Key State and Local Events in December and January

State capitol building in Little Rick, Arkansas. Aerial view. Credit: TheShiv76/Pixabay

December and early January bring several government-related events, local and state, for Pine Bluff residents to have on their radars. The events pertain to the city council, support for business innovation, local revitalization, education, and the state legislature. Four main events and their related context are below.

December 17, 2018

Pine Bluff City Council Meeting

Monday, December 17, 2018, at 5:30 p.m.
City Hall / City Council Chambers
200 East 8th Avenue
Pine Bluff, AR 71601

One of the notable items on the agenda is the discussion of a local government business innovation hub and whether to contract it out to Go Forward Pine Bluff’s (GFPB’s) The Generator to run the hub. Update added December 23, 2018: This item was withdrawn from the December 17 agenda at the request of its sponsors; the council is expected to discuss it at a later date.

GFPB is a not-for-profit born of the task force of the same name; the task force was an arm of the Simmons Foundation, a not-for-profit with ties to Simmons Bank. GFPB partnered with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock ‘s Institute for Advancement (IEA). IEA provided oversight and guidance to the task force’s research and factors to consider for local economic issues.

In June 2016, Pine Bluff voters approved a sales tax increase that was designated to pursue local measures that the GFPB task force had recommended. The measures were aimed toward improving local economic conditions, repairing and removing properties in disrepair, and improving quality of life.

After the voter approval for the city to act on task force recommendations, the GFPB not-for-profit organization was formed. They now have a public-private partnership with the City of Pine Bluff. The Generator, devoted to business support and innovation, is an arm of GFPB.

December 20, 2018

Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Board Meeting
Discussion and Possible Vote on Whether to Waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act

Thursday, December 20, 2018, at 10:00 a.m.
ADE, Arch Ford Building
4 Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201

ADE will meet to revisit and make a decision on whether to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act (TFDA) for the Pine Bluff and Little Rock School Districts. The TFDA provides employment protections meant to guard against unfair terminations and other employment matters. The act also provides due process such as notification of termination; due process also provides an avenue for teachers who wish to speak for themselves before the school board and/or learn more about the termination or disciplinary measures.

The ADE Board will consider whether to waive TFDA for these two districts based on proponents’ arguments that school underperformance and faculty performance correlate. Opponents argue that teachers deserve due process; many will also point out that the difficulties of teaching do not correlate with students’ preparedness for academics.

At the time of this post, a meeting agenda was not available through ADE’s website; the office could not be reached by phone shortly before publication.

Update added December 23, 2018: The ADE Board voted to waive the TFDA for these school districts.

December 20, 2018

Go Forward Pine Bluff (GFPB) / Unveiling of Master Plan

Thursday, December 20, 2018, at 5:30 p.m.
The New Community Theatre
207 West 2nd Street
Pine Bluff, AR 71601

As described above, GFPB is a not-for-profit partnered with the City of Pine Bluff with objectives to improve economic and living conditions in the city. This Master Plan has been one of the centerpieces of their proposal and a product long in the making. GFPB will present the plan in the The New Community Theatre which just recently re-opened after major renovations.

Starting in January of 2019

Regular Session of the 92nd General Assembly

The Regular Session 2019 to convene for first time on Monday, January 14, 2019
Arkansas State Capitol / Arkansas General Assembly
1 Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201

Legislators were able to start filing new bills starting on November 15, 2018. Tens of bills (almost 50 at the time of this post) have been filed already; they cover a wide array of topics.

 

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