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Best of Arkansas 2017

Best of Arkansas 2017

July 27, 2017

Vol 43 • No 47

Read the print version

Heights' venerable WordsWorth Books finds new owners

There's hope for the local bookstore.

'Bet more, win more'

A night of electronic 'games of skill' at Oaklawn.

Doing a bang-up business

Stacey Bowers' jewelry line.

Best of Arkansas 2017

Cream of the shops, and more

2017 Best of Arkansas editors' picks

Pie, dog-chasing-geese watching, wrecked groceries, etc.

Making mustardy yellow great again

Crying Weasel Vintage mines the past for clothes for now.

The Good Earth Garden Center: by the numbers

Too many azalea species and more.

The beer of summer

Flyway's Blueberry Wheat is a hit.

"Night of the Living Dead" at Ron Robinson Theater

Also, Faulkner Chamber Music Festival, Big Piph's "Celebrate" Release Party, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, "Crown: The Final Curtain Call," Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies and more


Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

For universal health care

While the U.S. Senate twists itself into a pretzel not passing a health care bill, I'm pleased to see that more and more people are looking seriously at universal health care.


Forgive The Observer a public love letter, Dear Reader. A gentleman never kisses and tells, but he is allowed to swoon a bit, and so we will. Last week made 20 years since we wed our beloved in her grandpa's little church way down in El Dorado, two dumb kids with nothing but our lives stretching out before us like an open road.

Parole and politics

Will another high-profile crime derail parole reform?

Nutt chills Freeze

Also, Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes the podium and Trump getting less popular in Arkansas.

Buyer remorse

Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Just locker room talk edition

Play to pass the time while stuck on the X-Coaster!

Why abstract art?

Because Peters.

Narrow opening for Arkansas Democrats

"Somebody in this room — it's time to go big or go home." At the Democratic Party of Arkansas's Clinton Dinner last weekend, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana used his platform as keynote speaker to embolden a candidate to step up to run for governor against incumbent Republican Governor Hutchinson.

Brunch with a punch

The Southern Gourmasian's brunch may be the best-kept secret in town.

Not Whitewater

Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.

Cindy Woolf and Mark Bilyeu come to Four Quarter

Also, The Simple Pleasure plays a free show at Maxine's.

You're a Huckabee!

Third candidate announces for Little Rock district judge

Peggy Egan, a deputy public defender, is the third candidate to announce for the Little Rock District Court judgeship on the ballot in May.

Justice Department attacks equal rights for gay people

The Trump administration didn't just go after transgender people in the military yesterday. His Justice Department attacked equal protection under employment law for gay people.

Youth shot by Marion police reportedly held a weapon

More details are emerging of the fatal shooting of Aries Clark, 16, by Marion police Tuesday night outside a youth shelter. A family member said he held a gun (a BB gun in his account) when he was shot.

ASO performs "The Magical Music of Harry Potter"

ASO announced two October dates for “The Magical Music of Harry Potter,” a concert of selected orchestral versions of music from all eight Harry Potter films composed by John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat.

Little Rock Nine-inspired "No Tears Suite" premieres at Central High in September

"Imagine if Buildings Could Talk," the three-day series of events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the integration of Central High School, the Oxford American magazine presents the world premiere of the “No Tears Suite,” a 30-minute composition for large jazz ensemble from Little Rock composer and pianist Chris Parker.

Wallet theft reported at Jonesboro funeral

KAIT reports that a 77-year-old woman had her wallet stolen while she was ushering Saturday at a funeral at First Untied Methodist Church in Jonesboro.

Democrat again targets Jim Sorvillo in west Little Rock House seat

Democrat Jess Mallett, a Little Rock lawyer, announced today that she's a candidate for the stte House seat currently held by Republican Jim Sorvillo.

No change yet in transgender policy in military

It's pretty clear Donald Trump consulted no generals before using Twitter to issue a ban on transgender service in the military.

