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The war on Little Rock schools

The war on Little Rock schools

April 21, 2016

Vol 42 • No 33

Read the print version

The war on Little Rock schools

Superintendent Baker Kurrus is the latest casualty in the Walton-directed assault on the LRSD.

Arkansas Works, does it?

Also, secularism as communism, when 10 equals 6 and more of the same.

Kari Faux on her new album 'Lost en Los Angeles'

No small talk.

Lyons on the Clintons

"In his latest column, Gene Lyons was true to form watering down the record of the Clintons."

A Readers' Map debuts

462 Arkansas authors make the cut.

Leslie Rutledge, cheering Arkansas to the bottom

Fight, fight, fight equality.

Asa to LR: Drop dead

The Asa Hutchinson administration made clear this week its contempt for the residents, children and voters of Little Rock, at least those in the Little Rock School District, if not the red precincts of Chenal Valley.

Bash does better burgers

New joint hits the mark with appetizers, fries and brunch, too.

Exxon changes climate politics

Even when it has been hidden for half a century, a little scientific knowledge can open windows to change.

New 'Jungle Book' feels real

Despite being a mostly digital creation.

Don't despair about baseball

Arkansas's baseball freefall is not something atypical for a Dave Van Horn team. Being 21-15, 4-11 at the midway point of the conference season would seem so distressing, if you bought into the belief that records mattered all that much.

Battling dragons

The Observer, Lord help us, is coming into what we bitterly call The Groundskeeping Season.

Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.

Standout acting

In romantic 'Bridges.'

Foggy, foggy night

The glow of the Junction Bridge is reflected in the water of the Arkansas River on a recent humid night.

Never wrong

Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.

The Coathangers play Low Key Arts

Also, a Nina Simone Listening Party at The House of Art, Handmade in the Heights, the International Food Festival at the Islamic Center of Little Rock, the Conway Crawfish Boil at Kings Live Music, Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair at Verizon and Kyle Gass and Iron Tongue at Vino's.

A card for Jason Rapert; it isn't a sympathy card from women

That anonymous group sending mailers into districts of senators who'd been holding up approval of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Arkansas put a card together for Sen. Jason Rapert as well, even though he voted for the scam in which a vote AGAINST Obamacare was actually a vote FOR it.

AFP will "score" Medicaid expansion vote; group says lawmakers backing governor's procedural ploy are "supporting Obamacare"

Americans for Prosperity Arkansas issued a statement yesterday that they issued a "key vote alert" on Senate Bill 121, the Medicaid budget appropriation which will continue the private option Medicaid expansion:  "Americans for Prosperity will be scoring 'Nay' and 'Present' votes as a vote consistent with opposing/ending Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and 'Yea' votes as consistent with supporting Obamacare's Medicaid expansion."

Voucher money on Joint Budget agenda this morning

On Joint Budget agenda this morning: A school voucher appropriation and a new way to send money to regional planning commissions often used to launder money in ways dictated unconstitutionally by legislators.

Kids' advocate objects to LR school upheaval

Add the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to those dismayed by the decision to get rid of Baker Kurrus as leader of the Little Rock School District.

Arkansas No. 1: In lost/stolen guns. Or is it?

Arkansas, a leader in gun ownership, is — perhaps not surprisingly — the national leader in stolen and lost firearms.

Boozman fails to stop clean energy power line

It's  good to have an ineffective U.S. senator. That would be Sen. John Boozman, who couldn't bring all Republicans around to a plan to hamper the Clean Line electricity project to carry wind-generated electricity to Arkansas and other states.

Stephens maintains rights to Metrocentre asset

Now that the Stephens properties on Main Street and Fifth have been sold to The Little Rock Technology Park, what is Stephens' share in the Metrocentre Improvement District assets, I wondered as I wrote yesterday's item on the potential sale of  Henry Moore's "Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge."

Trump opposes N.C. bathroom bill. Also talks abortion

Donald Trump said on national TV today that transgender people should be able to use what restroom they feel is appropriate. It hasn't been a problem before, he said. Really.

Tickets newly available to Paul McCartney show

Verizon says it just released 300 tickets from its previously sold out Paul McCartney concert. Not sure how that works. Anyway, get 'em while they're hot from Ticketmaster.

