Call to Hurst draws police
A man who left a message on City Director Stacy Hurst's phone last Friday in which he admits to calling her a despicable person for her support for changes to the War Memorial Golf Course got a follow-up call from police Monday.
Police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said Steve Gibson told Hurst “he didn't want to fight an unarmed woman,” language police viewed as possibly threatening. Hastings said that when a “government official receives what they perceive as a threat … there is height-ened concern” on the part of police. Police Det. Stuart Sullivan called Gibson on Monday to discuss the call.
Hastings believed Hurst had called police and had played the tape for them. Hurst said, however, that she merely mentioned the message to Mayor Mark Stodola and the mayor passed the information to police.
Gibson said the “unarmed” reference was actually made Saturday, when he and Hurst talked on the phone, and that what he had said was that he “didn't want to get into a battle of wits with an unarmed person.”
Gibson said he was surprised to get the call from the police, both because he and Hurst parted on better terms after their conversation Saturday and because he thought use of the police was “a little bit of too much government control.” He said also that Hurst apologized herself in a message she left for Gibson on Sunday for being disrespectful in her remarks to him the previous day.
Vicki Saviers, Gov. Mike Beebe's most recent appointee to the state Board of Education, sent an e-mail recently asking people to an “important luncheon” March 8 at the Little Rock Club. Joining her in the invite, she said, were Wal-Mart heir and banker Jim Walton, De-mocrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman, former Murphy Oil CEO Claiborne Deming and Stephens financial fortune heir Jackson T. “Steve” Stephens. They share a long history of working for conservative theories in education — an opposition to unions; support for vouchers/charter schools; performance-based pay for teachers.
Saviers explained to me that she was not a driving force behind the luncheon (though she shares many of the same outlooks and was a founder of the e-Stem charter school in Little Rock, strongly backed by Hussman and Walton). She said she had merely joined Luke Gordy, the former banker and state Board member who heads a private group, Arkansans for Education Reform, financed by Walton and others to work on achieving their education agenda. Saviers is a member of the board of the group.
Luke Gordy said the meeting doesn't signal any new immediate initiative — a strong involvement in 2010 elections, for example. “What we're trying to do is share with more of the business and community leadership where we are on education. The ulterior motive is to broaden the sphere of influence and support for the reform agenda.”
Gordy declined to disclose a guest list. He said it was intended to be geographically diverse. He regretted that, despite efforts, minorities and women would be in a distinct minority among the 30 or so heavy hitters expected. The Arkansas Education Association isn't a part of the event either.
The press was NOT invited, Gordy said, because of a concern about “fairness and open-mindedness” on the part of some who might attend. (We think he meant us.)
Gordy said the group will hear about the history of school reform in Arkansas, achievements and “continuing challenges.” Then the panel of businessmen will discuss what needs to be done to move forward. “We went to improve education outcomes for all school children through advocacy of our state corporate community in support of strengthening accountability, transparency, choice and incentives in the Arkansas pre-K-12 delivery system,” Gordy said.
Gordy said he didn't want to steal anyone's thunder by revealing too much in advance. But he did say the executives were committed to fight any efforts in the legislature to water down standards, such as coming requirements for passage of algebra and English tests to receive a high school diploma. He said a full news release will follow the meeting.