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City Manager Complains to Everyone about FOIA Requests - Commentator, Bob Driggers         Feb 15, 2015

As you can see from the following post, the city manager sent the following accusations, fabrications, and derogatory comments to his board, the mayor, the city attorney, ALL city employees, and perhaps, others.  Please read my response following and note that the city attorney did not allow me to send my response to all city employees.  Please feel free to copy and resend my response to any city employee you may know and encourage them to forward it to other city employees.  In the interest of fairness, they deserve to hear both sides.

From: David Watkins <>
Date: January 23, 2015 at 3:50:32 PM CST
To: Brian Albright <>, Director Becca Clark <>, Director Jones <>, Director Randy Fale <>, Larry Williams <>, Mayor Carney <>, Rick Ramick <>, Suzanne Davidson <>
Cc: Cityhs Dist <>, Bob Driggers
Subject: FW: FOIA Request Amended 1/23/15

I want the community to be aware of an effort being advanced by Bob Driggers, of the GGGG to bring my operation to a standstill. As you know, Mr. Driggers is upset with the city over its water connection policy, its efforts to secure future water supply from Lake Degray, travel policy, downtown revitalization among others. Apparently,  In the name of “good government”, Mr. Driggers is on an almost daily basis requesting documents from my staff that he could copy himself or has requested before. These requests are diverting staff time from carrying out the duties of their jobs that are paid for by Hot Springs taxpayers. I have asked Mr. Driggers in the past if he is even an Arkansas resident. I have not received an answer. I am sending him this email to request again if he is an Arkansas resident? I think the public has a right to know, don’t you? Is this how our community wants its staff time allocated?  

This city is on a roll. Positive things are happening everywhere. I know that is not acceptable to some of our critics. We will comply with these requests, even if it means burning the midnight oil.  I will not be intimidated. Our government is the most transparent I have ever worked in. These efforts by the GGGG go beyond a quest for open government. You be the judge. Open the attached PDF and read for yourself.

David Watkins

City Manager

City of Hot Springs

P.O. Box 700

Hot Springs, AR. 71902



David,                                                                                   1/23/2015

I typically don’t bother responding to the rants of persons who make off-the-wall comments such as your recent tirade against me and the Garland Good Government Group (GGGG).  However, in view of the fact that you purposefully sent degrading, derogatory, and untrue comments to the mayor, all city directors, all city employees, and private citizens.  I cannot let these prevarications stand unchallenged.

Your statement that Bob Driggers of the GGGG is making an effort “to bring my operation to a standstill” is quite telling.  The city of Hot Springs is NOT an operation that belongs to you.

You falsely portray that I am “upset with the city over its water connection policy, its efforts to secure future water supply from Lake DeGray, travel policy, downtown revitalization among others.”  I am NOT upset with the city at all.  As a water system ratepayer, I am concerned that you, David Watkins, have taken actions detrimental to the city and county.  Reports are that YOU were the first to verbally refuse to allow water service to a new Wal-Mart Supercenter and YOU and director Fale were involved in refusing water to other businesses, subdivisions, etc. located in the county.

The GGGG is also concerned that you, David Watkins, continue to advocate spending millions of hard-earned tax dollars in your pursuit of a vastly expensive boondoggle project to pipe water from Lake DeGray when we have three lakes right here in Garland County.  The entire Garland County Quorum Court also appear to be concerned based on their unanimous vote opposing your actions.  To emphasize your blind determination to not allow the public to have a voice or a vote on this huge expenditure, you hired Arkansas’ mega-law-firm and devised a legal way to thwart the wishes of thousands of your city’s residents who had signed a petition asking that they be allowed to vote.

I and others, not with the GGGG, must admit to standing before your last Board of Directors meeting and asking them not to revert back to a travel policy that saw directors spending our tax money for unnecessary trips to Reno, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Disneyworld.  Yes, that was the policy that allowed one director to travel to Hanamaki, Japan five times in four years.  The old policy allowed five directors plus the city manager to travel to a conference in Washington DC while the entire rest of the state only sent twenty.  Our primary concern was that you apparently placed the item on the “consent agenda” so that the public could not even comment on giving you the sole authority to approve all travel.

Irrespective of your baseless claims, the GGGG has voiced no opinion on downtown revitalization.  We welcome it.

You state, “In the name of ‘good government,’ Mr. Driggers is on an almost daily basis requesting documents….”  The true fact is that the last request for documents was made on August 14, 2014.  Two FOIA requests were made in 2013 and one FOIA request was made in 2012.  David, that hardly rises to the level of your grossly exaggerated “almost daily” charge.

I continuously hear that you, director Davidson, and others claim that I don’t even live in Arkansas.  Surely you will forgive my laughter because, as I sit at my desk and type this, I can see Lake Hamilton through my window.  How difficult is it in today’s age of technology for you to check with the county clerk to see where I am registered to vote, to check with the state to see if I pay Arkansas income taxes, to check with the county tax assessor to see where I pay property taxes on my home and belongings.  Shucks David, the prudent action should have been calling up the city’s records and you would have discovered that I am a city water ratepayer with legitimate interests relative to water supply and costs.  My recommendation to you is that you expend a modicum of effort before you spew falsehoods about a private citizen.

I have seen where you have called me a “public figure.”  You should know better David.  I am a retired private citizen with protected privacy rights and your defamation of my character is not appreciated, nor is it legally protected.

Your statement, “Our government is the most transparent I have ever worked in,” could explain why Hot Springs’ city government seems bent on making decisions behind closed doors and not allowing the public to speak or vote on important issues.  However, that also means that all the other governments you have worked for must have been REALLY secret and certainly NOT transparent.

Your final statement, “These efforts by the GGGG go beyond a quest for open government. You be the judge.” If you read the GGGG mission statement at, you will see that our quest is for the facts so that we can properly inform the public what is going on in city government.  The GGGG has numerous successes in which we take great pride.  Be assured that unless and until you and your board begins to operate openly, efficiently, cost-effectively, and encourage participation of its citizens, we will continue our ‘watchdog’ activities.

Needless to say, I was shocked at your extreme method to let as many people as possible know what a horrible person you think I am.  In the interest of the city we love, the GGGG and I have previously resisted the temptation to list numerous items that have been brought to our attention.  However, I should point out that only one of us was born and raised here and has true concerns for this city.  Also, only one of us gave large raises, up to $60,000, to assistants and department heads while accepting $10,000 for himself, yet pays rank-and-file employees sub-standard wages, some of which haven’t received a raise in years.

David, in the future, if you have a legitimate concern with anything involving the GGGG or me, instead of venting your fury to the entire city, please simply call and we can work it out.  I sincerely thought the city attorney and I had the FOIA issues resolved to everyone’s benefit.  He will confirm that I told him, due to the quantity of FOIA requests, to not be overly concerned with the time for the city’s response.

Isn’t it is ironic that the date of your tirade complaining about our FOIA requests was the same date the Arkansas Supreme Court confirmed the rulings by the local Circuit Court which found the City Board guilty of violating state FOIA statutes?  See Supreme Court of Arkansas no. CV-14-272, cite as 2015 Ark. 17.

Cordially,  Bob Driggers


The Real Story Behind the DeGray Water Fiasco - Guest Commentator, Bob Driggers                  Oct 20, 2014

Many people have asked why the lawsuit against the city was dropped even though the Arkansas Supreme Court had agreed to hear it.

The facts behind the rumors do need to be made public.  As most of you know, three separate petition drives were quite successful but

resulted only in the city attorney saying that a couple of words were left off the petitions.  We fully suspected that the city would come up

with some off-the-wall reasoning why the voice and vote of the people would, once more, not be allowed.  What was somewhat surprising

was that a local judge would interpret state law to give credence to such an off-the-wall excuse and even not allow the issue to be placed

on the ballot provisionally pending an appeal.  By agreeing to hear our appeal in an expedited manner, the Arkansas Supreme Court

obviously thought our complaints and pleadings had merit.  However, after a rather strange delay, the court ruled that we could NOT place

the matter on the ballot contingent on the finding of the court.  What this meant was simply that irrespective of the court's finding, no one

would have the opportunity to vote on the issue because it was not placed on the ballot in time for the election.  What good does it do to

win the right for the people to vote on an issue if that vote is over 4 years away?  By that time, the city would likely have spent our hundred

million or so dollars to take water from Lake DeGray.  We still think taking water from a lake in another county and spending millions and

millions in another county makes no sense.  However, what we now know for a fact is just how far the city is willing to go to make certain

that their citizens do not have a voice or a vote on their actions.  Over 3,000 people signed petitions asking for a vote and the city went to

extreme lengths to make sure we didn't get to vote.  Wouldn't you call using our tax money to hire the largest, most expensive firm in the

state (the Friday firm) extreme?  Wouldn't you call showing up at trial with Arkansas Municipal League attorneys, Oaklawn attorneys, and

city attorneys just a bit extreme?  We think what is not extreme is to vote out or recall city directors that think citizens shouldn't be heard.


Hot Springs Compared to America's  Poorest City - Guest Commentator, George Pritchett          Oct 15, 2014

Garland County Population 2010 US Census - 97,173; Median Household Income - $38,680; Poverty Rate - 19.0%

City of Hot Springs Population 2010 Census  - 35,680: Median Household Income - $32,579; Poverty Rate - 22.6%

See the problem folks, city officials and the COC want to run HS like a big city. They fail to understand, or choose to not acknowledge what we actually are, a very poor city. Our median income is less than the poorest city in the country, Sebring FL. Our poverty rate is 23.5% higher than Sebring FL (HS 22.9% vs. 18.3% for Sebring, the poorest city in the nation*). And even our country poverty rate is higher than Sebring FL which has a comparable population number.

Budget planning time is upon the city. Reports in the SR have told us revenues are flat or slightly down or unchanged or slightly up. As the city enters it's budget planning stage there will be the normal cry for wage increases and benefit increases based on "trying to keep up with other cities to compete for employees" or simply that they are "deserving". These statements may be accurate, but the fact is revenues are likely down or nearly flat, existing unfunded mandate are in nine figures, no reserves exist and in addition to financial problems there are numerous social and private property issues. One problem is the debris at the Majestic site and the unsightly building still standing and the best the city offers is hope the owner will clean up the site or some "white knight" will purchase the property at the auction (beginning bid of $1,250,000). The burdens on downtown property owners to renovate their buildings to comply with city demands will most likely result in demolition of some buildings and upper floors being removed from others; what will these actions do to the history, or "legacy" of our city? 

During the city budget planning sessions expect outcries for raises and bonuses from some city board members and ultimately a budget with additional reductions in reserve accounts to balance the budget for 2015 and more of the same of the last few years. A big elephant in the room is the medical benefits program to our employees, underfunded and likely to become a major pain in the budget planning sessions. The state retirement fund has imposed increases in their rates routinely, so the city will likely have to fund more from the general fund or charge the employees. 

Poor county, poor city and city officials with big ideas. Revenues have grown over the years but expenses have grown more. The population of the city of Hot Springs is much the same as it was in 1980. Hot Springs doesn't have a "revenue problem" it has a major league size "spending problem".  

What will HS city officials do to solve their problems? We can expect talk about a city property tax millage, corridor annexations to grab revenue from county businesses while leaving the residences in the hands of volunteer fire departments and the GCSD since the city doesn't have the resources to protect residents (obviously they are only after revenue when they undertake corridor annexation). I can't imagine they would dare try to increase sales tax about the 1.5% city rate, but they may be desperate. I encourage as many as possible to attend the budget sessions. 

And lastly, what will be the outcome of the crisis the city will have created if the Corp of Engineers doesn't authorize CAWA and HS to take water from Lake DeGray. The city has paid CAWA more than $1,000,000 and continues to spend to move forward to meet the terms of a contract they signed with CAWA without any assurance they would ever secure water from Lake DeGray (these expenditures may be flushed down the drain in much the same manner the lower Lake Hamilton monies were after the city threw in towel finally after being told many time "no" to their requests). How much will be wasted this time or better, how much could be saved and put to better uses by the city if they would wait until after the fourth quarter of 2015 when CAWA is to get an answer from the Corp of Engineers about water from Lake DeGray?



Downtown All About Power and Corruption  - Guest Commentator, Tom Wilkins                         Apr. 25, 2014

Sometimes I just sit and shake my head at the people that come out of the woodwork in the local Paper that have all the solutions to Downtown. The majority of these folks only have driven thru it, not ever spent a dime to support it.  But they know what works in other communities.  Hot Springs is not like any other community. Its like an old lady who needs help crossing the street yet no one stops to help her but everyone has an opinion about her.

 I'm not saying that from time to time there are not a few good suggestions but many and most of those that offer opinions, don't realize some things just cannot be done for reasons they never thought of. I recently read a report from some man who has all types of degrees that offered a dozen or so solutions.  Just reading his printed column was a waste of time since nearly everyone of his comments you could blow a hole in it because of inaccuracies and lack of knowledge of the area and what would be allowed.  Of course the paragraph that he wrote about bringing good quality Entertainment to downtown just floored me.  Better than what is offered he said!  Well for nearly 30 years I have had some of the best entertainment from Branson and Nashville on my stage and seldom have locals supported it.  I'm just stating a fact.  If the folks in our area would spend one day a year supporting downtown with their money it would make a huge difference.  I could go on and on. 

 If you want good input, ask the folks downtown that have been there keeping it alive for 20-30-40 years.  It sure hasn't been the Chamber or the City helping.  Unfortunately the group of 8 that the Chamber brought forth to listen to the ideas only heard a hand full from those they sought out while many of us Veterans who have lived Downtown and are more than Creative with their ideas have been shut out of the process.  Shame on the City and Shame on the Chamber.  I don't care if it takes another year to listen to all sides it would be worth it in the long run.  Downtown didn't get in this mess overnight and it won't solve it unless we are all on board.  3 or 4 meetings is ridiculous especially when the Chamber Task Force would not allow us to speak. I had hoped we would all be part of the solution, but instead it is the typical Dog and Pony Show.  I don't care what Bentonville does or El Dorado.  We don't have Wal-Mart supporting us.  But we do have hot Thermal Waters and several creative folks that could be on a think tank.  Unfortunately I didn't see that on this task force.  I'm not poking at those chosen, all fine folks in their own way, but I just question why them and not others that could better do the task of what I feel is God's Place, Hot Springs.  God created this and he is the only one that can put it back the way it should be.  

Myself and many others are so disappointed of the way in which this has been handled.  Our voices will be heard one day, be assured of that.  There are always two sides to a story in everything in life.  We have only heard from the spinmiesters the way they want it portrayed.  Sad, sad indeed.  As the Chamber Head Mr. Fram has said, they will just leave "us type behind".  Why can't we have a voice I asked, because that's the way it is he replied.    He knows the bones of downtown according to his interview in the paper.  The only difference is we know where the bones are buried.  You want ideas, just ask, we will give you more than you can handle.

I have talked to the owner of the Majestic and its funny, he has a totally different version of what the city officials have said publicly and what the paper reports.  They are using him as a scapegoat.  The Majestic needed to go, it had lived a glorious life, but its days were over.  There are several areas downtown that could be developed into very positive things but we continue to overlook them.  This is not just about the Majestic, it is about vision, something lacking from our City Board and Chamber. The window of opportunity is closing and has been for sometime.  Because organizations refuse to communicate with each other and the people who live here, we will continue to remain stagnant.  So sad. It's all about power and corruption.  


Field of Nightmares  - Guest Commentator, Denise White Parkinson                                              Feb. 27, 2014

A leaking vanadium landfill spills its radioactive secrets—but who is listening?

Four years ago, I was just another soccer mom spending Saturday mornings on a field by a lake near my home in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Then a woman contacted me after reading a letter to the editor of our local paper (I had written in praise of community gardening). This woman asked for my help; she was dying of cancer.

She needed help researching a leaking, unlined industrial waste landfill on the outskirts of town—a vanadium landfill also used as a dumping ground for radioactive waste during the 1970s-80s. The company—Union Carbide—had changed its name many times and is now called Stratcor, for Strategic Minerals Corporation. The landfill contains 9,000,000 tons of waste from vanadium processing. It is located behind a screen of trees, just across the street from the soccer field where I had spent many happy weekend mornings.

This camouflaged monstrosity has never borne any signage to identify its 500-acre field as a landfill. It looks like a huge grassy mound next to a working class neighborhood. Decades ago, there was only a valley with a spring—Indian Springs—right in the center. Now the valley is filled and the mound is covered in grass (but no trees). At the base of the unlined mound, a stream of noxious, orange sludge flows from the spring now buried beneath the landfill but still percolating, as springs do in Garland County. The putrid liquid flows through a culvert under Malvern Avenue until it reaches the lake—Lake Catherine, which in itself is a dammed-up stretch of the Ouachita River.

I met several families in the neighborhood beside the landfill. They described years of complaints to Arkansas’ Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), complaints that went unheeded and ignored. People in the neighborhood were sick, with unexplained symptoms. Folks were either resigned to their fates, unaware of the toxic nature of the landfill and/or completely frustrated. The people I got to know began dying off. We saw each other every few months at ADEQ “public hearings,” which I came to understand were set up for the express purpose of insulting our intelligence as taxpaying Arkansans. An ADEQ power-point demonstration is about as edifying as electroshock therapy, only not as fun.

Hot Springs’ local newspaper has for years turned down requests to come to the neighborhood and interview sick residents. Over time, the capital city of Little Rock sent a reporter from Fox 16 News to the site of the leak, as well as Arkansas Times’ David Koon, who described the putrescence of the leaking substance so graphically you could almost smell it.

After public outcry over Lake Catherine’s deteriorating water quality and disappearing fish, a combination of agencies, including ADEQ and Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), finally announced a study. The “Water Quality Study” took two years to complete, but failed to test the sediment of Lake Catherine. This despite the fact that fish lay eggs in sediment. The study also neglected to measure for radioactivity.

The study did produce some undeniable results: vanadium, which is not found upstream from Lake Catherine, was present “throughout the water column” of Lake Catherine, downstream from the vanadium landfill. And because Lake Catherine is a dammed-up portion of the Ouachita River, everything downstream is affected.

Arkadelphia is one of many towns that get their drinking water from the Ouachita River, downstream from the leaking landfill. Dr. Joe Nix of Arkadelphia, a retired Ouachita Baptist University biologist and member of the task force that conducted the “water quality” study, was frustrated at the exclusion of sediment testing. “I’m still calling for sediment testing,” Nix says.

Cheryl Slavant, director of Ouachita Riverkeeper, a Louisiana-based nonprofit group, also lives downstream. Her group has spent years trying to get the ADEQ to address pollution of the Ouachita River as it exits Arkansas (the “Natural State”) and enters Louisiana on its way to the Gulf. After being rebuffed by ADEQ, Slavant and her team reached the following consensus: “The problem is the politics,” she says. “A newspaper editor that won’t print the story; politicians that won’t intercede on behalf of their citizens’ safety and health; a city that denies there is a problem because they want to build a soccer field on a hazardous waste dump. They could solve this problem in a heartbeat but in this case THEY are the problem.”

About the soccer field reference: The latest development in the leaky landfill saga does more than add insult to injury: It asks the taxpayers to collude in the potential injury of countless children. Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, has proposed a bond issue. He is calling for taxpayers to purchase the vanadium landfill site and turn the whole shebang into an $11 million, state-of-the-art soccer complex. Already, tens of thousands of tax dollars have been spent to study the proposal. Hot Springs’ local newspaper even ran the front-page headline: “Mine Site Ideal for Sports Complex.”

The area is no stranger to controversy. Former Hot Springs City Director Peggy Brunner-Maruthur recalls a plan over a decade ago to have the city purchase a lakeside swath near the landfill. Back then, a younger Steve Arrison proposed turning the area into a park and playground.

“A woman brought me a box of records detailing the chemical analyses of the area,” Brunner-Maruthur states. “She took me on a tour of the area, to places where nothing would grow.” The retired city director kept the box of documents and news clippings. They describe a citizens’ group, “Save Sulphur Springs,” which fought a legal battle in the 1980s to clean up pollution near the landfill. The group disbanded after securing cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the wetlands of Lake Catherine. After this information came to light, Arrison withdrew his proposal to create the park/playground. “I stopped it,” says Brunner-Maruthur.

Now that Steve Arrison has announced his new goal of turning the 500-acre landfill mound into a series of “tiered” soccer fields, another downstream resident has responded. Dorinda Suitor spent 21 years as general manager of Arkadelphia Water and Sewer Utilities. She sent a letter of concern to ADEQ regarding the landfill’s effects on Arkadelphia’s drinking water. ADEQ never replied. When informed of Arrison’s soccer-field plan, Suitor stated publicly that, “Anyone who approves a child playing on that landfill will surely go to Hell.”

It has been several years since our family stopped going to the little lakeside soccer field. I couldn’t stop thinking about what could be radiating from beneath our feet. Despite repeated requests, Arkansas’ Dept. of Health (ADH) kept refusing to test the soccer field downhill and across the street from the leaky landfill. ADH eventually did test the leak/creek itself, detecting radiation along the outflow from the base of the landfill. However, their memo made no mention of a landfill, ascribing the radioactivity to “geology.” Despite the scientific tenet that “there is no safe level of radiation,” ADH saw no reason to warn residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the landfill.

My family lives about a mile north of the landfill, as the crow flies, just the other side of a mountain ridge. Dennis Woodward lives within rock-throwing distance of the landfill—the leak runs right through his back yard. I got to know his wife Helen before she died of an aggressive cancer, the same cancer that killed their neighbor. Last year, Woodward noticed renewed activity at the landfill site.

“They drained a retention pond and dug up all the sediment--there were dump trucks coming and going constantly,” Woodward recalls, adding, “All that dirt got trucked up to Yell County.” Then, Woodward was approached by a company rep. He was asked to sell the narrow strip of land where the polluted creek/leak crosses his property. Woodward provided the appraisal value. Instead of responding, the corporation (it calls itself “Umetco,” but is just another version of Union Carbide) trespassed, dumping tons of rip-rap, gravel and boulders, filling the creek bed and burying the noxious leak from view. The banks of the creek were then lined with absorbent boom.

The dump truck crew grew alarmed at the sheer tonnage of landfill waste being transferred from one site to another. Yell County’s landfill, run by Waste Management, is a big operation—too big to return phone calls or answer questions from a soccer mom. The Yell County landfill is located adjacent to a large factory, a complex that seems out of place in the scenic surroundings. The factory—Pet Solutions, LLC—produces “pet and animal feed ingredients” and recently completed a $25 million-dollar expansion. Its parent company is called 3D Corporate Solutions. 3D Corporate Solutions is a global marketer of wholesale food “ingredients” for people and animals. Based in Missouri, the company’s mission statement reads: “Boldly serving God’s Kingdom while providing for its nutritional well-being!” [Emphasis theirs.]

Despite the presence of relocated vanadium waste next door at Waste Management, ADEQ does not test for vanadium at Pet Solutions, although it does test for a long list of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. ADEQ also requires the company to conduct pH testing of acidic, waste-filled retention ponds at Pet Solutions’ vast hilltop site. Pet Solutions is licensed by ADEQ to spread heavy metals and contaminated waste on its surrounding fields. Online documents reveal that in 2008, ADEQ cited Pet Solutions for several environmental violations, including waste spread out in the open and draining into nearby creeks.

The proximity of such waste to a company whose products can enter the food chain has not gone unnoticed. As one Yell County resident commented, “We don’t know what we’re drinking, eating, or anything.” When asked about the absence of vanadium testing at Pet Solutions, ADEQ’s Katherine Benenati responded:

“Simply being located near a landfill that is disposing of sediments from a former vanadium mine site does not justify the inclusion of a vanadium testing requirement for Pet Solutions.” Benenati went on to say that vanadium testing “at this time is not scientifically valid or based in any way on standard engineering practice.”

Nevertheless, along Highway 7’s twisting mountainous route between the vanadium landfill and the Yell County landfill, some of that dirt “fell off the truck” as the saying goes. And when Dennis Woodward and I took a field trip to beautiful Yell County to pick up the carefully saved dirt clod, we knew we had a smoking gun.

I sent the ziplock baggie of nasty-looking muck to a research scientist working with Ouachita Riverkeeper. Anthony Samsel is a renowned independent scientist whose work for the EPA later formed the foundation for the film, A Civil Action, which came out in the 1980s and starred John Travolta. The film’s plot arose after Samsel discovered contaminated groundwater in Woburn, Massachusetts, while working on an EPA contract for Arthur D. Little, Inc., of Cambridge. Samsel was also recently interviewed by Moms Across America (MAA), a group of citizens concerned about the effects of herbicides, pesticides and GMO-foods on the health of children. Samsel’s groundbreaking research targeted Monsanto’s herbicide “Roundup” (glyphosate) and its impact on modern disease, published in 2013 in the journal Entropy.

While waiting for test results on the dirt clod, I was contacted by a former Union Carbide employee who insists upon anonymity. “We did bad things,” he began when we met at a local coffeehouse. I typed for two hours while he talked. He worked at the vanadium processing facility during the 1970s-80s. His conscience has bothered him for decades. He described creeks catching fire at the factory’s complex; his boots dissolving after coming in contact with unknown substances; containers of “stuff” tossed into ravines out in the woods or just dumped into retention ponds that overflowed into tributaries of nearby Lake Catherine.

It got to the point where Union Carbide couldn’t get permits,” the former employee explained. “They had to change their name every few years in order to get permitted. If you cannot comply with a permit, even after an extension, it’s easier to change the company name.”

That’s one way to avoid Arkansas Code Annotated Section 8, the “bad actor clause,” which requires chronic polluters to lose their permits. Another way to avoid the bad actor clause is for the offending corporation to petition ADEQ to change the law, which actually happened at the landfill a couple of years ago. But one thing remains constant: the level of radioactivity in the unlined, leaky landfill—the landfill planned for future soccer fields. Thanks to analysis by Anthony Samsel’s lab partners, the following results provide a snapshot of the leaky landfill contents in Garland County (and now Yell County, since it’s been spread around):

Vanadium: 644 mg/kg

(The following radioactive elements are measured in picocuries per gram):

Thorium: .734; Radium 226: 11.995; Radium 228: .560; Radioactive Lead 214: 4.076; Radioactive Bismuth 14: 3.937; Radioactive Lead 210: 3.525; Total Gamma Radiation: 65.202.

Soccer, anyone?

Editors Note: Click here to see television story with A&P Director (yes, you will have to watch an ad first)


Can We Save Downtown Hot Springs?  Guest Commentator -  Jock MacGregor             February 26, 2014

“The right of property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction; and private property shall not be taken, appropriated or damaged for public use, without just compensation therefore.” (Article 2, § 22, Arkansas Constitution. Emphasis added

Monday morning, on his radio program, Dick Antoine said that the City’s downtown buildings are deteriorating and the landlords need to fix up the buildings or sell them. 

Last month the City Manager wanted to annex parts of the County to capture customers who prefer not to pay the A&P Commission’s “hamburger” sales tax of 3%.

The A&P commission wants to tie up the “hamburger” tax money by committing it to pay for bonds that go out for decades.  This prevents anyone from reducing the “hamburger” tax and keeps the taxpayer’s money rolling in to the A&P Commission. Good for the A&P Commission, but not so good for the businesses that are struggling in downtown.

The A&P Commission wants to use the bond money to buy 500 acres so they can build a softball complex on a toxic waste site.  I have heard that it only takes 15 to 30 acres to build a softball complex.  Is it coincidence that the land borders on Magic Springs? 

It does not take an economic genius to figure out that the only way you can revitalize the downtown area is to make it economically viable.  In order to achieve economic viability the city must first recognize and protect property rights and allow competition to flourish.  This means getting rid of excess regulation, high taxes and any other non-essential impediment to being business friendly.  The Board of Directors should review Article 2, § 1, § 2 & § 29 of the Arkansas Constitution.

Most plans that have come out are working at crossed purposes and have a high probability of being unconstitutional. 

  • The Planning commission seems to think that converting the existing buildings into housing, providing public transportation, cool shops and bicycle paths will revitalize the City.  If it were economically feasible it would have been done by now with private money.
  • The annexing idea and sports complex (even if it had no toxic waste problems) will draw people away from downtown, which seems counter-productive.
  • The Chamber of Commerce/BODs idea for revitalizing downtown is to  force the current owners of the buildings to spend money on their buildings (for which there is no safety benefit or economic justification) or lose the buildings.