Another local voice angered by Hutchinson administration ouster of school leader

Add Arkansas Community Organizations to the list of local voices unhappy about the Hutchinson administration's decision to dump Baker Kurrus as leader of the Little Rock School District. (Understanding that the Hutchinson administration gives not a fig about Little Rock School District voices.)

Tom Cotton talks terrorism, but he gets in the way of action

Sen. Tom Cotton is at it again — standing as the sole roadblock to constructive action, this time someone who'd work on a subject near and dear, terrorism.

State Police report fatal shooting of theft suspect by Johnson County deputy

The State Police are investigating the fatal shooting of a criminal suspect Wednesday night south of Perryville.

(UPDATES) All over but the grandstanding: Liveblog of House debate on Medicaid budget

The House is set to vote to continue the Medicaid expansion. Here's your liveblog: refresh for updates.

Medicaid expansion lives: House passes appropriation, on to governor’s desk

The House today passed the Medical Services appropriation, which includes the funding for “Arkansas Works,” the governor’s plan to continue the private option Medicaid expansion.

Marcus Devine stepping down as Youth Services director

Marcus Devine has resigned as director of the state Youth Services Division.

Thursday's open line

Smooth sailing today. Here's an open line and the video roundup.

Arts Center tonight: Stanton Thomas on Bouguereau

Dr. Stanton Thomas, the curator of European and decorative art at the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, will give a talk tonight, "Bouguereau and the Hazards of Love," in the lecture hall.

Government says Maggio should go to jail during appeal

The U.S. government today said former judge Mike Maggio of Conway should be jailed May 23 on his bribery conviction despite a pending appeal.

Governor has a happy news conference on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Asa Hutchinson met reporters this afternoon to praise the legislature for resolving in eight days the multi-million-dollar question of continuation of the state's private option version of the Medicaid expansion financed by the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Sears to close its store on South University in July

The Sears store at 600 South University will close in July, Sears announced today, along with 68 Kmart and nine other Sears stores. There are no other stores in Arkansas on the list.

Like Art Moderne? Free poster celebrates Preservation Act

OK, so it's a bus station! But what great artwork on this poster commissioned by the Department of Heritage's Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The poster, which shows the Greyhound Bus Station at 109 Fifth St. in Blytheville, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. The artist was Mike Newton of Mangan Holcomb Partners.

"Arkansas Works" backers could use new legislation to safeguard Medicaid expansion from legal challenge over line-item veto

Backers of “Arkansas Works,” the governor’s plan to continue the Medicaid expansion private option, have options to guard against a potential legal challenge to the procedural maneuver they used to fund it.

Sanford Tollette speaks out against planned development

Sanford Tollette, the director of the Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp on the Little Maumelle River has made this video asking the public to help him stop The Trails development on Kanis Road.

Why Arkansas had no choice on Medicaid

Gov. Asa Hutchinson didn't have to back the Medicaid expansion financed by Obamacare legislation. He could have emulated Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownback and reduced Arkansas to the devastated state of Louisiana and Kansas.

Big dig news: De Soto's cross may have been found at Parkin park

The Archaeological Conservancy brings potentially big news from a dig near Parkin — a cross built by Hernando de Soto when his exploration brought him to what is now Arkansas nearly five centuries ago.

Transgender people in bathroom: Laugh or cry

Did the U.S. have a problem with transgender people using restrooms appropriate for their identity? We did not until it was developed as  political tool — effective — to counter the rise of legal protection for LGBT people, beginning with same-sex marriage. Arkansas seems likely to plunge into the abyss.

Bryan Borland named editor of Out in Arkansas

Last year, the Arkansas Times announced plans to expand that coverage with the launch of Out in Arkansas, a series of LGBTQ-focused stories with the aim of ultimately building a separate publication.

J.B. Hunt stockholders vote for non-discrimination policy

J.B. Hunt shareholders approved today a request to amend company policy to specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Walton U. does its duty in LR school mess

Surprise. Employees of a Walton-backed pro-charter-school unit at the University of Arkansas have come to the defense of the firing of Baker Kurrus as Little Rock school superintendent after he had unflattering things to say about charter schools financially supported by the Walton Family Foundation.

Beebe lands a little extra income as bank director

Former Gov. Mike Beebe has been named to the board of directors of Home BancShares, a bank holding company headed by his college friend John Allison.

