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One year after Mayflower oil spill

One year after Mayflower oil spill

March 27, 2014

Vol 22 • No 5

Read the print version

The Mayflower oil spill robbed Michelle Ward of her middle-class dream

One year later, she and other residents and stakeholders in Mayflower consider the toll exacted by Exxon's spill.

A night in the life of a drag performer

Miss Kitty's Saloon closed recently after its landlord opted not to renew the lease. Times photo intern Matt Amaro was on hand the final weekend to capture photos of the last drag performances. See his photo slideshow below. Longtime performer and advocate Sandy Sarlo (Justin Case) was also there. He offers a behind-the-scenes look at what its like to perform.

White House extends deadline for Obamacare enrollment on federal marketplace

The Obama administration will give people shopping for health insurance through the federally facilitated an extension to sign up. Here's what you need to know.

Obama's secret service agents get drunk, sent home

What happens in the Netherlands...

Hillary Clinton secures key Pharrell Williams endorsement

Why Pharrell Williams thinks Hillary Clinton will be the next president (also the abortion debate and the Martian rover, and what happens when Tea Party tots start twerking).

Christian aid organization World Vision will allow gay marriage for employees

One of America's largest Christian charities, World Vision U.S., will allow gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to continue their employment with the company.

Let's talk about the Travs' new swamp possum mascot

Has there ever been a more misguided mascot selection? Custom Characters of Glendale, California, who according to the Travs release have worked with Disney and DreamWorks to create characters, definitely didn't take a cue from Pogo. This swamp possum is all sharp claws and rat face.

Andi Davis, lawyer involved in 'inappropriate relationship' with McDaniel, charged with manslaughter

Former Hot Springs attorney Andi Davis, whose "inappropriate relationship" with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sank McDaniel's hopes for the governor's chair, has been charged with manslaughter in

'Art from above the Arctic Circle' at Wiggins Gallery

Inuit drawings, carvings, beadwork and more at the Sequoyah Center of UALR.

Mike Huckabee continues his Superhypothetical run

Mark Leibovich coined a term to describe Huckabee and his ilk in a recent New York Times magazine story: the Superhypothetical, "those professional noncandidates whose franchises depend largely on people speculating about what they might run for and their own willingness to engage in public indecision about it (all while assuring us, of course, that they are flattered and humbled by our interest)."

Jason Rapert blocks Linda Tyler's appointment to Parole Board

Sen. Jason Rapert blocks the appointment of former political opponent Linda Tyler to Parole Board, a move Tyler says was motivated by "petty politics."

Exxon exec returns to Mayflower for one-year anniversary of Pegasus spill

In town for the one-year anniversary of the Mayflower spill, Exxon VP Karen Tyrone trumpeted the lack of ecological risk in Mayflower. Game and Fish disagrees. Meanwhile, Central Arkansas Water is hoping to find out more about Exxon's plans to restart the Pegasus. The southern section of the line could reopen any day now.

Johnny Cash's son says he has 'four or five more' albums worth of unreleased material

Little-known country singer and Kingsland, Ark.-native Johnny Cash has deep vaults of unreleased material, according to an article published online today by The Guardian.

"League of Denial" writers highlight April program of Clinton School speakers

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, authors of "The League of Deniall: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth," highlight the list of April speakers at the Clinton School of Public Service.

Mike Ross goes after Asa Hutchinson for role in Clinton impeachment

Mike Ross attacks Asa Hutchinson for his role in prosecuting the impeachment case against Bill Clinton.

Walmart recalls dolls due to burn risk

My Sweet Baby Cuddle Care baby dolls are too hot to handle.

Moses Tucker announces apartment renovation project on Capitol Avenue

Downtown developers Moses Tucker Real Estate announced plans today for a $1 million renovation of the 1936 Voss Apartment building at the corner of Rock Street and Capitol Avenue.

Arkansas Times Premiere: Download Pepperboy's new mixtape, '3 Volleys'

Pepperboy is a unique presence in Little Rock rap, a local street rapper from the city's south side who fell headlong into Lil B's weirdo-visionary orbit and resurfaced a changed man. The Southern outlier in the Bay Area-based Green Ova Underground, and one of the few really enduring personalities of the cloud rap moment, Pepperboy dependably and effortlessly brings to his projects what so many local rappers struggle with—a distinct voice.

Around 150,000 Arkansans have gained coverage so far under the private option for Medicaid expansion

The latest enrollment numbers on the private option.

Poll: Americans show strong support for Obamacare provisions, including Medicaid expansion

A new poll out from Kaiser continues to show that while people may not love "Obamacare," they like what's in it. Medicaid expansion is popular even among independents and Republicans, and while Obamacare might not be popular, repealing Obamacare is very unpopular.

Hump day open line: Curtis Coleman, Johnny Cash, Hobby Lobby

Open Line: Republican Curtis Coleman with an "oops" moment, plus a dose of Rock Candy, and the Supreme Court's right wing shows no sympathy for women's right to preventive health care.

Simmons Bank in Hillcrest robbed just after 5 p.m.

Betting on all those busted NCAA brackets must be catching up with folks, as Little Rock saw yet another bank robbery this evening,  

E-Dubb on the outside

Local rap legend charts a new beginning.

Open the closets

Equality is winning, even when the victories seem like losses.

Bring the cauliflower too

What is the sound of one brussel sprouting?

Better than Detroit

Really? You print a dated column (Ed Gray's "Walking in East Little Rock," March 20) spouting statistics without citing sources on an area of Little Rock that has had more money poured into it than most places, an article that wanders into a food stamps versus the farm bill debate, and ends in a full attack of the Republican party not caring about the poor

Kermit caper

'Muppets' get assist from Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey.

Judicial politics in Faulkner County

Judicial politics in Faulkner and Conway counties was a colorful, if smelly, business in the '50s, '60s and '70s. A gang of judges, legislators and county officials regularly used the courts to advance the interests of themselves and their deep-pocketed friends, and they did it more or less openly as well as lightheartedly.

Voucher hooey

Promoters of school vouchers argue tiresomely that voucher-school students do better academically than public-school students. It's untrue, as every study shows.

It was a good week for Rep. Jeremy Gillam

It was also a good week for advocates for a Jacksonville School District. It was a bad week for Judge Mike Maggio, state workers, Valerie Bailey and Kerry Wayne Evans.

At mid-term, it's Obama vs. Koch

It is never a tribute to the savvy of voters when an election degenerates into a battle of surrogates or whipping boys, to borrow a great institution from the Tudor kings, who when the prince misbehaved had his best friend cudgeled.

After the crash

We will never understand why we do certain things, a rule for which The Observer can think of no better or more jarring example than the events of the recent ice storm, which struck Little Rock earlier this month when we least expected it.

Basketball Hogs in disarray going into offseason

Arkansas's first postseason basketball of any kind in the Obama tenure went about as you'd expect.

AfroZep comes to Stickyz

Also, Benjamin Del Shreve plays Stickyz.

Derby night

The Breakneck Brawlers and Sisterhood of Steel met for a roller derby bout Saturday at the UALR Fieldhouse.

Hobby Lobby case affects more than just contraception

I've known for years that the founders of Hobby Lobby and I diverged on some fundamental societal values. Still, lacking the patience for activities such as scrapbooking or candle-making, the store has never been relevant to me; avoiding it created as little personal sacrifice as veering away from Chick-fil-A (as a vegetarian, not much). Because of the corporation's lawsuit challenging a provision of the Affordable Care Act, heard this week by the U.S. Supreme Court, it's a company that soon may be deeply relevant to all Americans.

Jucifer comes to Vino's

Also, Del Shores at Ron Robinson, Cher at Verizon, "A Celebration of Southern Poetry and Music" at South on Main, 'Fruitvale Station' at Ron Robinson, Amasa Hines at South on Main and Merle Haggard at Robinson Center.

Taj Mahal is a dining wonder

Indian fare makes West Little Rock restaurant a destination.

Speak, Arkansas: John "Bopper" Richardson

John "Bopper" Richardson is a tow-truck driver at Rick's Automotive and Wrecker Service in Hazen, where he was born and raised.

Little Rock resident recounts nervous hours aboard a sinking schooner adrift in the Pacific

Mike O'Bryant will have a great yarn to tell his grandkids someday.

Red-state Democratic senators propose Obamacare tweaks

Embattled Democratic Senators in red and purple states propose a slate of Obamacare "fixes." Surely Mark Pryor will be hopping aboard?

Around 33,500 have enrolled in Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace so far; most qualify for subsidies

The latest numbers on the Obamacare Marketplace in Arkansas and what they mean.

Martha Shoffner's second trial delayed

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes has granted former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner's motion that her trial on 10 counts of mail fraud be delayed.

If Otey the swamp possum doesn't make game day, a few suggestions for a replacement

It's a slow news day, so considering the overwhelmingly negative response to Otey the Swamp Possum, should the Travs decide to kill him off (probably a longshot, as you can already buy a $30 Otey New Era ballcap), we have a few suggestions for replacements.

The Swamp Possum Spring Break Edition

Clinton foe-turned Clinton champion David Brock's return to Little Rock, Sen. Jason Rapert’s opposition to a Beebe appointment, the one-year anniversary of the Mayflower oil spill and the Arkansas Travelers’ new mascot, Otey the swamp possum — all covered on this week's day-early edition.

A taste of Table Mesa in Conway

Recently, I had a chance to stop in on the newest location of this small chain of restaurants during a short trip to Conway—and honestly, since my meal here, I can’t stop thinking about making a return visit. Let any questions about the "quality" of this place be laid to rest. I’m hoping that someday the folks at Table Mesa decide to extend their mini-empire to Little Rock, but truthfully, the short trip to Conway is definitely not enough to keep me away for long.

Gay marriage in Little Rock 40 years ago

For Throwback Thursday, check out a wide-eyed, occasionally cringeworthy profile of a gay couple in Hillcrest from 1974, our first year in publication.

Rainy day open line

Open line

Six million Americans have enrolled in Obamacare marketplaces

Obamacare enrollment passes 6 million.

Food Feedback Friday: Packet House, pie day, and jackpots

Hey, hey! It’s Friday! And it’s that time of the week...we’re looking for your feedback on what’s good to eat right now around Little Rock.

Judicial candidates may face problems with suspended law licenses

Will suspended licenses disqualify judicial candidates from running?

Morning notes: Pryor-Cotton, Otey, New Hampshire private option

Top of the morning from Denver. Morning notes: live footage of our swamp possum overlord, the private option goes north, Charlie Cook bucks the conventional wisdom on Pryor-Cotton.

The coming conservative meltdown on Obamacare enrollment

Conservatives are howling about the extension on Obamacare enrollment (now at 6 million and counting) because they're rooting for failure.

Ouachita Co. Judge, facing federal conspiracy and bribery charges, to resign

Ouachita County Judge Mike Hesterly, charged in January with 

State Rep. Jeff Wardlaw and Nashville Mayor Billy Ray Jones call for immigration reform

Arkansas lawmakers and farmers call for immigration reform.

Arkansas Republicans ask to intervene in Voter ID lawsuit

Republicans want to defend their own sloppily written Voter ID law.

Wal-Mart sues Visa over swipe fees

Wal-Mart Inc. sues Visa for $5 billion.

David Sterling loses vital Jim Bob Duggar endorsement over representation of Cupid Lingerie

The Huffington Post has some fun with the story of David Sterling, the relatively unknown religious right Republican seeking the running for attorney general.

Well, hail, it's an open line

That's right, more bad weather today, but at least it wasn't snow. 

Is Taco Bell's breakfast worth waking up for?

Taco Bell recently announced they would be bringing breakfast to the people and immediately, the internet was buzzing. Customers were able the get their first taste of the Taco Bell breakfast last week, and so, in the name of due journalistic diligence, I took it upon myself to sample the early morning excitement of a Taco Bell breakfast.

Human remains found near W. 33rd St.