We have assets downtown that will attract investment money:

  • First, there are Bathhouse Row and Mercy Hospital as the base for a health industry that would bring in private development for health related businesses such as spas, sanitariums, health related manufacture and services.
  • Second, some of the old hotels, like the Majestic, could attract developers if they were allowed to be converted to casino/hotels. This limited change will bring in private money and build economically viable businesses.
  • Third is higher education.  We already have a viable education base and if we combined it with a business friendly tax and regulation regime we would have jobs available to keep our students here instead of forcing them to go elsewhere to earn a living.

A flourishing downtown with a mixed economy will spur the growth of ancillary businesses in support of the base businesses.

City planning must be viewed through the lens of business growth downtown; respect for property rights and the purpose of government.  Bringing in investment for economically viable development will provide the growth the City needs.

Mr. MacGregor’s Column appears in the Hot Springs Daily on Wednesdays and Sundays.  Reply’s, pro or con, can be posted in the comment section on line or sent to Mr. MacGregor directly at


Annexation, Nothing but a Money Grab?  Guest Commentator -  George Pritchett             January 28, 2014

We all need to fight like hell to prevent the proposed annexations.  In casual conversations with other when this topic comes up throw out the following.

1.  When you buy anything in the areas the city want to annex you will pay 1.5% more than you do now

2.  When you take your family to dinner or purchase prepared food in a convenience store or grocery store you will in addition get to pay the A&P dreaded 3.0% "Hamburger Tax".

3.  So if you take you family to dinner or purchase prepared food you will get to pay to the city of Hot Springs and the A&P Commission together a total of 4.5% simply for the privilege of patronizing a business that the city has annexed.

If this isn't a "M O N E Y  G R A B" someone will have to tell me what it is!

  • Primarily business corridors are proposed for annexation
  • Few residents will be annexed and only these few will see a minor reduction in their fire insurance rates
  • The Police and Fire Chiefs are concerned about taking in additional areas.  It is almost a certainty that the city will have to contract with some of the volunteer fire departments to serve some of the areas (this is being done in one or more areas now)
  • Annexation diminishes the fire and police protection now provided to city residents as there will be significantly more area to be covered with current resources

The city isn't growing and the city manager says a city that isn't growing is stagnating so the city has chosen to consider grabbing county business area to collect taxes they don't deserve.  People don't want to live in the city, this was clearly demonstrated by the 2010 census that showed a population drop in the city and substantial increase in population in county areas.  It doesn't appear that businesses want to locate in the city either.  Businesses locating in county areas are satisfied with the fire protection services in place when they chose to open their businesses in the county and they also know they can be competitive and offer savings to residents in the county and city by not having to pay the city sales tax and dreaded A&P "Hamburger Tax". 

If the city is successful placing the annexations being discussed on a ballot and it would pass we could change our moniker "The Spa City" to "Carpetbagger City" (I'll get some tee shirts made), consider the definitions, I believe they apply.

car·pet·bag·ger  [kahr-pit-bag-er] 


1. U.S. History a Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War and became active in Republican 

politicsespecially so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during 


2.any opportunistic or exploitive outsider: Our bus company has served this town for years, but now the new one run by carpetbaggers from the city is stealing our business.

It appears the city has decided that since people and businesses won't come to them they will take their city all directions to collect taxes on businesses in areas they (the city) had nothing to do with in reference to attracting them to the city.  And since the courts won't let them blackmail citizens and businesses by refusing water and sewer services if they don't annex they have decided to become a "carpetbagger", that is "CARPETBAGGER", such a sad state of affairs that something so egregious would be undertaken by city management and city officials.


John Roberts and Obamacare - Guest Commentary by James McAfferty                              March 22, 2013 

            Under Obamacare, all U.S. citizens not covered by Medicare or Medicaid are required to have "health care insurance."  This is the "mandate."  Those citizens who don't comply are assessed a monetary penalty - the "mandate penalty."  The penalty will be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service in connection with its administration of the income tax.  The purpose of the mandate penalty is, of course, to induce people to get the required health care insurance.  This Obama "universal health care insurance" is the ancient dream of all good "Progressives." 

            The Obamacare statute carefully avoids describing the mandate penalty as a "tax," for two reasons.  First, there is the Anti-tax Injunction Statute (26 USC 7421) which provides that the Federal Courts lack jurisdiction (power) to consider a challenge to a Federal tax until the tax is assessed and paid (the taxpayer can then sue in Federal Court for a refund and thereby challenge the tax).   The second reason, political in nature, was to avoid Republican criticism that Obamacare is a "tax increase."  It was characterized by the Democrats not as a "tax," but rather merely a "penalty for non-compliance with the mandate," authorized by the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.  Opponents challenged the constitutionality of Obamacare in Federal Court before the mandate and "mandate penalty" went into effect.

            Chief Justice John Roberts had a big political problem with the Obamacare case.  There are eight other Justices.  Four of them (Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan) are ideological statists, committed to approval of Obamacare without reservation.  The other four (Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas) are jurists who could not support the Obamacare statute.  So Roberts was necessarily the tie-breaker.   And this was a position he didn't like.  He knew that if the Obamacare legislation was rejected by his Court, by a 5-4 decision, his decision, the Obama Administration and its cult media would characterize him and his majority as enemies of the people in depriving the Nation of Obama's wonderful universal health care legislation.  Nobody wants to be hated, especially Roberts.

            In his Opinion upholding Obamacare, Justice Roberts first says that the Congress did not call the mandate penalty a tax, and so for the purpose of application of the Anti-tax Injunction Statute it is not a tax.  Then he says the mandate penalty is not authorized by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  But then he says that Congressional enactments must be presumed constitutional by the Court, and that he has a duty to find a way to make the presumption come true.  And the only way the mandate penalty can be constitutional is under the general power of the Congress to tax.  Ergo, Congress really must have intended to make the mandate penalty a tax.   And so, he says, the bottom line is that the Obamacare mandate-penalty-tax must be constitutional.  And there you have it:  something right out of “Alice in Wonderland.”

            Roberts could have avoided all this by concluding that the mandate penalty was indeed a tax, if by default, and that because it was a tax the Anti-tax Injunction Statute applied and the Federal Court lacked jurisdiction to consider the matter until the tax went into effect, was paid, etc., pursuant to that statute.   That would have put off the issue until after the November 2012 election.   It seems clear that Roberts actually wanted to uphold Obamacare, prior to the election, when he did not take the obvious way out of his dilemma by applying the Anti-tax Injunction Statute.

            By upholding Obamacare, Roberts likely handed the November 2012 election to Obama.  The politically inspired Opinion rendered by Roberts in the Obamacare case should demonstrate once and for all that Conservatives, Libertarians, Republicans and others of like mind, cannot rely upon the Supreme Court to save them from the statist intentions of their fellow citizens flying the banners of "Progressivism."  So much for the Constitution.


Hot Springs Fires Warning Shot to Developers - Guest Commentary by George Pritchett        Feb 20, 2013

HOT SPRINGS CITY BOARD FIRES WARNING SHOT TO COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPERS.  In an unprecedented action February 19th Director Randy Fale made a motion to table a routine item that would have allowed Harp Foods to connect to water and waste water/sewer services in a county area near Arkansas Highway 7 South and Amity Road.  His motion was seconded and in a five to two vote with Mayor Carney and Director McCable voting "No" the matter was tabled.  Problems with water availability and waste water services have been discussed for years and it is unlikely specific answers to future water supplies and waste water/sewer facilities will be available in the near few weeks.  Harp Foods had planned to break ground on their new store in March 2013.

City Engineer, Gary Carnahan, presented the project to the City Board as required by law for approval.  He stated the impact on the systems would be approximately equivalent to approving adding five or six private residences to the system.  Tabling the Harp Foods development is unreasonable since it says that if a developer wants to build five or six residential homes in the area they would also be stopped until  the City Board has answers to our long term outlook for  water resources and waste water/sewer treatment capabilities.

The motion and second caused some heated exchanges among board members with one Director telling Mayor Carney to "shutup" and other Directors trying to continue discussing the matter.  Mayor Carney quickly regained control of the meeting, she consulted with City Attorney Albright and then advised the board members no additional discussions could be held  on the matter after it was tabled.  Director McCabe commented businesses should have all their approvals in place before purchasing property and making plans; I offer his comment is correct to a certain extent; however, if City Planning is contacted and preliminary locations and plans discussed presenters are usually advised the project appears to meet  requirements, but formal approval would still be required.  I reiterate according to City Engineer, Gary Carnahan, the impact of the Harp Foods project would be approximately the same as connecting five or six new single family residences to the systems.

Why would firms like Target, Home Depot, etc. and other commercial developers consider expanding into Hot Springs and Garland County after the City Board tabled action on a development that added a burden to the current systems equivalent to five or six single family residences?  What will residential developers do, what will this do to real estate values; what affect will the uncertainly of being allowed to connect to existing water and waste water/sewer services be to economic development?  Hot Springs City Utilities operate as a  monopoly and this action by the City Board will likely be devastating to commercial and residential growth.

The saddest part of this debacle is it appears to be an effort by City Board members to micromanage paid staff.  Existing policy referred to as ordinance "5555" during the meeting, gave the City Manager along with City Engineer Carnahan and City Planning the responsibility to make decisions about these matters and to bring their recommendations to the City Board with the expectation they will be followed.  Policy "5555" was trashed by last night's action.  Ordinance "5555" will have to be revised and a new "chain of command" and policy on these matters will have to be approved before even one additional new construction project, commercial or residential, can be approved.

During the agenda meeting last week the City Board was advised Hot Springs Municipal Utilities cannot legally refuse to connect new customers to existing facilities.  Hot Springs City Utilities cannot legally refuse to provide the services in an area they are franchised to provide services.  Harp Foods cannot legally be stopped from building their store.  Expect a law suit by Harp Foods if there isn't an almost immediate resolution to the matter.

What can the public expect next?  Why is the action so important: first and foremost, it has the potential to stop all construction in Hot Springs and Garland County; second it is blatantly illegal; third it appears that some City Directors believe it is their role to micro-manage paid staff.  Lastly, the taxpayer monies provided for economic development to the Metro Alliance in the Hot Springs city budget and Garland County budget were a waste if the City Board is going to "shoot down" new commercial and residential development.  Just the possibility will stop most potential development. Stay tuned, this ought to be a barn burner!


2012 Election Analysis - Guest Commentary by James McAfferty                                                       January 2013

Analysis of the 2012 Presidential Election is a painful and sobering experience for those who revere the Founding Principles, the US Constitution, and the "historical exceptionalism" of the United States of America.

The first thing to notice about the 2012 election results is the "low turnout" relative to the 2008 election.   What was hailed the "most important election of our lifetime" - the 2012 Presidential election - was apparently not so important to many Americans.   The total of votes for Obama and Romney in 2012 was about 7,645,000 votes less than the total for Obama and McCain in 2008.  There was no significant change in the amount of "third party" or minor party votes between 2008 and 2012; the reduced turnout in 2012 was absorbed entirely by the two major party tickets.  So, where did these millions of missing voters go?  The only answer to that question seems to be that they simply stayed home.

Those staying home did so mainly at the expense of Barack Obama.  In 2008, Obama got a total of 69.5 million votes; in 2012, that number fell to 62.6 million.  That's a whopping 6.9 million vote decrease in 2012.   But Romney's total of 59.0 million in 2012 was down from McCain's total of 59.9 million in 2008, so Obama's loss was not Romney's gain.   Those "independent" voters who presumably would switch from Obama after his first term apparently didn't switch after all; they simply stayed home, like 900 thousand other (former Republican) voters.

The chilling fact is that in 2012 Obama could afford to lose almost 7 million of his 2008 votes and still win the election.  This is because more than half of Obama's 2012 reductions were in States which Obama won in 2008 by tremendous margins:  California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania accounted for reductions in Obama votes of about 4.3 million, but those States remained firmly in Obama's column in 2012, as Romney lost about 1.5 million of McCain's 2008 votes in California, New York and New Jersey. Alas, Romney's pickup of 600,000 votes over McCain in the remaining states was not enough to overcome Obama's winning margins in his other states.

While successful businessman Mitt Romney seemed to most Republicans to be a strong candidate against the obvious incompetency and corruption of the Barack Obama presidency, that conclusion was quite wrong; Obama handily won the 2012 election.  How did he do it?

Obama's winning strategy consisted of three elements:  first, savage Romney with vicious personal attacks to diminish him and those around him; second, attack Romney on issues of "race, ethnicity, gender and class" to attempt to separate people of color, women, unionists and working class voters from Romney; and three, hold a line of "swing states" by focusing on sympathetic demographics in specific areas within those States.

The first part of the strategy will be recognized as the attacks on Romney's business experience - at Bain Capital, in particular, to portray Romney as some sort of evil "vulture capitalist" intent on making money by destroying good businesses and good jobs, even killing off people in the process; charges of hiding his money offshore "in the Cayman Islands"; unwilling to disclose his tax returns because he was "not paying income tax"; and similar scurrilous claims and accusations.  Even Romney's wife, Ann, was not off-limits to these attacks, criticized for owning some exotic breed of horse.

These attacks were clearly designed to alienate Romney from "ordinary Americans," and they apparently were effective.  Unfortunately, Romney was initially subjected to similar attacks by members of his own Party in the Republican Party primary election process.   Obama merely continued the attacks into the general election.  None of these attacks were founded in fact or reason, but they obviously resonated with a citizenry ignorant of business and worldly affairs, and envious of success.    Post-election surveys indicated that far more than half of all voters "identified" personally with Obama rather than Romney.

The second part of the Obama strategy will be recognized as Obama's characterizations of Romney's campaign positions as "a war on women," as attacks on Hispanics, Blacks, unionists, college students, NPR intellectuals (lovers of "Big Bird"), and the like.   Romney was serially charged with wanting to deprive women of "free contraceptives" and "abortion rights;" he would "self-deport illegal aliens (Hispanics)"; he would return Blacks "to chains;" he would "ship jobs offshore" and "eliminate union rights"; he spoke derisively of the "47% that took government welfare benefits," etc.

The "flip side" of these charges against Romney is, of course, that Obama would do the opposite: Obama would give free contraceptives to young women; he would ensure continued Federal funding for "Planned Parenthood;" he would increase student aid, even "forgive" student loans; he would provide "amnesty" for illegal immigrants; he would assure that Federal benefits for everybody would continue to flow, etc.  He boasted of "saving General Motors," a notion particularly appealing to mid-west unionists and their friends and families apparently convinced by Obama that Romney would have brutally "liquidated GM in bankruptcy." 

Some post-election commentators, apparently including Romney himself, have complained that Obama's winning strategy was to play Santa Claus for his various constituencies, scattering Federally financed "gifts" among them.   There is some truth to that complaint.   But it is probably more accurate to describe Obama's tactics as threatening   that Romney would stop or reduce Federal benefits already granted by Congress over many years to both Republican and Democrat Party constituencies.   This threat induced the "Greek effect":   a suggestion of government austerity causes a reaction by beneficiaries (including government employees) against the austerity proposal.   Thus, Obama could merely suggest that Romney would reduce or end one program or another (every program has its constituency), and that threat would drive each constituency into the Obama camp.  However it may be described, the Obama tactic was obviously effective.

The black vote needs specific comment.  Results show that Obama got nearly 100 percent of the black vote in every precinct.   There is no reason, other than race, for the black vote to split differently from  the non-black vote.   This can only mean that many blacks voted for Obama not because of his policies or his competency as President, but simply because he is black.  This means that an Obama campaign could win an election by splitting the non-black  vote to within a few points of half, then bank the entirety of the black votes.   Blacks may be a small minority of the whole population, but voting as a block they loom large when the rest of the population is near-evenly split   Stated  another   way, Obama didn't win in spite of his color, he won because of his color.  A white Obama likely could not have won the 2012 election.   This effect could continue to elect an Obama far into the future.   Should we look for the Obama cult to try to figure out a way to avoid the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution before the 2016 election?   Don't be surprised.

Both parts one and two of the Obama strategy rely for success upon the general naiveté or ignorance of common affairs by the ordinary American voter, coupled with the well recognized, even admitted, support of Obama by the American news media - the real "Obama cult."  Obama's attacks against Romney were easily contrived, then spread by the media with the speed of light, thus necessitating expenditure of time and money by Romney to refute.   Total refutation obviously proved impossible.

The first two elements of the Obama strategy, above, could be counted upon by Obama to split the white vote by class and gender to hold the election close, but they did not guarantee victory.  Accordingly, Obama and his handlers developed a "ground game" to get his voters out in the places where they were concentrated, in the key or "swing states" identified from the 2008 election results - Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and a number of smaller States any one or two of which could be decisive in the final battle for 270 Electoral Votes.   This part of the strategy required a focus on specific Counties within those States, where large numbers of voters could easily be moved by specific appeals to their special interests

To win the 2012 election, Romney would have had to win - as in "run the table"- the following States (with their Electoral Votes in parentheses) won by Obama in 2008: Florida (29), Ohio (18), N. Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Indiana (11), and either Iowa (6) or Nevada (6), or Wisconsin (10).  As it turned out, Romney could win from that list only Indiana and North Carolina: the others fell, and Barack Hussein Obama was easily re-elected.  

Indeed, by winning in Florida, Virginia and Ohio, Obama made the outcomes in all the other States mentioned above immaterial.  How did Obama accomplish those three victories?  By targeting specific population  concentrations on the basis of race, ethnicity, and class (employment status).    This reflects modern sociological "critical analysis:" divide people up by race, ethnicity, gender and class -- and conquer.

In Florida, Romney's total was up from McCain's total in 2008 by about 117,000 votes, while Obama's total was down from 2008 by about 47,000 votes.   Nevertheless, Obama beat Romney state-wide, 4,235,000 to 4,162,000, a margin of 73,000 votes.   Sounds close, but here's Romney's problem: in only seven populous counties, with 3,536,000 votes or 42 percent of the total vote, Obama bested Romney by 750,000 votes.   These counties and their relevant characteristics in terms of Obama's strategy are:


County                 % Black % Latino   %Non-white                  Other feature                    Obama margin

Broward                27           26                  53                                                                    263,000

Miami-Dade          19           64                  83                                                                    208,000

Palm Beach           18           20                  38                                                                    102,000

Orange                  22           28                  50                        Disney World                         85,000

Hillsborough          18           25                  43                        Tampa                                    36,000

Leon                     30            6                   36                        State Capital/FSU                   35,000

Alachua                20            9                   29                        State University                       21,000

                                                                                                                         Total         750,000


The Obama campaign focused on the five larger counties with substantial non-white voter content, and the two counties with college kids, one of those also having lots of government workers.  Obama's campaign demonstrated the old proverb: to win an election, you campaign where your votes are.             For Romney to overcome Obama's 750,000 vote margin in those seven counties and win Florida, Romney would have had to win 59 percent of all the other votes in the State.  Not likely.

In Virginia, Obama's winning State-wide margin of 116,000 votes was provided by  Fairfax and Arlington counties, with lots of Federal government workers (134,000 vote combined Obama margin), and the City of Richmond, the state capital with 31 percent Black population (51,000 Obama vote margin - 78% to 22%, for 4 to 1, for Obama).

In Ohio, Obama's winning margin was 103,000 votes, out of 5,291,000 total  for the two tickets.  Obama took a margin of 237,000 from one county alone (Cuyahoga - that's Cleveland) where Blacks are 30 percent of the population; then another 118,000 margin from Franklin County - that's Columbus, where the State capital and the State University are located.  Lots of students and  government  workers there.  And to top it off, Obama took a total margin of 150,000 votes from the union center counties of Lucas (Toledo), Trumbell/Mahoning (Youngstown/Warren), and Summit (Akron).  Thus from those few Ohio counties with a total of 1,803,000 votes, Obama had a half-million vote advantage.  Romney would have had to win 59 percent of votes in the rest of the state to take Ohio.  Again, as in Florida, not likely, especially since Romney was  losing about 84,000 Ohio McCain voters (from 2008).

In the end, Obama won 332 Electoral Votes, Romney only 206.  Even if Romney could have  won Florida, Ohio, and Virginia (total of 60 Electoral Votes), he would have still needed five (5) more Electoral Votes to claim the Presidency.   Those votes would have had to come from Colorado, Iowa, Nevada or Wisconsin.   That was not to be, as discussed in the Note, below.

The bottom line is that to win in 2012 Romney had to win Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, and he couldn't.   The Obama election strategy was successful.   But what of 2016 and thereafter?

First, we must recognize that "race" matters.   With a non-white candidate, if Democrats can split the white vote anywhere close to 50/50, they can then  easily win with the colored block vote - every time.  Splitting the non-colored vote requires identifying special-interest constituencies:  single women, college students, unionists, gays and lesbians, etc., easily done with today's technology.  The Obama campaign has this process down to a science.   It is this high-speed technology that allows modern factional politics to avoid the anti-factional safeguards of the Constitution described by Madison in Federalist No. 10. This was so well stated by a fellow from nearby Maumelle, Arkansas, in a post-election letter to the editor:

"Barack Obama has said that the voters sent a very clear message that they want the parties to work together to cut spending and raise taxes on top earners.   Not true.  I believe Blacks voted for Obama because he's black, Hispanics because they want citizenship and entitlements, unions because of     his support, gays want marriage and its benefits, those on food stamps and SSI want more benefits.  And the white females that voted for him did so because they thought that only he would protect their body  parts and rights. So no, I don't believe that Obama was elected to reverse our Nation's downturn; he was elected by single-issue voters that couldn't care less about the condition of our Nation."

The Obama strategy showed  how a large number of factions, each with their own narrow objective,  can be manipulated through their common purpose - more free stuff - paid for by a seemingly boundless common treasury.  The key to success of this strategy is the seemingly unlimited common treasury, since each faction's claim to its benefits would otherwise impair the claims of the other factions.     The beneficiaries  must never be allowed by the Democrats to realize that  there is any adverse effect of them continuing to get their goodies.

The election of 2012 demonstrates that the United States has likely reached the point - the "tipping point" - where neither morality nor logic can stand in the way of a majority of the electorate seeking to continue the flow of their benefits from the common treasury.  The opposition party lectures that this lust will not end well; the Democrats simply feed the lust with more promises, and continue to get elected.

Once the Constitutional limitation on the Federal government's power to redistribute income and accumulated capital  is breached, the government is doomed;  it is then only a matter of time.  That breach occurred long ago.  Any notion that the Supreme Court might plug that breach was surely put to rest by the betrayal of legal principles by Justice Roberts in the "Obamacare" case, NFIB v. Sebelius.  There is no justice in a politicized judiciary.  Having lost the political battle, "constitutional conservatives" are also without recourse to the Courts. 

Some have suggested that the Republican Party must become more like the Democrat Party, to promise more benefits to the citizenry.   But that will not work; there being no Constitutional limit on the scope or size or amount of the promise, the Democrat Party can and will always promise moreRepublicans cannot out-bid the other party for votes.   The only limitation on the Democrats' utopian project is the practical limit of "running out of money" to redistribute.    A recent internet quote from a European commentator tells the story of the United States:

"The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their President. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president."

So where does that leave us?  I must sadly conclude that the Democrats will win every future bidding contest for votes - every future Presidential election - until they  run out of other peoples' money, having spent the private sector into bankruptcy.  It is the arrival of the insolvency of the Federal government that ends the joyride.  

Then we will be like Greece, except there is nobody to "bail out" the United States government when the insolvency hits.   The former Federal beneficiaries may resort to violence to attempt to continue their plunder of an exhausted private wealth.   Who will stop them?   The Central Bank may try to provide "bailout funds" with high-powered "quantitative easing."   But that debauchery of the dollar will only make matters worse.  The German Weimar inflation provides a preview.   Millions of holders of dollar-denominated debt will be impoverished.    The contest for survival will likely be settled by force of arms, between Americans.   If the Nation's defense has been sufficiently weakened by the politicians' scramble for money, we would also be exposed to foreign intervention.    Not a pretty picture, in either case. 


Before closing this essay, it is worthwhile to discuss a number of States which appeared to some commentators to be in play for Romney.  Ironically, perhaps illustrating the wishful thinking of Republicans, most of these same states were considered "fire wall" states by Obama. These States were Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, as well as (in some really optimistic Romney corners) even Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

Colorado would seem at first glance to be a traditional mid-America state, dependable for Republicans.  But Republicans were unsuccessful in the two major recent State-wide races (Governor and US Senator) in 2010.  Apparently Colorado is not a Republican bulwark, but rather an “up-scale progressive” enclave of voters who went for Obama in 2008 and voted Democratic again in 2010 even after seeing the Obama Administration in action for two years. The youthful turnout for the 2012 marijuana legalization initiative probably sealed the deal for Obama.   Colorado should have never been in doubt for Barack Obama.

In days of old, Iowa was a traditional Republican state.  But years of Federal farm subsidy dollars have turned Iowa into a Federal government dependent, with its ethanol bag carriers Senators Harkin and Grassley.  Obama took Iowa in 2008 by 150,000 votes, and again in 2012 by 90,000 votes.    Never in play for Romney.

Nevada is a curious case.  While it showed a shift of 16 points in popular votes from Bush in 2004 to Obama in 2008, in 2012 Nevada elected a Republican Governor and gave a state-wide advantage to Republican Congressional  House candidates.  But Nevada voters also re-elected Democrat Harry Reid as US Senator in 2010 (over an opponent savaged by media attack).  Even though Nevada prosperity obviously depends upon a prosperous America, that connection was not so obvious to unionist voters in Clark County (Las Vegas) where Obama's margin was 100,000 votes.   Obama won Nevada by a margin of 69,000 votes.

Wisconsin gave Republicans a win for both US Senator and Governor in 2010.  Republican governor Scott Walker was able to defeat a recall attempt.  The Republican Party named Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as its V-P candidate.   Wisconsin looked promising for the Republicans.   But Wisconsin has long been a traditional Democrat state, proudly claiming to be the home of the "progressive movement" in the United States.   Dane County is the site of the State University and the seat of the State government; Dane County went for Obama by 132,000 votes.   The manufacturing county of Milwaukee went for Obama by 170,000 votes.  Obama won the State by about 205,000 votes.  So the Obama campaign went to where their votes were - students, government workers, and unionists.  And won handily.

Pennsylvania had provided the Republicans with State-wide wins for both Governor and US Senator in 2010.   But there is always the "Philadelphia problem," where Obama outpolled Romney by 465,000 votes, 557,000 to 92,000, 85% to 14% - that's 7 to 1).    Philadelphia County is 44% Black.  Obama took Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes by 300,000 votes.

Michigan was apparently thought to be in play for Romney for a number of reasons: it is Romney's birth place, he grew up there, Romney's father was head of a major Michigan auto manufacturer, and Governor of the state.  But those days are past: Romney is a self-identified Massachusetts man, with no more ties to the Great Lakes State.  Romney said GM should have suffered a traditional (lawful) bankruptcy, while Obama supporters chanted "GM lives and bin Laden died."  Obama took Michigan's 16 electoral votes by a vote of 2,562,000 to 2,113,000, a margin of 449,000.  Obama won the Detroit metropolitan area of Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties by a margin of 499,000 votes.  Wayne County (Detroit) is 40 percent Black; Washtenaw County claims the state university that gave us Tom Hayden and Bill Ayers, among others.   Oakland County has, well, "changed."

Minnesota, the home of Hubert Humphrey and the collectivist "Farmer-Labor Party," is a traditional Democrat state. Why Republicans could have ever looked to Minnesota for electoral votes defies  belief.  Obama won Minnesota's 10 electoral votes hands down, by 53% to 45%.

In 2010, New Hampshire elected a Republican US Senator by a large margin (23%), but soundly rejected the Republican candidate for Governor.  New Hampshire has a split personality, and is not worth the worry.  Its four Electoral Votes would not have carried the day for Romney, even if he had been able to win Florida, Virginia and Ohio.   In 2012, New Hampshire favored Obama by 41,000 votes or 6 points.  New Hampshire is simply too near the Socialist State of Vermont to be in play for a Republican presidential candidate.


