Archive for Letters

Against Jacksonville millage

t's very sad and unfortunate, but on Feb. 10 many Jacksonville residents on fixed incomes will wake up to find a small group approved what's being called a 14 percent to 19 percent hike in their property taxes in a special election that they were not expecting nor had they been aware of, since the March 1 SEC primary is just down the road.

Against Jacksonville millage

It's very sad and unfortunate, but on Feb. 10 many Jacksonville residents on fixed incomes will wake up to find a small group approved what's being called a 14 percent to 19 percent hike in their property taxes in a special election that they were not expecting nor had they been aware of, since the March 1 SEC primary is just down the road.

Early voting started Tuesday, Feb. 2, ahead of the Feb. 9 special 7.6 mills property tax increase election for the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District that doesn't take over from PCSSD until July 1.

The "Forward! February 9" slogan sounds like the marketing campaign for a new high-tech store and not an election date!

It's an election pushed by the Chamber of Commerce types — business leaders, city aldermen, school board members and the leaders of the Jacksonville Education Corps. They want voters to pay more taxes so the district can build a $60 million high school that they are pegging their hopes of economic growth in Jacksonville on.

There is a lot opposition on social media and around town to the tax grab. In fact, the election is becoming a referendum on the direction of the district, the perceived lack of transparency by the Education Corps and school board, who won't admit how much they are paying an election guru and spending on the campaign.

There is also the perception that the board and district leaders don't care about current school employees and the little people in town.

Opponents feel the school board and Education Corps leaders just want the little people to pay more taxes so they can continue to make money but not give back to the community, which has led to the current economic disaster for the city.

Most people agree Jacksonville High School and other schools should have been condemned years ago by city officials, which is part of the problem.

A lot of people have unaddressed issues with the tax increase. If you haven't been keeping up, then check out the Jacksonville area social media groups so you can decide if this is the right time to pay more taxes or the wrong plan at the wrong time pushed by the wrong people!

Keith Weber

Jacksonville

Clinton-Sanders 2016

Barring unforeseen acts of God, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president. However, the groundswell of support among young voters for Bernie Sanders might be used to Clinton's advantage in the general election. Hopefully she won't miss this opportunity to win the support of Sanders' voters. If Clinton is smart, and by all accounts she is, just ask certain Arkansas Times contributors, then she'll find a way to communicate with young voters. If Clinton takes the nomination, then turns her back on young, white, educated voters she'll lose a significant block. The way Clinton can win Bernie's supporters is to bring him on as her running mate in the general election. This would assure the continued involvement of Sanders' supporters working for the Clinton-Sanders race to the White House. It's interesting to think what might be accomplished with both of these strong liberal/progressive leaders occupying the executive office.

Richard Hutson

Cabot

Young people should vote in Arkansas

The lack of young voters in our state is appalling. Many in Little Rock are not aware of this, as Pulaski County has the highest youth voter turnout in the state. On average, only 20 percent of Arkansas's youths aged 18 to 25 shows up to vote at presidential elections, with even less showing up to [vote on] state government issues.

There are efforts that have been put into place by the government and state political groups. However, these are mostly focused in Pulaski County and have mostly been directed at those who have voted in the past, such as political phone calls made by volunteers from the Democratic Party of Arkansas or Republican Party of Arkansas, and seldom aimed at those who will be voting for the first time. Having worked briefly with the DPA in the past, I am aware of many of their efforts, such as running stations at Riverfest allowing people to register to vote. However, I have yet to see any efforts as such in the more rural areas of Arkansas.

If our state government passed a law requiring all eligible voters to register to vote, the voter turnout would almost inevitably increase, especially among young people. Requiring all youths to register within the month of their 18th birthday would hopefully encourage them to vote and become politically aware. This would not cost the state much money, and might even generate money if tickets were issued to those who failed to register.

Hanah Chilton Streett

Little Rock

From the web:

In response to Ernest Dumas' Jan. 28 column, "If Trump, Bernie are nominees":

If Bernie and The Donald are the nominees, the rest of us are going to be royally screwed, again, again and again, with no foreseeable end in sight!

RYD

I know everyone at the Times loves the Clintons, but we count on you guys to do better than the other news sources. The Times has been as bad as any other news source, including Fox, at disparaging Sanders' views, repeating the word "socialist" as though Sanders' view is the same as Stalin's. I've heard otherwise reasonable people say they would like to vote for Hillary, but if Sanders wins the primary, they'd vote for Trump, because "I could never vote for a socialist."

If that comes to pass, will the Times take any responsibility for its part? Will you be able to backpedal enough to convince your readers to give Sanders a chance after all? Will you endorse Trump, too?

Morris

In that regard, I would suggest that Ernie Dumas write a column pointing out just what Bernie Sanders' "democratic socialism" means.

plainjim

So far, democratic socialism has worked just fine: Social Security, Medicare, national highways, monuments, parks, forests, civil rights, strategic oil reserves, FAA, SEC, FCC, urban renewal, post office, telecommunications and so on.

Up here in Chickenopolis, locals love democratic socialism so much they went whole hog and let people vote on city taxes financing a professional baseball stadium. Then they got some federal democratic socialism to put in nice streetlights and extend the runways of the local airport. Chickenopolis loves some socialism.

elWood

In response to Gene Lyons' Jan. 28 column, "For Hillary":

Hillary Clinton is the best candidate if you want to see the problems in this country managed. Managing the problems keeps the status quo firmly in place and allows those at the top to continue the economic division of the haves and the have nots.

Bernie Sanders wants to identify the problems and actually do something about them. He may not be able to do a lot about actually fixing them, but they have to first be identified, and Hillary simply isn't going to identify them, much less look for solutions.

Vanessa

I'll agree that Hillary is, by far, the most complete candidate in the race. No doubt, she could handle the job on day 1, hour 1.

I do wish she wasn't as hawkish as she is, though, and I wish she was much less cozy with Wall Street.

I know, wish in one hand and do something in the other and see which fills up faster.

Rick Fahr

Campaign finance reform needed

Six years ago the Supreme Court struck down campaign finance regulations that opened federal, state and local elections to increased political spending and less disclosure.

Campaign finance reform needed

Six years ago the Supreme Court struck down campaign finance regulations that opened federal, state and local elections to increased political spending and less disclosure. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, politicians from both major parties have increasingly relied on contributions from super PACs and organizations that spend undisclosed money on elections. According to reports by the New York Times, half of all early spending in the 2016 race has come from just 158 families and the corporations they control.

Fortunately, actions are being taken across the country to combat the problems that Citizens United raised and with broad based support. One study from Bloomberg illustrated that 80 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats opposed the decision. It makes sense that sixteen states and over 600 communities nationwide have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. In Arkansas, there have been attempts to curtail the power of Citizens United with ethics and finance reform at the state level. Despite making it onto the ballot and passing legislation, we have yet to see effective reforms to our campaign finance system. For these reasons, I would not be surprised to see a much needed attempt to restructure Arkansas's campaign finance laws in the next election. It would be nice to see 2016 be the year our democracy is "of the people, by the people, and for the people" once again.

