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July 10, 2014

Vol 22 • No 20

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The roots of Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods

How did the city, 60 years after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, and 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, end up so divided?

Stealth politics at grassroots in Arkansas

A funny thing happened shortly before vote-short developer Dickson Flake got a three-month delay from the Little Rock City Board on considering his widely panned proposal to install a MAPCO filling station and 24-hour convenience store at the dangerous Third and Broadway intersection, just a block and a half from a $70 million Robinson Center Music Hall redo.

The power of voting

I just read your article about "America's Worst Politicians" (July 3). When I read or hear about how terrible our politicians are I try to figure out just what it is that generates those complaints. Are those "worst politicians" really different from the rest of us?

American Taekwondo Association returns to Little Rock

Ron Robinson hosts 48 Hour Film screenings.


Over the long holiday weekend just passed — a glorious and, dare we say it, chilly at times weekend, rarer in July in these parts than a politician with good sense — The Observer was able to get outdoors at night, just for the sake of being there, for an extended period of time.

Mark Edgar Stuart comes to South on Main

Also, "I'll Be Me ... Glen Campbell" at Ron Robinson, Psychic John Edward at Embassy Suites, PJ Morton at Juanita's, Jeff Koons at Crystal Bridges, 2nd Friday Art Night and "Next to Normal" at the Weekend Theater.

Women talking to women, not about men

'Tammy' a rarity among big-budget comedies.


Last year, the Arkansas Claims Commission voted unanimously to award Gyronne Buckley $460,000 for spending 11 years in prison on wrongful convictions. On July 8, a legislative panel reversed and dismissed the commission's award.

Relaxing in Hot Springs

John Puckett, the Arlington Hotel's piano player has a seat before his Sunday brunch performance.

Opposing Obama with no context

If you pay too much attention to opinion polls, as most people do, doubtless you've heard that a plurality of voters has judged Barack Obama the worst president since World War II. Thirty-three percent, to be precise, which as it coincides almost exactly with the number of hard-core Republicans, merely tells you something you already knew: GOP partisans dislike Obama with irrational zeal.

Bright spots for Razorbacks in 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I hinted that the time to prognosticate about Arkansas's 2014 football season was inescapably here, and that such forecasting would be a comprehensive examination over the remainder of summer.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Summer Bummer Edition

Play at home, while fanning yourself with a magazine!

Lack of leadership, Oaklawn courtship: legislative folly

It used to be ritual that the governor addressed lawmakers at the end of each regular and emergency session to reassure them that Arkansans were in their debt for again protecting the state from the ravages of fate.

Marissa Nadler, looking you in the eyes

Singer-songwriter lifts fog in 'July.'

Seyer jazzes up 1620 Savoy

Some great dishes, but ambiance a bit stuffy.

Arkansas requires cosmetology licenses for hair braiders and bans dental specialists from doing basic dental work

The Institute for Justice is challenging the state regulations in court.

Alcohol petitions pass first hurdle; checks continue on minimum wage

The secretary of state's office reported last night that the proposed constitutional amendment to allow retail alcohol sales statewide had turned in more than 84,000 signatures, needing 78,133, to qualify for the November ballot. Checking continues on a minimum wage increase proposal.

Little Rock's unsolved homicide toll rises, detectives busy

Little Rock police detectives are burdened with a rising load of unsolved homicide cases — 42 over the last five years.

UPDATE: Mission trip from Nashville ends in deportation

A Nashville church's mission trip returned home missing one team member — stopped at the U.S. border and sent home to her native India. As yet, no explanation about what happened to the popular local community college teacher.

The rise of the Southern Democrat?

A new breed of Democrat offers hope for many U.S. Senate contenders, including Mark Pryor, in what an opinion writer for The Hill calls a battle between Johnny Cash Democrats and Ted Nugent Republicans

Little Rock Tech Park: Site selection leads to money questions

The Little Rock Tech Park now has a solid consensus on where to put the development — on Main Street. Now come even harder questions, all about money.

Progressive Democratic group starts Arkansas operation

Southern Progress, a political organization aimed at building Democratic political strength in the South, has opened an Arkansas operation and taken aim at the 2014 ballot.

A ruckus at Movies in the Park prompts police promise of better security

A crowd disturbance added unexpected excitement to Movies in the Park last night and police have promised a closer look at security at the event.

Republicans blast James Lee Witt over legislation co-sponsored by Republican

Republicans smear Democrat James Lee Witt because of his endorsement by congressman who's co-sponsored, with a Republican, legislation to close the gun show background check loophole,

Broadband monopolies: A fight with broad benefits

It's a story with an Arkansas parallel. Chattanooga is looking for federal help to sidestep a state law that prevents it from expanding its offering of high-speed broadband service.

