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Dancing Downtown

Dancing Downtown

February 23, 2017

Vol 43 • No 25

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Global solutions along the Arkansas River

From Little Rock's Mark Grobmyer and Charles, Prince of Wales?

Downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock are back in business

Main Street and beyond bustles.

What's new and coming soon to Main Street Little Rock

Restaurants, tech park, Walton School of Business and more.

Little Rock's Financial Quarter comes slightly more into focus

With StudioMain ideas, plan for Hall-Davidson buildings.

Moses Tucker on the move

21 projects downtown in 19 years.

What's new and coming soon to areas off Main Street in Little Rock

New apartments, a bar for dogs, a retro bowling alley and more.

What's new and coming soon in Central Arkansas along the river

A new Broadway Bridge, Robinson Center and more.

What's new and coming soon to Argenta

A riverfront hotel, new residential development, food, drink and more.

What's new and coming soon to Little Rock's East Village

Mixed-use development, eStem and breweries.

What's new or coming soon to SoMa in Little Rock

Shopping, mixed-use development and more.

Trump and Russia

If you think about it, no wonder Donald Trump prefers the imaginative stylings of Fox News to the presidential daily briefing. He's pretty much the network's target demographic: a daffy old-timer with time on his hands.

Attacking the press

Criticizing the press is nothing new in American politics. However, what we are seeing from this president and his administration is on a whole new level.

One for the money

CMT's 'Sun Records' gets dramatic about Sam Phillips and the roots of rock 'n' roll.


Sure, I'd like to think that Pearls About Swine, that modest batch of haphazard prose, had something to do with motivating Arkansas's beleaguered basketball program to rise from a seemingly inestimable late-season swoon to re-emerge in the NCAA Tournament discussion.

Love for Sonny Williams'

River Market steakhouse hits all the marks.

Stand up for Little Rock

If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.

Marilynne Robinson at Trinity Cathedral

Also, MVP Jazz Quartet, Selwyn Birchwood, Parker Quartet, Arkansas Flower & Garden Show, Circular Calls/Resonant Shadows, Spooky Talk Show Benefit, Marcella and Her Lovers

Legislative bullies

Arkansas voters know what they want

With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.


The Observer, who has lived in Little Rock many a year now, has a complicated relationship with this city.

'Bathroom bill' filed

Also, a polluters dream, Rapert rebuffed and more.

Hating the media

Presidents, with the exception of George Washington, never found much joy with the media, although Donald Trump is the first to use the scarily freighted words "enemies of the people."

Short films nominated for Oscars screen at Robinson

Also, Four Quarter celebrates anniversary.

A kind word for Betsy DeVos; Leslie Rutledge, not so much

A kind word for Betsy DeVos on LGBT rights. Leslie Rutledge? Another story.

Rapert files bill to rename Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport

Sen.  Jason Rapert, the bullying preacher of Conway, continues his wild assault on reason by filing today his promised bill to force the renaming of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Fox 16: Arkansas Supreme Court lifts suspension of Judge Wade Naramore that followed hot car death

Fox 16 reports that the Arkansas Supreme Court today has ended the suspension of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs, acquitted of a negligent manslaughter charge in the hot car death of his young son in 2015.

House approves constitutional amendment to require voter ID

As expected, the Arkansas House of Representatives today approved a constitutional amendment that would require voter ID, 73-21. It was a party-line vote, with House Democrats united against House Joint Resolution 1016.

Boozman goes the French Hill route on constituent access

Just one day after U.S. Senator Tom Cotton hosted a town hall in Springdale, Arkansas, U.S. Senator John Boozman announced he would host a town hall of a different sort.

The open line and the nightly news roundup

Thursday's open line and the daily roundup of headlines and comment.

Sanctuary campus bill fails in committee again

For the second time, a bill that would render colleges and universities ineligible for state funding if they "formally enacted or informally adopted" policies that did not comply with federal immigration laws — so-called "sanctuary policies" for undocumented immigrants — failed in committee.

UPDATE: House committee passes tort reform proposal, with higher damage caps

The House State Agencies committee approved an amended version of the measure on a roll call vote, 14-3. It next heads to the full House.

Ethics, schmethics. Legislators continue to scarf expensive freebies

Voters thought they'd stopped lobbyist entertainment for legislators. They thought wrong.

Another day in Trump's America

A news summary of a day in Trump's America. Whew.

Hot Springs chamber opposes bathroom bill

Add a Hot Springs business group to the list opposing proposed legislation to require that public restrooms be used by people with matching birth gender (the final legislation isn't on file; who knows what it will require for those with indeterminate gender at birth.) It's cold comfort giving the multiple ways in which the legislature, governor, attorney general and others defend legal discrimination against LGBT people in Arkansas.

