- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 12, 2016

Hard to judge

Micah Neal handed the Democrats of Washington County a gift with his recent announcement he would drop out of the race for county judge. He made it official Monday by filing a letter formally withdrawing from the race.

Arkansas, and much of Washington County, is Republican territory these days. Of the county’s 11 lawmakers in state government, eight are members of the GOP. The three Democrats hail from Fayetteville. On the Washington County Quorum Court, 10 of the 15 justices of the peace were elected as Republicans and an 11th was appointed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to fill a vacancy. Three of the four Democrats live in Fayetteville. Of the full-time elected officials running the county, the assessor, tax collector, circuit clerk, county clerk and treasurer are Republicans. The county judge, longtime politician Marilyn Edwards, the coroner and the sheriff are Democrats.

There are no guarantees in politics, but the shift in recent years toward Republicans in local offices and the vacancy created by Edwards’ decision to leave the post gave Neal pretty favorable odds to be the next county judge. Neal’s opponent, Democrat and Fayetteville Alderman Mark Kinion, is certainly no pushover. He’s working hard at showing up almost anywhere to earn people’s votes. But Neal represented a formidable challenge for Kinion to overcome.

And now, Neal has turned Kinion’s uphill battle into a downhill coast, although we suspect Kinion won’t be taking anything for granted. He’s wise not to, as the Republicans hope to draft a replacement candidate for the November ballot.

Whether they can select a new candidate is a matter of some disagreement, if one can imagine it, between the Democrats and Republicans. Neal originally announced he would forgo the race for “family and business reasons.” He didn’t elaborate. Not that he has to. A man who decides he doesn’t want to stand for election doesn’t have to stand for election.

But the law has something to say about whether someone will represent the GOP in November. Arkansas law provides possibilities for a new nominee if a candidate dies, has a serious illness, moves out of the area he would have represented or files for another office. Initially, Neal’s reasoning didn’t sound like any of those. A day after his announcement, he revealed plans to move into Benton County. That has met with a fair dose of skepticism, particularly among Democrats who would be just fine with Neal’s initial explanation, since that would not appear to qualify for a new nominee.

Neal on Monday confirmed he leased a house in Benton County over the weekend. The skeptics might wonder where he’ll be living after November, but Arkansas’ residency requirements in elections are quite liberal. We’ve seen candidates rent apartments to qualify for an elective position, but it’s hard to remember anyone ever doing so just to get out of a campaign.

As though mirroring the unexpected turn of events in the GOP’s presidential campaign, Neal’s decision has triggered not just threats of litigation from Democrats who’d like to prevent a Republican from appearing on the ballot, but also a conflict within the Republican Party itself over how Neal’s replacement should be selected. If we’ve learned anything from the political season of 2016, it’s that Republicans love a good fight, and they don’t even need the Democrats to pull one off.

In the meantime, one can certainly understand the frustrations of Republicans. Because he was such a formidable candidate, Neal’s presence most assuredly kept any other candidates - ones committed to see the race through to the end - from running. Even without all the in-fighting, a Republican candidate named in August has a tough hill to climb unless it’s a nominee who already has high name recognition, in a positive way, among voters.

What if the Democrats are successful in blocking the GOP’s nomination of a replacement? That may get Kinion elected, but Democrats cannot ignore the fact the Quorum Court, which holds the purse strings to county government, is largely a Republican body. If he wins by the party blocking a GOP contender that might make governing all that much harder than it would otherwise be. From our perspective, it would be nice to see less contention, not more, in Washington County government.

It’s all unfortunate for those of us who prefer clean (as in uncomplicated) elections in which the public has ample opportunity to get to know the candidates and make its selections.


The Daily Citizen, July 10, 2016

Basing decision on biggest benefit

Any decision on whether the city of Searcy contributes $1.8 million to bring a shopping center with commitments from multiple national retailers to town should not be based on being fair.

All of us certainly want to be treated fairly (and often complain when we are not), but fairness doesn’t need to be the standard for city officials. Their job is to look at what best benefits the city.

In doing that, not every situation can be considered equally. The bigger benefit to Searcy simply outweighs smaller ones, making it necessary for some concessions to be made for the bigger benefit.

