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Downtown update

Downtown update

March 29, 2018

Vol 44 • No 30

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What's new and coming soon to downtown North Little Rock

The Argenta Plaza, new apartments and more.

A guide to the East Village

Sixth Street development is in the can.

What's new and coming soon to Main Street Little Rock

More restaurants, apartments and a church.

What's new and coming soon to the Financial Quarter in Little Rock

A boutique hotel, poke and more.

What's new and coming soon East of Main Street in Little Rock

Bowling, beer and poke.

What's new and coming soon to South Main Street in Little Rock

A distillery, a Latin street-food restaurant, apartments and more.

The beat returns to the hearts of the river cities: downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock

A look at what's new and soon to come.

Eureka! In Hot Springs

Spa City's Luna Bella a thrilling find.

Shrugging off sulfides

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.

Weedeater comes to White Water Tavern

Also, "Orange Is the New White," a new play on politics from North Little Rock comedy troupe The Main Thing, opens at The Joint Theater.

Kids leading

Also, patient and examiner caught, opioid lawsuit filed and more.

Justin Warren's 'Then There Was Joe' was a long time coming

The 2018 comedy film was a family affair.

Draft coming

President Trump has just signed a budget that gives many millions of additional dollars to the military. At the same time, he is reloading his Cabinet with chicken hawks — people who were chicken when it was their turn to step up to the plate, but who are just itching for a fight now: Dick Cheney wannabees.

Jackie Venson comes to South Main

And much more.

Gonna be breakin' the law for a while

Fixing the city

Across neighborhoods, social classes and races, there is a growing consensus that Little Rock's city government is not as healthy as it should be and that its persistent underperformance in meeting the needs of the state's capital city makes the future of a promising city fragile.

Good dog

This is the story of a boy and his dog. Is there a better observer of the folly of human behavior than the dog? The dog knows all about us. His findings are biased, and he never reports them to his peers, but the dog has all the data. And dogs still like us.

Perilous times

Should history record the sudden collapse of American democracy, it will be illustrated by CNN screenshots of Stormy Daniels strapped to a lie detector. You know, that staged photo of the porn actress in a tight yellow T-shirt with her preposterous fake breasts that the TV networks couldn't show often enough before her underwhelming "60 Minutes" interview on CBS.

'Pacific Rim: Uprising' is looser, sillier

Bring in the kaiju.

Tough road

It's a perfectly acceptable belief, one which I harbor only passively, that Arkansas will find sustained, meaningful success hard to come by as long as it resides in the Southeastern Conference.

'Null and void'

Last week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the state Medical Marijuana Commission from awarding five permits to companies to cultivate marijuana in the state.

Acxiom stock falls dramatically after Facebook announces end to relationship

On Wednesday, Facebook said it would stop using companies such as Acxiom to provide additional data to Facebook's clients for the purpose of targeted advertising.

Patient revenues down, UAMS tells trustees

A decline in patient revenue compared to budget remains a concern for the financially-struggling University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, UAMS leaders told the UA System Board of Trustees, meeting in Monticello, today. However, UAMS' Medicaid match requirements, equity investments and savings in non-clinical areas are helping UAMS meet its budget, which includes a deficit of $39 million.

Arkansas AG files suit against three drug companies for misleading public on opioids

The drug companies misled doctors and other medical providers by deceptively downplaying the risks associated with prescription painkillers, Rutledge said.

Thursday's headlines and open comments

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola paints a rosy picture of the city in his state of the city address; Acxiom stock takes a nose dive after an announcement from Facebook; a decline in patient revenue compared to budget remains a concern for the financially-struggling University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge files suit against three drug companies for misleading public on opioids.

Rusty Cranford denied bail because of alleged plot to murder co-conspirator

The latest in the lurid saga of the former Little Rock super-lobbyist Rusty Cranford: A federal judge today denied bail to Cranford because he found credible allegations that Cranford attempted to hire someone to murder his co-conspirator.

State Supreme Court again rules state must release execution drug labels, if redacted

The ruling mirrored a decision made by the court in November over another drug used in the execution protocol, the sedative midazolam.

UA trustees OK proposed tenure change

The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees approved a change in tenure policy that has been widely criticized by faculty, especially by the 294 anonymous respondents to a survey taken at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Their concerns were that the new policy weakens tenure and faculty rights and would undermine academic freedom.

