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The Long Fight For The Vote

The Long Fight For The Vote

February 5, 2015

Vol 41 • No 22

Read the print version

The long fight for the vote

On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a brief history of African-American enfranchisement and disfranchisement in Arkansas.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Double Down Dog Edition

Play at home!

Jessica Lea Mayfield at White Water Tavern

Also, Hot Springs Gallery Work, Guy Bell at Thea, The Wandering Lake and Isaac Alexander at White Water, Cult Fiction Grindathon at the Public Theater and 'Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan' at Riverdale

Pub grub perfection

Lost Forty's beer is good, but it's the food we can't get enough of.

Harlem Globetrotters return to Little Rock

Also, Mosaic Templars pay tribute to Maya Angelou.

Vacancy

After the state takeover of the Little Rock School District, the seven seats on the local school board sit empty. Name plates for the former board members were removed in time for a press conference with the superintendent the next afternoon.

Don't give up on LRSD

I hate it. I hate that the Arkansas Board of Education took control of the Little Rock School District. I hate that the board ignored the broad-based community support for the LRSD, including the incredibly powerful voices of student leaders. I hate that the takeover will overshadow the great schools, educators and programs in the LRSD. I hate that families of means will see the LRSD as a failure and move their kids to private schools and move from Little Rock as quickly as they can.

Them bones, them bones

'The Whipping Man' at The Rep.

The private co-option

Also, military medals and mustache wax, anti-anti discrimination and more.

Send your daughters to A&M

This just in: "Study Finds Fruitcake Right, Anti-gravity Left Share Similar Traits, Tactics."

Blissed Out with Open Fields

The showcase continues Thursday, Feb. 5.

What's next for the LRSD?

No plan yet.

Legislators order cake, eat it

To the surprise of most, Arkansas voters easily approved Amendment 94, a multi-faceted amendment that placed limits on corporate campaign contributions, changed term limits and changed ethics laws.

Truth told on legal aid

I have been practicing law for 41 years. Much of that time was spent in Pine Bluff and over my time I have represented thousands of defendants and tried cases from capital murder to public intox.

Cut up

It's been a great shame of The Observer's life that we've never taken much to the work of novelist, short storyist, junkie, poet, chemical astronaut, painter and essayist William S. Burroughs.

More than one bad call

It was discovered not long after the buzzer sounded on the Hogs' 57-56 road loss to Florida that two men on the officiating crew, Tony Greene and John Hampton, had officiated about 40 Razorback road games over the years and, oh, Arkansas had ended up winning maybe three of those.

Trying to tax the rich: hard for Asa, Obama too

Last month we discovered that Gov. Asa Hutchinson and President Obama shared a determination, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, to see that some 250,000 low-income Arkansans enjoy medical coverage and that Arkansas small businesses have a chance to get low-cost insurance for their employees through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Time travel trifle

'Almanac' goes down easy.

Arkansas Republicans lead the way on Obamacare

News from Tennessee underscores the significance of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's apparent success in continuing the private option version of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion for two years, pending a House vote on the structure and money.

Legislature meets, eats, leaves

Amendment 94, approved by voters in November, ended free eating and drinking on the lobby for legislators. Supposedly. But it didn't. In an interpretation as yet untested by the toothless Ethics Commission, the legislature has interpreted the rule to open the door to unlimited freebies as long as enough legislators are invited.

Stodola opposes Hester bill on gay discrimination ordinance, at least to a degree

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola expressed opposition to me yesterday to Sen. Bart Hester's bill to prevent cities from passing laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination. He didn't go as far as I would have gone.

Arkansas Supreme Court injects more delay into same-sex marriage case

The Arkansas Supreme Court today again deferred ruling on the appeal of the decision invalidating state bans on same-sex marriage.

'Pro-discrimination' bill passes Senate committee UPDATE

SB 202, Sen. Bart Hester's bill to deny cities the right to pass their own anti-discrimination ordinance, passed out of the Senate committee on City, County and Local affairs this morning on a roll call vote, 4-2.

