← Back to issues


May 19, 2016

Vol 42 • No 37

Read the print version

The museum of yet to come at the University of Arkansas

At the McMillon Family Retail Innovation and Technology Lab, students and faculty are creating a space that will give both visitors and companies a vital glimpse of the stores, products and consumer habits of the future.

It's time for the International Greek Food Fest

Also, Celebrate the Grape in Argenta, Ballet Arkansas at The Rep, Dunbar Garden Pig Roast, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at the Metroplex, Priests at Vino's and "Purple Rain" at Riverdale 10.

Seven to save

Preserve Arkansas, the statewide nonprofit formerly known as the Arkansas Historic Preservation Alliance, has released its annual list of Arkansas's Most Endangered Places — places with historic and architecturally significant features that are deteriorating or otherwise being neglected or in danger of demolition or being inappropriately developed.

Mad as hell

Also, speaking truth to Asa, keep on surviving, easy money and more.

Hutchinson legislation consolidates his power on History Commission, Mansion and state building leases

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has buried some important governmental changes in a massive bill that is unlikely get the attention deserved for such proposals at neutering the History and Governor's Mansion Commissions to centralize the power they once had under a bureaucrat answerable solely to the governor. He also would abolish the Building Authority Council, an idea with some political merit.

Legislation waives earthquake design standards for select projects

Still awaiting a public discussion is SB 5 by Sen. David Burnett of Osceola and Rep. Monte Hodges of Blytheville to provide exceptions from the state's earthquake resistant design standards by which money could be saved on some targeted building projects.

Supreme Court hears arguments on death penalty law

Arguments were held by the Arkansas Supreme Court this morning on the lawsuit by Death Row inmates seeking more information about drugs used in executions.

Engineers object to earthquake waiver legislation

The Structural Engineers Association of Arkansas, objects to legislation I mentioned this morning that seeks waivers in the earthquake-resistant design standards in state law.

Toilet terrorism bill not filed

As yet, Sen. Missy Irvin has not filed her bill to make it a sex crime to use a restroom identified as for use by a gender other than the one that appears on a person's birth certificate.

Senate defeats bid to change committee hearing Hutchinson highway bill

The Senate opened with a fight over where to assign Gov. Asa Hutchinson's legislation to spend surplus and diverted revenue on highways the next few years.

Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols to attend River City Comic Expo

Nichelle Nichols, who broke ground in her role as Star Trek's Lt. Uhura, visits the River City Comic Expo in June.

From water to water: A scenic journey to a Supreme Court tax ruling

The Arkansas Supreme Court decides a tax case, but we're attracted to the language used to open a dissenting opinion. Makes you want to grab a paddle and fishing pole.

Thursday's open line

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

Little Rock Zoo adds a male gorilla

Another new arrival at the Little Rock Zoo — a male western lowland gorilla.

A Q&A with Garrard Conley, author of 'Boy Erased'

His new memoir is about growing up gay in Arkansas and surviving gay conversion therapy.

Mailout mistake, charter says

LISA Academy recruiting skipped minority zip codes.

Toilet terrorists

President Obama gave Republicans a gift last week. His administration reminded school districts that the law requires that students be allowed to use restroom and locker facilities that match their gender identity.

Asa has a plan

... for bathrooms

Even Trump for restroom rights

It seems almost biblically decreed that the great culture wars that define our age have, in the most farcical political year in our history, come down to this farcical conclusion — a public hysteria over female restrooms.

Wine dining

Chef shows out at Le Stick Nouveau.


The Observer's office computer took a powder this morning, displaying only a black screen and an ominous, geek jargon message when we sat down at our desk.

John Knowles plays The Joint

Also, Opal Agafia and the Sweet Nothings play Four Quarter.

Disappointed in the governor

An open letter to Gov. Hutchinson.

Back off the saddle again

What do Genghis Khan, William the Conqueror and Geronimo all have in common? Mighty warriors, they died not in battle, but by falling off horses.

'Monster' misses

Narrative problems plague Jodie Foster-helmed movie.

