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Arkansan of the Year

Arkansan of the Year

January 15, 2015

Vol 41 • No 19

Read the print version

Other Arkansans of the Year for 2014

These people also stood out.

Arkansan of the Year: Asa Hutchinson

For embodying the story of the modern Republican in Arkansas — and for finally winning — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is our Arkansan of the Year for 2014.

Prudent pay raises for elected officials needed

Across the generations, the low pay of Arkansas's elected officials — a direct result of an ingrained distrust and cynicism regarding political elites — has served the state poorly by inhibiting the modernization of state government. The commission now at work on determining state officials' pay has a great opportunity to remedy that flaw, but only if its members show care in their actions.

'Chinatown' at the Ron Robinson Theater

Also, Opening Day at Oaklawn, Shoog Radio Presents at White Water Tavern, Rocko at Club Elevations, Randy Newman at Reynolds Performance Hall and Todd Barry at Juanita's.

Suffer the renters

Lawsuit seeks to abolish the criminalization of eviction.

The struggle of 'Selma'

A 50-year-old story remains current.

John Calvin Abney at White Water

Also, Monster Jam returns to Verizon Arena.

Asa Hutchinson follows Arkansas tax cut tradition

You can count this as a defense of Gov. Asa Hutchinson or not, but he will repeat history rather than make it by engineering a tax cut right at the outset.

Few: A startup with heart

Little Rock creative agency builds websites and community

What Maggio has wrought

Mike Maggio's guilty plea to a federal bribery charge last week resonates beyond the destruction of his own life.

Positive developments for Razorbacks

For the football and basketball teams.

Kevin Kerby

Photo by Jeff Smithwick from the Eye on Arkansas Flickr page.

Three cheers for Three Fold

Fast casual authentic Chinese restaurant a new favorite.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Deep freeze edition

Play at home.

Hickey vs. lottery

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. is systematically destroying the Arkansas education lottery for some unknown reason. ... Perhaps his motives should be investigated by the proper federal authorities as there doesn't seem to be any agency within the state of Arkansas that either has the mandate or integrity to investigate.

Je suis Charlie

The Observer, like most people, has been saddened more than we can express by the massacre of 12 people at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. We honestly don't know if we want to live in a world where you can be executed for being a smartass, even an annoying, offensive, vulgar smartass, as the writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo seem to have been from time to time.

We could use a 129 percent raise, too

How much is an attorney general worth? Plus, banning flag desecration, goodbye to Beebe, the numbers on Mike Maggio, an intoxicated city director and an approaching showdown on LR schools.

The poor hit harder by local taxes; bottom 40 percent left out in Asa tax cut

The poorer you are, the harder state and local tax burdens hit Arkansas taxpayers. And Gov. Asa Hutchinson's tax-cut plan won't do much to ameliorate that, giving no benefits at all to the bottom 40 percent of Arkansas taxpayers.

The Big Swill: Alas, no cocktail party today

A couple of taxpayer-financed agencies are financing free meals for legislators today

Today at the Capitol: Light work includes amendment to lottery legislation

A light legislative schedule today includes an amendment to a bill to abolish the existing Lottery Commission and convert it to an agency under the governor's control.

New Kari Faux video, 'Gahdamn'

Recent L.A. transplant Kari Faux, who made our shortlist for Arkansan of the Year this week, released a new video this morning for her single, "Gahdamn," the opening track from her 2014 tape, "Laugh Now, Die Later." The clip features Childish Gambino, who gave her a huge boost with his remix of her song, "No Small Talk" (excerpted at the beginning here), and her frequent collaborator and fellow Little Rock native BLACK PARTY.

Arkansas Supreme Court silent again this week on same-sex marriage case

Another week passes without a word from the Arkansas Supreme Court on its decision in the lawsuit challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage.

Milligan announces treasurer's office staff

State Treasurer Dennnis Milligan announced his office staff today and it includes many familiar Republican political figures, including former legislator Ed Garner.