Big day at the Capitol: Tax cuts pass. Private option, guns, discrimination, and more also on agenda

There's a lot going on in the legislature today, both in committee and in the full House and Senate. I'll be updating this post throughout the day with updates.

Where the unvaccinated are: Northwest, Central Arkansas

Benton County schools have the highest number of students — 863 — who have foregone one or more immunizations required by the state. Washington County is next, with 585; Pulaski County is third, with 234; and Faulkner is fourth, with 218.

Reputation isn't enough for McClard's

A disappointing pork sandwich is just the latest in a series of unfortunate meals at McClard's.

NLR superintendent responds, indirectly, to reports on football coach Brad Bolding

North Little Rock School Superintendent Kelly Rodgers today issued a brief statement acknowledging, indirectly, the district's plans to fire football coach Brad Bolding and a lack of official response on the question. It's a personnel matter, he says.

Private option passes House and heads to governor

SB 96, the bill to continue the private option for two years and create a task force to determine some future direction for the policy, is being debated on the House floor this afternoon.

Arkansas lawyers file class action against Walmart, others, over herbal products: UPDATE

Lawyers in Little Rock and Fayetteville have filed federal suit in the Western District against Walmart, Target and Walgreens stores for selling herbal products that an investigation in New York discovered contained little or n one of the ingredients advertised on the bottle.

Today in Arkansas: Video roundup from the West Coast

Today in Arkansas: Busy day at the legislature, with Hutchinson's $100 million income tax cut passing the Senate, a committee turnback of guns on campus bill, the passage in committee of a bill that would prohibit cities from passing anti-discrimination laws.

NLR high forfeits 2013-14 varsity wins

North Little Rock High School is forfeiting all of last year's varsity wins in football and boys basketball — a state championship trophy — because an ineligible player participated.

Choom gang open line

Choom!

Tom Cotton's 'bizarre speech' on Guantanamo

Lots of attention on the web today about remarks by n by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton. Vox called his remarks on preserving a detention center in Guantanamo Bay " bizarre."

About 100 gather for student-led protest of LRSD state takeover

The Little Rock School District Student Association (LRSDSA) is "dedicated to empowering students and making their voices heard," said Hannah Burdette, a Parkview High senior who is one of the founders of the group.

'Delta Blues' drug kingpin gets life sentence

Demetrius Colbert, 39, of Marianna was sentenced in federal court Thursday to life in prison plus 10 yeas for a string of drug and firearms violation in the course of operating a Delta drug distribution operation.

Light day at Capitol, agenda includes drone bill

Only the House is in session today and likely not for long after an 8:30 a.m. start. The agenda includes withdrawal of Rep. Justin Harris' bill to restrict drone photography over private property. I don't know at this point if he has a substitute planned.

Who says Tom Cotton is 'bizarre'

A letter to the editor has arrived related to a report that other media had termed "bizarre" U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's remarks in support of keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention center open.

Congratulations to Ghost Bones, winner of Round 2 of the Arkansas Times Musician Showcase

The Hot Springs band took the second round of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase last night at Stickyz, beating out Big Still River, The Federalis and Black Horse.

Restaurant memories and total nostalgia open line

Your Friday food open line is...open. We're hitting your nostalgia buttons today with some restaurant memories, but you can talk about whatever you want.

Democrat-Gazette headline on private option passage omits words "private option"

I couldn't help but notice something odd about today's headline in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette regarding the reauthorization of the private option, the expansion of Medicaid-funded insurance that's been fully at the center of politics in Arkansas for the past two years. See if you can spot it:

State settles Medicaid suit over cystic fibrosis drug

The state Medicaid office has settled a federal lawsuit brought by three cystic fibrosis patients who were denied the drug Kalydeco because of cost, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

So what's left? God, guns and gays, of course

Most of the heavy lifting has been done in less than a month, but a resolution filed today anticipates the session running through April 10. That can only mean lots more mischief is coming, particularly in the God, guns and gays sector.

