Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Outsourcing state government
As a citizen, I don't get to choose not to pay taxes because I don't like what the Arkansas state government is spending state and federal money on, such as paying a Chinese company, Sun Paper, approximately $1 billion to build a paper mill in Clark County; Leslie Rutledge's lawsuits to defend unconstitutional, discriminatory laws; or the ridiculously high salaries being paid because of Governor Hutchinson's and Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie's ($280,000) numerous and questionable firings; and promotions and new hires to DHS and the governor's executive staff.
I don't like that Medicaid money will pay 90 percent of DHS new hire Dennis Smith's $300,000 salary. But, if he was hired to help the poor, sick and elderly, then that's OK. Smith is a proven expert in reducing the cost of states' Medicaid Program and an expert in handling waivers, so the state can make up their on ACA program and Smith has received high praise from Sen. Jim Hendren about Smith's expertise in handling money from Medicaid Block Grants that the federal government awards states, which allows the state to spend the money as they see fit. That's scary!
Gillespie and newly promoted Director of Youth Services Betty Gulham ($100,077) have canceled several Medicaid vendor contracts, which Gillespie says is supposed to cover Smith's salary. Gillespie said, "The outside world wants to help Arkansas. They'd like to help us do our missions. If there's work that can be done by a nonprofit group or faith-based organization, then we don't need to be doing it inside the government." How nice. I can see where our broke state government might need a lot of free help. I am sure Governor Hutchinson is worried about finding money for the highway fund and money to pay those huge salaries he has recently created, and finding money to pay out-of-state vendors to house prison inmates (Texas) and juveniles (Indiana), but thanks to Cindy and Dennis, he doesn't have to worry about not being able to keep the pledge he made with AHCA (nursing home lobby) to save the Medicaid Program $250 million dollars in five years by upgrading reforms to nursing homes.
I admit I don't have an accountant's math skills or understand the complex political staff changes the governor is implementing, but I do have a large calculator on my desk, and I do know when someone is feeding me a fluff story and I am capable of connecting some of the dots. My question is: After Gillespie and Smith get through gutting the Medicaid program, what will Smith do with the federal money from Medicaid Block grants? Will it go to the Chinese to pay them for building a paper mill in Clark County? Will it go to the Highway Fund? Will it go to pay the high salaries of top-level state employees? Will it go to out-of-state vendors we are currently making contracts with? Will it go to pay the legal fees incurred from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's appeals to defend unconstitutional laws passed by the Arkansas legislature? Can Arkansas citizens get a financial report, showing in detail, every dime the state receives and spends?
Doesn't make sense
It is unconscionable that Republicans refuse to vote on a clean bill to combat the Zika virus. Instead, they add a rider that would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving any funding related to helping the fight against Zika. Planned Parenthood provides reproductive services and family planning to 2.5 million patients nation-wide each year and is the largest provider of sex education in the U.S. Family planning is the primary strategy recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It is completely illogical to reduce access to contraception and sex education at a time of a health crisis that is directly related to pregnancy. And to top it off, Republicans added another rider to allow unfettered use of the Confederate flag in national cemeteries. What does that have to do with combating a disease that can cause neurological defects in fetuses and severe developmental delays for children? Unfortunately, both of our senators went along with this political power play. Contact Sens. Boozman and Cotton. Ask them to quit playing politics with the lives of children and families. Ask them to support a clean bill to fund the fight against the Zika virus.
The powerful people and the LRSD
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, gushing with love for the Walton Foundation, suggested recently that the foundation's letterhead should read, "Walton foundation — giving all the help we can." Using wealth and politics, the Powerful People (PP) control Arkansas schools, particularly those in Little Rock.
The PP heavily promotes charter schools with no concern for the thousands of children unable to use charters. There is nothing innovative about Little Rock charter schools. They succeed by picking good students, quickly removing disruptive students, and taking full advantage of the cooperative eager classes formed with select students. Successful charters thrive on enrolling students receptive to learning. That process of selecting students for charters leaves the difficult, more expensive job of teaching those refused entrance to teachers in traditional schools.
Recalling my days as a teacher, I hated the times when a parent was transferred and I lost a good student. Sadly, the Walton Foundation is "helping" the LRSD by removing thousands of good students from classrooms and placing them in charter schools. If the PP wanted to help Little Rock, they would show concern for the 20,000 or so LR students unable to take advantage of private or charter schools. Those are the children hurt by the foolish obsession (shown at Central High in 1957) to attend school with only certain people.
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