Arkansas should honor the most honorable

Sen. James Paul Clarke's statue at the U.S. Capitol, near the entrance.
Sen. James Paul Clarke’s statue at the U.S. Capitol, near the entrance.
By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Congress a few years ago spent $600 million to build a visitors center at the Capitol, and one of the first things those visitors see is a statue honoring an Arkansan whose views on race came from his own time, and need to stay there.

James Paul Clarke was Arkansas’ 18th governor from 1895-96 and then served more than two terms in the U.S. Senate after the turn of the century. He was president pro tempore of the Senate, broke with his party to support the Panama Canal, and supported progressive legislation, including opposing literacy tests for immigrants.

Castro’s death moves Cuba farther into the market for Arkansas rice, ideas

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Fidel Castro is dead. How does that affect people in Arkansas? Maybe a lot, especially if they work in the rice industry or are elected to represent people who do.

Cuba’s 11 million people import 400,000 tons of rice each year, mostly from Vietnam, which means the rice arrives after a long boat ride from a country on the other side of the globe. Rep. Rick Crawford’s eastern Arkansas 1st District includes half of America’s rice acreage, so it’s understandable that his reaction to Castro’s death focused on the future, not the past.

“Fidel Castro’s death is an opportunity for America to end its ineffective policies so we can influence the future direction of that nation,” he tweeted, then added, “Through my own visits to Cuba I’ve seen people ready for change. With Fidel dead, America needs to help lead Cuba toward a better future.”

From only one party to mostly one party

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

They say it’s always darkest before dawn. After this year’s election, and the days afterwards, Democrats in Arkansas have to be wondering if they’ve reached that point, or if it’s still only about 3 a.m.

Republicans, of course, won the presidential election in Arkansas, easily won the U.S. Senate race, and were re-elected in all four congressional races, three of which didn’t even produce a Democratic opponent.

As of the morning after the election, Republicans had picked up nine seats in the state House of Representatives, giving them 73 out of 100, and two seats in the Senate, giving them 26 out of 35. In 2008, Democrats controlled 102 of the 135 seats.

Giving thanks for foster kids’ caseworkers

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

While most of us this week will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with our families, 5,200 children in Arkansas also will be fed a meal – but not by their parents.

That’s the number of children who are in the state’s foster care system, and it’s risen by more than 1,000 since 2014. According to Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie, the system “truly is in a crisis.”

What’s happening is not so much that more children are entering the system, though they are, but that much fewer are leaving it.

Gillespie and her Division of Children and Family Services director, Mischa Martin, say a major cause is a declining number of front-line caseworkers who work with children and their families, biological and foster. In Arkansas, they average 28 cases apiece when the national standard is 15.