Terry Wright fractals projected on Queensmob

Work by Little Rock fractal artist and writer Terry Wright currently accompanies an article in the online arts magazine Queenmobs. Images of his work accompanies "Bishop with Bad Thoughts." The author, Jacurutu:23, is described on the site as "a self-described “Scissorman”; one who cuts up and reassembles sound, video, art and reality itself to suit his own means." As such, Wright's alternating gifs are mimesis to jacurutu:23's (fairly inscrutable) writing. Enjoy. (I like to think the image top right is an illustration of a jacurutu, but that's because I'm basically a philistine.)

State issues advisory on Turbotax

Arkansas Department of Finance Administration officials report no problems with the popular Turbotax income tax software as has been reported in other states, but said they would take precautionary steps.

Hutchinson signs middle-income tax cut bill, promises more in the future

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed his promised tax cut package into law this morning with a bipartisan group of dozens of legislators in attendance. It caps quite a week for the governor, in which the two biggest pieces of legislation the session is likely to see — the tax bill and the private option — were approved by the General Assembly by wide margins and sent to his desk.

MacKeith on Aalto: Architecture and Design lecture

UA Fay Jones School of Architecture Dean Peter MacKeith will give a talk next Tuesday, Feb. 10, about Finnish master architect Alvar Aalto, described in the announcement by the Architecture and Design Network as Finland's foremost architect/designer of the 20th century, at the Arkansas Arts Center. There will be a reception at 5:30 and the free talk starts at 6 p.m. in the lecture hall.

Suicide attempt at Pulaski County Regional Detention Center

Pulaski County Sheriff's Office reports a suicide attempt at the jail last night, with a deputy finding an inmate hanging by a sheet.

Pine Bluff's Sno-White Grill to close

A Pine Bluff institution announces that it will close.

$1 million settlement reached in death of Benton County inmate denied care

The Benton County Quorum Court unanimously approved a $1 million settlement last night to the family of a 52-year-old inmate who died in custody from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer after asking for medical help for months.

The Fisherman's Wharf open line, and Friday's video

Max delivers a roundup of Friday's news from San Francisco.

Times mobile site redesigned for your viewing pleasure

Check out our full arts listings on the Arkansas Times newly redesigned mobile site (m.arktimes.com). You can get the news there, too, of course.

Jermain Taylor stripped of IBF middleweight title

ESPN is reporting that the International Boxing Federation stripped boxer Jermain Taylor of his middleweight world title on Friday.

Obamacare is working: Mountain Home edition

The success of Obamacare has eliminated the need for fund-raising for a charity medical clinic in Mountain Home.

Little Rock board agenda details FedEx center

The Little Rock City Board will approve an infrastructure grant for a FedEx distribution center under construction in Southwest Little Rock. Board information details the scope of the project, including new job numbers lower than what had been mentioned earlier.

A new angle on local option elections on alcohol sales

A Little Rock lawyer is working on an initiated act to lower the number of signatures necessary to put local option alcohol sales proposals on the ballot.

Payments to star player's stepfather prompted forfeitures

Documents were released by the Arkansas Activities Association that offered some explanation for the North Little Rock School District's self-reporting of activities that led to forfeiture of football and basketball games.

Razorback football coach Bret Bielema gets two-year contract extension and a raise to $4 million

The University of Arkansas announced this morning that it has extended football coach Bret Bielema's contract by two years, to 2020, and increased his pay in 2015 from about $3.2 million to $4 million, with $100,000 increases in each of the subsequent five years. The contract also includes a number of potential bonuses for sports and academic success, up to $1 million a year.

League of Women Voters poses questions on Little Rock school takeover

The League of Women Voters of Pulaski County released a letter today to Arkansas Education Commissioner Tony Wood with questions about future state control of the Little Rock School District.

I left my heart in Little Rock open line

Here's an open line for Saturday night, a bit early because I'm tied up with important matters in San Francisco.