Week-ending open line

Here's Friday's open line and a video news roundup.

Maggio may remain free pending appeal, judge rules

Federal Judge Brian Miller ruled today that Mike Maggio need not report to prison next month while his appeal of a bribery conviction is pending.

UCA yearbooks pulled to correct captions viewed as racially offensive

The president of the University of Central Arkansas, Tom Courtway has issued a statement of criticism, the yearbook staff has apologized and the UCA yearbook, The Scroll, will be redistributed with a couple of photo captions gone, the Log Cabin Democrat reports.

The Assault on the LRSD Edition

The end (for now) of legislative jockeying around Medicaid expansion, Jason Rapert’s crusade against emergency contraception and the firing of Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus — all covered on this week's podcast.

Mike Huckabee hops back on Fox News gravy train

Deadline Hollywood reports that Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and twice-failed presidential candidate, has struck a new deal to return to Fox News.

Ed. Commissioner Key regrets 'timing' of Kurrus firing, but no change of course

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key has issued a statement on the dismissal of LRSD Superintendent Baker Kurrus that is intended to mollify Little Rock residents upset about the firing.

UA provides answers to David Pryor's questions on Razorback stadium expansion

The University of Arkansas distributed at 5:23 p.m. today answers  assembled by Athletic Department officials and others to questions raised by UA Board of Trustees member David Pryor about a proposed $160 million expansion of Razorback Stadium and other athletic facilities.

Three juveniles arrested in slaying of Sylvan Hills teen

Sherwood police have arrested three juveniles in the slaying of another teen found dead Thursday.

Departed Youth Services leader had tax lien. So what else is new?

It may be a coincidence that a tax lien was filed against Marcus Devine shortly before he abruptly departed his job as director of the state Youth Services Division. But it wasn't his first tie to turn up as a defendant in a court collection action.

Feds propose new rules on measuring highway congestion

The Federal Highway Administration this week issued proposed new rules to make states do a better job of collecting travel time data and monitoring highway performance.

Noon rally today for Little Rock schools

Supporters of the Little Rock School District will rally at noon today at the state Capitol in response to the Asa Hutchinson administration's decision to remove Baker Kurrus as school superintendent for replacement by the current Bentonville Superintendent Michael Poore.

Speaking of tax liens ....

The item earlier about Marcus Devine's tax bill prompted a reader to alert me to tax liens filed against another public figure.

Minority Leader Gray: lawmakers should pass safeguard legislation to make sure Medicaid expansion isn't threatened by lawsuit

Democratic Minority Leaders Michael John Gray said it's a no-brainer to pass safeguard legislation to guard against any potential lawsuit over the unusual procedural mechanism the governor used to insure funding of the Medicaid expansion.

Out in Arkansas still on, but with new leadership

Bryan Borland, who we announced as editor of our forthcoming LGBTQ pub, Out in Arkansas, has decided not to take the position.

Rally for Little Rock schools and Baker Kurrus

Hundreds gave up an hour of a glorious spring day to rally at the Capitol to protest the Asa Hutchinson administration firing of Baker Kurrus as Little Rock school superintendent and call for restoration of local control to the state's largest school district.

Saturday and the line is open

Cheers. Here is an open line.

Can grassroots slow the Walton agenda in Little Rock?

Community opposition has driven the Walton Family Foundation out of charter school spending in Chicago. Could there be a lesson for Little Rock? And when will somebody ask Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his education commissioner, Johnny Key, the right questions about Baker Kurrus' firing?

From Trump to City Hall: The politics of revolution and some names to watch

Voter dissatisfaction isn't limited to presidential politics. Here are some names who might shake things up at Little Rock City Hall.

Followups for Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Kurrus firing

Maybe the Waltons were surprised at Baker Kurrus' firing, as Gov. Asa Hutchinson claims, but I bet they weren't unhappy about it.

Did the rally for Little Rock schools matter? It did, and here's why.

Four reasons to stay angry and stay engaged on the issue of Baker Kurrus' firing as LRSD superintendent.

An open line: Plus, Hillary's car sold and Central High politics

A Pennsylvania man hits it big on resale of Hillary Clinton's old car and Central High elections feature some political connections. Part of tonight's open line.

Questions for Michael Poore

Michael Poore, the future Little Rock school superintendent, has been dodging the press, with the exception of one chat with the friendly Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The list of questions to be answered is long.