Education group seeks survey participation

Forward Arkansas — a cooperative effort by the Winthrop Rockefeller and Walton Family Foundations and the Arkansas Board of Education is seeking participants in a survey on Arkansas education.

Expected bill on 'telemedicine' abortions introduced

Anti-abortion bills were filed today to ensure that an abortion-inducing drug is never given to a woman by "tele-medicine." It's not in practice now, but abortion foes want to be sure.

Lloyd Warford to lead Medicaid fraud control unit

Judd Deere, spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, mentioned to me today that Lloyd Warford will be the deputy attorney general in charge of the office's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. He succeeds Jeanette Hamilton, who remains on the attorney general's staff.

Matt DeCample goes into the consulting business

Former Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample is going into the corporate communications business, including an offer to teach improvisational comedy techniques to business.

Hutchinson names Mark Myers to head Information Systems

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has named an old friend and long-time Republican political operator, Mark Myers, to head the Department of Information Systems, the troubled state agency once headed by Claire Bailey.

Annals of the legislature: Guns and drones

Concealed carry of handguns on public college campuses and prohibition of the use of drones over private property are topics of legislation introduced today.

Thursday's open line video and a note on Lorene Joshua

Here's the Thursday open line and our roundup of the day's news by video.

Hillary and the inevitability factor for 2016; plus Ark. dirt diggers are BACK!

Republicans say Hillary Clinton is no good at politics. Polls indicate otherwise. A Hillary victory may not be inevitable, but it's looking more and more like a candidacy is.

The "Financial Quarter" — a design idea for downtown

Architects, developers and business people met today to talk about transforming the look, feel and use of a 30-block area that includes Capitol Avenue and blocks north, which they've tagged as the "Financial Quarter." (The boundaries, not written in stone, would be Broadway and Main on the west and east and the Arkansas River and Sixth Street on the north and south.)

A modest proposal: Death to infidels

A letter in today's newspaper endorses death to atheists. Seriously? WWJD?

Equipment vendors pick up tab for officials

With a decision coming this year on the purchase of millions of dollars worth of voting machines, county clerks will get free meals at a coming conference from companies vying for that business. As the legislature goes, so go county officials.

'Working' for private option's survival

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is in Washington today with an entourage that includes legislators who opposed the private option expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

2014 was the hottest year on record

2014 was the hottest on record. How soon will Arkansas legislators declare the scientists don't know what they're talking about.

A majority of American students come from low-income homes

The majority of U.S. school students come from poor homes for the first time and the percentage is even higher in Arkansas, according to a new study.

Pay commission gets down to specifics on legislative pay

The state official pay commission has begun talking legislative pay, with several talking annual pay increases in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, with one notable exception. Limitation of expenses is also on the table.

A Q&A with Alexander Jones of Bombay Harambee

With a brand new cassette-only release and a full-length LP on the way, Little Rock band Bombay Harambee is about to have a busy year. Members include Spaceman Dave on bass, Jason Griswold on drums, Alexander Jones on vocals and guitar and Trent Whitehead on guitar and vocals.

U.S. Supreme Court takes appeals in same-sex marriage cases

The U.S. Supreme Court should provide the last word on same-sex marriage bans by June in its decision today to hear an appeal of a case from the 6th Circuit.

Brownback proposes $211 million tax increase

Gov. Sam Brownback, who said his income tax plan for Kansas was affordable and propserity-inducing, has proposed $211 million in sin tax increases to balance a foundering budget.

TGIF open line and news headlines

Here's today's open line and video news roundup.

Staff Picks: Jack Nicholson, National Magazine Awards, Memory Hole and more

This year's finalists for National Magazine Awards were announced earlier this week. I recommend scanning the list and reading the nominees that are available for free on the Internet. A special plug for friends of the Times whose work, or at least work on which they assisted, was honored.

The Asa's Big First Week Edition

Asa Hutchinson’s first week in office, notable state legislation introduced so far, outrageous recommendations for raising public officials salaries, Leslie Rutledge firing and hiring and the retirement of the University of Arkansas's chancellor — all covered on this week's podcast.