From Oakland: A lesson in how to turn a tough school around

A lesson from California on how to achieve school success in a tough neighborhood with poor students. It starts with a good principal, attention to home needs and money, lots of it.

Focus on education: Boston Consulting Group goes to work

The consultant working for the Walton and Rockefeller Foundations to produce a plan for Arkansas schools is making a bow Tuesday night at working with members of the Little Rock teachers union..

The all-day-and-all-evening open line

I'll be traveling home today. So unless I get a minute in airports, this open line will have to do.

Ghost of George Wallace: Alabama chief justice stands in wedding chapel door

Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has written probate judges in Alabama to tell them not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples when it becomes legal under federal court rulings today.

Soup's on: Today's freebies for the legislature include House committee soirees

Freebies for the legislature today include a Stephens Investment Holding soiree at the Capitol Hotel for the 20 members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. It's at 6:30 p.m. if you'd like to see Rev and Tax "at work."

Branding in Arkansas: Avoid the word Obama

Poll: If you want to adopt the private option Medicaid expansion, don't call it Obamacare.

Get ready to hop aboard the Little Rock Brew Bus

As if you needed any more proof of just how much the Arkansas beer scene is booming, along comes the latest addition to Little Rock area; the Little Rock Brew Bus.

Plugging Powerball's $450 million jackpot

The Arkansas Lottery couldn't be happier that the Powerball jackpot this week is up to $450 million ($304 million in a lump sum.)

Fort Smith government fever: Is it spreading?

A reader says there's rumbling in Little Rock about beginning a drive here similar to that underway in Fort Smith to change the form of city government.

Justices say Supreme Court tipped hand on marriage ruling

I think I agree with Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia for once. I think the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold rulings that overturned same-sex marriage bans.

Anti-gay bill passes Senate; Democratic Party objects

Leadership of the Arkansas Democratic Party today announced its opposition to Sen. Bart Hester's bill to preserve legal discrimination against gay people. It was passed shortly after by the Senate, with three Democrats in support.

Disability rights activists demand legislative action on Community First Choice Option

Advocates of the disabled and the elderly rallied at the Capitol rotunda this morning to urge the legislature to sign off on the Community First Choice Option (CFCO), the federal program that would allow individuals who qualify for institutional care under Medicaid to instead receive at-home or community-based services. Among those who showed up: Republican Rep. Josh Miller, a staunch foe of the private option but a friend of the CFCO.

An O'Keeffe (or two?) for Crystal Bridges

Arts blogger CultureGrrl (Lee Rosenbaum) has confirmed everyone's suspicion that Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's collection now includes Georgia O'Keeffe's "Jimson Weed" and Jasper Johns' "Flag" (1983). She has a trusted source, she says.

The rich likely to get full capital gains tax after all

Rep. Joe Jett, chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, filed a shell income tax bill today that he says will soon be amended to fully restore the 2013 capital gains tax cut.

Smooth sailing for bill to abolish board that regulates security officers

The Senate voted 33-1 today for Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's bill to abolish the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies.

Another week's opening open line: Also, doctor arrested on child sex charge

Here's today's open line and video headline report. Also: A doctor who lives in Sharp County has been arrested on a child sex charge.

Eureka Springs City Council passes civil rights ordinance, sets stage for potential lawsuit

The Eureka Springs City Council last night suspended the rules and hurriedly passed a civil rights ordinance that extends anti-discrimination protection to gay people in employment, housing and public accommodations. It sets up a potential legal challenge if the legislature completes passage of a law aimed at preserving legal discrimination against gay people.

Legislature has many freebie options today

No fewer than 11 opportunities for free meals and drinks are on the official agenda for members of the legislature today, despite Amendment 94's ban on freebies for lawmakers.

What's afoot on bill to change qualifications for state education commissioner

Barclay Key, an activist in the state school district formerly known as Little Rock, has started an on-line petition against the bill by Sens. Alan Clark and Jane English to remove the requirement that the director of the state Education Department have a masters' degree and 10 years of direct or indirect experience as a teacher.

