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Political notebook 

I can't offer much by way of sustained thought this week. Instead, a notes roundup spanning the political spectrum from top to bottom:

• I supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination on account of brains, tenacity, toughness and long years of association. I'm happy to vote for Barack Obama instead. She would have carried Arkansas against John McCain. I don't think Obama will. Should she be on the ticket, that might help in Arkansas, but I don't expect to see her as running mate despite her warm concession and pledge to work for Obama's election. Obama ran a smart primary race. I presume he'll bring the same smarts to the general election. I hope so. Older women who normally lean heavily toward the Democratic candidate will be problematic in this race for a variety of reasons.  That bloc is the most compelling argument for a place for Clinton on the ticket. But you knew all that.

• Closer to home: Phil Wyrick, the Republican candidate for county judge against incumbent Democrat Buddy Villines, paid me a visit last week. He knows my biases well enough, but he makes the case that this is the year to vote for a Republican. Do I want change or more of the same, to coin a phrase.

Wyrick offered one very solid reason to seriously consider his candidacy. Unlike Villines, Wyrick acknowledges that the only way to assure protection of Lake Maumelle in the long term are land use regulations governing the watershed. Since Central Arkansas Water has volunteered to pay the cost of a county administrative agency to oversee this, Wyrick told me flatly that he supports the idea. He's careful not to use the word “zoning,” but he's smart enough to know that the course he favors amounts to de facto zoning. Villines favors a nearly unenforceable approach to watershed protection, through covenants in individual developments. Why he won't stand for clean water against the handful of rural dwellers and developers who oppose strong watershed protection is beyond me. Wyrick also points the finger at Villines for the years of neglect of the County Jail and failure of county government to get the jail or county financial affairs in order. He doesn't yet have specific proposals on this, but the subjects bear watching as the campaign progresses. Wyrick also promised that, if elected, he'd stick to county business — public safety, roads, operating the courthouse — and not waste time as some Republicans have over the years with diversionary nonsense like resolutions on gay marriage. Promising start for Wyrick's campaign.

• Another caller this week was Jim McKenzie, director of Metroplan. He's encouraging publicity about a coming public survey of the metro area on traffic bottlenecks. It should produce an interesting list beyond the obvious big freeway choke points. Better still, it might contribute to the discussion about changing the culture to cope with higher gas prices. Maybe the solution to bottlenecks isn't one more freeway widening project. Maybe it is better arterial streets. Maybe it is better mass transportation and encouragement of bicycle and pedestrian travel. Maybe it is greater population density. It's about time that somebody realizes that spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get people to Benton and Bryant faster only encourages more people to drive to Benton and Bryant. This causes more problems, it doesn't solve any except, temporarily, slower commutes.

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