A suggestion for legislative pay, expenses

A public interest group submits some idea on legislative pay and expenses. It's generous in a pay recommendation, but couples that with stronger expense reimbursement rules.

The treasurer's payroll and other transition tidbits

The treasurer's payroll; pay for a new state agency leader and some shuffling at Career Education are part of a grab bag of state government transition news.

City to hire a contract lobbyist

The Little Rock City Board agenda for Tuesday indicates the Board will vote on a contract to pay Jeffrey Hoggard $28,000 to lobby for the city during the legislative session

The Saturday night line

The Saturday open line includes a thumbs-down for "Birdman" as best picture.

Women's medical rights continue to lose ground — or do they?

While Republican politicians join the annual antiabortion march today, Republicans in other states have cautioned against alienating young voters by obsession with moral issues. And it's also a good time to clear up some misinformation about pharmaceutical abortions, targeted in the latest anti-woman legislation in Arkansas.

Major ad firm merger announced — CJRW and Heathcott

Here, delivered to me a day late, is the announcement of the merger between the CJRW and Heathcott ad/pr firms.

Michael Morton's reach in Arkansas politics and the Gilbert Baker tie

A good report in the Democrat-Gazette today on the breadth of nursing home magnate Michael Morton's political spending. I'd have liked to seen more context about Morton's work with Gilbert Baker to elect judges, particularly in Baker's home turf of Faulkner County

And a fine Sunday it was. The line is open.

It was a beautiful Sunday even if it did include more Mike Huckabee bad-mouthing of Beyonce on ABC to stir his base for a presidential run.

Fire reported in Buffalo River wilderness area

KARK reports on news from the National Park Service on a fire burning on 20 or more acres in a remote wilderness area of the Buffalo National River in Marion County.

Supreme Court to review money-raising for judicial races

The subject of judicial election — and the corrosive effect of fund-raising on the process — is in the news nationally as well as in Arkansas.

Casino gambling continues to grow in Arkansas

Casino gambling continues to grow at Southland and Oaklawn racinos in West Memphis and Hot Springs, but the dog racing situation is another story.

Private option, GOP-style. More bureaucracy and confusion

Gov. Asa Hutchinson gives his long awaited pronouncement on health care Thursday. If he doesn't recommend continuation of the private option expansion of Medicaid through Obamacare — albeit with a new name and a new conservative spin — he's the best poker player in the world. Thus it's a good time for David Ramsey's article about how Republican changes to Obamacare — which they call "reform" — add layers of bureaucracy and complexity to the original Obamacare proposal.

Farmer's Table Cafe is farm-to-fork done right

Folks in Fayetteville are getting their day off to a good start with a healthy, local breakfast from Farmer's Table Cafe.

King Day in Arkansas: Or is it Lee Day?

Arkansas's double-barreled tribute to Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. continues to inspire consternation among people in other parts of the country.

Bike Rack Brewing touches off the Bentonville beer explosion

From dry county to brewpubs in just over a year in Bentonville.

The King Day open line

Here's the Monday open line and video report.

Jermain Taylor faces arrest on gun discharge

Fighter Jermain Taylor is in trouble again. Little Rock police say he'll be charged with assault, endangering welfare of a minor and possession of marijuana over firing of a gun with his children present near Wright Avenue and Wolfe today.

Loblolly Creamery announces chef collaboration series, Matthew Lowman first up

Dessert masters Loblolly Creamery and Matthew Lowman combine forces to produce deliciousness.

Tim Griffin cashes in with 'consulting' job

Tim Griffin cashes in on his congressional service by taking a job with a firm that consults with business and also operates a lobbying subsidiary.

Jon Stewart calls out Huckabee on Beyonce

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, in the past warm toward Mike Huckabee, ripped him Monday night on his criticism of people who live on the coasts, his attack on Beyonce and his latest "book" in general — "it ain't Shakespeare," Stewart said.

Mike Huckabee pays family $400,000 from his PAC

Mother Jones exposes Mike Huckabee's PAC as a vehicle — not for supporting other candidates of a conservative bent — but paying his family, fund-raising and supporting the Huckabee network.