Scheduled activities of the legislature: Open to the public

A legal friend buttresses my daily mention that the public should feel free to attend the "scheduled activities" at which major lobbies are running roughshod over Amendment 94 by having daily free meals and cocktails paid by special interests, in many cases at hideaway Capitol Hill apartments in which the entire legislature could not fit, even if they wanted to do so.

Dumas: Obamacare myths and the simple arithmetic for preserving it

Ernest Dumas has another valuable column this week debunking myths about the devastating impact of Obamacare, particularly in Arkansas. To begin: Jobs are up, Medicaid costs are down, the state budget is sharply improving, in part from the enormous stimulus of federal medical care dollars.

Another no vote on state Obamacare repeal

State Rep. Josh Miler, who famously has drawn millions in Medicaid and other public assistance on account of a disability from a drunk driving car wreck but who has opposed the private option expansion of Medicaid, failed again in committee today with a bill to repeal the private option.

Cheese dip, sandwiches shine at Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro

Portions: huge. Food: tasty. Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro is a comfort food mainstay that always delivers.

Bill introduced for tax credit for working poor

Rep. Warwick Sabin, a Little Rock Democrat, has introduced a bill to give an income tax break to the working poor.

Rwake's first album, 'Xenoglossalgia,' gets reissued

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Relapse Records has provided the important public service of reissuing the debut album (or demo), "Xenoglossalgia (The Last Stage of Awareness),” by seminal North Little Rock doom metal band Rwake, originally released 25 years ago. A collage of demonic energy, pitch black emotional turmoil, spacey samples and genre-evading twists and turns (Popol Vuh synths, folk-rock interludes), the record is unpredictable and heavy and unforgettable.

A voice for the forgotten working poor

Good timing on the tax credit bill for poor workers. A grassroots group, the Arkansas Citizens First Congress, is at the legislature today to press issues important to working families.

History of lynching: Arkansas lands atop another bad list

The New York Times reports today on a new history of lynchings in the South, which details 3,959 victims of "racial terror lynchings" in the 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. Arkansas lands at the top of a very dark list.

Judge orders continued hospitalization for Jermain Taylor

Boxer Jermain Taylor should remain hospitalized for further testing, Judge Leon Johnson said today during a court appearance. Taylor has been charged in two firearms assault cases and was ordered to undergo physical and mental testing.

Lottery takeover advances

Abolition of the lottery commission advanced in a Senate committee today and a bill was introduced to divert general revenue to highway construction.

Rutledge names Sarah Tacker consumer protection chief

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that Sarah Page Tacker would be deputy attorney general for the public protection department.

Arkansas man in landmark federal case over Social Security benefits for same-sex spouse

Interesting report from KUAF's Jacqueline Froelich on a federal lawsuit in Illinois that challenges as unconstitutional the Arkansas ban on recognition of same-sex marriages legally entered in other states.

Hutchinson names leaders of environmental, veterans and securities agencies

Becky Keogh, Matt Snead, Edmond Waters, Department of Environmental Quality, Veterans Affairs Department, Securities Department, Asa Hutchinson

Saline County man acquitted in slaying of two brothers who rode onto his property

Late last night, after more than six hours of deliberation, a Saline County jury acquitted C.D. Spann of murder charges in the 2013 deaths of Donald and Michael Williams. They'd been riding all-terrain vehicles on his property in the Sardis community.

UPDATED: 'Religious beliefs protection bill' passes House Judiciary

A bill by Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) entitled the Conscience Protection Act passed the House Judiciary committee today on a voice vote after almost two hours of testimony from citizens speaking both for and against it.

Boozman joins Ted Cruz effort to preserve same-sex marriage bans

Sen. John Boozman is among 11 senators who've joined with Ted Cruz to reintroduce legislation that requires the federal government to defer to the laws of the state where a couple resides to determine if someone is married for purposes of federal law.

Today's open line and video report

Here's the Tuesday open line.

Jon Stewart leaving Daily Show

Sigh. Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show.

