Votes count 

Votes count

The 6.1 percent turnout for the $73.5 million bond issue to renovate Robinson Center resulted in 5,183 votes supporting the project. In effect, each vote for the project supported the issuance of over $14,000 in bonds. And citizens think that their votes don't count!

Mike Watts

Little Rock

We know our dogs

The weather break and closed K-12 schools gave me the time to sit down and catch up on my reading, which included a stack of the Arkansas Times that had accumulated as other things ate up my time. I was both surprised and pleased to see the review of The Blind Pig in the Nov. 14 issue, touting Zweigle hot dogs. The New York origin in question is Rochester, where I grew up with these hot dogs as the local gold standard. I have been touting them for some time and actually have a connection with an Italian deli in Rochester that distributes Zweigle meats nationwide, albeit via the costly mode of overnight shipping. They actually have quite the clientele all over the nation.

I don't know who does the reviews for you, but his/her judgment is now officially excellent. Both the red and white Zweigle hot dogs are superb!

Mark R. Killenbeck

Fayetteville

Drug testing not justified

This legislative session, Arkansas joined the national trend of maligning the poor with mandatory drug testing for public benefits. The bill, SB 38, would have instituted mandatory drug testing for unemployment benefits. Since 2011, state legislators have proposed at least 85 bills requiring drug tests for public benefits. In February the 11th Circuit found Florida's blanket testing statute for all TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) applicants to be an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. The 11th Circuit's decision demonstrates only one of three problems with mandatory drug testing. Lawmakers must strongly consider constitutionality, finances and the factual justification for such testing. Only time and justiciable cases will answer the constitutional questions, but there is enough data to show that these policies are rarely factually or financially justified.

Few states have published their financial outcomes from these programs, but those that have paint a wasteful picture. Florida's unconstitutional law netted the state a $45,780 loss — a figure that does not even include implementation or litigation expenses. Utah, implementing a testing policy based on reasonable suspicion from a pre-screening process, claims savings of $360,000 from the first year, but it is unclear where these savings come from. It appears to be based on the number of applicants who refused a test after they were flagged in the pre-screening process, but those applicants may reapply after a 6- to 12-month penalty period so the actual savings may be much lower due to those screened out eventually joining the rolls. Notably, the 12 individuals who took the test and failed may still receive benefits if they enroll in a state-funded treatment program. Oklahoma's program demonstrates the high cost of pre-screening, even when it does not provide funding for treatment. The state is responsible for the $20 prescreening test and the $140 test for flagged individuals, so even a moderate net savings is improbable. Financially, these policies are very difficult to justify. In states that have issued their data, there are rarely enough people screened out of the program to validate the expense.

The high cost of these programs point out their greatest flaw: applicants for public benefits simply are not using drugs at the rate politicians want constituents to think, making these policies an unjustifiable expense. During the first year of testing in Utah, 12 welfare applicants tested positive. During a three-month period in Oklahoma, 29 out of 1,300 applicants tested positive. Arkansas must look to other states for guidance. A blanket testing policy, like SB 38, will not pass Constitutional muster. These policies have proven economically wasteful, and unfairly miscategorize the poor as drug users. They are based on the unjustified assumption that poor people are more likely to use drugs.

Casey Trzcinski

Fayetteville

From the web

In response to the Dec. 12 article about the Center for Artistic Revolution's assistance for kids with gender issues:

Having seen firsthand the work of Division of Youth Services and the folk at CAR, I have to say that Arkansas is fortunate to have such a resource. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students and the third leading cause of death for teens to younger adults, age 15-24 years. The statistic for LGBTQ youth are worse, with up to 3-5 more suicide attempts for these folk when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Social marginalization, harassment, lack of family support and overt aggression directed to these young people all contribute to their vulnerability. Thank goodness for CAR, DYSC and the First Presbyterian Church for their welcoming arms, support and outreach. If we could only convince more social leaders in the Arkansas community of the need for this type of institutions, we could protect the lives and enrich the development of our most precious resource, our youth.

A.J. Zolten

Board member, Arkansas Chapter, American Foundation For Suicide Prevention

In response to the Dec. 12 article about Fishnet Missions helping a family in need:

AMEN. I feel the same way. Dewey and Barbara [Sims] are "GIFTS FROM GOD" and if it wasn't for them as well as Fishnet Missions I don't think we would have made it through the tough times either. They really treat us as family and always are there for us in any situation. Fishnet allows me to volunteer my time so that I am able to help others and gives me an outlet to get a little relief from home for a few hours since I am also my wife's full-time care giver. They mean so much to myself and my family I couldn't imagine where we would be without them. It's hard to find people that will call to check on you or drive out of their way to go to the hospital and visit with my wife when she was in there for so long. They mean more to my family then they will ever know. I thank GOD every day for placing them in our lives as well as Fishnet Missions and all the volunteers that are there. I just want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts and I hope they continue to touch and bless many others the way they have us.

Charles Hunsucker

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