One family’s calling to serve the least of these

Project Zero
Donald and Jennifer White with, from left, Lilly, Keelan, Michael and Aiden.

By Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

The number of Arkansas foster children waiting to be adopted has fallen to 343 as of Saturday, and Donald and Jennifer White are the reason it’s not 347.

The Little Rock couple finalized their second two-sibling adoption April 26 by welcoming brothers Keelan, 4, and Aiden, 3, into their family.

Like their new older siblings, Michael, 10, and Lilly, 6, the two brothers first came into the home as foster children. When parental rights were terminated, the Whites adopted them.

“They felt like they were a part of us,” Jennifer said. “We felt like they were a part of us, so it just made sense.”

The Whites became foster parents about a decade ago after a friend underwent the preparation process and alerted them to the need. At the time they had two sons, 12 and 10, and hadn’t really thought about fostering. But their interest was sparked by that friend and by Bible passages like Matthew 25, where Jesus speaks of “the least of these.”

“I know what our Creator wants us to do,” Donald said, “and that’s what I’m designed to try to do with His ability.” Continue reading One family’s calling to serve the least of these

Seeking signatures, not funnel cakes, at Toad Suck Daze

Michael Pakko
Dr. Michael Pakko, right, and Joe Swafford, left, seek signatures at Toad Suck Daze.

By Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Dr. Michael Pakko doesn’t have a problem getting people’s attention when he stands before Arkansas business leaders to give his annual state economic forecast. Last Saturday was a little harder.

On that day, he was asking voters to sign a petition qualifying his Libertarian Party for next year’s ballot while standing in front of a vendor that was selling funnel cakes and other items at Toad Suck Daze in Conway.

Pakko is chief economist and state economic forecaster at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

He’s also the state Libertarian Party chairman, which became harder this year with the passage of Act 164. It increased the number of signatures third parties must collect for ballot access from 10,000 to almost 26,750 in a 90-day period. Continue reading Seeking signatures, not funnel cakes, at Toad Suck Daze

Highway tax supporters might keep this in mind

By Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Supporters of the legislatively referred constitutional amendment that’s most likely to pass in 2020 might want to think about how they’ll distance their proposal from the two that probably won’t.

The one that’s most likely to pass would indefinitely extend a half-cent sales tax for highways. Voters first passed the tax with 58 percent support in 2012 to fund the Connecting Arkansas Program, but it’s due to expire in 2023. Pre-legislative session polling by supporters found an extension had similar support. Gov. Asa Hutchinson made fixing roads a priority this session. The state’s most powerful business groups were big supporters. Lawmakers were hearing from constituents who want the potholes filled.

In response, legislators placed the extension on the 2020 ballot – one of three proposals the Constitution allows them to make.

One problem for highway supporters could be the other two. Continue reading Highway tax supporters might keep this in mind

Did you know there’s an election coming up?

Alabama, blue wave, school boards, Hixson, Breanne, red tide, judicial electionsBy Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Elections are approaching, but they won’t be covered by the 24-hour national news stations. You won’t see 30-second ads on any Arkansas TV stations, either.

I’m talking about the annual school elections, which will be May 21. Early voting begins May 14.

When it comes to political glamor, school board elections rank somewhere around the county clerk’s race. The state’s nearly 1,500 board members don’t run under party labels and aren’t paid for their service. (Pay varies across the country. Many make nothing. In Mississippi, they get $67 per meeting or a flat $2,400 a year. In Los Angeles, they received a 174 percent raise in 2017 to $125,000.) In Arkansas, board members have no power individually and no power when not participating in a called meeting. If you complain to your board member about some issue at school, he or she is supposed to direct you to someone who gets paid to fix it.

But they do play important roles. Probably their most important is hiring and firing the superintendent. They work with school administrators to pass a budget and set policy (while being constrained by many state and federal dictates). School boards decide when it’s time to ask the community for a millage increase to pay for a new building. There is evidence that good boards are associated with improved student performance. Continue reading Did you know there’s an election coming up?