Supreme Court rules against Arkansas in case over Muslim prisoner's beard

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the Arkansas Correction Department may not prohibit a Muslim inmate from growing a beard.

The roots of the nursing home/judicial election scandal

Ernest Dumas takes us back 15 years to a critical moment in nursing home political influence efforts and the three Mikes who've brought Arkansas to a current scandal over undue influence.

Zoës Kitchen coming to Markham

Fast-casual restaurant Zoës Kitchen eyes its first Arkansas location in the Park Plaza Mall.

John Lewis and Nate Powell's 'March: Book Two' available now

"March: Book One," the best-selling collaboration between North Little Rock native Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin, was one of 2013's best-received graphic novels, and today the follow-up, "March: Book Two," has been released by Top Shelf.

Oaklawn's invention, Instant Racing, runs into legal trouble in Idaho

The Instant Racing slot machine-style gambling machines conceived by Oaklawn Park and still sold by a partnership in which it participates are subject of a police investigation in Idaho. The question is the same one that has been raised before: Is this really pari-mutuel wagering, or just plain old slot machine gambling.

Here are the 2015 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase semifinalists

After weeks of deliberation, violent debate and black magic, we’ve come up with our final and definitive list of semifinalists for the 2015 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase. If you’ll notice, there are 20 of them. Also, this is one of the strongest lineups we’ve ever had, with great artists in a variety of genres from all over the state.

Razorbacks hire Vernon Hargreaves as linebacker coach

The University of Arkansas announced today that it had hired Vernon Hargreaves, who'd been coaching at Houston, as the Razorback football team's linebacker coach. He'll be paid $275,000.

Supreme Court appears split on judges soliciting campaign money

The U.S. Supreme Court appears headed from this account to a familiar liberal-conservative split on the question of whether states that elect judges, including Arkansas, may prohibit judicial candidates from directly soliciting campaign contributions.

Iriana's makes big, delicious sandwiches

Iriana's Pizza downtown serves up some huge, tasty sandwiches.

Child left permanently injured after bungled emergency response has died

Le Yang, who was left grievously impaired after surviving a wreck in which his mother died after running off an icy road into a pond on Cooper Orbit Road Jan. 14, 2013, died Monday. He was seven and the son of Dayong Yang, a hospital nurse.

Arts Alliance will pay for exhibits at ailing Laman

The Mid-America Arts Alliance, which has partnered with the Laman Library to bring exhibits to its gallery, will underwrite the cost of two exhibits this year that the library otherwise could not have afforded.

Hutchinson talks budget, in general terms

Gov. Asa Hutchinson invited reporters to his conference room this afternoon to talk about the state budget in general terms. A delay in some scheduled tax breaks and cuts in some agency spending — nothing specified — led the teasers of announcements to come.

The bills flood in

Legislation has begun stacking up with subjects ranging from nurse anesthetists to property rights to cursive writing.

Tuesday's open line and video Plus, Huckabee lowlight reel; Jermain Taylor heading back to slammer

Here's your open line and the headline roundup on Mike Huckabee's very bad day. It includes Media Matters roundup of some of the lowlights of the Huckster's time as a Fox host.

Judge invalidates state's criminal eviction statute

Arkansas's criminal eviction law, the only one of its kind in the country, was ruled unconstitutional today by a Pulaski circuit judge.

Little Rock School Board prepares for moment of truth before State Board of Education

Tonight, the LRSD board held a special meeting to discuss the report it will submit to the State Board of Education tomorrow in advance of next week's big meeting determining whether (and to what extent) the state will intervene in the district. Superintendent Dexter Suggs suggested a bold idea for reconstituting distressed schools, earning praise from some of his erstwhile critics, and LRSD attorney Chris Heller said he believed the state board does not have the constitutional authority to take over the entire district.

The sad saga of Jermain Taylor

The sad saga of champion boxer Jermain Taylor continued through the night as he prepared to appear before a judge today on a bond revocation hearing for the first of two cases of assault pending against him (amid a string of other incidents.)

The not-so-Big Swill: Beans for legislators

Beans and beer are on the schedule for legislators today as lobbyist freebies continue, despite the ban on gifts in Amendment 94.

Kenneth Richardson under fire; let his actions decide

The Little Rock City Board last night heard from Ward 2 residents in favor and opposed to the resignation of City Director Kenneth Richardson because of a recent drunk driving arrest. I'd say such a call is at best premature. Also politically motivated.

Late January events: Lucie's Place, Lost 40, Damgoode, South on Main and more

The late January calendar is quickly filling up with fun things to do. If you like to eat, drink and be merry, we've got five events that are sure to please your palate and move your feet.

Why the legislature was wrong to seal concealed carry permits

I said it at the time, but the case of Jermain Taylor illustrates graphically why the Arkansas legislature was wrong to make the list of concealed carry handgun permits secret. Accountability.

The State of the Union: Divided

Reader's Digest Version of the State of the Union address by President Obama and the Arkansas political reaction

Rogers feud over City Attorney Ben Lipscomb continues in federal court

Rogers City Attorney Ben Lipscomb couldn't get federal Judge Timothy Brooks to issue a preliminary injunction this morning to give him his elected duties back. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has details, but I think it's limited to subscribers.

UA Board gets Tyson contribution to eVersity; hears UAMS needs

Tysons make $500,000 contribution to University of Arkansas eVersity startup.

Senate committee approves tax cut bill with capital gains break repeal and break for two-income couples

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $100 million income tax bill came out of Senate committee this morning with an amendment on the capital gains tax cut passed in 2013. Note, too, a break Hutchinson's plan contains for working couples against higher-income families with single wage earners.

Cowboys owner Jones and family give $10.6 million in land, cash to Razorback athletics

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a former Razorback football player, and his wife Gene have given $10.6 million to Razorback athletics.

New music from Gibberish, ettiem, 2K Gang and more

This is from an album called "Winter Coat" by Fayetteville's Derek and Lorie Bromley, who make gorgeous, spacey indie rock together as Gibberish.

Ben Harper, Major Lazer, Chance the Rapper and more announced for Wakarusa 2015

Wakarusa, which previously announced The Roots, STS9, Young the Giant and others for their 2015 festival, set to be held from June 4-7 at Mulberry Mountain, announced more of its lineup last week and this morning. The group includes Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Chance the Rapper, Major Lazer, Thievery Corporation, Umphrey's McGee, Slightly Stoopid, Portugal. The Man and many more. Tickets are on sale now.

Nate Bell proposes to remove Robert E. Lee from King anniversary observance

Rep. Nate Bell has introduced a bill to eliminate the dual status of the third Monday in January as an observance of both the birthdays of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Mike Huckabee channels George Wallace: States need not obey court on same-sex marriage

Mike Huckabee says states need not immediately allow same-sex couples to marry if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down bans on such marriages. Really.

Child labor among today's bills

A bill was filed today to exempt 17-year-olds from limits on work hours.

The jailhouse open line

It's Wednesday, we're better than half done. Here's your open line, video roundup and Jermain Taylor slammer report.

Another prize for the Root means it will open for dinner

The Root Cafe has won a $150,000 Mission Main Street Grant awarded by Chase bank. A formal presentation of the check will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the cafe. The restaurant was one of 20 winners in the national grant program for small businesses.

Eviction lawsuit victory a landmark, advocates say

Tenant advocates are lauding a landmark court case yesterday that overturned the criminal eviction statute in Arkansas.

Thieves with sledgehammers rob Sissy's Log Cabin

The Little Rock police report that four men with sledgehammers used them to rob Sissy's Log Cabin jewelry store on Grant Street in the Heights about 2:30 p.m. today.

Familiar faces Gilbert Baker and Linda Flanagin join Capitol lobbying corps

Recent involvement in the Mike Maggio scandal hasn't deterred Gilbert Baker and Linda Leigh Flanagin from signing up to lobby the legislature and other governments.

Five keys in the Arkansas private option debate

What to watch for as the private option debate begins to fire up again.