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The Force is with them

The Force is with them

April 28, 2016

Vol 42 • No 34

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2016 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team

Meet the 20 best and brightest high school students in the state.

2016 All-Star Finalists

These 10 students made the final round of judging for the 2016 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.

2016 All-Star nominees

Here are the students nominated to be Academic All-Stars. They are listed by their hometowns, as indicated by mailing addresses.

No independence

Now that the spectacular musical "Hamilton" and a new book that hails him as the father of the U.S. economy have burnished the reputation of the soldier-philosopher, the most brilliant of the Founders, it behooves political columnists to incorporate him.

Paul McCartney plays Verizon

Also, 'Incognito' in Conway, Arts and the Park in Hot Springs, "Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning" at the Arkansas Arts Center, Patti Lupone at the Fort Smith Convention Center, the Turkish Food Festival, Sunday Court Square Music Festival in Mountain View, St. Luke's Festival of the Senses at St. Luke's Episcopal and the 46th Annual World Famous Armadillo Festival in Hamburg.

Jason Rapert targets Plan B

Also, Hester sees the light, Huckabee comes home, Hernando? and the exit of Marcus Devine at DYS.

Songwriter among songwriters

Keith Sykes plays South on Main.

Standing up for the LRSD

Kurrus may be out as superintendent, but fight for the district continues.

'Second chance' citizenship

Just before the March 1 election, I was campaigning in the Capitol View neighborhood encouraging support for the ill-fated Pulaski County transit tax. I asked one man out building a fence whether he planned to vote. His response: "I can't because I was a felon."

Low tactics every day: Walmart education

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key fired Baker Kurrus as Little Rock superintendent last week because he ventured off the reservation when he presented data to the state Board of Education on the damaging impact of charter schools on the district, which the state now runs. Kurrus was questioning proposed expansions of two charter schools already draining easier-to-educate children from the LRSD.

Class clown: Johnny Key

Jokes on the LRSD.

Kurrus spoke truth

Just so we understand: [Arkansas Department of Education] Commissioner [Johnny] Key, who does not have a teaching certificate, replaced [Little Rock School District Superintendent] Baker [Kurrus] because he did not have a teaching certificate.

Rigged system

Welcome to the Arkansas Department of Education, where inequity, ideology and incompetence are our specialties — but trust us with your kids.

Loving Rosalinda's

Honduran restaurant is cheap and delicious.

Hope springs

The Observer observes. It's right there in the job title, folks, and we knew it from the first moment we donned the sacred ring regurgitated by a magical, wish-granting catfish in exchange for releasing him back into the moonlit Arkansas River many and many a year ago.

'Green Room' thrills

It's hardcore.

Get real

Call me unpatriotic, but whenever I hear people prating about the "American Dream" it sets my teeth on edge. The thing about dreams, see, is that they're imaginary. A figment of your imagination.

Empty shoes

Christopher Epperson, board chair for the Arkansas chapter of of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, arranges shoes on the steps of the state Capitol last week to represent the more than 500 Arkansans lost to suicide each year.

Fight continues on Capitol Zoning Commission

A Joint Budget vote is scheduled this morning and historic preservation groups have been lining up solidly to oppose the amendment proposed by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to kill the agency and transfer its work to the Arkansas Department of Heritage.

Finalists named in UALR chancellor search

The University of Arkansas System has announced the three finalists in the search for a successor to Joel Anderson as chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Supreme Court affirms full access to State Police accident records

The Arkansas Supreme Court today affirmed a Pulaski Circuit Court ruling that said Daniel Wren should be given unredacted State Police accident reports under the Freedom of Information Act.

Health Board adopts rule putting words in mouths of women seeking abortion: UPDATE

The Arkansas State Board of Health voted 13-7 today to bow to legislative pressure and revised rules on abortion facilities to require women to say they are aware they are causing death of an unborn child.

Critic asks Highway Department to tell truth: No park in 10-lane freeway plan

A Little Rock developer and critic of the 10-lane freeway expansion for Interstate 30 says the HIghway Departemnt should make clear a park proposal it featured at a public hearing Tuesday night is only a pipe dream. It won't be part of their project.

Wild Wines returns to the Little Rock Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo celebrates its 90th Birthday with “90th at Night” at Wild Wines Saturday, April 30, at 7:00 p.m.

An all-star open line

Here's the Thursday open line and today's video roundup. Also a reminder to check this year's Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.

30 Crossing 3D videos assume more widening of I-30

The 3D videos prepared by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to allow viewers to compare the 8-lane option for Interstate 30 to a 10-lane option (called 6+4 for various reasons by the AHTD, one of them possibly to get around requirement to get Metroplan to amend its 6-lane limit on I-30) show such a dramatic difference that I called the highway department's design build project engineer, Ben Browning, and asked why.

LRSD advisory group calls for replacing Education Commissioner Johnny Key

The Civic Advisory Committee of the Little Rock School District tonight approved a motion calling for the replacement of Education Commissioner Johnny Key, a halt to charter school expansions in the city and waivers to state education law, and a return of the district to local control.

Grassroots keep up Little Rock school pressure

Grassroots effort to regain control of Little Rock School District is keeping the pressure on state officials.

Reintroducing Hillary

Correct the Record, the super PAC working to elect Hillary Clinton as president, has underway a biographical reintroductions of the candidate to counteract the familiar opposition narratives. "Let's Talk Hillary" includes, for example, this YouTube video of a Pine Bluff woman praising Clinton's advocacy of the HIPPY program to help mothers prepare children for school.

In Virginia, backlash to money's influence on a college. Hmmmm.

The New York Times reports that a contribution of $30 million to rename the law school at Virginia's public George Mason University for Antonin Scalia has prompted an overdue backlash to the amount of ideology already infused in that campus by past contributions from the Koch family and like-minded conservatives. Sound familiar?

Oh, no, don't let the rain come down

Torrential rain has caused problems all over this morning. But, yet again, the sump created by the Broadway Bridge construction work produced a water barrier to traffic on La Harpe at the Robinson Center. That, in turn, multiplied problems everywhere else.

AHTD responds to post on video assumptions

AHTD Design Build Project Director Ben Browning emailed this morning, hoping to clarify his remarks on how the C/D lanes help with congestion and the assumed widening of I-30 south of the 30 Crossing project area.

Gubernatorial endorsement for Cruz

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is going to endorse Ted Cruz for president, just ahead of that state's primary. He better hope the Indiana governor has longer home-state coattails than another governor we can think of.

Concentrated poverty equals poorer education

Education Week reports on a new database on racial achievement gaps in U.S. schools. I'll boil it down: The best predictor of an achievement gap is concentration of kids in high poverty schools.

Benton County sheriff breaks law, gets probation and a big check

Former Benton County Sheriff Kelley Cradduck, charged with a felony records tampering charge, pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge today and got six months' probation. He resigned from office in mid-April after the Benton County Quorum Court agreed to give him about $80,000 for pay and health insurance coverage for the rest of the year.

Westerman pushing to make it easier to burn trees for energy

Energy and Environment Daily reports on efforts by U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman to get federal law to encourage burning of trees and timber waste (biomass)  to produce electricity.

A rainy Friday open line

Here's the open line to end the week, plus the daily roundup of news and comment by video.

Review: Carrie Underwood at Verizon

This time around, always-popular country star Carrie Underwood — no stranger to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock — was surrounded.

Sprint predicts 100 jobs at regional HQ in Little Rock

Sprint, the wireless carrier, has opened a South Central headquarters in Little Rock to serve four states and says it will have 100 full-time employees in Little Rock by the end of the year.

The Meeting Michael Poore Edition

New LRSD Superintendent Michael Poore makes the round, the fix is in on 30 Crossing and Hillary v. Donald — all covered on this week's podcast.

Jury acquits dentist of molestation charge

A Pulaski circuit court jury today acquitted Jose Turcios of a charge that he'd molested a teenage dental patient. It deliberated for about two hours..

Arkansas gets $3 million in drug suit settlement

The attorney general's office announced that Arkansas will receive about $3 million for its Medicaid programs as part of a $784 million settlement of a national class action lawsuit with Pfizer and its subsidiary Wyeth pharmaceuticals.

IHOP coming down, but .....

I always scan the Little Rock City Board for items of interest this week and this one caught my eye: A zoning measure required by a proposal to tear down the IHOP at Markham and University.