Little Rock Police Department reports that skeletal remains were found on Sunday evening just west of the 3400 block of W. 33rd Street.

Pegasus pipeline still at least a year away from restart, according to Exxon exec

Karen Tyrone, vice president and operations manager of Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co., said that the remediation plan that Exxon plans to submit to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) outlining why the Pegasus pipeline ruptured and how Exxon will ensure that it doesn't break again will take at least a year to execute.

Here are some photos of Cher

Times photographer Brian Chilson braved the Verizon Arena Friday night to bring us these photos of Cher, and they are bright and colorful and strange. She's on some sort of tribal, Caribbean tip, featuring back-up dancers with shields. I wasn't there, but I obviously should have been. More after the jump:

LRPD: two shot at N. Shackleford Waffle House

The Little Rock Police Department reports that around 3 a.m. this morning, two people were shot inside a Little Rock Waffle House following an argument.

UN report: Unless the world changes course, climate change will doom us

Without taking aggressive measures, climate change will lead lead to major breakdowns throughout the world, a new seven-years-in-the-making report from the UN concludes.

UA alum gives engineering school $7.8 million

Robert H. Biggadike of West Covina, Calif., who earned his BA and MA in mechanical engineering from the University of Arkansas and had a career in the aerospace industry, has made a gift of more than $7.8 million to the UA College of Engineering.

Jonathan Wilkins returns to the grill at Argenta Farmers Market

Jonathan Wilkins, the man behind the most delicious bar food Little Rock has ever seen, is cooking again. After leaving White Water Tavern last summer, Wilkins has resurfaced with Arkansas Fresh Bakery, a bakery out of Benton that largely supplies directly to restaurants, but has expansion plans on the horizon. Wilkins will begin selling Arkansas Fresh bread abd grilled sandwiches and snacks at the Argenta Farmers Market on Saturday.

Dept. of Workforce Services: Arkansas unemployment rate drops to 7.1 percent

Numbers out today from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services show the state's unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point between January and February, from 7.3 percent to 7.1 percent.

Ron Robinson to premiere 'Devil's Knot' — UPDATE: SOLD OUT

The Ron Robinson Theater will host the U.S. premiere of the film adaptation of Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt's book, "Devil's Knot." The screening, co-sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System, the Little Rock Film Festival and the Arkansas Times, is scheduled for Saturday, May 3.

Check out our massive slideshow from the 2014 Designers Choice Fashion Preview

Times photographers Matt Amaro and Brian Chilson were all over Saturday's Designers Choice Fashion Preview at the Metroplex. Click above for the latest from Korto Momolu, shots of co-host Meagan Good, behind-the-scenes pics and much, much more.

Interview: Splice Microcinema, Little Rock's best new film series

Splice Microcinema is a new series dedicated to "underground classics, alternative American cinema, cool and quintessential foreign films, deep cuts from the cult section, the occasional experimental joint and other scrappy masterpieces from the fringes of film history."

Obamacare open enrollment's final day: heavy traffic, website glitches

It's the final day of Obamacare open enrollment! Only, not really, because the administration granted an extension. Nevertheless, a big day for enrollment in the new marketplaces created by the health care law. Good news: record volume on and at the national network of call centers. Bad news: more glitches.

Administrators: threat to 'shoot up' Bentonville H.S. this morning leads to student

Administrators at Bentonville High School have identified and sent home a student who they say admitted to writing a threat to 'shoot u

Pryor seeks control on liquid nicotine

Nearly 60 Arkansans sickened by e-cigarette fuel.

The next big Obamacare question: will people who sign up pay their first premium and get covered?

The Arkansas Insurance Department testified on Friday that around a quarter of the enrollees in the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace are not yet covered because they haven't yet paid the first month's premium. They also testified that the enrollment figures released last week included 2,668 plans that have been cancelled.

Pryor likely to join in filibuster of federal minimum wage bill

Nearly every Senate Democrat will likely back the federal minimum wage hike. But not Mark Pryor.

City reacts to tree uproar chop chop

The city says it will replace the Main Street oaks it cut down with other oaks.

New billboard in Harrison put up underneath controversial "Anti-White" sign

Underneath racially charged billboard in Harrison, another one goes up.

Mea culpa open line

It's yours...

Will Exxon move the Pegasus pipeline out of Lake Maumelle’s watershed? Probably not without a fight.

The Clinton School hosted a panel discussion Monday afternoon commemorating the one year anniversary of ExxonMobil’s oil spill in Mayflower. In attendance: Congressman Tim Griffin, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Tammie Hynum of ADEQ, Graham Rich of Central Arkansas Water (CAW), and Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson, with Dean Skip Rutherford moderating. (Rutherford said that Exxon had been invited to send someone as well.) It was a packed house; public interest in the incident and the future of the ruptured Pegasus pipeline evidently remains high, in no small part because the line just south of Mayflower crosses 13 miles of watershed that drain into Little Rock’s major drinking reservoir, Lake Maumelle.

Obamacare signups likely reach original target of 7 million on final day of open enrollment

Enrollment in the Obamacare marketplaces surged yesterday, and likely hit the original projection of 7 million Americans. Those dire predictions several months ago of a train-wreck collapse? Nope, didn't happen. How will the law's opponents adjust?

Fox News corrects misleading graphic

Fox News admits its graphic on Obamacare enrollment was hooey. But what misleading graphic will the network use now that enrollment has hit the 7 million mark?

Get tickets to the second annual Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast

Our annual Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast is on the horizon. The cook-off at the Argenta Farmers Market in North Little Rock is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, May 3. Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door and include pig meat and sides from the roasters and live music from Memphis' Ghost Town Blues Band, Runaway Planet and The Salty Dogs. Proceeds benefit the Argenta Arts District.

Former Utah exchange director Cheryl Smith accepts job as director of Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace board

Cheryl Smith will be the new director of the non-profit Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace board, tasked with determining whether the state should run its own health insurance marketplace, created by the Affordable Care Act, as opposed to relying on the feds. Big question for Smith: will Rep. Nate Bell's amendment banning outreach preclude the possibility of a state-run marketplace?

New study highlights achievement gap in Arkansas

A new study has sobering news on the achievement gap in Arkansas. Arkansas Advocates Executive Director Rich Huddleston said in a press release, “This report is a call to action that requires serious and sustained attention from the private, nonprofit, philanthropic, and government sectors to create equitable opportunities for children of color, who will play an increasingly large role in our nation’s well-being and prosperity.”

Food stamps represents big business for Walmart

Marketplace and Slate examine the business side of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and find, not surprisingly, that the funds are a significant part of big box store's business models.

Bishop McDonald dies in Illinois

Catholic Bishop Emeritus Andrew J. McDonald, who served as Arkansas's bishop for 28 years, died today in Illinois. He was 90.

Free screening tonight of 'Medora' documentary

AETN and KUAR will host a free screening of the new documentary "Medora" tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the William F. Laman Library. Directed by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart (of FOUND magazine and "This American Life"), the film focuses on small, rural Indiana town called Medora and its high school basketball team, last-place in the state.

Police: April Fool passes out in car he's trying to steal from

The Little Rock Police Department responded to a call about an auto burglary on Cumberland Street this morning, only to find a suspect still at the scene, passed out inside the car with a screwdriver in his hand.

AFP releases ad that confuses Arkansans on Obamacare, follows up with ad complaining that Obamacare is confusing

Americans for Prosperity is probably getting tired of being fact-checked on misleading Obamcare ads. Their latest Arkansas ad tries a new tactic: the impacts of the law are just plain confusing. Of course, no one has worked harder to confuse the public about the impacts of the health care law than AFP. The latest ad features Jerry Buckley. Jerry feels like he's "in a haze" after reading about the ways that AFP's previous ad (featuring his wife, Wanda) didn't explain the full truth about the Buckleys' current insurance plan. Since AFP won't bother helping them, we will — we called Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield to confirm whether folks like the Buckleys can keep their plans in Arkansas...

