O’Brien’s essay
As a longtime reader who generally finds myself in agreement with your editorial stance, I was surprised by your knee-jerk reaction to Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien’s requirement that his employees write an essay addressing an adversity they had encountered, overcome and learned from.
You suggest that the essay’s subject is an intrusion on privacy, but I find it rather innocuous. Having a flat tire on a busy street is an adversity, as is running out of a key ingredient when preparing a special dish or having the dishwasher break right before Thanksgiving dinner. These are hardly deeply personal matters. Did you feel your child’s right to privacy was infringed upon when he/she was asked to write the inevitable “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay?
As an instructor of English Comp I, I think perhaps the problem lies more with the unexpected requirement of writing an essay than with the subject matter. Over the years my students have often asked what the writing of essays has to do with “real life.” Pat O’Brien has given me an excellent illustration to use when answering that question. Many professions — teaching among them — require the submission of an essay as part of the application process. (For that matter, I doubt that you hire writers without seeing a writing sample.) Why should county employees be exempt?
O’Brien was more open-minded than many newly elected officials when he retained all of Ms. Staley’s employees (with the exception of Ms. Hay). Surely he has the right to ask that they prove themselves capable of literate expression since they work in an office where clear communication with the public is essential.
Besides, having worked in Ms. Staley’s office, no one should have any problem in thinking of an adversity.
Barbara B. Peters
Little Rock
In regards to the editorial about Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien and his request for the essays regarding an adversity that we have faced and overcome. We feel that the person who wrote this editorial is not competent or level-headed, unlike Pat O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien is not harassing the county employees as you suggested, he is only doing what he feels is relevant to the evaluation process.
Second of all, the comment about bra sizes is not only immature but elementary. We feel that your informant or informants made this comment due to their lack of intelligence and maybe jealousy due to the fact that their bra size is bigger than their I.Q. leaving it difficult to compose their essay. We also would like you to know when it comes to incompetent circuit clerks, the only names that come to mind are Carolyn Staley and Janice Hay. Mr. O’Brien is very capable and willing to clean up the two decades of incompetence that these two left behind.
Last but not least, we feel that the informants who provided information are among the b.s. artists that he is trying to weed out. The county employees who are capable and highly intelligent and who will be retaining their positions with the new COMPETENT clerk, would like to say to the informant(s), if you still work here, we suggest that you find a box, pack it and do not let the door bruise your bottom as you leave!
Amanda Edwards
North Little Rock
Water world
Lakes Maumelle and Winona are valuable resources that have provided pure, clean water to over 360,000 customers in the Central Arkansas area for years. Central Arkansas Water has won the highest rating the EPA can give a water utility for the last 12 years.
It is incredible that the Little Rock city directors, the Chamber of Commerce and the current water commissioners seem so short-sighted that they would compromise with Deltic Timber and allow houses to be built on the ridge above the intake of Maumelle. If indeed they do, the credibility of the utility and its board will be gone.
There is no plan to enforce any covenant agreements that might be signed and human habitation that close to the lake will cause pollution to seep into the water. With no enforcement, it may be sooner rather than later. Then, any tax dollars gained from the houses built on that ridge will not help pay for treatment.
I hope all water drinkers will contact city board members and water commissioners and members of the Arkansas House of Representatives to urge opposition to housing developments around Lake Maumelle.
Nancy M. Wood
Little Rock
Being called “arrogant” is a really difficult pill to swallow, especially when actions and facts show differently.
Central Arkansas Water has to be one of a few utilities, public or private, that will change a policy if customers or, in some cases, even one customer makes a case for change. Our policies are much more customer-oriented than most utilities’. In our most recent consumer surveys, customers mention our chief executive officer, Jim Harvey, by name and commend him for his leadership and the utility’s delivery of quality service and low rates.
In 2002, we introduced a schedule of system development charges to help with financing community growth. In 2003, we began enforcing a state public health regulation that applied to residential sprinkler systems. In both cases — because of strong customer concerns — we stopped to listen and were responsive to a differing perspective.
Now, the issue is protecting Lake Maumelle, the primary source of drinking water for 12 cities and communities in Central Arkansas Water. Again, we have listened and offered to compromise by allowing land development in areas other than near the intakes where we first draw water for treatment.
We all must be fair to others and ourselves and remember that listening does not necessarily mean giving the other side what it wants. It’s giving due consideration to the other point of view.
Our water bill is one of the lowest utility bills that we pay and our drinking water is of much better quality than required by federal or state standards. Another pill that we simply cannot swallow and that we challenge is an accusation that water rates are artificially low. That’s a supposition made elsewhere in print by another newspaper and it is nothing more than a l-o-n-g stretch to find criticism.
We also have been challenged to make a stronger case for having no future land development near the intake structures. What stronger case is there than protecting our drinking water supply?
I believe that standing firmly by the conclusion that land development near the intake structures of Lake Maumelle puts our drinking water source at risk for increased pollution does not make the utility “arrogant.” It does mean we are “cautious.”
Our drinking water is a serious matter. When a utility is responsible for such an important aspect of public health and the associated costs for 360,000 people, the proper label should be “responsible.”
Marie A. Crawford
Central Arkansas Water
Hillcrest teardowns
Your article on Hillcrest teardowns states that “almost everyone in favor of creating the historic district who talked to the Times mentioned that much of the opposition was under the mistaken impression that residents would need a commission’s approval for things as small as paint color.” If the Times had talked to anyone involved in that opposition, you would know that the opposition was centered on the fact that the proposed historic district, unlike most such efforts across the country, had no set standards and would have vested standardless discretion in a commission to exercise authority over all sorts of homeowner decisions.
Little Rock saw how this works in 2000 when, in the MacArthur Park Historic District, we witnessed the shameful arrest of poor Betty Deislinger for leaving the security bars on her windows.
The more limited idea of a commission-regulated standard for demolitions and new construction in a “conservation” district is interesting, but the devil is in the details, which I believe would need to be precisely spelled out and debated before Hillcrest residents would approve. I would note also that there are many original Hillcrest homes that occupy a large “footprint” relative to the lot. It will be interesting to see if supporters of such a district truly can resist their temptation to impose architectural restrictions as well.
By any standard, Hillcrest residents have been extraordinary stewards of their neighborhood for decades. I do not believe that most residents see the few new or extensively remodeled houses in Hillcrest over the last couple of decades as threats to our sensibilities or anything other than reasonably well executed additions to an architecturally diverse neighborhood. I have not seen any “big box” construction against which there is so much railing, with the exception of the wholly new construction on Edgerstoune Lane hanging off the side of a steep hill, which nobody seems to mind too much.
Somehow Hillcrest has managed to flourish over the past few decades with huge homeowner investments without harming the integrity and charm of the neighborhood and without the government ordering folks what to do with their homes.
John L. Burnett
Little Rock
The Bush administration
The “Social Security has got to go” chants of the Republicans outside the meeting place at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where Rick Santorum was holding a Social Security forum, were absolutely uncalled for.
These chants pretty well tell me that this is exactly what Bush’s camp is setting out to do in the near future. Privatizing is only the beginning.
I am not wealthy and cannot invest money for my retirement and am counting on the Social Security I have worked years and years to earn.
Brenda Word
North Little Rock