Some People Can't Handle the Truth                                                                                   April 15, 2012

Everyone in town likely remembers the huge and prolonged uproar last year when our mayor questioned the accuracy of attendance numbers for the annual St. Patrick's day parade and the reports that most attendees were tourists.  You probably even began to wonder why everything she said following her concerns was slanted to indicate that she was "anti-tourism."  The CEO of the Hot Springs A&P, his minions, and the print media appear to be at the root of such criticisms even to the point of most citizens now referring to their continuous criticisms as "piling on."

Obviously, the Garland Good Government Group (GGGG) also thought that the attendance numbers being reported for the 2011 parade may have been inaccurate.  But, rather than take sides in the controversy, the GGGG decided to simply wait, do a count of the next St. Patrick parade (March 2012) and make the the facts known to the public.  In fact, the last sentence of the GGGG mission statement reads, "To acquire and provide access to information so the public can make informed choices."  To remove any possible perceived bias, the GGGG commissioned the independent firm, Worldwide Leisure Management LLC (WLM) to perform an actual count of the 2012 parade so that the controversy could be "laid to rest."  In addition to the count, WLM was to conduct a scientific sampling so that the number of local residents and tourists could be determined.

Wow!  Did anyone even imagine how many toes would be stepped on by making such facts public?  Every guilty dog plus their friends and relatives have written letters to the editor.  The local newspaper even added an editorial criticizing the GGGG and, for what?  Telling the truth?  Difficult as it is to comprehend, a headline article appeared in the local newspaper criticizing the GGGG one day before the report was even released.  Since no numbers were released, such action makes one wonder if the newspaper and others didn't already know that attendance numbers were grossly misrepresented.  In a nutshell, the headline news article basically asked, "How dare the GGGG report the real numbers?"  Think how bad the criticizers would have looked if the true number of attendees had verified the numbers claimed by the A&P.

The WLM report utilized proven methods including two separate actual head counts to arrive at a very liberal parade attendance of 9,261.  This was, indeed, quite short of the 30,000 to 37,000 claimed.  The report survey states that 4% of the attendees were questioned as to their residency and 80% indicated they were from Garland county with 92% living within a 2 hour drive.  The other 8% were in Hot Springs for a variety of reasons including Spring Break, Oaklawn, a cross-country race, visiting friends, parade(?), etc.  The entire report can be viewed by clicking here.

The criticism is also interesting in that it gets really nasty and even goes so far as to stoop to childish name-calling ranging all the way from the newspaper calling the GGGG "Good-niks" to others calling them "an umbrella group for Jihadists."  Whatever their questionable motives may be, most citizens are more than capable of reaching their own opinions based on recognizing real facts.  Intimidation and "piling-on" may be the only tactics the Good 'ol Boys know how to use but whenever our tax money is used and misrepresented, it is nice to have a group such as the GGGG dig out the facts.  Irrespective of reports to the contrary, your tax dollars paid for the parade, the entertainment, and whatever promotion it received.  Although we and, apparently, the GGGG thinks the parade is a neat and fun event, we hope someone will now request how much of our tax money was spent to bring in those few hundred tourists.


Are Any City of Hot Springs Committees Impartial?                                                           February 22, 2012

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of the word “impartial” is: “Not partial or biased :Treating or affecting all equally.”

With this definition in mind, let’s review the “impartiality” of the city’s evaluation team who recommended that we award the city’s annual audit work to the firm who submitted the highest cost.

Although we rather dislike naming names, the members of the “impartial” evaluation committee must be identified.  They are: City Directors Karen Garcia and Pat McCabe, City Finance Director Dorethea Yates, City Finance Accounting Manager Joy Black, and BancorpSouth VP Libby Vines.

First, we must acknowledge that the audit firm selected is the same firm selected for the city for 13 consecutive years and the fact that this is the only firm who has a history of heaping lavishly glowing compliments on the city finance director and accounting manager in their annual report.  Is it possible that these two committee members may expect this same pattern of compliments and praise for their work but only if they select the same firm again?  Is it likely or even possible that they were impartial when they rated this same firm as best?

Second, we should question how objective the vice president of a local bank can be when comparing a local firm to an out-of-town firm.  Shouldn’t we ask how many of the local firm’s employees bank with her or are friends of hers and/or her husband?  Oh yes, her husband happens to be a state representative.  Do you suppose any of his political support or money came from the local firm she helped select?  Is it likely or even possible that she was impartial when she rated the selected firm as best?

Third, we must question how many friends and acquaintances the city directors have who work for the local firm that was evaluated highest by them.  We must also ask if this firm has performed work for the city directors and how much money members of this firm gave to these city directors when they ran for office.  We are disturbed and disappointed by answers we have received but would prefer that readers obtain this information for themselves.  It is public information and available from the city.  Even the local newspaper (11/16/11) references the fact that one city director is a CPA who once actually worked for the selected firm.  Is it likely or even possible that these city directors were impartial when they evaluated the selected audit firm?

Finally, let’s look at the qualifications submitted by the two firms evaluated by the five-member impartial committee listed above.  According to the evaluation matrix, firm “Qualifications” was the most important single requirement and thus, the firm’s qualifications and experience were to be awarded the highest evaluated point total.  Additionally, the only item emphasized (by underlining) in the city’s RFP reads, “Respondents must include, as an appendix to their proposal, a representative list of clients/references for similar work.

Okay, this was a huge shocker to us.  The only city audit listed by the selected firm was for the City of Hot Springs (click to see) while the qualification and experience record of the non-selected firm listed audits for Arkansas cities such as Fort Smith, Little Rock, Fayetteville, Texarkana, and Bentonville plus other cities included were Shreveport, Kansas City, Denver, Oklahoma City, and many more (click to see). The other items evaluated by these impartial people were similar with no single  item being ranked higher for the more qualified and experienced firm (click to see evaluation matrix summary).

Yep, you guessed it.  Not one member of the city’s “impartial” committee rated the “Qualifications” of the firm with literally hundreds of city audits higher than the firm who had only performed audits for only one city (Hot Springs).

Now let’s once again review the meaning of the word, “Impartial.”

Definition of IMPARTIAL (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)  :Not partial or biased :Treating or affecting all equally

Synonyms:  disinterested, evenhanded, fair, indifferent, just, nonpartisan, objective, unbiased, unprejudiced

Antonyms: biased, inequitable, nonobjective, one-sided, partial, partisan, prejudiced


2012 City Budget - A Commentary by George Pritchett                                                                                        December 26, 2011

I commend all city staff and the city board for the hard work done on the 2012 budget.  Obviously department heads support approving an immediate raise for city employees and I respect their position; however, no amount of pleas based on no raises for three years, furloughs in past years, how well deserved, etc. should convince board members to approve a budget if it isn’t in the best interest of the citizens.  Compensation programs too often become all consuming with comments about no COLAS or comparisons to programs in other areas or organizations and drive themselves.  All increases in direct compensation, retirement costs, health care cost create recurring costs that occur over and over year after year, so extreme caution is necessary to be certain in future periods the increases are affordable.  Considering these difficult economic times employees in public and private sectors everyone should be appreciative they have jobs.  Our city employees are well paid, in actuality better than most in our county and state and have retirement programs fully funded by the taxpayers and rate payers in the case of the Enterprise Funds.  There aren’t any rules that employees should receive compensation increases every year, as a matter of fact longevity and seniority roles are lessening in the both the public and private sectors.   

o   Our city doesn’t have any reserves of consequence and we never will based on past and current budgeting practices.  Our budgets keep increasing year after year and with virtually nothing committed to infrastructure.  If our streets, buildings, equipment, fire stations, police radios, etc. could speak they would be screaming loudly and continuously for maintenance, improvements and replacements, but they don’t and because they don’t we put off the needs year after year. The budget groups everything together to come up with the $90 million plus budget; however, our problems are primarily in the General Fund budget.  The income produced by Enterprise Funds pays for the services provided and rates are adjusted as necessary.  Hot Springs doesn’t have problems in these areas to the best of my knowledge.  Applying the same rules and criteria to the General Fund and Enterprise Funds resulted in “furloughs” for all city employees when it wasn’t necessary in the Enterprise Funds, but the city feared a class action law suit if only some departments were forced to take furloughs.  Our problems in the General Fund penalize other city funds.  Bill Burroughs’ argument Tuesday night was valid in reference to the Enterprise Funds, but not so in reference to the General Fund.  An important number to remember is that personnel costs require more than 30% of the total budget and possibly nearly 40% of the budget.

o   Focusing our attention on the General Fund will greatly simplify the problem and reveal possible solutions.  Just using a round number, $20 million for the General Fund and 35% for employee cost we spend approximately $7,000,000 so the 2.94% increase with rollups comes to approximately $270,000 or approximately the cost of six to seven employees.  Reducing staff will allow the raises to be given since all other departments (Enterprise Funds) are self supporting.  need to reduce personnel The solutions are simple; reduce expenses in the General Fund by approximately $750,000 and you can give the raises and place an approximate $500,000 additional into paving streets.  The only way to do that is an across the board personnel reduction in all General Fund areas and learn to live with approximately twelve fewer personnel General Fund areas.  The savings will provide more money for street paving, some monies for capital expenditures in the police and fire department, allow the 2.94% raises for remaining personnel.  The only option is to come up with a significant new revenue source (not a likely possibility).  Admittedly the choices are painful; personnel reductions equates to some service reductions and reductions in Quality of Life services, but the citizens of Hot Springs will accept the reductions in services.

“Hot Springs budgetary problems can only be solved if those in charge will take the necessary actions; reductions in all General Fund services and reducing to minimums the Quality of Life items and or eliminating some or all Outside Agency funding.”

o   The city cannot afford all the services and Quality of Life items it strives to continue to provide.  While this may be painful for city management and the city board to accept, residents will accept the changes when the only alternative is for those in charge to impose taxes and fees on the public to place them on par with the Enterprise Funds.  Revenue growth is almost minimal with virtually no increase in sales tax revenue which comprises approximately 50% of the General Fund. 

o   It is my understanding the decision has been made to hold an agenda meeting next Tuesday and immediately thereafter a special city board meeting.  I’ve been talking to others since last night and will be working through next Tuesday to gather a citizens to speak to the budget issue Tuesday evening.  With only two issues needing resolution; first the amount and timing of raises and possibly the amount budgeted for street paving the meeting shouldn’t be lengthy.  Obviously the hot topic is the amount and timing of the raises.  I believe the best solution is to incorporate the cautious approach and hold a review at the end of the first quarter to determine if 2011 year end revenue totals met expectations and if January 2012 projections are met.  Depending on the outcome the amount of the raises and the implementation date can be determined.  The raises can be given “retroactively” if the numbers are satisfactory. 

o   It is imperative the city build some reserves and while $5 million is projected in total cash accounts (this is the number Bill Burroughs used when stating it is more than we’ve had in the past) it really isn’t very much if there is an emergency.  Considering that in approximately ten years city management and city boards haven’t come up with the money to complete the Higdon Ferry Project according to the original plan I am suspect about our financial planning.  Add to that the requirements on Lance’s list earlier this year we need more than $40 million dollars for a long list of things.  Reality is that ever significant need the city has identified has not been addressed in recent budgets and the likelihood of convincing the public to support a 5/8 cent city sales tax after the jail tax ends in approximately five years is very unlikely unless we have a booming economy and that is very unlikely.  What will our streets be like in five years? 

Reductions in force and purchased supplies and services are necessary in the General Fund.  The amounts carried forward and bank balances mentioned by some can disappear in minimal time if there are any unforeseen happenings that require substantial capital.  Year after city management protects and insulates employees from layoffs and even adds employees, yet revenues in the General Fund don’t increase enough to enable us to take care of the infrastructure.

Realistically the Hot Springs General Fund doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a major spending problem.  Make the cuts and give attention to the infrastructure and then move forward with raises if the money is there.  Employee raises should not take precedence over infrastructure and public safety; however, public safety personnel reductions must be made to bring properly align expenses and revenues.” 


Our New Mayor - A Commentary by Jim McCafferty                                                                                                    July 11, 2011

The City of Hot Springs recently elected a new Mayor, Ruth Carney.   This ended the long reign of Mayor Mike Bush, a local “good old boy.”  The Bush era was a continuation of the rule of earlier good old boys and girls, all representing the local “political class” over the years.  The new Mayor is not a good old boy or good old girl, and the local political class is not happy about her election.  They can find criticism for her every statement and action, real or imagined.   Why the antipathy?  In the eyes of the local political class, she simply has no business being Mayor.  She was not supposed to get elected.  It was an accident.  A disgruntled former City Director made the election a three-way race taking votes from their guy Bush and allowing a voting minority of Republicans, evangelicals, and other miscreants to elect Ruth Carney, a preacher’s wife, as Mayor of Hot Springs.

The political class conveniently overlooks the fact that Bush was very unpopular, having set new records for arrogance and disrespect for citizens and fellow elected officials during his time in office.  But even conceding that perhaps Bush needed replacing, the local political class cannot abide that somehow the voters selected Ruth Carney to do it.  They will not “get over it,” and apparently intend to make her time in office as unpleasant as they can. The Mayor will have her hands full in dealing with these people. Her antagonists are well established, having infiltrated just about every organization in the city.   For decades they have characterized themselves as the “progressive” heroes of Hot Springs, protecting everything good and wonderful about the city, fighting the “regressive” forces of evil presumably lurking in the shadows.  This cannot be better said than in the Editorial in the local newspaper of Sunday, June 5, 2011.

The Mayor’s difficulties can be illustrated by a number of examples, starting with the case of a new drinking water plant proposed by city officials.  Before the new Mayor took office, city officials had spent over $3 million on a plan for the new facility.  Unfortunately, much of this money was spent after the State Health Department told them that it would never approve their plan.  This was important because the Health Department has exclusive jurisdiction to approve or not approve drinking water plants.  So it turns out this money was wasted.   In any private industry context, heads would roll for such obvious mismanagement.  But did heads roll here?  No. The Mayor tried, but got no support from the political class. 

In connection with the water treatment plant fiasco, city officials also admitted that they could not account for a significant portion -- perhaps 30 percent – of the output of the city’s existing water treatment plant.  This “lost water” translates directly into millions of dollars of “lost money” for the city.   Given that the officials in charge of water could not explain the lost water, the new Mayor attempted to get help on this problem from a State Agency charged with looking into such discrepancies.  But again, her efforts were blocked.  The power of the local political class apparently reaches high into State government. The disdain of the political class for the Mayor is so great that they would not support her efforts to discipline the city employees responsible for wasting millions on the aborted water treatment plant scheme, or to find the “lost water” costing the city millions.  They simply will not allow the Mayor any success if they can help it, no matter what the cost to taxpayers and ratepayers of the city’s water operations.

Those making up the political class feature themselves as the champions of “tourism,” which has materialized locally into a form of “corporatism” using tax revenues to subsidize local businesses and properties that cater to visitors to the city.   They recognize tourism as the primary industry of Hot Springs, such that if tourism fails, the town fails with it.  So upon taking office, our new Mayor promptly got into trouble over tourism.  She made an off-hand comment about an official “attendance estimate” at some local parade event, suggesting it was overstated.   That brought out every sort of hooting and howling by the local political class, including the local newspaper, that she didn’t support “tourism.”  They packed the next meeting of the City Board of Directors to vent their disdain for the Mayor and proclaim their support of tourism and the city’s tourism officials and apparatus.  They even produced a letter from the Arkansas Governor praising the head of the local “tourism” agency, which was read into the record with great fanfare, cheers and applause.

The most recent example of the political class denying the Mayor any success would have to be this one.  It seems that the term of a member of a particular commission expired.  This fellow was 80 years old and had served on this commission for years; he was a fixture.  The Mayor in combination with the mayors of the three other municipalities of the County could name a successor.  The Mayor nominated a young architect, and he was approved by the four mayors.   Ooops.  Somebody was upset, most likely the senior citizen that was being replaced.  He apparently has connections in the political class.  The newspaper pounced on the Mayor, suggesting among other things a bias against senior citizens.   The group of mayors reconvened and the three previously approving mayors withdrew their approval.  The new guy was un-appointed and the old guy was reappointed.  Case closed.

There is obviously little likelihood of “job satisfaction” for the Mayor in fighting with the local political establishment.  But to not engage with her antagonists does not mean that the Mayor should simply roll over and give up.  In particular cases, especially where the opposition overplays its hand, the Mayor can indeed land some counter-punches.   But each of these counterattacks must be focused, aggressive, and prompt.  An example would be the case of a local “radio host” attributing to the Mayor a planned crackdown on the “Gallery Walk,” a popular downtown evening event held monthly by the local “arts community.”   The rumor was that the Mayor would have Hot Springs police arrest Gallery Walk patrons who took any alcoholic refreshment served inside many of the galleries out onto the public sidewalk.  That rumor was false, obviously originated and spread by the Mayor’s enemies for no other reason than to damage the Mayor in her office.  The Mayor’s response was to promptly deny the rumor, and then move on.   No arrests were reported.

Prompt rebuttal to these childish attacks will soon inform citizens that they are without merit and made solely for the purpose of harassment of the Mayor.  The Mayor’s defense can easily contain an element of humor, pointing out the silliness of the attack and the desperation of her opponents.  The newspaper editorial mentioned above shows just how silly the opposition’s attitude really is – high school, at best.  Their nasty pranks are the acts of self-centered sophomoric minds, congratulating themselves for what they think is their superior “progressive” attitude.  Given the state of the city and the commitment of the political class to “tourism,” how can our new Mayor publicly demonstrate her support for Hot Springs and its citizens?  How can she turn to her advantage the dependency of the local political class on “tourism?” First, for the tourism bet to succeed, the city must be perceived by visitors and residents alike as a safe place.   Law and order must be seen to prevail.  When the city suffers a bad national crime report, as has happened, the usual reaction of the political class is to belittle the report and criticize the messenger.   For some reason, the political class always seems to overlook the police and sheriff reports of local crime in their own newspaper.  But non-insiders can comment only at great political peril.

Making the city a safer place is an opportunity for the new Mayor.   The city has recently hired a new Police Chief; certainly he will want to succeed in his new job in his new community.  The Mayor should “reach out” to the new Chief to show her support for a strong police force and visible police presence everywhere tourists might venture within the city.   The city surely needs improved shopping center security; more “neighborhood watch” programs; a “whistleblower” program; and (always) more money for police.  The Mayor can take the lead in supporting these efforts.   And she certainly should join with our new County Judge, Rick Davis, in his quest for a new County detention center.   A safer city can be a legacy of the new Mayor -- and a tourism booster too.

The Arlington Hotel in downtown Hot Springs may present another opportunity for our new Mayor.  Long a city icon with its sister hotel, the Majestic, some people now say the Arlington Hotel is at risk.   It is old and needs serious renovation.  It will be difficult for the Arlington to continue to compete with the newer motels sprouting up to service the city’s latest tourist attraction, the new Oaklawn Park Gaming Casino.  If the Oaklawn casino were to build a resort-class hotel, that might be the end of the Arlington.  The local political class should try to picture downtown Hot Springs without the Arlington Hotel.   Not pretty.  The old Majestic Hotel has already been shut down and stands as a decaying reminder of the fickleness of tourist pleasure – and the fragility of the “tourism bet.” This presents a great opportunity for our new Mayor.  She could take the lead to help the Arlington Hotel get a new life as a “games of skill” casino.  The Mayor could work with the owner of the Arlington to follow the Oaklawn Casino “formula”  to obtain a “games if skill” franchise from the State of Arkansas for the Arlington and its sister, the old Majestic. That would certainly help the city’s tourism industry, anchored by Oaklawn Casino at one end of Central Avenue, and the Arlington Hotel, Spa and Casino at the other end.  If gaming has come to town, and it has – that cannot be denied or undone -- then why should Oaklawn have a “monopoly” on gaming in Hot Springs?  The Arlington owner can easily be seen to invest millions in a revitalized hotel and spa, with a new casino where the once proud Majestic now stands – presently rotting.

 This does not mean that the Mayor is a gambler, or supports gambling as a personal choice.   No,  she is not a gambler, and doesn’t support gambling as a personal choice for anybody. That is not the point.  It merely means that she recognizes the reality of “games of skill” having been made legal in Hot Springs by the Arkansas Legislature, and that such a business could revitalize the Arlington Hotel and thus be good for tourism and thus for Hot Springs, according to the received wisdom of the political class.  And besides, as the political class will tell you, Oaklawn operates “games of skill,” not “games of chance.”  So there is no “gambling” at Oaklawn, and there would not be gambling at the Arlington.  Merely games of skill.

Getting a four-year college campus for the city would be another opportunity for the Mayor, and a clear tourism booster.  Recently, it has been proposed that Henderson State University, in nearby Arkadelphia, might combine with the local community college, resulting in a four-year college campus for Hot Springs in the future.  This has not received much fanfare from the local political class.   For some reason, the local political class has apparently never shown much interest in getting a four-year college campus in the city.  There is no “University of Arkansas at Hot Springs,” while many lesser towns have obtained such a campus.  The Mayor could take advantage of this opening, and support the idea of obtaining a four-year college campus in Hot Springs. “Henderson State University at Hot Springs” will do.  It would be a game changer for the city, as well as a tourism booster.

Other opportunities abound.   The Mayor could step forward to support the Hot Springs Music Festival, as well the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.  These both apparently need attention and a caring hand.   The Music Festival needs a serious venue, a real orchestral auditorium – something like Hot Springs Village has at its Woodlands Auditorium.   Why couldn’t Horner Hall be redone to provide good acoustics and good viewing? To condemn the Music Festival to the acoustically-challenged basketball gym of the old high school, or make it go hat-in-hand to local churches for a place to perform, should be a disgrace to the local political class.  But they have blissfully ignored the problem, apparently content with “the Village” having the only real auditorium in the County.  Likewise for the Film Festival, stuck in the old Malco Theater.  Why not have a revised Horner Hall venue for that too, to make these festivals upscale, to attract more tourists?

And then there is Garvan Woodland Gardens, a tourism treasure, and actually a part of the University of Arkansas. A number of local philanthropists, recognizing the potential of Garvan, have showered it with gifts to make it a world-class attraction.  It is a featured garden in the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal admissions program to “encourage (Society) members to travel the country to discover the diversity and beauty of American horticulture.”  That means “tourists” for Hot Springs. The  Mayor should become a patron of these local events and attractions, not so much by financial support, but by putting the office of the Mayor behind them by becoming personally identified with them, and thereby improving them.  Her enemies will begin to think twice about attacking her in those leadership roles.

In summary, there are a number of initiatives the new Mayor could take, not necessarily to do battle with the local political class, but rather to support projects and efforts that will make Hot Springs a better place -- for tourists and citizens alike.  Her initiatives in that regard will allow her to simply ignore the high-school pranks and other nonsense promulgated by the local political class and its newspaper.  After awhile, local citizens will figure out that their incessant silly attacks on the Mayor are just that – silly – and can and should be ignored.


An Open Letter to Speaker Boehner on Budget Cut Ideas - Barbara A                                           July 7, 2011

Dear Speaker Boehner,

In all sincerity I write to ask how the representatives can permit our president and other members of congress to propose cut-backs that are so destructive to programs provided for American citizens? Some of these citizens even pay taxes and are part of the dwindling pool of contributors to the Federal tax base! When a shortage of funds occur in most persons budgets the reduction would be in the "non- essential," discretionary spending areas. Why is this so difficult a concept to understand?

Time is short for your areas of agreement to be reached ,but I would be remiss not to try to reach you with obvious suggestions of areas that are superfluous to the needs of citizens, and are choices made by the federal government. Cut out completely all Foreign Aid, Cut out the UN and all of the expenses of having it in the USA. End all subsidies to illegals, end the funds provided to keep USA military in over 100 places around the world. Cut out the unnecessary summer food programs currently provided to schools and serving communities during summer break from school. This thought process that says "all will receive" because some really need the food is ridiculous.

Stop places like our border towns from going into Mexico and bringing their population into our country, with our taxpayer funded buses, to provide education to foreign students that skew so much of our programs with unnecessary requirements that would not be required if we were education only English speaking students and legal residents of the USA. Cut out our overpayments to the International Monetary Fund, Cut out the rest of the "world funds" we are involved in and where we pay the majority of the contributions to the fund. Stop the ridiculous funded university research programs.

You understand far better than I where the true waste is, and you know the optional programs the government has started and keeps funding as a routine cost item. Please do not start with CITIZEN services as it is not necessary to be dramatic and hurt your own when they have funded these useless items to support congresses foolish proclivities for years.


The Last Wish - A Commentary by Denise Parkinson                                                                             June 10, 2011

Hot Springs neighbors suffer in silence in the shadow of UMETCO’s non-compliant landfill operation.  

  *Names marked with an asterisk have been changed to protect individual privacy.

At the summit of Stanage Drive, the view to the west takes in rolling hills that cradle a lovely sunset. Adjacent Stanage Terrace has the same Ouachita Mountain view, in real estate terms a selling point. Except that for families wanting to move away, the view behind this small neighborhood cancels it out: UMETCO Minerals Corporation’s hundreds of acres of vanadium mine waste, hidden in the hills above these wood-frame cottages. With no signs, buildings or anything displaying the word “UMETCO” anywhere to be found in the area, it takes a little digging to learn that the vast grass-covered hill behind these houses is actually a mining landfill. Beneath the grassy surface lie 10,000,000 tons of bleeder sludge and byproducts of nearby Stratcor Minerals Corporation’s vanadium ore-roasting operation. Unlike UMETCO, Stratcor does have a factory building, where day and night smokestacks belch out something that smells like burnt sugar mixed with scorched hair. Years ago, Stratcor and UMETCO were the same company called Union Carbide. People who have lived in this neighborhood since childhood still refer to Union Carbide, not so much in bitterness as in tones of resignation. They do not recognize the name-change, perhaps because that is the only thing that has changed here.

The Stanage neighborhood is named for the original family in the area. The Stanage home -- a beautiful stone structure with cathedral windows -- overlooks UMETCO’s landfill. Mr. Stanage passed away last month after a ten-year battle with lymphoma. Some years ago, at a community meeting at Lakeside School, he had expressed concern about the creek that runs between his property and the houses along Stanage Terrace. He said that he wanted it cleaned up. “We’d like to move, but who would buy our house?” says Don*, as his wife Grace* cradles their newborn grandchild. Their Stanage Terrace home, its porch sill covered in quartz crystals and potted flowers, has a small tomato patch out back. But ever since his wife was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, Don hauls in dirt for the garden. They do not trust the soil here. “The lady across the street has the same type cancer as mine,” says Grace, a petite, soft-spoken woman with a sad smile. “The lady next door died of cancer.” Don, a bear of a man, stands behind her and shrugs. “We’re tired of fighting them,” he says. “We’ve been to some meetings, but…” his voice trails off. A meeting held in nearby Lakeside Baptist Church in September saw UMETCO’s consultants describe no cause for concern. Since that meeting, efforts to test Indian Springs Creek, which runs from under the landfill site directly behind Don and Grace’s home, found alarming levels of heavy metals, magnesium, and barium flowing into a bay of Lake Catherine. Despite a 2008 fine accruing at the rate of $500 per day, no money is being collected from UMETCO by Arkansas’ Department of Environmental Quality. The fine stands at $600,000 and counting, and if collected, would go to a “remediation fund,” according to ADEQ’s director Teresa Marks.

Over on Stanage Drive, a sign along the narrow street warns of “Deaf Children Playing.” Back in the 1960s when Ben Hunter* was growing up here, there was no landfill behind his street and nearby Malvern Avenue was just a country road. Ben and his wife Molly* have lived at the top of the hill since he returned from military service in the 1970s. Their framed wedding photos show a pair of smiling, blonde young people who, though never blessed with children of their own, took in a nephew and raised him well.  Today, Ben and Molly comfort each other as best they can as each day brings pain and little else. “When I was about 35, I started feeling aches and pains all over,” Ben explains. Doctors could not diagnose him, and just told him he was getting old. “Old?” Ben says. “I come from pioneer stock – my family never went to doctors and they all lived to be close to a hundred.” Molly, though crippled from rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis, manages to stand up and let their dog (also suffering from arthritis) into the next room. It is hard to imagine that she used to type 70 words per minute with ease. Despite Molly’s obvious condition, efforts to get her Social Security benefits for disability were unsuccessful, and now the couple subsists on Ben’s retirement. “I never wanted to retire,” says Ben, an electrician by trade. “But the pain got so bad, I couldn’t ride in the truck.” He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and begins treatment in January. “It’s too late for us,” Ben murmurs, “But if we’ve been poisoned, it might not be too late for other, younger folks.”

