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Wooldridge leaving AAPU

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Tim Wooldridge, hired in 2007 to be the $150,000-a-year lobbyist for a new organization, the Association of Arkansas Public Universities, is apparently on his way out as executive director of the group. He lobbied the legislature on higher education issues.

A source confirms a tip that leadership of the group – chancellors and presidents of state universities – had decided Wooldridge won't be continued in his job. A formal announcement is planned later. The decision was influenced by some positions he took during his recent unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for 1st District Congress, but also because of a rethinking of the group's mission. Most notably, Wooldridge gave a video interview to the Family Council in which he said he opposed laws that prevent discrimination on account of sexual orientation. Many campuses that help pay Wooldridge's salary have explicit anti-discrimination policies on sexual orientation. "He said some things that were not well-received in the academic community," our source said.

But there's also been some concern about the cost, which has included monthly office expenses, an assistant and other costs in addition to the salary paid Wooldridge, a former legislator. "We're going to regroup and see where we really want to go," the source said. He said a decision on new leadership – whether as a full-time leader or a contracted lobbyist – would be made in the next three to four months. Wooldridge didn't return a call.

Mayday!

Local businessman, philanthropist and Christmas light aficionado Jennings Osborne isn't flying quite so high these days, thanks to a state tax lien placed on the Osborne-owned company that holds his private jet.

According to paperwork filed with the Pulaski County clerk's office by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Osborne Aviation LLC is currently $238,852 in arrears on its taxes. The original lien was filed in September 2008, and DFA chief legal council Martha Hunt said it is still valid. Hunt said tax liens are filed against the total property holdings of a corporation.

The primary holding of Osborne Aviation is "Miss Breezy II," a 22-seat Grumman Gulfstream jet, tail number N189WS. A page advertising the jet for sale is online at the website of a company called DuPage Aerospace in West Chicago (you can still find extensive interior and exterior photos there).The asking price is not listed in that ad.

A spokesman for DuPage Aerospace said the jet was not sold, and departed for Arkansas over a year ago. According to the plane-tracking website flightaware.com, the last flight plan for the jet was filed on March 2, 2009, and had it traveling from the North Little Rock Municipal Airport to DuPage Airport near Chicago. There are no other flight plans listed for that tail number since then.

Attempts to contact Jennings Osborne about the lien and the jet were unsuccessful.

Hot wired

Shocking stuff from Today's THV anchor Dawn Scott on her Facebook page last Friday night. She wrote:

"Just got electrocuted when I turned on the hair-dryer in the THV ladies' room. Seriously. There's a burn mark underneath my underwire bra (is this TMI?) where, I guess, the electrical current went. I'm totally serious. !!! I've not been right since. ..."

The news racked up almost 90 comments of concern on Scott's Facebook page and a couple dozen on the item we posted about it on our Arkansas Blog, where Scott later commented: " ... I think it surprised me more than anything, and lesson learned: I probably shouldn't have put it on Facebook ..."

Vegetable victory

A story that played out on the Internet last week was a city crackdown on a small farmers market operating, by invitation, on the grounds of Pulaski Academy in western Little Rock. The city threatened fines against four farmers because the property wasn't zoned for peddling and they didn't have licenses. The farmers believe a complaint from another vegetable merchant prompted the city inspection. An outcry from defenders of the market ensued. Days later, a note went out to interested parties from Assistant City Manager Bryan Day:

" ... We are very much in support of local farmers and want to find a way to increase access to home grown produce throughout the community. In light of our discussions, we have decided to allow the market to continue operating at Pulaski Academy on an interim basis. We must all sit down in the future and develop a long-term strategy for providing locations and procedures for local farmers. ..."

Good money news

Amid economic gloom and doom, we happened to hear encouraging words about philanthropy, particularly as directed toward the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which will complete this year a major capital campaign. It has already hit the $325 million goal set in 2003, but a UAMS spokesman said the campaign has now hit $352 million with a half-year left to run, with gifts from 29,900 people.

Back when the campaign began, campus officials dreamed of beating the goal by 10 percent, with $360 million. That hopeful target now looks to be in reach. The money is all private money. No public matches are included. It includes some major gifts from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to the Reynolds Institute on Aging and also gifts to the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute and the Stephens Institute for Spine and Neurosciences.

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