Look beyond the trash to see its beauty.
Vol 41 • No 48
The Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects is letting the public have its say on Arkansas architecture, with the inaugural People's Choice Award online contest.
When the last seconds of Arkansas's exceedingly dominant Texas Bowl victory over the Texas Longhorns ticked away just before 2014 went into the annals, the countdown to an otherwise undistinguished month commenced. No fan base has ever felt better about a six-loss squad that was about to lose three of its defensive anchors to the NFL Draft. The signs that the Razorbacks were reborn were abundant, strong and lasting.
Unique, delicious, Brazilian.
In western Arkansas, outside Newport.
Here we go again, another fruitless skirmish in the great War on Coal, coming to a battlefield near you.
Little Rock's Troll Lord Games is still going strong after 15 years.
Child welfare agency consistently records caseloads above the recommended standard in 63 of the state's 75 counties.
During the 2015 legislative session, the budget for state Senior Citizens Centers was slashed 20 percent, from $5 million annually to $4 million projected for 2016, despite the fact that the 65-and-older population is steadily growing and is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Cruise returns to form in latest 'Mission Impossible.'
Also, auditions for American Idol Season XV.
A Deputy Observer wrote in recently to tell us about his recent conversations with Melvin Pickens, the famous "Broom Man" who walked the streets of Little Rock for at least 40 years with a bundle of brooms and mops over his shoulder, selling them to whoever wanted one.
Back in 1957, when Donald Trump and I were both in middle school, I used to have this running argument with my grandfather, Bill Connors. A retired railroad worker and a drinking man, Pop lived in Elizabethport, N.J., a couple of blocks from where the tracks running down Broadway ended at the harbor.
Also, Amasa Hines at White Water Tavern, Third Annual Zine Nite at Dunbar Garden, The Art Department: Sally Nixon at Thea, the John Bush Quintet at Ron Robinson, Amy Lavere at Maxine's in Hot Springs and a sci-fi double feature at Riverdale.
Also, anti-gay conservatives obsession with bathrooms, a bad sheriff, farewell to the chief, onward Christian soldiers and Huckabee's finances, by the numbers.
The Clinton Presidential Library this month is displaying a prize-winning art project by students at Gibbs Elementary as a tribute to their late teacher, Susan Purvis.
Discovery Communications has reported $24 million in charges against earnings for the end of "19 Kids and Counting," the Duggar family reality show. From that, you can extrapolate some serious lost income to the Duggars as well.
Matt Campbell at Blue Hog Report has a piercing look at what a guest writer calls the state's "incarceration crisis" — the unabated rise in prison population despite a declining crime rate.
Recent polling puts Donald Trump on top among Republican candidates in Arkansas, including in front of the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee
A new book from the University of Arkansas Press provides rich documentation of what all but Robert E. Lee Holiday defenders acknowledge: The Civil War — and secession in Arkansas — was first about protecting slavery.
Texas adds to the indignities heaped on the family of James Stone, a gay Baxter County native whose Arkansas funeral was marred by anti-gay sentiment. But a federal judge has provided rights the state of Texas refused.
The state's leading gay hate group is bringing in some infamous Oregon cake bakers to support their campaign in favor of legal discrimination against gay people.
An automated grammar and spell check of fans of Republican political candidates gave the highest grades to fans of Carly Fiorina and the lowest to Donald Trump's crowd.
The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today affirmed a lower court ruling that two Little Rock police officers are not immune from lawsuit in their shooting of Eugene Ellison in his apartment at a complex where the officers were providing private security.
Catholic schools in the Little Rock diocese are easing grading standards to match those at most other public and private schools.
The attorney general has signed off on the form of an amendment to tighten term limits for Arkansas legislators. It is for the ballot in 2016.
An open line, today's news video and a new sculpture in the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park. The work was one of several purchased in the 2015 Rivert Market Show and Saline.
Three more sculptures are going into the Colorado Sculptors Garden — a.k.a. the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden — in Riverfront Park, including the one above, "Renewal Ritual" by Denny Haskew. It's hard to tell from this picture, but each of those figures is about 10 inches tall. I mention the size for two reasons: 1. It's too small for a sculpture garden. It would be lovely in an enclosed botanical garden. It's lost in the park. 2. Three sculptures have been stolen from this park and two have been vandalized, by Deputy Parks Director Mark Webre's count. This looks vulnerable to me.