Next door, a couple in their late thirties both developed heart trouble and now have several stents. On the other side of Ben and Molly’s place, where Ben’s mother and stepfather once lived until they too passed away (after a host of medical issues including arthritis, polyps, and COPD), lives a woman who depends on an oxygen tank to breathe. Across the street, a family with young children has also experienced baffling medical problems. Tammy* opens the door to a home filled with the sounds of Christmas – music plays while two little girls wrap presents, chattering excitedly. A Chihuahua scampers beneath the kitchen table. Tammy says that her husband, a salesman that travels during the week, began having aches and pains immediately after their move to Stanage Drive in 2000. His symptoms worsen during his time at home and lessen when he is on the road. Doctors prescribed allergy medicines, which did no good. “He even bought a new car because the doctors thought there might be chemicals off-gassing from his car upholstery or something,” says Tammy. But nothing seems to help. “We’ve thought about trying to sell and move,” Tammy sighs, “but we’ve invested a lot in this place.”

UMETCO Minerals Corporation reports that the company has invested $40 million in “reclamation” of the old mining sludge landfill site. Despite their investment, the company remains out of compliance with state water quality standards, so UMETCO is now petitioning Arkansas’s Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to lower state standards. During a recent visit to Indian Springs Creek for more photographs of the oddly colored stream, a reporter noticed a group of well-dressed men in a gravel parking area next to the landfill. Noting the absence of signage, the reporter approached and asked if this place was UMETCO, and if the men present were PC&E commissioners (state law requires the public be notified of any PC&E gathering). Instead of an answer, the reporter got the police called on her, but left before officers arrived. Later, a Fox 16 News reporter confirmed that it was a UMETCO meeting, and indeed they were PC&E commissioners. But the only sign posted at the location is of rusty yellow metal that reads, simply: DEAD END.


Has Media Ceased Being Truthful?  Do They Care?                                                                             June 7, 2011

Following are excerpts from the May 18, 2011 issue of the Arkansas Times.  Specifically, from an article titled, “Evangelicals making tracks in Hot Springs” by Leslie Newell Peacock.  The full article can be seen online by clicking here.  

The purpose of this post is to provide the reader with the facts, as we see them, to determine if this article is truthful or may have been written with an “ulterior motive” in mind.  Excerpts are shown in italics followed by our comments.

When a Republican like Cliff Jackson, raised in the Assembly of God Church, and best known as Bill Clinton's nemesis, thinks Hot Springs is moving toward theocracy, you've got to wonder. Is he right?

Comment from Cliff Jackson found following the article in the Arkansas Times:  Leslie - Am I, as you describe me, a "Republican"? NO way! I thought I made clear in my discussions with you that I am an Independent and a rapscallion one at that. Actually, I have threatened to join the Garland County Democratic Party because they are closer to my ideology, but I probably will not: I am too much an independent.

Not a single Democrat won in Garland County's House and county races last November. It was a clean sweep…

Rep. John Vines was elected as District 25 State Representative as a Democrat and a couple of Democrats won county races.

It was a bad year for Democrats the state and nation over, but Garland County's most conservative organizations — the Tea Party, the Watchmen, the Garland Good Government Group — are organized, active and can take a good part of the credit.

The Tea Party did NOT support only Republicans and the author was told this prior to writing the article.  The Garland Good Government Group (GGGG) has a long-standing policy of being non-partisan.  In fact, members are told to check their political affilations at the door because the sole purpose of the group is good government.  The GGGG is comprised of members from most all political parties including several independents.

Chatham said his characterization of Rephan as a Jew was "inadvertent." But here's what Bob Driggers of the GGGG said when asked about the description of Rephan: "Well, he's Jewish, isn't he?"

Driggers’ comment was made following the author’s assertion that Diane Silverman, who is Jewish, did not support Rephan.  Driggers’ comment, "Well, he's Jewish, isn't he?" was used to demonstrate that the author’s statement ran counter to her belief that local groups only supported like minded Christians or Republicans.  To use the comment as though it is related to a comment by Chatham, who Driggers does not even know, is poor journalism, at best.

Since then, Director Cynthia Keheley, who's been on the board for two and a half years, has introduced a resolution that restates board policy on limiting speakers to three minutes on issues on the agenda, and allowing the mayor to give them an extra minute to wrap up.

Keheley’s resolution actually requires a vote of the board prior to the mayor being allowed to give speakers an extra minute to wrap up.  Does this border on “ridiculous” or what?

Keheley herself has been a target of the GGGG, which in protest of her resolution posted on its website a cartoon showing guns being pointed at her. She protested, and the cartoon was pulled down.

Here is the cartoon.  Which guns are pointing at Keheley?  She was the one "packing heat," not the other way around.

Have we lost the right to expect our media to at least try to be somewhat honest?  Please read the entire article and decide for yourself if this author and our local media have begun inventing stories where no stories exist.


Good Ol' Boy's Plot Becoming More Obvious                                                                                       May 29, 2011

Okay folks, “the gloves are off.”  Over the years, faithful readers of this website have seen problems, critiques, and out-right criticisms of local elected officials and bureaucrats openly posted and discussed without naming names.  Although we have received numerous complaints concerning our not calling people by name or not allowing posts that use off-color language, we have resisted those temptations primarily because we don’t think professional behavior permits calling names or making personal accusations.  Our belief is that even true and accurate comments about an individual can have repercussions and unnecessary adverse effects on the reputations of totally innocent family members.  We also believe that name-calling and unsubstantiated allegations only reflect the immaturity of those making improper claims.  Sadly, Hot Spring’s “good ol’ boys” don’t play by the same rules and seem to think nothing of using mistruths or spouting incorrect numbers and ridiculous charges which they know have no factual basis.  For these reasons, we cannot continue to stand by quietly while a well-orchestrated and seriously concentrated effort by certain individuals continues their barrage aimed at discrediting anyone who dares stand in their way, the most notable and obvious of whom is our new mayor.

Our mayor proudly admits that she ran for office to help stop the rude behavior of the previous mayor and board toward other board members and, especially, to the public.  Those who know our mayor also know that she is one of the kindest people they have ever met.  Unfortunately, listening to and being kind to people runs counter to the goals of the “good ol’ boy” network. They view her as the prime threat to their time-proven nefarious methods of threats and intimidation, mistakenly believing that her kindness is a weakness which they can exploit.

Let’s review a few of the recent activities attributable to the “good ol’ boys” and then ask ourselves if we can continue to believe anything these people espouse or if they have ulterior motives that are not in the best interests of our city and our citizens.

1)   Elaine Jones term on the A&P board expired.  A couple of city board members who have not served on the A&P board expressed an interest in serving.  At the February 1, 2011 city board meeting, the mayor says she thinks it only fair that other board members “have a turn” at serving on the A&P board.  The city board room is packed 45 minutes early by A&P board members, employees, businesses people which our tax money directly subsidizes, and vocal members of the black community.   We must ask “why” and who persuaded all these people to show up, should we not?  Could it be that Steve Arrison felt his job as CEO of the A&P would be threatened if a different board member were allowed to serve on the board which oversees his activities?  What could he be afraid they may learn?  Could it be his free-wheel spending of millions of our tax dollars each year on items such as hot air balloons while the rank-and-file city employees get no pay increases and are given furloughs?  Could it be that he is comfortable with giving lavish birthday parties for A&P board members such as Elaine Jones at the taxpayer’s expense than to do so for a board member who would recognize such activities as wrong and maybe even illegal?  At any rate, the dirty tactics worked.  Most city board members caved to the pressure and Elaine Jones was appointed for a third consecutive term on the A&P board.  What is fair about that?

      Steve Arrison is offended when the mayor suggests privately to city board members that Arrison's estimate of 37,000 attendees at the St. Patrick’s Day parade was likely inaccurate and the city should be careful to use accurate numbers in the future.  All it took was for one city board member or city manager type to leak this information to the Sentinel Record for Mr. Arrison to turn his hurt feelings into front-page headlines on March 26 which conveniently used Arrison’s interpretation that her comments actually now mean Hot Springs’ Mayor is opposed to tourists.

3)   A well-scripted performance designed to brag on Steve Arrison while making the mayor look bad was held at City Hall on April 5.  This fiasco was set up by director Cynthia Keheley as a cleverly disguised resolution (R-11-55) to honor the A&P for bringing so many tourists to Hot Springs.  By design, the public comment portion quickly turned into a “love fest” for Steve Arrison.  To really appreciate the scheme, readers should obtain a copy of this meeting which is available on DVD at the city’s public relations department.  Most all of the city’s “good ol’ boys” were in attendance including their former leader, Helen Selig.  The current leader, Eric Jackson, was there along with several of his employees, some of which said they were “told to attend.”  We don’t think we have ever commented on the many reported covert exploits of Eric Jackson (manager of Oaklawn) but after his performance at this meeting, we expect to do so in the future.  Note on the meeting video how the entire crowd rises within a second of Eric standing to start a  “standing ovation” for Steve Arrison.  Former mayor Helen Selig, Realtor Chris Polychron, managers of hotels across from Oaklawn and the convention center, and other good ol’ boys provided flowery accolades for Arrison.  For a well-polished meeting zenith, the city board’s newest “good ol’ boy,” Pat McCabe, read and presented Governor Beebe’s personal tribute to Steve Arrison.  Proper parliamentary decorum requires a city's mayor reads and presents such official documents but would have destroyed the whole purpose of the meeting, would it not?

      The May 3 city board meeting featured yet another resolution (R-11-76) by Cynthia Keheley to amend the board’s procedural guidelines.  This resolution proposes such ridiculous items as requiring the mayor to poll the board before allowing an additional minute of time to a speaker.  It is relatively obvious that the resolution was designed solely to curtail the authority of the mayor and make the mayor look bad since Keheley stated her purpose was to correct the “waste of the board’s time” at previous meetings.  The good ol’ boys continue to refuse to adopt Roberts Rules of Order but have no problem supporting such worthless gibberish as proposed by Keheley.

      The mayor mockingly demonstrated how ridiculous news reports of her opposing tourism was by making a tongue-in-cheek comment  on Facebook that shooting tourists would alleviate our parking problems.  It appears this gave Arrison yet another golden opportunity to use his schemes and connections, this time in Little Rock, by having a television station also mis-report the fact that our mayor opposed tourists (  It would have been easier for Arrison him to deny twisting of what the mayor really said except his ego appears to have forced him to be on the same television report featuring himself once again slamming our mayor.

      A board work session on May 10 featured a well-rehearsed presentation by a Municipal League lawyer informing the board of his opinion that only the city manager has authority for most decisions of city government.  Is it worthy of note that Keheley is Hot Springs’ representative on the Municipal League?  Following the very biased and opinionated presentation (see available DVD), directors McCabe, Daniel, and Jones voiced their objections to allowing the public to speak in a “public comment” section at board meetings.  In fact, McCabe went so far as to propose a quarterly or bi-annual “town hall” type meeting which would be the only time the public could speak other than the three minutes allowed on some board agenda items.  Director Peggy Maruthur stated the public has a right to be heard “even if we have to stay here until midnight.” It was painfully obvious which board members don’t want to hear from their citizens.  This meeting was not recorded by the city but we do have an audio file of the embarrassing proceedings.

      The cover-story of the May 18 Arkansas Times provided yet another negative and extremely biased story aimed at Hot Springs’ mayor but this article also included Christians, the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the Watchmen of Garland County, and the Garland Good Government Group.  The headline for this article was, “God in the Spa, Evangelicals throw the Good Book at the Good Old Boys.”  There were so many mis-quotes, mis-statements, and slants in this article that it will warrant a separate future commentary.  However, we likely should admit to the “good ol’ boys” that it was somewhat effective in helping their apparent plot to destroy the credibility of our mayor and, this time, even a District Judge who was unfortunate enough to be a Christian and even worse, to have attended the mayor’s husband’s church.  Oh yes, the very inaccurate article does include the obligatory photo of Steve Arrison, hard at work at his desk.

The above events were bolstered by well-timed “letters to the editor” by good ol' boys such as Selig, placed in the Sentinel Record plus an unsigned editorial further slamming the mayor and parroting reports that she is “anti-tourism.”  If the above items seem somehow related or planned, shouldn’t we take the time to, at the least, ask why and who?  It may prove beneficial that these events have forced the “good ol’ boys” to come out of the closet, so to speak.  Photos of many of them appeared recently on a Sentinel Record ad and they are beginning to show up at functions and meetings they previously avoided.  It’s a great day to see them out in the open even if they are only throwing mud.  Hey, perhaps that is all they can do since they lost their good ol’ boy mayor and the changing tide indicates they may lose other allies in the future.

It was interesting to note that the remaining good ol’ boy city directors are continuing to act like they always have.  For example, Pat McCabe manipulated removing an appointment from the consent agenda at the April 5 meeting for reasons other than he stated.  The real reason turned out to be so he, directors Daniel, and Jones could bad-mouth a volunteer commission applicant.  True to form, Daniel and Jones appear to have again abused their positions by calling the private citizen a liar while giving him no opportunity to speak or defend himself.  The private citizen has, subsequently, filed a lawsuit against the pair.  Perhaps, the tide really is turning.

If we were forced to speculate as to how the good ol’ boys network put together their evil schemes, we would question why Rotary Club members expressed disdain at the current mayor is the first in decades not to be a member of their club.  We would also question the links between officials of the A&P, local chamber of commerce, police department, and almost every board or commission affiliated with the city.  Many of the links appear to be mutual friends but many others appear to be designed to facilitate family members obtaining some of our hard-earned tax money.  Examples of blatant nepotism include Steve Arrison’s wife, Jackie, serving as COO of the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.  Public Service Commisioner, Stevie Spargo, having a son on the fire department.  In fact, although it was pointed out to Spargo when she was appointed that her son and other relatives serving as administrators with the police department could constitute a conflict of interest, she said it was no problem and, true to form, she appears to have already known that she had the votes on the city board to receive the appointment.  The cases of nepotism and fraternization within the police department are far too numerous and changeable to accurately list.  Well placed officers are now married to each other after an on-the-job affair resulted in a double divorce.  The city personnel director now has only one son working at PD because the other one left.  Yep, even Ms. Spargo was reported as causing a relative to be rehired after he was let go.  While talking about nepotism, let’s not forget Oakland’s Eric Jackson’s brother-in-law who is representing Jones and Daniel with their legal problems, and don’t forget his cousin over at the newspaper.  Oh, Joneshusband does still work for Eric at Oaklawn, right?  Our public servants seem to have no shame employing nepotism and conflicts of interest for their own selfish purposes.

More of the good ol’ boy’s misuse of tax money and improper tax breaks for Oaklawn later.



Looking for those with Courage to deal realistically with the Fire Chief's "Train Wreck"               May 17, 2011


A Guest Commentary by George R. Pritchett


Many wondered what it meant last year when the term “Fire Chief’s Train Wreck” was first used.  Tuesday night at the city board meeting, it will begin to become blatantly obvious.  City management isn’t going to waste the opportunity the Higdon Ferry Phase III financing crisis presents.  The $3.75 million required (in addition to the $1.9 million projected to be left over from Phase II) hasn’t been planned for by city management (and it isn’t like they didn’t know it was looming on the horizon).  Some will recall earlier this year our new Mayor, Ruth Carney, brought this problem to the attention of the public and was promptly criticized by city management and some directors as inciting the public with erroneous information; however, it appears she was listening closer than the others and was 100% correct in her comments as the item is now very much in the news.  It is blatantly obvious nothing has been done by city management to plan for Phase III (Just a thought, but I wonder if any naysayers will offer an apology to the Mayor, apologies are certainly warranted.).  Now they (city management and some city board members)  are scurrying around acting surprised and looking for ways to extract more money from the public.  Look for city management and some city directors to just open the tinniest space and begin suggesting it is a great time to take care of any number of monetary needs, but you can be assured none will include any reductions in expenditures, just watch!!!!

Tuesday night when the Higdon Ferry Phase III issue is presented to the city board for discussion you are going to here proposals for raising the money to pay for Phase III, but I doubt city management of the city board will present any cost reduction ideas to fund the issue.  One of the suggestions to provide funding will be to impose a property tax/ad valorem tax (something repeatedly proposed by our city manager for any number of requirements in the past).  I think this proposal will possibly have the support of three city directors, watch and see.  Then at some point there will be mention of possibly ending the project at Crawford Drive and lose the AHTD funding (see the details in the May 16th Sentinel Record) and then the pleas and cries will begin with some input likely from the CoC and possibly the GCDEC.  Another proposal will be a $3.75 million bond issue to be paid off in ten to twenty years with the bonds being secured by existing franchise fee revenue.  The bond proposal will appear attractive, but wait, there is just the tinniest of a problem with this and that is the requirement to reallocate $300,000 to $500,000 from “other funding needs of the Higdon Project and possible deferral of other worthy projects such as fire and police capital projects”.  And now that the door has been thrown open other items will begin to enter into the discussion one by one and they may also be considered for inclusion in a bond issue.  Most of you have by now figured out where this is going.

Look for the discussions to include a number of things; some are listed below and while they may not all be mentioned they are all looming on the horizon and are certain to come up if there is a recommendation to increase taxes, fees or propose a bond issue.  And there will be even more that I haven’t thought of, but you can be assured staff or board will have additions.

  •      Tearing down the old hospital building $2.5 plus million (committed by the previous city board and when questioned about funding the Mayor said “Mr. Pritchett when the time comes this group will find the money,” likely required in late 2012 or in 2013

  •       New fire station in the mall area, probably $2 million plus and more for additional equipment (and staff).  City management is going to tell you we have lost one point on our fire rating which may increase fire insurance rates for city residents and this will possibly change the loss.  What they aren’t going to tell you is that the only plans for annexation are “corridor annexation” and that means businesses on main streets will be brought into the city and protected, but residences behind the businesses will still be protected by volunteer fire departments if they are not currently inside the city limits and they currently pay higher rates.  The result is your tax burden will increase, but you won’t have city police and fire protection services unless you are inside the current city limits (residential fire insurance rates will not be reduced for those still residing in the county areas just adjacent or behind the businesses

  •       New fire station on Carpenter Dam Road to replace the Golf Links station which is in poor condition, $2 million plus

  •       Some mention will likely be made of the debt to the “old police and fireman” retirement funds.  This debt is from $12 - $23 million depending on the stock market.  These numbers were provided to the city by an independent public safety group

  •       There may be some mention of the current fire and police retirement funds and while these aren’t in terrible shape they may not be completely funded, possibly $12 million and carry an ever increasing cost


These things total up to more than $30,000,000 and possibly close to $45,000,000.   I wonder how many citizens have any idea about the debts city management has burdened the city with.


There are really only two questions that need to be answered.

1.    How did we get into this situation and who is responsible?

2.    What are we going to do to solve the problem with Higdon Ferry Phase III and how to begin to solve the other problems long ignored by city management and city boards? 


The answer to (1.) is much simpler than you may expect, actually it is quite simple; poor city management for a number of years and past city boards who were asleep at the wheel got us into this position.  Add to these factors the forever increasing funding for “quality of life” services coupled with “ignorance is bliss” in reference to street paving, road maintenance, funding of outside agencies while ignoring infrastructure needs, non- existent capital expenditure programs, ever increasing and out of control employee retirement match requirements, significant raises for management personnel in staff positions, allowing city buildings and fire stations to deteriorate, failure to maintain an up to date emergency communication system for the police department, etc. 


It would be unreasonable of me to offer all this information and the comments without offering solutions.  Before offering solutions it is only fair to warn everyone that they are not going to be popular with city management and some city board members; however, they will be successful if adopted.  The actions I’m recommending are severe actions and I doubt city management and some city directors have the courage to implement them.  They will also take years to solve the problems and they will save our city from bankruptcy without adding new taxes and fees.


The answer to (2.) is much more complicated and lengthy.  While the need for funding Higdon Ferry Phase III will be presented as requiring immediate attention the funds don’t have to be “in place” until the fall of 2012 so we have plenty of time to extract the funds from General Fund accounts.  Ponder the following.


The best part of this crisis isn’t that city management and the city board can’t let it go to waste, rather it is that for the first time the citizens have the possibility of imposing control over an out of control city management  group and the city board. 


  •       Dismiss all thoughts about bonuses or raises after the mid-year budget review

  •       Implement an 8% across the board reduction in General Fund employee headcount immediately (including fire and police)

  •       Implement a 10% across the board reduction in supplies budget in all General Fund accounts (including fuel budgets exclusive of the police department).  Park 25% of all city passenger vehicles and began a program to sell them or to terminate leases, etc.

  •       Advise all “Outside Agency Funding” recipients that the programs are cancelled and any funds due/unpaid in 2011 will not be paid and no funding will be available in future years

  •       Freeze hiring, develop a new “retirement policy” that replaces APERS for future hires with a 401k program, Hot Springs citizens cannot continue to fund retirements for city employees

  •       Eliminate all traveling by city management and the city board

  •       Freeze all capital expenditures such as vehicle purchases

  •       Require all expenditures more than $500 to be approved by the city board

  •       Reduce the 2011 remaining Parks and Recreation budget by 50% and advise that the 2012 budget will be 25% of the 2011 budget (consider moving Parks and Recreation to the A&P commission in 2012, they have resource and state law allows it)

  •       Investigate terminating APERS programs for existing employees and replacing the program with a 401k program

Then add up the money this will save and determine how much more must be cut and while the first reductions were done with an ax the next round will be with a surgical knife.  I know the above and this statement will be labeled as, let me think here – impossible, insane, unrealistic, crazy, stupid, can’t be done, etc., but if the city goes bankrupt all of them will occur plus many more.

I doubt current city management and city board can solve the problems; however, there are some city directors that understand the problems.

  •   To facilitate change the public must exert more pressure than ever before, this is a time the public can cause change.  City management is on its knees as they let this crisis manifest itself by burying the requirement somewhere (and on the heels of the water debacle the public isn’t likely to let this pass without some personnel terminations, director recalls, initiatives, etc.)

  •   The city board cannot be happy with city management not bringing this problem to their attention earlier (it has made them look foolish) and most want to keep their positions

  •   Criticism of the city board is at an “all time high” and their performance is at an “all time low”, their inaction cost the city $3 million plus on the water debacle and here we are again with another major crisis.  I doubt the “business as usual” program and “all is forgiven” will work for them this time

  •   The city board cannot, with good conscience, believe the very people that delivered these two crises, are capable of solving them.  If so the debacle will only expand

  •   There are groups forming now to begin the effort to terminate the “City Manager Form of Government”.  It is likely the actions taken over the next sixty days to resolve the problems will either terminate the effort or fuel it to move forward rapidly.

Facts about city management and the city board.

  •    Give city management money and they will spend it on any number of things while ignoring infrastructure

  •    Quality of life items always trump infrastructure, roads, fire stations, police protection, etc. for current city management and much of the city board

  •    City board follows city management recommendations more than 95% of the time while city management tells them it is their decision to make.  Recognize the circular nature of the problem here and you understand why things never improve

  •    Depending on revenue growth without implementing severe cost reductions in General Fund areas will never resolve our city’s financial problems.  Revenue growth of 6% is essentially required to keep us even, only a sustained double digit growth over several years will provide any significant amount to use to improve things

  •    A divided city board, of which half would prefer to demean and discredit Mayor Carney rather than to conduct the city’s business in the best possible manner for the citizens, cannot be relied upon to do what is best for Hot Springs

The citizens of Hot Springs are at a very important junction.  Either, the citizens can fold their cards and follow the recommendations of existing city management which is the very group that delivered us the problems we have through mismanagement or the public must make it perfectly clear any increases in taxes, fees, bond issues, etc. will result in recall petitions, initiatives, referendums, etc. to recall directors and change our form of government.

  •    The problems can be solved with harsh and severe cuts to city general fund budget items. 

  •    Directors will have to “turn their backs” to the special interest groups.

The citizens of Hot Springs will not allow an overpaid city management staff to continue on a course that will most certainly bankrupt our wonderful city. 


Every citizen must make do with less “Quality of Life” services to enable our city to return to prosperity.  Hot Springs has to learn to live within its means.  

And perhaps the most significant fact every city management staff member, city employee, citizen and interested person must understand and accept.




Hot Springs Has a History of Unique Problems                                                                          February 13, 2011

     The City of Hot Springs seems to have always had problems or perhaps, just as long as I can remember.  As a kid back in the 1940s and 50s, I recall our city being very vibrant and thriving but this was during a time when casinos and "houses of ill repute" were open all over town and even out of town at the Belvedere.  The most popular was the Southern Club directly across from the Arlington.  A bit later (about 1958), the brand new upscale Vapors Night Club opened on Park Avenue.  Heck, I even worked there for awhile.  Lots of nationally known celebrities performed there.  I even got to hang out with Rocky Marciano who, at the time, was boxing's heavyweight champion of the world.  Of course there were also obvious houses of prostitution and not just in what most towns called their "red light" district.  These were everywhere and included the Ozark Rooms, Prospect Rooms, Piggly Rooms, etc. and were it not for their actual red lights, appeared to be rooming houses.  The bath houses were packed. Oaklawn Race Park was the most popular tourist attraction even though there was no A&P around to promote it.  You could even wager on ostriches from the Hot Springs Ostrich Farm on Whittington being raced by real jockeys.  The town was controlled by Mayor Leo McLaughlin and Prosecutor Verne Ledgerwood and later by Sid McMath and a group of GIs.  Times appeared to be good and quite prosperous in Hot Springs but everyone knew that something was just not quite right with our town.

     Around 1964 when Governor Rockefeller shut down casino gambling, open bookmaking, and prostitution in the city, it all just reopened at "The Mansion,"  a roadhouse located a few miles out of town on highway 7 north was an establishment that made New Orleans' House of the Rising Sun look tame by comparison.  Finally, the governor got that establishment also shut down but special exemptions were made to keep Oaklawn Park open.  Some still wonder how much that cost.  Once open gambling was gone, Hot Springs' downtown became a strange mixture of businesses with a carnival and auction atmosphere.  Downtown included a Kress, Sears, Walgreens, soda fountains, many hotels, and even downtown new car dealerships.  One could actually negotiate prices at several Jewish owned clothing stores.  Visitors could step up to a store-front and use a rifle loaded with 22 "shorts" to knock down mechanized metal ducks or break real plates and win various prizes.  Cotton candy was available several places.  A nice Frankes Cafeteria annually displayed the state champion watermelon which was almost always a "Black Diamond" from Hope and weighed in the hundreds of pounds.  Later, numerous auction houses seemed to be open 24/7 with carnival type "barkers" enticing people to "come in and grab a bargain."  The items being auctioned included almost everything but seemed to specialize in jewelry and art.  It was quite easy to purchase a diamond that turned out to really only be quartz crystal or artwork that was not nearly so valuable as they led you to believe.  Those other bidders who bid against you typically worked for the auction houses.  Oh yes, you could still gamble but you had to have connections to the town's "good ol' boys" to get to the right backrooms.  Yep, Hot Springs still didn't seem to be totally right.