Cheers! The legislature is in town

No freebies on the legislature's official calendar today, but thank goodness for Tuesday.

Accountability: The representative from Rogers will propose some

Rep. Jana Della Rosa of Rogers says she will this week ask for approval of legislation to pay for an on-line filing system for campaign finance reports.

More legal tangles for Main Street 'developer'

Arkansas Business reports today on a contractor's foreclosure lawsuit over unpaid bills on work to convert two buildings in the 500 block of Main Street to lofts and other uses.

Monday's open line

Here's an open line, the day's video and a link to a beer bust (police style) of teenagers apparently hosted by a school teacher.

NASCAR opposes gay discrimination law

NASCAR comes out against North Carolina that protects LGBT discrimination. Might Arkansas Republican politicians someday join that number?

Rutledge clears form of marijuana legalization amendment

It took at least eight previous tries but Mary Berry of Summit, Ark., has received approval from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize mairjuana.

Cotton and Boozman: No clean energy in our backyard!

Late, but worth putting on the record: U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman are doing everything they can to stop construction of a power line carrying clean wind-generated energy to Arkansas and on to Tennessee.

Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte and new acquisitions

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is overflowing with news. First up: Pablo Picasso's "Seated Woman in Chemise (1923)" is coming to the museum from the Tate Modern for a three-month loan starting in late April.

A little chill for legislators: Is it legal?

Free ice cream for all at the state Capitol today, courtesy of lobbyists. But can legislators partake?

10 for '16-'17: 4 musicals, 6 dramas at Weekend Theater

Weekend Theater has an ambitious lineup for its 2016-17 season just announced, shows chosen for their contributions "to The Weekend Theater’s mission of personally, inter-personally and educationally reducing prejudice, cruelty, and indifference through quality, live theater.

Corporate welfare watch. Arkadelphia lands Chinese pulp mill, 250 jobs

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has a 10 a.m. news conference today to update progress on discussions with Sun Paper, a Chinese company, on building a $1.3 billion pulp mill in South Arkansas. Hutchinson joined the company in a letter of intent during a trip to Asia last year.

Post found at Parkin at UA for dating

A portion of a post unearthed last week by Parkin Archeological State Park archeologist Dr. Jeff Mitchem was taken to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville over the weekend for studies to determine whether it is actually the remains of a cross erected by DeSoto in 1542.

Eat My Catfish coming to Little Rock

Eat My Catfish, the Benton-based fried fish joint that has established a strong reputation – including a win in the "Best Seafood Around the State" category of this year's Arkansas Times Readers' Choice Awards — based on the simple math of heaping plates of fresh-never-frozen fare plus solid, no nonsense sides, recently announced recently that they'll be bringing an outlet to Little Rock.

J.B. Hunt moving deliberately after LGBT non-bias vote

Arkansas Business reports that J.B. Hunt isn't moving immediately to act on a vote by shareholders that the company adopt an explicit non-discrimination policy affecting LGBT employees. A task force will study it first.

Bill filed for on-line campaign finance reporting

Rep. Jana Della Rosa, a Rogers Republican, today introduced her bill to appropriate $750,000 to pay for an online campaign finance reporting system for the secretary of state's office.

Medicaid expansion deal completed

A motion to override the governor's line item veto of a part of the Medicaid expansion approriation failed on a voice vote in the Senate today and that's that.

Consensus building for I-30 plan

When Skip Rutheford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Affairs, tweeted last night that the latest plan looked like a winner for many major interests, I had a feeling I'd sensed the emergency of a power brokers consensus on the plan the Arkansas Freeway Department is going to talk about f

Purple rain on the Arkansas River

Coming tonight says a tweet from the River Market.

Tuesday's open line

Your thoughts welcome here. Also the daily video.

Rutledge again rejects wording of ethics amendment

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has again rejected the wording of a proposed constituitonal amendment submitted by Little Rock lawyer David Couch to counteract all the loopholes the legislature put into the last ethics amendment.

Senator targets Capitol Zoning District Commission for possible abolition, joined by Nate Bell UPDATE

Here we go again. Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson confirms that he had the Capitol Zoning District Commission's $250,000 budget sent back to committee this week because he's considering whether to recommend abolition of the commission.