Dinner on the Patio

Brave New Restaurant remains a gem in the crown of Little Rock restaurants.

Boy Scout executive posts 'apology' for Trump's political remarks at jamboree

Mike Surbaugh, the chief executive of Boy Scouts of America, has posted a letter of apologize on the group's Facebook page for the political tenor of Donald Trump's remarks earlier this week at the National Jamboree.

An Arkansan sees Sarah. Detects True Grit.

Kyle Brazzel, a former Arkie writer who now lives in Brooklyn, beholds White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an article in The Awl. He finds Mattie Ross and a little True Grit. Her mother's daughter, too.

Thursday: An open line and news roundup

An open line and daily news commentary.

Benton County deputy arrested for sexual assault

Kevin Harrison, a Benton County deputy sheriff and former justice of the peace, was charged today with sexual assault of a Rogers woman. He was fired as a deputy Wednesday.

Trump voter panel renews request for information; Arkansas turns it over

The hotly controversial request for voter information from an ad hoc panel working for Donald Trump has been renewed. No word yet if Arkansas will again be among the first to comply.

Dyspeptic dialing: The Mooch unloads on his colleagues

You gotta read this piece by Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker about a phone called he received from White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci

County approves bike trail

The Pulaski County Quorum Court today approved spending some county money toward building a 53-mile bike/foot trail to Saline County.

Senate defeats Obamacare repeal

Obamacare repeal died in the Senate last night.

Department of Correction restricts inmate mail to three pages, no large cards

Arkansas Department of Correction is restricting mail to inmates in order to fight contraband from entering prisons

LR's 35th homicide on Col. Glenn; another dead in NLR

A 31-year-old man was fatally shot Thursday night at the Big Country Chateau Apartments on Col. Glenn Avenue just west of University Avenue. It was the city's 35th homicide of 2017. North Little Rock also reported a homicide early Friday.

Recommendations made for sale of Woodruff and Franklin schools

Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore released Thursday his recommendations for sale of the closed Franklin and Woodruff schools to a health clinic and apartment development, respectively.

Arkansas voter information for sale on 'dark web'

Any worry about Kris Kobach's misuse of Arkansas voter information sent to his "election integrity" commission yesterday by Secretary of State Mark Martin is to some degree irrelevant. The data is already for sale cheap, on the "dark web," Mother Jones reports.

Pizza Gets Better

The Pizzeria serves an elevated version of a classic comfort food.

8th Circuit lifts injunction against Arkansas law aimed at ending abortion pill use

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today lifted district Judge Kristine Baker's injunction preventing enforcement of an Arkansas law requiring abortion providers to have a contract with a physician who has hospital admitting privileges.

Buzzfeed suggests a Russian whackjob

Russian media czar dies shortly before meeting with FBI. Was it a hit?

SWEPCO invests in Oklahoma wind farm

SWEPCO plans a big investment in wind power. Wonder what Arkansas politicians who've been fighting another wind project and generally love coal thinks bout that.

TGIF: An open line and the news roundup

The open line plus today's news roundup, from the Obamacare vote through a curb on prison inmate mail to potty mouthed Anthony Scaramucci.

Husband and wife get prison for stealing from Cotton Plant Housing Authority

Federal Judge Brian Miller today sentenced a married DesArc couple to federal prison terms for stealing money from the Cotton Plant Housing Authority.

Bennett named to lead Historic Arkansas Museum

Arkansas Museum by Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. He'd been interim director since Bill Worthen retired in December. He had been deputy director and chief curator at HAM since 1982.

Bank of the Ozarks stock takes a hit on executive's departure

Bank of the Ozarks' stock price dropped about 12 percent today, to $41.74 in a recent trade, on news of the resignation of Dan Thomas as vice chairman and president of the real estate specialties group. Reports by both Reuters and the Motley Fool suggested that the bank's construction and development loan portfolio might have something to do with events.