    Fast forward to today.  Hot Springs still has Oaklawn Park but it has recently been allowed to expand and open a casino.  Oops, that should be "gaming facility" offering "games of skill," not "casino."  Yeah sure!  Google the words "Arkansas" and "Casino" and see what you come up with.  Until recently, the good ol' boys in control of the city seemed to be still using money from Oaklawn but appeared to be funneling it through groups such as "Fifty for the Future."  Once it was discovered that this group was not operating as a legally registered political action committee (PAC), the local chamber of commerce announced that they would fill the void and form a PAC.  Does that timing seem a bit questionable?  At the most recent city board meeting, an ordinance was proposed that would allow all city board members an opportunity to serve on the A&P Commission as liaisons to report what goes on in that division of the city.  Does it seem right that the heads of the A&P and the chamber of commerce plus several of their board members would show up and smile a lot while a select small group do their dirty work for them?  Yep, several speakers from Director Jones district pointed out loudly how a seat on the A&P board belongs to their district.  Does it seem right that people who say they represent the NAACP would call and badger other city directors to make certain they vote to reinstate Director Jones even though her term has expired after serving for the last ten years?  Why do you suppose the local newspaper published their own unsigned editorial lauding the actions of the city board in seeing that Director Jones keeps her seat in perpetuity?  Yes, today's editorial in the Sentinel Record by Mayor Ruth Carney was totally correct.  All things considered, something is still not quite right here in river city.   editor


Attorney General Rules City Holds Key to Jail Funding                                                              January 23, 2011


THE GARLAND COUNTY JAIL TAX, an Essay by James McCafferty

     Citizens generally agree that the old Garland County jail has many problems, and that the County needs a new jail.   A committee of local notables has been appointed to take the lead in a project to build a new jail.   Expert consultants have been studying the issues and are expected to recommend the proper size, security provisions, and other technical details for the new jail, as well as the best location for the facility.

    There is, however, one nagging question that the best intentioned notables and jail technical experts cannot answer: how will Garland County pay for building its new jail?

    This seems an easy question to answer.   One can quickly find any number of provisions in the Arkansas statutes that seem to provide a way to pay for a new County jail.   For example, there is Subchapter 3 of Title 26, Chapter 74 of the Arkansas Code (ACA 26-74-301 et seq.), conveniently entitled “Sales Tax for Capital Improvements.“   Under this law, the County is authorized to issue bonds to raise the cash to pay for jail construction, and impose a new County-wide sales tax, upon voter approval, to repay the bonds over some period of time.   Subchapter 3 seems perfect to finance a new jail for Garland County.

    But this is where trouble arises.   It seems that certain local officials insist that the revenues from any new County sales tax for a new jail must be shared at the gross level, i.e. “off the top,” with the City of Hot Springs, on a population or “per capita” basis.  This sharing formula would entitle the City to about 40 percent of the tax revenue, since the City contains about 40 percent of the population of Garland County.   These officials say that the obligation to share the tax proceeds arises from the fact that in 1993 Garland County imprudently enacted a ½ percent sales tax under Subchapter 4 of ACA 26-74, and now the County is stuck with Section 414(b) of that law which says:

    (b) If any county levying a ½ percent tax under . . . this subchapter subsequently levies any     additional sales . . . tax under . . . any other law, the net revenues derived from any such     additional levy . . . shall be allocated and distributed to the county and the municipalities in the     county on a per capita basis in the manner provided in Section 26-74-313. 

These officials also say that their view is supported by certain “leading authorities” on the law, including a widely respected Little Rock “bond lawyer”[fn1] and even the Arkansas Attorney General [fn2].     


    I say these officials and their “supporters” are simply wrong, that “sharing” of the gross tax revenues is not required by Section 414(b) or any other statute, that their erroneous “interpretation” of the law should be rejected by Garland County officials and voters.

      There are two ways to illustrate their error: first, by using common sense; and second, by way of legal analysis.   First, using common sense, let’s consider the following hypothetical:  suppose the Garland County Courthouse is found to be infested with asbestos, or a dangerous mold, or some other variety of health risk; to eliminate this health risk requires substantial renovation, costing millions of dollars which the County does not have laying around;  County officials propose to borrow the money for the renovation, under ACA 26-74-301 et seq., using bonds to be paid off over time with a new sales tax pledged specifically for this purpose. 

       But wait.  Hot Springs City officials object, claiming that the City is entitled to 40 percent of the tax revenues, citing ACA 26-74-414(b).   The City would thus require the County to raise (by taxation) almost double what the County Court House renovation will cost, to give the City its claimed “share” of the proceeds from the new tax.   The County’s misfortune provides the City with a windfall of revenue.

    That interpretation of Section 414(b)  -  i.e., giving the City a per capita share of the tax revenues off the top - would thus make Garland County’s present Subchapter 4 sales tax a “poison pill” for use of a sales tax to finance any capital improvement the County might want or need.   That does not make sense.

    The “poison pill” interpretation of Section 414(b) offends common sense; and it also is offensive to competent legal analysis, as follows.  First, there is no Arkansas Supreme Court decision on the meaning of Section 414(b), in particular the meaning of the term “net revenues.”  That means the matter is open to debate among lawyers.  However, that debate is subject to certain “rules of statutory construction“  developed over time by the Arkansas Supreme Court.   These rules are stated by the Court in its reported decisions.  

    The Supreme Court rules say that statutory provisions must be construed to make them consistent, harmonious and sensible.  All relevant statutes must be given effect if possible.[fn3]   In our present case, the tax sharing proponents focus on Section 414(b) but ignore the specific and detailed mechanism for tax revenue distribution set forth in another statute, namely ACA 26-74-313.

    Further, the Court’s rules will not give a statute a literal construction if it leads to an absurd consequence.[fn4]   The “poison pill” literal interpretation of Section 414(b) leads to an absurd consequence: it prevents any county using a Subchapter 4 sales tax from financing its own capital improvement needs without either repealing its existing Subchapter 4 sales tax, or obtaining the “consent“ of the cities within the county claiming a share of the tax.   It would give a city a “veto” over the capital planning and tax policy of the county.  That is an absurd outcome.

    Further, a statute will generally not be interpreted to change or repeal a law not under consideration.[fn5]   Here, the proponents of the “poison pill” tax sharing interpretation would in effect and by inference repeal all the existing capital improvement tax provisions of State law for any county electing to use Subchapter 4 for its general operating funding needs.  The Court will refrain from inferring a

Legislative intent in the absence of clear expression.[fn6]   Here, the “poison pill” proponents infer a harsh legislative intent from Section 414(b) - absolutely depriving Garland County of its ability to fund its own capital improvements under existing State statutes for that purpose,  without any expression or even suggestion of that intent in the legislation.

    The error of the “poison pill” interpretation of Section 414(b) is made vivid when we consider the distribution mechanism  set forth in ACA 26-74-313, the very provision of the law mentioned in Section 414(b).   Section 313 provides in relevant parts as follows:

    (a) The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall maintain a record of the total amount of tax collected pursuant to this subchapter . . .

    (b) Except as set forth in subsections (c), (e), and (f) of this section, any tax collected by the Director . . . on behalf of any county shall be deposited with the Treasurer . . . in trust and . . .     kept in a separate suspense account. (emphasis added)

    (c) Any moneys collected by the Director . . . which are pledged to secure the payment of . . .     bonds authorized by this subchapter shall not be deposited into the State Treasury but shall be deposited by the Treasurer . . . into banks designated by the county . . . and transmitted to the county subject to the charges payable to the State . . .set forth in subsection (d) . . . (emphasis     added)

    (d)(1)  The Treasurer . . . shall transmit to the . . . financial officer of each city and county its per capita share, after deducting the amount required for claims, overpayments, and bad checks . . .

    (d)(2)  . . . (concerns census data).

        (3)  Transmittals shall be made . . . quarterly.  Funds so transmitted may be used . . . for any purpose for which . . . general funds may be used.  (emphasis added) Before transmitting these funds, the Treasurer . . . shall deduct three percent of the sum collected  as charge by the State for its services . . .

       (4) The Director is authorized to retain in the suspense account a balance not to exceed five percent of the amount remitted to the local governments . . . to make refunds . . of overpayments . . . and to redeem dishonored checks . . .

       (5) & (6) . . .  (concerns termination of the tax).

       (7) & (8) . . .  (concerns use of census data).

    (e) & (f) . . .  (concerns tax on aviation fuel).

     It is clear that Sections 313(b) and (c) specifically exclude pledged tax revenues from the fund subject to per capita distribution by Section 313(d).   The “net revenues” mentioned in Section 414(b) can only mean the revenues described in Section 313(d), which excludes pledged tax revenues.   To define “net revenues” as being the gross tax revenues less only collection charges and retentions by the State blatantly ignores the express language of Section 313(b) and (c) excluding pledged revenues from the sharing pool.

    In summary, the “poison pill” interpretation of Section 414(b) cannot stand scrutiny under the rules of statutory construction of the Arkansas Supreme Court.   It is simply wrong, whether applying those rules, or the rule of common sense.   In the end, the rules of the law will be consistent with common sense.

      As to the “authorities” relied upon by the officials claiming the per capita share of any new County sales tax, no legal argument has been put forth by “bond counsel.”   He apparently simply relies upon his reputation, which is undoubtedly fine,  but in this case perhaps not fine enough.  [fn1]   The Attorney General‘s support for “poison pill” sharing is based upon his own self-serving definition of  “net revenues” [fn2] as  including pledged tax receipts, clearly inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s rules of statutory construction.


    Here is an interpretation of Section 414(b) that is consistent with every rule of statutory construction and with common sense: the limitation on use of any additional sales tax over the one-half percent authorized by Subchapter 4 applies not to the gross tax revenues under another statute, but only to the “net revenues” which would be  available to the County’s general fund, i.e., for general government use,  after reserving out the portion pledged or otherwise dedicated to secure or pay capital debt of the County, and deducting the State’s fee and retentions for administration of the tax.

    This construction of Section 414(b) is entirely consistent and harmonious with all the other sales tax and capital improvement financing statutes;  it carries out the obvious legislative intent of Subchapter 4 by causing a county to share any excess general use tax proceeds over the ½% allowed;  it does not make Section 414(b) a “poison pill” for capital improvement needs of any county using a Subchapter 4 sales tax to support general government operations;  it does not nullify or make superfluous any other statute dealing with sales tax for capital financing, and it follows the letter of  Section 313, in particular Sub-sections 313(b) and (c), as called for by Section 414(b): it provides for sharing the “net revenues” after deduction of the State collection charges and retentions and any pledged portion of the gross tax receipts.

    Garland County voters, in particular those residing outside city limits, should reject any jail tax proposal that concedes that any city is entitled by law to a share of the tax proceeds before setting aside that portion of the tax revenues pledged by the County to repay any bonds issued to build the jail.   Such a concession is unnecessary and wrongful.


 fn 1: Counsel’s “opinion” on the meaning of Section 414(b) is stated in (at least) two letters, dated July 15 and August 5, 2008, to the former Garland County Judge.  These letters are barren of any legal analysis regarding the meaning of the term “net revenues” in Section 414(b) or how Section 414(b) is reconciled with Sections 313(b) and (c), and merely assert the conclusion that sharing the tax revenues (at gross) is “mandated” by the Legislature.  Also, the record is not clear as to which party to the subject deal - city, county or bond underwriter - Counsel was representing in 2008.  Clearly, there is a conflict between those interests in respect to the question presented.   Perhaps Counsel should declare his flag before his opinion can be given more serious consideration.  Indeed, if Counsel was representing the County maybe the County needs a “second opinion.” 

fn 2: See Attorney General Opinion No. 2010-010.  On the present question of the meaning of Section 414(b), the Attorney General, on his own initiative and in disregard of the rules of statutory construction regarding resolution of an ambiguity, conveniently defines the term “net revenues” in Section 414(b) as meaning the gross tax revenues less only the fees and retentions due the State for  administering the tax.  This “definition” simply ignores, without discussion or analysis, the distribution mechanism of Section 313, specifically Sub-sections 313(b) and (c), which clearly exclude pledged tax revenues from the “net revenues” subject to per capita sharing “in the manner provided in ACA Section 26-74-313.”  It is worth noting that this is the same AG who recently ignored clearly applicable law - specifically ACA 7-5-315(b)(2)(A) - to officially opine (in AGO No. 2010-145) that the Governor need not call a special election and the term-limited incumbent could retain his legislative seat for another full term, after the deceased Republican candidate had won the November general election for the seat.  Perhaps this AG first decides how he wants an issue to be resolved, and then interprets the law to his purpose.   Fortunately, his opinions are not binding on any party or any Court. 

fn3:  See, for example, Rose v Ark. State Plant Bd., 363 Ark. 281 (2005). 

fn4:  See, for example, Sykes v Williams, 373 Ark. 236 (2008);  Sims v Moser,  373 Ark.  491 (2008).

fn5:  See, for example, Routh Wrecker Service v Wins,  312 Ark. 123 (1993).    

fn6:  See, for example, Sykes v Williams, supra, citing Hapney v Rheem Mfg., 341 Ark. 548 (2000).


Local Newspaper Prints Most Absurd Headline Article of The Year                                          November 8, 2010


How absurd can a front page newspaper headline and article get?  Just check out the Sentinel Record Thursday December 23 headline and ask yourself if this doesn’t establish a new low in making news where no news exists.  The headline reads, “Some new officials unaware of meeting at church” with a sub-title stating, “Conservative activist had get-together with soon-to-be office holders.”


Authors Don Thomason and Jim Newsom apparently imagined this to be earth-shaking news but more likely, most readers were left scratching their head trying to determine just what was newsworthy in the article.  For the sake of inquiring minds, let’s examine the possibilities.  1) Was it newsworthy because some people were invited while others were left out?  2) Was it an issue of separation of church and state?  3) Was it an illegal meeting between elected officials because the press wasn’t invited?  4) Was it an attempt to drive wedges between current officials and those newly-elected?


Okay, phenomenal amounts of in-depth research seem to indicate the following:


1)    Some invited while others were not:  The meeting (or meetings) consisted of a speaker, David Barton, who is an author, president of a national pro-family group called WallBuilders (, a Fox News and Glenn Beck guest (plus others), and is a speaker who speaks to over 400 groups per year.  The newspaper paints the guy as a conservative political activist, author, and amateur historian.  Irrespective of who he is, what was wrong with inviting whoever the Tea Party or whatever group was the host wanted to invite?


2)    Separation of church and state:  Barton has been used as a consultant by state and federal officials for historical and constitutional issues.  He is reported to have a library of “tens of thousands of original writings from the Founding Era.”  His library, research, and knowledge may or may not include religious writings or beliefs.  Those in attendance may or may not choose to believe his message.  Many people do believe that the constitution, family values, high morals, ethical behavior, honesty, and accountability should apply to government officials.  The success of Tea Party candidates in the most recent elections proved this.


3)    Illegal meeting of elected government officials: Although future officials attended the meeting, with the exception of two JP attendees, no current officials attended the meeting.  The newspaper seems to suggest that officials cannot attend the same church or other event even to just listen to a speaker.  Oaklawn Rotary club meets weekly and has had 4 or more city directors in attendance including a city manager who was president of the club.  Many members of this club were and are elected officials who did much more than just listen to a speaker. The Garland Good Government Group recently hosted city directors, county officials, and several state officials at a forum where they interacted with the public but the Sentinel Record didn’t think this meeting warranted sending a reporter.  This is either a double standard or someone is selectively crying wolf.


4)    Attempt to drive wedges between elected officials:  It sounds a bit childish to be pointing out who was invited to a function and who was not, implying that some sort of exclusionary practice was imposed.  Apparently, this was not the case but, even if it were, do we not have the right to invite like-minded individuals to any event we choose providing that the event is not a government sponsored public function requiring some kind of legal notification?  The newspaper omits the fact that most of the people mentioned are not yet office holders until they have been officially sworn in.  One must question the motivation of why anyone (other than one childlike city director) would even care.

In spite of the fact that Mr. McCabe’s feelings appear to be badly hurt since he was not invited, the bottom line is that the article was NOT newsworthy at all. 

In the interest of maintaining at least a low level of journalistic integrity, we suggest that next time the newspaper use a more accurate headline and byline such as:


Complains to Newspaper



Newspaper Forced to Provide Tissues


Update to "Hot Springs Earns Title as Most Dangerous City in America"                               November 21, 2010

This update is posted in conjunction with the August 27 post shown below.  Click here to see the updated GGGG site where it is posted.


Congratulations to Election Winners - Good Ole Boys Shocked                                               November 8, 2010

Now that the election is over and the celebrations are dying down, I wanted to take a few minutes and share some personal observations and thoughts with all of you. First of all, last week's election was a win for every citizen of Hot Springs and Garland County who want open, honest and transparent city and county government. The winners are to be congratulated. Those candidates running for city positions who did not win are to be congratulated for conducting positive, above board campaigns. I am proud of all of you.

I wish that all of you could have been with me at the Election Commission on election night as the numbers started to come in. The place was absolutely packed... mostly with those we have affectionately referred to as good 'ole boys and their associates. I will never forget the expression of stunned disbelief on the face of Rick Saunders as the early voting numbers started rolling in. He was speaking to someone on his cell phone, saying things like, "I don't know what is going on", or "what does this mean"? He soon figured out what it meant.

The election cycle was not without its tragedies. I am referring to the untimely passing of Keith Crass. I did not know Keith before the campaign, but spoke with him frequently during the weeks prior to his death. Keith was a man of principle and honor who will be sorely missed. The greatest honor that we could give him, aside from electing him posthumously to the Arkansas House District 24 seat, would be to elect a candidate of similar values to the seat in the upcoming special election.

My friends, the real work of changing our city only began on November 2nd. Our new mayor is going to need a lot of help straightening out decades of mess. I know that she will do well. It is incumbent upon all of us to assist her in any way possible to clean up and clean out Hot Springs. It will be nice to have the city's business conducted legally and above the table for a change. No more double talk, no more legalese to circumvent or spin state law, no more back room deals, and no more favoritism or nepotism.

The time has come to root out the corruption in this city and expose it to the light of day, backed by a mayor who won't look the other way. I don't care how rich or powerful the good 'ole boys THINK they are... they put their pants on the same way as the rest of us... one leg at a time. The fact is that several of them are jumping ship already, while others are crawling back into the woodwork in hopes of waiting out the storm.

I would encourage the rank and file employees of the city of Hot Springs, regardless of department, to contact this website with any concerns, information, or situations within your department that you believe needs to be investigated. The information will be put to good use. Once again, thank you to all of the voters who declared a new day in Hot Springs.

Brian White, President - GGG PAC 


City Good Ol' Boys Now Set to Take Over Garland County                                                      September 13, 2010

Whoa, we thought we were being vigilant by pointing out the self-serving cronyism of the "Good Ol' Boys" who have run Hot Springs for years and we almost didn't notice that they are now also trying to take over Garland County.  Yep, while we thought they were "on the ropes" fretting about the voters throwing them out in November, they were scheming to add to their ranks and power by planning to take over the county judge's office (and others).  Thank goodness, they tipped their hand by listing their names in an endorsement ad for their county judge candidate on page 9A of the Sunday (Sept. 12) Sentinel Record.  As one knowledgeable Hot Springs native since the days of Leo and Vern put it, "That was an almost complete list of the people who got our town in the shape it's in today."

Those words really rang true.  The listing does seem to read like a "Who's - Who" of Hot Springs' Good Ol' Boys.  A few of the more recognizable names on the list include:  Mike Bush, Tom Daniel, Steve Smith, Eric Jackson, Doug Arnold, Jim Randall, Steve Oliver, Davis Tillman, Bob Mathis, Steve Arrison, Sam Stathakis, Roy Rowe, the McClards, Smithermans, Foshees, Fleishners, Crouchs, Schnippers, and of course - the undisputed leaders of the Good Ol' Boys, John and Helen Selig.  Oh, those other realtor/developer types reportedly linked to dozens of questionable shell corporations were also well represented.  For example: Travis Morrisey, Chris Polycron, the Hurst clan, Rushing-McAdams-Polychron, etc.  We cannot help but wonder if Rick Ramick and Rodney Myers were too radical to be listed or, perhaps, were just out of town when the list was compiled.

Many members of Fifty for the Future were listed including el presidente' Tom French.  Even 'bottleneck' proponents and beneficiaries such as Roger Gipe were on the infamous list.  Some of the chamber leaders and a handful of Good Ol' Boy wantabees were noted such as Buddy Wilson, Chris Chapmond, Mark Curry, Joel Rush, the Woodalls, Thextons, etc.

All in all, we probably should thank these folks for not only exposing their devious plans but by saving us the trouble of preparing a list of the nefarious characters we can remember as the "Good Ol' Boys" after they are thrown out of office come November 2nd.   Oh, there are a couple of questionable names on the list (like the former police chief).  So, just in case you didn't give permission for your name to be placed on the list or you have a legitimate reason why you shouldn't be considered as a Good Ol' Boy, let us know.  We'll note it on this website.

UPDATE (9/18/10):  We suspected it would happen.  So far, four individuals said their names should not have been on the list but only two seemed really upset and none gave permission to list their names.  Makes one wonder how upset they really were.


Hot Springs Earns Title as Most Dangerous City in America                                                      August 27, 2010

For quite some time, we have been aware that the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has ranked somewhere between 2 and 13 (out of 330) on the list of worst crime rates in the country (click here and scroll to bottom table).  We even knew that several tourist related sites ranked Hot Springs as a "dangerous city" to visit.  For example, one such site, Neighborhood Scout, even allows readers to look at their neighborhood within cities.  On a scale of 1 to 100 with lower numbers being the worst crime and 100 being the safest, this site ranks Hot Springs crime index as a zero (0).  In other words, there are NO other cities in the USA less safe than Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Check it out by clicking here.  Also note that statistics show Hot Springs with 162 crimes per square mile compared to the state average of 3 crimes per square mile and a national average of 49.6.

Other sites to visit are Tumblr (click here), Cha-Cha (click here), Protect America (click here), or GGGG (click here).  All these sites use offense and arrest data from FBI and Department of Justice statistics but city and county leaders continue to say the figures are "wrong."  Regardless of local officials "spin" or outright "fibs," the numbers are factual.  In fact, they were turned in by our own law enforcement personnel and then complied by the FBI.  The bottom line is simple.  Hot Springs has 8,265 REPORTED violent crimes per 100,000 people which leads the nation.  All this in spite of the fact that crime is actually under-reported in our city.  These type facts need to come out.  For example, very few people know that Garland County leads the state in child abuse cases.  Keep watching this site, these facts will be reported in the future.

Oh, one final source that no one disputes.  Go to the library or book store and look on page 321 of the New York Times Almanac, the definitive source of statistics for all cities on the planet.  Yep, Hot Springs is listed there as having the highest number of "serious crimes" in the nation. Click here to see page 321.


Real Reason Local Candidates Are Running For Office Questioned   A guest commentary    April 20, 2010

The City of Hot Springs has a $50 million unfunded police and fireman's retirement time bomb. The State of California has a 1/2 trillion dollar unfunded retirement monster on it's hands. The city of Vallejo, California already has gone into bankruptcy because it can't pay its unaffordable pension and health care obligations, and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan is making the rounds recommending that the equally strapped city of Los Angeles consider bankruptcy as well.  

Nationwide, taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. Unfunded promises made for Medicare, Social Security, and federal retirement programs account for 85% of taxpayer liabilities. State and local government retirement plans account for much of the rest. 

So with this in mind, lets ask the question, why are our local candidates running for office?

To understand why several of our local candidates are running for office you need to know how the state retirement system works. It is impossible to explain it in exact terms because it is very complex. Just look at APERS online benefit calculator at or their handbook at When you actually look at those links you will become really confused. So in simple terms here are the basics.

1) Your retirement is based on your highest 3 years pay.

2) You receive a full retirement of about 60% of your highest 3 years average pay after about 30 years of service.

3) Elected officials get 2 years of credit for each year of service.

It is a very common strategy for state employees after a long low paying career to want to become an elected official for a few years to get the 2 years for 1 year credit and a retirement based on 3 years of high pay.

Here are 2 examples:

An employee works for 20 years in a state job earning $20,000 per year, then retires. He might expect a retirement check of around $10,000 per year.

The employee at the desk beside him works the same 20 years in the same state job but then gets elected to a county job for 4 years. His retirement check jumps from $10,000 to $36,000 for the rest of his life because his 3 highest years' paychecks are $65,000.

That means, being elected to a higher paying county job for just 3 years increases your retirement by $26,000 and could equal half to one million dollars over 20 to 40 years of retirement.

So with this incentive or strategy in mind, we need to look at each of our candidates for county offices. 3 incumbent candidates have been labeled double-dippers and their retirement problems have been widely discussed in the newspaper, but the local newspaper has never addressed what the others have to gain if elected. So here is a rough guess as to what they have to gain. Hopefully they will respond with exact numbers so we won't have to guess.

Terry Smith: State Senator Smith worked for the state legislative audit, state parks, and served 12 years in the legislature. A good guess would be that his 3 highest years pay were around $20,000 to $25,000 and that he might currently be eligible for about $12,000 per year in state retirement benefits. After 3 years as Garland County Treasurer, his state retirement would be expected to jump from $12,000 to $36,000 per year for the rest of his life. This is in addition to his social security, Southwestern Bell pension, and Southwestern Bell's additional retirement plan.

Rick Saunders: Rick is a retired school teacher so we are guessing he has a retirement check of $24,000 per year from that job. He has 6 years in the state legislature making around $17,000 per year. A guess would be that he currently would be eligible for only $2,000 per year in APERS retirement benefits. However, after 4 years as Garland County Judge, that could rise to $12,000, $24,000 after 9 years, and $36,000 after 15 years.

It appears that these 2, who as legislators voted on  the state retirement system laws that are very lucrative compared to what is available in private industry, might now be trying to cash in on the system they voted on.  

Kenneth Johnson: Candidate Johnson is assumed to be collecting $24,000 in retirement as a retired firefighter and $36,000 as retired tax collector. Now he wants a $65,000 salary on top of that as county judge.

Larry Williams: Larry, who has built up a substantial retirement will put himself in great shape with a few years as state representative and may get away from pesky questions of how he advised the "double-dippers" and why he didn't tell the public and the quorum court.

There is no insinuation that any of this is illegal, but we as taxpayers are generally not eligible for any type of pension. Our only hope for a retirement check is based on what we can save in 401K and IRA accounts and a maximum of about $20,000 per year in social security.

The question for these candidates should be, How much are you currently eligible for in public retirement benefits and how much will you be eligible for after 4 years in an elected office?

And, isn't this really why you are really running for this position?

If you are offended by these questions, I'm sorry, but it is taxpayer money so we have a right to know. Nobody is asking about your social security check, your 401K, or your IRA accounts. But please tell us how much we will actually have to pay you in taxpayer funds for you to represent us?


City Employees Need Our Help                                                                                                   December 25, 2009

We are blessed this Christmastime in many ways. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of a free country where all citizens have equal rights and equal opportunities. We should always be grateful for our freedoms and liberties and thankful to those who stood up to defend them. It is most disappointing during this very special season to see fellow citizens treated badly and it is now time that we also stand up and offer assistance to those in need of help. We are, indeed, talking about that "lump of coal" our city manager and the Hot Springs board of directors gave to our hard-working city employees. While all of the department heads got hefty raises, the rank-and-file employees got pay cuts. We thank the many city employees who called, e-mailed, or otherwise voiced their concerns. In spite of their unwarranted plight, none failed to wish us a heart-felt "Merry Christmas."

If we take even a cursory look at city operations, we quickly discover far too many chiefs and not enough Indians. This fact is probably most evident in the police department but also applies to all facets of city management. Most citizens would likely be shocked to learn that the entire city usually has only four to six patrol officers on duty which is far below the national average. Sometimes a few more are on radar (traffic) duty or directing traffic for private businesses at our expense but check out how many corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains are (supposedly) on duty. Is there any doubt this fact contributed to Hot Springs having the highest property crime rate (for cities over 30,000) in the entire nation? Now our citizens are facing many hours with even fewer patrol officers and the newspaper reports entire fire stations will be shut down for certain days. Obviously, it is more important to our city directors that the free-spending city managers be rewarded than it is to show any concern for consequences to public safety.

Our city directors and city manager will quickly tell you their actions were based on an "emergency condition" and "hard times" due to reduced sales tax revenues. Do we hear a "Bah Humbug" somewhere? Aren’t there dozens of places where spending could be reduced without taking it out on the low-level employees? How about eliminating Code Red? A Google search indicated this unnecessary and expensive program began in Florida as a telemarketing firm. It appears that once the federal government shut them down, they switched over to being a child finding organization. After discovering there were already Morgan Nick and Amber alert systems, they switched to being an early warning system. Even though this was made known to our directors, they provided these former telemarketers with every water and sewer customer’s name, address, and phone numbers without our permission and over the objections of many. People in Texas, Oklahoma, and other out-of-town property owners now receive unwanted and expensive phone calls at strange hours to inform them not to go in areas where limbs are down or that their garbage won’t be picked up tomorrow since it is a holiday. How many in our city have experienced an increase in telemarketer calls since the city sent your information to Code Red?

