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Mark Martin disappears Libertarian candidates again. They aren't happy.

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 10:12 AM PST

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office on Friday removed all but one Libertarian candidate from the website listing candidates who filed for state office in 2018 elections.

The one exception is a candidate on the ballot in a special election for a Senate seat to be held the same day as the party primaries.

Michael Pakko, chair of the Libertarian Party in Arkansas, told me by e-mail this had happened before.

Yes, our candidates disappeared off the list over the course of Friday morning. Not surprisingly, members of our party found it quite disconcerting, particularly since a similar problem happened in the last electoral cycle. I have been told by officials at the Secretary of State's office that it is because of their preparations for primary elections, but we find that unacceptable. Putting the candidates of long-established political parties on one list and relegating others to obscurity (or maybe a separate list, if that was their plan) gives the appearance of second-class status for our candidates.

I have been assured that the full list will be restored Monday. In the meantime, we are left with no official listing of our candidates (except for Willliam Whitfield Hyman, who is running in both the special election and general election for state senate district 8).
Christopher Olson, the party's candidate for secretary of state, had plenty more to say about it:

It was quite disconcerting given that a similar "glitch" had occurred in 2015, when all of our candidates disappeared from their candidate listing for the better part of a morning.

Hours later they informed us that they were preparing a primary election list to send to the county clerks. Why this necessitated deletion of 99% of our candidates from their online list was not explained.

I let them know in no uncertain terms that we adamantly opposed any segregation of our candidates to a secondary list, and that the practical effect of their actions was to de legitimize our candidates in the eyes of the public.

As a candidate for Secretary of State, I am concerned that election officials did not think through this decision that negatively impacted a recognized political party. Our candidates deserve the same respect and consideration as the other two parties, especially from a government office.

They have assured us that they will remedy the situation Monday, but that still leaves most of our candidates absent from the official record on the first weekend following the filing period.

I'm sure that there was no malicious intent. But I'm also sure they would not be fixing the problem if I had not brought some pressure to bear on Twitter. We will continue to keep a close eye on the situation. And if elected I will ensure that this will not happen again.

I've sent a message to the office, but it's Saturday, so I haven't heard back. Mark Martin is term-limited. Land Commissioner John Thurston and  Rep. Trevor Drown are seeking the Republican nomination. Susan Inman, a veteran in the office during Sharon Priest's tenure, is the Democratic candidate.

ASU learns that admission and tuition practices favor 'better-off' families. They are not alone.

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:41 AM PST

Arkansas State University is studying ways to be more "efficient" — make more money, in other words — and a Democrat-Gazette report this morning carried a nugget that should not be missed.

The article quotes Nick Kozlov of the Huron Consulting Group about enrolling, keeping and graduating more students

The largest opportunity in enrollment management, Kozlov said, was in ASU-Jonesboro's discounts strategy.

"What was notable to us was that the net tuition revenue — so this was after the sticker price of tuition and the price that students ultimately pay once they get on campus — was lowest of the peer set," he said. "Jonesboro has the lowest out-of-state tuition as well, and ultimately discounts its tuition by about 44 percent to students on campus."

The consultants dove deeper into the discounts data, comparing it with expected family contributions, and found that ASU-Jonesboro was awarding financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis to students who demonstrate merit through test scores.

"What we see in practice is that those students that come from better-off families that are more able to pay are the students that have higher test scores and also apply earlier," he said. "And so they are receiving the highest amount of aid, and what that ends up doing is leaving less aid for those students who are more in need and ultimately decreases retention when they cannot consistently afford college."

Changing the way the four-year university awards aid could pull in between $1 million and $3.5 million, he said.

Shorter: Thems that got get. The rich get richer.

This is an old story encouraged by Arkansas policymakers and legislators. When you place emphasis on higher achieving students the facts dictate that poorer students will disproportionately be left behind. And minority students will make up a disproportionate percentage of that number.

The University of Arkansas grants tuition breaks to high-achieving out-of-state students. Thus Texas-Fayetteville. I doubt we are welcoming hordes of tired, poor bedraggled masses from Plano and Highland Park yearning to breathe the free air of Fayetteville.

The biggest scandal is the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, rigged by the efforts of Sen. Jimmy Hickey a few years ago to further benefit the already advantaged higher income families.  A high-stakes ACT test — and no longer grades — is the admission standard for lottery scholarships. The amount of money tiven to first-year students was also reduced. Oh, sure, the money can go up later, depending on academic performance, but poverty tends to be a huge factor in early college dropouts.

