Apparently the thought of a civil election cycle in Jefferson County is one local politicians just can’t countenance. Each time the November ballot comes around the various factions are wont to settle things with trite proxy battles and accusations of impropriety.

Apparently the thought of a civil election cycle in Jefferson County is one local politicians just can’t countenance. Each time the November ballot comes around the various factions are wont to settle things with trite proxy battles and accusations of impropriety.


The kerfuffle du jour concerns placement of campaign signs in the flower beds on the edge of the Jefferson County courthouse parking lot. One side of the dispute argues that the flower beds are within the city right-of-way and thus cannot be used to contain political signs. The other holds that such placement has been a long-standing practice.


Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth explained her position to The Commercial: "After learning that campaign signs had been placed there, we contacted [Assistant Manager] Rick Rhoden with the street department and asked him to remove any signs in that flower bed," Hollingsworth said. "Well, [Ward 3 Alderman] Glen Brown [Sr.] showed up and confronted him about removing the signs. Then I came up and he started in on me."


Hollingsworth said Glen Brown Sr. was swearing at Rhoden while Rhoden was trying to work. Glen Brown Sr. denied that he was swearing.


Hollingsworth said that she then called Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks and asked him to come to the courthouse.


"After the police got there, needless to say, the signs got picked up," Hollingsworth said.


For his part, Brown characterizes the move as hypocrisy on Hollingsworth’s part.


"Mayor Hollingsworth campaigned in front of the courthouse then, so why is she trying to stop us from doing so now?" Glen Brown Sr. said. "I want the question to be, ‘what has changed today from all of the other years,’ especially because it was allowed before."


Hollingsworth responded by noting that her campaign removed her signs upon learning that they might be illegally placed.


In a predictable bit of histrionics, Brown chose to frame the matter as a rights violation, "I don’t take kindly to people pushing authority on me," Glen Brown Sr. said. "Because this is a free country."


As nearly two years worth of interrupted and fractious city council meetings under Hollingsworth’s lead demonstrate, Brown doesn’t readily assent to any ordering principle save for his own. Life in a free country and carte blanche to petulantly disrupt public order are not the same thing.


State Rep. the Rev. Henry "Hank" Wilkins IV also wandered in to the fray. He told The Commercial that the city should have contacted each campaign to have them remove the signs. Not a bad idea. Like a cop giving you a warning ticket. Additionally, Wilkins did provide a bit of useful perspective.


"You would think that this would have been sorted out a long time ago," Wilkins said. "Whether in fact signs can be placed there or not, there were much better ways to handle this situation…There is a way to do this that doesn’t add fuel to the fire and cause conflict unnecessarily. That type of action does not serve the process of progress."


We fully agree with that sentiment.


Since this conflagration erupted, Jefferson County Judge Dutch King has asked Jefferson County Attorney Jackie Harris to study the matter.


"I am still looking at the relevant law, but I believe that there is a city ordinance that is applicable to this situation as long as it is consistent with state law," Harris said. "I am still researching state law on the topic."


Hopefully, Harris’ research will settle this once and for all.


Such dust-ups at the Courthouse do little to encourage voters to vote early. Casting a ballot should not involve so much drama.