Turner Grain failure takes criminal turn with hot check charges

Arkansas Business reports that hot check charges have been filed against co-owners of Turner Grain Merchandising, the failed Brinkley commodities brokerage firm that went into bankruptcy with almost $40 million in debts.

Government by Tweet: Priebus out and John Kelly in as White House chief of staff

What else to say? The Mooch Abides.

Another Democratic candidate, Gwendolynn Combs, files for 2nd District Congress

Gwendolynn Millen Combs of Little Rock has indicated she'll be a Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress, a seat currently held by Republican Rep. French Hill. Paul Spencer of Scott has already announced as a Democratic candidate.

Arkansas hip-hop: A weekend playlist

Sixteen tracks to get you through the weekend.

Desha County JPs ready to defend themselves

An Arkansas Blog country correspondent brings news from the McGehee Times Dermott News that the Desha County Quorum Court has voted 7-2 to allow the nine justices of the peace on the county governing body to carry weapons to meetings

LR records 36th homicide Friday night

KARK/Fox 16 reports another homicide in Little Rock last night, the city's 36th of the year.

Itchy-O to close Hot Water Hills Festival

Itchy-O, the 40+ member percussion and performance art group with whom David Byrne and St. Vincent closed out a 2013 show at Chatfield Botanical Garden, is slated to close out this year's Hot Water Hills Music & Arts Festival.

If Avoca can have Sunday alcohol sales, why not Little Rock?

40/29 reports thattiny Avoca in Benton County (pop. 512) will begin Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages tomorrow. My eternal question: Why not Little Rock?

Arkies in FOI battle with Ole Miss

Houston Nutt's lawyer meets resistance from Ole Miss in providing phone records. He fires back.

Federal judge halts four new Arkansas anti-abortion laws

A late-night order has stopped enforcement of four new Arkansas anti-abortion laws.

Another Saturday night line

The open line. Hop in.

Marching Monday for medical care

Arkansas Community Organizations announces a  march and ceremony Monday night to mark the 52nd anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid.

One man's fight against Little Rock City Hall

An update on the fight by Luke Skrable to exercise his right to speak before the Little Rock City Board of Directors.

Another homicide in SWLR

Another homicide in Little Rock last night.

Sleepy Sunday

The Sunday open line. Not much going except the usual Trump Twitter storm and worldwide unrest.

Vote suppression at work

A Washington Post editorial lays out the ultimate aim of the so-called election integrity commission being run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — vote suppression.

Huckabee apologizes for 'short bus' comment on Fox

A Mike Huckabee crack about "short bus" draws criticism and a Huckabee apology.

The cost of corporate welfare, Trump-Foxconn edition

Donald Trump bragged that a Chinese company's decision to put a flat-screen TV plant in Wisconsin was a deal he swung. Some deal.

Luke Skrable again swears he'll fight Little Rock City Hall lawfully. But fight he will.

Luke Skrable reiterates that he will abide by the existing rules, unfair as they are, that continue to ban him from City Hall.

Gwendolynn Combs issues 2nd District campaign announcement

Gwendolynn Combs, 42, a Little Rock teacher, issued an announcement today of her Democratic candidacy for 2nd District Congress.

Burger 21 opens today

The Little Rock franchise of Burger 21 opened today (Monday, July 31) at 12319 Chenal Parkway, just south of Chenal’s intersection with West Markham Street. The first 100 guests will receive a swag bag and a gift certificate to the restaurant. Those who dine Monday will get a chance to win a year’s supply of free “Cheesy Burgers.”

An Arkansas teacher's memoir: Only the heroes stay

The New York Times interview Michelle Kuo, who's written an acclaimed memoir about her time as a teacher in Helena and the friendship she formed with a student later charged with murder.

Hot dogs! Bark Bar opens Tuesday

Canine and all-beef hot dogs coming up: Bark Bar, which will feature an indoor/outdoor dog park for its four-footed patrons and adult beverages and wieners for its humans, opens Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 1201 S. Spring St.

