Hot judicial politics 

Judicial races in Arkansas are supposed to be nonpartisan, and judicial candidates generally avoid political issues, but those conventions are being tested in Northwest Arkansas. Former state Sen. Jim Holt, a fire-eating conservative Republican and former U.S. Senate candidate, is sending letters seeking votes and contributions for Ron Williams of Springdale, a lawyer running for a seat on the state Court of Appeals.

Holt also asks support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit homosexuals from adopting children, and he says, “I know Ron Williams and I know he holds our values as his own. For us to protect children from unmarried cohabitating adoptive or foster parents, we must put judges in office that will interpret the law as it is written, not make new law that coincides with the wave of liberalism. That's why this election, I'm giving my money and my time to Ron Williams for the Arkansas Court of Appeals.”

Holt is prominent in the anti-immigrant movement in Arkansas, too. He says he believes “with all that's in me” that Williams will do right on cases involving illegal immigration. Holt is not just a private citizen supporting Williams. He's a paid consultant to the Williams campaign. High Integrity Marketing, which the Williams campaign has paid $4,000 for consulting, has the same address as Holt's residence. The campaign also bought $2,943 worth of signs from HIM.

Other Republicans are prominent in the Williams campaign. Northwest Arkansas is considered Republican territory.

Former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, a Republican, has endorsed Williams' opponent, Courtney Henry of Fayetteville, though Henry's in-laws, Ann and Dr. Morriss Henry, have been Democratic activists and officeholders. Her campaign material says that any judicial candidate who'll tell voters he has a party affiliation is violating the spirit and the letter of the law.

e-STEM e-nrollment

About 1,200 students have applied so far for the 856 available seats in the new e-STEM charter schools, and a little more than half of those came from current Little Rock School District enrollees.

E-STEM's spokesman, Joe Mittiga, said 54 percent of the 856 students offered admission to the school last month come from the LRSD, and about 50 percent of those on the waiting list. Of those offered admission — through a random lottery with preference given to siblings of students who made it in — another 16 percent come from the Pulaski County Special School District, 6 percent from North Little Rock public schools, 2 percent from home schools, 14 percent from private schools, 4 percent from other charter schools, 2 percent from public schools outside Pulaski County and 2 percent from some other school, Mittiga said.

Of those on the waiting list, 13 percent are from Pulaski County public schools, 7.5 percent from North Little Rock public schools, 23 percent from private schools, 2 percent from home schools, 1 percent from other charter schools and 3.5 percent from other public schools, Mittiga said.

The school — headed by former LRSD superintendent Roy Brooks and supported financially by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman, among other undisclosed private donors — plans to open July 21 in the Arkansas Gazette building at Third and Louisiana with kindergarten through ninth grades, and add a grade every year through 12th grade. Mittiga said the highest number of applications were for seats in kindergarten through sixth grades; there are still a few seats open in seventh, eighth and ninth grades.

Assuming the percentages for admitted students don't change significantly, about 460 LRSD students will leave for e-STEM in the 2008-09 school year, taking at least $2.7 million in state funding with them. Pulaski County schools stand to lose about $804,000 in state money, and North Little Rock schools about $302,000.

Recall effort continues

The effort to recall City Director Irma Fingers Hendrix continues, Kathy Wells of the Ward One We Care Citizens for Progress campaign said Tuesday.

City clerk Nancy Wood said the group's petition, submitted March 20, was short by 872 names. A total of 2,400 names were on the petition. The required number is 1,963.

Wells said the group has asked Wood, and Wood has agreed, to recheck some of the names she invalidated, since there are people known to members of the group whose names were stricken by Woods but who have voted at the same address for decades.

Wells said the group will be “procuring additional signatures” for the petition. Deadline is the end of the workday Monday, April 7.

The group wants Hendrix voted off the council because “she has broken faith” with her constituents, Wells said. “She is collecting a paycheck but walking out of meetings,” including one to appoint a commissioner to Central Arkansas Water, Wells said, and she tried (but failed) to hush up a citizen during public comment time at a board meeting.



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