In the middle of the city’s perceived "budget crisis," one director traveled to San Antonio at taxpayer’s expense and over $67,000 for additional travel remains in the 2010 budget. Even funding for the sister city program is still in the budget. Huge amounts for software development and maintenance are earmarked to be spent including items such as placing all the city's trees in a database. We guess the database for flowers and bushes has been delayed for a couple of years. Friends of directors and city management are still being rewarded with six figure plus amounts for important sounding items such as "economic development" without sufficient justification that their previous efforts have paid any dividends. In fact, when asked at a public meeting, the "Chief" of this effort refused to name any jobs he has or may bring to our city and flatly refused to name any firm he says he was talking to at present. We have taken the liberty of providing a link to the proposed budget so that everyone can search and find their own exorbitant items which remain in the 2010 budget. Click here to go to the 2010 Hot Springs budget.  Whoops, sorry but it appears the city has removed the budget from their website.  We wonder why.  Bet you do too.

In spite of the city’s "hard times," directors continue to spend millions for expensive out-of-town consultants, attorneys, engineers, underwriters, planners, auditors, bond experts, lobbyists, etc. For example, $3.2 million continues to be paid to an engineering firm for design of a water plant at a location that has been rejected by the state. It now appears that another multi-million dollar expenditure was approved without public comment due to placement as a consent agenda item. Check agenda item 11 on the December 15 agenda. Can you believe the same agenda that cut city employees' pay while raising department heads' salaries included $3,369,913 for more out-of-town consultants? Oh, the agenda hides the amount of money they approved, but you can see it on page 54 of the board packet, well hidden among other consulting contracts, fees, etc.

We have already stated our disappointment in seeing deserving employees get a lump of coal for Christmas while the Scrooges got gold. It is now time that all citizens let their city directors and city manager know what they think of such actions. If the directors remain true to form, they will not give us an opportunity to speak at a board meeting or otherwise make our voices heard but we can demonstrate our concerns at the ballot box in November. Get every city resident you know to register and be ready to vote. How about a New Year’s resolution to take our city back from the self-serving selfish Scrooges? Happy New Year!!


Prairie Dog Town (In Hot Springs?)     A guest commentary                                                           October 7, 2009

There is a cuddly, soft, lovable and somewhat cute animal indigenous to the Great Plains of Colorado called a prairie dog.   Turns out that he is not all that lovable. He builds “Prairie Dog Towns”, undermining the very community that he lives in, causing many a cowpoke to break his neck when his horse fell into the prairie dog town along with the leg of the horse.  With all that, they also carry diseases such as the plague.  Also he is not a dog at all, but a member of the rodent family much like a Rat.  So hated is the prairie dog by the farmers and cattlemen, that they take sport in shooting the little buggers as they pop their little heads out of their holes.  Even arcades in pizza restaurants have similar games in which you try to bop them in the head with a bat.  If you hit or miss, he will go back into his hole and another one will pop up to take his place.

This is the one unique characteristic of the flat-land rat, if you shoot at or hit one of these filthy creatures, one of his buddies will invariably pop his head up to see what is going on.  Strangely enough if they were only smart enough to stay underground, they would most likely remain safe.  The only other way to rid yourself of these dry land wharf-rats is to suck them alive into a vacuum truck much like a septic tank cleaning truck.  Even then you most likely will not get the Head Rat.  Left alone, they are very prolific and reproduce underground and out of site until they start popping back up again. They operate under a hierarchy protecting the main rat.  You might even compare them to a “Good Ole Boy Society”.

By now I think that it is pretty obvious where this is going but here it goes anyway.  Hot Springs operates under the “Good Ole Boy Society”.  Recently a “Civic Leader” was removed from office and four of his buddies held up another “Leader” up to poke his head up and to take his place.  It has became obvious that this, new to our society creature,  had a unsavory past.    Yet another creature with a questionable past is now complaining because the cowboys used his buddies for target practice.  Seems that the only way to get rid of this pestilence in our community is to bring out the septic truck and suck them out of their holes all at one time.  Now comes the problem, what to do with them?

Response to above commentary (10/10/09):

The prairie dog commentary was hilarious but the analogy was absolutely true. We certainly seem to have our share of varmints around here. You are right. It is time to bring out the septic truck and suck them out of their holes. A septic truck seems like the right tool for the job, since it appears that most of these varmints are full of the same thing that septic systems are. The question of what to do with them once they are in the truck is a good one. Here are a couple of suggestions.

1)  Empty the truck into a hazardous waste site, preferably somewhere out of state.

2)  Ship the truck to new York or New Jersey where the contents can be loaded onto a garbage barge and dumped at sea.

3)  Run them through their own expensive wastewater treatment plant so that they can get an up close and personal inspection on the improvements.


Sometimes News is Not News but What is Not News is News                                             October 3, 2009

It is unfortunate that this article even needed to be written but due to the headline in today's Sentinel Record, numerous e-mails, and several phone calls, we had no choice.  Yes, the state ethics commission is investigating an individual's complaint alleging five possible violations similar to those in today's newspaper.  The five allegations as listed in the newspaper are:  1) GGGG (Garland Good Government Group) canvassed his neighborhood for the recall of Weatherford.  2) GGGG voluntarily participated in litigation involving the recall election.  3) GGGG mailed campaign literature and ran radio advertising opposing Weatherford.  4) GGGG erected campaign and yard signs opposing Weatherford.  5) GGGG failed to register as a Ballot Question Committee or political action committee.  Although none of the five above allegations were accurately listed in the newspaper, they are close enough for the public to understand in a general sense.  We will not list any actual specifics due to the fact that such investigations are intended to remain confidential.  Once a final finding is made, the public can be made totally aware of all actual facts.

Those of you who are associated with the GGGG already know that items one through four above are totally inaccurate.  As to item five, you will recall that the state ethics commission told us verbally that we didn't need to be a Ballot Question Committee or a political action committee.  It is disturbing and, perhaps, illegal and unethical that the newspaper and their source chose to not respect the confidentiality of such an investigation.  Except for this denial and comments above, we think it inappropriate to comment further although we really, really wish we could.

The most disturbing thing about today's headlines is that the newspaper thought this was newsworthy.  Even a comment from the alleged source states, "I don't know if they have done anything wrong, but I knew enough to question if they might have."  The source further states, "Maybe the things they are doing are completely within their First Amendment rights, and if so, good for them."  Wow, "might haves and maybes" are sufficient to warrant a front page top headline covering all five columns of their newspaper?  A couple of weeks ago, when the Sentinel Record was notified that the GGGG was hosting a United States State Department visit with six Nicaraguan officials, they didn't even bother to send a reporter.  Obviously, that event was not newsworthy enough for our local newspaper.  The GGGG did cover that occasion and it can be read on their website at

Won't it be interesting to read the final results of the ethics commission findings when all the facts can be openly listed and both sides can be heard?  Yep, it will probably be somewhere on page 17c but watch for it.  Oh, one final thought, do you suppose it would be ethical to ask for an investigation into the objectivity and ethical practices of our local newspaper?


Age Old Question (Guest Commentary by Ted Burhenn)                                                             September 23, 2009

If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?  This is an age old philosophical riddle that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality.  George Berkeley was an Irish philosopher who first created and promoted a theory he called "immaterialism" later referred to as "subjective idealism".  Bottom line was if no one human was there to hear the noise, did it in fact make a sound? 

The answer is NO.  Such is it with the Board of Directors of the City.  Slightly different in that they were there but they are not startled by the noise of the tree falling.  They might hear the plight of the rural citizen, but ignore the reality of the falling tree.  The city voted to increase the water/sewer rates and increase the increase for the county by 150%.  All this in spite of the fact that only about $600 thousand of a $100 million increase was aimed at “Cost of Service” that could be assessed to the county.  In simple terms, the county user will pay about $60 million and the city will pay about $40 million.  So for $60 million dollars the county will  get about 1% return on our money.  For this, the city will get to re-pave streets within the city, build new production to benefit new subdivisions, and build resumes for the budding new city manager, yet to be announced. 

The present city manager finally admitted that no study had been done to determine the actual additional cost (if any) for providing service to the county.  An additional insult to the rural community is that the county is chip sealing the county road (Winkler) only to the City’s South West Treatment Plant and PAVING, (yes I said paving) the county road to city limits of Garvan Gardens.  (Ya’ll in the county on dirt roads might want to check this out with your County Judge now, ya‘ hear?).

I guess the question now presented is, “If a tree falls and the Board of Directors choose to ignore it, did it really fall at all?”  I can only rely on the words of wisdom of my Uncle Bill, “Only 3% of the public is aware of what is going on so the Board of Directors and City Staff can do what they please.”  Wake UP citizens, this is worse than the ice storm of several years ago, trees are falling all around us. 


Hot Springs a "Second Home Community"   (Guest Commentary by Karen White)       September 18, 2009

Following is a letter sent by a lifelong resident of Hot Springs to each member of the Hot Springs Board of Directors - Tue, Sep 15, 2009. We and many others requested a copy after it was read to the board during the board meeting by her husband. It is a sad but true commentary.

To the Board of Directors:

I want to ask the directors to consider a motion. A motion to table the rate increases to residential customers only.

The businesses and developers say in order to keep growing, we have to increase the rates. I have a serious concern of exactly what is GOING to “GROW” in Hot Springs.

While watching a local morning TV news show last week, there was a report about how Arkansas is recovering from the down turn in housing construction. New home construction and sales in towns near what they call the Metro, which included Hot Springs, are quickly increasing. Of the 10 or 12 Metro areas, Garland County as a whole, stuck out like a sore thumb, we were the only area listed in red. Garland County came in at a negative 23% housing growth, while everyone we are compared to, had tremendous gains.

The explanation they gave for the marked decline in Hot Springs ? Hot Springs is now deemed a “SECOND HOME Community.” In a nutshell, people don't want to live here any more. They want to come here to party, gamble, play on our lakes, and go to the track, but they don't want their families living here.

They go back to their wonderful schools and safe communities, and they use us. The people who own tourist attractions, hotels, and the bars, are the only people who profit from them.

Let those people pay for the increases.

Hot Springs isn't a bunch of strip clubs, bars and restaurants catering to the tourist, it's the people. The people who raise their children and the people who retire here. We can't keep raising the cost of living in a town with nothing to offer but a bunch of seasonal part time tourist jobs with little future. And we can't make it so expensive that retirees go to other states.

We must improve our schools and our neighborhoods and we must not raise utility rates for residential customers, unless we are purposefully and with forethought turning Central Avenue and our town into the Hot Springs “STRIP

If there is no intention by this board to encourage anything but the almighty tourist dollar, the town so many families call their hometown, is really already gone.

Look at it from a business standpoint. We all saw the reports last week about the school benchmark scores. People who build companies that bring families to town to live , they don't search for stories in local newspaper meant to make us feel like everything's okay. They look at numbers that anyone can get online.

When you pull up the actual report, it doesn't say, “The Hot Springs School District is still doing great things!” it says this year, 58 percent of our 8th graders don't meet standards in Math, and 61 percent don't meet standards in English, and our drop out rate is at 47% . Look at the numbers for the last several years. We have to attract families to this area, and we do it with our schools.

A huge percentage of the children who attend our schools are eligible for free and reduced cost meals. Those families, the majority of the families in the Hot Springs School district, can NOT afford these increases in their basic needs. Water and sewer are not luxury items. They are not optional.

Finally, our neighborhoods. I live in district 5 between Oaklawn Elementary and Hot Springs High School. Mr. Ramick and other board members drive through my neighborhood now. Go the route my children take to school down Vineyard, Fleet, Leonard, Clark, and Woodlawn. Overpriced dilapidated rent houses, boarded up meth and crack houses, vacant, abandoned, overgrown, homes used by the homeless or the addicts. I remember when it didn't look like this here. A few weeks ago, I watched from my front window, 2 blocks from Oaklawn School as a young man adjusted the hand gun he carried stuck in the back of his pants. This used to be a beautiful neighborhood. This is my hometown and for those of you who have something other than just a business interest in this place, it's your home too.

Find all the leaks before you ask the citizens to pay. Fund the mandates to keep growing, something all the developers say is absolutely vital, but fund them with profits from the only thing that is growing. Fund it from the businesses who profit from the tourists.

Develop an action committee to address this horrid classification of a “SECOND HOME COMMUNITY”. Five generations of my family have lived and died in this town and people like me want it to stay a HOMETOWN. Ask the people in this town to help you. This is our hometown and it's not up for sale to the highest bidding commercial developer.


A&P Takes "Arrogant" Position, Makes Hypocritical Comments                                        September 5, 2009 

"We feel very confident that we will win before the trademark board. If we should lose that, we will continue to use the logo..." Steve Arrison – Sentinel Record Sept 4, 2009.

The absurdity of the above quotation earned it our selection as “quote of the month.” For Hot Springs' A&P chief, Steve Arrison, to thumb his nose at the decision of the United States Trademark Board speaks volumes about his respect for yet another federal agency.  Arrison's quote is also being used in local circles as additional justification for the rapidly increasing use of the name “Arrogant Arrison.”  While describing those who differ with Mr. Arrogant's position, another of his quotes in the same news article was, “they are just people who want to get their names in the paper.”  This quote came in second to the one selected.

After reading the newspaper and listening to the radio this morning, we learn that Mr. Arrogant and his “want-a-be” A&P board member, Dick Antoine, have dubbed the historic public meeting with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a “staged” event that was “ambushed” by “people who want to get their names in the paper.”  It is unfortunate that Mr. Arrogant and his good ol' boy comrades are in positions to influence the good people of our community.  What is fortunate is the fact that our citizens have heard this type blabber for so long that they are beginning to become skeptical and, thankfully, most in our community are a lot more perceptive and intelligent than Mr. Arrogant and his cronies give them credit for being.

The historic meeting's first speaker from the audience was president of the highly political chamber of commerce having recently announced filing as the only city chamber in the state to have its own PAC (political action committee).  The chamber president attempted to set the tone of the meeting by pointing out that he had several “supporters” of Mr. Arrogant’s position with him in the audience.  It may be worth noting that Mr. Arrogant’s wife is a senior staff member of the political chamber.

Irrespective of what our so-called leaders tout as an "ambush," the truth of the matter is relatively simple to ascertain.  The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Ken Salazar, revealed that he met privately with Mr. Arrogant and our mayor the evening before the public meeting Thursday (Sept 3, 2009).  Mr. Arrogant and his Little Rock attorney were the primary culprits who made a strong effort to take over Thursday's public meeting.  In fact, Secretary Salazar finally had to tell the A&P attorney (Mr. Speed) to “sit down” and give someone else a chance to speak.  Obviously, those few people who dared to offer an opinion that differed with Mr. Arrogant quickly earned his disdain and have now been described by him as “people who want to get their names in the paper.”  How arrogant and hypocritical is it that Arrison sticks around to be interviewed by the newspaper while the people he chastises as “publicity seekers” leave or decline to be interviewed by the media?

It is true that two Garland Good Government Group (GGGG) officers spoke at the meeting as did two members but even these people did not all speak on the logo issue.  In fact, the GGGG officers did not even mention the logo dispute or Superintendent Fernandez. Two pastors spoke opposing the A&P being allowed to use the name “Hot Springs National Park” in conjunction with promoting non-family, non-wholesome activities such as gambling.  A former National Park Superintendent and Regional Director spoke opposing the A&P as well as a lady and a gentleman seated behind her who voiced their support for the current superintendent.  Even if we assume Mr. Arrogant and Mr. Antoine are correct and consider that all of those eight people were part of a “staged” event, those speaking for much longer periods included three members of the A&P Board, two A&P attorneys, two members of the Downtown Merchants, the city manager, Mr. Arrogant himself, and a couple of the city’s good ol’ boys.  A total of twenty audience members spoke (see list below).  If that doesn’t sound like a balanced “public” meeting, it is because it actually was not.  You had to have been there to see that four A&P members, one of the A&P attorneys, the mayor, the city manager, and the city attorney were seated in the first couple of rows which were “reserved” for them.  If this meeting was “staged” or “ambushed,” who do you think staged it?  Could it have been the A&P and the city’s good ol’ boys?

There were members of the general public who sat and stood in the back that did not speak.  However, their voice was heard when they collectively “booed” the A&P’s Little Rock attorney on a couple of occasions when he refused to answer Secretary Salazar's questions and their applause was also heard every time Park Superintendent Josie Fernandez was praised.  In fact, when first introduced, Congressman Ross, National Parks Director Wenk, Senator Pryor, and even Secretary Salazar did not get as much applause as did Superintendent Fernandez.  One of the GGGG officers went so far as to point out that Secretary Salazar’s reference to “the wishes of the community” may be different than what Hot Springs’ leaders were telling him.  Oh, one final interesting point of note: The mayor got up and was walking out of this historic meeting when Secretary Salazar told him to return to his seat.  How rude is it and how embarrassing is it when our chief elected official tries to walk out on our U.S. Congressman, our U.S. Senator, our Director of National Parks, our National Park Superintendent, and the United States Secretary of the Interior while he is speaking?  We offer our humble apologizes to you gentlemen and lady.

Speakers: US Congressman Ross, US Senator Pryor, US Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Chamber President Byerly, GGGG Member Anabel, A&P President Arrison, A&P attorney Speed, GGGG President Burhenn, GGGG Chair Driggers, Citizen Steplock, Pastor Carney, A&P Chair Moore, A&P and City Director Daniel, City Manager Hudnell, County Judge Williams, A&P and Downtown Merchants member Harper, GGGG member Hedrick, A&P Attorney Hickam, Merchant Tillman, Businessman Gallas, Pastor Jones, Citizen Silverman, Retired National Park Regional Director Castleberry.


The Dead Cat   (Guest Commentary by Ted Burhenn)                                                             August 28, 2009

Once upon a time a long, long, really long time ago, a boy named Lance had a pet Cat named Fluffy.  While playing in the street one day, a Lady from the City drove along and ran over Fluffy.  Seeing that Lance was deeply hurt, the Lady gave him $50.  Lance thought to himself, “This is a pretty good deal. “  He called his cousin Steve.  They tied a string to Fluffy and proceeded to drag that dead cat back and forth all day collecting $50 every time.  Then they took Fluffy into the County and started collecting $75 every time someone ran over poor dead Fluffy.  Question is, “how many times are we going to have to pay for that dead Cat?"

The proposed utility rate hike is like that dead cat; we have paid for it before.  We were told that in order to expand our production, we would have to increase our “Impact Fees”.  In order to pay for the storm water runoff problem, we would have to levy a TAX/FEE of $3 dollars each month.  Kent Myers and Don Cochran orchestrated a rate increase by convincing the City Board of Directors that it was harder to pump water and sewer from the county to the county than to it was to pump from the county to the city and back.  (Actually that study was done in California and the names were changed to Hot Springs.)  They used a phrase, “It is generally accepted that the rates in the county should be 50% more than the city.”   Boy, are they getting some mileage out of that cat.  How about, “It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer?”  Means nothing, no basis, just phraseology, but it IS a fresh cat.

Out of about 30 “Justifications” for raising the rates (two or three times the present rate) most of which we have already paid for in other rate increases.  Remember all those Public Meetings last month on the proposed location (Carpenter Dam) of the new water treatment plant?  It’s still in there.   The city was notified by the Health Department by a June 3, 2009 letter that the selected location was not suitable because it did not it did not represent the best possible source of drinking water.  Yet Lance and Steve continued to drag that cat back and forth and even throwing in a “Meow” every once in awhile.  By the way, that study who's only redeeming value was to determine the worst possible place to put a water treatment plant cost you, the rate payer, over $3 million.

Oh, before I run out to feed my cat, one of the items on the wastewater justification is the replacement of utilities in conjunction with the CITY’S re-pavement program (cost $550,000 per year or $2,750,000 until 2013 at which time they will drag the cat again).  So aren’t we in the county the lucky ones?   We get to pay 1.5 times as much to pave the city’s streets.   Of course if we have a pavement program in the county, we also have to pay the city to move the utilities.  Enter the Dead Cat on South Moore.  Even thought the State pays for the bridge and the county pays for the utility and easement rights, the City includes $600,000 for this project in their wastewater cost justifications.  Seems to me the boys have just drug out yet another expensive Dead Cat for the ratepayers to pay.  

Let’s do the right thing and bury Fluffy.


What is the Real Story About Hot Springs Water?                                                               August 16, 2009

Good quality water for drinking and other purposes is vital to any community, however, community leaders need to be open and honest about such needs before spending millions of dollars of their resident's money.  In the case of we, the water/wastewater customers served by the Hot Springs Municipal Utilities Department, it appears that we have been told everything but the true facts.  City leaders have told us they need to spend upwards of $217 million for water and wastewater improvements and our water rates are projected to more than double in less than 3 years.  See if the following plan components make sense to you: We construct a new water treatment plant and water intake near Carpenter Dam but on the opposite side of the lake from the city complete with a bridge to bring the water back across the lake and partially justify this multi-million dollar bridge because it also serves as a "hike-and-bike" connection between 2 new city parks which will actually be located outside of the city.  Many people, including several reputable engineers, view the water intake location as the worst possible selection since the site is possibly the most polluted spot of the most polluted lake in the county.  The city's chosen location is not only at the "choke-point" for all pollutants that run into the lake but is even downstream from where the city dumps its sewer affluent from their new multi-million dollar sewer plant. 

Okay, now we discover that we aren't the only folks who think the city's water planning is really BAD.  We recently discovered a letter sent to the city by the Arkansas Health Department (ADH) which sheds a considerably different light on the whole project our city leaders have been so loudly promoting.  The ADH letter (click here to view the letter and attachment) basically admonishes the city for even considering a raw water source other than Lake Ouachita, points out that the city's selected site does not meet ADH buffer requirements, indicates that the plan does not provide proper engineering, does not answer environmental and water quality concerns, is not economical, and is generally not the best healthy source for water.  The ADH seems to be most concerned that the city and their consultants have NOT properly considered alternative locations.

In view of the fact that a permit from the ADH must be obtained which approves the city's raw water intake site plus the fact that their letter to the city is dated June 3, 2209, one must ask WHY the city has held subsequent public meetings proposing the Carpenter Dam location, placed a city board agenda which would officially commit the city to select this site as final, and placed a board agenda item committing the city to millions of dollars in additional consulting fees.  These facts are, at best - misleading and, at worst - deceitful.   It is painfully obvious that our city leaders did not divulge all relevant information to the public and possibly, didn't properly advise their own board of directors.  The citizens of our community deserve to know the facts and to have a voice and a vote rather than allow our current leaders to continue to spend millions of dollars of our money based on their personal whims. 

Do not be persuaded by any perceived bias from this commentary.  Read the ADH letter and attachment for yourself and decide if our leaders are acting appropriately and we should continue thumbing our noses at the state department of health. Couldn't this type attitude be dangerous and costly?  Click here to view the ADH letter and attachment in Word format.



Proposed New Waterworks: Here We Go Again? (Guest Commentary)

August 3, 2009


After reading the Sentinel-Record article (July 28) on the proposed new City waterworks, I can only conclude that local officials all use the same playbook when devising these schemes for spending large amounts of the public’s money. Identify a “crisis;” quietly devise the most ambitious, over-reaching, and expensive plan one could imagine as the solution; hire some ”consultants” to bolster the plan; hold some “public meetings” to get “public input;” throw in a few sweeteners for various interests (private and public) to enlarge the support base; avoid any discussion of the total financial implications for the project; then move forward quickly to get money committed so that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to stop the project.

Last year the project was the “new County Jail.” This year (so far) it is the new City waterworks. In the jail case, officials identified a crisis: crime was on the rise; the existing jail was too small to hold all the perpetrators; a new jail was urgently needed. Experts were consulted (remember the “Rosser Report,“ now discredited by yet another batch of consultants); a project to solve the problem was quietly devised - a huge new jail, new police radios, and pay raises all around, to be financed by doubling the County general sales tax. An “official committee” to support the project was formed and financed by local notables and potential equipment vendors, and an election was hurriedly scheduled to get the whole deal approved by voters (a nasty inconvenience unfortunately required by the Arkansas Constitution). Result: while voters may have agreed that a new jail might be a good idea, they overwhelmingly rejected the proposed project. The playbook didn’t work.

In the new waterworks case, officials have identified a problem: demand on the present City waterworks is approaching capacity; a new or enlarged water plant is required. It is an impending crisis. Officials have apparently quietly worked on a solution for some years. A solution should be pretty straightforward. It is obvious that the sole source of drinking water for Hot Springs and surrounds is the Ouachita River. Simply stated, water would be taken from the River, used by the population, and then recycled back into the river. The scientific law of conservation of matter allows no other outcome.

Indeed, the present configuration of the City’s waterworks is that River water is taken at a point just below Blakely Dam, purified for drinking at a nearby facility in Mountain Pine, then used by the folks within the City’s water system, with the “wastewater” treated at the facility just Southwest of the City and pumped back into the River. Now however, we need more water and more treatment capacity to meet the needs of the growing population of metropolitan Hot Springs. Apparently, increasing the amount of water taken from the present “out-take” point in the River just below Blakely Dam is not possible, because the River at that point is too shallow. [FN1]

Let’s suppose that the River is indeed too shallow at the present out-take point. What to do? The obvious solution would be to take the water from the River at a point above Blakely Dam. This would be a deep- water location; it is near the present purification facility at Mountain Pine, which could be expanded. Transmission could be accommodated on the existing right-of-ways. Seems simple enough. But, officials say, the US Corps of Engineers (which “owns Lake Ouachita“) won’t agree, because (they say) there is some “seepage problem” with Blakely Dam which would preclude taking drinking water for Metro Hot Springs from above the dam. [FN2] This is a non-sequitur if there ever was one, and cannot be believed - except by City officials who must have some reason to give it credence. They must also believe, then, that the officials at the US Corps of Engineers would rather send Ouachita River water through the Blakely Dam spillways than see it diverted through the City waterworks to serve the residents of Metro Hot Springs. Remember, all the water will come from the Ouachita River, at some point, and be recycled back into the River at another (hopefully downstream) point. It would seem that City officials would be able to make their case with the new Obama Administration, if they cannot get past the Corps of Engineers.

According to City officials, since the Corps of Engineers will not allow taking Ouachita River water from their territory, the City must look to Entergy for a solution since Entergy, it is said, “owns Lake Hamilton” (i.e., Entergy “owns” the Ouachita River downstream of Blakely Dam). We are told that Entergy has volunteered a number of out-take points around Lake Hamilton, which have all been studied, and that one point has been selected: a point on the South side of the lake just upstream of Carpenter Dam.

This is an “interesting” selection. First, it is on the South side of the Ouachita River; Metro Hot Springs is generally on the North side of the River. Metro Hot Springs is also generally “upstream” of this proposed site; that is, here the Ouachita River flows from Northwest to Southeast, and it follows that its valley slopes in that same way. Thus, the water taken from this proposed site must be pumped not only back across the River, but upstream to find its end use at the faucets of Metro Hot Springs inhabitants. It would seem easier, and more economical, to take your water from upstream rather from downstream.

Another problem with the proposed site is that it is downstream from the City’s existing wastewater treatment plant discharge into the Ouachita River (into Lake Hamilton via Little Mazarn Creek). Common sense tells most folks not to empty their “wastewater” near their well, or upstream of where they take their drinking water. Officials dismiss this concern by saying that the raw water quality is not that much of an issue “as long as they can provide good finished water and don’t have to spend twice as much money to do so.” One might ask: how much money are they willing to spend? And why spend it? Just take your drinking water upstream, like you have been doing all these years, and avoid the problem and the admitted additional cost.

The proposal to surrender to the US Corps of Engineers without a battle, and put the new drinking water out-take point downstream and on the other side of the River from the intended users, and downstream of the point where the wastewater is put back into the River, does not sound like a good idea. So why would anybody support it? Here’s where the sweeteners come in. For Entergy, > . . . For the City of Hot Springs Parks Department, it is > . . . .

