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2017 Little Rock Confidential

2017 Little Rock Confidential

July 13, 2017

Vol 43 • No 45

Little Rock Confidential 2017

Workers tell it like it is.

Arkansas Times Film Series screens "A New Leaf"

Also, Lucie's Place Cabaret, Okilly Dokilly, "Heathers: The Musical," Tiki Tuesdays, "Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness," Fourth Wall Arts Ensemble and more

We're No. 1! in vote suppression

It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

The ACA can be fixed

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened his 51 disciples in the Senate and his party with the gravest injury imaginable.

Cued up

Midtown Billiards, which had to close after a fire in December, reopened July 7 with a crowd of regulars armed with Sharpie pens to restore the freshly-painted walls to the bar's former lived-in look.

Martin dumps data

Michael Reed interview, Hutchinson announces aid to LRPD, Candidates announces for mayor

No one in charge

The American president has long been described with the honorific "Leader of the Free World." No more.

Spidey lessons

Parker schooled in happy 'Homecoming.'


A newspaper died up in Atkins a few weeks back, not with a bang or a whimper, but with the sound of change jingling in a pocket, just too little of it to keep the printing presses rolling.

Inconsequential News Quiz

This town needs an enema! edition

Doing things right: A Spike Lee Tribute

Lee's film screens Thursday; Rodney Block performs Friday

Up and running

It was 12 years in coming, the Little Rock Technology Park.

Grampa's, and catfish, are back

Don't skimp on the shrimp.

Genine Perez and The Sound bring a 'Summer Feel Good Set' to South on Main

Also: Second City alum at the Looney Bin, Red Octopus 'Cruel Summer'

The 2018 mayoral race

Victory over violence: Join the march this Saturday

Victory Over Violence campaign schedules a family-friendly walk Saturday morning in MacArthur Park.

Balcony fire sounds alarm at River Market condo tower

KARK reports that a small balcony fire at the River Market Tower condo at Third and Rock forced residents out of the building shortly before 4 a.m. this morning.

Tom Cotton fights legal immigration. I see it at work.

Politico reports that U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is working with Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller on legislation to slash legal immigration to the United States. Emphasis LEGAL immigration. The subject gives me a chance to mention immigration in Arkansas and forward-thinking Clarksville.

Metroplan review finds a fast-moving commuter and a sluggish region

Metroplan, the regional planning agency based in Little Rock, has released its annual demographic review and outlook with an emphasis this year on commuting. It's not a brigh picture.

A legislative rating where F equals A

The Arkansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded political organization intent on advancing the interests of wealthy corporations, particularly those that burn fossil fuel, has released a rating of Arkansas legislators based on 13 pieces of legislation. Their A students are our failures.

Arkansas official supports climate change critic for top environmental job

Donald Trump is pushing a climate skeptic to be the Justice Department's top environmental lawyer and among his somewhat limited support is the top litigator of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, not much of a believer in strict environmental regulation herself.

Arkansas joins national emergency communications system

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced that Arkansas has joined a national emergency communications system.

County Judge Barry Hyde will seek re-election

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde, a Democrat, has announced he'll seek a third two-year term.

Paul Spencer is officially in the race for 2nd District Congress

Paul Spencer, a teacher and small farmer in Scott, has made official his plan to run as a Democrat for 2nd District Congress.

Doubts remain as Republicans try another Senate health care bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a new health coverage overhaul bill today, but the Washington Post reports that doubts remain whether he has sufficient Republican votes to pass it. The situation is complicated by a competing bill from two Republican senators.

State to open new amphitheater at Mount Magazine State Park

The 300-seat Cameron Bluff Amphitheater, a new version of a WPA-amphitheater that once was part of Mount Magazine's attraction, will open July 19, the state Department of Parks and Tourism has announced.

Don’t plan your weekend around the Farmer’s Market!

Arkansas Grown produce available at Edwards include Arkansas heirloom tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini squash, serrano peppers, banana peppers, cabbage and sweet bi-color corn.

