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Home for the homeless 

Home for the homeless

The city of Little Rock is applying to the General Services Administration to take over the former Jobs Corps building at 2200 Vance St. for use as a day resource center for the homeless, the city's homeless services coordinator confirmed Tuesday.

Jimmy Pritchett said the federal government could transfer the building at no cost to the city under certain conditions; the lease would be for 30 years. Pritchett said the eight-story building — built as a Red Roof Inn — “is in excellent condition” and large enough for agencies that help the homeless to operate satellite offices there.

The city might face some opposition from the Little Rock School District because of the site's proximity to Rockefeller Elementary and other nearby schools. Pritchett said “there will be intensive dialogue we'll have to undertake” to get the neighborhood's approval. River City Ministries in downtown North Little Rock currently serves as a day shelter; Pritchett said he expected that a sum similar to the $200,000 the city granted that shelter would be budgeted for a new shelter and that North Little Rock — which kicked in $91,000 to the River Cities grant — would contribute as well.

 

It's not too soon…

… to talk about 2010 elections, is it?

For example: Hendrix College prof Jay Barth, a liberal Democrat, raised $20,000 at a party last week for a race for the Senate seat currently held by Tracy Steele. Possible opponents include Rep. Linda Chesterfield. Political dynamic: Barth is white. She's black. The district is diverse, perhaps majority black but less so than when it was first drawn and with a strong Hispanic population.

Steele's name is being mentioned now for the House seat currently held by Green Party Rep. Richard Carroll of North Little Rock. Speaking of race: Just this week, Carroll  sought but was denied admission to the Black Legislative Caucus because he's white. The House district, only a portion of the Senate district, is majority black, as is Steele.

We inquired of Steele about a possible race in 2010. He wasn't saying. “I keep my political options open. I may run for president.”

 

Huckstering

OK, it's a small exaggeration, but fair is fair. When Gov. Mike Beebe doesn't follow the letter of the state ethics law, we should hold him to the same standard we applied to his predecessor, Mike Huckabee.

Last month, Beebe filed his annual statement of financial interest. It reported income only from his job as governor. The form requires reporting of all sources of income of more than $1,000 each. If the income is more than $12,500, that must be noted. The state Ethics Commission's on-line instructions explicitly show that this should include, for example, interest of more than $1,000 from a bank savings account.

Beebe reported “holdings” worth more than $12,500 from 12 sources -- CDs, municipal bonds and investment accounts. Why no income reports? Did he earn less than $1,000 from each of those 12 holdings? Not likely.

We asked his spokesman, Matt DeCample. He responded: “If the Ethics Commission would like us to denote the attachment under income as well, we'd be happy to amend and re-submit. Our emphasis was on making sure the full list of holdings was part of the SFI.”

The Ethics Commission, which confirmed our interpretation of the law in general terms, isn't likely to initiate an inquiry into Beebe's filing absent a formal complaint. Maybe next year.

 

The incredible darkness

Things are looking brighter these days in many of the areas hardest hit by the ice storm in January, but some are still waiting for the power to come back on. An Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas spokesman said Tuesday that around 20,000 customers are still in the dark, down from a peak of 185,000 just after the storm. While discounting rumors that it may take until summer or beyond to get juice to the most far-flung rural customers in remote parts of the Ozarks, spokesman Rob Roedel did say that it may well be weeks yet before crews make it to those living in “end of the line” locations.

“The Co-Op services very remote areas, with long stretches of line to get to a few customers. That's why the Co-Ops were formed,” Roedel said. “As we progress, we go to the largest pockets of population and work our way out.”

 

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