Bill filed to end the death penalty

Sen David Burnett has introduced a bill to end capital punishment in Arkansas.

Brian Williams suspended for six months

Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay following revelations that he exaggerated tales from an Iraq War mission in 2003.

Free eats, drinks continue for state legislators

No fewer than six cocktail parties are on tap for legislators today, among a busy day of "scheduled activities" at which lawmakers may partake of free food and drink, from breakfast through dinner. The public is welcome.

Polling info near on tax for arts center in North Little Rock; also add a potential contributor

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith expects to have some news this week about a private group's polling on how city voters would feel about a sales tax to pay in part for a cultural complex that could relocate the Arkansas Arts Center and other major arts institutions. I've learned, too, that the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation might be a potential contributor to such a project.

Local control? It depends. Fluoride, yes. Gay rights, no.

The anti-fluoridation crowd has filed a "local control" bill on the subject. The sponsors are among those likely to oppose local control when it comes to discrimination against gay people.

Who said the Civil War is over? See Arkansas legislature

The Civil War isn't over. See the Arkansas legislature where defenders of Robert E. Lee and supporters of legislation damaging to black people are prominent on the agenda today.

New music from The Wandering Lake, Dionte BOOM, Radradriot, Pepperboy and more

The Wandering Lake was a longtime recording project by Fayetteville's Brian Kupillas, and is now a very good band. This song seems particularly great, and features Jack Lloyd and John Willis. Recommended for fans of "All Things Must Pass."

Hutchinson forms task force on Common Core, with Lt. Gov. Griffin to chair

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today announced formation of a Council on Common Core Review, to be headed by Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin. It echoes his recent formation of a task force to study long term reforms to Medicaid: By deferring to a need for further study, the governor is attempting to defuse a complex and potentially explosive issue within his own party.

Food impresses at sleek, stylish Samantha's

First time at a newly-opened restaurant can be nerve-wracking. Samantha's put us right at ease.

Arts Center to notify directors of reporting on NLR project

The members of the board of directors at the Arkansas Arts Center will be provided an "information sheet" tomorrow on reporting by the Times' Max Brantley and the follow-up by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that a private-public partnership is being considered to build a new arts center in North Little Rock.

How the nursing home lobby plans to sidestep tort reform blockade

Why, you ask, does the nursing home lobby hold an open house for lunch and cocktails in a Capitol Hill apartment most days the legislature is in session? Aren't they already well taken care of with profitable reimbursement rates, rhanks to the bed tax, and haven't they stocked the judiciary with judges elected with their campaign contributions?

Lottery takeover sails to the House

The Senate voted 34-0 today to abolish the Lottery Commission and put appointments under the power of the governor, with the agency becoming part of the Department of Finance and Administration.

The concealed carry death toll

Editorial in New York Times today cites a report on shooting deaths by concealed carry permit holders.

Fraud charged in federally funded child feeding program

The U.S. attorney's office has announced another indictment of a former state worker for defrauding money in operation of a feeding program for children.

Arkansas ranks #2 in nation for 'Fifty Shades of Grey' presale tickets

Semi-pornographic literary adaption "Fifty Shades of Grey" gets a nationwide theatrical release this weekend, and according to Deadline Hollywood's survey of advance ticket sale, Arkansans are more excited about this than anyone else in the country other than Mississippi. Based on Fandango's summary of "state-by-state presales data," Arkansas ranks #2 nationwide.

The midweek line and video news roundup

The open line and video news roundup.

The shame of Robert E. Lee/MLK Day in Arkansas

This morning, I was a student ambassador for Philander Smith College and the Social Justice Institute at a House Committee that discussed Rep. Nate Bell’s proposal to divide a Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Tech companies want space now; park can't oblige

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board on Wednesday night heard from park Director Brent Birch that two large tech companies and several small ones are eager to move into space on Main Street that the park is negotiating to buy. However, the buiilding, the annex to the Exchange Building at the northeast corner of Fifth and Main, probably won't be ready for occupation until the last quarter of 2015, Birch said.
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