Columns » Max Brantley

Look closely at ballot

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With early voting set to begin Oct. 22, it's not too soon to be thinking about the lengthy ballot. Some issues that might be overlooked.

• CORPORATE WELFARE: Issue No. 2 is a proposed legislative constitutional amendment. It includes a sop for police and fire pensions, but that's a Trojan horse.

The heart of the proposal would allow creation of economic development districts of unlimited size. Within that district, all city and county sales taxes could be diverted to any economic development project. There are window dressing words about "blight," but the language, unless modified by the legislature, allows the subsidy for "any" project anywhere.

A vote would be necessary on bonds to be supported by these local taxes. The gimmick has been used in other states to build outdoor stores like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's. It's a zero sum game. Retailers helped one place are hurt another. One city benefits, a next-door neighbor is harmed. If a project flops, taxpayers pick up the tab. Vote NO on Issue 2.

TWO-FACED CANDIDATE: There's a fascinating race for state House of Representatives between incumbent Republican Rep. Allen Kerr and Democrat Barbara Graves for House District 32, a big slice of western Little Rock, including Pleasant Valley.

Kerr is a cookie-cutter Republican — anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government. He opposed a tobacco tax for the state trauma system. He opposed the expansion of ARKids, the health insurance program for children. He opposes implementation of federal health care legislation, which would help hundreds of thousands of Arkansans.

Despite his opposition to all these things supported by Gov. Mike Beebe, Kerr had the nerve to send a flyer to voters the other day claiming he'd worked with Beebe and Democrats. Kerr has also told supporters he fears coming attacks by "out-of-state groups." The only out-of-state spending in this race is the money spent by GOP billionaires to elect Kerr.

Barbara Graves is a successful Arkansas businesswoman and chamber of commerce leader who, as a member of the Little Rock Board of Directors, was known for attention to homework and constituents and sound judgment. A vote FOR GRAVES is a vote for progress for Little Rock.

• THE QUORUM COURT MATTERS: The county governing body runs the jail and courthouse and serves unincorporated areas, with scant public attention.

The last thing we need is a social issues extremist using the office for grandstanding, such as Chris Stewart, a Republican lawyer running for District 3.

Educated at Jerry Falwell's college and Pat Robertson's law school, Stewart was an architect of the amendment to make gay marriage illegal and proponent of the law to prevent gay people from adopting children. Voters in Pulaski County rejected these viewpoints solidly.

Stewart also touts his anti-abortion fervor (Pulaski has voted pro-choice multiple times) and his love of guns. He's a foot soldier for causes of the poisonous Family Council, which touts its religiosity while effectively promoting discrimination against gay workers and bullying of gay children.

It gets worse. Stewart has been a paid lobbyist for Deltic Timber in a firm that still represents the giant land development company. Deltic, in league with out-of-state Koch billionaires, is fighting pending county land use rules to protect Lake Maumelle from pollution. Republicans on the Quorum Court have been too ready to defend Deltic over clean water. Giving a former Deltic lobbyist a vote would give a whole new definition to direct democracy.

Happily, you can vote comfortably FOR KATHY LEWISON. She is a veteran of the court and knows county government. She's friendly and compassionate, a fixture as officiant at civil marriage ceremonies. She brings common sense, rather than a pinched religious agenda flavored with corporate favoritism, to her work.

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