Tuesday, August 17, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Emulate O’Brien

Emulate O’Brien

Finally, there is a public official and politician who makes perfect sense in the great state-car war. Well, actually Pat O’Brien is the second one, after Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette broke its story in May about the use of government cars by state officials, Halter revealed that he had always paid state and federal income taxes on the courtesy car that the state provided him.

Since then, almost everyone who entered the fray, from the foolish responses of the attorney general and state treasurer to Jim Keet, who tried to make political hay of the story, has embarrassed themselves, or they should have been embarrassed.

O’Brien, the Pulaski County clerk who is running for secretary of state, did not make wild promises about transforming the government, which his ministerial office will not permit him to do, but he did make sense.

He does not drive a county car and he will not drive a state car as past secretaries of state have done. He won’t take mileage reimbursement for travel from his Jacksonville home to the Capitol. All the employees in the secretary of state’s office who use a state car — there are 27 cars — will sign a pledge not to use it for personal travel. Each car will have a conspicuous emblem on the doors and a plate that says “For Official Business Only.” That will be true even of the state Capitol police, who use the cars daily. He will review the need for every car and in six months, based on his current knowledge, he thinks he will turn back up to 30 percent of the vehicles.

That ought to be the policy throughout state government and most people must be surprised that it wasn’t. If Gov. Beebe would announce simply that it would be the policy throughout state government, we could go back to worrying about Medicaid and the destruction of state roads.