Thursday's open line. The news isn't healthy

The Thursday open line. The daily news roundup begins with health care.

24 charged in Arkansas in massive national medical fraud investigation

The U.S. Justice Department this afternoon announced massive national medical fraud investigation that included the indictment of 24 people in Arkansas in a scheme using fraudulent billings to get government reimbursement, including for dangerous opioids and other drugs.

Senate bill imperils rural health care, hospital leaders warn

In the four years since Arkansas chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Harris Medical Center in Newport has seen its “bad debt” — bills left unpaid by patients — cut in half. Eight percent of the 133-bed hospital’s patients fell into the bad debt category in 2013, the year before Arkansas created the hybrid Medicaid expansion program known as the private option (later rebranded by Governor Hutchinson as “Arkansas Works”). Today, that figure is 4 percent, according to Harris Medical Center CEO Darrin Caldwell.

ACLU asks court to enjoin antiabortion bills

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union asked Judge Kristine Baker to grant an injunction against four laws passed this year by the General Assembly that would: * Make abortion after 15 weeks riskier by outlawing what the medical profession considers the safest procedure, dilation and evacuation; * Require doctors to inform local police when an abortion performed on a teenager age 14-16 absent any indication of abuse and that police create a record of the teenager's abortion and be provided the fetal remains; * Require abortion providers to ask women seeking an abortion if they know the sex of the fetus, and, if they do, obtain all of their previous obstetrical records to determine if they have a "history of aborting fetuses" of a certain sex, as the lawyer for the state said today in court. * Require notification of a woman's partner — or abuser — that she intends to have an abortion, ostensibly so they can agree on the disposition of the remains of the fetus.

Can Republicans push wealthcare across the finish line?

Powerful reasons are emerging to oppose the latest Republican effort to upend the Affordable Care Act, from tax cuts for the rich to cuts in medical services, particularly for women. That doesn't mean it won't pass.

Central Arkansas Water to study mountain biking around its lake

Central Arkansas Water, which has fiercely limited recreational use of Lake Maumelle and surroundings in the name of water supply protection, says it's willing to consider opening some of territory to mountain biking.

Storage unit buy yields Damien Echols' journals

WMCA in Memphis reports on a Bull Shoals man's purchase at auction of the contents of a storage locker apparently abandoned by Lorri Davis, wife of Damien Echols.

Motion in school case suggests Pulaski school case solution, including new district boundaries

Late last night came a filing in federal court that says the state of Arkansas, the Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts and the so-called Joshua intervenors, the representatives of black families led by state Rep. John Walker are amenable to settlement of all remaining issues in county desegregation issues.

New music from Isaac Alexander

New music from Isaac Alexander.

Arkansas a haven for refugees who slipped under Trump's ban

How Arkansas became an unlikely home for refugees fleeing violence in Congo. They were lucky, given the Trump travel ban.

Health bill likely means pain for Arkansas

Another indication, from Talking Points Memo, of how bad the latest Senate bill to wreck Obamacare will be for Arkansas:

Pulaski mailing new property tax asessments

Pulaski County has completed its first countywide property reappraisal since 2012 and this week began mailing notices of the new values placed on real property for tax purposes.. About half of the property in the county increased in value and about half dropped.

Rapper on stage during club shooting returned to Arkansas

Ricky Hampton, the Memphis rapper known as Finese 2Tymes, was jailed in Forrest City today after being brought from Alabama, where he was arrested the day after his appearance at the Power Ultra Lounge in Little Rock ended in a shootout that left 24 wounded.

Commission recommends suspension of judge facing felony tax charges

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission voted unanimously this morning to ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to suspend Saline County Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister with pay because he's facing four felony charges for failing to file state income tax returns.

Common Cause sues Trump voter commission

Add Common Cause to those suing over Donald Trump's voter data commission led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Attorney general rejects amendment for ethics, lawsuit damage limits

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to impose stricter ethics standards in judicial raceS and counter a legislative amendment to severely limit damage lawsuits.

The line is open

Here's the Friday open line. And a roundup of headlines on health, schools and more.

Trump's good Christian supporters

Why do evangelical voters support people like Donald Trump and not Jimmy Carter? A Times columnist offers some comment.

Victory over Violence walk this morning

Our partners at KARK/Fox 16 are crusading against the rise in violence in Little Rock and have scheduled another Victory Walk at 8:30 a.m. this morning in MacArthur Park, with food and events for kids afterwards until 11 a.m. on the Arkansas Arts Center parking lot.

Jonesboro cops bust couple over sex videos

Jonesboro media, KAIT in this case, have been drawing national attention for reports on a bust of a local couple for making sex videos in public places.

Saturday's open line

The tomato-time open line.

Donald Trump's war on women's health

A New York Times writer outlines in detail all the ways the Trump administration is damaging women's medical rights, particularly including contraception.

Settlement struck in Ashley Madison lawsuit

TMZ reports Ashley Madison, the so-called cheaters' website, has struck a deal to pay $11.2 million to settle a class action lawsuit by those whose identities were revealed by a hack of its registered users.

Police chief responds to black officers' criticism

An anonymous correspondent sent me the following memo by Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner responding to a letter from the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association 

More Arkansans head to Washington for health care demonstrations, expect disobedience

Still more Arkansans are en route to Washington to impress on Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman their opposition to the Republican plan to eviscerate Medicaid and eliminate beneficial parts of the Affordable Care Act.  Arrests expected.

Sunday's open line

The Sunday open line is, well, open.

Arkansas gay rights case triggers debate on Chief Justice Roberts

Did Chief Justice John Roberts endorse the unsigned U.S. Supreme Court decision that held Arkansas was treating same-sex parents unconstitutionally in issuing birth certificates?

Legal Aid wins attorney fees in suit against state Human Services

Federal Judge Price Marshall has awarded $83,787 in attorney fees to Legal Aid of Arkansas for successfully mounting a class action lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Human Services to protect home care for some 7,000 elderly and disabled people.

More evidence of Mark Martin's poor judgment on voter data UPDATE

NBC reports still more flaws in the Trump-instigated voter data gathering effort that only Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin complied with before ongoing federal lawsuits put a halt to things.

And speaking of voting: The U.S. and hackable voting machines

Huffington Post reports that some states rely heavily — a few entirely — on electronic voting machines that don't have a backup paper trail. They are ripe for hacking, in case somebody named Boris might be interested.

How Trumpcare will push up the cost of insurance

Now THIS could slow the Republican train forming for the Senate health legislation — resistance from major corporations. The cost of covering the millions of newly uninsured in uncompensated care will push up the cost of health insurance for those who have it where they work.

UPDATE: Judge won't contest suspension for pending felony charges

Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister of Benton told the Arkansas Supreme Court today that he did not object to a request that he be suspended from the bench with pay while four felony charges pend against him for failing to file a state income tax return.

The week-opening open line

The Monday open line.

Former DHS employee gets 9 years for $9 million worth of food fraud

Federal Judge James Moody has sentenced Gladys Waits, 37, to nine years in federal prison for her role in defrauding more than $9 million in federal money sent to Arkansas to feed poor children.

Judge orders Maggio to report to prison Wednesday; lawyer asks for stay

Federal Judge Brian Miller today ordered former Circuit Judge Mike Maggio to report to prison to begin serving his 10-year sentence on a bribery conviction

AP reports two more opponents to Senate health bill

Is the Senate health bill dead? Two defections put the outcome seriously in doubt.

More shooting, including LR's 32nd homicide

The city's 32nd homicide was recorded about 11:20 p.m. Monday night in the 4700 block of W. 14th St., with no other details available.

So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.

Rep. Mary Bentley's website now supports gay rights

Somebody has cybersquatted on Republican Rep. Mary Bentley's website, replacing her messaging with a call for equal rights for LGBTQ people.

Tall Talking Tom Cotton emerges from hiding on health care

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton dropped by the friendly confines of Right-Ring Radio KARN this morning to finally be heard on the now-dead Senate health bill that he and 12 white male Republicans met in secret to write. A profile in courage he isn't.

Jermain Taylor charged in domestic disturbance

Maumelle police say boxer Jermain Taylor is in trouble with the law again. He was arrested after a fight with a woman at a home in Maumelle.

Judge won't relent, Mike Maggio must report to federal prison Wednesday

Federal Judge Brian Miller has rejected Mike Maggio's request for a delay in his order that he report to U.S. marshals by Wednesday afternoon to begin serving his 10-year bribery sentence.

The Republican House budget. Winners write the history, right?

The Washington Post reports on the the Republican majority House budget plan. More defense spending. Cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Tax cuts for the rich. Cuts in federal agencies that do things like protect air and water. Layer on this an optimistic economic growth expectation.

Pulaski school board sets special meeting on lawyer

The Pulaski County School Board will have a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. today to consider a single item of business — continued representation of the district by Allen Roberts' law firm.

Riverfest is dead, a victim of cost and competition

Rising costs and competition have spelled the end of Riverfest after a run of more than 40 years.

Feds name Power Lounge rapper's bodyguard in firearms charges; finds ammo match

Federal authorities today filed a criminal complaint against Kentrell Gwynn with ties to the Power Ultra Lounge shooting that left 25 people wounded in downtown Little Rock.

Riverfest calls it quits

The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.

A busy Tuesday open line

The Tuesday open line and a news-packed video roundup.

Frontier Airlines to resume Little Rock service

Clinton National Airport says that Frontier Airlines will resume Little Rock-Denver service in 2018.

Re health legislation: Gov. Hutchinson says ...

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who'd been quietly objecting to the devastation that the now-dead Senate legislation would have done to his budget and, incidentally, people on Medicaid, issued this statement today following implosion of the legislation. He was as careful as ever.

Pulaski School Board votes to dump lawyer, then fires Superintendent Guess

The Pulaski County School Board fired its superintendent tonight after a dispute over the county's legal representation.

Can I get an amen?

People magazine reports that Donald Trump Jr. is miserable and can't wait for the four years of his father's presidency to end.

Trump's election integrity commission to meet

The New York Times today previews a meeting of Donald Trump's Election Integrity Commission, the outfit led by vote suppressor Kris Kobach of Kansas that faces multiple lawsuits for its unprecedented grab for personal voter information.

The GOP today: Good Old Putin

Politico offers James Kirchik writing about how the Republican Party became the party of Vladimir Putin.

David Dunn's statement for Election Integrity Commission

The Arkansan on Donald Trump's so-called Election Integrity Commission issued an opening statement today calling for election integrity, transparency in the commission's work and protection of voter privacy. With Donald Trump in charge, that might be wishful thinking.

Mayor sets talk on violence reduction

With Little Rock homicides trending higher than recent years (32 through last night) and still an absence of harges against shooters in the Prime Ultra Lounge gun battle and with 2018 an election year, Mayor Mark Stodola has scheduled a news conference tomorrow on violence reduction.

Police officer shoots carjacker in fast food drive-through

A police officer shot and wounded a carjacker at a fast food restaurant on West Markham this afternoon.

The resistance continues from Arkansas

"Repair don't repeal. Trumpcare kills." So chanted a group of people from Arkansas demonstrating in the Senate office building in Washington today.

The midweek open line

The open line and a news roundup that ranges from election fraud to a Chick-fil-A carjacking.

UALR artist Mia Hall is off to Penland: UPDATE

The Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina has announced the hiring of Mia Hall, of the Department of Art and Design at UA Little Rock, as its new director.

Mike Maggio begins 10-year sentence for federal bribery conviction

Mike Maggio, the former circuit judge from Conway, turned himself in to U.S. marshals today to begin serving a 10-year sentence for bribery.

Cause of Cotham's fire? Undetermined

The Pulaski sheriff's office said today it had closed its investigation of the fire that destroyed the historic Cotham's restaurant in a former store in Scott without finding a cause.