It wasn't about a legislator — qualified as teacher, neighbor and organizer — working for a consortium including agencies legally able to pay her.

One fix was for the city of Little Rock to issue paychecks. But the city got cold feet. City officials insist influential businessman Dickson Flake had nothing to do with it. Flake is campaign treasurer for state Rep. Fred Allen, who is running against Elliott. Flake is powerful in the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. It receives $200,000 in city tax money each year. It ran — but didn't disclose expenditures in — the campaign to pass a huge city sales tax. That sales tax gave $22 million to the Little Rock Technology Park Authority, created by a law written by the chamber. Authority Board members include a statutory seat for the chamber and Flake himself. Elliott recently advocated fiercely before the board for neighbors who fear their land will be taken. She also has said she'll push in the next legislature for more financial disclosure by Authority board members and neighborhood protections.

The Democrat-Gazette's reporting has been a welcome tool for the newspaper's editorial page, where Elliott was already a public enemy for standing up to the charter school lobby that publisher Walter Hussman supports. Billionaire money, from charter school advocates Jim Walton and Jackson T. Stephens Jr., helps power Fred Allen's campaign, along with other corporate dough.

Monday, Elliott made the only realistic decision. She resigned her job with Promise Neighborhood. She hopes re-election will restore a measure of her good name and also remove controversy from a worthy project.

The tragedy is not her loss of income. The tragedy is that time is now short for application for grants to put the project in motion. I'm told the loss of Elliott also may cost the program some of its promised private support. The entire program is at risk.

If politics set these events in motion — and Elliott believes they did — the community and children at Bale, Franklin and Stephens elementary schools, Forest Heights Middle School, Hall High and Little Rock Preparatory Academy will pay the heaviest price.

Yes, the law is the law (though it's more ambiguous than it might seem.) But it was the law nearly eight months ago, too. Too bad it was not invoked then by those speaking so knowingly today, rather than — coincidentally — scant days before an election.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (12)

Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Trump proposes an unconstitutional ban on flag burning, revoking citizenship

    Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, this morning made a public statement, via Twitter, that the flag burning should be disallowed by law: "there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Kids count, not confidentiality

    The trial for the murder of Isaiah Torres, 6, was a reminder again of a gaping hole in the law pertaining to child protective services.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Fixing blame: President Trump

    Did the press fail? Were liberal-leaning journalists on the coasts responsible for missing the Trump wave among middle-to-lower income white voters with lower educational attainment?
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Can we get along?

    he Times production deadline fell before polls closed this week, so I'll look to the past and future.
    • Nov 10, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation