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June 2, 2016

Vol 42 • No 39

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A new era for Riverfest

In its 38th year, Little Rock's annual summer music festival reinvents itself.

A new era for Riverfest

In its 38th year, Little Rock's annual summer music festival reinvents itself.

Riverfest 2016 schedule

Chris Stapleton, Juicy J, The Flaming Lips and more.

Beyond contempt

Before he implemented it last week, Donald Trump had let it be known that he would fulfill Karl Marx's spooky proverb that history repeats itself, "the first as tragedy, then as farce," but with the order of the outcomes reversed. He planned to spend the summer and fall reliving the "Clinton scandals" of the 1990s, this time with Hillary Clinton as the victim.

On the mat

The Dreamland Ballroom was the scene for an intensive two-day yoga class led by Kino MacGregor on May 21 and 22.

Appomattox at Southside

Also, Betsey Wright on Ken Starr, those damn emails, rate hikes on the horizon and the smell of bacon.

Exploring the unexplained in Eureka

A visit to the 29th Annual Ozark Mountain UFO Conference.

Science and Songs of the Buffalo River

Also, Lum and Abner Festival in Mena, African-American Arts in Arkansas at Mosaic Templars, Conway Pride Fest, Sunday Serenades at St. Paul United Methodist and Ian Moore and the Lossy Coils at Stickyz.

The Rocketboys play Stickyz

Also, Butterfly and Irie Soul play Next.

Looking ahead

Some final thoughts about the recent presidential primaries: I actually feel sorry for candidates like Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie and all the other experienced governors who knew how to run a state, but got bumped out of the presidential primaries by Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Could be worse

It's easy to walk out of a surly War Memorial Stadium after Arkansas has inexplicably torpedoed hopes of a magical season with a loss to Toledo and think, "Damn this infernal program, teasing me year after year. I hate being a Hog fan."


Mansion, money, power.

Some nights

The Observer and our lovely bride have been doing a lot of porch sitting on the wide veranda of The Observatory of late, watching life scroll by on leafy Maple Street.

Bash Bernie

Here's my basic problem with Bernie Sanders: To put it bluntly, once a Trotskyite always a fool.

Optimism gap

I spent the second half of May immersed in two different Americas: one defined by pessimism about the future, and one decidedly optimistic. Those differences are at the heart of the dynamics that will determine the outcome of the 2016 elections.

Slicing the pork

Using "surplus" to fund highways likely will make it harder for legislators to count on having leftover money to divvy up for their own pet local projects. This might put an end to years of unconstitutional spending of state money on purely local projects.

'X-Men,' again

Heroes are done well, but the villain is a slog.

Festy Bingo

Cocktail connoisseurs will remember Spencer Jansen, currently membership manager at the Arkansas Arts Center, as a star bartender (and multiple Arkansas Times Toast of the Town winner) at the Capital Bar and Grill a few years back. It was there, some five years ago, that he created Festy Bingo to celebrate the culture of Riverfest.

Aquarius checks all the boxes

Eureka Springs taqueria soothes your taco-loving soul.

Walmart critic hits company during annual meeting

Walmart will dominate news coverage today with its star-studded stockholder meeting extravaganza, but a union-backed group continues to push its message about Walmart's treatment of workers.

Race and welfare: Is there a link with a state's benefits?

Want some serious reading? Try this in The Atlantic on the "welfare utopia" that is Oregon — with broad and generous support programs for making ends meet. The key question raised by the article, which holds up Arkansas's punitive approach to welfare by comparison, is whether race plays a role in differences in benefits.

Donald Trump's wingman: Sen. Tom Cotton

Hillary Clinton blasted Donald Trump yesterday for his dangerously uninformed approach to foreign policy and it produced a rare "win of the news cycle" for the Democratic presidential candidate. Trump didn't have much of a comeback, but a wannabe national player, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, did.

Bar committee recommends appointed Supreme Court judges

An Arkansas Bar Association committee has recommended amending the Constitution of Arkansas to provide for appointment, rather than election, of members of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Delay in trial of Naramore child death in Hot Springs

Marci Manley of KARK reports that Circuit Judge John Langston has granted a motion to delay the trial of Judge Wade Naramore on a misdemeanor negligent homicide charge in the hot car death of his 18-month-old son Thomas last July.

Gene Fortson plans re-election bid

Little Rock City Director Gene Fortson says he plans to seek election to a third term in his at-large seat on the board.

Conway physician charged with rape

Conway police announced today the arrest of Dr. Robert Rook, a Conway physician, on three counts each of rape and sexual assault.

Planning Commission nixes restaurant at Cantrell and University

The Little Rock Planning Commission yesterday solidly rejected a proposal to rezone residential property at the northwest corner of Cantrell and University for a sitdown restaurant.