The Arkansas Medicaid scandal: the state is purging the rolls of tens of thousands of eligible beneficiaries
Tens of thousands of Arkansans have been kicked off of Medicaid for failure to respond to an income verification letter. Many of them are eligible for the program according to the very data that triggered the letter in the first place.
Sen. Jon Woods provides a useful illustration of why longer years in the legislature can lead to more lobbyist-inspired corruption. He and other Republicans, once proponents of term limits, suddenly like longer service now that they are in the majority.
Post-debate, it was still all about Donald Trump in the Republican nominating contest. Think he's wearing thin yet?
The Arkansas Blog hears that Soul Fish, a Memphis restaurant chain with Southern-style fare, has signed a lease to locate a restaurant on Main Street, between Third and Fourth.
A molecular biologist writes about work in fetal tissue research and important scientific achievements it produces.
(***UPDATES) Federal regulations demand that states give Medicaid beneficiaries "at least 30 days" to respond to renewal notices
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state officials have continually stated that the 10-day deadline they imposed on beneficiaries to respond to income-verification letters was kosher because it was the minimum allowed by federal rules. However, the relevant federal regulations appear to demand that states give 30 days for beneficiaries to respond.
A nobody's victory in Mississippi's gubernatorial primary gives cause to think about prospects for Democrats in Arkansas next year. The outlook so far is not promising.
Drew Petrimoulx of KARK reports from Conway that two teens will be charged with capital murder in the deaths of Robert and Patricia Cogdell, found dead at their home July 22.
The Times is continuing to explore the snafu surrounding the state's Medicaid verification process, a bungled and perhaps rule-breaking procedure that could toss 50,000 people off Medicaid health coverage though many likely are and never stopped being eligible. Have an experience you'd like to talk about?
TK Today over at my regular gig across town, I endorsed a reissue of lost outlaw country–vintage recordings called The Texas Album by Jimmy Rabbitt & Renegade.
Entergy Arkansas has filed a response to a federal Environmental Protection Agency plan to reduce haze in Arkansas. Rather than install expensive scrubbers to reduce air pollution at four units of two power plants, it proposes instead to shut down the two-unit White Bluff power plant — the state's biggest and dirtiest coal-burning power plant — by 2028.
Friday open line and video roundup. Plus: More pressure on governor over Medicaid; a verdict in Colorado
The week-ending open line, plus the day's video roundup. Also, Democrats press Gov. Asa Hutchinson to fix the botched deadline for verifying eligibility for Medicaid.
Max and Benji Hardy discuss the Arkansas Medicaid verification mess, the first Republican presidential debate, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's continuing fight against EPA rules and more.
Arkansas Children's Hospital announces second hospital in Springdale with George family land donation
As we forecast last week, Arkansas Children's Hospital announced tonight in Springdale plans for a $184 million hospital in Springdale on 37 acres donated by the family of David and Cathy George Evans and Gary and Robin George and their families.
The Department of Human Services today stated that previous information DHS officials had provided regarding Medicaid eligibility verification was erroneous. The clarification suggests that the verification system is at least coherent. However, it remains the case that many or most of the almost 50,000 Arkansas slated to lose coverage are in fact Medicaid eligible. And it remains the case that the governor insists on retaining a 10-day response window that has been an unmitigated policy disaster and arguably violates federal regulations. However, for the sake of accuracy, a journey into the weeds of eligibility verification...
A transgender retired Navy Seal has taken exception to Mike Huckabee's patronizing debate remark about service in the military by transgender people. Our money is on Kristin Beck in a cage match.
The plan has been in the works for at least three years, but the Little Rock City Board now is prepared to put on its agenda a $1.2 million contract with Moser Construction to remodel the Josephine Pankey Community Center at 13700 Cantrell Road for a police substation.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning on a lawsuit filed by Auditor Andrea Lea seeking to convert unclaimed bonds into cash for the state of Arkansas at some point.
The open line includes a note about an emergency siren blast in Little Rock early this morning and the blood feud between Fox News' Megan Kelly and the crude Donald Trump.