Demonstration planned for Little Rock School District

Have free time at 4:45 p.m. tomorrow? Join a group planning to demonstrate at the state Education Department on the Capitol mall over the state's mismanagement of Little Rock School District, including the firing of superintendent Baker Kurrus.

SPUIs, split diamonds and pipe dreams: 30 Crossing open house

As Max predicted earlier, the state Highway and Transportation Department's 30 Crossing interstate widening plan that proposes replacing the Second Street exit with a park and building a "split diamond" exit to Little Rock (southbound) at Fourth Street and Ninth Street (northbound) got a good reception by some of the 300 or so attending tonight's AHTD open house, and was touted evidence that public pressure, in the form of 1,000 comments on the widening of the interstate, has had some effect on the highway department.

Shop Target and Kroger. Walmart?

Target and Kroger stand up to vicious and dishonest myth about transgender use of store restrooms. But, I wondered, what about Walmart?

Trump v. Clinton. Right?

The New York Times interprets Tuesday night's primaries as contributing to the "aura of inevitability" of a November match between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Agree?

The top 20: Segregation of the affluent

Thomas Edsall writes about the segregation — by education, geography and other markers — of the people in the top fifth of the income scale in the U.S. He quotes from a recent academic research paper:

City directors say Fort Smith needs more diversity in city employees

Fort Smith City Directors Tracy Pennartz and Keith Lau pushed a city board discussion Tuesday at which several agreed he city workforce lacks diversity.

The Mena takeover of Quapaw Quarter zoning

Rep. Nate Bell's special language to abolish the Capitol Zoning District Commission is expected to come up in Joint Budget this morning.

The Atlantic: Segregation persists in Little Rock

Alana Samuels, a writer for The Atlantic, turns again to Little Rock for material, this time an expansive article on continuing segregation in Little Rock schools.

Watch 30 Crossing in 3D; read architect's objections

In case you missed last night's meeting on the 30 Crossing interstate widening project of the state Highway and Transportation Department, here's one of the 3D videos that were presented showing traffic at the evening rush hour in 2041.

Prosecutor clears prison guards in fatal shooting of escaping inmate

The Pine Bluff Commercial reports that Jefferson Prosecutor Kyle Hunter has cleared prison guards shot who fired on and killed an inmate attempting to escape the Varner Unit April 7.

Another yes for the Wide Misery. UPDATE: Make that two ayes

The Little Rock Technology Park board today endorsed the Arkansas Highway Department's split-diamond C/D design for Interstate 30 contingent on a change in the design of Capitol.

'Short Mean Fiction': Bill Dunlap reading

William Dunlap, an artist and author, will read from his new book, "Short Mean Fiction: Words and Pictures," tonight (Wednesday, April 27) at Greg Thompson Fine Art, 429 Main St. in North Little Rock.

Legislature attacks poor with restrictions on assistance money

A legislative subcommittee today put restrictions on how needy families may spend temporary cash assistance, which the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families  called an attack on the poor.

White House rips Tom Cotton obstructionism

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is continuing his obstructionist ways, today by trying to add an anti-Iran measure to a routine spending measure.

Wednesday's open line

Here's the open line and a video roundup of news and analysis.

Pulaski deputy arrested on mail fraud charge

Sgt. Kelvin Hendrix, a 25-year veteran of the Pulaski County sheriff's office, was arrested when he went to work today on a federal mail fraud charge for allegedly stealing money from a sheriff's office uniform fund and using it to buy 25 firearms from Cruse Uniforms and Equipment

New federal rule invalidates portion of law aimed at stopping abortion pill

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland today amended its lawsuit over a state law intended to end early-stage medication abortions on account of a new federal rule that makes part of the state law moot.

New superintendent Poore in town, meets with Kurrus

A chat with Mike Poore, the new Little Rock school superintendent, produced answers to a few questions I wanted to ask. We hope to talk more tomorrow.

Join Clinton, Thea at "Into the Blue"

The Thea Foundation's gala fundraiser "Into the Blue: An Evening with President Bill Clinton," 6:30-9:30 p.m. May 15 at the Clinton Presidential Center, is a hot if pricy ($1,000) ticket. You will get to hang out with Clinton, yes, but also see performances by young artists whose Thea scholarships helped them get a leg up on Broadway and other places where their talent can shine.