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Putting in a park

Putting in a park

May 17, 2018

Vol 44 • No 37

Read the print version

A stadium. A park. A plan? War Memorial

Uncertainty about the Hogs, the zoo's infrastructure needs stir call for a Little Rock Central Park.

Big Boi comes to Rev

And much more.

The dreamer

It's 5 a.m. as The Observer writes this, and we're still shaking a bit from the adrenaline of the dream.

Queen Leslie

Allow comfort dogs

I was dismayed to read of Judge Wendell Griffen's recent ruling against allowing comfort dogs for child sexual abuse victims in criminal court proceedings.

Bad law

Ideally, every addict would have free access to excellent inpatient treatment immediately and could obtain leave from work and financial obligations so they could take advantage of that opportunity. But that isn't the reality of the world we live in here in Arkansas.

We wanna boogie

CALS hosts a tribute to Sonny Burgess.

Pushing back in Harrison

An Indivisible group takes hold.

SQZBX sings

With pie, tunes and beer.

See 'A Quiet Place' in the theater while you can

Death by decibel.

Talking baseball

"God bless America!" I exclaimed to nobody, as the dog and cat watching the Red Sox game with me were napping.

Postseason plans

As the Arkansas Razorbacks ease their way into the college basketball postseason, they've steadily built their case for being a Top 8 national seed — thereby securing a possible Super Regional hosting opportunity if they can win the presumed Fayetteville regional first — in a manner that belies how difficult it really has been to get this far.

Flooding the swamp

It became clear the first week of his presidency what Donald Trump meant with his repeated campaign pledges to "drain the swamp," the moneyed culture of Wall Street and corporate lobbyists who dictate the laws and rules of governing in Washington.

Justice sues to stop dark money ads from running

Also, irony of the week and DHS ordered to stop using algorithm.

The Greek Food Festival kicks off

Also, Combsy at Four Quarter.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Billionaires on the March! Edition

Play at home, while considering how much you love it when a plan comes together.

Little Rock to settle for half a pig at War Memorial Stadium — a Hog game every other year

Various state and University of Arkansas officials will announce a deal to continue Razorback football games in War Memorial Stadium every other year, but some details are to be revealed on needed improvements to the stadium and attendance requirements that could end the every-other-year deal.

The folly of electing judges: Partisanship and disdain for the Constitution UPDATE

If ever a campaign season proved the ills of judicial elections, it is this year.

Rutledge sued over refusal to certify initiative on minimum wage increase UPDATE

As promised, Little Rock lawyer David Couch today sued Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for her refusal to certify a proposed initiated act to increase the minimum wage in Arkansas. He also asked for the Supreme Court to expedite a hearing, because time is drawing short for a petition drive to gather signatures by July to qualify for the November ballot. The proposal must be published by June 6 for signatures to be gathered.

Chelsea Clinton book talk set Sunday in Little Rock

Chelsea Clinton will talk about her book, "She Persisted Around the World," at a free public program at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Sheridan man gets life sentence for shooting high school student

The Sheridan Headlight reports that Rusty Draper received a life sentence Wednesday in Grant County Circuit Court for the 2017 murder of 17-year-old Austin Moody, a junior at Sheridan High School.

The other side of corporate incentives — a decline in revenue for city services

Keith Inman reported in the Jonesboro Sun today about a familiar civiic problem — lagging city sales tax collections. It's a big deal because sales taxes are the main sources of city revenue.

An open line and the daily video report

Here's your open line. Also a roundup of news and comment.

Child care voucher program to expand dramatically, governor says

Congress boosted the funding available for child care block grants to states by $5.8 billion in February, when it passed a two-year budget deal.

Students to honor Elizabeth Eckford with commemorative bench

Central High School's Memory Project students, the National Park Service and community leaders gathered today at Park and 16th streets with Little Rock Nine member Elizabeth Eckford to break ground for a commemorative bench to honor Eckford.

Rick Crawford channels Donald Trump

Rick Crawford thinks the Robert Mueller investigation hasn't been productive. He apparently doesn't count dozens of criminal charges and a number of guilty pleas as productive work.

Defense begins today in Dr. Robert Rook's sexual assault case

The state completed its case Thursday against Dr. Robert Rook, the Conway family practice physician accused of raping or sexually assaulting multiple women patients during office exams.