Get your thank-you notes from Jeremy Gillam here! GOP fund-raiser

The invite to a House Republican fund-raiser tells you a little about the presumed stature of House Speaker Jeremy Gillam.

The Mooch is out at White House thanks to John Kelly

As the White House turns: Anthony Scaramucci, he of the R-rated tirade about colleagues, is apparently out as White House communications director, reportedly as requested by new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Monday's open line and the daily report

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

LR Restaurant Month has begun

The 8th annual Little Rock Restaurant Month, which features weekly deals by areas of town, kicks off today, with free and reduced price items at 40 restaurants, bars and cafes downtown.

Three shots fired after Tucker Max breakout

Officers were assaulted and warning shots were fired by guards when at least three Tucker Maximum Security inmates managed to escape from locked individual holding pens July 22.

An international murder mystery in Little Rock

Police are saying very little about the circumstances of the fatal shooting Sunday night of Carlo Marigliano, 31, a visitor from Naples, Italy said to be traveling around the U.S. as a tourist.

Collaboration with charter schools urged in LR School District report

A Little Rock school study group has recommended collaboration to end the divide between charter schools and public school districts. That's a tall order.

Lucinda Williams to play Oxford American 25th anniversary gala

Lucinda Williams performs at this year's Oxford American gala, in celebration of the magazine's 25th anniversary.

Hearne celebrates 29 years with Alfred Conteh, Adger Cowans, John Biggers and more

Hearne Fine Art, 1001 Wright Ave., is celebrating its 29th year in business with an exhibition of works by dozens of important African American artists, both home-grown and national. Among the artists is Alfred Conteh, whose work is shown above; here's an excerpt from a biography of the artist provided by the gallery:

Murder and the mayor's race

Little Rock's homicide rate is not only high, the killings haven't been solved. Which raises a political issue and speculation about the 2018 race for mayor.

Lawsuit puts Trump White House in thick of bogus Seth Rich story

Hot stuff. Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor, has sued the network saying it worked in concert with a Trump supporter and with participation of the White House in peddling the bogus story about the unsolved Washington D.C. killing of Seth Rich, a young aide for the Democratic National Committee.

Susan Inman to try again for secretary of state

Susan Inman announced today as a Democratic candidate for secretary of state, a race she lostin 2014 against incumbent Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, who is term limited this year.

Celebrate Restaurant Month with today's deals

Today's featured restaurants feature a shrimp po boy from Bridges, half off entrée salads at Cafe Heifer, 15% off all entrées at Soul Fish, $2 off Blue Plates at South on Main, and a big half-off of all food orders at Skye's.

Study: States that would restrict abortion do poorly to support women's health

It's entirely unsurprising that Arkansas, where lawmakers passed a law that said to women, yes, you can have an abortion after 12 weeks, you just can't have a safe one, that a report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and other agencies finds a correlation between abortion restrictions and policies that limit services for women and families and produce produce bad health outcomes for them.

Amy McGrath, Democrat for Congress in Kentucky. Remember that name

Check out this campaign ad from a Kentucky Democrat running for Congress. Good stuff.

Tuesday's open line and the latest news

Here's the open line. And the news roundup, from Trump to another bad report card on Arkansas for caring for women's health.

Senate announces hearing on health insurance

U.S. Senate committee sets hearing on health insurance. Bipartisan backing.

Child left on playground at Ascent center in North Little Rock; two fired

The Department of Human Services confirms a report circulating on social media of a child found unattended Monday morning on a playground outside the North Little Rock facility of Ascent Children's Health Services.

Trump and Cotton to reveal bill restricting legal immigration today

The effort, following his campaign pledge to reform the country’s immigration system, expands on a bill introduced by the senators in February to cut the number of legal immigrants into the U.S. by 50 percent over 10 years.

Siloam Springs man accused of having sex with a donkey

A Siloam Springs man is accused of having sex with a pet donkey, KARK reports.

