Committee gives do-pass vote to proposed residency requirement


Thumb Up

The advice not to watch sausage being made was apropo for Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council’s Administration Committee.

On the table was a proposed ordinance from Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays. If passed, the ordinance would require department heads to live within 12 miles of the city with one important caveat — current department heads would be grandfathered in. That particular wrinkle, one would presume, would allow the great schism of 2013 over Jeff Hubanks, interim police chief, to be finally and forever healed.

This has been a bone of contention since snowflakes were flying at the first of the year, and for the record, the yard has been mowed three times now and probably could have used a fourth or fifth in there as we napped.

The meeting, however, sounded, from reading Friday’s story in The Commercial, like it might have resembled a game of Whac-A-Mole, with this and that alderman first arguing and then standing in defiance to leave the meeting — and then sitting down again. These are the folks you pay to be the most responsible adults in the room, by the way, but banging their heads for their comportment or lack thereof is like wailing away at large fish in a small barrel, as in there’s hardly any sport in it, so we’ll hold that thought for now.

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth — working within the framework given her, that being to name and un-name, as it were, fire and police chiefs — selected Hubanks as interim chief, but he lives in a neighboring county and that was enough to fuel the fires of dissension.

But it wasn’t quite that easy to dismiss Hollingsworth’s selection. Even when the prosecuting attorney was dragged into the fray, he declined to pursue charges against the mayor, saying the laws conflicted, and, maybe more importantly, they had been ignored (by many on this same City Council) in the past.

If your handbook at work says everyone has to arrive at work at 8, but management has allowed employees to show up as late as 8:30, guess what? You can’t up and fire someone for coming in at 8:15. That’s because your practice prevails over your printed policy.

And the attorney with the municipal league said as much, which was that the council needs to remove the conflicting laws and replace them with something clear and concise.

The council has dutifully digested all that professional advice and gone on about its business, which is to throw spitballs at one another. But even at that, even with the stand ups and sit downs and raised voices and accusations, the Mays proposal went forward.

So, dare we say it, that at the meeting on Monday night, the council will have enough votes to pass this measure and move on to some other relatively minor piece of legislation over which it can wrangle and harangue for months at a time? Well, we’ll take the victories where we find them, and if that happens, we say yay, pass the sausage.

Where would we be without them?

Thumb Up

We can’t say enough nice things about Volunteers in Public Schools. They are such a fixture and have been for years, and they provide so much help that the Pine Bluff School District would have a hard time operating without them. We wondered just how long they have been around, and the answer is that they celebrated their 40th anniversary on Thursday. Unbelievable!

At the celebration, the top-five volunteers were honored for donating a combined — not to mention, amazing — 5,000 hours to local schools this year. Those five are: First Place: Charlie Cannon; Second Place: Curtis Savage; Third Place: Shirley Jacob; Fourth Place: Eugene Fletcher Jr.; and Fifth Place: LaShundra Scott.

In addition to those five, there are another 1,200 volunteers who have donated a combined 14,456 hours to the district. Monica O’briant, VIPS coordinator with the district, said one could double the number of hours because many people volunteer but do not log their time as a volunteer for VIPS, which is supported in part by the United Way of Southeast Arkansas.

One new wrinkle this past year has been to work churches into the program. Now, for the first time, there is a church assigned to each school thereby providing a touch point between the faith community and the education community.

As part of the celebration, the Pine Bluff School District’s Linda Watson, the superintendent, honored the group at a luncheon, which was attended by some of the original steering committee members. They are: Chairman of the Committee Pat Brown and members Bettie Mildred Pierce, Pat Reese, Joyce Holloway and John Jacob. Other members of the steering committee included Vivian Howard, Charlie Johnson, Shirley Twiss, Sue Smith, Bobbi Goldman, Sue Trotter and Lanier Stevens.

Standing ovation for these folks who pulled this entity together four decades ago. We are indebted to you, and we are all better because of you. Thank you, VIPS!