A fix for initiative process isn't a new idea and there's a reason why it hasn't happened

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has offered insufficient cover for her blockade of popular ballot initiatives, a process in need of change for more than 20 years.

Bill Gates on Donald Trump, warts and all

What Bill Gates said about Donald Trump and his understanding of vaccines and a couple of very different viruses.

Rusty Cranford seeks trial delay, expects more charges

Former lobbyist and health care executive Rusty Cranford, accused of bribing public officials in Arkansas to help his company receive millions in federal Medicaid money for mental health programs, has asked for a delay in a trial scheduled June 11 in Springfield, Mo., in part because he expects additional criminal charges.

Arkansas unemployment rate in April unchanged

About 1,000 fewer people were working in Arkansas in April, but the unemployment rate held steady at 3.8 percent, the state reported today.

Rutledge asks to move initiative challenge to federal court

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge  moved to dodge an appearance in Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's court this morning by asking that a lawsuit against her be removed to federal court because it raises, among others, a question of violation of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

10 dead in Texas high school shooting

CNN reports multiple fatalities in a shooting at a Texas high school south of Houston.

U.S. House defeats farm bill

A revolt by conservative Republicans stirred by immigration led to defeat of a massive farm bill in the U.S. House today.

Walton grant creates Delta youth program

The Delta Cultural Center in Helena/West Helena will offer a yearlong program for youth, the DCC Arts and Cultural Education Program, thanks to a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

Judges split on judicial attack ads

Pulaski Circcuit Judge Chris Piazza has ordered a halt to airing of attack ads against Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson, calling them "obscene and misleading." But a judge in a Northwest Arkansas case lifted a ban against the ads.

TGIF: Plus the news in review

Here's an open line. Plus the daily roundup of news and comment.  

State Rep. Laurie Rushing sued for defamation of former son-in-law

Blue Hog Report's Matt Campbell has posted a story n which he has a direct connection as a lawyer in a defamation lawsuit filed in North Carolina against state Rep. Laurie Rushing (R-Hot Springs) for saying publicly in a statement preserved on video that Marine Capt. Thomas Watts had killed her daughter and his wife, Tara, who died in 2016 at the age of 29.

No Small Talk, Ep. 16: Bash-O-Bash, McElroy House

This week, Omaya and Stephanie talk with Bryan and Meredith Martin-Moats, the parents behind the Bash-O-Bash cast of animated characters and behind McElroy House, a rural community organization for cultural resources in Dardanelle.

The Dark Money Edition

The coming primary and judicial elections, especially the dark money flowing into a race for an Arkansas Supreme Court position; also Leslie Rutledge and the ballot initiative process and the Razorbacks and War Memorial.

Disabled Medicaid recipients ask judge to block DHS emergency rule on home care hours

DHS says it must have an emergency rule in place to avoid disruption of services to disabled and elderly beneficiaries receiving services at home. But Legal Aid calls that "alarmist claptrap."

The royal wedding was quite a show

Quite a show in jolly old England on the telly this morning.

Defense to continue Monday in sexual assault trial of Conway doctor

Defense witnesses will continue Monday in the trial of Robert Rook, a Conway family practice physician, accused of sexually assaulting women in medical examinations.

Vote against the judicial election swamp builders

What to do about dark money attack ads in judicial races? Simple. Vote for the candidates targeted by the false and misleading advertising.

Cotton works to block prison reform

Sen. Tom Cotton's latest: throwing up a roadblock to prison reform.

The Saturday line

Here's an open line. Fire away.

A further look at sewer money in judicial races

An outside group attempting to buy some Arkansas judicial seats objects to being called a dark money group. OK. Let's just say they stink.

An open line, plus an endorsement

An open line and LR Nine political endorsement.

What the world needs now ....

Responding to racial intolerance with barbecue and tacos.

Arkansas: The corruption state

An ultra-conservative political group makes some fair points about the record of corruption amassed in Arkansas in recent years.

Search on for missing Little Rock visitor

KARK/Fox 16 reports police are looking for a 28-year-old Illinois man not seen since he went for a run downtown Saturday night following a wedding.

