An anonymous correspondent files this report on Thursday’s meeting of the council that distributes money raised for state cultural and heritage projects by the real estate transfer tax.
Janet Huckabee and her staff (P. Allen Smith, Don Bingham) showed up at the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council’s funding meeting today (Thursday) to present their application for $1.3 million to totally relandscape the Gov’s Mansion. They arrived late to the meeting, held at the Municipal League headquarters; it was standing-room only, and Janet literally turned one gentleman out of his seat so she could sit down. When Richard Davies, Parks and Tourism Director and Council member, suggested that the Mansion project award be reduced to stay within the council’s budget, Janet got extremely agitated, even suggesting to Davies (without a trace of humor) that she would “remember this when your appointment is up for renewal.” She interrupted the proceedings several times to complain that the council was holding back some of its funds. Typical boorish behavior– too bad she hasn’t figured out that nobody gives a damn about her or her pet projects any more.
There didn’t appear to be any press at this meeting, although it was all recorded by the staff of the Department of Heritage. Janet has lost any pretense of class in these last months of the Huck administration.
Well, we weren’t there. And, yes, Janet Huckabee is nothing if not direct. Not to mention persuasive, given her strong personality and the office held by her husband. But we checked with another person at the meeting. His take was that Janet and Richard have long years of association and the remark was meant in jest, but she’s just not exactly a pro at comic timing or delivery. (It is, after all, no secret that agency directors serve at the pleasure of the guv.)
Bottom line: The Mansion landscaping project got $1.2 million of the $1.31 requested. There was sympathy for the request because of 1) the damage done to grounds by a tornado some years ago; 2) heavy use of the facility; 3) lingering sympathy for the huge project that First Lady has not been able to bring to fruition, a new “executive mansion” on the grounds for private living quarters.
The council had more than $33 million in requests for about $18 million in grant money. Among other big individual projects, ASU’s Lakeport plantation project got another $1.25 million and $1 million went to UA Fort Smith for restoration of the historic Drennen-Scott home in Van Buren. UA’s request for $1.9 million for Old Main exterior restoration got trimmed back to $750,000, among other major individual project cuts.