Kent Strickland

Little Rock

From the web:

In response to last week's cover story, "A bigger, better Arkansas Arts Center":

It would feel better if the Arts Center and its affiliates were connected to the community within which it exists. I personally used to hang out around McArthur Park until they got tired of looking at black kids hanging around their upscale venue and replaced us with the dog park. I would say let the dog owners pay for it, but since my grandchildren visit the center from their school across town I'll leave that for later.

depthtaz

"To be a member of the Arts Center Board of Trustees — a city commission — you've got to come up with a yearly donation of $5,000 and another $5,000 'give or get.' " 

Same folk pushing the destruction of downtown by interstate expansion. A favorite quote and truism: "LR is run out of the men's locker room at the Country Club of Little Rock."

Diogenes

The Committee for Arts and History has zero, much less "total transparency." To wit, its pathetic, thoughtless website (forartsandhistory.com) fails to list the "nearly 400" "honorary co-chairs" or any "fundraising and expenses" — all of which is also omitted from its Facebook page. Instead of being "transparent" via informative links to such Committee basics, its unattractive website restricts visitors to a single link: "Join." Duh. An incestuous, in-grown city and state that persist as civic bottom-feeders, not leaders.

djordan

In response to Ernest Dumas' Jan. 21 column, "Learning to love the Donald":

Many will be surprised that Trump will turn out to be a fantastic president.

Clem Hooten

Great? Only when monkeys fly out your ass. Cruz and most of the other candidates all have potential ranging from good to average.

Only Trump can ruin the country and not only get us in a war without allies, but could lose the war as he bankrupts the country.

Then he will retire in the south of France and laugh at all the tools, fools and idiots who supported him.

Steven E

In response to Gene Lyons' Jan. 21 column, "Rainbow stew":

Bernie Sanders is telling the truth. He's the only candidate who wants to do something besides manage the problems that this country faces. He wants to solve them. In order to solve them they first have to be identified. Bernie Sanders is doing that, and the truth is catching on.

Vanessa

I must have missed the speech where Bernie said he hated rich people. He does have a disdain for the extreme income inequality in this nation. No one needs to hate anyone to dislike income inequality that has arisen since Reagan, became worse under Clinton and really concentrated under Bush and grew some more under Obama.

eLwood

If Sanders was interested in winning at all costs, he'd tack to the center. He would also take corporate donations and Super PAC money. He has done none of those things because, unlike Hillary, he is not willing to sell his soul to win. Hillary, on the other hand, will pander wherever she needs to and say and do anything that she thinks will get her ahead. She'll take Wall Street money, no matter what strings are attached.

I had a higher opinion of Gene Lyons, but he has proven to just be another establishment Clinton apologist with this hit piece on Sanders. Am I really supposed to believe that Gene doesn't know the difference between Marxism and socialism? The Democratic Party establishment is afraid, and they have every reason to be. That's why they're unleashing these attacks on Bernie. The real left is coming for you, because they're sick of your empty promises and mediocrity. You're about to feel the Bern. I just spent an evening at Bernie's HQ right down the way from the Clinton Library with a room full of people that are ready to take the fight to Hillary. I didn't see any hippies or VW vans down there. I saw working people that are fed up and ready to do something about it.

KEET

A circus

The recent Republican debate was an absolute farce. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz battled it out like guests on Springer, Jeb Bush looked like the kid that didn't get picked for the kickball game, Ben Carson appeared to be napping on stage and Rand Paul flipped the bird at the media and refused to participate in the kiddie debate.

A circus

The recent Republican debate was an absolute farce. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz battled it out like guests on Springer, Jeb Bush looked like the kid that didn't get picked for the kickball game, Ben Carson appeared to be napping on stage and Rand Paul flipped the bird at the media and refused to participate in the kiddie debate. It's disheartening to think the Republicans have come to this. But more than that, it's disturbing to see so many Americans cheer on this circus that is the Republican primary race. I guess P.T. Barnum's words were true. There really is one born every second.

Richard Hutson

Cabot

What if?

Dale Bumpers was one of the first persons I met when I came to Arkansas. Martin Borchert, who lived next door, invited me over to meet him. He was then a low-ranked candidate for governor.

I was totally impressed.

I have also crossed paths with Mr. Clinton.

Both wanted to be president. Dale deferred.

How much better a president would Dale have been? We'll never know. But I think Dale also could have been elected. And I think he would have been better remembered historically.

History can't tell.

Edward Wooten

Little Rock

Funding the Arts Center

Here's another idea to put "on the table." What about selling the Arkansas Arts Center building to the Arts Center Foundation for some nominal sum, execute a long-term, mutually favorable ground lease, let them finance whatever improvements they wish with their vast personal resources and business contacts, exit a money-eater and create a money-maker for the city?  Many wonderful museums in the U.S. are privately owned by affluent private foundations, so the precedent certainly exists. Also, it strikes me as odd to maximize our local hotel tax to, essentially, benefit only one entity.  Where is the "public good" in that? And, finally, to impose this tax at the very time there are other local tax increases on the horizon seems overwhelming, as Arkansas already has the highest sales and excise tax rate in the nation.

Just thinking out loud.

Larry Lichty

Little Rock

From the web

In response to the Jan. 18 Arkansas Blog post, "A cold King Day in Little Rock, but plenty to do and think about":

It's funny how personal opinions can change over the years. I was prejudiced in my early life because that's how I was raised by my entire village growing up. Not lynching prejudiced, just whites are better than blacks prejudiced. There were no daily lessons at my father's knee or neighborhood meetings on how to keep the black race down; it was pretty much a normal childhood for most kids raised in the South of the 1950s and '60s.

Twenty-nine years ago tomorrow our oldest daughter was born, and probably not on that day, but soon afterward I learned she was born on Robert E. Lee's birthday. Something I was proud of, small P, and I remember being thankful, small T, that our daughter wasn't born on Martin Luther King's birthday. I put no real thought into all of that and I didn't worry that if she had shared King's birthday her skin would darken or hair would be kinky. My thoughts reflected my upbringing and after all, Mag and I are white people, you know.

But I finished growing up, and years before today I began feeling guilty for even worrying whose birthday she was born on. I share Julia Child's birthday but our only connection is that I have set fire to tea towels a time or two while trying to fix supper. Why did I spend a second being proud of her sharing Robert E. Lee's birthday? Didn't I have better things to do in 1987?

At that late date when I would have sworn I had conquered my medium racist upbringing, there I was, glad my baby hadn't been born on a famous black man's birthday! I don't know what was wrong with me. I guess I hadn't evolved and civilized myself enough, damn me.

Again, I remember my thoughts when I accidentally attended the first King parade back in the late '80s. It wasn't well organized and amounted to 10 or 15 carloads of black people waving homemade signs as they passed my business after dark with a police escort going about 40 miles per hour, honking their horns down our main street. I stood with six or seven other white guys and we laughed and shook our heads and thought the whole thing was pretty silly. Shame on me! Why did I join in mildly disrespecting the celebration of the most important modern man in black history? What did I gain? How did that make any human life better?

Well, at least after 50-plus years of living, I finally became civilized, I'm guessing, in the early 2000s. I'm still proud that I was in Little Rock the night Barack Obama was elected our first black president and that my family got to witness the unbridled jubilation of thousands of black residents of Pulaski County.

You know, my kids showed me the way by not seeing race. Mag and I raised them that way despite daddy's private slowness in coming around. It's the best thing Mag and I have pulled off as parents. Happy birthday, Dr. King!