Little Rock School District considers proposal to arm 10 security staff

There are already about 21 armed school resource officers stationed in the LRSD's high schools and middle schools. Self's proposal would give firearms and nonlethal weapons to 10 LRSD personnel who work in the security division but are not licensed law enforcement officers and therefore are not currently armed.

Walmart reportedly set to acquire health insurance behemoth Humana

The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart is in the early stages of talks to buy Humana, one of the nation's five largest health insurers.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asks state Supreme Court to compel judge to expedite ruling in Voter ID case

Secretary of State Mark Martin filed a motion late yesterday with the state Supreme Court requesting that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray be forced to make a ruling on a challenge to the Voter ID law "well in advance of April 6, 2018."

Texas woman given five-year prison sentence for voting while still on supervised release after felony conviction

Via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, this story is outrageous.

Luncheon at Clinton Center will honor Maya Angelou

On April 19, in honor of what would have been Maya Angelou's 90th birthday, the Celebrate! Maya Project will host a luncheon to honor the literary icon at the Clinton Presidential Center's Great Hall. The celebration will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Washington County official resigns amidst lawsuit over County Judge Joseph Wood's hiring practices

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has the latest on County Judge Joseph Wood's questionable practices in Washington County, where County Planning Director Jim Kimbrough has resigned. Department of tangled webs: Wood only has the seat, you may recall, because of a bizarre series of events involving Micah Neal, the former state rep who pleaded guilty to accepting cash kickbacks from Ecclesia College...where Wood himself happens to be on the board of directors.

Wendell Griffen: "Governor Hutchinson’s keynote address will amount to re-assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory"

Wendell Griffen offers a fiery critique of the choice of Governor Hutchinson to be a keynote speaker at an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.

Governor announces that Arkansas can skip the DMV and register vehicles online

Brave new world.

Health Department says all counties to offer same-day birth certificate processing; backlog now cleared

In August, ADH said it had a backlog of some 11,000 requests for birth certificates, with an estimated processing time of 75-90 days — far slower than any other state. Today's announcement seems to indicate it has made significant progress on expanding access to vital records services.

Americans for Prosperity to host Governor Hutchinson at anti-tax event

Get. Excited.

Three more lawsuits filed over marijuana cultivation licenses

Couch said Boll Weevil and rival applicant Heritage Farms worked with the same consulting firm to prepare their applications. Schedules 2 and 3 of both applications outline identical business plans, he said. However, Heritage Farms received a score on schedules 2 and 3 that was 21 points higher than Boll Weevil.

End of the week headlines and an open line

Your Arkansas headlines for March 30, 2018: Governor Hutchinson announces that Arkansas can skip the DMV and register vehicles online; three more lawsuits filed over marijuana cultivation licenses; and the Health Department now says its backlog is cleared and all counties will soon offer same-day birth certificate processing.

The Jan's Plan Edition

Primary season, especially gubernatorial candidate Jan Morgan; gun protests and policies; a new opioid lawsuit and Mark Stodola on the state of the city address — all covered on this week's podcast.

State Sen. Linda Chesterfield draws challenger in Democratic primary

District 30 is a safe Democratic seat. There is no Republican candidate registered for the district, so the winner of the Democratic primary will be uncontested in the general.

Medical marijuana commissioner Roman disputes accusations of bias

In interviews with the Democrat-Gazette and Arkansas Business, Roman said the scores were strictly based on merit and that Natural State Medicinals  was the standout candidate among the group.

The flowers and sunshine open line

Here's the view from my house. How about yours?

Nonprofit at center of kickback scheme saw huge growth in state contracts in recent years

Doug Thompson at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, whose reporting has driven the unfolding story of corruption involving nonprofit provider Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., outlined the extent of the company's business with DHS today.

ProPublica profiles Jason Foster, Arkansas-born staffer for Chuck Grassley; turns up controversial blog posts

From the annals of inside baseball, ProPublica does a deep dive on Jason Foster, the Arkansas-born staffer for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa (I can't embed it but here's a short video version on the ProPublica Facebook page).

Trump tweets against DACA and NAFTA, whatever that means

Is it worth trying to figure out what Trump actually wants on immigration? Not really, because we've learned no statement Trump makes actually matters in and of itself.

Easter Fools Day open line

A late day open line. Over to you.

State trooper shot in Hot Spring County (UPDATE)

The Arkansas State Police confirmed an officer was shot on Sunday and taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Despite Clean Line's demise, renewable energy's rise inevitable, Ark. Sierra Club says

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced it would terminate a partnership to develop the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project, a high-voltage transmission line that would have bisected Arkansas.

Jonathan Dunkley: "Fire French Hill and replace him with a real progressive."

The four candidates in the crowded and lively field for the Democratic nomination for the Second U.S. Congressional District seat will face off in a one-hour debate this Wednesday at 7 p.m., hosted by KATV.

Sinclair forces local news anchors, including in Little Rock, to parrot the same script

Sinclair forces local news anchors to read cornball propaganda script, like hostages in a Fox News funhouse.

'The Conversation' with Max Brantley

In this week's edition of our wildly sensational new podcast, "The Conversation," host Matt Price interviews Arkansas Times Editor, Max Brantley. We take a quick walk back to the Newspaper Wars between the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette. Max Brantley provides his take on the battle and also what the future looks like for local journalism.

Schools close in Oklahoma and Kentucky as teachers swarm state capitols

Teachers are on the march in Republican-controlled states.

DHS rolls out work requirement portal for Arkansas Works beneficiaries

DHS said Monday that people can create an account and begin reporting exemptions now, though the requirement itself won't kick in until June 1.

Monday's headlines and open line

A State Trooper is recovering after being shot during a stop in Hot Springs county; medical marijuana commissioner, Dr. Carlos Roman, disputes accusations of bias; ProPublica profiles Jason Foster, an Arkansas-born staffer for Chuck Grassley who maintained an extremist blog; and a striking video showing local news anchors parroting the same script handed down from Sinclair Broadcasting.

Paul Spencer again raises more than $100,000 from individual donors

Another solid fundraising haul from Paul Spencer, one of four declared Democratic candidates for the state's Second Congressional District: His campaign today announced that he raised more than $100,000 from more than 2,000 individual donors in the first quarter of 2018.

Libertarian statehouse candidate's anti-gay slurs online end up in TV spotlight

"I recently made a comment that was meant to be satire, but had FACTUAL meaning. In the new day of Social Media, we face backlash for every comment we make, which is putting 'Free Speech' at a price."

Court filing alleges that Mike Huckabee was target of foreign influence peddling

Mother Jones reports on the strange story of Elliott Broidy, a GOP fundraiser enmeshed in a scandal over foreign influenced peddling with some unsavory characters, who last week field a lawsuit against the government of Qatar for allegedly hacking his email. It wouldn't be a story about grift, graft, and Trump if we couldn't shoehorn in the Huckster.

Sinclair-owned television station in Wisconsin refuses to air scripted propaganda speech

KATV, like dozens of other stations, read Sinclair's talking points. But one station in Wisconsin is refusing the mandate. Journalists are in a tough spot here because Sinclair's contracts have harsh penalties for quitting. Meanwhile, a very stable genius gives his two cents.

Former Arkansas Baptist professor 'exploring' run for Little Rock Ward 7 city director

Edmond "Ed" Davis, a former professor at Arkansas Baptist College and the executive director of a school applying for a charter in Southwest Little Rock, will announce the formation of an exploratory committee for a campaign for the Little Rock city director Ward 7 position. Brenda "B.J." Wyrick has held the position since 1994.

Rockefeller family donates $350,000 to U.S. Marshals Museum

The U.S. Marshals Museum, a 53,000-square-foot museum to be built in Fort Smith, announced today a gift of $350,000 from the family of the late Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller. The gift follows another $100,000 gift from Rockefeller's widow, Lisenne Rockefeller, in 2014 to fund a spring lecture series, now in its fifth year.

VA drop-in center has reduced homeless vet population dramatically, but not to zero

Local news stations have repeated Mayor Mark Stodola's recent assertion that the city has reduced homelessness among veterans to "functional zero."

Legislative committees approve reduction in retroactive eligibility for new Medicaid expansion enrollees

This is about cost-shifting, plain and simple. The change will save the state some money (a projected $1.3 million in the next fiscal year according to the Department of Human Services), while hospitals and providers will see uncompensated care costs go up and poor Arkansans will be slapped with bills they can't possibly pay.

