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You've perhaps read that the legislature has already begun using expensive new hearing rooms in the Big MAC building, space cleared when a couple of state agencies moved into a newly renovated $18.5 million office building on Capitol Avenue. You may also remember that Gov. Mike Beebe put the kibosh on a plan to build a tunnel or skybridge to span the street between the Capitol and Big MAC to facilitate movement of paper from legislative research offices to the committee room (and keep legislators from getting their hair wet should an inconvenient shower crop up).

There's a lot of paper to be moved and, though the distance is short, stairs and one-way traffic patterns make it a little difficult to roll stuff straight from the Capitol to Big MAC. David Ferguson, director of the Bureau of Legislative Research, said the bureau traded cars used by staff to attend out-of-town committee meetings for a van that can transport large quantities of documents. A temporary employee will be hired during the session to drive it. He said there's no handicapped accessible entrance on the north end of Big MAC nearest the capital and staffers with a cart have to negotiate a 15 percent grade that's steep and slippery when wet, plus roll down a street for 100 yards to reach a doorway accessible to a rolling cart. It's not just a matter of a box or two of papers, Ferguson said. Multiple copies of long bills add up quickly. The legislature burned through 10.4 tons of paper in the last session, he said. A tunnel would have cost $3 million.

For whom the poll tolls

Residents of Little Rock report receiving telephone poll questions recently about city government.

Respondents were asked how favorably they viewed Mayor Mark Stodola (who is up for re-election this year) and City Manager Bruce Moore. They also were asked their feelings about the current form of government — a city manager/strong mayor hybrid — and about a sales tax increase.

So what's up? Political sources believe the poll was done by Stodola's campaign. At press time, he hadn't returned our call.

Why would Stodola ask about Bruce Moore? Speculation is that Little Rock may yet see a movement to a pure mayor-council form of government. That might produce more interest in the mayor's job than was in evidence this year, when Stodola drew only token opposition. There are also those who think that Moore, a capable manager with warm links in every segment of the community, might make a good mayoral candidate (though he reportedly has told friends he has no such interests).

New hand in lands

It has passed notice so far, but state Land Commissioner Mark Wilcox of Greenbrier has a new chief deputy.

You may recall that he fired Bentley Hovis several months ago for the apparent sin of telling the truth to newspaper reporters about Wilcox's use of two state automobiles, including a pickup kept on his farm, and $14,000 in fuel charges.

Gene Osment, a Little Rock lawyer, went to work Sept. 16 as Wilcox's interim chief deputy. He said the plan was to serve through the end of the boss' term in January. He'll be paid about $90,000 annual salary, or roughly $30,000 for four months work. Osment, who has been "of counsel" to the Niswanger law firm, said he planned to return to that role after a successor takes office.



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