by Max Brantley
The Central Arkansas Building and Construction Trades Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate, has endorsed challenger Phil Wyrick, a Republican, in the race for county judge against incumbent Democrat Buddy Villines. It also has endorsed Bubba Lloyd for mayor of North Little Rock over incumbent Pat Hays.
Fire and police in NLR had already backed Lloyd. The judge's race is more interesting. Labor endorsements of Republicans are rare birds. This one's simple, turns out. Wyrick promised an open door to labor leaders and, according to the union, said he wouldn't oppose their efforts to get union crews on any public projects that might develop. Despite promises of friendship from Villines and Hays, the building trades were shut out of the new ballpark project in North Little Rock. Simple.
Today, Wyrick spoke some tough words that, though perfectly sensible, won't be viewed as employee friendly.
Wyrick tells me that the recent recommendation by Quorum Court committees to give county employees, including elected officials, a 5 percent pay bonus (on top of an earlier 5 percent rase this year) was "horrible judgment" and poorly timed.
"It does not build confidence and credibility in county government to give elected officials a 5 percent bonus. Plus, it's not good business." Wyrick said he knew the issue was sensitive and knew many county employees were strapped. But he said the county is already budgeting deficit spending in excess of the amount allowed by law and this bonus, if approved, will double the amount required from reserves.
"It's just bizarre," he said.