Two more deaths at Arkansas prisons

The Department of Correction reported Sunday the deaths of an inmate at Brickeys, the East Arkansas Regional unit of the Department of Correction, and an inmate at the Varner unit in Grady, both in single-man cells, within 12 hours of one another.

Another take on the 2nd District Democratic primary, from the left

Another think piece on the 2nd District Democratic primary pushes the national media theme of a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party. I'm not so sure.

Baker Kurrus will run for Little Rock mayor

Baker Kurrus will join the race for Little Rock mayor.

Rook takes stand in defense against sexual assault charges

KARKFox 16's Chanley Sha Painter is providing thorough Twitter coverage of Dr. Robert Rook's testimony in his sexual assault trial in Conway. He disputes the testimony of nine women he say he touched them sexually during examinations.

Monday's open line and the daily roundup

Here's the open line. Also a news roundup leading with Tuesday's election.

Police find body in Arkansas River; apparently that of missing wedding guest

Little Rock police announced at 2:30 p.m. that the body of a white male had been found in the Arkansas River behind the Old State House.

Building debris creates hazard on Second Street

Crumbling facade fell from an upper floor of an office building at 319 West Second Street this afternoon and the Fire Department soon was at work trying to shake loose some other parts that seemed likely to fall, too.

More suits filed against Rutledge over failure to approve ballot initiatives

Robert Reed, who's tried repeatedly without success to get Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's approval of a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana, sued Rutledge in circuit court today for violating the law and Arkansas Constitution in her blanket denail of

Judge Griffen temporarily halts DHS emergency rule on home care hours

The judge granted the temporary restraining order requested by seven disabled plaintiffs who are suing DHS over the agency's allocation of attendant care hours and scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, May 23 at 10 a.m.

Asa basks in Trump endorsement

Donald Trump endorsed Asa Hutchinson Monday. What it says about Arkansas politics isn't encouraging.

Is e-commerce the problem for cities like Little Rock?

Take a guess on the percentage of total retail sales that comes from e-commerce. You might be surprised.

Suspect killed in West Memphis police chase

The State Police are investigating a police chase and crash that led to death of a suspect at West Memphis.

Corporate cash on the local level targets state legislators on school 'choice'

More evidence this week of how the Citizens United decision that took the limit off "independent" political spending can be used to evade state-imposed limits on political races.

'The Conversation' with Jesse Gibson

In this week's edition of our hit new podcast, "The Conversation," host Matt Price interviews ATLA President Jesse Gibson. Jesse and Matt discuss Issue 1 about tort reform and the nursing home industries role.

Hearings set on Leslie Rutledge ballot blockade

Alex Gray, a lawyer in lawsuits attempting to get around Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's blockade of all ballot proposals for 2018, sends word that hearings have been set in two courts on pending suits.

Two arrested in Poor People's protest at state Capitol

The  Arkansas Poor People's Campaign demonstrated Monday at the Arkansas Justice Building as part of a national campaign and two people were arrested.

Simmons Bank gives $2.5 million to UAPB

The previously announced major gift by Simmons First National Bank to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was revealed today to be $2.5 million.

Lobbyist Cranford's trial pushed back to September

At the request of indicted lobbyist Rusty Cranford, a federal magistrate in Springfield, Mo., on Monday delayed his trial on conspiracy and bribery charges until Sept. 24.

Election night open line

Here's the election night open line.

Central student a winner in international science and engineering competition

Big deal. Meghana Bollimpalli of Little Rock Central High School was named a grand prize winner in the Intel International Science and Engineering fair.

Remains found in West Little Rock park could be Ebby Steppach's

Though no identification has been made, human remains found in the West Little Rock park where Ebby Steppach's car was located in 2015 could belong to the missing teenager.

Arkansas Works population declines by another 1,400 beneficiaries

The decrease from April to March is consistent with recent trends in the program. Arkansas Works enrollment declined by over 10 percent from the beginning of 2017 to the beginning of 2018.

Election trends based on early vote from Pulaski County

Here's the first election night trend, based on early voting in Pulaski County

Thurston leads secretary of state primary

Good judgment in Republican primary for secretary of state.

The election open line

Over to the commentariat for election results.

French Hill v. Nancy Pelosi

The Republicans have a gender change plan for Democratic congressional challenger Clarke Tucker — make him into Nancy Pelosi.