Obamacare: The more the Kochs rant, the more people sign up

The louder the opposition to Obamacare, the more people sign up. Or so a new analysis indicates.

Tom Cotton 'flailing,' conservative publication writes

A conservative journal finds Tom Cotton a "flailing" candidate and says it wouldn't be such a bad thing if a conservative war hawk got defeated.

The womens' rights open line; plus today's video news headlines

Open line. Also: Briefs were filed today on the Arkansas abortion law; the state Board of Education declared some schools in academic distress, and we have our daily video news headlines.

Partisan polling creates a Republican odor in Pryor-Cotton matchup

Careful in reading too much into polls in the U.S. Senate race, heavily influenced by partisan outfits. A fair assessment based on non-partisan work shows a slight lead for Mark Pryor.

A look inside Arkansas Alehouse

Eager to give fans of their product a place to sit together, drink, and have a bite of food, the folks behind Diamond Bear Brewing Co. have brought their brewpub restaurant, Arkansas Alehouse, to North Little Rock. It’s only a few weeks into being fully operational, but the restaurant off Broadway St. already seems to be drawing quite a crowd.

July cold front predicted next week

July highs in the 70s? That's the forecast for several days next week.

Civil Service Commission clears Little Rock cop who beat bar customer

The Little Rock Civil Service Commission sent a message — a bad one — by overriding police superiors and rescinding the suspension of a cop who beat a restaurant customer in 2011.

Lt. governor candidates appear before Press Association

The Arkansas Press Association, in convention in Hot Springs, is having a series of debate-style appearances today from candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general and governor. Except for a gig of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, the No. 2 candidates didn't produce many sparks.

Attorney general candidates debate, split on fights with feds

Candidates for Arkansas attorney general debate before the Arkansas Press Association. A split emerged on how much time the state official should spend fighting with the federal government. The libertarian candidate endorsed drug legalization.

Food Feedback Friday:

Time to let us hear it. What are you eating on this week?

Ross scores on 'out of touch' Asa in debate

Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson met in debate today before the Arkansas Press Association, joined by Green Party candidate Josh Drake and Libertarian Frank Gilbert. Sharp differences emerged, particularly on the minimum wage and health care coverage for low-income working people.

Owners found of dog burned by fireworks

The mayor Centerton has announced he's found the owners of a 13-year-old deaf and blind terrier found with terrible burns and fireworks strapped to its back. Contributions have poured into the animal shelter to care for the dog.

The Pryors hit the campaign trail

David and Barbara Pryor have been in Arkansas headlines this week for statewide campaigning for their son, Mark, seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate.

Residency question on civil service commissioner

A call has raised a question about the residency of one of the commissioners who voted to overturn disciplinary action against a cop who beat a man in a Little Rock bar.

Tonight downtown: Women saving the south (Strause), thanking lucky stars (Joe), men in contrast (McLeod, Switch, Bean)

Several downtown galleries will be open after hours tonight for the monthly 2nd Friday Art Night, showcasing work by Katherine Strause, Kateri Joe, Matt McLeod, Tod Switch, Robert Bean and others. The event runs 5-8 p.m.; transportation by rubber-wheeled trolley is available.

The debate open line

The Friday night line is open. It comes with today's video headlines. The lead is Mike Ross' strong performance in today's gubernatorial debate.

Tests on Exxon pipeline flawed, expert says

Inside Climate News, the prize-winning news outlet that we partnered with on reporting on the ExxonMobil pipeline break at Mayflower, has new reporting today based on FOI-produced documents that raise questions about the adequacy of testing being done to determine the safety of estarting the northern portion of the line.

Union to picket City Hall in Forrest City

A new union local representing Forrest City city workers plans an informational picket today over the City Council's failure to adopt a grievance procedure.

Filling hole in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette City Hall coverage

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Spencer Willems omitted a relevant point in following our story about residency questions concerning a member of the Little Rock Civil Service Commission.

LR Civil Service Commissioner Morgan claims residence in city; tax records point elsewhere

Little Rock Civil Service Commissioner Brett Morgan says he is a resident of Little Rock, one of four cities in which he says he has homes.

Bank robbery reported on Cantrell Road

A branch bank on Cantrell Road was robbed about 11:30 a.m.

Saturday open line — flights (at LR airport) and fights (at Chili's)

A report on declining passenger numbers at Little Rock's Clinton National Airport and a police report on a fight at Chili's, witnessed by a top police officer, are included with tonight's open line.

Mike Beebe's last hurrah

Arkansas Democrats hope a last big dance featuring popular Gov. Mike Beebe will help provide some financial muscle for fall.

Fort Smith school leader rips legislature's insurance 'fix'

Fort Smith School Superintendent Benny Gooden said the legislature's supposed fix of school employee health insurance was a misplaced Band-aid.

