ASG Senate narrowly passes ethics bill

In the late minutes of ASG’s Tuesday meeting, the first new piece of legislation that was passed is intended to define what conflict of interest means to the senators.

The Ethics Reform Bill of 2006 was narrowly approved by the Senate in a 16-15 vote. The numbers were slightly skewed, as eight members of the Senate left before the meeting ended, a little after 10 p.m. One senator abstained from voting.

The bill describes a “conflict of interest” as “an action of ASG which includes … financial business of an individual group or RSO [that], may directly affect, presently or in the future, a specific group or RSO of which an ASG agent is a member.”

Sen. Robbie Jones, the author of the new bill, had spent the last week redefining his bill as to make the language clearer.

Several senators said they were unsure as to what “conflict of interest” meant, as well as ways in which those conflicts directly affect ASG members, especially in the future.

Despite the close vote and arguments, Jones said he was happy that the bill was approved by the Senate.

“I think this is something the Senate has needed to implement for a while,” Jones said. “I’m glad we can start things off on the right foot.”

The loudest opposition to the bill came from Sen. Jonathon Powell, who argued not that the bill was unclear, but that it was not the job of the Senate to interpret the code and constitution of ASG. It is, in fact, a clear violation of the ASG code and constitution to make any such interpretation, he said.

“I object to it because it violates the code and constitution. The only right the constitution gives the Senate is to write bills and resolutions,” Powell said.

He said he has no objections against the bill and thinks the bill itself is a good thing.

“It’s not that I don’t support the bill. I am all about making people responsible for their actions,” Powell said.

Senators have gone outside the realm of their authority if they begin to interpret the constitution, he said.

The Senate should wait until a possible violation of conflict of interest happens during the Senate meetings and then take that case to the Associated Student Government Judicial Board, which will set a precedent for the issue.

Senate Chair Kris Zibert also thinks the bill was not necessary because of its inappropriateness on the Senate floor.

“I feel if someone is violating the ethics code and is in conflict of interest you should report them to ASGJ for review, Zibert said. “You can’t prevent conflict of interest from the procedural side. It’s not in my authority.”

Zibert stressed that it wasn’t right to try to prevent people from voting in Senate votes.

“I would not want anybody to have the power to say who can vote. It’s way too easy to abuse.”

Andrew Humphrey was one member who voted against the bill. He said he voted no on Bill 2 because it was trying to turn the Senate into the judicial board.

“Basically, what they were trying to pass was an interpretation. Of course, an interpretation is an opinion,” Humphrey said, who also stressed that it is ASGJ that should write opinions.

Jones’ attitude and composure won him a vote from at least one senator who didn’t seem too concerned with whose job it is to make interpretations.

Jones is a member of the Young Democrats, the biggest RSO in the Senate, and a group which stands to lose the most if an issue arises in which they are involved, said Sen. Bradley Diggs.

“He showed his belief [in the bill] by supporting it. The bill could shoot anybody in the foot and if he believes in it that much, then I thought, ‘Go for it.'”

While the bill defines what a “conflict of interest” is, Jones said it will not prevent those senators who might be guilty of violating the bill from participating in the voting process.

“If a person wants to break the ethics they swore to uphold, then that’s their moral problem,” Jones said.

The idea of the responsibility of senators to be honest was one of the few things the opposing groups agreed on.

“We need to trust those in the system to have integrity, to abide by ethics and the spirit of the rules and procedures,” Zibert said.

Zibert said that it is the job of the ASGJ to rule on the appropriate punishment for those who violate conflicts of interest. Since the restructuring of ASG three years ago, only one violation has been brought to the ASGJ and there was no ruling made by the board.

Powell said he and others plan to take the bill to ASGJ in the following weeks in hopes of having it declared unconstitutional.

To bring the issue to the ASGJ, Powell and the opposition party need 100 student signatures, a majority vote from the Senate, or one signature from an executive, he said.

– Arkansas Traveler, Sept. 29, 2006

[Original Article available here.]

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NOTABLE NEIGHBOR: ‘Wildflower Lady’ helps city bloom

EUREKA SPRINGS — Walking through the lobby of the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, Georgette Garner stops every few seconds to talk to one person and then the next. There’s a conference for local mayors at the hotel, and Garner gets busy, encouraging the municipal leaders to begin gardening projects in their cities.

As co-chairman of the city’s America in Bloom beautification program, she’s pushing hard for more cities to become involved with the competition. Lush lawns and gardens at the base of the his- toric Crescent and elsewhere in town are evidence that Garner gets what she wants.

Last year, Eureka Springs was selected from hundreds of entries nationwide for America in Bloom’s Yoder Brothers Heritage Preservation Award. The city is set to host America in Bloom’s 2006 Educational Symposium and Awards Program on Sept. 28-30.

It’s the first time a city so small has landed the honors, and Garner intends to make the most of it.

“[America in Bloom ] is a chance to show your town off to professionals. It’s civic pride because you get excitement in the community [and ] excitement for the town,” says Garner, who sought retirement in Eureka Springs.

She’s earned her moniker, “The Wildflower Lady,” by planting wildflowers at the King’s River bridge in Eureka Springs. She says she started with just a small patch, then “just got so excited” that she began to ask for donations to cover the entire area. Before long, she had turned the area around the eroded bridge into a wildflower paradise. “I just started raising money. I spoke to everybody I could and I told them, ‘ If you buy the seeds, I’ll plant it. ’” She’s since spread her work over 100 or more sites across Carroll County. “I just started creating an atmosphere,” she says. Garner worked closely with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and is willing to teach others how to make the relationship work. She and the department’s assistant chief of engineers, Ralph Hall, will share common goals of the “Stop Littering” and “Operation Wildflower” programs during the forthcoming America in Bloom symposium. Whether it’s trash or tulips, Garner believes community involvement is crucial to creating beautiful and aesthetically pleasing projects. “I just like the idea of people helping each other out and having a fun time. It’s neighbor helping neighbor.”

Notable Neighbor highlights the unusual accomplishments and contributions Northwest Arkansas residents make to the area.

– Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sept. 3, 2006.

[Original profile available here.]

What’s The Slobberhouse?

“Slobberchops” means “messy eater.” Really though, it just sounds cool. That’s why I began using it as my Nome-de-Internet. The Slobberhouse is the messy site (it’s the beta version!) that serves as my online portfolio of articles and designed pages. There’s also a little bio, a few  “Bits and Pieces,” and photography (coming soon!).

Taking The Slobberhouse Tour?

Articles are categorized by the publication in which they appeared. Some of the publications have a complete list of pieces I ‘ve written, which can be found under the “More Work” section. Most of my work from New Zealand isn’t available online, so I’ve repackaged it here.  My page design PDFs can be downloaded by following the posts and links under the “Page Design” Category.

The Slobberhouse is also a cache for my columns; work that is unavailable online; and/or facing possible deletion. My columns and articles for New Zealand papers are compiled here under “The Monkey King Dances.” There’s no real excuse for the title besides the fact it’s a hat tip to George Plimpton.

I’ve also compiled the columns written from my days at the University of Arkansas’ student newspaper the Arkansas Traveler. Since the get-go, the column was called “A Confederacy of Students” and so shall it remain.

As for the originally unavailable work – mostly ad features and short news stories – I’ve retyped them from the hardcopy. It was very hard.

How To Play Cricket: As explained to a foreigner…

“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!”: