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March 20, 2014

Vol 22 • No 4

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Small town Arkansas gets caricatured in 'Clash of the Ozarks,' locals welcome it

It's hardly Hardy.

Veto battle: The constitutionalists don't like the constitution when it works against them

Word comes from the Capitol that the Koch-financed political operators are pushing hard for the legislature to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of non-germane legislation to provide a $5 milllion tax break for suppliers of fracking sand and other similar material used to prop open fissures in rock to drill for gas and oil. Simple question: Why do these professed constitutionalists hate the Arkansas Constitution?

Asa Hutchinson promises better workforce training

Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson held a Little Rock news conference today to out a plan to train people for better jobs. He spoke mostly in generalities but said he can make workforce training more efficient and better coordinated.

UPDATE: Legislature overrides governor's veto of tax break for fracking business

By a vote of 55-41, the House today overrode Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a $5 million tax break for suppliers of fracking sand and other materials used in the fracking process to drill for gas and oil.The Senate followed soon after, voting 26-7 to override. A public interest group may sue over the measure, which appears to have been unconstitutionally adopted.

Judge disqualifies judicial candidate Valerie Bailey

Judge John Cole has disqualified Valerie Bailey as a candidate for the 6th Circuit judgeship to which Judge Tim Fox is seeking re-election. The judge agreed with a lawsuit saying she hadn't been licensed a sufficient period of time to qualify for the judgeship.

Wouldn't it be a good idea if pedestrians could get extra time to cross busy streets before cars traveling their direction begin to make their right or left turns?

Yes it would, and the city of Little Rock has installed new firmware in its traffic control boxes at eight intersections to make that happen.

Rep. Jeremy Gillam elected Speaker-designate

Rep. Jeremy Gillam has been elected Speaker-designate. Check here for all the details and updates.

One dead in fiery wreck on Interstate 440

At least one person was killed and two injured when two trucks wrecked on Interstate 440 near Fourche Dam Pike after one struck a car about 1:55 p.m. today. A fire broke out and caused diversion of eastbound traffic on I-440.

The open line: Hope for Mark Pryor; more guns on the street; putting lottery tickets on plastic

News roundup includes a political analysis that offers some hope for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and retention of a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. Plus, the Jefferson County sheriff is participating in an sale to put 700 guns back on the streets. The Arkansas Lottery is considering debit card sales.

Rep. Jeremy Gillam, elected Speaker-designate with Democratic support, strikes moderate tone

Rep. Jeremy Gillam was elected Speaker-designate today, thanks in part to support from some Democrats. Meeting with the press today, Gillam seemed to aim for the relatively moderate tone (and support for the private option) of his predecessor, Davy Carter. But will today's election even matter come January?

House Republicans elect Rep. Ken Bragg as majority leader

Meet the new Republican House Majority Leader.

Asa repudiates endorsement of Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder. Opponents pile on.

Asa Hutchinson endorsed Eric Holder, President Obama's pick, for attorney general in 2008. Boy is he sorry now. And boy are his opponents making hay.

Al Jazeera reality show 'Borderland' cast includes Little Rock bikini model

Arkansas ties are limitless in the unending diet of reality TV shows but here's one with an Arkansas political angle sufficient to merit an evening mention. A Little Rock Republican politico is in the cast of Al Jazeera's "Borderland"

Mylo Coffee Co. is coming...soon

The time has nearly arrived. You can almost smell the coffee beans roasting now, the scent of freshly baked bread wafting down Kavanaugh. You’ve probably lamented the absence of Mylo Coffee Co. from the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market over the last few months. But of course, you probably already know they’ve been hard at work preparing their storefront for a highly anticipated opening date. And at this point, you’re probably asking, “when is this opening date?” I’ll just say this...soon.

Need for more acting

But 'Need for Speed' will satisfy gearheads.

C'mon, coach Anderson

Arkansas will keep playing basketball past the Ides of March 2014. Whether you met that news with modest applause or audible scoffing is your call, but after the way the Hogs capped off the fixed portion of their schedule, it's hard to muster anything but gross indifference.

Corruption of the judiciary: Maggio the tip of the iceburg

We owe a debt to Matt Campbell for exposing the ethical breaches of public officials like Lt. Gov. Mark Darr and Circuit Judge Mike Maggio but even more for alerting us to a graver danger, corruption of the judiciary.

We can see clearly now

If Asa Hutchinson has been wildly overrated over the years, Mike Beebe has been, by many of us, vastly underrated. "Oh sure, he's been a successful legislative operator," we've told each other. "But to what ends? And he's had some questionable friends and allies."

Snow covered

Little Rock residents awoke Monday to cars blanketed in snow.

It was a good week for Tom Cotton

It was also a good week for Morril Harriman. It was a good week for Judge Mike Maggio, Sheridan High School, Arkansas's 12-week abortion ban, Jack Gillean, Pulaski Technical College and Gary Meador.

Little Rock Horror Picture Show brings the scares, sci-fi to Ron Robinson

It's happening March 20-23.

Walking in East Little Rock

Because I wanted to see where the sidewalks and the city end, I walked to East Little Rock.

Arkansas Republicans labor baiting lives

Arkansas Republicans think if they say Obama often enough they'll sweep the November election ballot.

Call me Trimtab

The Observer went over to the Statehouse Convention Center on Monday for an appearance by Jeff Bridges, AKA Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, AKA Rooster Cogburn 2.0, AKA Otis "Bad" Blake from "Crazy Heart," the role for which he won an Oscar. Bridges was in town, sharing the stage with the governor and the CEO of Share Our Strength and an elementary school principal, to promote Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign, which seeks to give school kids a nutritious breakfast first thing in the morning before class.

Crude oil pipeline planned, would pass through three Game and Fish wildlife management areas

Diamond's cut through WMAs has Game and Fish, other agencies, scrambling.

Vet lab loses accreditation

But recognition voluntary; lab making changes.

Hope for something better

Occasionally, letters to the editors of our various media outlets here in Arkansas reveal the sentiments of those who do not put much stock in the Bible.

Livestock report

This being an election year, many trite old political terms will be brought out for another interminable go. One such is dark horse. I recently stumbled across the fact that dark horse was created by none other than the Ol' Diz. No, not the great right-handed pitcher from Arkansas, Dizzy Dean. The other one.


Comfort food gone gourmet.

Ask the Times: Shouldn't pedestrians get more time at street crossings?

Yes it would, and the city of Little Rock has installed new firmware in its traffic control boxes at eight intersections to make that happen.

Ryan needs Swift kick

Reflections upon the recent holiday: The first time my wife saw tears in my eyes was in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, at the tomb of Jonathan Swift. The brilliant 18th century Irish satirist was my first and most enduring literary hero, a towering figure who Yeats thought "slept under the greatest epitaph in history" — composed by Swift himself.

Still the same

Watching a young Asa Hutchinson operate in the smartest-guys-in-the-room-style of Washington politics in the 1990s, the Republican Party's Grand Old Man, Richard Nixon, said, "I find the way his jib is trimmed appealing. What about you, Hank?" "Ach du lieber," Kissinger replied.

Big Piph at Stickyz

Sweet Charity at Reynolds in UCA, Rich Homie Quan at Clear Channel, Patrick Sweany at White Water, Kevin Kerby at White Water, Pedal-Palooza at First Security Amphitheater and The Salty Dogs at South on Main.

'The Cherokee Word for Water' at the Historic Arkansas Museum

Also, Carolyn Wonderland at George's Majestic.

The Gilbert Baker saga continues; UCA's Tom Courtway sees the light

Debra Hale-Shelton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette inquires further  today into the tangled business of political activity involving taxpayer-financed UCA lobbyist Gilbert Baker, local Circuit Judge Mike Maggio and nursing home magnate Michael Morton of Fort Smith.

Disqualified judicial candidate says she'll file limited appeal

Valerie Bailey, ordered off the May ballot in her attempt to run against Circuit Judge Tim Fox, says she won't attempt to appeal the order to get on the ballot. But she does promise an appeal of a legal point.

Arkansas Supreme Court reverses billion-dollar Risperdal case

The Arkansas Supreme Court today reversed the $1.2 billion verdict for the state of Arkansas against two pharmaceutical companies for billing Medicaid for off-label use of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Westboro church founder Fred Phelps dead

Since his followers have disrupted many a funeral and political event in Arkansas, I note the death of Fred Phelps, 84, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, which promulgated an anti-gay message at its funeral protests. His protests led to state laws, including in Arkansas, limiting demonstrations around funerals.

Give and take: Frackers, taxes and politicians

It's too late now for the debate over yet another tax break (unconstitutionally adopted) for the oil and gas industry in Arkansas. But the chart developed above by state officials is the best summary I've seen of how little the state gets from energy companies' rich haul from a non-renewable resource, gas below the ground in Arkansas.

State Board of Education approves vote on Jacksonville school district: learns about key to charter school success

The state Board of Education signs off on an effort to create a separate Jacksonville School District. And it hears an interesting admission from a charter school.

Star of 'Clash of the Ozarks' pleads guilty to federal gun charges

Kerry Wayne Evans, one of the stars on "Clash of the Ozarks," a Discovery Channel "reality" show set in Hardy, pleaded guilty this week to illegally possessing an unregistered machine gun, AP reports. He faces 10 years of jail time and up to $250,000 in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for June 20.

Andy Mayberry's brilliant plan: Elect me and I'll abolish the office

State Rep. Andy Mayberry, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, has released further details on his key campaign plank — to abolish the office.

Can the Kochs buy a U.S. Senate seat for Tom Cotton? They're trying.

The Washington Post reports on Arkansas as ground zero of the nuclear battle by financial titans to purchase control of the U.S. Senate for Republicans. The Koch political forces have spent at least $1.4 million already on misleading ads targeting Sen. Mark Pryor and put ground forces in the field. Democrats say they'll fight back.

Lost Greers Ferry album, featuring members of The Easys, gets a release

It's a good week to be a fan of Isaac Alexander, the prolific local pop singer/songwriter. Yesterday, the self-titled debut by the Alexander-fronted Greers Ferry made its way to Bandcamp years after it was recorded and the band last performed live. On the same day, songs from another project, Molten Lava, were released.

Now online: David Ramsey on Lil Wayne and teaching in New Orleans

Our friends at the Oxford American magazine posted a classic deep cut from their archives this afternoon: our own associate editor David Ramsey's feature on Lil Wayne and a year spent teaching in New Orleans.

Times intern writes about connection to Taylor Ellis

Matt Amaro, a photo intern here at the Times, wrote a piece for Poynter about his experience as a young gay man who came out around the same time as Taylor Ellis, the Sheridan High School junior who saw a yearbook profile on him censored by school officials. Matt was similarly profiled by his yearbook, but found acceptance where Taylor hasn't. The parallels struck a chord with him while he was covering the Human Rights Campaign's rally for Taylor.

Thursday night line: New lottery commissioner; jewel robber sentenced; steel mill permit advances

The line is open for reader comments. Final roundup includes a new state lottery commissioner; sentencing in a Fayetteville jewel heist, and a recommendation in favor of an air permit for a new steel mill.

The world needs more Wigglegrams

We here at Arkansas Times HQ are wholly onboard with Bob Weisz' project to raise money for his Nimslo four-lens camera. Our support, we'll admit is partly nepotistic as Bob is the Times New Orleans-based multimedia consultant. But mostly we're into the Nimslo because it takes killer GIFS, or Wigglegrams as Weisz calls them. His Kickstarter pitch video above is a masterpiece.

Food Feedback Friday: Spring has sprung

It’s that time of the week again, your chance to talk about some of the dishes you’re chowing down on. Let us know what’s impressed you and what you can do without.

60 years after Brown, inequities in education persist

A new report from the Department of Education brings the statistical news that racial disparities continue in U.S. education. Stats from pre-K suspensions are staggering.

Bill Clinton sets fund-raising visits for congressional candidates

Michael Cook at Talk Business reports coming Arkansas visits by former President Bill Clinton to raise money for Democratic congressional candidates James Lee Witt and Patrick Henry Hays.

Ethics complaint filed on contributions to Mike Maggio campaign; nursing home money continues to pile up in judicial races

The Democrat-Gazette's Debra Hale-Shelton continues to dig up new information on the suspicious campaign finance activity that funneled money into the now-aborted Court of Appeals campaign of Judge Mike Maggio of Conway. The latest is an ethics complaint by a family on the wrong side of a court ruling by Maggio in a nursing home negligence case. But the nursing home-judicial election nexus doesn't end there.

Movie industry raises money for Pryor: Strange bedfellows Tom Cotton and gun control groups complain

There's an ironic touch to criticism raised of a Hollywood fund-raiser ($2,000 to $10,000) for U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and Mark Begich. Republican Rep. Tom Cotton and gun control groups are equally unhappy.

Tonight: Cloar, 'Breaking Eggs'

A big group show at Mugs Cafe.

Five finalists to be interviewed today for University of Arkansas lobbyist job

The search committee for a lobbyist for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville to succeed the retiring Richard Hudson has narrowed the list to five. Yes, including Republican Sen. Johnny Key.

Shoffner asks judge to direct acquittal

Martha Shoffner, the former Arkansas treasurer, has filed her expected motion that a federal judge set aside her conviction by a jury of taking money from a bond broker for state investment business.

Eric Maurus at Boswell-Mourot

Opening reception is Saturday, March 22.

Blanche Lincoln: Casino lobbyist

Everybody's entitled to a lobbyist, right? Even Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul. He's hired Blanche Lincoln's lobbying firm in his battle to make Internet gambling illegal.

Attn. hog people: Rogers Museum has the show for you

Sausage makers and more.

Rep. Murdock: private option amendment limiting non-emergency transportation will have safeguards for neediest citizens

Limiting the transportation benefit in the private option could hurt the state's most vulnerable patients. Rep. Reginald Murdock says that he and the Beebe administration won't let that happen.

The open line: Charter school debate; Pulaski Tech fee increase; UA gun ban; another ruling for marriage equality

The Friday night line is open. Final items include a debate on a West Little Rock charter school; proposed fee increases at Pulaski Tech; news of some old-school politicos from Louisiana; UA bans guns; marriage equality advances in Michigan.

Baja Grill announces new brick and mortar location in the Heights

Popular Benton-area food truck parlays its success into a brick and mortar location in one of Little Rock's highest profile neighborhoods. That sound you're hearing is the collective cheers of the Little Rock foodie community, who have hoped for this day for quite some time.

The Cape Town Here We Come Edition

I filled in for Lindsey, who's out sick today. The Faulkner County judge cabal, starring Gilbert Baker; new leadership in the Arkansas House; unconstitutional lawmaking to help the frackers; the invalidation of an anti-abortion law and an Indian festival are on the agenda.

Legislators talk private option at Political Animals panel

The private option just survived another drag-out fight. Key lawmakers from both sides of the aisle discuss the past and future of the policy that has dominated the news in Arkansas for the last year.

Charter school backer on state Board of Education sees no conflict in voting on nephew's cause

Diane Zook, a member of the state Board of Education, says there is no conflict of interest in her voting on charter school matters involving her nephew Gary Newton. Really.

Residencies insufficient for current medical school graduates

The coverage of "match day," when medical school graduates learn if they've been accepted into residency programs passed lightly over an issue of high relevance in Arkansas. The insufficient supply of residencies.