DeathbyInches

In response to the Jan. 15 Arkansas Blog post, "Jury finds Arron Lewis guilty of capital murder and kidnapping in the death of Beverly Carter":

Aaron Lewis is a horrible, worthless, disgusting excuse for a human being. No one should ever suffer like that helpless lady did, and I would have had no problem with the death penalty in this situation.

Bill James is one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state. But what he put Beverly Carter's family through, trying to taint her memory while trying to save this piece of shit, went beyond human decency.

Mountaingirl

Bill James didn't have much to work with as his client confessed to the crime to a TV reporter (in addition to being an evil scumbag, Lewis is obviously dumb), so his only option was to throw whatever he could at the wall and see what might stick. But still ... .

Christopher Diaz

I realize that my support for the death penalty doesn't have a lot of approval. I strongly think that it is overused by overzealous prosecutors. However, sometimes it's called for. It would not have bothered me a bit had Lewis been sentenced to death. This is the sort of defendant that calls for death. He knew what he was doing. He planned to do it. And he did it without remorse. He may not have initially planned to kill, but he knowingly made a conscious decision to kill. Yes, [Crystal] Lowery was an accomplice, but she simply does not show the inherent evil that he does.

Vanessa

Vanessa, I'm inclined to think Lowery is as evil as Lewis is. She seems to be slightly more sensible, but I can't accept that she was incapable of seeing that Beverly Carter's death would be the only way she and Lewis would have a chance of getting away with this horrible crime.

I suppose it will be "he said, she said" from now until the end of time, but her presumed lesser culpability — at least in terms of sentencing — bothers me.

Then again, I wonder at her acceptance of and marriage to a man who surely displayed aberrant behavior (to put it mildly indeed) early on.

I can only shake my head ... .

Doigotta

I don't know why the prosecutor waived the death penalty in this case, given the total depravity of the crime. Granted that the likelihood of a death penalty ever being carried out again in Arkansas seems pretty small now.

plainjim

The prosecutor waived the death penalty because the Carter family requested that he do so. He was honoring their wishes. Otherwise, the case being such a slam dunk, I think he would have asked for it.

Imjustsayin

Bill James, in some part, did us all a favor. He put on a defense with zeal so that there is little hope for a successful appeal down the road for Lewis. In some ways, his actions were the equivalent of throwing away the key after the prosecution locked the door.

AA5B Tiger

Glad to see that justice was done without resorting to the insane use of state-sanctioned murder. The guy is going to get back what he gave for the rest of his days. Let him live the consequences, and spare us the dehumanizing impacts of having to live in a state where the antiquated form of retribution masquerades as "justice."

Black Panthers for Open Carry

In response to Ernest Dumas' column on mainstream Republican columnist David Brooks' fears about presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, posted Jan. 19 on the Arkansas Blog and appearing on page 7 of this paper:

When David Brooks appears somewhat sane, that means somewhere hell is freezing over. This is what happens when pizza guys and witches are pandering to people who want government out of their Medicare. Own it, GOP. You created it ...

Now Brooks is boo-hooing because "center-right" Republicans, of which there are very few, are irrelevant ...

Maybe I'm crazy (no, I am crazy) but my fear is a Kasich/Fiorina ticket. That sounds like what Brooks is talking about. The GOP convention is going to be a mess. We'll see how much clout the establishment really has when they try to boot Cruz and Trump ...

Rosso

Brooks' fantasy is predicated on the erroneous premise that the GOP "establishment" has any control over the crypto-Fascists who are leading the base in this terrifying political year.

Claude Bahls

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on the Jeopardy contestants who wagered all and lost because they couldn't identify the city in which an important event occurred in 1957 and the president whose library is in that city:

Most Americans are woefully ignorant of history and geography (as evidenced by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and their followers) but it does surprise me that not a single Jeopardy contestant knew the answer. 

NeverVoteRepublican

Trump for prez

Donald Trump deserves to be the Republican nominee for president. For decades now, Republicans have been trying to give tax breaks and investment incentives to guys like Donald Trump by fighting government regulations of corporations.

Trump for prez

Donald Trump deserves to be the Republican nominee for president. For decades now, Republicans have been trying to give tax breaks and investment incentives to guys like Donald Trump by fighting government regulations of corporations. Why not just completely cut out the middleman by giving Trump the presidency and control of Congress? When President Trump takes over, there will be no need for guys like Ted Cruz and that credit card fraud, Marco Rubio. Corporations will rule America and all the socialistic programs like Social Security and Medicare will no longer be tolerated. Such administrations will be fired and Republicans will finally get what they have said they always wanted, a free market society based upon an Ayn Rand Utopia. Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan will call the shots. There will be no need for a federal reserve system. Janet Yellen will be fired immediately. And the IRS? Fired. Trump can count his own money. Lazy folks will slowly die away in corners, quietly, so as not to disturb the captains of industry. Perfect capitalism!

Meanwhile, back here in reality, Ryan is taking on his own Ayn Rand character by maneuvering to establish himself as Republican National Convention chairman. Maybe Ryan can change convention rules and nominate himself the Republican presidential candidate. But who would be vice president? Mike Huckabee?

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

Embrace sustainable energy now

"Commit Little Rock to being 100 percent powered by clean energy by 2025" (cover story, Dec. 17) is the biggest big idea of all, but not too big to happen. As Glen Hooks points out, it is happening in other American cities. Many other places, large and small, around the world already generate virtually all of their electricity sustainably: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Norway, Albania, Paraguay, Bonaire, Kodiak Island and a growing number of cities.

A sustainable energy economy is not only possible, it is inevitable, and the sooner we get on with achieving it, the better off we will be.

The private sector is making impressive progress toward this goal. A carbon price, preferably a market-driven tax-and-rebate, is the best way government can help.

Carol Steinhart

Madison, Wis.

Steps toward integration

As John Walker prepares his lawsuit, local superintendents make plans to build new white schools. The Little Rock superintendent will balance his white middle school eventually with the proposed high school in Southwest Little Rock. Jacksonville seems unconcerned about balance. The difference between 1954 and 2016 is that state government is using a legal loophole in 2016 (the unitary district decree) to build segregated schools. School leaders forget that in 1954 the Supreme Court decided that separate, no matter how alike you try to make things, was not equal.

The state spent hundreds of millions trying to integrate public schools in Pulaski County. The federal government determined that the LRSD did everything possible to integrate schools and awarded it unitary status. Being awarded unitary status opened the door to build a new white school in the west, a new white elementary school in Jacksonville, and eventually a new white high school in the west. If separate was not equal in 1954, why would the same reasoning not apply today? White people prefer to live in western Pulaski County and select sections of Jacksonville, and each of those areas need new schools. The assumption is that the state did everything it could to integrate schools, got unitary status, so now it can build schools wherever it wants to build them without fear of federal law enforcement action. That assumption (we can build anywhere) gives Walker a good chance to show that the state is now scheming by using charter schools and select construction to defy the 14th Amendment.