A lot of our coverage this week has focused on beneficiaries who were actually Medicaid eligible and had their plans cancelled. But it's also important for the state to help ensure a smooth transition for beneficiaries who legitimately phase out of eligibility because of an increase in income. That starts with information and assistance regarding their new coverage options on the Marketplace. Unfortunately, those who had their coverage terminated via the 10-day letters got nothing of the kind. Back in 2013, the state pledged that the private option would be particularly effective at avoiding gaps in coverage when people moved across the eligibility line. We've got a long way to go.
The 90-day window: What happens to beneficiaries whose coverage was terminated by the state's troubled Medicaid verification system
Many of the Medicaid beneficiaries whose coverage was terminated for failing to respond within 10 days to an income-verification letter are in fact eligible for the program. Once terminated, they have 90 days to provide DHS with the relevant information and be re-enrolled without having to start over with a new application. Here's what beneficiaries in this situation should do and how the process will work (or at least how it's supposed to work).
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has kissed off the private option health insurance verification scandal as "anecdotal." This underplays the real damage to real people who played by the rules and still suffer.
The markets say Thursday night's Republican presidential debate didn't change a thing in moving opinion on the candidates.
Governor's office fielding problems regarding Medicaid beneficiaries whose coverage has been terminated
The governor's office this weekend has fielded reports from insurance companies and beneficiaries regarding problems in the wake of tens of thousands of Medicaid coverage terminations, sources tell the Times. That includes reports of beneficiaries who have been unable to get needed medicine because their coverage has terminated. Insurance companies are working closely with the governor's office to verify reported problems and to attempt to ascertain whether they represent trends or unique situations.
A mass killing in Houston, Tex. and one death and multiple injuries in a Blytheville shooting are the news in our open line.
From what we know of the proposal offered to LREA, the union will maintain its status as a local with exclusive negotiating rights on salary and benefits, but the terms of the existing contract regarding working conditions will go by the wayside.
The state Board of Education will consider this week the latest gimmick to avoid the minimum school district enrollment law — an "agriculture academy" for Weiner in Northeast Arkansas.
Fascinating reporting in the New York Times today on Coca-Cola's funding of researchers and PR strategies to sell the message that it's lack of exercise, not poor diet, that causes obesity.
Central Arkansas Transit has scheduled a news conference tomorrow to begin its relabeling as Rock Region Metro, a move that will coincide with a push for a permanent tax funding source to expand and improve existing transit service.
Thanks to a court case, Arkansas Business has developed information about a long-simmering story — that Allen Kerr, now the state insurance commissioner, got special handling by then-Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford in a dispute with Farmers Insurance, which had terminated Kerr as an agent when he was still a member of the legislature.
A new study concludes that Arkansas's reporting of school students Body Mass Indexes has had little impact on reducing adolescent obesity.
State Health Department says money and private competition will lead to the end of its home health services program, a decision that will affect some 1,500 regular and contract employees.
An open line and video news roundup. Also, Bentonville School Board faces controversial issue on non-discrimination.
All the latest: everything you need to know about the state's Medicaid verification mess.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today that he'd appointed Andy Shock, the Republican sheriff of Faulkner County, to the state Parole Board to replace Richard Mays, who resigned last month.
As Benji Hardy reported last night, the Little Rock School District, now under state control, intends to scrap the former School Board's past extensive contract deals with the Little Rock Education Association and propose instead to recognize the union primarily for purposes of talking about pay and other economic benefits.
You may have read in the newspaper Sunday that Jamie Wyeth says he's embarked on some new artwork using screen doors. His first such work is a portrait of Andy Warhol, who was a good friend of Wyeth's. But if you follow Arkansas art at all, you know there is an artist here who has been painting people behind screen doors for a while: V. L. Cox.
North Little Rock moved last night to clean up unconstitutional taxpayer subsidies of chambers of commerce and other private corporations that promote economic development. They have farther to go than city officials indicated last night.
Mike Pickens, a former Arkansas insurance commissioner whose private law practice now includes representation of an insurance agent contesting Insurance Department regulatory action, has copied me on correspondence that indicates he has only begun to dig into past
If you want to understand the state's Medicaid eligibility verification mess — how we got here and what it means — we'll have to talk politics. In particular: the policy that has dominated state politics for more than two years, the private option.