Open line: Honoring firefighters

A big crowd gathered at the Caoitol today for dedication of the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

'Marriage spring': The march toward marriage equality heads for higher courts

The New York Times this morning assesses the march of lower court cases to federal appeals courts and, finally, the U.S. Supreme Court on the question of state laws that discriminate against gay people. There's a forecast of a case before the Supreme Court by 2015.

Gilbert Baker is no newcomer to conservative, dark money political activism

Following Gilbert Baker's money — from the Religious Right secretly financed political lobby group created by Ralph Reed to the public payroll at UCA and still unknown private sources.

The Republican open line: Poor prediction for Pryor

The Sunday open line includes a grim prediction for Democrats from Nate Silver on control of the U.S. Senate, including a prediction of a lost seat in Arkansas.

Secure Arkansas warns of UN takeover of Mountain View

Secure Arkansas warns that a plan to create a historic district in Mountain View is actually a UN plot. What will Sen. Missy Irvin say about this?

Democratic campaign re-spins Nate Silver predictions

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee offers a comeback to analyst Nate Silver's grim prediction for the party's chances of retaining a Senate majority. That analysis included a 70 percent probability of the defeat of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

Cheers and Jeers: From Lucky Charms to Layla's

I’m starting a new feature. “Cheers and Jeers” will be a periodic smattering of dishes and other random food musings that are on my mind. I hope you enjoy it, and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on anything mentioned, as well. Here we go...

Taxpayers fund creationism through voucher programs

Politico has produced a major report on the increasing use of publicly financed school voucher programs to send tax money to private schools that teach creationism. Arkansas isn't numbered in the movement — yet.

Your 2014 Spring Photo Contest Winner

The votes are in, and we have a winner for the Spring 2014 Photo Contest!

CBS to hold open casting call for 'Big Brother' in Benton

Well it looks like Arkansas's reality TV moment isn't quite over, and now's your chance to get involved. The CBS show "Big Brother" will hold an open casting call for its sixteenth (!) season this Sunday in Benton from 1-6 p.m. The show, as CBS explains it, "follows a group of people living together in a house outfitted with 65 cameras and 98 microphones recording their every move, 24 hours a day."

Tax break for frackers will cost state employees a raise, Beebe says

The Beebe administration is sticking by its guns. It says the legislature's override of his veto of a $5 million tax break for sand used in fracking for gas will cost state employees a 1 percent pay raise.

Jack Lavey, 1932-2014

John T. “Jack” Lavey, a Little Rock labor lawyer who fought many legal battles over civil rights in Arkansas, died yesterday. He was 81.

More states consider Medicaid expansion — is the tide beginning to turn?

As more states consider Medicaid expansion, National Journals wonders whether the anti-Obamacare holdouts are "beginning to crack." Meanwhile, Arkansas, one of the only states in the South to pursue Medicaid expansion (via the private option) was the first state in the country in jeopardy of going the other way, with the re-authorization of the policy in real jeopardy during the fiscal session. But that just illustrates yet another way Arkansas is a unique outlier in the great Medicaid debates.

Police officer shoots Bald Knob stabbing suspect

A local officer shot a woman in a Bald Knob convenience store this morning. She reportedly advanced on an officer after stabbing someone she'd been traveling with.

Arkansas Supreme Court chief justice assigns Judge Maggio's caseload to special judges

The Arkansas Supreme Court took an extraordinary step today. Because recusal requests have disrupted the orderly administration of justice in Circuit Judge Mike Maggio's court, it today issued an order to assign special judges to handle all pending cases and any filed while the order is in effect.

Nate Silver predictions and why they matter to Democrats

Here's why Democratic campaigns are pushing back on those Nate Silver predictions.

Watch a terrifying new music video from The Body

The Body, the Portland-by-way-of-Little-Rock avant metal group started by Arkansas natives Lee Buford and Chip King in the late `90s, has a new record due to come out on April 1.

Simmons First National buys Delta Trust

Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff is buying Delta Trust of Little Rock for $66 million in cash and stock

Robbery at Iberia Bank on W. Markham

The Little Rock Police Department said that the Iberia Bank branch at 4900 W. Markham in Little Rock was robbed today just before 4 p.m.

Non-profit groups meet to discuss Obamacare outreach

The legislature has blocked the state from doing outreach on new health care options available under the Affordable Care Act. Can local non-profits help to fill the void?

Manic Monday open line

Tell us something good.

Huffington Post digs up Tom Cotton's college column on campaign finance

Huffington Post whips out a column on campaign finance from Tom Cotton's days as a Harvard Crimson columnist, but the hypocrisy charge here falls flat.

Obamacare legal challenge: arguments begin in D.C. Circuit

You thought lawsuits threatening the Affordable Care Act were over? Nope, they keep on coming. Arguments in Halbig v. Sebelius start in the D.C. Circuit today.

U.S. Bank on S. University robbed, suspects in custody

Lt. Sidney Allen with the Little Rock Police Department said two suspects are in custody following a bank robbery at the U.S. Bank branch at 6320 S. University just On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at approximately 0925 hours officers were dispatched to a robbery alarm at the US Bank located at 6320 S. University.

Riverfest adds CeeLo Green, Jamey Johnson and Robert Randolph and The Family Band to its 2014 lineup

RIVERFEST has announced its final set of headliners: CeeLo Green, CMA Song of the Year winner Jamey Johnson and pedal steel virtuoso Robert Randolph and the Family Band. They will join a lineup that also includes Hank Williams, Jr., Salt-N-Pepa, Lee Brice, Chicago, The Wallflowers, Easton Corbin, Three Days Grace, The Fray and Buckcherry. This year’s festival will be held May 23-24; three-day passes will go on sale at half-price ($20) starting April 1.

Hobby Lobby challenge to Obamacare contraceptive mandate before Supreme Court today

The Supreme Court hears arguments today in Hobby Lobby's effort to wiggle out of contraceptive coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act, citing religious objections.

New Hampshire passes its own "private option" version of Medicaid expansion

The private option, which flipped the script on the Medicaid expansion debate in Arkansas, is spreading. New Hampshire today passed its own version, which is heading to the governor's desk.

First Security branch near Bass Pro robbed

Another hour, another bank robbery, 

Life on the road with John 'Bopper' Richardson

In the second edition of our new series, "Speak, Arkansas," in which everyday Arkansas tell their stories in their own words, we hear from John "Bopper" Richardson, a tow-truck driver at Rick's Automotive and Wrecker Service in Hazen, where he was born and raised.

Former Clinton foe David Brock comes back to Arkansas to defend the Clintons

Once upon a time, David Brock was a hatchet man digging dirt on the Clintons, most famously with his "Troopergate" story. Now, Brock has changed his tune, founding a pro-Hillary PAC and slamming the right-wing "smutmongers" who used to be his partners in slime. Brock returned to Arkansas this week for the first time since his scandal-mongering days in the 1990s to speak at the Clinton School.

Former Capital chef Lee Richardson takes over as owner and executive chef of the Packet House Grill

Big news for Little Rockers hungry for great dining options: Lee Richardson, the New Orleans native who turned Ashley's into one of the best restaurants in the state during his tenure as executive chef from 2007 to 2012, is taking over as owner and executive chef of the Packet House Grill in West Little Rock.

Walmart business model relies on food stamps

Food stamp cuts hurt Walmart's bottom line. And they hurt low-income people in Arkansas too, but let them eat iPhones, says Tom Cotton.

Michelle in China Open Line

It's yours...

For the night kitchen: A Night Farmers Market

The Farmers' Market in the River Market pavilions enters its 40th year when it opens Saturday, May 3.

Lyons: Buying good government

Let's put it this way: If the Koch Brothers were Russians, we'd call them oligarchs: grasping barbarians exercising crude political power.

John Salvest, "Disappearing Ink"

An exhibition on the loss of newspapers.

Class in log cabin repair at HAM

Daubing do's and don'ts and more.