Briefly, here are some positive steps that could be used toward integration. First, have two districts in Pulaski County — north and south. Plan large (3,000 to 5,000 student populations) villages along traffic corridors served by light rail. The federal government pays 50 percent of light rail cost. Sell neighborhood schools to help pay for the villages. As much as possible, combine village facilities for school and public use outside school time. Large villages placed along rail or bus corridors avoid identification with a particular neighborhood or race. Rather than linked to a certain neighborhood, achievement identifies villages. Transportation serves the schools and the public. Pulaski County comes together to create outstanding, integrated school villages that make our city an attractive place to live. On the other hand, we can continue to manage schools to enable segregation. That behavior (enabling segregation) ensures more millions wasted on legal battles that also cost us our integrity.

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

Lost a giant

Thanks to the Times and Ernie Dumas for the outstanding obit of Dale Bumpers. This is such wonderful, historical reporting. Invaluable. We were so fortunate to have this man as our governor and senator and equally fortunate to have someone like Ernie still with us to remind us all just how much this man accomplished while in public service. We lost our giant. I was a very young Pine Bluff Commercial reporter and drew the short straw election night to cover this "unknown" lawyer. I lucked out and we remained friends forever. I still have a photo from that night.

Bill Lancaster

Sheridan

From the web in response to an Arkansas Blog post about the death of Dale Bumpers:

In 1970, CBS NEWS had a TV special about the election of new governors in the South who did not use racial issues in their campaigns: Rubin Askew (Fla.), Jimmy Carter (Ga.) and Dale Bumpers. A first, according to CBS.

Cato

As a kid I remember thinking, Dale who? I suspect his unusual last name had some benefit in building crucial name recognition. He turned out to be the Southern "lion" of the Senate in a way that earned him a reputation for straight-shooting moderate-to-liberal politics that enjoyed a brief moment in Southern history. It's hard to imagine a Dale Bumpers winning statewide election today, and I know that many readers on this blog agree that that is a tragic turn of events. He was one of the last generation of New Deal Democrats, and one of the few Southern Great Society Democrats, even though he came along a decade too late to support LBJ in his legislative program.

Armed Mexican Invader

WWJD

The masses of people who followed Jesus around to hear his teaching and witness his miracles represented some of the poorest and sickest segments of society during that time and place.

WWJD

The masses of people who followed Jesus around to hear his teaching and witness his miracles represented some of the poorest and sickest segments of society during that time and place. Jesus was aware that those who followed him and his disciples were not in a good position to provide for themselves, primarily due to the conditions of oppression and poverty that ran rampant throughout their homeland. The Bible tells us that Jesus felt, and practiced, compassion towards those disheartened individuals by feeding and healing them. His disciples asked him how they could possibly help all these people, but Jesus didn't tell them to line up to first determine eligibility before providing relief. Jesus didn't obsess over who may, or may not, have deserved help.

It's interesting that so many these days who claim to be followers of Jesus oppose the very thing Jesus did so often. Lucky for us, Jesus didn't ask God to provide him with a list of eligible recipients before coming to Earth to offer himself as a sacrifice, or else we'd all be screwed.

Richard Hutson

Cabot

More guns

If you are listening to the current electronic media cacophony and the bb in your head hasn't permanently rolled off its contact, you must be confused. The 24-hour bleat tells us that what we want is for everyone to have as many guns and as much ammunition as we can obtain and we have to be free to carry around all that armament anywhere and anytime we please. And, be afraid; be very afraid.

At the same time, we believe it is unacceptable for anyone, anywhere in our country or countries where they look like us (northern, white European ancestry — yep, we're still that way) to be shot, ever. Unless we (northern, white European ancestry who have never shot anyone and most likely never could) are the ones who shoot 'em. Our "solution" for gun violence is that more of us (northern, white — you get it now, right?) need to have more guns and have them with us everywhere and be ever ready to commit violence with those guns.

Now, if we could just keep those guns out of the hands of people who want to use them to commit violent acts. That's right. Those other people: the mentally ill and those shady folks from places we can't locate on a map who have beliefs we know absolutely nothing about. Those people who have been "radicalized," whatever magical spell that means. So, Mr. President, get Tinker Bell out of your pocket and you get this problem done with — you hear?

If we truthfully believed that such a phenomenon as "mental illness" existed, we would recognize that wanting to own a gun is the primary indicator of mental instability and disconnection from reality (or, at the very least, exaggerated gross immaturity) and the most obvious and best reason for denying gun ownership.

Of course, we don't subject beliefs to a truth test. We just believe and our beliefs become our reality. Our fanciful trust in a fantasy world where all of us having an armory of weapons aimed at each other makes us safe will continue until we learn to be honest with ourselves and each other about who we are, i.e., homo sapiens, and what it means to be who we are.

On the other hand, we could continue to devote our energy to maintaining our fantasies. That'll give us a lot more time for target practice. We will also have time to become a country filled with what Tom Robbins describes as people who will sell you anything they have, which is nothing, and shoot anything they don't understand, which is everything.

David Stedman

Damascus

Questions

If I could talk one-on-one with my Arkansas senators and representative, these are the questions I would explore:

Why do you hate your grandchildren?

Why do you oppose all efforts to avoid the global catastrophe that is climate change?

Is it worth campaign contributions to betray future generations?

Is it worth a plush future job as a lobbyist to betray future generations?

Is it worth acceptance into a clique of ideological and misinformed colleagues to betray future generations?

When I write you to plead for your vote for bills to reduce pollution, your answers are predictable.

Why do you claim economic losses and job losses without considering the vastly greater economic losses and job losses that will result from climate change?

When will the total economic and human consequences enter your equation?

When will the specter of a global migration that dwarfs today's migration enter your consciousness?

Are we doomed because Congress can only behave like petulant children?

Are we doomed because of a knee jerk reaction to oppose anything put forward by the president?

Are we doomed because of a lack of intellectual capacity to understand what our leading scientists are saying?

Are we doomed because of the fraudulent misrepresentations of a group of corporations that promote climate change denial?

Today, I am asking you:

To approve the Paris COP21 agreement. To urge further reductions in greenhouse gasses. To pledge more funds to climate mitigation and aid to affected nations. To investigate and hold accountable those corporations and institutions that were aware of climate change and promoted climate change denial to deceive the public.

Al Brooks

Waldron

From the web

In response to the item in the Dec. 17 cover story "Big Ideas" about doing away with one-way streets:

I worked downtown a couple of days last week. I had forgotten what a pain in the ass navigating that area with its crazy quilt of one-way streets can be during the morning rush hour. Good thing I gave myself plenty of time. I agree with the writer. Do away with them.

bopbamboom

In response to Lyons

Obama doesn't care about what happens with ISIL so long as he can get gun control and whip Americans into a furor against each other.

From the web:

In response to Ernest Dumas' Dec. 10 column, "The case for gun regulation":

Dumas wrote: "Antonin Scalia, who penned the 2008 order that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to weapons aside from the military purpose spelled out in the prefatory clause 'a well regulated military being necessary to the security of a free State ... .' Preserving the militias that Southern states thought were threatened by the new Constitution's grant of power to create a federal army might have been the primary reason for an arms amendment, but not the only one. Scalia's opinion in 2008 was a lengthy linguistic disputation on what an independent clause means and how the term 'keep and bear arms' should mean 'for self-defense in the home' as well as for military action."