In the case of the proposed Searcy City Center, the fact that it would bring multiple national retailers to the city, create hundreds of jobs and draw in out-of-town visitors has to be weighed against what the developers are asking.

The $1.8 million in requested incentives would not be something The Daily Citizen could expect, for instance, if we decided we wanted to put in a new building for our business. Frankly, that would not change our contribution to the city enough to give officials a reason to treat us like they should treat this shopping center. The same holds true for most businesses that settle in Searcy.

There needs to be a clear economic impact for the city to meet a request for incentives like this one, which is down from the $4.75 million initially requested by the developer. And that’s where the waters muddy some.

Does the city know how much this shopping center will affect the economy? Would the city’s investment ultimately pay off?

It’s impossible to say 100 percent, which is why there is some risk involved in the city getting involved and why the decision isn’t as easy to make as it might seem.

Businesses that sell similar products could suffer a drop in sales, and no one wants that. If sales projections are off, it could be years before the city recoups its investment, which would cut back on capital available for needs of the city and put strain on the city if it takes out a loan. And, of course, city officials would have other businesses come to them wanting the same treatment even when it is not in the city’s best interest.

Believing that this is in the city’s best interest is where this comes full circle. Supporting this shopping center isn’t about competition, capital availability or complaints, it’s about city leaders’ vision for Searcy.

If city officials believe that there is potentially a big benefit, then they need to act on that belief. It’s their job to do what’s best for Searcy, even if it doesn’t seem fair.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 12, 2016

Going to pot

Not just one but a couple of competing proposals to legalize “medical” marijuana in Arkansas may appear on November’s already crowded ballot. There’s both an initiated act and a constitutional amendment in the works. The campaign manager for the first has been pressing the sponsor of the second to withdraw his. If both appear on the ballot, says Melissa Fults, both will fail. But its sponsor, David Couch, says nothing doing. Happily, there’s enough opposition to both bad ideas to indicate they’re both in trouble. Arkansas doesn’t need either one, let alone both.

To quote Governor Asa Hutchinson, who used to direct the country’s Drug Enforcement Administration: “I believe that while we want to provide medicine to anyone who needs it, this opens up a lot of doors that causes more problems than it solves.” What to do? Call a doctor. As the governor says, “Any efforts in relation to voter education and reference to opposition should be from the medical community, from physicians. Those are trusted voices that the people of Arkansas would listen to. I have asked the surgeon general (Greg Bledsoe) to be a lead spokesperson in reference to those initiatives and articulating any concerns that he has from a physician viewpoint.” In short, don’t take two and call him the morning after election day.

Good old dependable Jerry Cox of the Arkansas Family Council is also on the case. This measure, he says of one of these bad ideas, “starts to look and smell like a monopoly.” Adding, “A small handful of wealthy people would control the marijuana trade in Arkansas.” One of the outfits backing legalized marijuana is Bevans Family Limited Partnership, and its address matches that of Lake Liquor in Maumelle, Ark. What a non-coincidence, for Bevans Limited seems to have more than one iron in this roaring fire.

It’s hard keeping up with all these various proposals, their supporters and opponents, for one seems worse than the other. But it’s easy enough to get rid of them all - just vote Against, Against and if necessary Against again. Wipe the slate clean.

It’s a wonder how Brian Fanney, our man in charge of clearing the smoky air that hovers over all these dubious propositions, can keep up with them. For they just keep proliferating - like Hillary Clinton’s contradictions and Donald Trump’s erratic outbursts. The choice between those two next fall, a choice between the devil we know and the one we don’t, may be as confusing as this dust-up over loco weed. If only there were a place on the ballot for None of the Above, he might win in a landslide. It’s quite a year, 2016 - hard to puzzle out till it’s mercifully over. If then.

The function of the editorial writer, someone once said, is to come down after the battle is over and shoot the wounded. This year the field is littered with the wounded - wounded politicians, wounded ideas, and a wounded republic. But this country has seen much worse (1861-65) and thrived nevertheless. As it shall again. As a sign on a battered old car we once saw put it: JESUS SAVES, and in small print, If You Can Stand the Pull.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide