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Company Town

Company Town

May 5, 2016

Vol 42 • No 35

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The wizard of Wilson

A wealthy farm magnate has poured millions into the tiny town, bringing renewal and progress. Not many are complaining. But some would like a better sense of the motives of the man behind the curtain.

Arkansas Times Firkin Fest preview

It's coming May 13. But what's a firkin?

Same ol'

In other words, not exactly delicious or tempting.

A leg up for the Chinese

You can be sure that President Richard M. Nixon would be proud of the Arkansas segment of his legacy, a huge subsidy from Arkansas taxpayers for a company in communist China that will build a wood-pulp factory in South Arkansas. But what will President Trump, our leading Sinophobe, say?

Runaway Planet play White Water Tavern

Also, the ASO takes on John Williams' work.

Think of the future

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department sponsored its sixth informational meeting about expansion of I-30 last week.

Trump fantasies

For argument's sake, let's say you ran into this Trump character in a bar. First off, he's boasting about how incredibly smart, rich and good looking he is. He's a big, big winner. He's even got his own TV show, and you don't.

Key and Peele and a cat

Comedy Central vets move to the big screen.


Somebody informed The Observer that we've been on kind of a string of downers recently, something we're going to pin on the weather. Not the rain.

NFL bafflingfor Hogs

Each year, the NFL Draft's escalation/descent toward a more audacious and ludicrous spectacle becomes more obvious, but amid this backdrop of pomp and bluster is a troubling, inane trend.

Ask the Times: I.D. blues

Q. I recently went to the Department of Motor Vehicles office on Reservoir to replace my lost driver's license, and though the clerk could see my license and photograph on her computer, she declined to reissue me a new license without further identification. After I complained to the main office, she finally did issue the license. Have I.D. requirements changed?

Fighting for our school district

Also, the new man in charge, top Hutchinson aide departing, nice work if you can get it and zoning out with Jeremy Hutchinson.

Bentonville Film Fest continues

Also, Ron Fournier at the Clinton School, Encyclopedia of Arkansas 10th Anniversary Celebration, Landrest at Maxine's, James McMurtry at Stickyz, Travs vs. Nats and Quapaw Quarter Spring Tour of Homes.

Another Walton art project for Bentonville

This plant will grow art.

A split diamond for 30 Crossing project engages fans

The 10-lane I-30 plan wins support by moving exit to Fourth Street.

Trump: The Obama of 2016?

Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.

Meeting tonight on Little Rock schools

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel announces a "teach-in" on public education in Little Rock from 6 to 8 p.m.. tonight at St. Mark Baptist Church, 5722 W. 12th St.

Jessieville public schools arrange for student participation in National Day of Prayer

Until objections were raised, the Jessieville Public School District had planned to provide district buses to take students during the school day to a local Church of Christ to participate in a National Day of Prayer.

A Wild Wines thank you from the Little Rock Zoo

The 10th Annual Wild Wines event was held last weekend. A look at what the funds raised mean for the Little Rock Zoo — and a word of thanks.

In the kitchen with Peter Brave

We spent a morning with Peter Brave in the Brave New Restaurant kitchen. Quality ingredients and an unparalleled attention to detail has kept the chef at the top Arkansas' culinary scene for nearly 30 years.

Republican keynoter's encounter with 'vulgar' Donald Trump

The Arkansas Republican Party is still soliciting ticket purchasers for the Reagan-Rockefeller Dinner (Friday the 13th) at which right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson, who once spent a bit of time on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page, is the keynote speaker. Carlson recently wrote of a graphic past conversation with the 'vulgar' Trump.

Putting up a parking lot for a tech park

A former Stephens Inc. building is being torn down this week to make way for more parking for the Little Rock Tech Park.

ACLU reports on Catholic hospitals' threat to women's health

Risks to women's health that Catholic hospitals impose as a matter of church directives are the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union report released today, a report that includes the case of a woman in Northwest Arkansas.

Wrapping up the legislature

The budget session of the legislature will officially end Monday, though the final votes on legislation were completed this morning

Job cuts underway in Little Rock School District

Word is trickling in of cuts in administrative jobs in the Little Rock School District. It had to happen. We're seeking specifics before judging individual merits, though we're already hearing plenty of opinions.

Kurrus confirms job cuts; talks of future in Little Rock schools; continues charter questions

Little Rock School Superintendent Baker Kurrus confirms a number of personnel changes are in the works and also talks about his ideas about a future role in the school district after his contract ends June 30.

Judicial ethics panel finds no foul in Courtney Goodson use of NRA endorsement

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has found Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson broke no ethics rule in touting a National Rifle Association endorsement in her recent unsuccessful race for chief justice.

One dead in crash at North Little Rock Airport

One person was killed and another injured when a twin-engine plane crashed at the North Little Rock Airport, KARK reports.

Thursday's open line

Today's news and comment, plus an open line for comment tonight.

Supreme Court hears arguments on judicial retirement law

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments today from four judges challenging the state law that says judges lose retirement benefits if they are elected to a new term that begins after they turn 70.

Ken Starr faulted for handling of sexual assault cases at Baylor

Dallas Morning News reports that Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater persecutor who's now president of Baylor University, is under fire for ducking interviews and otherwise reacting inadequately to eight sexual assault allegations involving  Baylor football players.

Sizing up Mike Poore: The LRSD's incoming boss talks charters, academics, facilities and more

The new Little Rock superintendent spoke with us last week about his plans for school turnaround, "career centers" and much more.

A neighborhood tribute to UALR's Joel Anderson

The University District Development Corporation, which grew out of a 2006 initiative by UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson to help the neighborhood around the college, honored the retiring chancellor last night in a fitting way.

Should prostitution be a crime?

Provocative question posed by the cover story in the New York Times' Sunday magazine, on-line now.

Washington Post examines Little Rock police killing

The fatal shooting of Eugene Ellison, 67, in his apartment by Little Rock police working as private security is examined today by the Washington Post.

Pulaski Tech board sets meeting on UA merger

The board of Pulaski Technical College will meet on campus in North Little Rock, the campus center grand hall, at 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss a proposal to join the University of Arkansas System.

A sculpture for Central High

Clay Enoch of Colorado Springs, a member of the Sculptors Guild of Loveland, Colo., won the Sculpture at the River Market's top award, an $80,000 commission to create a sculpture that will be installed on the grounds of Central High School next year, last month.

There's always room for cheese dip

What better topic on a slow day than cheese dip — Arkansas's gift to the world. The latest take, with all the familiar touchstones from Mexico Chiquito to Ro-Tel and back (with a loving stop at Stoby's), is from Phil McCausland for the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Trump proposes debt default to deal with debt

Talking Points Memo reports on the astonishing comment from Donald Trump that he could envision defaulting on U.S. debt to reduce U.S. debt.

City, apartment owner settle lawsuit over Eugene Ellison's shooting death by LR cop UPDATE

News is breaking from a pre-trial conference at 1:30 p.m. that the city of Little Rock has reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit over the 2010 shooting death of Eugene Ellison by Little Rock police.

News roundup and Friday's open line

The news and comment for the day was recorded a few minutes too early for the settlement of the Eugene Ellison wrongful death case at hands of Little Rock police. Otherwise, here it is and the week-ending open line.

A shady grove, under I-30, and other 230-foot-wide wonders

A post on the Improve 30Crossing Facebook page today had us intrigued: It included screen shots of what the new park will look like under the 8-Lane and 10-Lane scenarios created in 3D by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Feds announce 25-year sentence in child sex case

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer has announced that Larry Wayne Wilder,  28, of Maumelle, had pleaded guilty and received a 25-year prison sentence for attempted enticement of a minor to engage in a sex act and production of child pornography.

The $100 Million To A Rich Communist Edition

Donald Trump all but winning the Republican nomination and how that might affect Arkansas Republicans, state legislative doings, a big settlement over a police shooting and Little Rock school odds and ends — all covered on this week's podcast.

Johnny Key fast-tracks LR charter school expansion in Walton-helped enterprise

The Hutchinson administration continues to press for speedy charter school expansions in the Little Rock School District, despite the current superintendent's belief that they are harmful to the state-run district. The latest one has financial support from the Walton fortune in the background, as usual when it comes to charter schools.

Ellison family speaks on historic LRPD use-of-force settlement

The family of  Eugene Ellison, the 67-year-old African-American man shot and killed by a Little Rock Police Department patrol officer in Ellison's apartment near the corner of Col. Glenn and University Ave. in Dec. 2010, held a press conference today to discuss yesterday's announcement of a historic settlement in the federal civil rights case arising from the shooting.

Graduation day open line; let us now praise President Obama

Tonight's open line includes a nod to a graduation speech by President Obama, who has some reason to be positive about changes in the U.S. during his time in office.

Legislators float tax increase for highways

It was encouraging to read a report from Michael Wickline in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning that some legislators — Republicans even — were talking sense on highway finance. A tax increase is necessary.

Trump's GOP takeover

A New York Times analysis of Donald Trump's apparent nomination and his split with Republican elite is headlined: "Republican Party Unravels Over Donald Trump’s Takeover" But has it?

The Mother's Day open line

Here's the open line. Remember your mom.

Former Pulaski Tech board chair questions UA merger

John Barnes, former long-time board chair of Pulaski Technical College, raises questions about the proposal to merge the two-year college with the University of Arkansas System and also talks of changes generally in the mission of two-year education in Arkansas.

Voters favor hearings for Obama Supreme Court nominee

New polling says 65 percent of U.S. voters want hearings held on President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court and 58 percent want the seat filled this year.

Shades of George Wallace: North Carolina begins massive resistance to LGBT equality

Here's North Carolina's answer to the federal government's insistence that it not enforce a new LGBT discrimination law that includes bars on transgender use of public restrooms according to t sexual identity. It will sue the federal government to protect the state's insistence on legal discrimination.

Mike Poore: Not ready to comment on latest charter school expansion in Little Rock. PS: Looks like fix is in.

Mike Poore, the incoming Little Rock school superintendent, isn't ready to express an opinion on the latest charter school expansion in Little Rock. The deal looks pre-baked. Work has already begun on the school despite lack of state Board of Education approval.

Same old, same old at the legislature

The legislature officially adjourned today, getting per diem payments without having to do any significant work. As expected, Rep. Jeremy Gillam was tapped to serve another term as House speaker beginning in 2017. Sen. Jonathan Dismang will be back as Senate president pro tempore.

Bill Clinton is commencement speaker at namesake school

Former President Bill Clinton will speak during the 10th commencement ceremony of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Clinton Presidential Center grounds.

Crowd-source alert: Panama Papers

A release has been promised this afternoon of a link to a searchable database of the so-called Panama Papers, a massive trove of documents that shows efforts to incorporate off-shore tax havens.

Wynne judge quits amid investigation of sexual impropriety

Joseph Boeckmann has resigned as a district judge in Cross County and agreed that he will never serve in public office again, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced today.

The Nashville, Ark., newspaper war is over

Arkansas Business reports the end of newspaper competition that pitted members of the same family on opposite sides of competition in tiny Nashville, Ark.

Restaurant zoning proposal causing Heights buzz

The Heights Neighborhood Association membership is buzzing about a recently filed rezoning request for commercial zoning of  land now occupied by two single-family residences on the northwest corner of Cantrell Road and University Avenue.

Monday's open line and video news roundup

The Monday line is open. Plus news and comment.

Ed Stone's son to speak on father's career

Hicks Stone, principal in the firm Stone Architecture LLC of New York and Connecticut, will give the Architecture and Design Network lecture this Tuesday at the Arkansas Arts Center.

'Changing Tides' suits up for Esse show

"Changing Tides," which opens Tuesday at Esse, features suits on loan from the collection of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario.

Scott Street Lofts back for another try with Historic District Commission UPDATE

Moses Tucker Real Estate will try for a third time tonight to win approval from the Little Rock Historic District Commission for an apartment project on a half block between Ninth and Tenth on Scott Street that has been unused for decades. UPDATE: The revised plan was approved tonight in 4-1 vote.

Arkansas Highway Department follies — build and more cars come

Six years and $125 million invested in the new Big Rock Interchange at Interstates 430 and 630 and, guess what, people are griping about traffic congestion. Not to worry. More construction is coming.

Eldridge continues trumping of John Boozman

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Conner Eldridge has released another ad using Donald Trump's words to condemn Republican Sen. John Boozman.

Conway teen pleads guilty to murder of guardians; sentenced to 35 years

KARK reports that Justin Staton, 15, pleaded guilty in circuit court in Conway today to the July 2015 shooting deaths of Robert and Patricia Cogdell, the 66-year-old couple with whom he lived.

One dead, one wounded in early morning Little Rock shooting

Little Rock police say one person was found dead and another wounded near an apartment at 41 Nandina Circle about 3:10 a.m. today.

Life on Death Row, in graphic form

The New York Times has published on-line a series of op-eds, in graphic form, on life on Death Row.One installment of the series by Patrick Chappatte is about an Arkansas inmate,  Kenneth Reams,"

Boulevard plan lives: Hear about it next week: UPDATE

At 7 p.m. May 17 at First United Methodist Church, Norm Marshall, the Smart Mobility consultant hired by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, will present his research on the AHTD's so-called "6-lane plus 4 C/D" lane proposal, which is more accurately described as the 12-lane proposal, and compare it to alternatives.

Tucker Carlson bars media from Republican dinner

Tucker Carlson the speaker at the Arkansas Republican Party's Reagan-Rockefeller dinner May 13 in Hot Springs has asked that media not cover the event. So no media, the party says.

