The highway name game in Conway | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The highway name game in Conway

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 11:03 AM

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A Conway commuter noticed this exit sign from Interstate 40 in Conway today, an indication that completion is nearing of a phase of a new western arterial loop road to be known as the Baker-Mills Parkway.

Sic transit gloria solons

Commented my correspondent:
Please tell me we aren't naming roads after a bribery suspect.
Well ...... "suspect" is a harsh word.

Baker is the former Republican state senator from Conway, Gilbert Baker, whose checkered past includes a firing by UCA, questionable work for a national lobbying group while a sitting member of the legislature and, oh yes, being the funnel for big campaign contributions by nursing home owners to judicial candidates including two from Conway, now Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and former Circuit Judge Mike Maggio. Maggio is appealing a conviction for taking a bribe to reduce a verdict in a nursing home damage suit. No one else has been charged, but it's understood that the money Maggio viewed as a bribe were campaign contributions Baker funneled to him from nursing home owner Michael Morton, whose nursing home in Greenbrier benefited from Maggio's $4.2 million reduction of a jury verdict in favor of the estate of a desperately ill woman who died in agony without hospital care ordered by a doctor. Baker and Morton have said all was legit; no quids for quos. Baker continues as a lobbyist; Morton continues to be a wealthy nursing home owner.

Wills? He's merely Conway lawyer Robbie Wills, a former House speaker who lost a race for Congress a few years back. He was a godfather of the Arkansas Lottery and is a registered lobbyist.

(I'm reminded of the T-shirt Capitol lobbyists sometimes donned in jest: "Don't tell my mother I'm a lobbyist. She thinks I'm a piano player in a whorehouse.")

State highway money provided for much of the arterial work, thus the permanent thankyou to influential local legislators on a project that dates back at least seven years.

Where's that outfit that's always ranting about naming public stuff after living public officials? And Sen. Rapert, what do you think? It's not an airport, but .....


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