AM report: A visit to Exxon County, Ark.; 11th hour legislative funny business | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 18, 2013

AM report: A visit to Exxon County, Ark.; 11th hour legislative funny business

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 6:18 AM

Top of the morning. These items pop up:

* VISIT TO MAYFLOWER CAN BE HAZARDOUS: On the jump (also here on Facebook), I invite you to read an account by Rod Bryan of Little Rock of his visit to the Mayflower neighborhood inundated by thousands of barrels of Canadian tar sand crude after the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline ruptured. Bryan is a musician, political gadfly, former political candidate and a fellow who's had run-ins with authorities before. I think it's merely factual to say he can be irritating. Nonetheless, his account of an encounter with the local cops rings true. Don't know if the officers he encountered were in public or Exxon's private employ at the time. It's a reminder that the hiring out of local officers as private watchdogs can create the appearance of conflict about whom public servants might represent.

BTW: Another lawsuit was filed yesterday over the ExxonMobil spill, this one by people with contractual easements for the pipeline across their property.

* FINAL HOUR FUNNY BUSINESS: Approval of Obamacare for Arkansas ended the legislative session for all important intents and purposes? Think again. The lobby never sleeps. There's a full lineup of committee meetings to rush out jammed-up bills, some of them perhaps to get fresh attention thanks precisely for final votes on the Medicaid expansion. Examples:

* REVENUE AND TAXATION: Tax cuts, heavily pitched to help the wealthy and big business, will pour out of House committee this morning like Canadian crude from an Exxon pipeline.

* CURTAILING THE PETITION POWER AND THE DEMOCRATIC VOTE: This bad legislation will slime out of committee this morning, along with the Sen. Bryan King package to make Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin an election law vigilante to go along with complementary bills aimed at suppressing Democratic votes and taking partisan control of the state election oversight apparatus.

* TARGETING THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION: This is big because it's about the state's organic law. The joint committee that can refer up to three constitutional amendments to voters has so far only successfully moved one — a bad one to give the legislature still more power over executive agencies through absolute control of executive agency rules. This morning, a couple of measures are back on the agenda. One is Rep. Warwick Sabin's proposal to put some ethics proposals in the Constitution, but to also provide a means to raise legislators' pay and to ease term limits so that members can serve 16 straight years in a single chamber of the legislature. The other proposal up for another run is a measure to severely limit the petition process by requiring submission of 90 percent accurate signatures at the deadline to qualify for an extension to cure shortfalls caused by signatures that can't be verified. The constitutional measure will override strong constitutional protections for petitions. It has opposition from left and right-wings, but the business community — particularly Oaklawn and Southland casinos and the gas industry — want this to shut down grassroots petitioning.

It ain't over until it's over.

  • 'FURIOUS': Gabby Giffords
* MUST READ: Gabby Giffords writes in the New York Times about the gun lobby's control of Congress.

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

* TEARING MARK PRYOR A NEW ONE: Speaking of guns .... Sarah Posner blasts Sen. Mark Pryor for being an alleged person of faith who lay down with the gun lobby yesterday to defeat a broader background bill.

Five years ago, Pryor was trotted out by Democratic activists as a great supporter of what was then a new effort: a political action committee named for a Bible verse, specifically Matthew 25. You know, the the one about caring for the least of these? Because with the families of the slaughtered children at Newtown on hand, Pryor voted to protect his own hide, so his constituents who fall for NRA lies won't drive him out of office.

Just in case I've never made this clear before, legislation shouldn't be based on the Bible. But if you're going to co-chair the National Prayer Breakfast, and give a big speech about how pious and wonderful you and your praying Congressional colleagues are, you can't also run around acting like a bought and paid for coward without people reaching for their Bibles to search for where you might have found the scriptural basis for your self-serving gutlessness.

"We just need to start acting better, and Jesus gives us the place to start," was a gem from Pryor's 2012 Prayer Breakfast speech.

As Pryor himself has said, you don't need to pass an IQ test to serve in the United States Senate:

I don't want to hear anymore about "people of faith" want this or want that as a liberal corrective to the religious right. How about people of reason, and people of actual compassion, not some phony religiously-inflected pabulum?


Today I went to Mayflower, Arkansas with my friend Samuel Heard to see the Exxon Oil Spill first hand. I've been asked by a few people to go up there and had been keeping my distance because my heart can only take so much and I've been giving myself a break from activism.

We drove into a little neighborhood to try and get a view at what they were doing. We asked a lady if we could park in front of her trailer, she said we could park in her driveway if we wanted to, but we just parked on the road taking caution not to block either driveway at the end of this dead end street.

I asked her if she or her kids ever went into the woods. She said yes. There were no signs saying do not enter the woods. No Exxon presence. No police presence. No signs. We walked into the woods.

After a little ways we saw a red tape that was facing backwards that read "Danger" on the other side. One might interpret the sign to read that we were leaving the danger zone. On the other side of the tape we could see piles of materials and two workers eating lunch.

We went past the tape and approached the workers. They made it clear that they had no authority over us and didn't care if we took pictures as long as they were not in them. We walked around and filmed.

Then, as we were walking away from the water and back the way we came, two Exxon employees showed up. They told us to stop filming. They asked us why we hadn't "checked in." We informed them that we had seen no check point. They told us to go back past the red "danger" tape and wait on "security."

We did as they asked. After we passed the tape, we were met by another woman from across the street. She said she owned all the lake front property. We asked if we could walk over there and film. She said yes. We did.

We had a great walk and talk with the woman. We told her goodbye and started walking back toward my car. As we were walking we were approached by a Faulkner County police officer and a Greenbriar Police Officer. When we were still very far away from them I started filming again because I've learned that most police act differently when a camera is rolling.

When they were right on us they stopped us and told us to stop filming. I asked them what business they had with us and told them that we were visiting with someone. They again told us to stop filming. The Greenbriar officer told me that "He was not going to tell me again." I stopped filming but asked Sam to continue filming. The County officer said that we had walked into an authorized area. I asked him what made any area unauthorized. He said there was a red tape. I told him the tape said "Danger." He said I shouldn't have walked past it. I then asked him if he was dipping snuff. He said yes. I told him to spit it out. Hoping that he would see that I was making a point that although snuff has danger signs, it is not illegal to dip it. He did not see my point. The other officer again told Sam to stop filming.
He undid the top of his taser and I advised Sam to stop filming. He did.

After we stopped filming the police calmed down a bit and took on the posture that we should just leave and all would be cool. We got back into our car just as several other police cars were pulling up behind us. The Faulkner County officer who had just let us go now decided that he should check our identifications. I let him know that we had the right to refuse. Thats when a very agitated Mayflower city officer came up on the driver side of the car and started threatening me with what would happen very quickly if I did not produce my identification. I begrudgingly gave him my identification knowing full well that I had the right not to give it to him but also knowing that he might do something crazy. He seemed quite capable. And, we were no longer filming.

He went back to his car and checked out my i.d. while the other officers stood outside the car. He gave me a ticket for "Prohibited Parking" and "Obstruction of Government Operations." Sam was not ticketed.

We were threatened with physical violence by police officers for walking on land with the land owners.

Will someone please tell me how to report this? Should we report it to EXXON? They obviously control the police.

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