Friday's open line and the video wrapup

The Friday open line and today's video — leading off with Hillary Clinton's clobbering of Donald Trump on foreign policy.

Obama commutations today include an Arkansas cocaine case

President Obama today announced commutations of the sentences of 42 people, including Craig L. Watson of Jacksonville.

Lake Hamilton principal charged with sexual assault of 13-year-old student

The Garland County sheriff's office announced today that Lester Dewayne Curry, 60, who recently retired as principal of Lake Hamilton Middle School, had been charged with 2nd degree sexual assault and sexual indecency with a 13-year-old female student.

The Trump/Cotton? Edition

Max’s annual visit to Arkansas Boys State, the latest from Tom Cotton, a proposed casino amendment and incoming LRSD superintendent Michael Poore — all covered on this week's podcast.

Governor names two to state Board of Education

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today announced two appointments to the state Board of Education — Ouida Newton of Leola and Fitz Hill of Little Rock.

Arkansas Times Recommends: Summer Fun edition

Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

Democrat-Gazette joins us in digging up roots of Governor's Mansion takeover

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has discovered what we've been writing for some time — the legislation for the governor to take control of Governor's Mansion operation arose from tension between First Lady Susan Hutchinson and the commission over decorative decisions.

The Greatest: When Muhammad Ali visited Arkansas in 1969

The news of the death of the great Muhammad Ali inspires a historian's detailed account of the political furor stirred when Ali was invited to speak at the University of Arkansas during the height of controversy over his refusal to be drafted.

Looks like no raises for state elected officials this year. Fair enough

From KTHV is an Associated Press article that indicates Larry Ross, chairman of the independent commission that meets annually on state official pay, sees no need to meet this year. Right. If state employees aren't getting cost of living increases, why should elected officials.

The Riverfest open line

Heres the Saturday open line. Can anybody tell me if Riverfest is happening in terms of crowd?

Markham Street strip zoning watch: Jimmy John's

Jimmy John's, the chain fast food operation, is appealing denial of a request to convert a bank branch on West Markham into a drive-through restaurant.

Razorback Foundation pays Frank Broyles $3.5 million

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette picked up the latest filing from the Razorback Foundation, which supports sports at the University of Arkansas. Giving was up. Also up significantly was a payment to former Athletic Director Frank Broyles for speaking engagements.

Riverfest discounting tickets today. PLUS OPEN LINE

Here's the night's open line. A good day for the conclusion of Riverfest, which reduced admission prices today.

The new Riverfest closes on a sunny note

Riverfest closed Sunday night with good weather and a robust crowd. Still to come are figures on whether the event was a financial success.

Tom Cotton and other ambitious Republicans maneuver around Trump

What to do about Donald Trump? Politico says it's a problem for future Republican candidates such as Sen. Tom Cotton. Also: Anyone else notice the silence of Arkansas Republican leaders on Trump's racist remarks about a federal judge?

Arkansas skewered on debt collector legislation

John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" ripped Arkansas legislation last night — 

It's Burger Week in Little Rock. Dig in

It's Burger Week in Little Rock, with burger specials all week at 21 participating restaurants.

One dead in shooting at Cantrell Road apartments

Little Rock police say one person was killed and a woman and child were wounded in a shooting about 7:30 a.m. this morning at an apartment complex at 6900 Cantrell Road.

Sara Huckabee Sanders takes a pasting after claiming Trump will get Latino vote

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former governor's daughter and a paid hand for Donald Trump, tried to defend his racist remarks on CNN today. Viewers assessment: Fail!

Kelley Linck resigns from legislature to lobby for DHS

Republican State Rep. Kelley Linck of Flippin resigned from the legislature Friday to become chief of legislative and governmental affairs (aka lobbyist) for the state Department of Human Services. He'll be paid $108,243.

Another analyst finds Interstate 30 plan lacking

No matter how hard the establishment keeps trying to tell people to move along, the Interstate 30 12-lane concrete gulch (more than that really at the dystopian Mills Freeway/I-30 junction) downtown is a done deal, credible voices keep popping up to say otherwise.

Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs seeks alimony in divorce; husband objects citing her public pay

A divorce filing in Montgomery County is of interest because it involves Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs, who is asking for alimony from her husband Allan, a chiropractor and former member of the Saline County Quorum Court.

Monday, Monday. An open line and a video

Here's the open line and the daily roundup of news and comment.

Robinson Auditorium renovations delve deep

We take a last look at the Robinson Center Auditorium renovations before the building is closed for finishing touches.

Tom Cotton: Today's worst person in the world

Read the awful story of a woman who died after waiting more than two years before she could be confirmed to an ambassador's post. The delay? Sen. Tom Cotton was using her to get back at President Obama. To add insult to injury, the malicious Cotton claimed to have "respect" for the woman he punished.

