Some recent news, not all fit for immediate print in the state’s largest newspaper:
*REEFER MADNESS: Credit the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for publicizing a secret videotape made by Ken Shollmier, a Hutchinson administration insider and unhappy spurned applicant for a medical marijuana cultivation permit. He wangled a private meeting with Marijuana Commissioner Carlos Roman, who’d given Shollmier a high score, but not high enough to offset other low scores. It appears Shollmier thought he could catch Roman taking a bribe. It appears Roman thought that’s what was afoot. No bribe changed hands. Roman notified the FBI. Where this leads as a police matter isn’t certain. But we do know from the video that Roman helpfully met privately with an applicant and, by Shollmier’s account, may have provided some proprietary information from other applications. At a minimum it was another black eye for the inept, politically corrupt start-up of medical marijuana regulation. The cultivation permit scoring should be redone by an independent outside judge.
*LEGISLATIVE ETHICS: No credit to the Democrat-Gazette for ignoring Democrat Jon Comstock’s steady exposure of ethical failings by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers), who Comstock is attempting to prevent from adding four more years to her 16 in the legislature. He’s pointed out how Hutchinson connections have added up to almost $500,000 in taxpayer payments for the Bledsoe clan, including a $182,000 unadvertised job for Bledsoe’s previously retired husband and a $173,000 payment to her son, Gregory, as surgeon general (an office without a real office), though he has another full-time job at a hospital. Comstock also reported that Bledsoe, one of the enablers of the Ecclesia College scandal, bought a house in Little Rock, where most of Bledsoe Inc. work is done. Does she really live in Rogers, as required to run for Senate?
*GOBBLE GOBBLE: Some good news was overlooked by the statewide newspaper. The Yellville Turkey Trot was held last weekend without the annual ritual of dropping terrified domestic turkeys from airplanes and buildings. Corporate sponsors finally fled last year after continued exposure by animal rights activists of the barbaric practice. The local Rotary Club took over, insisted on no turkey drops, and a good time was still had by all when rain didn’t interfere. A big parade with high school bands and horses. A beauty pageant. A street dance. A beer garden. Smoked turkey legs and funnel cakes. The Turkey Trot passed Rotary’s four-way test. The event was beneficial for all, particularly turkeys.
*ROGUE COPS: The D-G barely mentioned a huge piece of investigative reporting last weekend on tactics by the Little Rock police SWAT and undercover drug units. Radley Balko of The Washington Post documented dozens of unjustified no-knock raids, complete with explosive door breaches, mounted on the strength of an unreliable informant and questionable police testimony. It appears innocent people have been victimized, a disproportionate number of them black.
It was another black eye for a police force accused before of racially disparate policing. It’s no wonder the force is viewed warily by minorities. The majority of the majority white force lives outside the city — often driving home in city-subsidized police cruisers. The suburban cops say they fear crime and putting their kids in the city’s (majority black) schools.
Police and public safety should be THE issue for the candidates for mayor. A broadening of an existing lawsuit by one drug-raid victim who’s persevered with his complaint against enormous institutional odds now seems likely to force more public discussion. The city’s silence to date is deafening. I’d say it’s worth a news article.