Bad year a blip

Dave Van Horn's performance as Arkansas's baseball coach is beyond reproach. The program was respectable, if flatlining a bit, under longtime head coach Norm DeBriyn.

Driver in road rage incident gets 30 months on weapons charge

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer's office announced today that Justin Stegall, 30, of Benton was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in federal prison for possession of an unregistered short-barrel rife.

Supreme Court dismisses complaint against Rutledge over refusal to approve ethics amendment

The Arkansas Supreme Court this afternoon speedily granted, without explanation, the state's request for dismissal of David Couch's complaint that Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had refused to approve — or make necessary changes to approve — the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to strengthen the state campaign finance and ethics law.

Justice reform? Don't tell it to Tough Talking Tom Cotton

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton isn't having any of this talk of justice reform. The U.S. isn't putting ENOUGH people in jail, despite a world-leading penchant for prisons.

The 50th anniversary of Portis' 'Norwood'

Former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist and features writer Kyle Brazzel, who left Little Rock to work for the business side of the New Yorker and now does freelance writing, has an excellent appreciation at The Awl of Charles Portis' first novel, "Norwood," on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

City Director Brad Cazort not seeking re-election

Little Rock City Director Brad Cazort told me this morning that he won't be seeking re-election this year to another term in the Ward 4 seat on the Board. Capi Peck has already announced for the seat.

Arkansas unemployment rate falls to 3.9 percent

Arkansas's unemployment rate continues to fall to 3.9 percent in April against a revised 4.1 percent in March. The workforce increased by 2,860 people.

Logjam removed on highway bill and the governor's agenda churns to conclusion

The House has approved Gov. Asa Hutchinson's highway spending plan 75-12 and that sets up another run by Sen. Bart Hester to get the governor's preferred plan to a Senate committee willing to approve it.

Governor's Mansion schedules fund-raising events

The Hutchinsons have schedujled some mansion money-raising events at the Capitol, perhaps a sign of increased gubernatorial control of the state housing. This also brings to mind the question of whether an official like Hutchinson can get away with diverting attention from office furniture expenses by saying they were paid with money from private contributors.

Jermain Taylor avoids jail time on assault charges

Jermain Taylor, the boxer, was in Circuit Court today for sentencing on assault convictions by Circuit Judge Leon Johnson. He received a suspended sentence.

Marijuana: A potential revenue stream

Here's a way to pay for highways without a tax increase on existing levies, but a new sin tax — on marijuana.

A belated happy anniversary to marriage equality

A belated note on the second anniversary of a judicial ruling striking down Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage. Opponents said then it would be the ruination of the institution of marriage. What you think?

Bobbitt picks Andrew Rogerson to lead UALR

Dr. Andrew Rogerson, currently provost of Sonoma State University in California, has been chosen by University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt to be the next chancellor of UALR.

Governor picks current staffer and former D.C. associate, Alison Williams, as chief of staff

Gov. Asa Hutchinson names existing staffer Alison Williams to be his new chief of staff. The name might ring a bell for those who recall when Hutchinson got scrutiny for leaving a Bush administration job for higher pay in a sector related to his government work, with assistance from Williams and another current staffer.

Self-congratulations all around on nursing home deal

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, his Department of Human Services leaders and the nursing home industry all patted themselves on the back today for the previously announced deal by which nursing homes got special treatment in the plan to continue the Medicaid expansion in Arkansas that is financed by federal billions produced from Obamcare.

Another week done with an open line

Here's the week-ending open line, plus the news summary.

UPDATE: UA chancellor pays a call; talks bathrooms, Razorbacks and more

Joseph Steinmetz, the new chancellor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, is making a bus tour around Arkansas and perhaps a measure of the thoroughness of his effort was a stop of nearly an hour yesterday at the Arkansas Times.My impressionistic take: Good.

Oklahoma governor vetoes bill to make felons of abortion providers

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would make it a felony to perform an abortion in Oklahoma.

The UA Chancellor Pays a Visit Edition

The imminent conclusion of the special session, the new University of Arkansas chancellor and the latest on the 30 Crossing proposal — all covered on this week's podcast.

Stop talking about 'surpluses.' Asa has raided general revenue for highways.

Descriptions of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's highway spending plan — here and elsewhere — speak often of the use of "surplus" to pay for road-building and also often include comments of critics who bemoan the failure of Arkansas to devote general revenues — as opposed to user fees like fuel taxes — for highways.Please stop. This is, if not fiction, highly imprecise.

Saturday's open line

Got any thoughts? Put them here.

If you read anything today, try this on China and immigration and Donald Trump

The Atlantic offers a fresh perspective on China and U.S. immigration policy. In short: immigrants are our salvation.

The 'Summertime in Fayetteville' open line

A fictional Southen rock band calls out to Arkansas in the close of last night's Saturday Night Live. And, with that, an open line.

Legislature: All over but the final touches on the power grabs

The Arkansas legislature meets today — the House at 9 a.m. and the Senate 10 a.m. — to complete Gov. Asa Hutchinson's special session agenda. It will be remembered for executive takeover of the History and Governor's Mansion Commission and free lunch highway program.

Democrats gig governor on power grab; questions linger on Mansion spending

Too little and too late, but the Arkansas Democratic Party today rapped Gov. Asa Hutchinson for holding jobs hostage to his takeover of a couple of state commissions, which I mentioned earlier this morning. worth more investigation: Big spending at the Governor's Mansion by Asa and First Lady Susan Hutchinson.

Hutchinson's hand called in Senate on highway plan

Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram rose this morning for a symbolic speech against Gov. Asa Hutchinson's free-lunch highway plan.

Governor's son, Asa Hutchinson III, in drug arrest at Alabama music festival

WKRG-TV in Mobile reports that Asa Hutchinson III, the governor's son, was arrested for drug possession over the weekend at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores.

Higher Ed director moves to Henderson State

As many had expected, Brett Powell has been hired as vice president for finance and administration at Henderson State University, effective Aug. 1.

Police investigating complaint of officer shooting

The police are investigating a complaint that an officer shot a man in the leg early Sunday when threatened by a dog.

Monday's open line

Here's your Monday open line and video news roundup.

No-cost highways? See college tuitions

The side effects of a no-tax highway construction programs and restrictive state budgeting continue to roll in. Add the University of Arkansas to the list of colleges in Arkansas with plans to raise tuition and fees.

Consultants to city: Get MOU from AHTD on I-30

Consultants hired by the city to advise on downtown planning now that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department plans to widen Interstate 30 told the City Board today that it ought to enter into an agreement with the AHTD to insure the city has a "place at the table" before and during the project's "design-build" phase.

None dare call I-30 a boulevard

I have to note that consultants speaking to the Little Rock City Board last night talked of how nice it would be if the four lanes the highway department wants to add to Interstate 30 would be boulevard-like in appearance, with shrubs and such. In response to one question, they even said the ideal way to distribute I-30 traffic onto the city grid would be an intersection with the so-called "collector" lanes at every cross street. Kind of like, well, a boulevard.

The Mansion takeover: Of course it was Hutchinson's idea

Of course the take over of the Governor's Mansion by Asa Hutchinson was his idea, not that of legislators who claimed credit. And the reason portends changes in historic appearance and use of what was once the people's mansion.

Praise for Bill Clinton from ..... Kenneth Starr

The New York Times has an article today full of lavish praise for former President Bill Clinton from his long-time persecutor, Whitewater's lead prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Public comments on Interstate 30 presentation to City Board

Public comments and questions were prohibited yesterday when the Little Rock City Board heard from consultants the city hired to evaluate the Highway Department's plan to wide Interstate 30 to as many as 12 lanes through downtown. But the president of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods offered some choice ones today.

Ben Lipscomb, former Rogers city attorney, strikes deal for light punishment

The Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct last week reached a deal with former Rogers City Attorney Ben Lipscomb under which he was reprimanded and fined $4,100 for engaging in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation."

Kenneth Starr: A comment from Betsey Wright

Betsey Wright, former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff when he was Arkansas governor, responds bitterly to a New York Times article today quoting Whitewater Prosecutor Kenneth Starr's warm words about Clinton. She can't forget the lives Starr ruined in Arkansas.

Rebel flag controversy leads to resignation of long-time Fort Smith athletic director

Fort Smith lawyer Joey McCutcheon's effort to restart the Civil War over a School Board decision to end use of a Rebel as the Southside High mascot led to the resignation last night of the Fort Smith School District's veteran athletic director, Jim Rowland.

Tuesday's open line

The Tuesday open line, plus a roundup by video of news and comment.

Insurance Department announces intent to reject big health insurance rate increases

Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr announced late this afternoon that he expected to deny health insurance rate increase requests from several carriers for insurance polices provided on the exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

UCA archives add J. Bill Becker papers

University of Central Arkansas archivist Jimmy Bryant called with happy news yesterday that he'd added the papers of J. Bill Becker, the long-time head of the AFL-CIO in Arkansas, to the UCA collection.

Law officer fires back at Tom Cotton over incarceration rate

Sen. Tom Cotton's presidential positioning of late has included tough-on-crime rhetoric: The U.S. doesn't need justice reform but to put still more people in prison.Politico reports that the head of a union that represents 40,000 guards and others in federal prisons has fired back.

City Year joins chamber to focus on Hall High School

City Year, the Americorps program that has put volunteers in Little Rock schools since 2004, will join city business leaders today in a partnership to be based at Hall High School in the 2016-17 school year.

Jumping into the mire with Donald Trump

So what if Donald Trump has stooped to new depths by lying about the death of Vince Foster. It gets repeated on cable anyway and, even those who call his hand suggest Hillary Clinton is somehow to blame for the political fallout she suffers.

ACLU asks Gov. Hutchinson, Rutledge to follow law on transgender students

Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, has written Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asking them to follow the law on transgender students.

Retail robot comes to town

A product delivery robot in development at the University of Arkansas rolled along sidewalks in the River Market neighborhood today.

Hillary criticized on e-mail at State Department

An inspector general's report has criticized Hillary Clinton for use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state.

Candidate Cotton's latest: An attack on Harry Reid

Sen. Tom Cotton, aiming for the first presidential ticket available, continues to grab headlines, today with a Senate speech blasting Democratic leader Harry Reid. Here's Politico's report.

Another bathroom lawsuit filed; Arkansas isn't in it so far

Led by Texas, 11 states have sued the federal government in Texas over President Obama's reminder that the law says transgender students are protected by non-discrimination law, including in using bathrooms aligned with their gender.

Where the political elite meet, 1836 Club

Kat Robinson and Grav Weldon's Tie Dye Travels has a photo spread on the 1836 Club, the private club in the historic Packet House on Cantrell Road dreamed up by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson and partners.

Metroplan board OKs money for I-30, but not I-30

After hearing a presentation by the Little Rock Coalition of Neighborhoods asking that it "be doubtful about the costs" of the $631.7 million 30 Crossing project, the Metroplan Board of Directors today approved an amendment to its 2016-2020 transportation improvement plan to include the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's budget for widening I-30.

Clean, green, backyard barbecue in Fayetteville

Greenhouse Grille is expanding to add a casual, back-yard BBQ style food truck located behind their School St. location in Fayetteville.

Here's the midweek open line and video report

The Wednesday line is open. And here's a roundup by video of headlines and comment.

Ronnie Floyd heading to Trump event

Says here that Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of the mega Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, is on the guest list for a New York roundup of religious righters with Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Wynne woman gets 12 years for prostituting minor cousins

The U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock said this afternoon that Amber Johnson, 30, of Wynne had been sentenced by Judge Pryce Marshall to 12 years in federal prison for prostituting a 15- and 17-year-old cousin who'd run away from a foster home.

Little Bread Company makes my heart smile

Fayetteville bakery and bistro is a fantastic spot for breakfast, lunch or snack-time.