Perfect record

Last week’s vote on the constitutional amendment to prohibit flag desecration prompted some spirited discussion on our Arkansas Blog. Sen. Mark Pryor voted against the amendment; Sen. Blanche Lincoln voted for it. Her vote prompted the inevitable Blog reader comparisons with a previous Arkansas senator, Dale Bumpers.

Bumpers, in defending the impeached Bill Clinton before the U.S. Senate, had said he’d never voted for a constitutional amendment in his 24 years in the Senate. But a Blog reader dredged up a 1999 quote from Bumpers that suggested he once voted for a constitutional amendment. Other Internet references say Bumpers’ record was unblemished.

We called Bumpers to clarify. “Absolutely not,” said Bumpers. He’d never voted for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 38 tries, he said. He said, in the quote that suggested otherwise, he might have intended to indicate his regret over opposing one of those measures.

Bumpers said he’d later decided he should have supported an amendment proposed by Sen. Fritz Hollings to give Congress more power to set limits on campaign spending. “I voted against it, just because I was so pristine then about doing anything to the Constitution.”

But Bumpers added, “I never intended to say I would never vote for one. I just said in my 24 years I never voted for one. And, frankly, I couldn’t stand for voting for something Jesse Helms was proposing to tinker with something James Madison had crafted.”

Would he have voted for the flag amendment? “I promise I wouldn’t.”

Those were the days, my friend.

Realtor backs award

The donor of the $10,000 the Nature Conservancy of Arkansas is offering as reward for good information that will produce a photograph of an ivory-billed woodpecker is Fayetteville real estate developer Mitchell Massey. Massey is on the Northwest Arkansas advisory board for the conservation organization and has been a member for several years. Massey’s idea was to inspire people who know and use the Big Woods to help in the documentation, director Scott Simon said.

The award has already produced several “inquiries,” Simon said, but he declined to say if the inquiries included information on possible woodpecker evidence. The state Game and Fish Commission is working with TNC to follow up leads.

Photographs or sound recordings are optimal, but persons who can lead a biologist to an active roost are also encouraged to call. The numbers: (800) 364-4263 for Game and Fish, 614-5081 for TNC.

Kids getting poorer

Arkansas ranks 45th among the 50 states in well-being of children, according to a new report. The state slipped backward from the rating of 44th it held in 2004 and 2005.

Although it showed improvement in some categories, such as the percentage of high school dropouts — the state experienced a 42 percent decrease in dropouts between 2000 and 2004 — Arkansas lost ground in other areas, such as the percentage of children under 18 whose parents do not have fulltime, year-round employment. In 2004, 38 percent of Arkansas children lacked secure parental employment, a 15-percent increase since 2000.

The percentage of children without secure parental employment increased nationwide too, from 32 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2004, the report said. The percentage of American children living in poverty also went up, from 17 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2004. The report concluded that overall, “National trends in child well-being are no longer improving in the steady way they did in the late 1990s.”

The report, the 2006 version of the Kids Count Data Book, was made by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore, a private charitable organization that advocates programs to benefit children and families.



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