How 'religious freedom' became a 'fig leaf for discrimination'

Michael Sherrard writes for Talking Points Memo about the cynical exploitation of religion to attack Obamacare/s reproductive health coverage mandate in the Hobby Lobby case.

Ex-con Cunningham campaigning for Asa Hutchinson

Ex-con Congressman Duke Cunningham, a former California Republican representative, makes his home now in Hot Springs Village where he's campaigning for Asa Hutchinson and working for criminal justice reform. And voting. Arkansas allows ex-cons to vote.

The not-so-sizzling-summer open line

The line is open on a hot Sunday, with a forecast for cool days ahead.

Faith and facts: Tax-cutting and Obamacare

Arkansas political campaigns this year, from the Republican side, are all about the beauty of tax cuts and the horrors of Obamacare. You have to ignore some inconvenient facts to accept the sales pitches.

Mike Huckabee travels in style on private jets; handles bookings, too

Politico exposes Mike Huckabee's preference for private jet travel and notes that he's arranged some of the journeys through his own private travel companies.

Asa says Show Me the money, Missouri

Right-wing Missouri Republicans are putting together a fund-raiser for gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson in St. Louis this week, a Missouri website reports.

Cotton reports $2.2 million haul for quarter, $700,000 more than Pryor

Republican Tom Cotton out-raised incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor in fund-raising in the second quarter of the year, Cotton's campaign says.

Eureka to vote for marriage equality

Eureka Springs City Council will vote tonight to reaffirm its endorsement of same-sex marriage and the city's welcome mat for same-sex couples. So, what about Little Rock?

Speaking of transportation: How about a Conway-LR express bus service?

Metroplan has released its study on starting an express bus service at peak hours between Conway and Little Rock.

Attorney's opinion sought on civil service commissioner residency

The Little Rock city attorney has been asked to expedite a legal opinion on the residency status of Civil Service Commissioner Brett Morgan, who cast a crucial vote in a cop brutality case last week.

Competition for taxis: Does a court test lie ahead in Little Rock as in Texas?

Can Uber and Lyft find a way to provide ride-sharing in New York and San Francisco, but not backwaters like Little Rock. If City Director Joan Adcock has anything to do with it, the answer for Little Rock is no.

Nate Powell's 'March: Book Two' cover released

"March: Book One," the best-selling collaboration between North Little Rock native Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin, was one of 2013's best-received graphic novels, and today the publisher revealed the cover for "Book Two," set to be released early next year.

Today's video and an open line

The week has begun. The line for public comment is open. And you can catch a video recap here. Plus, we respond to a Tom Cotton debate challenge with a challenge of our own.

Whose trees these are they think they'll know

St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church, a historic congregation at 1622 Marshall Street, has had problems with beautification projects.

Rural superintendents tell legislators to allow schools to access state fiber optic network

More from the ongoing lobbying battle between Internet providers and a coalition of education and business interests that wants to create a public/private partnership for expanded K-12 broadband.

Obama administration: Marijuana is states rights issue

The Obama administration says Congress shouldn't meddle in Washington, D.C.,'s move to decriminalize marijuana. It's a states rights issue, the administration says. And that's a touchy subject.

Highway money vote presents a choice for Tom Cotton

Legislation to shore up the federal highway construction fund is heading to a vote today. A bipartisan compromise is opposed by conservative groups that so happen to be major supporters of U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

Dumping the homeless adds to shelters' scramble

Marci Manley at KARK/Fox 16 had produced a report on the difficult and usually unseen world of caring for the homeless. It includes video of patients being dumped unannounced on shelter doorsteps.

A setback for Lyft ride-sharing in St. Louis

The ride-sharing service Lyft (a cell phone age alternative to taxis) has lost a court battle in St. Louis to be exempt from that city's taxi regulation.

Mike Ross proposes crime-fighting plan

Mike Ross, the Democratic candidate for governor, presented a crime plan today. It includes a strong element aimed at domestic violence, an appeal to female voters often forgotten in Republican campaigning.

New video from Lo Thraxx, 'Royale With Cheese'

We can all breathe easier knowing Lo Thraxx has a new mixtape on the way, the very well titled "$harkansas: The Cool Wave," and here is a kind of single, featuring a "Pulp Fiction" sample and lines like "I am Arkansas."

The failure of tax cutting as economic stimulus

Arkansas gubernatorial candidates tout competing tax cut plans as tickets to prosperity. They're wrong, Ernest Dumas writes, just as Ronald Reagan and other states have been wrong before them.

A Q&A with Jason Wiest, the new host of KABF's 'Big Gay Radio Show'

Jason Wiest was announced on June 23rd as the new host of KABF’s “Big Gay Radio Show,” which is the state’s only LBGT-specific programming. Weist is a man of many hats: his nine to five hustle is as Governor Beebe’s speechwriter, but on Friday nights you can find him at Sway, the downtown gay club he owns and operates (perhaps you recall his cameo in the recent feature on the House of Avalon).