The wave of Medicaid coverage terminations is disruptive to beneficiaries' lives and has real consequences in interrupting access to care. But a cancellation letter doesn't mean there's no hope for beneficiaries who are actually eligible for the program; in fact, federal law guarantees them the opportunity to promptly restore coverage. Here's the good news — and information on what beneficiaries in this situation should do.
Nursing home owner Michael Morton has talked to federal investigators about his political contributions. Does that mean he's not a target of investigation? And another question: What about Gilbert Baker?
Since the enactment of Obamacare's major coverage provisions in 2014, Arkansas has seen its rate of uninsurance cut in more than half — falling from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 9 percent in the first half of 2015 — according to the latest numbers from Gallup. That's the biggest drop in the nation. It's a remarkable achievement, and of course credit must go to the Arkansas legislature and former Gov. Mike Beebe for enacting the private option, which covers 250,000 Arkansans.
James Stone-Hoskins, a Baxter County native whose husband John had to go to federal court in Texas to get his name added tohis husband's death certificate, has achieved a measure of justice in Texas in death, along with a victory for the U.S. Constitution.
KARK reports on night riding in Russellville — people driving through a black neighborhood waving a Confederate flag and shouting slurs.
As promised, the agency once known as Central Arkansas Transit showed off its new look and logo today with a visit by a new bus to our neighborhood. It's now Rock Region Metro, y'all.
Talking Points Memo connects many of the dots related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), state legislators (generally Republicans attending on state taxpayer money), presidential candidate Scott Walker and the corporate agenda written into legislation there. They are prime, discreet and often tax-deductible lobbying opportunities with legislative delegations and Arkansas lobbyists and lawmakers play the game.
The U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock has announced the indictment of a sixth person charged with defrauding a federally financed feeding program for children.
Conner Eldridge, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, is resigning the job Aug. 21. This increases speculation he'll run for U.S. Senate in 2016 against incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman.
Ted Cruz's "Arkansas leadership team" says it all.
The Little Rock Zoo has announced the death of a male silverback gorilla that had lived at the zoo since 1993 and was the father of twogorillas. Fossey would have been 29 this week.
U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer announces indictments of 70 defendants in Blytheville on gun and drug charges
A joint operation between the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District, the FBI and state prosecutor Scott Ellington unsealed 40 federal indictments this afternoon that charged 70 defendants with drug trafficking and gun offenses in Mississippi County. The operation, called "Blynd Justus", was the culmination of two years of federal investigations, according to U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer.
Max is out for the rest of the day, so it's over to you.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is driven by animosity toward the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, announced today that Arkansas will join 16 states in challenging the EPA's rejection of state power plant startup, shutdown or malfunction plans.
I’m going to keep beating this drum, because it is the key piece of context to understanding this Medicaid eligibility verification mess — from the 10-day deadline policy that rushed the state into chaos to the potential consequences that state officials and insurance companies are doing their best to manage now. Many, perhaps most, of those losing coverage are in fact eligible for Medicaid.
The Texarkana Gazette reports that another 48 inmates from the Arkansas Department of Corrections are being sent to a Texas county jail that already holds 288 ADC prisoners on contract. Those 288 beds were part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan in February to address Arkansas's ongoing slow-burn crisis in prison overcrowding.
The latest polls suggest an attention-starved blowhard is winning. His name is not Mike Huckabee.
A federal appeals court has sided with plaintiffs and affirmed the district court ruling striking down the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage. Although the U.S. Supreme Court decided the marriage question in June, this decision still matters for Arkansas couples fighting for equal treatment in the eyes of the law regarding the birth certificates of their children and other matters.
A new Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll has Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders up on Hillary Clinton 44-37 among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire. Vice President Joe Biden, who has sorta kinda flirted with a run, was included in the poll and notched 9 percent.
Harris will be given the group's first annual "Power of Courage" award at a Van Buren dinner. Harris is best known to the state for the "rehoming" of two young girls whom he and his wife adopted from Arkansas DHS in 2013 and subsequently gave to another family where one was later sexually abused.