Arkansas State University receives $10 million gift

Arkansas State University today announced the largest gift from an individual in the university's history.

University of Arkansas student launches campaign for better resources for sexual assault victims

University of Arkansas-Fayetteville student Gillian Gullett is launching an effort this month to encourage reporting of sexual assaults on campus and reform the resources available to victims at UA.

Attorney general Leslie Rutledge expecting a child in August

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge just announced that she and husband Boyce Johnson are expecting a child this summer.

"White History Month" tweeter is back on the job at McClellan High

Lance Frichtman, a coach at McClellan High School who was put on paid administrative leave after tweeting anti-immigrant and anti-woman messages and calling for a "White History Month," is back on the job, Little Rock School District spokeswoman Pamela Smith confirmed today.

Your open line and Tuesday's headlines

ASU receives largest gift ever, U.S. Marshals Museum gets donation from the Rockefeller family, former Arkansas Baptist professor ‘exploring’ run for Ward 7 city director and Leslie Rutledge is expecting.

Shooter at YouTube headquarters: Update

The New York Times and NPR are reporting there is an active shooter at the San Bruno, Calif., offices of YouTube. The Times said several people were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds.

Arkansas to receive $1.2 million in tax revenue from Airbnb

The D-G reports that Airbnb, the online site facilitating short-term vacation rentals of residential properties, will remit about $1.2 million in tax revenues to Arkansas over the course of the first year in an agreement it reached with the state.

Mike Huckabee probes deep

Former Arkansas governor offers new commentary on the news of the day.

As walkouts spread across red states, Arkansas teachers are watching closely

A look at how Arkansas teacher salary — and discontent — measures up to that in Oklahoma.

Former state Sen. Jake Files to face federal sentencing this summer for fraud

A sentencing date in federal court for former Republican state Sen. Jake Files has been scheduled for June 18.  Files pleaded guilty in January to charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Events are scheduled across the country, including at the state Capitol in Little Rock this morning. But some argue that politicians rushing to offer platitudes are missing the radicalism of King's message.

Justin Jones suspends Libertarian candidacy for state representative after controversy over anti-gay slurs

Fifteen minutes of infamy.

Ecclesia College president pleads guilty to fraud ahead of trial

Oren Paris III, president of Ecclessia College in Springdale, pleaded guilty today to fraud ahead of a trial scheduled to begin on Monday, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Young Thug, Young the Giant, Margo Price among Riverfest headliners

The rebirthed festival features performances from Young Thug, Margo Price, Young the Giant, Levelle Davison and more.

Arkansas Supreme Court declines to intervene in voter ID case

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied Secretary of State Mark Martin's request that the high court force Circuit Judge Alice Gray to make a ruling on whether to block the state's voter ID law "well in advance" of April 6.

Cotton touts tough-on-fentanyl bill

Sen. Tom Cotton reiterated his support for President Trump's call for the death penalty for fentanyl dealers during a news conference this afternoon in Little Rock alongside Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

Today's headlines and your midweek open line

The Arkansas Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a voter ID case, Ecclesia College president pleads guilty to fraud ahead of trial, Justin Jones suspends Libertarian candidacy for state representative after controversy over anti-gay slurs and former state Sen. Jake Files to face federal sentencing this summer for fraud.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in spat with cities and counties over opioid lawsuits

A spat has been brewing for some time between the attorney general's office and the coalition of local governments over opioid litigation strategy, with potentially millions of dollars in damages at stake. Leslie Rutledge this week fired the first public shot in the turf war, asking the state Supreme Court to disallow Scott Ellington, the Prosecuting Attorney for the Second Judicial District of Arkansas, from bringing claims on the state's behalf as part of the lawsuit filed by the coalition in Crittenden County Circuit Court.

Former Gilbert Baker partner Linda Leigh Flanagin hired to state job at ANRC

Here's a familiar name from the muck of Arkansas politics: Linda Leigh Flanagin, a partner of Gilbert Baker during Baker's scheme to funnel campaign cash from nursing home magnate Michael Morton to various GOP candidates, has a new job working for Bruce Holland, one of the beneficiaries of Morton cash.