ISIS hacks Arkansas librarians

From Newsweek comes this news: Hackers associated with ISIS, or Islamic state militants, have in their random hacking of websites tapped into a database in Arkansas — that of the Arkansas Library Association.

Donald Trump: The silence of the Arkansas Republicans (save Davy Carter)

Is there a Republican in Arkansas office will to stand on principle against Donald Trump as, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham has done? A former GOP legislator, Davy Carter, deserves an asterisk in the search for a principled GOP officeholder.

Dumas explains the Hillary 'likability' issue. It's about privacy.

Ernest Dumas writes this week on a subject that puzzles many — the personal aversion to Hillary Clinton or the so-called "likability" issue. Put it down to Clinton's obsession with privacy, he writes.

Riverfest: The Unexpected, the Utterly Expected

The Riverfest lineup was bestowed with prime weather, psychedelic spectacle, bizarrely shaped ice cream cones, and lots of fringe.

Conner Eldridge presses opponent John Boozman on Trump

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Conner Eldridge has called on his opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman, to repudiate Donald Trump's remarks about a federal judge presiding in the Trump University lawsuit.

Fire burns North Little Rock apartments

KARK reports that 16 units in the New Horizon apartments at 4900 Augusta Circle in North Little Rock were destroyed by a fire last night.

Arkansas Human Services Department announces restructuring

Here's today's news release from the Arkansas Department of Human Services on a restructuring announced today.

Tuesday: the open line and video report

The Tuesday open line and news roundup.

Governor: Trump remarks on judge 'antithetical' to America, but he'll support nominee

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, through spokesman J.R. Davis, responded to my request for a comment on the raging debate on the nature of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's knock of a judge of Mexican heritage hearing the case alleging fraud in the operation of Trump University. He's critical of the remark, but still supports him.

Charles Pierce calls Tom Cotton a sadistic swine for 'weaponizing' Cassandra Butts

Charles Pierce of Esquire calls Sen. Tom Cotton a "sadistic swine" for blocking an ambassadorship for a qualified black woman (who died during his 2.3-year hold on the nomination) to "inflict special pain on the president."

A final boulevard draft, but will AHTD care?

Fennell Purifoy architects Tom Fennell, Ben Hartter and Baxter Reecer continue to whistle past the graveyard, drawing up a yet another handsome new plan to show how  I-30 south of the Arkansas River could be replaced with with a boulevard. The plans are based on the Smart Mobility consulting firm study.

Restructuring DHS business functions just the beginning, director says

The unanswerable question is whether Gillespie's proposed changes to the department's "core business structures" will introduce much-needed accountability and efficiency to DHS, or whether they'll simply add a new layer of bureaucracy.

Hillary makes history; Sanders soldiers on

It's Hillary. History is made.

Rapert's road trip: An opportunity for a little Jason TV

Just in: An installment of Jason Rapert TV, preaching and driving on a return trip from Illinois.

Criticism mounts of Tom Cotton's vindictiveness; will it get local news coverage?

Sen. Tom Cotton's malicious blockade of a foreign service appointment has gained national attention, in part because of the death of the woman Cotton punished to get at President Obama. Will it get local news coverage?

Full house: All the at-large city directors will be on ballot again

Little Rock City Director Dean Kumpuris, one of three at-large members of the  Board, told me this morning that he will seek a fifth elected term to the board. He joined the board by appointment in 1995.

Pulaski Tech continues to hold the line on guns

The Board of Pulaski Tech, the two-year college based in North Little Rock that is to merge into the UA System, has again voted to opt out of the law that would allow concealed carry on campus by permitted faculty members.

Democratic leadership rumble: Talk of disqualifying Dustin McDaniel for disloyalty

Arkansas Democrats will elect their national committeeman and committeewoman later this summer and I'm hearing a challenge could be made to Dustin McDaniel's re-election to the committeeman slot. Reason: party disloyalty.

Audit finds $23,000 overpayment on insurance for Lee County superintendent

A state audit listed today shows the Lee County School District overpaid health insurance for the superintendent, Willie Murdoch, by more than $23,000 during a 30-month period. She shouldn't have qualified for more of a subsidy than any other district employee.

Wednesday's open line and the daily video

Wednesday's open line and a roundup by video of news and comment.

8th Circuit rejects challenge of Big River Steel plant

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today agreed with Judge Leon Holmes' finding that the court didn't have jurisdiction to hear Nucor Steel's lawsuit challenging air permits for the state-subsidized Big River Steel mill, a new competitor for Nucor in Mississippi County.

Author of UA scandal book to appear in Little Rock

John Diamond, who once led media relations at the University of Arkansas, will sign books at Wordsworth, the Heights bookstore, from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday, June 13.

Natural State Sandwiches piles fresh local ingredients high

Summer has arrived in Fayetteville, and with the warmer weather comes a craving for outdoor eateries and food trucks. Natural State Sandwiches is tops on the list.