The Mansion takeover: Of course it was Hutchinson's idea | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Mansion takeover: Of course it was Hutchinson's idea

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2016 at 7:14 AM

click to enlarge NO LONGER THE PEOPLE'S HOUSE: Legislation makes Gov. Asa Hutchinson the sole proprietor.
  • NO LONGER THE PEOPLE'S HOUSE: Legislation makes Gov. Asa Hutchinson the sole proprietor.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, after the deed was done, got today into the legislation for Gov. Asa Hutchinson to take over the Governor's Mansion. The bill stripped the Commission of its historic power to control additions and purchases. It makes all commissioners serve at the will of the governor. It gave a voting seat to the governor's faithful Heritage department director, Stacy Hurst.

Short take from Hutchinson-friendly spokespeople quoted in the story: The Commission was a lawless bunch — no rules, no FOI — and it wasn't the governor's idea but the idea of House Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Sen.Missy Irvin.

1) Let's get the balderdash out of the way. Of course it was the governor's idea. Or maybe more precisely First Lady Susan Hutchinson, whose decorating tastes  run counter to the period furnishings favored by past commissioners for the public rooms. She also, like some first ladies before her, doesn't much like welcoming public visitors through the public rooms below and above the first family's personal space. Expect them to be moved to a side entrance.

2) The press/public has never been denied admission to scheduled Mansion's Commission meetings. Regrettably, none attended some the last year or so, when First Lady Susan Hutchinson's unhappiness about outside oversight became apparent.

3) The Commission was working on adopting administrative rules, though Heritage Director Stacy Hurst, already an ex officio member of the Commission, scuttled at least one meeting on the rules proposals. (Now that she's a voting member, will her family flower shop be able to sell decorative items to the Mansion?)

4) The article didn't mention the $1.1 million the Hutchinsons got from an agency under Hurst's control for Mansion work including upgrades to private space and some special treatment for a piece of sculpture the first lady particularly admires.

5) There was no mention of a policy shift that has made the Mansion and its great hall — built through a bipartisan fund-raising effort — less available for use by nonprofit groups.

There's time to look further and to compare public use and spending by the Hutchinson administration and the Beebe administration. A good start is that $1.1 million for upgrades, including to personal space, in a year when state employees were penciled out of a pay raise by Gov. Hutchinson because every dime was needed to pay for a highway spending program.

PS: I'd also like an accounting of expenses on redecorating and furnishings in the governor's office. His office won't supply that accounting. Some of it may be buried in Republican Party financial reports, but some expenditures that I know were made don't appear on 2015 state GOP reports. $34,000 in payments to Tipton and Hurst do.  Hurst of course provided cover for the guv in today's D-G.


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