Police defer to the people in patrol car motto

A welcome note from on a departure in Arkansas law enforcement from the growing fad of putting "In God We Trust" on patrol cars and other bits of public property.

Fly-LIT: Airport commissioner slot on the agenda

Also on the agenda for Tuesday's city board meeting is board confirmation of Mayor Mark Stodola's picks for a number of city board and commission seats, including the always highly sought Airport Commission.

Deal struck to restore library, senior center money cuts

Legislators and the governor announced yesterday that a deal had been done to dip into reserve funds to restore $1 million cuts from both library and senior center budgets in 2015 to pay for a capital gains tax cut that primarily benefits wealthy people.

Mike Poore pays a visit to the Arkansas Times

Benji Hardy is going to reflect more fully on this later, but I wanted to mention that the incoming Little Rock school superintendent, Mike Poore, finished a hectic week of meeting Little Rock people with more than an hour chat with the Arkansas Times Friday afternoon before returning to Bentonville. My score: A-.

Saturday night line

Here's an open line. Back tomorrow unless I win the $315 million Powerball.

Paul McCartney entertains at Verizon Arena; meets two Little Rock Nine who inspired 'Blackbird'

Brian Chilson was on hand for Paul McCartney's stop at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock last night.

Where there's a loophole, there's a legislator

The legislature continues to make a mockery of the Constitution by pushing substantive issues in the budget session and by finding ways to keep the free drinks from lobbyists pouring.

Sunday's open line

The Sunday open line.

Election 2016: Republican vote suppression tactic takes hold

The New York Times rounds up how candidates are responding to the spread of voter ID laws across the U.S. — a strategy by the Republican Party to suppress votes among poor and minority groups that tend to favor Democratic candidates.

Senate candidate Eldridge plays Trump card against Boozman

Conner Eldridge, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent John Boozman, started advertising this morning to tie Boozman to presidential candidate Donald Trump and his remarks about women.

School report cards trouble Bentonville School Board

The Bentonville School Board expresses dissatisfaction with the district's school report cards in a discussion relevant for all in the context of the report cards, but particularly Little Rock, soon to be run by Bentonville's superintendent.

Michael Lamoureux leaving as Hutchinson chief of staff

I've yet to receive confirmation from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's lead spokesman, but word is circulating at the Capitol that Michael Lamoureux will be departing as the governor's chief of staff by the end of May. Further speculation is that he'll be succeeded by Betty Guhmann,

Arkansas Arts Center gets a visit from a famous Renoir

The Arkansas Arts Center has announced a famous visitor — Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting of a French actress, "Madame Henriot in Costume."

Monday night's open line; plus waiting on charter school waiting list answers

An open line and a preview of a legislative hearing with Education Commissioner Johnny Key over the firing of Little Rock School Superintendent Baker Kurrus and possible new questoins about the accuracy of claims of waiting lists up to 8,000 for two Little Rock charter schools.

At the Little Rock school hearing; plus some news on lobbyist wining and dining

The Little Rock school hearing continues at the Capitol while I get some background on new procedures for handling reporting of lobbyist social events for legislators.

Kurrus: 'You can't unring a bell' on superintendent firing decision

Kurrus made it clear that he won't be actively fighting Education Commissioner Johnny Key's decision, but said he's open to playing a role in the district — as long as he approves of the direction Key is steering the LRSD.

Lamoureux's future employment?

Speculation continues on what new opportunity drew Michael Lamoureux out of his job as chief of staff to Gov. Asas Hutchinson. A Danville-based phone company is one possibility that comes to mind.

Hog feeding operation's peril to Buffalo River

An environmental lawyer sounds the alarm about potential hog waste pollution from a hog feeding operation in the Buffalo River watershed. But does the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality care?

State tax revenue report mixed for April

The news from the monthly state revenue report for April was mixed.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary: a cocktail guide

The Bloody Mary is the quintessential "recovery" drink or brunch cocktail. Our guide to making your own, plus where to get the best bloodys in Little Rock.

Yeah, toast! In praise of Arsaga's breakfast

Think toast is boring? Arsaga's in Fayetteville would like a word.