I did one analysis of the new rules a little over a year ago. It should have been a scandal, but no one, except Sen. Joyce Elliott, seemed to care.

The new rules produced a general drop in applications — 10 percent among whites and 40 percent among blacks. The actual lottery awards showed similar declines — 8 percent among whites, 36 percent among blacks.

The family income for winners rose from $78,000 to $84,000 — with black winners averaging $42,000 and white winners averaging $94,000.

There's been some tinkering since, particularly to help community college students, but Huron's study serves to illustrate the pervasive favoritism enjoyed by better-situated students when it comes to higher education.

Many legislators, of course, thinks this is fair. Strictly merit, see. They give no thought that merit might be more about the good fortune of birth — racial and economic privilege and a background unmarked by generations of discrimination.

Two things:

* Grades are a better indication of college success than test scores. Tests measure test-taking ability.

* Lottery scholarship programs in most states have become middle-class entitlement programs. Legislators like it. The middle class — far more influential than the poor — like it. We should just be happy that the Arkansas legislature hasn't lifted the qualifying standard even higher. (See Georgia, where a 26 ACT now gets you a free Georgia college ride.)

* Lifting college completion rates is not about providing more money to kids who were going to college anyway, it's about helping those most in need of help. This is not a belief much in favor these days in any aspect of Arkansas government. See: Poor people don't "deserve" government health care; wealthy corporations and six-figure executives at chambers of commerce "deserve" government tax handouts.

Now I've gone and riled myself up. Got to go to the gym.

Cry the beloved country: Trump's America

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:06 AM PST

Want to be depressed this lovely morning? Go to the Washington Post home page and behold the headlines.

* Trump's tariff disaster.

* Trump hush money to porn star.

* Trump aims to kill New York tunnel project for spite.

* Trump shaming his attorney general

* Trump administration plundering national parks for oil and gas drilling.

* Trump anti-immigrant sentiment emulated worldwide.

* Trump's 2,436 false or misleadig claims in 406 days.

* Self-dealing by Trump's son-in-law.

* Likely racist chosen for Trump administration law enforcement job.

* NRA wins, we lose.

On the other hand, six teenagers are running for governor of Kansas and I'm willing to bet any one of them would be an improvement over Sam Brownback.

As Little Rock City Hall turns: Exploring candidate, easing up on marijuana, Arts Center bonds

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:40 AM PST

News from Little Rock City Hall:

* CAMPAIGNING: Russ Racop,
the busy blogger who's announced as a candidate for Ward 6 City Board against incumbent Doris Wright, has formed a committee to "explore" a race for city board that he has already announced. He said the action was cleared by Circuit Judge Tim Fox's ruling against the city in its lawsuit attempting to shut down exploratory committees by Warwick Sabin and Frank Scott Jr., candidates for mayor against Mark Stodola.

Under city ordinance, candidates may not directly raise campaign money until July 1. But the state exploratory committee statute overrides that, the Ethics Commission and now a court have ruled.

Racop also challenged Doris Wright to swear off money from real estate developers and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC. She probably won't and it's a good illustration of how ineffective the campaign limitation is in keeping special interest money out of city races. In theory, the short fund-raising window was to prevent campaign handouts tied to pending City Board votes throughout a city director's term. But the moneyed interests can make up for it when the time comes. Take Wright.

In 2014, she quickly raised $4,400 between Aug. 26 and Sept. 20  — $1,000 from the realtors PAC, $1,000 from the chamber PAC, $1,000 from apartment developer William Richardson, $750 from two officials of the Collier real estate business and $500 from then-City Director Stacy Hurst. This was the only report Wright filed in 2014 n advance of the November election. If she raised more, the county clerk has no report of her spending on file. She easily beat a challenger that year. Does she have carryover money to use against Racop, as Mark Stodola does? Impossible to tell from filings. I'm guess Racop will look into that.

* MARIJUANA: City Director Ken Richardson informs me he's pressing City Attorney Tom Carpenter to finish drafting a resolution for the next regular City Board meeting that would set a "low priority" for enforcement of marijuana law against adults. As yet, no ordinance appears on the session set Tuesday night to firm up the agenda for the regular city board meeting the following week.

