The final post-election campaign-finance reports are in for Little Rock school board candidates. As she was before the election, Zone 3 winner Melanie Fox was far and away the big spender, raising about $37,100 and spending almost all of it (she divided leftover funds among the public schools in her zone). Many of her contributions came from co-workers of her husband, Jeff, an Alltel executive.
Other interesting tidbits: Contributions to ousted Zone 7 incumbent Tom Brock included several donations from founders of the right-wing business coalition that’s been steadily pushing its way into education matters in Little Rock and statewide: $1,000 from Jim Walton, $500 from Murphy Oil’s Claiborne Deming, $2,000 from Jackson T. Stephens, and $100 from Luke Gordy, the former state board of education member who’s now heading up their lobbying organization, Arkansans for Education Reform. Brock lost to Dianne Curry, whose primary financial backer was the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association.
Central Arkansas Library System director Bobby Roberts is drafting an amendment to the entertainment district bill that would require cities with such ordinances to be responsible for the cleanup of the districts. “It’s just safer to put that in state law than in local ordinance,” Roberts said.
The bill, which would allow cities to create districts in which people could carry alcoholic drinks outdoors, was included in the Municipal League’s legislative package at the city board’s request. City leaders often cite the popularity of Beale Street in Memphis as reason for the bill.
But Beale Street isn’t lined with galleries and a library complex, as President Clinton Avenue is. The Main Library at 100 Rock St. has already had problems with night-time rowdies who’ve shot out windows, broken parking lot gates and left trash, Roberts said.
Roberts and other stakeholders in the River Market, where city leaders want to create such a district, were unhappy that they weren’t consulted on the front end about the bill. “I’m not opposed to it,” Roberts said, “but I don’t like the way it was handled.”
The bill was introduced and passed in the last days of the 2004 session; Gov. Mike Huckabee vetoed it. Roberts expects the legislature will get much more input from the public in 2007.
The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau continues to make progress in its efforts to bring minority organizations to the city. On the heels of hosting the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) national convention in 2005 and the Omega Psi Phi fraternity convention earlier this year, Little Rock on Nov. 3 will welcome officials and board members of the National Bar Association, the largest black lawyer group in the U.S.
Presidents of all black fraternities and sororities will meet here in early December, followed shortly thereafter by the board meeting of Kappa Alpha Psi. In October 2007, the United Negro College Fund board of directors will hold its meeting in Little Rock, along with the presidents of all the historically black colleges and universities.