I think James Madison, in "The Federalist Papers, No. 46," answered that very well: "[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

Runner55k

Runner, context is everything. James Madison wrote No. 46 during a shaky period just after the Revolutionary War. He doubted the federal government could raise enough men to create a permanent standing army and believed state militias "officered by men chosen from among themselves" could help fend off another attack by a European country. It's clear he interpreted the "militia" wording of the Second Amendment as an organized military force, perhaps like today's National Guard. Madison would never have countenanced individuals running around willy-nilly with Glocks and AR-15s.

Wanda Tinasky

In response to Gene Lyons' Dec. 10 column, "Ravings from the right":

Obama doesn't care about what happens with ISIL so long as he can get gun control and whip Americans into a furor against each other.

Obama has been divisive and flaky. He genuinely doesn't care if Americans get killed so long as he doesn't have to attack ISIL himself. He will be happy to let other countries carry the weight, even if the long-term consequences of that include a dominant Russian military that loses all respect for American balance to its ambitions.

Steven E.

Just because you don't agree with the president's stance doesn't mean that he doesn't care. It just means that he doesn't care the way that you think he should. And yeah, best douse that fire, Steven.

Robert Dear is a Christian terrorist, and he's not the first one to pop up on the horizon. The problem is religious fundamentalism, not any particular religion. All religion produces extremists. That doesn't mean all religion is bad, just that they are all equal.

Vanessa

So why is it a problem that somebody besides us is dropping bombs and why not the Russians? They certainly played their part in the fine mess in which we find ourselves when they invaded Afghanistan. Surely we all recall that al Qaeda was birthed there, much the same as ISIS was birthed from the de-Baathification of Iraq. What could possibly make anyone think that we can bomb this problem once and for all out of existence? It will be with us for the foreseeable future. We need to grow up and realize that we live in a world with very real, very intractable issues.

Mack Paul

In response to "Asa World approach to health care: Get mean" on the Arkansas Blog on Dec. 9:

Sounds like Asa [Hutchinson] wants the feds to leave Arkansas in the lurch. Pull the money and let Asa solve the problem. Bootstraps, personal responsibility and all that. Show us all that less federal money and intrusion will make the state stronger. Poor, decrepit, ignorant — but stronger. Gee Asa, what a great plan for success.

Maxifer

Arkansas is ranked 49th in health care. How does taking people's health insurance away help our ranking?

imjustsaying

Sounds like that Fox News uproar about the poor having refrigerators or air conditioning. These just keep more people from getting sick and ending up in that great doctor's office, the ER.

couldn't be better

Looks like posturing to me. Primaries are coming and he needs to protect some legislators from tea party supporters. Some of this stuff was promised in 2013 and the feds will say "no" to part.

Meanwhile, back to listening to "What's Going On."

Screen name taken

In response to "The Medicaid lockout: Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proposal to bar beneficiaries from coverage for six months if they miss premium payments" on the Arkansas Blog on Dec. 14:

Lockouts are not entirely lacking in merit, in my opinion. For example, they could be imposed every time the state passes a law that is subsequently ruled to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. When the federal decision is handed down, every member of the Arkansas Legislature who voted for the bill and the governor who signed it should immediately be locked out of receiving their state salary for a period of six months in order to help pay for the taxpayers' losses in defending the legislation. An unsuccessful appeal would trigger another six-month lockout.

Such a "stick" could be useful in correcting irresponsible legislative behavior, which is detrimental to the state as a whole.

Olphart

Did Jesus say that poverty is one's own fault? Did he condemn those who could not pay their bills to the wealthy?

The Bible says clearly that when you punish people in poverty, you punish Christ, and when you reward the wealthy for their greed, you advance the devil.

Yet such an attitude is the foundational principle of modern American free-market conservatism.

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

Yes, yes, Gov. Asa Clayton Powell, use every trick in the Republican playbook to lock sick people out of the health insurance market. Nothing says "I Love Jesus" more than dooming a sick person to an early, miserable death. Oh, imagine the children who'll suffer because of no way to see a doctor! This is an arKansas government-sanctioned post-birth abortion!

I'm currently watching a spinning wheel on the healthcare.gov website. Several weeks ago we contacted an insurance agent who promised to help us, but apparently he's too busy to even return our calls. So today my wife launched into trying to get 2016 health care by using the healthcare.gov website, which is supposed to work this time around. Not that this is connected to Asa's dirty little trick, but since my wife had to go to work I've been keeping an eye on the spinning wheel on her computer. Therefore I've been thinking about health care all morning.

Obamacare ain't no gift. I don't know how slightly poorer people than us can manage to make the high insurance premium at the first of every month. We've had to do many dirty dances to make ours every month, and I'm aware enough to know our high-premium, high-deductible and many co-pays [policy] is slowly putting us under the bridge. Anytime I have a test or a procedure, I get a bunch of bills from people I never saw or heard of. What if you bought some hamburger meat and a gallon of milk at the grocery store and two weeks later you got additional bills for the items you purchased. Also, when you bought the meat and the milk, you saw a price tag that told you how much you were going to pay at the register.

When the kids were growing up, many a time I got to the register and had to put something back because I didn't have the money to pay for everything. This happens across arKansas more times per second than I can guess at. Yet, one never knows the bill in advance when you go to the doctor and on top of that is the high premium and co-pays, and the high deductible and all the extra bills from outer space.

But Asa thinks good-for-nothing, lazy people are getting something for free and God has told him to smite them at every turn, as hard as he can. What an absolute prince of a man Asa is. What a golden reflection of organized religious he is. I'm sure he's appointed a blue-ribbon panel of his cronies to study this problem, each getting a high salary and sharing his belief that the NRA-USA would be better off without these parasites. Of course, without all the sick and the poor, it means MORE FOOD FOR US!

Deathbyinches

Square New Deal

The foundation of all civilization is built on principles — chiseled from the bedrock of antiquity. It cannot blow away like a line in the sand, nor disappear in the tragedies, failures and disappointments of life. It endures even when the wall it supports is breached.

Square New Deal

The foundation of all civilization is built on principles — chiseled from the bedrock of antiquity. It cannot blow away like a line in the sand, nor disappear in the tragedies, failures and disappointments of life. It endures even when the wall it supports is breached.

Here in Arkansas, the Barbarians (corporate oligarchy) long ago breached our walls. Today we continue to see firsthand how they operate, trampling the norms and standards by which civilized people function. Basic among these moralities is food security for the least among us.

For years we saw the Barbarians coming. We saw them gathering on the mountain range, watched as they crossed the plains, forded the river, and came right up to our wall. And at every stage along the way we jumped up and down, gnashed our teeth, wrung our hands, and shouted at each other the Barbarians are coming, the Barbarians are coming. Someone somewhere needs to stand up and stop them.

In March 2013, the 4th District congressman of Arkansas stated that he thought federal spending should shift "back towards the military, away from domestic programs." These were words from a congressman who represented a district that has had chronic poverty and top-of-the-chart hunger for decades. A few weeks before Rep. Cotton made this statement I was already thinking to myself, "When the last drop of grace and beauty, of gentleness and wonder is rendered from the fiery furnaces of the Barbarians, what shall we have left?" And I had already decided to take action in the most logical way I could think of by running against Rep. Cotton in the 2014 election.

Today, our whole state in terms of hunger is known as "that dismal state" with the "least [food] secure population." And at the same time we are home to some of the wealthiest multinational corporations in the world, in commercial sectors like, agriculture, retail, and investment banking. And whose state government for years, through corporate-backed Democratic and Republican rule, has served at the pleasure of the Barbarians.

Arkansas will continue to be subjugated by the forces of unbridled greed until we uncinch the corporate saddle from our back. But before we can uncinch that saddle, we have to sever the corporate made stirrups that guard the cinch.

There are incredible people in the state of Arkansas who are fighting to rid our body politic of these Barbarians. They are organizing, and some good ideas are being tossed around. I realize that home and hearth, and making a living stymies most of us from any attempt at addressing the ever-increasing difficulties facing our state. But we have to find the time to voice ideas that may one day turn into action to counter what feels like the colonization of Arkansas. Like Paul Spencer of Little Rock and others with the citizen's group Regnat Populus who continue to try and restore our electoral system through ballot initiatives, or Kevin Bell from Alma who has an idea for a temporary political party. And yes, while political parties are temporary I get his point; they don't set out to be temporary. Furthermore, whether this party takes root, or we continue the fight as individuals, or a loosely connected group, we will continue.

In studying all the ideas put forth so far it is clear that the first step all of us can take right now is to register our signature. Because in order to get a candidate, initiative, or referendum on the ballot that is not bought by the corporate elite, we the people have to register our name, and keep on re-registering it every time we move.

Incidentally, in giving Mr. Bell's idea consideration I thought about the kind of short-term political party most Arkansans could back, and came up with the Square New Deal Party. The name and platform is from President Theodore Roosevelt's Square Deal, and thirty years later his fifth-cousin President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The SND platform would be a combination of TR's three Cs: Control of corporations, consumer protection, and conservation of natural resources, and FDR's three Rs: relief, recovery and reform. In addition, most Arkansans can pat their feet to TR and FDR's sentiments on money's influence in politics. TR: "To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." FDR: "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob."

In order to overcome the paralysis of indecision to fight back against the Barbarians remember this — we have all learned how to fight, and we have learned how to dance, and for the rest of our lives our greatest challenge will be in knowing who to fight beside and dance with. We who have pledged to fight the Barbarians would welcome you in the fight, if not today, then tomorrow, or next year, or a decade from now because this idea is not going away — and our principles endure.

Janis K. Percefull

Hot Springs, Arkansas

From the web

In response to a post on the Arkansas Blog about the long invocation on the state Capitol grounds after the Christmas parade by Jason Palermo, minister for a group that seeks to insert Christianity into government and the choice of Secretary of State Mark Martin to give the prayer.

This type of stunt drives more people away from Jesus than it attracts. It's all done for ego. "Look at me, look at me, I'm evangelizing! If you think it's inappropriate, then it's even better because the Bible says I'll be persecuted for my faith. Jesus may have said it's best to pray in private and not boast, but clearly he wasn't talking about me."

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

I just love how Secretary of Religion Martin says there were no complaints. Who would we complain to? Anyone watching AR politics these past few years has seen multiple Republicans commit multiple ethical (if not illegal) violations and they are never disciplined for it. We all know there is no one in our state government who seems to be able to rein in these right-winger evangelical types. Now I realize that they all run in the same pretend-Christian circles so they don't see a thing wrong with this.

I complained and told the story on the AR Blog because I knew it was the only place where others would understand and care. Arkansas has got to do better in our next election. The fundies have got to go.

numbernine

In response to an Arkansas Blog post about American Electric Power leaving the right-wing-legislation churning group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of ALEC's opposition to action on climate change and renewable energy:

Any time anyone or any group leaves ALEC, a young black man passes a heavily armed cop without a single bullet wound. Yes ... it's just that powerful!

ALEC isn't ISIS, but it's a darkly evil group that works to make life harder for the working man or woman on down to every poor person in the NRA-USA. I grapple to find a comparison. It's the business version of the John Birch Society or maybe the KKK. Its specialty is writing bad bills for lazy or stupid legislators who can't or won't write a bill themselves. Thousands of these bad bills have been passed into law in every state and we let our legislators have a free pass when a private group does their work for them. Does this happen to you where you work? The answer is hell, no!

Why we let ALEC get away with what they do is a complete mystery to me. We ought to at least punish any of our legislators who let ALEC do their work ... that we pay them to do, that we expect them to do themselves.

We need a list of American corporations who are still members of ALEC so we can work to never do business with them ever again. I can't tell you the joy I feel every time I don't buy something made by a company owned by the Koch brothers. It's a small victory, but it's a personal victory all the same. We must get these shadow groups out of our government from bottom to top.

DeathbyInches

In response to a Rock Candy riff about our "dangerous diamond mine" by Jeremy Brasher and Matthew Rowe ridiculing a marketing site that said Arkansas was "the most likely state to have violence occur over Black Friday sales":

This is cute, funny, etc. It also reminds me of the constant refrain heard from Natural Staters whilst there: essentially admitting that objective observations about Arkansas (racist, misogynist, homophobic, impoverished, obese, Christianity-obsessed, "faith"-based, anti-science, provincial, resentful of "outsiders," resistant to change, ill-educated, dumb, "Good Ol' Boys," et al.) were true — by countering with the bullying loser phrase of final recourse: "If you don't like it, leave." This superficially clever, funny piece about "dangerous diamond mines" boils down to one giant, "Yes, but ... " ad hominem attack on outsiders' journalism and widely acknowledged statistics as "Dumb. Lazy." Like so much else from so many Arkansans, it ignores facts with dismissive, defensive potshots — giving tacit permission to continue business as usual instead of ever addressing massive and historic root causes for Arkansas's ongoing ranking at or near the bottom of the 50 states in desirable qualities ... and at or near the top in undesirable ones. It's not "outsider" journalists or statistics that are "dumb," "lazy" or "supremely stupid," boys. Your piece, once the self-satisfied faux-superior smirks die down, turns out to be just another self-serving anti-reality Troll Hit. Instead of what Andy Borowitz's brilliantly crafted Tweets are to satire, you're what Dennis Miller and Victoria Jackson are to comedy: laboring hard over ultimately dubious jibes in defense of the status quo.

Norma Bates

Time for national emergency

Surely, most humans want peace for their children's future. Peace starts with us.

Time for national emergency

Surely, most humans want peace for their children's future. Peace starts with us. A 2014 Gallup poll asked 66,000 people from 65 nations what was the "greatest threat to peace in the world today?" A plurality answered: the United States. Statistics confirm the U.S. has yet to become a genuinely peace-seeking society.

Violence is in the U.S. DNA, from Native American genocide and slavery to dozens of recent nondefensive military invasions. Our deregulated profit-seeking media is saturated with violence and content that leads to violence against women. We're a militaristic culture of bloodlust that teaches children that violence solves problems best, so widespread school shootings and police brutality are unsurprising. However, DNA is subject to mutation.

Despite endless war glorification, we've never had a "war to end all war." War and violence never achieved an enduring peaceful order.

Many believe World War II was the "good" war. Hitler was defeated, but lasting peace was never reached, and horrific terroristic atrocities were committed by all sides. Most problematically, WWII was followed by our establishment of a permanent war economy, nuclear arms race and vast empire, which now entails 700 to 1,000 foreign military bases.

This empire exists to control other nations' resources, and makes Americans less safe. It entails dozens of invasions, CIA coups overthrowing democracies and installing puppet dictators, which fuel hatred, extremist radicalization and terrorism.