And here’s the bad news. The price tag for this new system may run to $100 million, perhaps as much as $200 million over the next ten years. How will this be paid? . . . . . For water ratepayers? For taxpayers? Need to complete. Bonds? Tax secured bonds and “revenue bonds.” Makes a difference - election or not?


FN 1. It has also been suggested that Entergy, which “owns Lake Hamilton,” will not allow the City to increase the amount of water drawn from the present out-take point. That apparent “veto power” by Entergy should be a nagging concern to local citizens.

FN 2. We might say here that if Blakely Dam, an earthen fill dam, is leaking, we had better not spend a lot of money on improvements below the dam because if it fails, we are all toast.



Flash: July 21, 2009 - The $100 million dollar expense mentioned in the following commentary has now been corrected as being over $200 million by the Assistant City Manager and Director of Utilities.


Red River (1949)

June 14, 2009


The following is a copy of a "Letter to the Editor" of the Sentinel Record which has not yet been published (reprinted with permission).


Most of us have seen the movie several times, Red River, staring John Wayne as Thomas Dunson.  The setting is a cattle drive along the Chisholm trail.  Picture if you will, “Groot”, played by Walter Brennan, as they stop for the night after pushing the cows across the river and he goes down to get a pot of fresh water for the chuck wagon.  Should he go upstream from where they crossed or downstream?  If he worked for the City of Hot Springs, he would have gone downstream from where the cows splashed around.  Utterly ridiculous.


So is it with the plan for a new water treatment plant.  What they don’t want you to know is that the intake will be downstream from the discharge of the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant, also known as the sewer plant.  The city plans to build an intake bridge in front of Carpenter Dam to draw the water, pump the raw water a couple of miles south, treat the water, then pump the treated water across Lake Catherine on yet another bridge below Carpenter Dam Road to existing pipes a couple of miles north of the lakes.  The public meeting, held last week was a presentation with no public questions or comments allowed.  One-on-one questions were allowed but only after the presentation just in case someone actually had a valid concern.  No input from the public, minds made up, deal done.


Cost?  How about $100,000,000 plus?  Yes, over 100 Million Dollars.  Part of that is so they can build a bicycle road across the second bridge and add a new park area.  This has been the plan for a long time although as one employee stated in a April 2009 letter addressed to me, “First I want to unequivocally state that as I write this response no one process, intake site, or treatment technology has been chosen for us to proceed with. We are still fairly early in some of these arenas as it pertains to the selection and evaluation process”.


 Well, a month later, it looks like they have made up their minds. You will have no input as the Directors push this concept through.  Question is, who will divide up all the 100 Million dollars?  I know who will pay for it.  Let’s make the math easy.  Assume 100,000 users of the system.  That breaks down to $1,000 per every man, woman and child.  For a family of 5 that is $5,000.  Now if this cost is spread out over 10 years (They told us that they would have to expand the system which would be an additional cost after 10 years or so), the assessment would come to about a $50 per month increase in a household of 5.  I allowed a little for the bond and interest.


This comes at a time that New Orleans is concerned about the fact that drinking water has been through a human intestine at least four times (National News last month).  The Federal Government and the Health Department are more and more concerned about pharmaceuticals being recycled in our water system.   Yet the Hot Springs’ study didn’t even include trace pharmaceuticals.  We need to ask someone how much it would cost to build a plant at the other end of the lake where lawn fertilizer and pesticides haven't run into the water and sewer affluent hasn't been dumped. Given a choice, Groot and I would prefer to take our water upstream from where the cows cross.  The water up there is so clear that you can see the bottom 30 feet deep.   It is amazing how we have already spent $3 million and only clouded up the issue.



Ethics 101 Class Given to City Board Members

April 5, 2009

The last city board meeting was a total embarrassment to the citizens of our fine city.  Most citizens have previously witnessed rude and unwarranted behavior by the mayor and city directors directed at those unfortunate citizens who dared to speak to our city board.  Many citizens have even witnessed childlike behavior by the mayor and some directors toward other members of their own board.  Although previous meetings have included expletives and really bad behavior, those encounters paled in comparison to the March 24th city board meeting.  DVDs of this circus can be purchased from the city public relations department for $1 making this an incomparable entertainment value.

Only a handful of citizens attended the March 31st city board agenda meeting and only three stayed over for the city board workshop meeting which followed.  This meeting was most amazing because our city manager and city attorney, at great risk to their own continued employment, demonstrated a great deal of character and nerve by informing the board that their last meeting was “an embarrassment” and admonishing the very board they work for. These were proud moments.  Unfortunately, except for those three citizens, only a few city employees witnessed these proud moments.  The city’s television cameras were off and no reporters were in attendance.  Fortunately, one citizen had a pocket recorder so we do have a record.  Also be advised that we are asking for a copy of the presentations made by our city manager and city attorney so that the public can view it when it is published on the website

All citizens of our community will likely take great pride in these two gentlemen when you hear or read the overdue messages they provided to city board of directors.  Our task now is to make certain that our juvenile behaving board members accept the messages without their typical loud-mouth responses or attempts at retribution.  Remember, this board just fired every member of three important city boards because they didn’t like what those unappreciated, hard-working, volunteer citizens were saying.  Hopefully, the public won’t allow them to fire our city manager and city attorney for finally pointing out some of the board’s painfully obvious misdeeds.

If you have an opportunity, tell our city manager and city attorney how we citizens admire and appreciate them for taking such a risky step in their attempt to convert our juvenile mayor and board members into actual representatives of the people rather than continuing to serve their friends and special interests.  The true meaning of “conflicts of interest” and the lessons in Ethics 101 that they provided to our city board was very well done although somewhat past due.


A Test to Determine if Your City Leaders May be Corrupt

February 25, 2009

Your city leaders may be corrupt if:

Your newspaper headlines show daily murders, robberies, and thefts but your leaders say that crime is "not a problem" here.

Your leaders state that unfavorable FBI reports, state crime reports, and even city crime records are wrong rather than taking steps to reduce crime.

Your elected officials abuse their travel privileges by vacationing in Disney World, Vegas, Reno, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Japan several times every year at taxpayer expense.

Your leaders continue to push for more new taxes even though your city already has the highest per capita taxes in the state.

Your police department has internal cliques involved in cover-ups, under reporting of actual crimes, improper fraternization between officers, unwarranted and unqualified promotions, and consequently, way too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

Your oversight committee members such as civil service boards have business partners, sons, and other family members on the very departments they oversee.

Your leaders openly and blatantly modify ordinances and referendums to rename "taxes" so that they can be referred to as "fees" thus deceiving the public as to their actual tax bite.

Your leaders want to enforce restrictions outside of the city so they can collect additional "fees" and enhance revenues but treat non-residents with disdain and rudeness.

Your leaders cover-up or misrepresent tax schemes to deny votes or voices of their citizens with catch phrases such as, "It’s for the Kids."

Your leaders hire six laws firms in addition to the city attorney to fight a handful of citizens who petitioned to allow the public a vote on taxes, all at the taxpayer’s expense.

Your leaders who approve spending your tax money are constantly in court due to non-payment of personal debts and some have taken bankruptcy several times.

Your leaders more than double "fees" and permit costs for businesses, developer, etc. who wish to build or renovate properties.

Your leaders constantly increase the amount of "red tape" a business or industry must go through in order to do business in their city thus discouraging economic development.

Your leaders put several "mom and pop" restaurants out of business by imposing ridiculous restrictions such as "grease trap ordinances" which require grease traps even for restaurants that do not use grease such as pizza places.

Your elected officials chastise each other and any member of the public who dares speak up at city meetings.

Your leaders hold multiple "special elections" for pet spending projects because allowing the issues to be decided during general elections usually results in those projects being defeated.

Your leaders manage to close all normal polling places during special elections and hold a poorly advertised election at a location convenient only for the proponents.

Your city attorney fails to prosecute all offenses committed by elected officials.

Your leaders have records of wrong-doing by other leaders shredded.

Your leaders are found guilty of violating multiple state laws and regulations but nothing is done about it.

Your leaders admit guilt to ethics violations which requires removal from office but they don’t get removed.

Your leaders consistently place items on official agendas, discuss, and vote on issues and items that are clear "conflicts of interests" often even when such items are pointed out.

Your leaders use your tax money and hire multiple expensive attorneys to any fight litigation you may bring against them.

Your leaders are constantly looking for ways to increase your taxes but do almost nothing to cut their own budgets.

Your leaders propose to build new expensive city halls and other structures rather than maintain the one they currently have.

Your leaders impose "off-the-wall" fees and taxes such as "assembly taxes" for restaurants, fees for sending fire trucks to fender benders, storm-water run-off fees added to water bills, etc.

Your leaders threaten, intimidate, or hint that you or your business could be targeted if you don’t support them or speak out about their unscrupulous practices.

Your leaders lie or otherwise mislead you on issues to keep you from opposing their providing favors to special interests.

Your leaders refuse to allow the public to speak at public meetings by providing no "public comment" section and limiting opposition comments on items to be voted on to three minutes.

Your leaders consistently "waive the rules and read by title only" rather than allow the prescribed three readings which means that items are approved or denied before you know what was voted.

Your city directors consistently "waive competitive bidding requirements" rather than only during emergency conditions.

Your leaders don’t hesitate to install special stop signs or speed humps for elected officials even when policies and traffic studies prohibit them.

Your leaders install safety hazards against the wishes of the public which restrict traffic flow, impede ambulance, fire, police, and sheriff vehicles while bottlenecking tourists and residents.

Your leaders misuse their position to hire or contract to friends, relatives, or the "good ol’ boys" who run the city.

Your leaders use code enforcement and law enforcement officers for their own selfish and self-serving purposes plus cost free traffic control and security for selected businesses.

Your leaders use an already to small police department as a courier service for elected officials.

Your leaders and their "good ol’ boy" friends refer to local organizations that print the true facts about their actions as "negative" or "aginers."

Your city directors fire all members of up to three volunteer boards at one time whenever those boards deny special treatment to director’s friends and relatives.

Can you imagine city leaders really expecting the public to believe their ‘spin’ if they state that the "public doesn’t understand" the reason for firing all members of several volunteer boards was not to get rid of opposition but rather, to reorganize and establish "term limits?" Would their ‘spin’ ring true if their first reported appointment to a planning commission was a realtor/developer who had already spent more time on that volunteer board than any other living person? Would their spin ring true if the appointed realtor/developer and his partner have obvious conflicts somewhat akin to appointing a developer "wolf" to watch the planning "henhouse?"

Could you fathom city leaders bragging about "improving" the diversity of a historical commission by appointing two architects from the same firm or would you wonder if this could be another "conflict of interest" if one of them was a former "good ol’ boy" mayor?

If any of the above hypothetical situations exist in your city, your city leaders could be corrupt.


Taxpayer Money Being Used for Political Purposes?   (a guest commentary)

January 5, 2009

The chamber’s request for funding [at city board meeting Jan. 6, 2009] should certainly not be granted until questions are answered concerning the propriety of the city (and county) funding an organization that, for example, 4 years ago performed a mailing in support of Tom Daniels campaign and more recently, has been involved in numerous political activities and now, indicates that it plans to form a PAC. It is unacceptable that the city is considering funding an organization that is becoming increasingly a political organization. Although many chamber activities are worthy, political meddling is not a proper use of the city’s funds. Such use of tax money is likely illegal. 

Copies of audited financial statements of the chamber’s entire operations should be first obtained by the city and also made available to the public. Copies of such statements for the last several years may well indicate several questionable and/or illegal uses of public funds. Note the following city requirements with which the current chamber requests appear to not be in full compliance. 

2-5-8. Funding criteria - Outside agency contracts.

The following criteria shall be considered for an award of contract and receipt of funds from the city of Hot Springs.

(a) Requests shall be received in the office of the city manager by January 15 of each year.

(b) The city manager will prepare a summary report on each proposal and present to the board of directors each February for annual funding.

(c) The request must comply with the Arkansas Constitution (Article 12, Section 5) which states:

No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall become a stockholder in any company, association or corporation; or obtain or appropriate money for, or loan its credit to, any corporation, association, institution or individual.

(d) The services or activities to be performed must be services or activities of a legitimate governmental nature (services which the city might otherwise choose to perform from its own resources).

(e) Any agency considered for funding must: (1) Be of a non-profit nature and controlled by a board of directors, the majority of whom must reside in the Hot Springs/Garland County area.

A list of the names and addresses of the board of directors and executive director shall be submitted with the application for funding.

Supplement No. 29 Title 2 ? Page 14.1



(2) Provide, with their request, evidence of an accounting system which documents their ability to operate in a financially sound manner;

(3) Provide an audited financial statement within four months of the close of their fiscal year for any year in which city funding is received. The name and address of the agency’s external auditor must be included in the request for funding along with a statement of intent and ability to comply with the audit requirement; and

(4) The request must clearly state the services or activities to be performed by the requesting agency on behalf of the city with the funding requested.

(f) Funding for outside agencies shall be divided into two budget categories; economic development agencies and other non-profit agencies as follows: (1) Economic development agencies shall: a. be considered based on an ability to produce new or retain current jobs or offer other economic impact in the Hot Springs/Garland county area; b. be funded from year to year at a level to be established by the board of directors; and c. shall have priority over other agencies in the allocation of budget funds.

(2) “Other non-profit agencies” shall: a. be considered based on a demonstrated benefit to the community and to the taxpayers of Hot Springs; b. use city funds for the provision of direct programs or activities and not for administrative or maintenance costs; c. not be funded in an amount exceeding 25% of the organizations total budget; and d. not receive more than 25% of the total funds budgeted for this category. (g) All agencies receiving funding from the city of Hot Springs shall be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Title 2 ? Page 14.2 Supplement No. 29



*Where Have All Our Leaders Gone?  -   A Commentary by Lee Iacocca

December 27, 2008


'Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.'

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned 'Titanic'. I'll give you a sound bite: 'Throw all the bums out!' You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the 'America' my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you? I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. The Biggest 'C' is Crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C's of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down. On September 11, 2001, we needed a  strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here's where we stand.

We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving.

We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. 

We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. 

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy.

Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. 

The middle class is being squeezed every which way. 

These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: 'Where have all the leaders gone?' Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the  point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened. Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'The Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it? Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debit, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry. 

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break.. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough? Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here.  I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope - I believe in America. In my lifetime, I've had the privilege of living through some of  America 's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises: The 'Great Depression,' 'World War  II,' the 'Korean War,' the 'Kennedy Assassination,' the 'Vietnam War,' the 1970's oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

If I've learned one thing, it's this: 'You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a "Call to Action" for people who, like me, believe in America'. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had 'enough.'

Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It's our country, folks, and it's our future. Our future is at stake!!

*-From his new book of the same name. Lee didn't mention the union's contribution to the USA not being competitive with foreign auto manufacturers.  That likely comes with having to work with the unions to save Chrysler several years ago.




Reflections  -   A Guest Commentary by Ted Burhenn

December 11, 2008


Have you ever stood in front of a mirror?  You can see where you are and that which is behind you, but you can’t see where you are headed.  Perhaps the City Government should pause for a moment and gaze at the “Looking Glass”.


For a decade and a half, we have basically been under the control of a City Manager.  We should not have to give praise for the things done right because that was expected, nor should we levy blame for those that went wrong for that no longer serves any purpose.  We would be amiss however if we didn’t reflect on what we might have done better. 


Areas where we fell short were in the downtown renovation.  The Baptist hotel and others are still in the same shape of disrepair as they were 15 years ago.  Could we have done better?  I hope so.  Our neighborhood services, (code) has been busy dragging our citizens to court for overgrown grass while literally a hundred flat tires in one parking lot exist on Central not to mention the broken glass.  While trying to fix the mole hills we have forgotten the mountains.  It is no longer a tool to improve the community.  


We watched as the Fiber Optics Park wasted millions of dollars so a few politicians could benefit.  We were so embarrassed that we even changed the name.  We had great expectation on the Parking Garage only to find that it didn’t generate enough revenue to pay for the maintenance. One of the most flagrant projects was the bottle neck serving a few merchants at the expense of the masses and endangering the lives of the citizens.  Did they really have the best interest of the citizens at heart?   


For those who have not seen the latest Hot Springs Strategic Plan, you are in for a treat.  It is 10 pages (some less than 1/4th typed) of back patting that would not have received a D- at sixth grade level.  A Strategic Plan should consist of ambitious yet achievable goals with a realistic path to success.  An example would be an increase of 15% in light industry by contacting and offering tax incentives instead of advertising seasonal promotions which only create seasonal jobs. Maybe we could offer the industries space at Fiber Optics Park at reduced rates.  Instead, our Strategic Plan is a verbal description of the Valley of the Vapors and the mountains. 


And where is our budget headed?  Hot Springs has one of the largest budgets per capita in the state, the largest hamburger tax and one of the most serious crime rates in the nation.  Yet when we had a chance to build a new jail, we allowed greed to take over and add fire stations, radios and general fund increases.  We needed the jail and we need to man the jail. All the money collected by a new tax should go in support of the new jail. This should be about need, not about want.  END OF STORY.


Yet the past week we heard from our departing City Manager.  His greatest disappointment was the failure of his annexation plan.  City Managers should be about enforcement of policy, not the creation of policy.  Annexation failed because the County Citizen did not want a “more wasteful” form of government to tell us how to do it “Right” while The City was doing it “Wrong”.  There was a negative reward policy; increased county water and waste water rates to make it look bad to live in the county instead of making it look better to live in the city.  The City has to realize that development within or outside of the City is good.  We all buy most of our goods and services within the City anyway.  Good for business, Good for Sales Taxes, Good for the City Budget, Good for County Government, basically Just Good Government.


Yes it is time to reflect on the “Good, Bad and Ugly”.  Keep the Good, fix the Bad and throw out the Ugly.   Review the reinstatement of the Water and Waste Water Commissions.  Review the reinstatement of the Mayor/Alderman form of Government.  Reduce the budget, build a jail, reduce crime, increase jobs and listen to the people.    If every Director, Justice of the Peace, Mayor and Judge would only pick one item to fix that went wrong in the past decade and a half, think how many improvements would be made during the next year alone.


But alas, Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore.


Misrepresented Sales Tax Defeated                                                                                   September 12, 2008

Thanks to the voters of Garland County who used facts presented here and elsewhere to make an informed choice, we are not now straddled with a perpetual tax that the politicians can use as they please.  We feel strongly that the public voted properly in spite of, or perhaps because of, the deception, withholding of facts, and outright untruths fed to us.  However, we cannot celebrate while we still have a high crime rate, a "revolving door" jail, and poorly paid public servants.  We must all work together to solve these problems.

We have been told by members of the Garland Good Government Group that they intend to provide a forum for public input.  We would like to join them in their efforts so please e-mail us with your thoughts on where a new jail should be located, how big, how lavish, and how it should be operated.  Give us your ideas on public safety including PIT (prevention, intervention, and treatment) programs.  Please share whatever expertise or recommendations concerning public safety issues you may have and also join the Garland Good Government Group at their future meetings.

Your humble correspondent feels that the county should NOT share any taxes with the city and, in fact, should not allow the current "tax and spend" city politicians to have any influence in its design, construction, or operation.  Irrespective of what we were told, state laws provide for counties to own and operate jails and provide funding methods that do not require sharing of taxes.

We have left posted the unbelievable information about the "Jail Tax" election on the "Commentary" page and the Digital Radio Expert submission on the "News" page.  We note that topical information and Jail Tax News is at concerning the new radios for our police and sheriffs departments.  To be fully informed, you really need to click on "Digital Radio Concerns" at the top of the page and view the videos listed there.  Also check out for interesting articles.


Local Newspaper Becomes Biased and Officially Adopts City Leaders Positions                 August 30, 2008

Yesterday's stories regarding the petition drive allowing the public a vote to reduce the A&P tax appeared to be somewhat slanted but today's Sentinel Record editorial should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that our local print media has totally ceased being an unbiased, responsible journalistic organization.  We are cutting the newspaper a bit of slack here because many locals tell us that this paper has always been biased.  When the newspaper refused to publish our "letters to the editor" we thought to ourselves that this was somehow not right.  When the same newspaper refused to print our paid advertisements even though we provided documented proof of their accuracy, we knew this was not right.  Today's editorial should send a strong message to the public as to the painfully apparent lack of objectivity of this paper.

Some of today's comments disguised as corrections contain elements of truth but even that truth stops short of telling the complete story.  For example, the A&P tax was, indeed, once voted on by citizens of Hot Springs.  However, it should have been noted that the A&P tax was created and later increased by the Arkansas legislature with no vote allowed by the public.  The only time our citizens received a "right to vote" on this issue resulted from a lawsuit which the city lost and then had no choice but to allow that single vote.  The legislation authorizing the A&P tax has no sunset clause, no periodic review or provisions for the public to vote, and no legally required reporting or accountability.  Various groups have attempted to amend the law but the Arkansas Municipal League successfully lobbied committees and killed most of these attempts.  Those bills that actually survived committees were fought by the Municipal League and lost by floor votes in the legislature.  The Municipal League has already announced that they plan to add another cent to the A&P tax during the next legislative session.  Most likely, the item will be initially disguised as new taxes for public parks.  Perhaps you should speak to your state representatives and senators about this.

But back to the objectivity of our newspaper.  Do you recall how numerous persons were trying to tell the public how the Mid-America Science Museum vote was not really about the museum at all?  In fact, the promoters (which appeared to include the newspaper) went a step further and promoted the issue as being "For the Kids."  They also asked that all polling places be closed except for a location with no listed phone number or postal address.  On top of this, they made it yet another "Special Election" so that a larger percentage of those people voting would be their allies and those who they had convinced the issue was really about the museum or the "kids."  This apparent deception worked because the issue passed by a margin of 3 to 1.  Okay, surprise, surprise, yesterday's news article finally quoted the city attorney as saying that the petition to allow the people their right to vote may be rejected because the funds may be encumbered (by the election).

This was the message that many of us unsuccessfully tried to get to the people.  THE ELECTION WAS ALL ABOUT ENCUMBERING THE A&P TAX SO THAT THE PEOPLE COULD NOT EVEN PETITION FOR THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE ON THE ISSUE.  The election was never about the museum or about the "kids."  Why else would the A&P encumber $50 million to $60 million for a project costing less than $1 million?  Why else would the A&P exaggerate the need, the cost, and the urgency?  Why else would the A&P not use some of the $3 million plus they already had on hand for this minor project?  The good 'ol boys should be careful because the apparent schemes are beginning to become unraveled and much more obvious.  Even you 'objective' folks at the newspaper may want to reconsider who you are getting in bed with.  Yep, that includes the highly paid A&P executives who you allow to demonstrate their professionalism by using words like "crap" in your news articles.


Politicians and Leaders Deceiving Public?                                                                          August 6, 2008

Have you heard the slick radio commercials or have you ladies gotten a copy of the really slick postcards asking, "Do you want a safer Garland County?"  Most of us already know that our city and county leaders are in favor of the so-called, "public safety" tax because they are the ones who will spend the millions generated from the new tax.

Now sit yourself down and get a grip before you read further.  Okay, we hope you are ready for this.  The group behind the current media and mail advertising are the same people who will benefit from the tax.  All of the membership are current or former elected officials or they are currently on the payroll of the city or county.  "Not possible," you say?  Check with the Arkansas Ethics Commission and you will find the following information:

Name of Ballot Question Committee:  Committee for a Safer Garland County

Committee Officers and Directors: 

Co-chairman - Michael Wright (president of Lodge #26, Garland County Sheriff's Department)

Co-chairman - Joseph T. Williams (president of Lodge #1, Hot Springs Fraternal Order of Police)

Treasurer - Paul Bosson (former Garland County prosecuting attorney, now a member of Civil Service Comm.)

Secretary - Larry Williams (current Garland County Judge)

Member - Larry Sanders (Garland County Sheriff)

Member - Ray Owen (JP, member of Garland County Quorum Court, chair of county finance committee)

Member - Bobby Southard (Police Chief, City of Hot Springs)

Member - Jason Lawrence (Courts Director paid by city of Hot Springs and Garland County)

Click here to see the Arkansas Ethics Commission Forms with the above data

The primary question you likely have is WHY?  Why would public officials and employees disguise themselves by using a committee name instead of using their own names?  Have you ever heard the term, "follow the money?"  The county's existing half-cent sales tax produced $7.561 million for 2007.  At current rates of increases provided by the state, this amount will equate to over $302 million over the 20 year jail bond term.  This means that even if you add the $34 million jail to all of the other proposed purchases (communications equipment, resource officers, fire-stations, etc.) there is still approximately $250 million left that is unallocated, sometimes known as "PORK."  What could be worse that we aren't being told?  The extra pork they are asking for now becomes 100 percent "PORK" at the end of 20 years because the tax never ends.  You also are not being told that both the city board and county quorum court refused to allow an amendment which would prevent the city and county from reducing their existing contributions to "public safety" expenses.  This effectively allows them to free up the millions currently being spent for "public safety" to use as they see fit.  The city directors can already taste that new city hall.  County leaders have already announced that they will use some of it for "raises for everyone." 

Oh, you really need to sit back down before you read further.  Yep, it gets worse.  The financial donors.  You likely already know our city/county leaders plan to spend over $15 million for Motorola equipment and radios.  Don't ask why they don't have to take bids from every supplier.  The donors are as follows:  Fifty for the future-$25,000, Motorola PAC $7,500 in cash plus $1,000 in phone service, Police FOP #1-$1,000, Sheriff's FOP-$1,000, and Steve Gill-$1,000.  Who is Steve Gill, you ask?  We are told he is the local Motorola manager type.  Somehow that old cliche' pops to mind, "Follow the money and you'll find the culprits."  Anyhow, encourage everyone you know to get the facts before they vote.  Sometimes the unfunded side of issues proves to be the honest, open side.


How To Tell When Your Politicians and Leaders are "Out of Control"                                 July 24, 2008

Have you ever thought your city or county leaders had totally lost control and forgotten why they were elected or hired? We have noticed some disturbing trends that seem to be worsening rather than getting better and decided it was time to list some of the tell-tale signs to watch for. Most citizens of our area will likely already recognize many of the following indicators.

City directors continue to push for projects the public doesn’t want. In some cases, projects the public has even voted against (e.g., a new city hall).

City directors blatantly forcing fellow directors and new board appointees to help them continue to abuse taxpayer funded travel (multiple trips to Japan, Reno, DC, New Orleans, etc.).

City directors and manager who continue to raise fees and taxes even though the city already has the highest budget cost per capita of any city over 20,000 population in the state and over double that of the capital city.

Leaders that deceive, keep secret, not fully disclose, or misrepresent important issues or elections (e.g., A&P tax extension, need for new city hall, public safety sales tax, etc).

Leaders that purposely devise special elections so only those with special interests will vote.

Leaders who request all normal polling locations be closed for special elections plus provide minimal advertising so the public won’t know to vote or where to vote. Exceptions are made to get out only their allies through Chamber of Commerce advertising and their own civic clubs.

County leaders who use the state’s convoluted laws to legally describe, yet not fully explain taxing alternatives and threaten to raise property taxes if the citizens don’t vote their way.

Leaders who demonstrate audacity by preventing public votes on sales tax or millage increases. The A&P tax was passed by the Arkansas legislature and adopted by the city without a vote of the citizen taxpayers. The Municipal League now wants a fourth cent added without a vote.

Leaders who deny that we have a crime problem then flip-flop and use it to promote a "public safety" tax.

Leaders jeopardizing a much needed jail by coat-tailing less popular projects to it (pork-barreling).

Playing politics by making deals with each other about not running for office against each other in return for future support.

Mayor uses profanity. During a televised public board meeting, refers to recently deceased fireman as "a hell of a guy." Says words such as "s**t" when votes don’t go the way he likes.

Mayor and directors who are rude and use "gutter" language even during public meetings. When one burly male director told a petite female director to "f**k herself," the mayor’s quote was, "that’s what makes our meetings interesting."

City directors who do not allow the public to speak in an open public comment section at public meetings nor provide public forums to explain proposed issues and allow public input.

Failure to plan - the city’s current strategic plan is over 20 years old. Numerous violations of the the current plan and the MPO plan have been pointed out, yet ignored.