UPDATE: Rook acquitted on 8 of 16 counts, hung jury and mistrial on the remainder

UPDATE: A Faulkner County jury late Tuesday acquitted Dr. Robert Rook, the Conway physician, on eight of 16 charges that he sexually assaulted women patients. The jury couldn't reach a verdict on eight more charges and a mistrial was declared. This from KARK.

Are Arkansas court seats for sale? Maybe in one race, no in another

UPDATE: Outside money propelled one candidate into a runoff for a state Supreme Court seat but failed to elect a favored candidate in a race for Arkansas Court of Appeals.

In Pulaski County, a first and maybe another for African-Americans

Pulaski County election results indicate history was made Tuesday with election of a black candidate as sheriff and the nomination of another African-American to the county clerk's office.

Benton County Republican battles come down to handful of votes

Take a look at hotly contested Republican House races in Benton County.

Ethics questions for David Sterling

David Sterling made the runoff for state Supreme Corut, backed by a gusher of dark and dirty money. His own ethical behavior gives little cause for encouragement.

UPDATE: Two lawsuits challenge 10 Commandments monument at Arkansas Capitol

Two groups have filed promised lawsuits against the 10 Commandments monument recently re-erected on the Capitol grounds.

State income tax returns: Delays possible

State says new security safeguards could slow some state income tax refunds.

Supreme Court orders Rutledge to act on minimum wage petition

The Supreme Court says Attorney General Leslie Rutledge must act on ballot initiative petitions within three days

Opponents send best wishes to Democratic nominee Clarke Tucker

Classy concessions today from the Democrats who trailed Clarke Tucker in the Democratic primary race for 2nd District Congress.

The NFL adopts anthem rule: Stand or teams will be fined, but there's a player opt-out

The NFL today adopted a rule providing for fines for teams whose players don't stand for the National Anthem. Prediction: The resistance will continue

Judge rules Trump can't block people from following his Twitter account

President Donald J. Trump can’t block Twitter users from following his personal account, a federal judge ruled.

Jason Rapert responds to monument lawsuits

Bro. Sen. Jason Rapert has responded in typical fiery fashion to the constitutional challenge of the 10 Commandments monument. His rights are under attack, he says.

Making Change at Walmart blasts changes at annual meeting

Making Change at Walmart, the group devoted to criticizing Walmart's labor practices, has blasted the company for planned changes in annual meeting procedures that it says will block workers from the business portion of the meeting and silence critical voices.

New Rock the Culture podcast: "Culture, Cohorts, and Cannabis"

In this week’s episode, Antwan Phillips and guest host Kendra Pruitt provide perspective and conversation on the Arkansas Chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign and on the future structure of the LRSD. We discussed a proposed city ordinance to require LRPD to make marijuana arrests a low priority offense with our guests attorney Omavi Shakur and Rev. Ryan D. Davis.

The line is open

Here's the open line today. Lots of news today. Check it out on the daily video.

16 sheriffs endorse Asa Hutchinson

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had a campaign event todasy to announce an endorsement by 16 of the state's 75 sheriffs, including retiring Sheriff Doc Holladay of Pulaski County (a Democrat).

Enter our Greatest Dog in Arkansas contest

The Times is looking for Arkansas’s top dog. The primo pooch. The ultimate mutt. The peerless purebred. Good dog! Is that your dog? Fill out this quick form to participate in Arkansas Times Greatest Dog in Arkansas contest. Then the public will decide!

Breaking: Rutledge yields, OKs ballot issues on minimum wage, casinos and legislative redistricting

The Arkansas Supreme Court got Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's attention at last today with its order that she comply with the law and either certify proposed ballot initiatives or propose language more acceptable to her.

UAMS presents balanced budget

UAMS, pressed by financial problems for several years, told the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees today that it had a $1.5 billion operating budget that doesn't call for deficit spending.

Police identify remains as those of Ebby Steppach

KARK/Fox 16 reports that Little Rock police have identified skeletal remains found Tuesday in a west Little Rock park as those of Ebby Steppach, the 17-year-old who's been missing since her car was found in that park abandoned in 2015.

Griffen holds DHS in contempt of court and enjoins emergency rule on home care hours

Another victory in court for the disabled plaintiffs suing the state over its use of an algorithm that they say cut their attendant care hours.