The 24th annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has announced its opening film and other details about the event, which will be held Oct. 9-18. The festival will kick off with a screening of "The Primary Instinct," featuring the life stories of actor Stephen Tobolowsky (inspired by Tobolowsky's popular podcast), who will be in attendance. Former St. Louis Cardinal Lou Brock will be on hand for the screening of Larry Foley's film "The First Boys of Spring," about Hot Springs' baseball spring training history. "Triple-crown champion jumper" Harry deLeyer will host the screening of "Harry & Snowman," which Indiewire has called "a cinematic bouquet to the world."
L.A. (via Little Rock) rapper Kari Faux returns with a new video, "Supplier," a single from her forthcoming EP "Lost En Los Angeles." Aside from being far and away one of the best Arkansas-related songs of the summer, "Supplier" comes with a sultry, atmospheric video that evokes late '70s boogie, complex facial hair and warm VHS nostalgia. "You know I got that futuristic fire," as she puts it.
People protesting with signs on the sidewalk in front of Cache Restaurant last night, where Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz was dining, say Cache owner Payne Harding emptied a champagne bucket of water on them from the second floor balcony of the restaurant. Harding later apologized.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control released new data today and the news is good: for the first time in 50 years of conducting the survey, more than 90 percent of Americans have health insurance. The uninsured rate for the first quarter of 2015 is just 9.2 percent. Dan Diamond (who made the chart above) has much more over at Forbes. The rapid decline in the percentage of Americans who are uninsured has come about as a result of Obamcare's coverage expansions, enacted in 2014.
Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz spoke to a crowd at Republican headquarters in Little Rock this morning, one of three appearances he's making in the state today. The U.S. senator from Texas is vying to define himself as the standard-bearer of Tea Party-style conservatism, but is it enough to overcome his party's crush on Donald Trump?
Little Rock based photographer Rhys Harper, who has traveled all over America shooting portraits of transgender folks in their hometowns for his "Transcending Gender" project, will be featured on the TLC reality show "I Am Jazz" tonight, shooting mermaid-themed photos of series focus Jazz Jennings and a young trans girl.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker today signed off on a settlement agreement between ExxonMobil and several state and federal entities concerning the 2013 rupture of the Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower. The news is a setback for Central Arkansas Water, which has been fighting make the terms of the consent decree tougher.
Who is running for president? Deez Nuts. And Deez Nuts has better poll numbers than Mike Huckabee. Really.
A reader of the Times' Facebook page complained that her 11-year-old son, who was covered by ARKids B — for the underinsured, or, as she described it, the "working poor" — was not able to get his tetanus shot because of what was described to her as "muddled insurance."
Ashley Music Store, a longtime institution in Harrison, announced on Facebook yesterday that they'll be closing their doors in September after 70 years in business. Founder Hugh Ashley, a former state representative and mayor of Harrison — as well as a successful songwriter who penned records for Bill Monroe, Porter Wagoner, Brenda Lee, Jim Reeves and Dinah Shore — passed away in 2008. (For more on Ashley, read our feature obit.) Ashley's daughter Robin explained the store's closing in a Facebook note passed on by a reader:
Here's your later-than-it-should-be open line.
Dean Skip Rutherford and public programs director Nikolai DiPippa promised earlier in the week that the Clinton School of Public Service would mark the 1,000th speaker series event with someone special: That someone, we learned today, is Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea will deliver a Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series talk at 6 p.m. Sept. 18 and will sign copies of her new book, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, and Get Going.”
A consortium of banks led by Centennial Bank has sent a letter of intent to the Little Rock Technology Park Authority to enter into "good faith negotiations" on a proposed loan of $17.5 million for the construction of Phase 1 of the tech park. Centennial would be the "Lead Lendor"; other participating banks include the Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Arvest Bank, Bear State Bank, First Security Bank, Simmons Bank and "other to be determined banks.
Juvenile justice reformer addresses legislative task force on community-based alternatives to detention
At today’s meeting of the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force, legislators heard from the Honorable Steven Teske, a juvenile judge from Clayton County, Georgia who described pilot reforms in that state's juvenile justice system that have contributed to a 62 percent decline in the detention of juveniles in participating counties from 2002 to 2014.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson yesterday sent a letter to the State Board of Education to formally submit the recommendations of his Council on Common Core Review, which concluded its work two weeks ago. The governor said the standards should be renamed because of "copyright issues."