Minor derailment stops Amtrak's Texas Eagle in Hot Spring County UPDATE

One set of wheels on a sleeping car of the southbound Texas Eagle Amtrak passenger train derailed today while the train was passing through Hot Spring County, forcing the train to stop. Passnegers were to be transferred to buses to complete the journey.

LISA Academy recruiting mail omits heavily minority neighborhoods

LISA Academy, a charter school recently approved for expansion by the state Board of Education, has been mailing recruiting solicitations for students. The emphasis has been on affluent white neighborhoods, with no mail at all sent in some of the heavily minority, poor parts of town.

Woman killed when camper rammed in Hot Springs

A woman in a tent in Hot Springs was killed early today when a truck rammed a nearby  camper that rolled over on the tent. This followed an altercation between campers and two men in a truck.

Tuesday's open line and the daily video report

Here's the open line, plus a news summary and comment.

Another casino measure lurking in 2016

Having heard word that somebody was working on the form of a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in Arkansas, I browsed through Ethics Commission filings and indeed found such a committee.

Johnny Key's school 'reform' agenda leads to election chaos

Here's yet another of the ill consequences of Education Commissioner Johnny Key's agenda-driven leadership of the state Education Department. General election chaos.

City political races begin June 1

Candidates for Little Rock Board of Directors can begin raising money June 1 and two previously announced candidates — Capi Peck for the Ward 4 seat held by Brad Cazort and Molly Miller, who will oppose At-Large Director Joan Adcock — have scheduled events that day.

Young filmmakers showcase at Ron Robinson

The 10th annual Young Filmmakers Showcase tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the Ron Robinson Theater will feature nine films by students from Springdale, Malvern, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Little Rock, Bryant, Dardanelle and Hot Springs. The event is sponsored by AETN; the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival; the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and the , the Arkansas Humanities Council, which will award Arkansas Historic Places Student Film Prizes; and the Thea Foundation.

Latest outrage: Republican senators investigate news editing

I'm surprised at the lack of a torrent of media outcry over Republican members of Congress moving to demand information from Facebook about editing of news stories posted on the social media service.

Slopping the legislative hogs at next week's special session

A lobbying firm, Diamond State Consulting, plans a big hog roast on the opening day of the special session on highways. My guess is that legislators, if not the public, will be welcome. It's another indication of the thoroughly ineffective so-called ethics amendment approved by voters.

Pulaski Tech Board approves merger with University of Arkansas System

Alexis Hosticka of Arkansas Business reports that the Board of Pulaski Tech voted unanimously today to join the University of Arkansas System. The UA Board of Trustees must vote to seal the deal.

Stand up for Little Rock schools

The coalition formed to push for restoration of local control of Little Rock schools is urging supporters to attend the state Board of Education meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday at which Education Commissioner Johnny Key is expected to make a rare public appearance.

Jeff Nichols' "Loving" up for Cannes Film Festival Award

Jeff Nichols' "Loving," a film depicting the landmark civil rights case that overturned anti-miscegenation laws, is up for the Palme d'Or at this year's Canne Film Festival.

The midweek open line

Here's the open line and daily news video.

LISA says recruiting mailer that omitted black neighborhoods was an error. Also, those areas targeted in other ads

LISA Academy said poor, black neighborhoods were mistakenly omitted from a student recruitment mass mailing and steps would be taken to correct it. It also said it had targeted those neighborhoods with other media and had always strived for diversity in enrollment.

Arkansas allowed to take $20,000 from innocent man on a technicality

The Arkansas Court of Appeals has refused the appeal of a Texas man who had almost $20,000 seized during a State Police traffic stop but was never charged with a crime.

Arrest made in Hot Springs camper death

The Garland County sheriff's office has announced an arrest in the death in Hot Springs of a woman killed when a camper that had been rammed by a truck rolled over on her tent.

Three plead guilty in $4 million Walnut Ridge bank fraud

The U.S. attorney's office says three women have pleaded guilty to fraud in stealing almost $4 million from the First National Bank of Lawrence County.

Rutledge again rejects ethics amendment; sponsor says he'll have to sue to petition

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today again rejected the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to tighten ethics and campaign finance laws for public officials.

Small school district loses lawsuit challenging state funding

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza today ruled against the 355-student Deer/Mt. Judea School District lawsuit claiming unequal state funding of the small rural school.

White Street Studio Walk: Art, people, Eureka Springs partying

The 26th Annual White Street Studio Walk will take place Friday, May 20th, from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m., Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Khana Grill is Indian food done right

Khana’s sparkly and bright interior provides an otherworldly vibe matched by their interesting, yet accessible Indian cuisine.