Continuing pattern of overruling other city commissions and city staff who are required to follow policies, laws, and regulations.

Disproportionate salaries, personal use of vehicles, benefits, etc.

Directors abuse of office by using their position to hire friends or relatives, install personal stop signs, speed humps, flashing lights, etc. that do not meet prescribed criteria or regulations.

Directors misuse of office by constantly having police, fire, and code enforcement check, harass, or intimidate citizens who disagree with them. Isn’t selective code enforcement illegal?

Ignoring "conflict of interest" laws by promoting and voting for items that directly impact their or their friends personal businesses.

Directors officially pass ordinance changing the name "franchise tax" to "franchise fee" to make conceal yet another tax.

Dispatching huge gas (or diesel) guzzling fire trucks to every fender-bender and then charging the accident victims for that unasked for service.

Come up with creative ways to add new taxes without a vote of the citizens, such as "assembly tax" imposed on restaurants based on the number of seats in the restaurant.

Devise a method to divert exiting "public safety" tax into the general fund for non public safety expenses. Police and fire departments must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city based on an "allocation" scheme.

Require police and fire units to use city garage for oil changes, etc. and then charge them triple the normal rate so the existing "public safety" tax money can be siphoned into the general fund.

To save gas, cease or limit police patrols but impose no such limits on excessive use of gas by the city manager and others. The fire chief uses a ten cylinder Ford Excursion for trips around town and personal use. An officer of the law uses his unit to commute to his home in Jessieville. Huge fire trucks routinely driven to lunch and personal errands.

A police department that allows fraternization of a sexual nature between officers and officers who were caught on camera hitting suspects and subsequently suspended are now back on duty because of who they knew.

Impose fees for storm water runoff program when taxes are already collected for this program.

Blackmail citizens into being forcibly annexed into the city before they can obtain water/sewer service while ignoring a court ruling against this practice.

Charging citizens with crimes and forcing them to go to court for not having their house numbers properly displayed rather than just furnishing them with some fifty-cent numbers.

Callously use citizen’s tax money to fight lawsuits (such as those above) against citizens.

Take citizen’s property whenever they wish for projects like a new city hall or jail.

When citizens and quorum court members ask for the State Attorney General’s opinion on the upcoming sales tax alternatives, county judge sends them a copy of the bond attorney’s opinion instead.

Irresponsibly turn over all water/sewer customer private information to a former telemarketing firm under the guise of public safety or "early warning system."

A chamber of commerce that demonstrates a strong political agenda and even advises its members how to vote on various issues not related to the business community.

Leaders who simply do not represent their citizens and who disregard the public’s health, welfare, and safety (e.g., downtown bottleneck, Hi-Lo subdivision, closing street to new parking deck, multiple others).

Leaders who do make certain their "good ‘ol boy" friends are always taken care of.

You know, logic would tell us that all of these things surely could not have happened. Perhaps it was just a really bad dream. Boy, it sure did seem realistic there for awhile though, didn’t it?


City Board Members Exceed Authority Yet Again                                                                      July 17, 2008

Today, one of your editors again witnessed a horrible injustice which again involved our city board members.  The owners of the Toy Store downtown were inundated by the Central Avenue flood and went through a difficult and expensive struggle just to get back in business.  They spent thousands of dollars in their effort including over $6,000 for a new awning which was ripped by wind during the storm.  It appears that the Hot Springs Historical Commission had told the owners that the awning did not meet the commission's current criteria but two city directors told the owners not to worry because this would be overturned on appeal.  Mr. Tom Daniel admitted at the meeting to being one of the city directors who told this to the toy store owners.  Apparently, the other director was Mr. Carroll Weatherford since he was the only other city director at the meeting and both directors sat in front of the audience.  Once it was pointed out that the Historical Commission could not reverse itself without unanimous consent of the commission (which failed by voice vote), Mr. Daniel proceeded to express his disappointment with the commission.  Following his rather loud berating of the commissioners, the commission chairman pointed out that if he (Mr. Daniels) had not given incorrect information to the toy store owner, there would likely be no violations and there would be no meeting today or need to consider rehearing the application for the non-compliant awning. Dozens of downtown merchants were in attendance to show their support for the toy store owners.  Unfortunately, the commission could not re-hear the case without a unanimous vote of the commission and one of the members refused to vote to allow this.

This is yet another example of city directors improperly misusing or abusing their authority.  Most citizens know of numerous cases where our current directors have overruled the city staff, planning commission, and others who abide by the rules or applicable laws.  There is simply no justification for directors to tell people to ignore city ordinances, laws, or findings of our various commissions.  Apparently, these two directors thought that they would have no problem in, once again, overruling a commission.  The directors apparently did not know that the appeal process for overriding this particular commission is through the courts.  It is unfortunate that their lack of knowledge did not keep them from giving incorrect and improper advice.  Hopefully, the owner of the store who relied on the director's advice as being accurate will file suit to recover the cost of their, now useless, $6,000 awning plus thousands more in legal expenses.

Based on numerous disastrous experiences perpetrated by city directors including the one witnessed today, we would strongly advise all businesses in our city to not trust any advice given by our current directors.  We also recommend that they help remove these directors from office so they don't continue such harmful and expensive practices.


First-Hand Commentary on June Bond Election                                                                      April 8, 2008

As some of our readers have already noted, last night's city board meeting proved to be yet another meeting where the primary issues were already decided.  It is most unfortunate when important agenda items have already been decided based on inaccurate or misleading information.  For this reason, several individuals subjected themselves to the anticipated rudeness, name-calling, and put-downs from our city leaders and the "good-old-boy" spokesmen who are always allowed to speak last without rebuttal whether or not they signed up to do so as regular citizens are required to do.  The city board voted unanimously to have a special election on June 10th to approve allowing a $1.2 million bond issue for life-safety (fire alarm), heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) improvements.

The problem is that nowhere near that amount is needed for those specific improvements.  We attended the most recent A&P Commission meetings, a Mid America Science Museum board meeting, city workshops, and city agenda meetings to see if we could find out why the costs were so inflated.  No itemized list of the costs were ever provided at any meeting and, with one minor exception, we were not allowed to speak.  At the joint meeting of the A&P and museum boards, the president of an engineering firm hired by the A&P stated that the proposed funds included replacing inefficient T-12 type lamps with efficient T-8 lamps even though this work was done a couple of years ago.  The A&P director and the local newspaper continue to address non-existent safety issues.  The HVAC equipment was purported to all be 30 years old and the justification for so hastily making such inflated expenditures appeared to be based only on flippant statements such as, "it could fail at any time" and "interest rates could go up."

Since there was so much  missing information and misinformation prevalent, we decided to perform our own investigation.  This consisted of examining the actual HVAC equipment and copying the nameplate data, capacities, etc. plus analyzing the condition of each piece of HVAC related equipment.  During the field investigation, we discovered that the air conditioning chillers, cooling tower, and VFD equipment are only 8 years old and are working perfectly.  We then interviewed the museum maintenance staff, several HVAC experts, HVAC equipment manufacturers, and HVAC sales personnel.  In view of the fact that no itemized expenditure list existed, we developed our own.  This list (click here to view) indicates that if the museum replaced everything they could wish for, only $165,500 would be needed.  The list was provided as a handout to the city board prior to their vote.  We also pointed out that we had representatives of HVAC equipment manufacturers and financing experts in the audience who could answer any questions relative to  equipment needs and costs.   It was ironic to have the museum operating board chairman state, "I'm an architect .... it must have been several years since you have checked prices on such equipment."  The fact is that it had only been a matter of minutes since HVAC manufacturer's representatives had provided us with the price of an entire state-of-the-art HVAC system for a new facility much larger than the museum.  The cost for the total system was less than half the cost figures being used for only partial replacements at the museum.

We fully expected the information provided to the city board to be ignored and were not surprised by their unanimous vote to allow the A&P their requested election.  No board member can now say, "I wish you would have told us."  Our conscience is clear because we presented the facts and even challenged the board to not take our word for it but simply postpone their votes until they could find out the facts for themselves.  We've been here before, having this same board ignore logical requests.  We'll likely be here again for so long as we continue to be represented by these elected officials.


Who or What is CodeRed?                                                                                                          April 1, 2008

Thanks to one of our readers for the following information as to Who or What is CodeRed, the group with which the City of Hot Springs is apparently determined to contract with to provide an early warning system and other call-up notifications.  As always, we simply post the information so the public can do their own research and determine whether or not this is a company the city should consider doing business with.

Emergency Communications Network, Inc.
9 Sunshine Blvd.
Ormond Beach, FL 32174

Phone: (888) 848-6337


President: Bob Poe, also prior Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party

VP Operations: David DiGiacomo

Director Strategic Alliance Programs / Sales Director: Michael Staley

(consultant ?) : Howard Tipton - prior City manager in Orlando and Daytona Beach, Florida and is active in the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

Text Box:

FTC Seeks End to Telemarketer’s Practices
Automated Calling System Leaves Millions Of People Hanging

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, for the Federal Trade Commission,
(United States District Court Middle District of Florida Orlando Division) Case 6:05-cv-01920-PCF-JGG; FTC File No. 052-3025

Text Box:


Florida Dept of State records

Officer/Director Detail
Name & Address




Text Box:



Registered Agent Name & Address

Title D

Title D

Title P

Title VP

Text Box:

Emergency Communications Network Expands Staff

ORMOND BEACH, Fla., May 6 2004 /PR Newswire/ -- Emergency Communications Network (ECN), operator of the CodeRED emergency notification network, today announced promotions for key staff and the hiring of an experienced Florida city manager who will assist with outreach and sales.
Among the changes:

* David DiGiacomo has been promoted to Vice President of Operations from Executive Director of ECN. In this new position, DiGiacomo will oversee the customer relations management team and assist in setting the organizational vision, strategy and overall business planning. DiGiacomo has been with ECN since the company was formed.

* Michael Staley has been promoted to Director, Strategic Alliance Programs from Business Alliance Manager. In addition to his work developing alliances with complementary solutions and working with their management and customers, Staley has been tasked with developing additional and third party sales channels for CodeRED. Staley joined ECN last year.

* Howard Tipton will consult with ECN on outreach and sales to state and local government officials and key staff, such as city managers and fire and police chiefs. Tipton has served as city manager in Orlando and Daytona Beach, Florida and is active in the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

"We're now positioned for major growth in the short-term," said Bob Poe, president of Emergency Communications Network. "There's no other notification system out there that works as effectively as CodeRED. CodeRED has proven itself, and we're reaching out to municipalities and private companies to assist with their emergency preparedness."

CodeRED is a patented, real-time Internet-based message delivery system that can make over 60,000 recorded phone calls per hour into a geographic area based on the specifics of the situation. CodeRED was designed to provide immediate access to timely information, including boil water alerts, weather emergencies, local criminal activity, and homeland security issues. For instance:

* CodeRED was called into service in several mid-Atlantic states to alert residents before and after Hurricane Isabel struck last fall;

* Flagler County, Florida captured an armed and dangerous registered sex offender on the prowl in a suburban neighborhood after alerting residents using CodeRED; and

* Hernando County, Florida officials found an abducted 14-year old girl after she vanished from Bible study class using CodeRED, and Sheriff Richard Nugent credits CodeRED as working "faster than the Amber Alert."

ECN counts among its clients municipalities from around the country, as well as the national lost-child advocacy organization A Child Is Missing. "Our current clients are the best advocates for CodeRED," DiGiacomo said.

Contact: Stephen Gaskill, Emergency Communications Network, 954-764-6415, or cell, 202-257-9298.
Emergency Communications Network

CONTACT: Stephen Gaskill, Emergency Communications Network,+1-954-764-6415, or cell, +1-202-257-9298

Web site:

Text Box:


Publication: PR Newswire
Publication Date: 06-MAR-03
Format: Online - approximately 476 words
Delivery: Immediate Online Access

Article Excerpt
ORMOND BEACH, Fla. -- ORMOND BEACH, Fla., March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Bob Poe, former Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, has joined Emergency Communications Network (ECN) of Ormond Beach, Florida as president, the company officially announced today.

"I'm excited at the opportunity to build ECN and establish the company as the leader in emergency notification systems," Poe said. "The ability to contact people quickly with critical public safety information is a necessity in...

NOTE: All illustrations and photos have been removed from this article.

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Other Related "Enterprises"

Registered Agent Name Entity Name Entity Number

Registered Agent Name Entity Name Entity Number
Name translated



What Do You Do About a Cancer in Your Town?                                                                                           February 9, 2008

Have you ever lived in a city where the elected officials refused to allow the public to speak at public meetings - a town comprised of leaders who freely admit that they once allowed "public comment sections" at public meetings but stopped that practice because a citizen used the forum to criticize and "embarrass" an elected official?

Have you ever lived in a city where the elected officials totally ignored the wishes of hundreds of citizens and placed a two-lane "bottleneck" in the only north-south highway through town so their friends could have parking in front of their businesses? How about adding a crowning touch to this fiasco by not bothering to even contact the police, sheriff, fire, or EMS as to whether this action might constitute a safety hazard. Oh, also ignore any attempts by the state highway department to "dissuade" the city from taking such detrimental action.

Have you ever lived in a city where the elected officials refused to allow the public a voice or a vote before putting the citizens in debt for 25 years and $14 million for a project the people didn’t want? How about directors who simply vote to change the word "tax" to "fee" on numerous documents so they could legally avoid allowing the people a voice or a vote? Add these actions to the fact that the city is already taxed more per resident than any other city over 30,000 in population in the entire state.

Have you ever lived in a city where the elected officials regularly overrode the advice of their own staff, planning commission, etc. so that their friends could place unsightly businesses in residential neighborhoods? Oh, except for the city manager who tells the directors what to do instead of the normally reversed roles.

Have you ever lived in a city that was ranked by the FBI and state statistics in the top ten "highest crime cities" in the country yet the city leaders dismiss these facts by saying something must be wrong with the figures rather than properly fund and staff programs to combat the problem?

Have you ever lived in a city where the elected officials overrode the strong recommendations of their staff, planning department, building inspectors, code compliance experts, fire marshal, etc. because a developer would give them $50,000 to backdate a certificate which allowed the developer to obtain federal funds, tax credits, etc? Does that not smell like federal fraud to anyone?

Well, if you ever find yourself living in such a town, what would you do about it? Would you complain?  Remember, the public is not allowed to comment at public meetings except within very narrow guidelines.  If you are lucky enough to qualify to speak, you are limited to 3 minutes regardless of how important your issues are and there is a strong possibility that you will be berated, yelled at, contradicted, embarrassed, or even thrown out of the public meeting.

How about this idea? Form a group where you invite knowledgeable experts to inform the public as to what is really happening in the town. How about also providing an "open mike" session at every meeting so the public can speak? How about doing investigations from public records and providing surveys to determine what the public would like their elected representatives to do if they ever decide to represent the people instead of only themselves or their friends? How about providing a website like so people can know what is being done?

If you see any similarities in these scenarios and the city of Hot Springs, congratulations. You are informed and intelligent enough to recognize the problems that comprise the cancer growing within our fine city. You also likely know that the Garland Good Government Group (GGGG) was formed to help provide our citizens a voice and a vote on important issues.

The GGGG has observed the growing cancers within our city for almost a year and have been somewhat successful in informing the public and restoring the people’s voice and "right to vote." Unfortunately, too many issues have gone unresolved but not for lack of trying. At a recent meeting, one GGGG member posed a very astute question, "Why do we keep putting out brush fires when we know who is setting the fires?" That profound question was the beginning of much soul searching, more investigations, a public survey (available at, and an eventual decision to solve the problem at its source, the city board.

As you likely know, the GGGG took the very bold step of beginning a recall of the mayor and a director. These two were selected because they were the top two recommended by the public survey. The rational was to not recall board members who must stand for reelection in November simply because their terms will soon end. This does not necessarily mean that we will not add other board members to the recall effort in the future.

With minor exception, our decision has met with overwhelming and surprising support. We obtained approximately half the needed signatures for the director on our recall petition with only a handful of volunteers working a few hours on Super Tuesday. We must admit that it is quite discouraging to see people who either do not understand, care, or want to get involved in helping to correct our problems. However, the latter can be somewhat understood because we have witnessed city directors using city departments to carry out intimidating tactics aimed at those few who dare to complain or question them. What is most discouraging is to have the hard work and dedication of our members be rewarded by our own local newspaper criticizing and working against our efforts while local radio stations refuse to rent us a booth at the home show or allow us to fund a program on their station.

We are not the ones who caused the cancer within our city. We are the ones who are now finally saying, "let us rid ourselves of this problem and restore the life and vitality to our fine city. What do you do about a cancer in your town? You remove it.


More Spins Than a Coney Island Carrousel (commentary by Ted Burhenn)                                               February 4, 2008

In regard to the February 1, 2008 press release about the recall of Director Weatherford and Mayor Mike Bush, it is amazing to read the spin that City Director Kent Myers and Director Weatherford placed on the issue.  They want the public to believe that this is only about the Baptist Hotel and only because of its Black Heritage.  Sorry guys, that dog won’t hunt.

The Baptist Hotel was chosen as a backdrop for the icon as a sample of how far out of control our city government has gotten.  The owner of the Baptist Hotel needed a certificate of occupancy dated December 31, 2006 but had not and still has not met the required repairs to obtain that certificate legitimately. Without that certificate, he stood to lose millions in Federal Tax Credits/Grants.  Against the advice of the city’s own code department and fire department, the board of directors not only gave him a certificate, but backdated it to allow him to cash in from the government (click here to view the documents). If you or I did that, it would be called conspiracy to commit federal fraud.  The difference between the Baptist and the other historic buildings is that the owners of the other buildings didn’t know who to make the check out to or maybe how much.

 The only work on the Baptist since that time is the fire escape on the back of the building for all the people who don’t live there.  It does however offer the children a place to play and the homeless a way into the building.  Even the security fence in front of the building is now a hazard.  There were options; other investors have been interested in the building and it could have been restored by now.  So Mr. Weatherford, it would not have been torn down.  Of course what do I know, I don’t have a State General Contractor’s License nor have I been cited numerous times for operating without one.  Maybe that is something that you learned in Japan.

Now for the Rest of the Story.  A recent survey conducted by the Garland Good Government Group showed that the vast majority of the citizens responding to a poll placed the removal of several Directors as one of the most important items to improve the Community.  It an attempt to act as a conduit for these citizens, GGGG voted to take on the task.  Although any issue requires a positive vote of 75% of the voting members present, it was unanimous that we start with Mayor Mike Bush and Director Carroll Weatherford as it was felt that we can’t wait for the next election.

The reasoning for the recall varies, from possible conspiracy to commit federal fraud, multiple personal bankruptcies by directors, arrogance to the public during meetings, catering to special interest groups in things like the bottleneck & Hi-Lo Terrace, awarding contracts to directors without competitive bidding, multiple trips for directors and staff to Japan, increased taxes (or fees if that makes Myers feel better) and a  lack of personal financial responsibly to a run-a-way budget of  over $2,600 per person ( at least 2.5 times greater than Little Rock. 

Strange how Mr. Myers, in excerpts of his State of the City report, took credit for Highway 70 West, Carpenter Dam Road, rejuvenation of Bath House Row and the repair of “malfunction junction”.  Careful, if you pat yourself on the back too much you can spin yourself into a pretzel. Perhaps we should take the time to thank the little people like the Highway Department and Commission, County Judge Larry Williams, National Park Director Jose Fernandez, the investors at Magic Springs and the directors of the health care facilities.    Sorry if I missed some but it is the countless many that should be credited with the successes.  It is the very few that should bear the responsibility of the disasters.


Surcharges to Water/Sewer Bill Approved by City Board.                                                                            January 9, 2007

In spite of our pointing out the absurdity of their actions, the Hot Springs City Board of Directors last evening approved increasing your water and sewer bill by $3 per month for residences and $6 per month for businesses.  Directors Edwards and Maruthur cast the only opposing votes.  We pointed out there were four apparent problems with their agenda items 25 and 26 which amended the city's stormwater ordinance to allow for establishment of a separate stormwater management fund as well as adding the monthly fees listed above.  The four apparent problems are:

1.  The changes are UNNECESSARY.  Such items as a $155,000 database for an "early warning system" for stormwater plus an additional $40,000 annual maintenance fee is exorbitant and unnecessary.  The U.S. Weather Bureau already has an effective, proven system in place.  We can even use the well established "old style" method which involves noticing that it has been raining so we go outside and see if the water is rising.  If the water is up to our knees, we may want to consider evacuating.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars for such expensive unproven systems is certainly unwarranted when we have police, fire, sheriffs, EMS, and other emergency responders who do not have the communication equipment necessary to talk to each other during emergencies as required by Homeland Security.

2.  The changes are DECEPTIVE.  The city calling the additional charges a "fee" rather than a "tax" is not proper.  The public has not been properly informed as to why the charges are necessary but only told that there is a federal and state "mandate" that it be done.  We pointed out that we had seen no such "mandate" but if one exists, we were asking, on the record, for a copy.  We drew the analogy of this attempt for new funds with the emergency need for a new city hall and pointed out that, once again, the public was not informed, allowed to have a voice, or given their right to vote for an important issue.  We pointed out that Benton was the only other city in the state to have even addressed the so-called "mandate" and asked why this was.

3.  The changes are likely ILLEGAL.  Reference was made to a letter sent to and received by the city attorney.  The letter clearly outlined case law and referenced City of North Little Rock v. Graham, 278 Ark. 547 (1983) in addition to other cases provided to the city attorney.  The law and such finding clearly indicates that "new or additional charges for general government services already and traditionally provided and paid for by general funds are a tax, requiring consent of the voters, and that calling them a 'fee' and even placing the tax proceeds in a 'separate account' or 'special fund' does not change the nature of the charge."  In short, increases for items already funded by taxes are still taxes and require a vote by the people.

4.  the changes are DISCRIMINATORY.  It was clearly pointed out that to charge a poor person with minimal water usage the same amount as a large consumer was discriminatory.  The example provided was a comparison between a poor fixed-income person with a minimum, say $10 bill, which the $3 charge would cause to increase 30 percent compared to an affluent large user with a bill of $100 which the $3 charge would cause an increase of only 1 percent.  It is blatantly discriminatory to increase low users bills by 30 percent while only increasing large users bills by 1 percent.

The response requested from the city manager as to why no other city in Arkansas considered his description of the "mandate" important resulted in quite a bit of "spin" with no substance and no answer to the question asked.  The city manager ranted on for quite some time about how Hot Springs needs to be the leader and how he had received compliments for the job Hot Springs was doing in stormwater management, etc, ad nauseum.

The response requested from the city attorney as to his legal opinion of the legality of the proposed changes was more appropriate but possibly inaccurate.  He stated that a more recent case than the one quoted was the City of Dierks being allowed to call a charge a "fee" rather than a "tax."  He said that Dierks added the service of mosquito spraying and charged it as a "fee" on the water and sewer bill.  He obviously does not fully comprehend the difference in adding a new service as compared to expanding an existing, tax-funded service.  It is really quite a stretch to connect mosquito spraying with water, sewer, or stormwater drainage.

The response requested from the city engineer was more accurate and better thought out.  The engineer did explain that all items requested in the proposed stormwater plan were not "mandated" including the expensive "early warning system."  It turns out that the city manager was actually the person who "brought the new system" to the engineer's attention.

Be sure to tune in to cable channel 15 at 7 pm each evening this week so you can watch the city hall proceedings and decide for yourself if the approved changes appear to be UNNECESSARY, DECEPTIVE, ILLEGAL, and DISCRIMINATORY or just standard operating procedure for the city.


Director Smith Goes to Court.  Yes, Again.                                                                                                         January 3, 2007

We have been asked the outcome of city director Smith's latest court case several time so we decided we may as well publish the results here for all to see. 

Most of you are likely aware that a special judge was brought in from Benton because our local district judges are paid by the city of Hot Springs and to not recuse themselves could be considered as a conflict of interest.  You will likely recall that the special judge found against Mr. Smith and ordered him to pay his painter approximately $2,300 plus court costs. The hearing for Mr. Smith in circuit court on Wednesday, January 2nd was due to Mr. Smith appealing the case even though the time for appeal had apparently elapsed and several other complications and strange twists appear to have been involved.  Mr. Smith and his attorney, Mr. Tapp did appear in court.  Mr. Smith and Mr. Tapp offered the plaintiff $1,000 to settle and eventually did get the plaintiff to settle the approximately $2,300 judgment for $1,500. 

This marks the end of Mr. Smith's legal case but this may not be the end of the public's perception of how Mr. Smith does business.  Don't forget, he is one of your representatives responsible for oversight of millions of your tax dollars.  Sleep well.


Guest Commentary by Ted C. Burhenn                                                                                                             December 26, 2007

This is a letter to the editor I wrote Apr 19, 2004 which started my quest to oust Kent Myers. My position has not changed. Also the City manager has not changed nor has the majority of the City Directors. HAS ANYTHING CHANGED?

Reference Duane Vanderberg’s letter - Don’t turn back Clock

In Mr. Vanderberg’s recent letter he condemned Mr. Messersmith, Patterson and Shirley because they envision a better government, run by the people instead of a City Manager. Mr. Vanderberg had to impress on the readers that he was a college graduate and could remember a quote from his communication class. I am sure that the instructor did not intend for his statement to be taken out of context. With the pooling of intelligence it is a given that a better solution can be found.  I don’t have an MBA, as Mr. Vanderberg proclaims, but as an instructor of National Staff College (graduate accredited) for the Air Force, I would hope that my students left my class being able to think for themselves. I think maybe Mr. Vanderberg missed a few classes. Anyone wishing to better the government, Local, City, State or Federal, are not Zeros and far from Ignorant. Ignorance comes from not recognizing a problem or not taking the effort required to make change.

That being said let us examine some of the problems. Our mayor past, present or future is not a hired Mayor. He is elected by the people. The problem is that the present elected Mayor has no power. We have delegated all the power and influence over to a HIRED CITY MANAGER, not elected by the people. He is not from Hot Springs, and even “not that fond of Hot Springs”. Mr. Vanderberg indicated that through our volunteer elected City Directors, we have the power to remove the City Manager. Please give me a realistic time table. Since the Directors are volunteers, good bad or indifferent, the selection pool of qualified candidates is automatically limited. So first we have to find qualified volunteers that are willing to think for themselves and for the good of the City, and investigate possible problems. Since the present board is mostly controlled by the City Manager, we will have to find approximately 4 new volunteers willing to be City Directors. Then, hopefully they will need time to investigate the problems and form solutions. Then and only then might we see a change in City Management. By that time the problem will have taken his resume (of achievements during his tenure) and left the City holding the bag of Liabilities.

Lets look at Mr. Vanderberg’s analogy of volunteer City Directors to that of a Hospital Volunteer. A hospital volunteer works under the strict supervision of qualified paid staff. Please do not allow a hospital volunteer perform an operation on me. True they are cheaper, maybe just as motivated, many times qualified, but face it, quality volunteers are limited in number. If the all volunteer system works so well, why doesn’t Wal-Mart use an all volunteer staff? Problem is that ideas tend to stagnate. Any form of government requires a good flushing on a routine basis. The president of the USA and his staff is subject to this requirement every four years and limit their stay in power to a maximum of eight years.

On the subject of “flushing”, no, changing the system may not lower your sewer bill, but ask yourself, why, since Melton retired with a surplus budget, has the sudden problems in the budget require a request for an maximum increase in sewer bills? Perhaps mismanagement. Why does the Management think that county residents sewer bill should be higher knowing that it is illegal to increase rates disproportionately? Why will the Directors allow this to happen? Answer is simple, the volunteer Directors will follow the City Manager’s lead. They do not have the time and motivation to investigate thoroughly the true problems. Who will pay the cost of the “oversight”? The City will in increased legal fees to counter the mostly assured lawsuits rightfully filed in behalf of the county residents. Who wins? The City Manager will have yet another achievement feather in his resume.

Lets take a look at the Baptist Hotel, Nick, Darsh, Medical Arts and Math and Science Building. Oops, sorry my space is limited. But a good investigative reporter could have a ball in this town. Start by checking the City Buildings for City Compliance.

Lets clean up our government before it cleans us out. there for you.   

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