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New bulk herb, spice, and tea store opens in the River Market.
Alright people, it’s your turn to dish it out. What are you eating this week?
Scott McCormack, head of the family and farm, trained at Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese acquiring skills in basic and advanced cheese making. The time he’s invested into producing superior cheese is evident in all of White River’s products.
Sculpture, printmaking, painting exhibition opens tonight.
Textile artists at Butler Center, exhibit at seven other venues, all reachable by trolley.
Lots of Little Rock artists will be gathered around the Festivus Pole.
America's poor have risen and fallen as objects of politics in cycles of 30 to 50 years, and in the era of Barack Obama and the tea party they have scaled yet another peak. /more/
"We have just enough religion to make us hate," wrote Jonathan Swift "but not enough to make us love one another." A lifelong religious controversialist, the 18th century Irish satirist definitely knew whereof he wrote. After all, it's fewer than 20 years since Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland quit dynamiting each other's gathering places. /more/
Benji Hardy reports on his blog at the Legislative Digest today on progress with the short-term fix of the crippled state insurance plan for public school employees. It's not a happy report.
A deficit in the program continues, to be covered by reserves. That was not unexpected. But employees are fleeing the plan and that's the really bad news from Bob Alexander, director of the state employee benefits division.
But Alexander also said that the PSE plan will have 1,446 fewer members in 2014 than in 2013, a decline of about 3% and a surprise to EBD. Alexander and Deputy Director Doug Shackelford said they had actually expected membership to rise slightly for 2014, hoping that the mandate to buy insurance contained in the federal Affordable Care Act would drive greater participation in the system by school employees.As Hardy notes, it was probably a tad optimistic to think a plan that was already losing members because of its high cost would grow in participation simply because the legislature provided enough extra money to limit this year's premium increase to 10 percent.
“We didn’t anticipate we’d lose 1400 people out of the system,” said Alexander. Hendren asked him what effect that had had on the overall percentage of school employees now buying into the insurance system. “Participation is just shy of 60%,” he replied.
That is ominous. Steadily declining employee participation is what has fueled rising premiums for teacher insurance for years — which in turn causes more people to leave the system, and so on, and so on.
He said it appears allegations they have made require "further review." He also says the law gives Joint Performance broad authority to review government operations.
This matter becomes ever harder to recapitulate, but I'll try. It begins with an ongoing defict in the UA advancement division, what Chancellor David Gearhart knew about it and whether he took steps to resist press efforts to get the facts. Since then:
1) a prosecutor found no ground for charges; 2) Legislative Audit voted Friday to accept a previously released audit report without hearing further testimony, though Choate had been scheduled to speak; 3) Republicans split on hearing more from Choate; 4) Sen. Bill Sample, a UA contractor of pest control services, objected to hearing from Choate; 5) Sample now suggests it was Audit Chair Kim Hammer's fault that no testimony was heard; 6) Hammer has effectively called B.S. on Sample 7) interpleader lobbyists for UA endeavored to bring an end to continuing criticism of Chancellor David Geardhart by ending legislative review; 7) UA/Gearhart/GOP leadership sycophants say there's nothing to see here and everyone should move along.
I've had cause in the past to speak ill of Lowery, who survived a tough election battle that included some harsh criticism of his activities as a staff member at the University of Central Arkansas, which I bring up mainly to note that he's part of the state higher education establishment.
However ..... Lowery is right today. Choate should be given a chance to speak. Under oath. Diamond, too. And if Gearhart wants to be heard again about discrepancies in the prosecutorial and audit record noted by Diamond and Choate, let him put his hand on a Bible again, too. And by all means, invite Brother Honky Chris Wyrick, who succeeded Choate (at a much lower salary, Wyrick took pains to note.)
Note that Sen. Jane English and Rep. Terry Rice are co-chairs of Joint Performance. Rice, particularly, is identified with the Republican contingent that expressed unhappiness about the silencing of Choate. It so happens that the contingent tended to come from the same faction that opposed the private option Medicaid expansion, as Rice did. (And many in that contingent opposed the election of Davy Carter over Rice as House speaker.)
When Joint Audit voted on a motion that effectively meant Choate would not be heard, English opposed the motion. Sen. Bruce "Fireball" Holland did not have a recorded vote, the same effect as a yes in the circumstance. Rice has announced his intention to run against Holland in the Republican primary next year.
Thoroughly confused yet?
Here's Lowery's letter.
UPDATE: Lowery says:
The co- chairs have agreed to hold hearings after the first of the year. Schedule obviously will be set based on availability of witnesses - especially Mr. Choate.
The line is open. Finishing:
* WORST STORY OF THE DAY SO FAR: This from KTHV — two Washington County inmates charged with raping and torturing a fellow cellmate. Who was on watch?
* NO VOTE URGED ON TIF DISTRICT: Arkansas Community Organizations has written a letter urging the Little Rock Board of Directors not to approve tonight a tax increment finance district to contribute property tax money for infrastructure improvements for Tommy Hodges' Bass Pro Shops and Gateway Town Center developments in Otter Creek. I suspect they'll do so anyway, though other developers don't get similar handouts (yet) and though TIF financing was theoretically invented to jumpstart development on unpromising property. The Bass Pro Shops is already built and the other project, with outlying parcels, is underway. The city will give up its property tax on the improvements to Hodges, but it knows it will get new sales tax revenue to offset the loss. The Little Rock School District will give up 9 mills worth of property tax with no added benefit in return. The letter from ACO:
Our organization urges you to vote against the proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District that is on the agenda today. This proposal comes at a time when the Little Rock School District will lose funding from the state as part of the settlement of the desegregation lawsuit. We will need a strong local revenue stream to support our Little Rock schools.
Great public schools are essential to successful economic development. Diverting future revenue from public education for private projects will hurt the school system and our children.
We urge you to work with the developer to find other ways to finance the project besides a TIF District.
Arkansas Community Organizations
“Working in a combat zone is outrageously expensive. It is not unusual for us to carry as much as $30,000 in cash around our waists in places where cash rules, and ATMs and banks might not even exist,” noted Craig. “Drivers, fixers, translators and security all cost lots of money. In Afghanistan during the war one warlord charged us $7000 per person to be allowed across the border, and a room without plumbing or electricity cost us as much as a night at a five star hotel in New York City. It’s difficult to operate in that environment as an independent without a network backing you.”
Congratulations, eLwood on yur 5K!. Not enough to get you very far on the road…
Whoo hoo eLwood!! sound policy....I feel your pain, going to the PO is like stepping…
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