Exxon points to rare chemical mix as Pegasus flaw

By putting the focus on atypical pipe properties and away from a well-known manufacturing defect of the type of pipe used in the northern section that includes Arkansas, it would seem that Exxon is casting the rupture as caused by a rare flaw.

Blue Hog raises more questions about the suspended law licenses of judicial candidates. Next up: Judges Tim Fox and Rhonda Wood.

A recent ruling from Circuit Judge John Cole disqualified Valerie Thompson Bailey from challenging Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox. A past suspension in her law license disqualified her, Cole ruled; though it was merely an administrative suspension, "a suspension is a suspension is a suspension" Cole found. Now it turns out that...Judge Time Fox had his license suspended too. And Arkansas Appeals Court Judge Rhonda Wood too. Are they disqualified too?

April fools open line

Talk amongst yourselves.

Religious zealot David Barton makes a stop in Springdale

Arkansas Repubs have come from far and wide today to Springdale to hear pretend historian David Barton make shit up. Barton earlier appeared at Ecclesia College, where he serves on the board of regents. Tonight he's at the Springdale High Performing Arts Center. You'll be able to tell the truly deranged Republicans from the rest of the pack by those who trumpet their attendance and retweet Barton's garbage.

Pryor camp on new AFP anti-Obamacare ad: "the Kochs are getting desperate"

Pryor spokesman Erik Dorey on the latest Obamacare attack ad from Americans for Prosperity, which features someone who thought he might have (but didn't) had his insurance plan cancelled: "The Kochs are getting desperate." Plus more on AFP's strategy of keeping voters "hazed" and confused.

The problem of the long-term unemployed

3.8 million people have been unemployed for more than six months and now find themselves essentially shut out of the labor market. Lawmakers have been short on solutions. Here's one that would be cost-effective and has worked before.

"Morning Edition" spotlights minimum wage in Arkansas

Good story on NPR this morning on the minimum wage in Arkansas 

Gilbert Baker resigns from UCA

Former state Sen. Gilbert Baker has resigned as UCA lobbyist and executive assistant. The move comes after weeks of reporting on Baker's role as Republican fundraiser by the Arkansas Blog, Blue Hog Report and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Supreme Court knocks down limits on federal campaign giving

In a vote that dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer said would "open a floodgate" of dollars to control American elections, the Supreme Court ruled today that aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions were unconstitutional.

New Coltrane live release to feature Pharoah Sanders

The great, cosmic tenor sax pioneer and Little Rock-native Pharoah Sanders will appear (playing sax and flute) on the latest John Coltrane live reissue to be released by Impulse! & Resonance Records in September, according to Pitchfork. The record is a previously (mostly) unavailable 90-minute concert featuring John and Alice Coltrane, Sanders and Rashied Ali at Temple University on November 11, 1966, and will be released on CD and LP.

Dept. of Health: skunk captured in Levy tests positive for rabies

KARK has a report with video on a skunk captured by North Little Rock Animal Control which later tested positive for rabies. 

Jazz in the Park 2014 kicks off tonight

Speaking of jazz: Anyone not going to see Amasa Hines or Merle Haggard tonight should come to the History Pavilion at Riverfront Park, where Dizzy 7 will be performing at the first night of this year's Jazz in the Park series. The series will feature a free outdoor jazz performance every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Eggshibition 2014: Coming Friday

"Eggshibition," Youth Home Inc.'s annual art-eggy auction, is Friday at the Jack Stephens Center at UALR.

Mike Ross introduces pre-k plan, pledging access for all 4-year-olds in Arkansas by 2025

Speaking before a classroom of 4-year-olds at Fair Park Early Childhood Center, Democratic candidate for governor Mike Ross, introduced his plan for early childhood education, which would aim to provide universal access to high-quality pre-k for all 4-year-olds in the state. Ross's plan would provide a small amount of additional funding to maintain the quality of existing programs and increase the eligibility of the Arkansas Better Chance program, currently available to kids that make below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Ross's plan would eventually guarantee a slot in ABC for all 4-year-olds in the state — free for kids below 300 FPL, at half price for kids 300-400 FPL, and at full price for kids above 400 FPL.