Although there have been no wars between major powers since, many smaller conflicts occurred and the United Nations helped resolve over 170 of them, according to Inter Press Service News. The U.N. has been unsuccessful in resolving other conflicts, especially Israel's, that involve the interests of the five nations with Security Council veto power. Describing vitally needed U.N. reform, including abolishing the P5 veto, will require another essay.

Reforming the U.N. is only one piece of the peace puzzle. Like transforming the suicidal fossil fuel energy system, shifting away from the war economy is multifaceted. Although no major politician will admit it, the two transformations are one. A Truthout article titled "The Military Assault on the Climate" points out: "the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum ... (energy, and) ... Any talk of climate change which does not include the military is nothing but hot air."

As the world's greatest economic and military power, we're leading the world to apocalyptic annihilation with escalation of war and terrorism, and ignorant environmental disrespect. Yet, we can change gears and lead the world toward peace and true civilization.

To inspire the mandatory change of "swords to plowshares," a serious revolutionary leader must frame this as a national emergency akin to confronting Hitler. Vast transformation of American peacetime manufacturing for WWII was immense, and now we must reverse this.

The national emergency must entail a deeply urgent imperative for international cooperation, and massive investment in open source scientific research and development of alternative energies, conservation technology, desalinization, etc. Everyone involved in the war economy must be guaranteed jobs in the peace economy, especially bright scientific minds.

Abel Tomlinson

Fayetteville

In defense of greyhound trainer

I have recently been made aware of a blog that was posted on the Arkansas Times website regarding a trainer fined for allegedly administering "lidocaine" to a greyhound at Southland Park Gaming & Racing ("Trainer fined in greyhound doping," Nov. 18).

After reading the article, it was painfully apparent that reporter Leslie Newell Peacock not only didn't gain a full understanding of the circumstances behind the case she referenced, but she apparently didn't care to even try to obtain the full facts of the case before passing judgment and writing her blog.

For the benefits of your readers who may actually care to know the facts, the presence of lidocaine in that greyhound was due to a topical spray the trainer, Alan Harrell, had used to help the greyhound heal from what are known as "hot spots." Hot spots are minor irritations that can occur on the surface of a dog's skin from time to time, most often compared to eczema on humans. When the positive test came back from the lab, the kennel building was inspected immediately to identify the source of the lidocaine. The state veterinarian confirmed that its source was the topical spray product that Harrell used to treat those hot spots, and that the trainer stated he was unaware that the product contained lidocaine.

One can argue that Harrell should have known the contents of the spray. However, this spray is often prescribed by veterinarians, and the trainer believed he was treating his dog as any veterinarian would have recommended. The judges who heard this case also felt that Harrell was acting in the best interest of the greyhound overall and there was no intent to tamper with the actual performance of the greyhound itself. The judges also received confirmation from a qualified veterinarian that the amount of lidocaine found in the dog, especially applied in this manner (topically), made zero impact on the dog's performance. The fine ($500) was enforced due to his negligence in failing to check the ingredients of the spray, but the suspension was not enforced because of these circumstances.

Under state regulations, the judges may elect to follow or depart from the RCI Model Rules based on the circumstances of the case, and that is exactly what the three-judge panel did.

None of this information was provided in the blog. Instead, Peacock rushed to judgment and irresponsibly posted completely incorrect information that could damage the reputation of a greyhound trainer who was, in fact, conscientiously attending to his greyhound's care in a manner that qualified veterinarians affirmed.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done. One look at the comments she generated based on her version of the facts shows how some people, especially those with an existing bias against greyhound racing, have bought into this misinformation.

Shane Bolender

Director of racing operations

Southland Park Gaming and Racing

West Memphis

Open letters to Governor Hutchinson

As a proud Arkansan, Hog fan and former refugee, it's very upsetting to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson turn his back on people who are not much different from me.

Open letters to Governor Hutchinson

As a proud Arkansan, Hog fan and former refugee, it's very upsetting to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson turn his back on people who are not much different from me.

As a product of the conflict in the Balkans, my family escaped war-torn Bosnia and immigrated to the U.S. We made our home in Hot Springs, opened two businesses, paid our taxes, and never once asked for a handout. I moved on to attend the University of Arkansas and now make Little Rock my home. Nothing makes me happier than an Arkansas tailgate and beating LSU.

Instead of opening your arms and fostering an environment where you have the opportunity to create proud Americans, Arkansans and a new generation of Hog-calling Razorback fans, you choose to turn your back.

Luckily, you don't have the power to turn away refugees and that gives me hope, because you can't deny future generations from experiencing the Arkansas I know and love.

Amar Mekic

North Little Rock

The rapid actions of you and too many of your colleagues to deny shelter for women, men and children under extreme threats has left me bewildered. Our nation of immigrants, "the greatest and strongest country in history," has always been strengthened, enriched by our historically open-armed inclusion of such threatened peoples. To doubt the ability of the United States to filter through those seeking safe harbor makes me sadly question your faith in the abilities and motivations of your fellow citizens to "protect and defend," a proposition that dilutes the bellicose slogans we repeatedly are exposed to on both sides of the current presidential campaign.

Xenophobic is a distasteful term at best and to add politically motivated to the adjective creates a very unflattering label and, as uncomplimentary a term as it is, it applies to actions formed in such a hurried collaborative effort.

If only truly frightening ubiquitous problems could be dealt with as comprehensively, problems like the number of murders in Little Rock. The capital city of Arkansas, a state with one of the highest per capita gun ownership rates nationwide, but then I am sure all of those weapons are needed to protect ourselves from the Syrian hoards.

The exclusion of humans from the welcoming protection of the U.S.A. is a pathetic exploitive maneuver that diminishes the standing of our nation in the eyes of history.

Steven Rockwell

North Little Rock

Waste not exclusive

to government

Those on the right talk about the wastefulness of government, preferring instead a set of circumstances that grants private business the power to control the economy. What the right fails to mention is that private business is just as, if not more, wasteful than government. It's just that private companies can hide their waste in write-offs, or by passing the cost of waste to customers and employees. How many times have products gone to waste while some corporation waits out more favorable market conditions?

Richard Hutson

Cabot

30 Crossing needs

to be reimagined

I write today to urge Mayor Mark Stodola and the Little Rock Board of Directors to vote for Directors Webb and Richardson's resolution that recognizes that the development of 30 Crossing will affect Little Rock and the Central Arkansas area for the next 50-plus years.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's process thus far has been based on a narrow criteria that does not include quality of life and the desirability of living in our city. AHTD's expertise lies in engineering freeways. Its primary concern is moving traffic quickly through town. That is good for folks in Cabot, Benton, Bryant and others commuting to Little Rock. It will cut their drive time by 10-15 minutes. However, it is clear to me that Little Rock will be the loser. AHTD's proposal will magnify an already hulking barrier in the heart of downtown. The River Market/Clinton Library area is the jewel of our city, one that has been created by pouring millions of dollars and human effort into it for the past 30 years.

Should AHTD — engineers who build really good highways — be in charge of visioning our future? I believe the people visioning our future should be our city directors and citizens. The tail in this case is wagging the dog. We should bring a vision for the engineers to execute.

