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The Insider Dec. 30

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Holiday schedules Among the Arkansas congressional delegation, constituent service during the holiday season is something that senators can’t be bothered with. Then again, they only have to run for re-election every six years, so who cares? Calls to the Little Rock and Washington, D.C., offices of U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor yielded recorded messages informing us that no one would be available from Dec. 23-Jan. 3. The House members had varying policies. U.S. Reps. Vic Snyder and John Boozman kept their Arkansas offices open through the holidays except for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. U.S. Rep. Marion Berry operated his Jonesboro office from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. most days, but closed it on Dec. 23-24 and 30-31. Perhaps the loftier ambitions of U.S. Rep. Mike Ross are evident in his senatorial decision to shutter his offices from Dec. 23-Jan. 3 Gen. Clark, the TV series A New York Post gossip column recently reported that retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former presidential candidate from Arkansas, is “working on a sitcom.” Clark’s office told us that the Post exaggerated his role in the project, especially by saying that Clark was “writing” the TV show and would “pitch” it to networks next year. In reality, Clark’s associates insist that he is merely serving as a consultant in the development of the idea. “General Clark is contributing to a show concept of an officer returning to his hometown after a career in the military,” Clark’s office said. “Gen. Clark is primarily focused on his business but continues to be involved in numerous other projects.” That would include plotting a future political career, of course. Legal action It’s a low-priority public issue, but tens of millions of dollars are at stake in plans to establish tax increment finance districts in, among others, Fayetteville, Rogers, Bentonville, Lowell, Johnson, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jonesboro. They will divert local property taxes to subsidize private developments in already prosperous areas. Schools, but not other local tax units, will be made whole by the Arkansas legislature, meaning Arkansas taxpayers. Columnist Max Brantley has been griping about this at some length recently. We hear he may soon have a valuable ally. There’s solid indication a lawsuit could be filed shortly against the whole TIF scheme in Arkansas. TIF projects already underway have no guarantee they’d be grandfathered. Four more years? We were talking to U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins a while back on another subject and happened to ask about his plans, now that George W. Bush is set to serve another four years as president. Cummins (we forgot to mention earlier) said he went into the election with no contingency plans, so was relieved by Bush’s victory not to have to make any sudden decisions. Now completing his third year in the office, Cummins, 45, said that, with four children to put through college someday, he’ll likely begin exploring career options. It wouldn’t be “shocking,” he said, for there to be a change in his office before the end of Bush’s second term.

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