Sherwood tattoo artists return to Spike TV's "Ink Master"

Matt O’Baugh and Katie McGowan of Sherwood’s Black Cobra Tattoo at 6505 Warden Rd., the two tattoo artists who competed in season six of Spike TV’s “Ink Master,” are back on the show, competing for a grand prize of $200,000.

Arkansas one of only four states to see increases in crime and incarceration rates from 2000-2015

Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia were the only four states in the country to experience both increases in crime and incarceration rates from 2000 to 2015, according to a July research brief from the Vera Institute for Justice.

Leaked document shows Justice Department to go after college affirmative action programs

A new document shows the Justice Department is looking to target affirmative action programs

State tax collections beat forecast in first revenue report of new fiscal year

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration's July revenue report released this morning shows July net available general revenue at $454.5 million — 2.4 percent above forecast

Adam Driver, David Lowery coming to Little Rock for Arkansas Cinema Society's 'Premiere'

Talk about awakening forces: The new Arkansas Cinema Society's inaugural event, coming up Aug. 24-26, is bringing to town big-name film professionals to screen and talk about their films.

McGraw, Hill concert canceled

Verizon Arena has announced that the Soul2Soul show featuring Faith Hill and Tim McGraw 

Tyson settles class-action lawsuit by shortchanged Iowa plant workers

In Iowa, Tyson Foods has settled a long-running class-action lawsuit brought by employees who complained about not being compensated for time putting on and removing the protective gear necessary to do their jobs. In a 2016 survey of 500 poultry Arkansas poultry workers, 26 percent reported not being paid for time putting on protective gear.

Canadian manufacturer buys Conway bus company, will make Conway U.S. headquarters

Custom metal products supplier DBG, which is based in Canada and which has acquired Navistar's IC Bus operations in Conway, will make its U.S. headquarters there, the company announced today.

Arkansas among states dealing with complications with new juvenile life without parole standards

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles should not be sentenced the same as adults, Arkansas and other states passed new laws for life without parole for juveniles. But, the laws have not been implemented easily.

Cyclists, hikers take note: New trailhead facility going up at Arkansas City

The Delta Heritage Trail, which when complete will be an 84.5-mile pathway for pedestrians and cyclists along former railroad lines in East Arkansas, moves into a new phase tomorrow as construction begins on the southernmost trailhead facility at Arkansas City.

Cotton and Trump: Blame immigrants for decline in working-class wages

In the senator's telling, what ails the American worker is a surplus of cheap labor, fueled by immigration policies that favor unskilled foreigners.

UPDATE: Body found near Shackleford Road in Little Rock ruled a homicide

A body was found near Shackleford Road in Little Rock, police have announced it was a homicide.

Heritage department loses another top employee

Marion Boyd, the interim director of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, has resigned. Boyd had served as interim director since long-time director Missy McSwain left the AHPP in March.

Consider this your Wednesday open line

Arkansas news on Tuesday, August 2 with Brook Wallace: Tom Cotton seeks to restrict legal immigration, a man has relations with a pet donkey, Arkansas Cinema Society kicks off with a force-push and the McGraw/Hill concert is no more.

Trump's approval rating keeps slipping nationwide, Arkansas included. So what?

A poll released yesterday indicated just 33 percent of Americans approve of the president's job performance. But for the real story, look to his approval ratings among Republicans.

DecARcerate appoints new director

DecARcerate, a grassroots community group dedicated to "uniting communities against mass incarceration in Arkansas," has announced a new director, Zachary Crow, who will work the role part-time.

2nd Potbelly opening benefits ACCESS schools

yan Hamra of Little Rock is officially opening Little Rock’s second Potbelly Shop, which features live music with its food, on the first floor of the Lyon Building, 401 W. Capitol, on Tuesday, Aug. 8. But first, the public is invited to an “Oven Warming Event” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7, a benefit for Little Rock’s ACCESS schools for children with learning disabilities; cost is $5 for a sandwich, chips and a fountain drink.