Around the state: Offending T-shirt in Mena; offending school sale in Helena | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Around the state: Offending T-shirt in Mena; offending school sale in Helena

Posted By on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 6:34 AM

A couple of items came in by mail over night about local disputes in far reaches of the state — Mena and Helena-West Helena:

* POLK COUNTY ELECTION COMMISSION COMPLAINT: In Mena, a local Republican official  has filed a complaint with the local prosecutor for removal of David Ray, chairman of the Polk County Election Commission, because he was listed as a host for a campaign fund-raising event for Chase Busch, the Democrat who lost to Republican Rep. Nate Bell. He also, according to the word of Phyllis Bell, Nate Bell's wife and a failed county assessor candidate, was seen wearing a James Lee Witt for Congress T-shirt at Lum and Abner Days in Mena last summer. Election commissioners are not allowed to campaign for people on the county ballot.  Stu Soffer, the Republican state election commissioner who's circulating the information, says local prosecutor Andy Riner should recuse because his wife is James Lee Witt's niece and supported Busch. Agreed. Election commission members should not adopt partisan coloration, including a T-shirt at Lum and Abner Days. But remind me: Did a single Republican stand up and decry the taking of a Pulaski County election commission seat by an employee of a Republican candidate on the county ballot — Secretary of State Mark Martin — who was not only a candidate but the man who nominally stands at the top of Arkansas election machinery? Alex Reed also was working as treasurer for a Republican congressional candidate and he soon enough departed, but I recall no GOP outrage about this one.

* SPEAKING OF MARK MARTIN: Still silence from numerous questions to his office about whether he'll correct the office's incorrect handling of the state voter registration file that erroneously makes county officials demand an ID of voters who've moved from one county to another. That's not the law. Martin's vast office has had nothing but bobbing and weaving on this question, despite solid evidence from the Pulaski County Election Commission that the rule could have cost people their votes.

* MEANWHILE IN HELENA-WEST HELENA: The local school district is under state control, which means the school board is only advisory to Tony Wood, the state Education Department director, who now runs the school district. They are not happy that KIPP, the charter school operation in Helena-West Helena, has worked out a deal to buy an unused school building for what advisory board chair Andrew Bagley thinks is too small a price. He's been making objections to the state sellout to KIPP. He probably should simmer down. The KIPP operation likely will get the building and get it cheap. The Waltons are backing them as well as the working legislative majority. Nonetheless, Bagley wrote Wood:

At tonight's meeting of the Helena-West Helena School District Advisory School Board, our board voted 4-0 with one member absent to recommend to you that all bids received on various properties owned by the Helena-West Helena School District be rejected and that the properties be taken off of the market until the HWHSD can complete a building plan through a deliberative process involving the board, the district administration, and our district's architects.

As you know, the request for bids went out over the objection of the local board, which voted overwhelmingly not to sell any buildings at this time. A majority of the board has felt strongly that we needed to have a deliberative process through which we determined our building needs before we sold off property. A majority of the board has felt that this has been a rushed process that has been anything but deliberate. For instance, we took bids on buildings for which we had no appraisals to guide us on what they were worth. All of the bids seemed extremely low.

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