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Sellers’ market

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Sellers' market

Today, there are 15,072 licensed real estate agents in Arkansas. But only 11,367 have renewed their licenses for 2009, state Real Estate Commission Director Bill J. Williamson said this week.

The numbers may reflect the downturn in the real estate market. But Williamson said he expects renewals (which were due Sept. 30) to keep coming in, thus narrowing the gap. New applicants would too; Williamson said the commission gets an average of 130 of those a month.

 

Walton riches

The Walton Family Foundation had assets of $1.59 billion at the end of 2007, according to its federal tax return released this week. That's $200 million more than the year previous. Which raises the question: What has happened to the late Helen Walton's estate?

When she died in April 2007, the widow of Sam Walton owned an estimated 20 percent of Wal-Mart stock and was worth $16 billion. The family said at the time that her estate would go to charitable causes over time and would not entail a significant one-time sale of her shares.

The foundation made 875 grants worth a total of $241,751,462 in 2007, nearly half of it to education reforms such as public charter schools.

 

Hard times

Arkansas has been somewhat insulated from national economic troubles, but Gov. Mike Beebe's budget indicates state officials expect that to change. Is the state ready for more than reduced spending?

For example, mass layoffs have hit several industrial facilities and reports indicate the first round of cuts could be coming soon at Alltel, which is expected to shed hundreds of jobs when its takeover by Verizon is completed. This raises questions about the readiness of the Department of Workforce Services to handle a rush of unemployed. The department has yet to launch EZARC (Easy Arkansas Claims), a web-based unemployment application. The EZARC page on the agency's website says you can file a claim “when it is convenient for you,” but one problem: The site isn't operating.

For now, the unemployed still must go to a Workforce local office to file for benefits. The department's communication director, Kim Friedman, said the web system had been scheduled to come on-line for some time, but other projects have taken priority. She said the offices can handle any rush.

“We do have 32 offices around the state and several here in Central Arkansas,” Friedman says. “We also work with the Governor's Dislocated Workers Task Force. Whenever we are notified of a layoff or a closure the task force immediately tries to make contact with the company to find out what type of services we can provide, not only to the company, but also those affected by lay-off or closure.”

Although there is no estimated roll-out date for EZARC, Friedman says a local office intra-net claims system has eliminated paperwork for the agency and allowed the unemployed to file claims quickly.

 

Jockeying

The mentioned names are too numerous to list at this point, but just know that fierce political activity is already underway for plum Arkansas jobs that will be the Obama administration's to dispense, with key oversight from U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln. There are three federal district court judgeships up for nominations on account of semi-retirement of Judges Harry Barnes, Bill Wilson and Jim Moody. The U.S. attorney jobs in Little Rock and Fort Smith also will be open to political appointments. Relatives of judicial retirees are among the names mentioned. Pryor, we know, has no philosophical opposition to dynasties.

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