Dishonesty is alive and well in Hot Springs: proposing the facility is in a suitable location and well suited to be used as a Homeless Resource Center. Harsh word, "dishonesty"; some will be kinder and use "misleading." You choose.
City management placed this on the July 5 agenda without holding public hearings and minimal notice. Unless you subscribe to the S-R or city website, it is unlikely you know what they are proposing, or when. Furthermore, the meeting is immediately after Independence Day on a Wednesday. This is by design -- the bureaucrats only want people supporting the matter to be at the meeting. To substantiate this, consider that city board members were surprised at the weekly agenda meeting when this item was moved to the top of the list by the bureaucrats and placed on the agenda desiring, almost demanding, it is handled next week. This is because the bureaucrats want to pass it rapidly and minimize the opportunity for the public to voice objections.
Bad idea to begin with -- bad location, as it will disrupt a residential neighborhood that already has more than its share of problems and an unsuitable facility that will require millions in renovations to repurpose it. $1.3 million is projected to be spent for the project and then it will have to be subsidized for multiple years. City bureaucrats admit they will have to provide $100,000 or more annually from its operating budget to fund/subsidize operating costs. I submit $1.3 million won't be enough, and neither will the $100,000 annual subsidy.
The facility is beautiful; it's a church, and well suited as a church. To change it to a Homeless Resource Shelter will require extensive renovations including adding plumbing for showers, toilets, laundry facilities, asbestos mitigation, new ACs, a fire suppression system costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, etc.
During the agenda meeting, City Manager Burrough stated the last census of homeless was 140. Another unofficial report I heard was 436. The expenditure doesn't make sense for either number. He stated the city doesn't have an operator, but will send out requests for proposals if the purchase is approved. Initial funding will primarily come from pandemic funds -- what happens when the pandemic money is gone? Where will the funding come from then? Another mention was that there won't be any beds, or at least, not in the beginning.
Truth hurts. Truth here is they won't be providing beds for homeless, don't have anyone to operate the facility, implied they are dependent on local nonprofits/churches/community organizations, etc., don't have a formal architectural plan or detailed costs estimate to renovate the facilities, etc. Sounds a lot like buying "A pig in a poke."
This proposal appears similar to a couple of other boondoggles: 1. Majestic property they didn't purchase for $1.00 and later paid millions and then spent millions more and we have a vacant lot. 2. Our ever-increasing costs to increase our water supply.
With the city bureaucrats' track record, it's a good bet that $1.3 million is only a starting point.
Shine light on book bans
In April, the Saline County Quorum Court passed a resolution to remove books "deemed inappropriate" from the local libraries in Saline County. The resolution also gave the board the power to hire and fire library personnel. As of this writing, the issue is still being hotly debated in Saline County.
Make no mistake, residents of Garland County. A small, but loud group of people of this same mentality exist and will soon emerge in Garland County. You know the people. The ones who want to dictate how you raise your children, and tell you and your family what's right or wrong for you. They've weighed in on women's health and reproductive rights, and now they are coming for the books.
Perhaps I'm just old school, but as a lifelong library member in Garland County, I thought it was a pretty simple procedure: Go into the library, check out what you think you might enjoy reading, and let others do the same. These people don't see it that way.
I have a suggestion for our local library management: Follow all necessary protocols when someone comes in and objects to a book. Fill out the proper paperwork, be polite. Then forward the information including the name of the person wanting to have said book removed, along with the title of the book to The Sentinel-Record. Since this is public information and a hearing over the book's removal will have to be held, all of the rest of the taxpaying citizens of Garland County should have a right to know that information in advance so they might attend, ask questions, and voice their own opinions.
From the newspaper's standpoint, every Sunday divorces, marriages, civil cases, criminal cases, building permits, etc; are listed. These attempts at book removal should be also, as they are public information. This would give the public ample advance time to attend if they deemed it warranted.
The bottom line is in the current process, one single person can have any book they don't like removed, despite the fact that we all pay taxes to maintain our wonderful library system, and subsequently all share ownership of that piece of literature. That's grossly unfair, and under the current process, there is little notice or transparency involved.
From what I've seen and researched, most of these people haven't even read these books, certainly not in their entirety. They've heard something, or gone online and picked snippets of material and put them out of context. And that's fine. You don't want to read the book? Don't. You don't want your child to read the book? Don't let them. But quit telling others how to live their lives.
Recently I read a letter in your newspaper by Pat King. She expressed concern over Ms. Amy Shipman being elected onto the Garland County Library Council. She stated that she was worried about Ms. Shipman being a part of the council because she might approve of books concerning LGBTQ+ individuals. I don't understand what would be negative about this because these books are about real people living their lives. To want to get rid of these books will not help our community but would be detrimental. To want to exclude these books will erase the author's story, therefore, excluding them and revoking their First Amendment right.
Banning books is unconstitutional and has been proven to be detrimental to one's community in previous historical events such as Hitler. It concerns me that the people who want to ban books use the excuse of wanting to protect children. If they want to protect children, why are they so worried about books and not school shootings or drugs? I personally haven't heard of a book killing a child, but I have seen numerous events of school shootings and drug overdoses killing dozens. When I go to school I am not worried about books harming me, but I am worried about a school shooter.
