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It is an old English tale of bad children getting "lumps of coal" in their stocking rather than a tasty gift of "sweet breads or candy."

But I'll be handing out the 2019 holiday gifts -- both good and bad -- deciding who deserves that "lump of coal," or a "sweet candy cane."

• The biggest lump of coal goes to former State Rep. Mickey Gates (R-Hot Springs) as he was finally, removed from the Arkansas state House of Representatives for failing to pay his taxes. It took a full house vote to eject him from his elected seat -- only the 2nd time in the state's history for such action.

• A candy cane for House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) for staying the ethical course and spearheading the drive to remove Gates.

• A lump of coal for Gov. Asa Hutchinson -- who has apparently joined the forces of the Trump Administration seeking massive cuts to the federal food stamp program. Food insecurity is found all over our state.

• A candy cane for State Rep. Charlene Fite. She deserves one for her on-going work for the deaf in our state. Fite was recently honored as only the second person ever, to receive the highest award for service to deaf and hearing impaired citizens in our state.

• A lump of coal to Secretary of State John Thurston -- who promised a new day to the Secretary of State's office but can't seem to find out who has a 'Keyless' to by-pass security officers to gain access to the State Capitol.

• A candy cane for the women's bi-partisan coalition of House members, among them local members Megan Godfrey, Charlene Fite, Robin Lundstrum, Denise Garner and Nicole Clowney. All raised the issue of domestic violence with new bills and awareness in the past session. Not enough can be said of this new-found power among the female members of the House.

• A lump of coal for Washington County Judge Joseph Wood on jamming a $30,000 pay raise through for County Attorney Brian Lester.

• An even bigger lump of coal to Brian Lester, for his often slow action and dim-witted legal sense of the law. (See above.).

• A candy cane for Judge Stacy Zimmerman, the chief administrative judge for the Washington-Madison County District. She still takes time to dispense books for the younger children who appear (not as plaintiffs or defendants) in her court.

• A candy cane for Gov. Hutchinson for some changes at AETN through his appointments of former State Sen. John Brown III of Siloam Springs, Fayetteville attorney Wes Doss, and Dr. Kathryn Jones of Bentonville to the AETN Board.

• A candy cane for State Sen. Jim Hendren of Gravette for solidly holding the ethics line in the state Senate after a decade of slippery deals, insider dealings and theft of General Improvement Funds that landed a handful of former Arkansas elected officials in federal prisons.

• A lump of coal to the Washington County Quorum Court members and Judge Joseph Wood for ignoring the call to hire an archivist for the County Archives. He then hosted a county birthday reception, and later a Christmas party with free tours of the County Archives for the public.

• A lump of coal for the continued violations of the state's Freedom of Information Act by several of the justices of the Washington County Quorum Court -- especially Justice of the Peace Willie Leming of Lincoln -- in back room dealing on the estimated $10 million two-way radio contract for the Sheriff's office, emergency responders and county fire officials.

• Readers of this column deserve a candy cane for still holding and reading a community-based weekly newspaper each week.

I guess this columnist deserves a lump of coal for being such a grump here at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas!

-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 12/25/2019

Print Headline: Coal or candy cane?

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