There’s a potential Little Rock School District angle in the dispute over where to put a new sewage treatment plant for western Little Rock.
Eugene Pfeifer is fighting a recommendation by Little Rock Wastewater Utility staff to put the new facility on acreage he owns near Pinnacle Valley and The Ranch. Before the issue was raised, we’ve learned, the school district had expressed an interest in adjacent Pfeifer acreage for a new school. Subsequently, Pfeifer asked the school district if the School Board would oppose putting the sewer plant on Pfeifer’s property.
“Understandably, he doesn’t want to have his property condemned for the sewer plant,” Bryan Day, a School Board member, said. “My guess is that he is looking for anything he can to make this condemnation go away.”
So far, there’s been no move on the issue by the School Board. Baker Kurrus, another board member who confirmed the subject had come up, said the controversy has become too complicated. He said he is “assiduously avoiding it.”
Though Riverfest officials won’t announce their lineup for a while, we can say via other sources that Joe Nichols, the rising Nashville country star by way of Rogers who followed up his breakout year in 2003 with a big 2004, will be the country music headliner for Riverfest on Sunday, May 29.
Word comes of potential developments on high-profile legislative issues:
• Deltic Timber continues to press legislation to strip water utilities of condemnation power so Central Arkansas Water can’t stop a Deltic subdivision in a critical part of the Lake Maumelle Watershed. But the bill has opposition from other water utilities around the state. Central Arkansas Water fears the bill will be amended to target only Central Arkansas Water, not all water utilities. This sounds like local legislation, which, in theory, is unconstitutional, but you never can be sure.
• Tax increment financing. A coalition of do-gooders, including school lobbies, may come up with a bill to clean up TIF legislation. The idea is to make sure TIF benefits go only to blighted areas with a demonstrated need — declining property tax assessments could be a standard of need — and that schools would have a meaningful voice before their property taxes could be diverted for redevelopment. This would not be an outcome favored by developers in wealthy parts of the state that had been planning to use TIFs to support major building projects.
Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.