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2017 Natives Guide

2017 Natives Guide

December 29, 2016

Vol 43 • No 17

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What we have: Festivals

Lanterns!, the Cornbread Festival, the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival and more.

What we have: Representative democracy

A basic user's guide.

What we have: Big house sales

Top residential real estate transactions in 2016.

What we have: Art museums. History museums. Galleries.

Cultural centers of Pulaski County.

What we have: Places to dance

A little salsa, a little boot scootin.'

Welcome 2017. And make this the open line

Bill Clinton chose to emphasize the positive on Twitter this morning, so why not the Arkansas Blog?

Hogs' Jeff Long: #neveryield. Fans: Say what?

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long tells Hog fans the sky is not falling. Some aren't buying.

After years of talk, Republicans must act on Obamacare. Tumult lies ahead.

Ernest Dumas illustrates in a column this week that the Republican promise to repeal Obamacare now faces tough political, financial and human realities — perhaps moreso in Arkansas than anywhere.

A year in pictures at the White House

A year in pictures at the White House is a reminder of the quality of the man who's leaving office.

Car with two children stolen in SWLR, kids OK

Little Rock police report that a car with a one-year-old and six-year-old inside was stolen from a service station at 7700 Scott Hamilton Road this morning.

What's your Big Idea for Arkansas?

It's the time of year again when we solicit suggestions for our annual Big Ideas issue. As in year's past, we're searching for specific, potentially transformative suggestions for making Arkansas a better place to live. We're open to practical, wacky and everything in between.

New Hot Spring County sheriff suspects former deputies trashed office

Sarafina Brooks of KATV is reporting on Twitter that a change in the office of Hot Spring County sheriff has apparently produced an unhappy reaction among the former sheriff's workforce.

Open line, plus UPDATE: Suhl reports to prison in Illinois

An open line for a slow holiday news day, but it includes a checkup on a couple of people sentenced to federal prison terms from Arkansas in high-profile public corruption cases.

Fracking: A danger to water supplies

A new report by the Environmental Protection Agency finds that fracking is a threat to drinking water.

Missouri shows us another corporate welfare flop

AP reports on the success of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's promise of up to $2 billion in state "incentives" — AKA corporate welfare payments — to build that state's economy. The record isn't complete, but in six years fewer than half the hoped-for 48,000 jobs have materialized.

Carroll County District Judge Tim Parker resigns over court favors

Carroll County District Judge Tim Parker resigned in the last days of his term last year and has agreed that he can never be a judge again following an investigation by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. Allegations against him included giving preferential treatment to women defendants in return for sexual favors.

Friends in high places: Asa edition

Gov. Asa Hutchinson starts campaign fund-raising this week and who better to lead the effort but a former staffer and current political consultant who has many agendas of his own, all presumably helped by his association with the chief executive.

House GOP retreats from gutting ethics office

House Republicans, after a speedy and surreptitious move Monday to gut the independent Congressional Ethics Office, reversed course today in the face of wide public criticism and a mild rebuke on timing from President-Election Donald Trump.

City Hall quiz: Little Rock Airport Commission

Time for another appointment to the always highly sought Little Rock Airport Commission. I have the applicants in hand. You guess which one Mayor Mark Stodola will annoint.

Tuesday: Work resumes with an open line and video

Tuesday's open line and a video news roundup.

Say hello to Winston, a cool dude

The Little Rock Zoo today said that the public vote is in and Winston was the winner — barely over Nigel and handily over Melvin — in a contest to name the newest African penguin.

Marijuana commission sets cultivation fee at $100,000

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has decided  to set license fee (and annual renewal) for cultivation facilities at $100,000, Benji Hardy reports. The move was billed as a compromise, after commissioner Travis Story pushed for setting it at $185,000 and Carlos Ramon proposed $15,000.

Convention Center sculpture commemorates Louisiana Purchase survey

Michael Warrick and Aaron Hussey glass and steel sculpture, "Straight Lines on a Round World," which celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase survey, has been installed outside the Statehouse Convention Center.

Multiple slayings ring in New Year: UPDATE: deadly shootout in police standoff with Tuesday slaying suspect

Quite an opener to 2017 in Arkansas, with four gun homicides and then a police standoff with another slaying suspect that concluded with death of the suspect.

Commission limits marijuana cultivation licenses to applicants with at least $1 million in assets

Story said it was necessary to limit the pool of cultivator applicants to the well-capitalized. "The last thing we want is somebody to decide they're going to have to go a different route to finance this, whether that be through the backdoor, finding investors that are less than reputable."

Reading on schools for the Arkansas legislature

With the legislature prepared to expand the erosion of conventional public schools, new studies are critical of voucher and charter school programs.

Speaking of education: Arkansas graded a C-

Education Week has issued its Quality County report card for the states on education and Arkansas again is in the bottom tier of states with a C- score and a 43 ranking, barely out of the D category and ahead of only eight states.

Another homicide reported in Pine Bluff

Pine Bluff recorded its second homicide of the year this morning, KARK reports.

ArkansasStaged performs "The Taming" on Inauguration Day

ArkansasStaged is taking playwright Lauren Gunderson up on her offer to waive the rights for any Inauguration Day performances of her play "The Taming," a self-described "all-female political farce."

State revenue still lags for year, but showed December improvement

The state report on tax receipts in December shows revenue is below the amount expected for the first six months of the year, though receipts ticked up a bit in December.

The Weekend Theater announces hire of new executive director

The Weekend Theater has announced the hire of a new executive director, Henderson State University alumna Andrea McDaniel, who takes over the position from James Norris.

A true repeal of Obamacare? Not so fast, Republicans indicate

Republicans suddenly are showing a little unease about REALLY repealing Obamacare.

NLR Restaurant Month: Lift forks, snap shots now

January is North Little Rock Restaurant Month, when you can save some bread at all kinds of eateries and win gift cards from restaurants and free tickets to sporting events.

AETN cooking show debuts Saturday

A cooking show featuring a Bella Vista cook debuts Saturday, Jan. 7, on AETN. “Cook with Brooks” features chef Steven Brooks, corporate executive chef at Tankersly Foods, who came to Northwest Arkansas in 2000 to work at the Market at Pinnacle and later was executive chef at Blessings Golf Club, Soul Restaurant and Lounge and the Springdale Country Club.

Critique: UA school voucher study 'garbage in garbage out'

A University of Colorado research unit has harshly criticized a report from the Walton-backed University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform that claim school vouchers in Texas could reduce the crime rate and thus save tens of millions.

Governor backs Plant Board on new pesticide rules

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has approved the state Plant Board's proposed rule changes to place additional restrictions on the herbicde dicamba.

State Rep. Micah Neal pleads guilty to taking kickbacks from government grants

Micah Neal, a Republican state representative from Springdale who abruptly dropped out of a race for Washington County judge last summer for "family and business" reasons, has pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from government money funneled to non-profit agencies. A news release indicates at least one other legislator is involved.

Wednesday: An open line and the daily video

The daily open line and video roundup.

Surprise! Road builders talk up a highway tax increase

Sarah Campbell of Arkansas Business reports on a pitch by the road construction lobby to the state Highway Commission today on ways to raise more money for road construction.

Legislative preview: Gov. says 'bathroom bill' unnecessary, urges end to Lee holiday

The governor also weighed in on immigrant children, medical marijuana and more.

Some legislators unhappy that governor's proposed tax cuts benefit poor, not wealthy

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) told reporters some lawmakers are considering changing a law that fully phases out Arkansas's 1/8-cent grocery tax and instead directing that revenue towards a tax cut for higher-income earners.

Multimillion-dollar federal fraud case brings nine-year sentence

Tonique Hatton, 39, of North Little Rock, was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison and two years of supervised release for her role in a program to steal federal money sent to the Department of Human Services to feed poor children after school and during the summer.

Bark Bar making pawprints toward spring opening

Plans to open a dog-friendly bar in a vacant church in downtown Little Rock are be padding forward, co-founder Elizabeth Michael tells us. Bar Bar, to be located at 1201 Spring St., has been approved by the Department of Health for plumbing, and landlord/architect Adam Day has created drawings for the hound-lover hangout. Michael said they're hoping for an April opening.

