In our original list of election endorsements, we overlooked House District 32. The incumbent, Rep. Allen Kerr, deserves some credit for focusing recent attention on double-dipping elected officials and state employees, who sometimes stretched the law to qualify for both retirement and regular paychecks for the same job. But Kerr's attention came after the legislature had already closed most of the loopholes that allowed the practice. Kerr's record lands overall in the debit column for more substantive reasons — votes against a tobacco tax increase to pay for a statewide trauma system and against an expansion of the ARKids program to provide health coverage for more children of the working poor.
Kerr has a progressive opponent with a record that suggests more compassion for the young and the injured. She's Democrat Carolyn Staley, an associate pastor at Pulaski Heights Baptist Church who has a wealth of experience in public service. She's been state services director of the Arkansas Arts Center, executive director of the Arkansas Arts Council, executive director of the Governor's Commission on Adult Literacy and deputy director of the National Institute for Literacy. She has hands-on experience in the work of better educating workers for today's jobs. Her progressive bent is evident in her endorsement of the work of the Arkansas Governor's Commission on Global Warming and its ideas about making homes and businesses more energy efficient and reducing pollution. The Times endorses Carolyn Y. Staley (not to be confused with a former county clerk with the same first and last names) for state House of Representatives.
It's popular to decry civil rights lawyer John Walker and the presumed fortune he's made suing over racial discrimination in the three public school districts in Pulaski County. In fact, he's often worked years at a stretch without compensation. Also, though he's won several significant court-ordered payments, they pale in comparison to the enormous sums paid by the three school districts and the state of Arkansas defending the often indefensible.
*Want to get miffed about legal fees? Take a look at the $315,000 the fiscally distressed Pulaski County School District paid in the first nine months of the year to the Bequette and Billingsley law firm, primarily to attempt to bust a binding legal contract with the district's school teachers. It was a colossal waste of money. The union-busting attempt by a thin Board majority not only lost in court at every turn, it lost at the polls. The single-minded, extralegal effort of the board's four anti-union bullies inspired a resounding defeat of two of them in the September school election. New legal counsel might be among the new teacher-friendly board majority's housekeeping chores. Believers in merit pay should cheer.