Chief Justice Kemp names interim court administrator

Chief Justice John Dan Kemp of the Arkansas Supreme Court announced today that Marty Sullivan had been appointed interim director of the administrative office of the courts, effective March 16. The previous director, J.D. Gingerich, recently resigned.

Capitol Zoning District Commission fails in House vote

Needing 75 votes, an appropriation for the Capitol Zoning District Commission got only 52 and failed to pass this morning.

State Police reports shooting of juvenile by Osceola police during arrest

The Arkansas State Police is reviewing a police shooting of a juvenile this morning in Osceola during an attempted arrest of robbery suspects.

The failure of school vouchers

Three major studies. Three similar findings. School voucher programs not only don't improve educational attainment, they may set it back.

Hutchinson names Nathaniel Todd as Veterans Affairs director

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has appointed Nathaniel Todd as director of the state Department of Veteran Affairs.

House approves amended tort reform amendment; rejects compromise

The House approved higher damage limits on the constitutional amendment aimed at discouraging lawsuits, but rejected a compromise proposal for a still higher cap and alteration in the limit on attorney fees.

No debate today on the grocery store wine bill

Some unscheduled wrangling extended House debate this morning and it adjourned without debate on the Senate bill to expand wine sales in grocery stores.

Public comment period begins on medical marijuana commission rules

Have something to say about the draft rules created by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to govern the licensing of dispensaries and cultivation facilities?

Boozman: Prefers Florida fund-raiser to meeting Arkansas constituents

Sen. John Boozman's reluctance to meet in person with constituents gets some national attention, along with other Republican congressmen who've become shy about public meetings.

Discipline agency provides report on delay in Naramore case

The disciplinary investigation of Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs now includes a public report from the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission on the still open review of the judge following his arrest for negligent homicide in the hot car death of his child Thomas in 2015.

Price of a free press: Political retribution

The Trump administration freezes some reporters out of press gatherings. Dejavu all over again for us at the Arkansas Times.

Fake news stings Tom Cotton

Satirist Andy Borowitz invoked the name of U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton in a humor column poking fun at Republicans running from town hall meetings. Maybe a little unfair to Cotton, who DID hold such an event.


Here's the Friday open line, plus a roundup of news and comment.

The Ledge Gets Worse Edition

The state Supreme Court reversing a circuit decision upholding the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance, the latest from the legislature, Sen. Tom Cotton’s town hall in Springdale and the reinstatement of Judge Wade Naramore — all covered on this week's podcast.

Notes on the resistance: Pranksters, noisy town halls and Fox News expertise

Merry resistance pranksters, chicken GOP congressmen and a dubious Swedish "expert" on Fox News are part of a roundup of notes from the Trump resistance.

Petition calls for Jason Rapert Sewage Tanks in Conway

A tribute is proposed for Conway's state senator Jason Rapert: naming the city's sewage sludge tanks for him. Petitioners see a similarity.

Fayetteville demonstrators stand up after anti-LGBT Supreme Court ruling

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that said a Fayetteville civil rights ordinance to protect LGBT people ran afoul of a state law meant to protect LGBT discrimination prompted a demonstration in favor of the ordinance in Fayetteville.

An open line, plus Dickson Street blues

Here's an open line. In the news today: An alcohol-fuels scrap on Dickson Street landed a high profile jock in trouble early this morning in Fayetteville. Not to worry. He's quarterback at Oklahoma.

There ought to be a law on sexual contact by parole and probation officers

The Arkansas Leader this week shines an editorial light on legislation, to discourage sexual contact between probation and parole officers and the people they supervise. It follows some local scandals.

Arkansas in middle of debate about future of Medicaid and Obamacare

Republican-backed changes in Medicaid could mean a dramatic cut in the number covered and a work requirement, such as Gov. Asa Hutchinson is seeking in Arkansas, could be a problem for many more.

The Huckabee metaphor machine and jokester Tom Cotton on tonight's open line

Yuk it up with Mike huckabee, daughter Sarah and Tom Cotton on tonight's open line.

Arkansas delegation makes excuses for skipping town hall

Skittish members of Congress from Arkansas came up with lame excuses for refusing to attend a Missing Persons Town Hall put on Sunday by Indivisible Central Arkansas.

A note of politics before the Arkansas Symphony played Mahler

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performed Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony Sunday and concert-goers report it was preceded by some symphony messaging geared to the current times.

Mayor Stodola: Whatever happened to local control?

Credit where due to Mayor Mark Stodola for noting the national movement by Republicans to seize local control on pet issues, a movement amply illustrated by Arkansas's Republican legislature.

Plenty of freebies for legislators this week UPDATE

Plenty of free food and drinks are in store for the Arkansas legislature this week.

Episcopal diocese of Arkansas opposes campus carry

Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas opposes the campus carry bill.

