Favorite

UCA’s tangled web 

The controversy over University of Central Arkansas President Lu Hardin's pay and perks has had a ripple effect on local politics.

Conway, home to UCA, will also be home to the hottest local political race in Arkansas this year — a $500,000-plus match between incumbent state Sen. Gilbert Baker, a Republican, and Joe White, a Democrat.

You'd' think that the controversy over the Senate district's most important public institution would play a role in that race. But Republican Baker hopes not because he's a UCA insider, a true-blue FOOL (Friend of Ol' Lu).

When Baker threw a fund-raiser in June, he threw it at the home of Dr. Michael Stanton, a member of the UCA Board of Trustees. Needing a tent for the event, he got one, not from the local U-Rent-It, but from UCA. Needing someone to set up the tent, he got a crew from UCA. Nearly seven weeks later, Baker's campaign sent a check to UCA to cover the cost. This was after the press had begun nosing around this and other reported perks for Hardin pals.

Other perks for pals included deluxe single-family housing at UCA for Senator Baker's kid, Trustee Stanton's kid and Republican big shot Sheffield Nelson's grandkid. All insisted these house are available to all students. That's bull. The houses aren't listed in any housing publication. Even Hardin admitted that knowing him was a help.

Baker must argue that tents are available for all comers. It's his only way around a law that prohibits use of public property in political campaigns. So if YOU need a tent, you know now who to call.

Joe White has raised a still more pressing question. Why has Senator Baker stood silent amid the stream of revelations about bad judgment and worse at UCA? White says Baker's silence demonstrates a lack of leadership. What it more likely indicates is that Baker is in cahoots with the UCA ruling clique. Baker alibis that he doesn't want to interfere with the responsibilities of the UCA Board of Trustees and that he'll demonstrate leadership come January, when the legislature convenes. Until then, silence, please.

This is a dodge. But it will be welcomed by assorted Conway bigwigs — FOOLs all —who've stepped forward to offer endorsements of their buddy Lu in his hour of need.  Baker won't get crosswise with them. So it is that Baker, in theory a lawmaker, stands silent although UCA trustees twice violated state law by voting a total of $400,000 in publicly paid bonuses for President Hardin. The lawmaker also stood mute when UCA trustees repeatedly violated state law by improperly convening in secret and by taking secret actions without announcing them in public. We can understand his silence about participation in dishonoring a state law meant to prohibit use of public property in political campaigns.

White's criticism of Baker's inaction sounds like a winning strategy in Little Rock. But it's not that simple. Hardin is popular, the school has grown rapidly under his leadership and the president's favor-currying with the Conway power structure undoubtedly extended beyond loaned tents and special housing. Members of the FOOL Club undoubtedly prefer that White not shake up their little club. The question is how many people are outside the clubhouse windows looking in unhappily.  On this head count, the election could turn.

 

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • Industrial hemp pilot program coming soon to Arkansas

    One of the booths at this week's Ark-La-Tex Medical Cannabis Expo was hosted by the Arkansas Hemp Association, a trade group founded to promote and expand non-intoxicating industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in the state. AHA Vice President Jeremy Fisher said the first licenses to grow experimental plots of hemp in the state should be issued by the Arkansas State Plant Board next spring.
  • The prayers of Rapert

    Sen. Jason Rapert is keeping a close eye on the Alabama Senate race.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • In black and white

    The men and women who patrol Little Rock in black and white vehicles tell a story in black and white.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • Man's world

    The news of high-profile men outed for sexual harassment and worse shows no sign of abating soon.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • The Clintons

    I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • I miss my wolves. It has been over five years since the last of my…

    • on December 12, 2017
  • Re: Where cities go from here

    • So Florida says he was wrong the first time and the second time he says…

    • on December 10, 2017
  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • Dee-lightful column - and wonderfully written comments.

    • on December 10, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation