Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

EDITORIAL >> Rename Arkansas?

In the old days it was considered graceless to name government projects for the boss. Such honors were bestowed rarely and posthumously or at least after the leaderís career was over.

At the end of his 12 years as Supreme Leader of Arkansas, in 1966, Gov. Orval E. Faubus arranged, so it was said, for a new state mental health facility that would perch on the hill above West Markham Street in Little Rock to be named the Orval E. Faubus Administrative and Intensive Treatment Center. Faubus disclaimed putting any pressure on the State Hospital Board to name the building after him. But he need not have bothered.

He had appointed friends to every position on the board.
Gov. Huckabee, in his 10th year as governor, enjoys the same rare privilege. He is the third governor, after Faubus and Bill Clinton, to fill every honorary appointment in all of state government, and it is paying off in the nomenclature of government facilities. Last week, the Game and Fish Commission dedicated a new 11-acre pond in a park in Hope, which happens to be the governorís home town.

His friends on the Game and Fish Commission named the little body of water, which was developed at a cost of $520,000 of the taxpayersí money, the Mike and Janet Huckabee Lake. Huckabee had supported a sales tax increase that provided the funds for the little impoundment.
The commissioners told the couple about their plans to name the water after them, and the Huckabees said they did not mind at all.
Appointment to a 10-year-term on the Game and Fish Commission is one of the great dispensations at the governorís disposal. The appointments are highly sought and hugely appreciated.

Already, the commission has named a nature center at Pine Bluff after Huckabee, and next year another nature center at Fort Smith will be named for Mrs. Huckabee. Other Huckabee appointees named a new building at the Arkansas School for the Blind for Huckabee. We predict that there will be more. The state Highway Commission will surely name a stretch of interstate for him. Defeat of the Huckabee-backed $250 million college-building bond issues three weeks ago may have kept his name off a campus facade or two.

Except for Huckabee and Faubus, Arkansas governors have not had their names stuck on government buildings or other taxpayer-financed state facilities. An exception would be the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, but the name was applied by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, none of whose members he appointed, 22 years after he left the governorís office and for his work as a U. S. senator in bringing tens of millions of grants to the university for agricultural research.
The name was applied as Bumpers was retiring from the Senate.

As governor for four years, Bumpers directed the biggest building program in the stateís history at universities, trade schools, state parks and medical facilities. He discouraged universities and agencies from naming any after him.

When the University of Arkansas wanted to name its College of Arts and Sciences after its most famous alumnus, former Senator J. William Fulbright, long after defeat had ended his political career, Fulbright objected, saying that the school would be beset by all the controversies surrounding his long career in national life.

A delegation finally persuaded him to relent, although he disagreed with them that his illustrious name would lend important prestige to the institution. It has.

How times have changed. No one any longer considers it graceless or impudent for government minions to name taxpayer-financed facilities for the leader. It is merely one of the fruits of the vast patronage given a governor who has served so much longer than the average political leader and who is still climbing, or hopes to climb.