Store clerk shot in late-night robbery

Police say a clerk at a Shell station was robbed and shot in the leg early this morning

Trump wants $54 billion in increased defense spending to come out of other programs

President Donald Trump says he wants to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion. He'd get the money by cutting that amount from most other federal agencies.

Supreme Court upholds financial disclosure in campaign ads

The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the federal law that requires disclosure of expenditures of more than $10,000 within 60 days of contested elections even if the ads don't explicitly urge a vote for or against a candidate.

Helena-West Helena council members charged after not paying water bills

Helena-West Helena police have filed misdemeanor charges against two city council members related to non-payment of city water bills.

The brave new Trump world

Elections have consequences and, in the case of the Trump election, they're aren't so pretty.

Check out slideshows from the Root Beard and Mustache Contest and SoMa Mardi Gras Parade

The throngs descended on South Main Street and Bernice Garden on Saturday for the annual SoMa Mardi Gras Parade and the 5th Annual Root Cafe/Arkansas Times Beard and Mustache Contest. As usual, ace photographer Rett Peek was on the scene to capture handsome portraits of all the contest participants. And our own Brian Chilson was on the scene to grab shots of the rest of the revelry.

Republicans plan march for Trump, including in Hot Springs

The Arkansas Republican Party has been circulating news of a March Saturday in Hot Springs to show support for President Donald Trump.

New round of execution dates set, but ...

Channel 4 reports that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has again set execution dates for eight Death Row inmates. He did so over strong objections from inmates' attorneys.

To the briefs: Some reading in Little Rock police shooting lawsuit

Late last week, the attorney for the plaintiff in the lawsuit over former Police Officer Josh Hastings' killing of a car burglary suspect asked for a rehearing of Judge Brian Miller's finding that the city and a former police chief could not be liable in the case.

Grocery store wine bill fails on first vote in House

SB 284, the bill to allow sale of all wines in grocery store, failed on its first run in the House today, with the vote 47-33 and 12 present. So it will receive another vote.

ABC board gets two new members, including new chair Dan Greenberg

The board of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division is now chaired by Dan Greenberg, the president of a conservative think tank and a former Republican legislator from Little Rock.

Criminal justice reform bill clears Senate

An omnibus criminal justice bill that aims to stem the growth of Arkansas prisons and save the state money cleared the Senate on Monday 27-4.

Guns and more guns on the Senate agenda

Sen. Trent Garner, on a 21-10 vote, sent the campus carry bill back to Senate committee. And he has more legislation to further the carrying of weapons in Arkansas.

House endorses amendment to limit damage lawsuits

The House today endorsed SJR 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to limit awards and attorney fees in damage lawsuits and also to give the legislature control of Supreme Court rule-making.

Review: "Legends of Southern Hip Hop" at Robinson Center

Mystikal, 8Ball & MJG, Scarface, Juvenile, Trick Daddy and Bun B are on tour together, and landed at the Robinson Center last Saturday night.

UPDATE: Identities released in shooting of robber by Little Rock police officer

A Little Rock police officer fatally shot a man he said attempted to rob him in a shopping center parking lot at Rodney Parham and Reservoir Roads about 7:40 p.m. Friday.

Another week begins. The open line

Here's the open line and the week-opening daily news roundup.

Schools and westward sprawl on Little Rock City Board agenda today

Schools and expensive westward sprawl seem likely to prompt some serious discussion at the Little Rock City Board meeting today.

Senator proposes to legalize local option gambling

Note a new legislative proposal from Sen. Scott Flippo of Bull Shoals: It's nothing more than a proposal to legalize certain forms of gambling in Arkansas.

KARK: Lee-King holiday deal in the works

Drew Petrimoulx of KARK reports, quoting Rep. Charles Blake of the Black Legislative Caucus, that a deal may be near on splitting the state's joint observation of the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day.

Cotton to take stage again in Heber Springs

Republicans are spreading word of a public appearance by Sen. Tom Cotton at 8 a.m. Saturday in Heber Springs at the community center. Dorothy Crockett, Mississippi County Republican chair, is among those publicizing the event as a town hall.

ABC board ponders medical marijuana rules on advertising, 'edibles,' transport and more

The rules endorsed by the ABC board on Tuesday restrict but do not prohibit TV, radio and print advertising for medical marijuana. The first draft presented Monday would have prohibited almost all such ads.

March for transgender health care set in Fayetteville

A march is set Saturday in Fayetteville for health care rights for transgender people at the University of Arkansas

Black college presidents meet The Real Donald Trump

Heads of historically black college and university presidents met President Donald Trump Monday and, well, it didn't go so well.

Tuesday: the open line and the news roundup

Open line. News and comment.

Rapert passes measures aimed at banning same-sex marriage and abortion on second votes

Sen. Jason Rapert squeaked through the Senate today a pair of resolutions that failed last week and which endorse outlawing same-sex marriage and abortion.

