by Max Brantley
The line is open. Finishing up:
* THE SHALE: The University of Arkansas has a new report on economic activity arising from gas production in the Fayetteville Shale. The report says shale jobs accounted for most of the gain in jobs in Arkansas over the last decade. It also said taxes and revenue had exceeded projections, despite sharply lower gas prices. According to the report, the industry invested $12.7 billion between 2008-11. The report enumerates about $90 million in severance taxes from 2004-2011 and about $109 million in property taxes from 2008-2011. But the report also claims about $1.8 billion more in tax revenue from "household" taxes and "indirect" business taxes and fees, not otherwise enumerated. I've asked for more info on those figures.
* FEDERAL JUDGE BYPASSES PULASKI SCHOOL DISPUTE: Judge Price Marshall said state court — not his court and the desegregation case — was the place for the unions in the Pulaski County School District to try to fight their loss of recognition by the district, now in state receivership. Fox 16 reports.
* ILLEGAL FISH: An Arkansas man was busted in Minnesota for selling live Asian carp, an invasive fish that threatens native fish.
* BETTER ETHICS NOW: As I mentioned earlier, the Better Ethics Now Committee, formed to get a strong ethics law on the ballot, will raise money tonight at a fund-raiser at Vic Snyder's home attended by leaders including Dale Bumpers, John Paul Hammerschmidt, Jim Keet, Brent Bumpers, Baker Kurrus and lots more. Tomorrow, a news conference is scheduled to add at least one, and maybe more, important names to the list of supporters. Money is needed to pay canvassers. It's an uphill climb, with more than 62,000 needed by July 1. Some $100,000 has been raised so far and volunteers have been hard at work. I saw a canvassing nerve center buzzing down the hall from Brent Bumpers' office today.
Problems: The silence from Arkansas legislators — Republicans and Democrats — is telling. Most of them oppose this law. They want the corporate contributions and payola — trips, meals and drinks — that this law would outlaw. That alone should energize you. Corporate players are reluctant, too, to give up their ability to pour money into select campaigns. That, too, should tell you something.
* EMBEZZLER SENTENCED: U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer announced that Judge Susan Wright today sentenced Leander Muncy III, 44, of North Little Rock, to 24 months in prison and restitution of almost $269,000 for embezzling from the employee profit sharing at Vouk Transportatin, which he once led.
* IT GETS BETTER, LET'S HOPE: I'd mentioned earlier that Arkansas native Chad Griffin, key player in a major court challenge of bans on gay marriage and leader of the Human Rights Campaign, would speak at noon Monday Clinton School. I've even written a column for the week on his visit, with some mildly optimistic statements about the improving state of things for gay people, including in Arkansas, which nonetheless lags behind many other places. How far it lags, I didn't fully understand.
I just got a notice that Griffin will participate in a news conference Monday about a survey of LGBT youth in Arkansas.
Nationally, LGBT youth more than three times more likely to be verbally bullied. In Arkansas nearly two thirds of LGBT youth here that they’ve been harassed with anti-gay slurs and 42 percent have been harassed online.
One in four LGBT teens in Arkansas say they have been physically assaulted at school.
67 percent of straight youth describe themselves as happy; this number drops to 37 percent among LGBT young people nationally; 36 percent here in Arkansas.
LGBT youth are twice as likely to experiment with alcohol or drugs and a strikingly high number are homeless, in foster care, or living in high-risk situations.
In 2011, the Arkansas Legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, an enumerated anti-bullying bill inclusive of LGBT students. While a sign of true progress, the new survey data show LGBT youth still face difficult challenges.
So-called "religious" groups didn't like the Arkansas law. They were less successful here than in other Southern states, where anti-bullying laws have been beaten or neutered to "protect" the putative 1st Amendment rights of "religious" people to torment gay people for their immorality. Really. Don't believe me? Check out this bit on a church where a small child was taught to sing — and cheered wildly for singing — "ain't no homo going to make it to heaven."
* ROSE CRANE REMEMBRANCE: Rose Crane, a lifelong friend of former President Bill Clinton who served as director of the Natural and Cultural Heritage Department during his first term as governor, died Sunday at 65. She was instrumental in the development of the Clinton Birthplace museum in Hope. A celebration of her life is scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday at the Clinton Presidential Library.
* UPDATE: LR SEWER RATE INCREASE: The Little Rock City Board of Directors again delayed final action tonight on a proposed sewer rate increase (4 percent next year for residential users). City Director Stacy Hurst wanted to see rates calibrated based on four-month winter water use rather than a six-month period including September and October, that can include lawn irrigation. Though water use drives sewer rates, she noted that irrigation doesn't create demand on sewers. The change would increase the percentage rate increase necessary to produce revenue to back bonds for sewer improvements, Waste Water CEO Reggie Corbitt said. Hurst said she wanted a firm estimate of the cost and the board decided to wait for that information.
* UPDATE TECH PARK: Residents and Judge Wendell Griffen gave the board an earful in the public comment session aboout the threat of taking property to build a building with taxpayer money to lure technology companies. And complaints were made, too, about the City Board's refusal to put Kenneth Richardson's ordinance on the agenda for discussion. It would prohibit use of tax money to condemn private homes for the tech park. Mayor Mark Stodola insisted the problem was timing — insufficient notice of an important measure — and that Richardson's ordinance would be heard. Richardson reacted sharply. He questioned the mayor closely on how he decides some items may be added with little notice and others may not.