- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. Sept. 7, 2017.

President Donald Trump has gotten a lot of flack over his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and send the matter back to Congress for further consideration.

DACA, as it’s known, has its roots in the DREAM Act, which gave illegal immigrants brought here as children a path to citizenship providing they met certain qualifications. The DREAM Act failed to pass muster in the Senate both in 2007 and 2011, so in 2012 President Barack Obama implemented DACA without congressional input.

DACA gave those who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and before June 2007 the ability to stay in this country without the risk of deportation and to qualify for work visas, provided they met other qualifications, such as a clean criminal record and certain educational or military service requirements. There is a $495 fee and documents must be renewed every two years. Those covered by DACA are also allowed to travel overseas under certain conditions and return to the U.S. for an additional fee.

Republican leaders have maintained President Obama misused his power in implementing DACA. And even some Democrats admit that might be the case. U.S. Sen. Nancy Feinstein of California said Tuesday on MSNBC that DACA might be on shaky legal ground.

Some states threatened legal action against DACA, but so far no court has ruled on whether the policy is legal or not. And now some states are threatening legal action against President Trump for rescinding DACA.

But let’s be clear. President Trump did not just dump DACA and put an estimated 800,000 young folks at risk for immediate deportation.

No, he allowed a six-month window for Congress to act. In other words, he rescinded what is possibly an illegal policy and told Congress to handle it. Now it’s up to Republicans and Democrats to work together and handle this thing.

Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue and many have strong opinions about it, one way or the other. And many Americans have some sympathy for those brought here as young children. What should be done about them is a matter of opinion and what will be done is now up to Congress. But whatever they decide will be done legally, not arbitrarily.

President Trump did nothing wrong here. He is trying to right a wrong. Republicans have been critical of DACA from the start and Democrats have ignored the legal implications. It’s time for both parties to show they can do better.

___

El Dorado News-Times. Sept. 10, 2017.

What makes the difference in a town that is growing and one that is dying? That’s a question that has been argued for decades by community leaders. It seems like trying to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Some think it’s the local citizenry that make it possible, and in many situations that is the case. Others think it is the capacity of community leaders and city officials to have a shared vision - the ability to see opportunities that others do not and act on them - that can be a huge factor.

Still there are some who think that economic development will just somehow find its way to town. Then there are those who think you must be proactive in seeking out economic opportunities, lest your area fall behind in providing jobs for local residents.

The ideal situation is when there is a confluence of a willing citizenry, leaders with a plan and a vision, and an action plan for the future.

As always, there are naysayers who find it hard to believe that most any small town can effectively pursue economic development.

No matter where you fall on that spectrum of belief about economic development, one thing is for certain - you are either going backwards or forwards. There is no standing still in today’s world.

Based on the competition among small towns across the country attempting to draw business and industry to their area, the odds of landing a big business are much lower than they have been in many years. When you add in the impact of the global market, the chances become even smaller in most cases.

That’s when having local private parties, with a vision of their own and a plan to make it happen, can make all of the difference in the world.

A prime example is what’s going on with the Murphy Arts District here in El Dorado. A group of local business leaders had a vision. Even more importantly, they were willing to put their money where their mouth is. They drafted a plan to put El Dorado on the entertainment map and for the most part have funded the majority of the $100 million dollar project out of their own pockets.

From the plan, they located and hired experienced key people to help flesh out and oversee the implementation of the project, and it is one that is massive in its many facets and moving parts.

It entails building something from the ground up that will not only serve as an entertainment venue, but will have an impact that will far exceed the several blocks it occupies in the historic downtown district of El Dorado.

As Phase I of the project nears completion, it’s our first true foray into entertainment tourism that these business leaders are bringing our way, and it’s getting attention nationwide thanks to extended news coverage, marketing and public relations efforts.

Officials with the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce tell us they have sent out more information packets about El Dorado than they can ever remember as the interest has grown in the Murphy Arts District. They tell us they have fielded requests from commercial entities as well as from many individuals from across the country. Among them, interest has been expressed by two nationally known food store operators, a nationally known soft goods apparel operation and a nationally known sporting goods store.

Some individuals that made information requests said they already want to move to El Dorado, citing that they were happy to see a town that had a plan that is creating excitement.

Come Sept. 27, El Dorado will begin in earnest its transformation that offers new opportunities many residents have only dreamed about before.

With the influx of visitors coming to enjoy the various entertainment offerings, and they are diverse, will be a new stream of income for our area. Local shops and eateries will benefit from the additional traffic that will circulate downtown and beyond. Many of those visitors will be coming from considerable distances and will be looking for other things to do while they are here.

As the project moves toward completion of Phase II, and as the calendar of entertainment grows, we will likely see more hotels completed. One is almost ready now and a second will be open after the first of the year.

So, now that those who bravely developed a plan and launched it are moving through Phase I, you might say the ball is in our court. Will we latch on to this opportunity, back it, tout it and develop ways to leverage the power about to be unleashed?

We say yes. Let’s take advantage and grow.

Hats off to those who had the vision and were willing to stake a big part of themselves in the venture to make it happen.

___

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 12, 2017.

They’re called General Improvement Funds, but their effect has been to generally disimprove state government. Because they amount to just another slush fund that attracts the kind of politicians out to curry favor with voters at public expense. Heaven forbid they should use their own campaign funds to campaign. These GIFs have left a long, slimy trail in their wake, and by now more than one Arkansas pol has been caught up in its sticky web.

Mike Wilson, former state representative from Jacksonville, has been fighting to close this mantrap for years, with some if not enough success. He’s already won one landmark lawsuit intended to end this kind of legislative malpractice, but now he faces a different set of justices on the state’s Supreme Court. It seems a reformer’s work is never done, for as soon as one fault line is repaired, another opens wide, all set to swallow up a new generation of well-meaning but outmatched citizens. Good government requires the kind of persistence Counselor-at-law Wilson keeps demonstrating. He deserves congratulations and support in his admirable efforts. For the finaglers with other people’s money never sleep.

This state’s highest court may have ruled before that, contrary to good law and good sense, various legislators have been telling the assorted bureaucrats of the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District how to spend these general (dis)improvement funds. But in more recent times, the state’s law heads and even a county circuit judge have disagreed with Mike Wilson in his attempt to fight the good fight. Again and again if need be.

Over the years, the tendency of lawless legislators to direct how these GIFs should be spent no matter what the law says has grown from a temptation into a custom. By now it’s developed into a federal case, becoming the focus of a federal investigation into a couple of highly suspect outfits: Ecclesia College in Springdale and Decision Point Inc. in Bentonville. And between the two, they’ve collected hundreds of thousands in grants. It sounds like nice work if you can get it, and both got it. And then got into lots of trouble.

By now, one former state representative has pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, while another former state senator has pled innocent to charges of fraud and money-laundering. So at this point the machinery of the law can and should be allowed to run its course without any further editorial kibitzing from this or any other quarter, for the Democrat-Gazette’s investigative reporters have done a fine job of laying out all the many scandals that all these leads have attracted - the way flies are attracted to honey.

For its part, the state Senate’s caucus of Republican legislators has deemed it necessary to issue a statement calling on any members of the Ledge who might be involved in schemes that violate the public trust surrender their prominent posts in the Ledge, while the leader of the state’s GOP majority in the Arkansas legislature, The Hon. and honorable Jim Hendren of Gravette, now says that “certainly it’s a possibility” that even more legislators will be charged with crimes or indicted for something or another. For it’s an old law of politics: Where there is power, there’ll be someone somewhere, or maybe a lot of someones everywhere, all too eager to abuse it.

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