Pulaski arrest leads to charges in four robberies

The Pulaski County sheriff's office reported the arrest of a suspect in a robbery today that led to multiple charges.

A King holiday bill emerges. Missing — black sponsors

Filed today in the legislature was a bill to end the dual recognition of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. on a state holiday in February.

New tax is the plan for highway money; here's the impact on drivers

The highway lobby has opted, somewhat to my surprise, for a straightforward new tax to pay for road construction, if voters approve.

City directors raise questions about Little Rock school closures

KTHV has a report on Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore's appearance Tuesday night before the Little Rock City Board of Directors to talk about recent school closure decisions and a coming vote on a half-billion in new taxes for the state-controlled district.

Trump scores in speech to Congress

Donald Trump had a good night last night. A kinder, gentler Trump. Will it last? Will his feel-good promises turn into successful specifics? Those are the big questions.

Buffalo River Alliance continues fight against hog farm waste

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is continuing its fight against potential pollution of the national river by hog waste.

Bill filed to require racial impact statements

A bill filed in the Arkansas Senate would require racial impact assessments for certain criminal justice bills.

Jones Bar-B-Q, Lassis Inn, Rhoda's Tamales are Hall of Famers

The 12 judges in the competition for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame have made their choices, with the restaurant wins going to long-time eateries Jones Bar-B-Q of Marianna, Lassis Inn in Little Rock and Rhoda's Famous Hot Tamales of Lake Village. That covers barbecue, catfish and hot tamales, a good representation of favorite Arkansas cuisine.

Storm damages state prison at Newport

The Correction Department says last night's storms damaged the Grimes unit of the prison system at Newport.

Republicans resist legislation to encourage more voter registration

A Republican-dominated committee defeated a bill today that would make it easier to register voters through the driver license process.

Are Republicans going wobbly on immigration?

Are Republicans going soft on immigration? You decide.

Here come the payday lenders

Pending legislation would make it much harder to make civil claims over deceptive trade practices. This is great news for payday lenders, not so good for consumers.

The gutting of freedom of information law

A House committee this morning approved legislation to exempt from public disclosure all records or other information "related to the operations, emergency procedure, and security personnel of the State Capitol Police." It's part of a raft of legislation aimed at crippling the Freedom of Information Act and all of it seems popular with the Republican majority.

Guns on campus: Storm edition

Vilonia police arrested a man who wore a bulletproof vest and brought four guns into a Vilonia school safe room full of about 300 people seeking shelter from thunderstorms.

Sponsors reduce cost of school voucher bill

The school voucher bill to allow people to direct state income tax payments to a fund to pay for private school vouchers is to be amended substantially in part to cut down the potential cost to the state.

Damage lawsuit amendment heading to the ballot

As expected, the Senate today approved the House-amended version of the proposed constitutional amendment aimed at discouraging personal injury lawsuits, or so-called tort reform.

Hutchinson predicts 'uphill' fight for bill making state holiday solely for ML King and not Robert E. Lee

Gov. Asa Hutchinson explained his reasons today for supporting the legislature to singularly celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. with a state holiday and to separate Robert E. Lee for the observance.

Senate thrashes Bryan King bill for Mark Martin oversight of elections

This is good news. Sen. Bryan King's bill to put the state Election Commission under Secretary of State Mark Martin's office failed miserably today, drawing only seven aye votes against 15 nays.

An open line and a busy day at the Capitol

An open line and the daily news roundup.

House passes grocery store wine bill

The bill to allow grocery stores to sell all kinds of wine — not just Arkansas and small-batch products — was approved by the House today on reconsideration, with 53 ayes.

UPDATE: Bill to prohibit smoking marijuana passes Senate committee

Senate Bill 357 allows for other delivery mechanisms for cannabis, but would place a blanket ban on smoking. "Let’s just not wrap up snake oil in a joint and smoke it," Sen. Rapert said.

Voucher expansion passes House

A bill that would allow superintendents to waive the requirement that a student attend public school for a year before being eligible to participate in a special-needs education voucher program passed 69-7 in the House Wednesday.

Ban on sale of edible marijuana products passes Senate committee

Left unclear in SB 333 is what exactly it covers. It prohibits "[combining] usable marijuana with food or drink," but contains no definition of "food or drink."

Equal rights for LGBT people: Call the roll

Should Arkansas civil rights law protect LGBT people? Of course it should. A new piece of legislation would guarantee it. Good luck with that.

Rapert running into Clinton hate resistance

Word is that Jason Rapert is getting no traction on a bill to strip the Clinton name from Little Rock's airport.

Our long, regional nightmare is over: Broadway Bridge now open

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department opened the new Broadway Bridge to traffic tonight. And the angels sang "Hallelujah."