We all recognize that the corridor needs improvements and management, yet at this moment, no alternatives have been brought forth by AHTD despite vocal and intelligent opposition by many individuals, representatives and community groups, including:

The Downtown Neighborhood Association, the Quapaw Quarter Association, the Central High Neighborhood Association, the Capitol View/Stifft Station Neighborhood Association, the Heights Neighborhood Association, the Hillcrest Residents Association, The League of Women Voters, Reps. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) and Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock), eStem Principal John Bacon, the Metropolitan Area Transit Consortium, UALR Engineering Department faculty and others.

While AHTD has constantly cited figures and data drawn by modeling conducted by Metroplan, they have ignored Metroplan's central tenet that states that no freeway should be widened beyond six lanes. Why? You cannot build your way out of these traffic problems. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, quoted in Inside Business recently, said, "We can't build enough roads to solve our transportation problems. We can't widen enough." "[And if roads are the only solution] the South is going to be stuck in traffic. Period." Foxx, and many other experts nationwide, believe transportation solutions must be multimodal with roads, public transit, good walking environments and good land planning.

Predicting the future and how people will behave is not as easy as multiplying numbers derived from recent and past data. An interest on the part of young people in moving to SOMA and other downtown areas is based on a desire for living in spaces that allow freedom from the tyranny of the car. For my generation, a car meant freedom. For this generation, a car is expensive, polluting and dictates an infrastructure that negatively impacts walking and biking. Other disruptors to the transportation status quo include technology that will make cars far safer and able to read traffic and navigate routes more easily.

We need to take a hard look at the directions our society is taking and at what is happening all over the country where freeways are being ripped out and replaced by boulevards. Boulevards are used in all the great cities of the world to move traffic safely and dependably through human-centered environments. Boulevards also allow for corners that can be developed with shops and restaurants and businesses, for the enjoyment of walking humans and provide a great tax base. Freeways suck our capital out of our cities.

The need to embrace change in transportation planning and policy is urgent. Please vote for the Webb/Richardson resolution, which simply asks AHTD to perform a more thorough analysis of all the options.

Our citizens are counting on you.

Ellen M. Fennell

Little Rock

From the web:

In response to Gene Lyons' Nov. 19 column, "ISIS isn't an existential threat to the U.S.":

Had to ask what existential means. Real. The French do not like their cafe life invaded. Real fear. Music concerts are places to express joy. When gunmen appear, it turns the joy into real fear.

Reading in the Wall Street Journal about the tunnels under Sinjar inspires visions of Vietnam and the futility of boots on the ground.

The ideology of ISIS seems to spread like a virus. The herd of displaced families is a terrible human suffering.

Maybe ISIS is not an existential threat, but like herpes it hurts like hell.

joepete1834

Do away with the distribution of the world's income from its upward flow and quit screwing with the fragility of this thing we call Earth. Treat the causes of the disease and not the symptoms.

Thanks, Dubya. You really screwed up here.

wannabe conservative

Highway madness

The state needs to drop that per-pupil funding level to 10 percent of the state base for virtual schools.

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on the state Education Department's charter school board approving a virtual charter school that would spend tax dollars on a contract with a private, (and unaccountable to the public,) corporation:

The state needs to drop that per-pupil funding level to 10 percent of the state base for virtual schools. They can tell them it is "virtual funding" to cover their very small labor costs since the coursework was already paid for. They should also put a dollar limit on the salary (with no bonuses) paid to administration of this no-student school district so that it would be the same as the principal of a district that size with the same degree.

couldn't be better

In response to the Nov. 12 cover story on the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's plan to widen Interstate 30 to 10 lanes as it passes through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock:

IT WAS HORRIBLE! I drove from West Little Rock to North Little Rock at 5 p.m. rush hour last night in the rain, AND IT TOOK 15 MINUTES!!!! THE HORROR! THE PAIN! 

And last Friday, it took me 5 minutes to get across the I-30 bridge at 8 a.m. OH MY GOD. 

AHTD SAVE ME FROM THE TRAFFIC APOCALYPSE!

ark7788

First off, a disclosure, I was an AHTD engineer for over 33 years. The last 20 or so in roadway design. What we are going through with all the hearings and public meetings is a vetting process. 

Does AHTD have a preferred plan? Of course! They've got to start somewhere. The process now is to take this plan and adjust it as feedback comes in. I know, you are all thinking, right, we spill our concerns to the AHTD and they still build the road they wanted. Far from the truth! We do make adjustments to initial plans to the point that we may throw that design out and try again. I did it several times.

It would be so frustrating at these public hearings when you'd explain to the public that this is the suggested design, what don't you like or do you like about it, and then they would say, "What for, you're going to do it your way anyhow."

This is a massive project for such a small state and somehow after everyone has had a say, the engineers will go back a cobble together a set of plans that meets the public's demands, meets all standards and practices, and hopefully looks good too.

The designers will get the job done as long as you tell them what you want. It was what challenged me to want to go to work all those years.

Skee Hee

In response to an item on the Arkansas Blog about the League of Women Voter's stance on the I-30 project, also known as 30 Crossing:

I applaud the action of the League on this critical, urgent policy question. I hope that many other nonprofit organizations and faith groups, especially those who deal with issues of social justice and the environment, will quickly step forward and join with the LWV in unison to oppose the "dirty" 30 CROSSING project, and to advocate for a future Little Rock that is focused on making its downtown and close-in neighborhoods more livable, walkable, and protective of the environment. 

Making downtown a destination rather than a place that heavy trucks and commuters pass through and/or escape from will drive human-centered redevelopment, which will benefit landowners, employees of center-city businesses (including commuters) and tourists. The construction industry will see long-term growth potential, while taxpayers will be relieved of spending the huge amount of money required to finance and build the dirty 30 CROSSING. Why not take a portion of that projected cost and invest it in making Little Rock more attractive, consistent with the progressive ideas and plans being put forth by architects, planners and civic activists?

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club Arkansas Chapter and Arkansas Audubon need to step forward now to help catalyze the growing movement against a 10-lane highway. Don't let the League stand alone in this fight. We need leadership!

Armed Mexican Invader

In response to news broken on the Arkansas Blog that Mayor Mark Stodola would seek an increase in the hamburger tax to raise $60 million to update and expand the Arkansas Arts Center:

Even if I'm not paying it, why should I support a tax that Stodola supports? 

If our mayor can say to hell with Little Rock by supporting the billion dollar I-30 bridge boondoggle, then I say to hell with our mayor's plans for Little Rock — especially when those plans involve spending millions of dollars to improve a museum located next to that freeway.

Let us not forget his involvement in the tech park boondoggle. The man has a history of being on the wrong side of these projects, and I don't see that changing. 

That Arts Center needs to relocate to a city that appreciates its downtown and is working hard to revitalize it: North Little Rock. 

It does not belong in a city that sees providing office space to people who live in Benton as the reason for its existence.

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

In response to Gene Lyons' column on Republican presidential nominee seeker Dr. Ben Carson:

Another piece of the Carson story is, he won't get the nomination because there aren't enough Republicans who are ready to vote for an African American. Maybe in another generation or two, but certainly not now. Republicans as a whole aren't ready for a woman either, and I would be very surprised if a man with a Latino heritage gets the nomination. That narrows it down a bit.

Tony Galati