Connecting the political dots in Wes Clark's proposed Pine Bluff fuel facility

A Canadian blogger connects the dots on the bipartisan group of power players angling to build a plant near Pine Bluff to convert gas to liquid fuels.

UPDATE: Joint Budget holds Education Department budget because Key won't talk to LR senators

The Joint Budget Committee was unable to consider the huge Education Department budget this morning because Sens. Joyce Elliott and Linda Chesterfield said Commissioner Johnny Key had not talked to them about their holds on the budget.

Capitol Zoning compromise clears Joint Budget

Kathy Wells reports that a compromise that preserves the Capitol Zoning District Commission was cleared in the Joint Budget Committee this morning.

Honey Pies to open on Bowman

Another Little Rock foodie startup is making the jump from food truck to brick and mortar storefront: gourmet pie maker Honey Pies.

Goodson ends judicial campaign $660,7770 in the hole

Associate Justice Courtney Goodson's losing campaign for chief justice cost her $660,770, which enabled to outspend her winning opponent, John Dan Kemp.

GOP war on the poor continues

$100 million for Chinese communists but not a cent for poor people to send their kids on field trips. That's the bottom line on the Arkansas legislature this year.

Still more harm to the needy alleged in lawsuit

A federal lawsuit today says the Arkansas Department of Human Services has arbitrarily cut Medicaid services for severely disabled people, which could force them into nursing homes.

Tuesday's open line and daily news report

Here's the open line and daily news roundup.

Add another contender for Little Rock City Board

Clayton Johnson, a science teacher at Premier High School who's been active in neighborhood groups, says he'll run for Little Rock City Board in November for one of three at-large seats currently held by Joan Adcock, Gene Fortson and Dean Kumpuris.

Corporate welfare has come to this: Arkansas taxpayers are subsidizing wealthy Chinese communists

Ernest Dumas muses this week on the latest huge gift of corporate welfare in Arkansas — $100 million or more in local and state giveaways to lure a Chinese company to build a pulp mill near Arkadelphia.

Hail Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee

State Rep. Nate Bell, the former Republican, offered the Tweet above that seems as good a comment as any on Donald Trump's apparent win of the Republican presidential nomination with 

An artist paints to keep streams clean AND AN UPDATE

Justin Nickels made a video of his friend Sarah Higgins painting a storm drain at 17th and Main as part of the 2016 Drain Smart project.

Huckster is on the Trump train

Mike Huckabee, whose failed presidential candidacy at least produced a job on the Trump campaign for his daughter, Sarah, is pleased as punch about Donald Trump's apparent taking of the GOP nomination.

More Democratic Senate candidates tie Trump to their opponents

Conner Eldridge, the Democratic Senate candidate from Arkansas, was out early in what is now a broad move by Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate to tie Donald Trump — and particularly his ugly remarks about women — to Republican opponents.

Dog food for legislators tonight

Social events have been somewhat light during the fiscal session, primarily because fewer lobbyists' interests are on the table. But lawmakers need not ALWAYS pay for their own food and drink.

Coming Friday to Thea: Michael Church

Collage artist Michael Church, who uses sometimes surreal, often wry images in his collages to express issues of alienation, injustice and the absurdities of life, is the 12th artist featured in the Thea Foundation's The Art Department series of exhibitions by emerging artists. Church's exhibition, "Succinct," opens Friday, May 6, at Thea, 401 Main St. in Argenta, with a reception from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Nate Powell scores Eisner nomination

In one fashion or another, Little Rock native Nate Powell has always worked in narratives.

See where the money will go as legislature heads to finish

In case you wondered, here's the proposed omnibus spending bill for the state fiscal year beginning July 1. It's the so-called revenue stabilization bill.

Wednesday's open line and the day's video roundup

We're over the hump. An open line and video news and comment.

Feds go after North Carolina on LGBT discrimination law

Big development: The federal Justice Department has told North Carolina that, if it chooses to comply with the state's new anti-LGBT law, will be violating the U.S. Civil Rights Act and could cost the state millions in federal funding.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson now backs Donald Trump for president

Asa Hutchinson is on board the Donald Trump train.

White Water Tavern gets cameo in new Leon Bridges documentary

White Water Tavern gets a cameo in a new short documentary about soul singer Leon Bridges.