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Editorials March 17

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The enemy within It’s often been said that Arkansas resembles a Third World country, in that a small but wealthy family and corporate elite at the top preys voraciously on the masses below. At this very moment, the predators are on the prowl. Occasionally, one of our putative public servants will take a stab at defending the public against these attacks. It was gratifying to see Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey at a meeting of the Central Arkansas Water Commission, speaking out against a resolution that would have CAW knuckle under to the demands of Deltic Timber Company. Deltic wants to put a posh subdivision on the banks of Lake Maumelle, which is the principal water supply of Central Arkansas. CAW wants to protect the area’s drinking water by blocking the development. It was heartening also to see another city director, Barbara Graves, boldly wearing a “Protect our drinking water” sticker. On the other hand, yet another city director, Dean Kumpuris, is said to be helping Deltic. Kumpuris never met a corporation he didn’t like. But it was most disturbing, and all too typical, that a member of the water commission, Jane Dickey, was sponsoring the sell-out resolution. Dickey’s law firm does work for and receives money from Deltic. When this was pointed out, Dickey said she saw no conflict. To her, “ethics” means that her law firm gets a cut. Dickey’s resolution calling for CAW to retreat before Deltic would send exactly the wrong signal to the Capitol, where some members of the House of Representatives are resisting a Deltic bill (SB 230) that would remove CAW’s authority to protect the people’s drinking water. Senators controlled by Deltic approved the bill before citizens could organize in opposition. (Many of the same senators just passed a casino gambling bill for Oaklawn Park, another member of the predator class, without a single word of debate. A Third World legislative body would make a better showing than that.) Deltic is in effect holding a gun against the head of the water commission, and commissioner Dickey suggests that it’s the commission that’s being unreasonable. Actually, Deltic may have two guns. Rep. Mark Martin, R-Prairie Grove, has introduced another bill that would serve Deltic’s interests by restricting efforts to protect the little people’s drinking water. “Let them drink champagne!” What can the people do? We can keep the heat on the House of Representatives to stop Deltic’s bills, and on Governor Huckabee to use his veto, if necessary. We can demand the recusal from Deltic votes of commissioners like Dickey. We can remember at the next election those senators who sold us out, especially the ones from Central Arkansas — the Johnsons, the Broadways, the Steeles. We know now which side they’re on.

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