This probably isn't going anywhere, but the subject is worth discussion particularly as the advent of adults in possession of legal medicl marijuana draws near. During an exchange of notes in recent months, Carpenter told Richardson:

Please note that the memorandum is going to suggest that this ordinance is not legal and constitutes a violation of the separation of powers among other things. I know that other cities have these, and outside of Arkansas I suspect that the cities have full home-rule authority by constitutional amendment which permits such activity. But, this is not a resolution of what the City would like to see done - as has been the case with comments to Congress, or the Arkansas Department of Transportation - but, puts into place an ordinance that directs certain actions the City does not have the authority to direct, or refers to offices that do not have the authority to take actions the ordinance directors - i.e., the City prosecutor. These are legal issues, though, and right now I understand that you wish to move forward with your ordinance.
* ARTS CENTER BONDS: Tentatively set for the March 20 City Board meeting is an ordinance to issue bonds backed by the city tax on hotel rooms. No details are provided, but I presume this is the issue that will be used to finance improvement to the Arkansas Arts Center. The city and center officials have said the amount won't exceed the $37.5 million mentioned as the cap in a campaign to get voters to approve the two-cent tax. I learned last week that, thanks to an increase in hotel rooms in the city, tax revenue is coming in higher than anticipated. I've also been told that this additional revenue, which could support more bonds, will NOT be used to expand the borrowing, but instead be applied to accelerated repayment of the borrowing. As yet, no draft ordinance exists that spells any of that out.

The tax was approved two years ago. Plans for the Arts Center work have been unveiled. As yet, no specifics have been forthcoming on the promised "match" of private contributions to the effort. Though the center uses city property and buildings and the city controls appointments to its governing board, governance as a practical matter is open only to the well-to-do. Board members must contribute $5,000 annually and commit to raising or contributing an additional $5,000.

Judge refuses to dismiss corruption case against former Sen. Jon Woods; says FBI agent could face charges for mishandling potential evidence

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 06:19 PM PST

Federal Judge Timothy Brooks today refused to dismiss charges against former Republican Sen. Jon Woods and other defendants in a case alleging a kickback scheme using public money.

In his order, the judge revealed that an FBI investigation is underway of an FBI agent's handling of potential evidence in the case — actions that led to the motion to dismiss. He said he believed the agent had lied about his reasons for wiping a computer hard drive (he had said it was merely to remove video games and some personal medical records.)

Doug Thompson writes about today's developments for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Woods is charged along with Ecclesia College President Oren Paris and a friend, Randell Shelton, in scheming to profit from money directed out of state surplus to Ecclesia, among others. Former Republican Rep. Micah Neal has already pleaded guilty in the case. Neal turned over some tapes he'd made on his own accord with others to the FBI. When defense lawyers sought those tapes, not all of the calls he'd recorded were originally produced. It developed that FBI agent Robert Cessario had caused some material he'd received from Neal to be erased from his FBI computer. He said he'd wiped the memory. All the files were available on a computer of Neal's defense attorney.

Cessaro's actions are not what the pending case is about, Brooks said. "The grand jury has issued an indictment against these defendants. The public has an interest in seeing that indictment prosecuted, just as the defendants have an interest in holding the government to its burden of proof at trial."

He also commented:

"There may be readers of this opinion who feel that this court, by declining to dismiss the indictment, is somehow allowing Agent Cessario — and by extension, the government — to 'get away with' bad conduct. The court would emphasize here that it does not condone Agent Cessario's actions; it finds them reprehensible. But the public does not forfeit it's interest in seeing crime prosecuted simply because one government agent happened to engage in bad conduct along the way."

Brooks also refused a motion to get off the case, though he had once represented Cessario and once practiced law with one of Woods' former defense attorneys.

Here's Brooks' 46-page opinion keeping the case alive. There's a lengthy discussion there of the handling of information on the FBI laptop for those following the case closely. The judge concluded there was no evidence that any information material to the charges or defense was lost in the handling of the computer. But he said the FBI agent had committed a constitutional violation and, as a result, the government may not introduce any of Neal's recordings in evidence and it may not call Cessario as a witness. He said Cessario may face criminal charges as a result of the investigation underway.

Among the many motions, the judge dismissed was a claim by Shelton that the government had just gone after Republicans and had ignored  Woods' dealings with an unnamed Democrat The judge said Shelton's argument was "hard to fathom."

Here, too, is the separate 26-page order in which Brooks declined to step down from the case.

The Cultivation and Hog Slop Edition

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 02:27 PM PST

The winners of the medical marijuana cultivation permits, the latest from the legislature, including hog slop and a Medicaid wait-and-see, and Governor Hutchison's school safety plan — all included on this week's podcast.

Subscribe via iTunes.