Questions aplenty on LR school bond issue

Talk of a bond issue for a new Little Rock high school in today's newspapers continues to overlook some important financial and governance issues.

New Year's in New Orleans in 94 Minutes

The new GLO Airlines is now flying nonstop from Little Rock to New Orleans in just 94 minutes. On a recent flight ($338 round trip), it took us almost as long to get to the French Quarter from the airport as it did to get from Little Rock to New Orleans. We’ve never gotten to New Orleans that fast and there’s a "New Years Eve in New Orleans" rate of $308. Go to for details and get an additional 10% off when you enter the promo code of GLOBIG16.

LGBT rights hero John Schenck dies

John Schenck, the founder of Arkansas's longest running Pride parade and a longtime champion of equal rights for LGBT rights, has died. The grief friends are sharing on his Facebook page gives a hint at his influence in the community. His partner and husband of almost 41 years, Robert Loyd, died just a little less than a year ago.

A 1st Amendment reminder on National Anthem protests

Evie Blad, a writer for Education Week who once toiled for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, offers a primer on what public schools can and cannot do if students take part in the movement to kneel during the National Anthem. Nothing, in short.

Obama strikes back at Russia

The U.S. is expelling Russian diplomats and blocking two of their compounds. Will Donald Trump stand for this kind of treatment of his pal Putin?

Thursday: An open line and a brief news roundup

The open line and a brief roundup of news and comment.

Chief Justice Brill sends a farewell; some named, some not

Chief Justice Howard Brill distributed a statement today on the end of his 16 months filling a vacancy in the seat by appoint of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. He'll return to teaching at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Omissions noted.

Hogs' Jeremy Sprinkle suspended from Belk Bowl; cited for concealing items at department store

Razorback tight end Jeremy Sprinkle was suspended hours before the Hogs Belk Bowl game with Virginia Tech. The school didn't specify the reason, but SEC Country reports it was for trying to take unpurchased items from a Belk Department Store after a $450 shopping spree for players.

Malvern teacher resigns over anti-Obama Facebook comments

Malvern high teacher who made racist posts about the Obamas has resigned.

Putin awaits Trump for response to Obama sanctions

Russian leader Vladimir Putin won't expel U.S. diplomats from Russia in response to action by the Obama administration against Russian diplomats over election hacking.

Women's March planned in Arkansas to mark Trump inauguration

Speaking of Donald Trump and in answer to a reader's question: There will be a women's march in Arkansas on Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, as well as the national march planned in Washington.

Chasing presidential candidates, from Huckabee denunciations to the Trump foundation

Before a Washington Post reporter dug into Donald Trump's foundation, he also dug into the many things denounced by Mike Huckabee. Poor fellow. And speaking of denunciations, Huckabee's latest on Israel is yet another on which there's another side.

Cotton PAC contributes to Russellville band's inaugural trip

Sen.Tom Cotton has announced his "leadership PAC,"  special interest money that many politicians accumulate for political purposes, will contribute $10,000 to the $135,000 cost of the Russellville High School band's participation in the Jan. 20 inaugural parade for Donald Trump.

Jim Harris: Belk Bowl disaster leaves questions about Hog leadership

With news slow, why not a dive into the world of sports with friend and colleague Jim Harris' tough take on the Razorbacks' defeat by Virginia Tech yesterday in the Belk Bowl. He said more sharply what some homer reporters seemed to be reluctant to say.

The pay-to-play-with-Trump open line

The open line and yet another one of those pay-to-play deals. Donald Trump's private club is having- a New Year's Eve party with him as the featured guest.

Breaking the color line: Jerry LeVias

It's a slow day and if football and/or human rights interest you, you could do worse than spend a few minutes reading the Think Progress story of Jerry LeVias, the former SMU star who was the first black scholarship player to compete in the Southwest Conference. That was merely 50 years ago.

A new year and a new search for execution drugs

Arkansas begins a new year without sufficient drugs to carry out an execution. But that isn't the only lingering question about the death penalty in Arkansas.

The year-ending open line: Let's remember happier times and the life Dale Bumpers lived

The open line includes a farewell to 2016, which began with the death of Dale Bumpers and, in several respects, went further downhill. A Politico tribute to Bumpers wonders if his model could succeed in today's toxic political environment.