Banning books from children is also detrimental to their mental health. Children can often connect with books and relate to them. Books have the power of helping people with any issues they are going through even if they are fictional. If a child reads about a character going through the same issue they are going through then they are able to connect with that character and find comfort within that book. I would like readers to understand that even though they might not approve of a book they have no right taking that book away from other people that need it.
I would also like to make the point that Ms. Shipman is a wonderful librarian and I know this because I have known her for over a decade and she is my school librarian. She is the best thing to ever happen to my school and she cares for her kids dearly. She strives to make the library a safe space and inclusive for everyone. She even created a youth council for the library (which I am a part of) in order to allow students to be a part of the library.
Also, what some don't realize is there is a process a book must go through in order to be put into a school library. This is to ensure that the book is appropriate for the age group, so the argument that librarians aren't going through any processes is useless. Overall, the main issue in the library is not the books, but the people who strive to ban them.
I agree with King that the library does offer a variety of fun stuff for patrons such as lawn and board games.
Your first vote
It is likely that if 2024 is your first presidential election opportunity, and you are 18, then your parents are probably in their middle to late 40s and your grandparents are somewhere in the '70s. While your first election cycle comes as our society is severely divided politically, it is impossible to know what kind of society will prevail seven cycles ahead when you are 46. Your parents will then be in their mid to late 70s and your children will be ready for their first few election cycles.
The question then is, what kind of political tolerance level will your generation accept? Will your seven future cycles be fraught with turmoil, as it is now? Or will your society have been able to restore a political tolerance level your great grandparent's generation would recognize? That is the challenge you have seven cycles to determine.
My generation will not be around to grade you, but your grandchildren will.
Send a message
I have seen a couple of articles this week about Republican members of the House in Washington adding riders and provisions to pending bills involving abortion restrictions, despite the fact that these bills have absolutely nothing to do with abortion. Just another example of obstructionism on the part of the Republican Party, and it's pretty much a guarantee that our four Arkansas representatives in D.C. -- Westerman, Hill, Crawford, and Womack -- will go right along with it.
The question I wish they would answer (of course they won't) is this:
Republicans applauded the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, even if it was done by a court that has recently proven itself anything but honorable. So why the need for federal legislation? You seemed very satisfied with the high court's opinion that it was a state issue.
Oh, I know why. There was that pesky little vote in Kansas. Who for some reason interpreted the court's decision as to actually letting the taxpaying voters of the state decide, rather than a legislative body. And Kansans answered resoundingly as to a women's independence over her body and medical decisions.
The bottom line is the current GOP will not stop until they have control over every aspect of your life -- your medical decisions, the books you read, you name it. Let's send them a message next year, and include Westerman, Hill, Crawford, and Womack in that message.
What would you do?
There once lived a man that at the age of 70 had approximately $200,000,000, maybe more. He had passed normal retirement age, but he kept on working. He could retire, play with the grandkids and enjoy life, but he decided not to. He had a beautiful wife and family, loved to play golf and loved to be around people. He had enough money that he could do most anything he wanted within reason, but he had a problem: a very oversized ego.
He relished the limelight and he wanted that limelight to shine on him and only him. He wanted people to love him and to be loyal only to him above all else. He became a very high government official. He became a wheeler-dealer, a big shot. No one could do anything better than he could and of course he wanted everyone to know it.
Then, because of his ego, he started committing various crimes. Crimes so serious that he could end up in jail ... all because of his oversized ego.
So, what would you do with $200,000,000?
Relax and take life easy, donate to a local charity, do something good, establish a foundation and operate it legally or worship status, power and money.
I don't know what I would do, but I would hope that I would have the intelligence not to do what he did.
Ask a simple question
When I was in private business, we had a simple and effective way to deal with problems. The first step: Identify the issue, and admit it is a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed. The second step was to sit down as a group and offer proposals and solutions to address the problem. The third was to reach a consensus on the most effective and actionable course to take. Next we implemented the steps we had chosen. Then, over time, we monitored the progress and effectiveness of those measures, and made adjustments accordingly.
Sadly, this is not the way our government in Washington works anymore.
Examples abound: Women's rights, gun reform, immigration, the list goes on and on. The people we've elected do not work together to better the lives of the American people, that has ceased to be their priority. Consolidation of power, money, and reelection are all they care about.
Let's take immigration as an example: The first thing is to admit we have a problem and a system that is not working. Everyone, including our own representative, Bruce Westerman, likes to talk about it come time to campaign for reelection. Yet neither party has done anything meaningful in decades.
Why? Because it's good business. If there wasn't a problem, what would there be to campaign on? Mark my words, next year Bruce Westerman and other candidates will talk about "getting tough" on immigration. Yet they'll offer no real proposals or ideas. It's just a campaign talking point to help get reelected.
After which time they'll do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
This happens at all levels of government. We've had candidate after candidate for our local board and mayoral elections promise to upgrade our streets and tackle the exorbitant rates Hot Springs Municipal Utilities charges. It gets them elected. And then they do nothing.
So when you go to the voting booth in 2024, ask yourself one question when you see the name of an incumbent: Has he or she done anything to improve your own quality of life and that of those around you? If the answer is no, simply vote for their opponent. The rationale is that they can't be any worse, and if politicians like Bruce Westerman figure out they can't continue to be reelected without keeping promises or making an effort to represent their constituents, then they can no longer safely hide in Congress or any elected office.