12th National Drawing Invitational: A digital preview

A special Arkansas Arts Center website acts as catalog to the "12th National Drawing Invitational" that opens Friday, and its essays, first-person artist statements and images are a wonderful introduction to the exhibition.

Liquor stores power opposition to Faulkner County wet campaign

Liquor dealers in neighboring counties have contributed $200,000 so far to fight a wet-dry election in dry Faulkner County.

Who's got the money? Ross and Hutchinson both have plenty

Democrat Mike Ross outraised Republican Asa Hutchinson by a bit in June, but both have more than $1 million on hand.

Fowler family gives $2.5 million to UA for baseball-track building; history center gets $35,000

Gifts to the University of Arkansas announced this week include $2.5 million from the Fowler family of Jonesboro for a baseball and track workout bulding and $35,000 from state legislators for a center on oral history.

Arkansan supercharges Koch Super PAC with $500,000

Poultry magnate Ron Cameron of Little Rock, long an associate of the Koch brothers and big contributor to conservative political causes, has answered their call for contributions to their new Super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund.

Video news headlines and the open line

We'll start today's open line with our video news headlines roundup.

Statewide alcohol campaign files, reveals little

David Couch, attorney for Let Arkansas Decide, provided the ethics form filed today by the committee, which has submitted petitions to the secretary of state to call a statewide election on a constitutional amendment to allow alcohol sales in every county. The campaign filing reveals precious little.

New teacher insurance rates to be announced July 29th

The latest on public school employee insurance woes: the task force looks at bigger-picture fixes and EBD says premiums will be announced on July 29th.

Cheers & Jeers: From Boulevard to Brunelle

Another chance for me to round up all the many meals that have made their way into my belly recently…here is Cheers & Jeers. I’ve had several meals worth mentioning around Little Rock with many folks doing great things that deserve telling. Here we go.

Ross draws national attention for domestic violence plan

When Mike Ross announced a crime plan Tuesday, his campaign emphasized a portion focusing on domestic violence

Trouble brewing on minimum wage proposal?

Democrats are watching anxiously as the secretary of state's office checks signatures on petitions for a law to raise the minimum wage. No word yet if the petitions will be cleared, though they were filed nine days ago.

Democratic ad buy emphasizes Tom Cotton's class warfare for rich

The Democratic Party has made a big ad buy emphasizing Tom Cotton's private meetings with wealthy Republican donors. Will class envy pay off for Democrats? Or is it better to focus on the policies they purchase? The ad tries a bit of both.

New restaurant planned for Main Street by Cheers owner

Chris Tanner, owner of the popular Cheers restaurant in the Heights, hasn't gotten back to me on details but the town is awash with news that he's firmed up plans to open a new restaurant at Fourth and Main Street.

A vote for women's reproductive rights — and Mark Pryor supports it

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor has issued a statement supportive of legislation to guarantee contraceptive coverage for women insurance by group health insurance from for-profit employers. It might not come to a vote, however, given Republican opposition.

Pulaski jailer arrested for sexual assault of prisoner

The Pulaski County sheriff's office said county Detention Deputy Joseph Conner was arrested Tuesday afternoon for third-degree sexual assault on a female prisoner.

Baton Rouge more enlightened than Little Rock?

The Baton Rouge council is considering an anti-discrmination ordinance to protect gay citizens. Little Rock on human rights? Silence.

Tom Cotton Class Warfare Edition, with Reggie Gold and The Coasts

Reggie Gold is another member of the local Young Gods of America collective worth paying attention to — this song appeared two days ago and has a weird, eerie Danny Elfman energy. He's also really great at Twitter, where he says things like, "i have flashbacks of ancient memories all through out the day..they be of the most vivid dreams."

Phew — minimum wage petitions barely meet initial test

The secretary of state's office has announced that the petition campaign for an increase in the state minimum wage HAS met the minimum on raw signatures to qualify for the validation process. There wasn't a lot of breathing room.

Texarkana gets some news competition

Just got a link today to a promising addition to news coverage in the Texarkana area. The website looks like a straight-ahead news source, with a home page long today on police items.

Little Rock cops to be out in force for showing of 'Hunger Games' at Movies in the Park

Little Rock police will be out in force tonight at Movies in the Park because some random gunshots were fired near the free movie series last week.

Plaintiffs ask for summary judgment in federal challenge of Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage

Plaintiffs in same-sex marriage ban ask federal judge today for a summary judgment that the ban is unconstitutional.

Today's video headlines, a blast at Tom Cotton and an open line

Today's video news hlghlights plus an open line.

The Top 10 Pizzas in Little Rock

It comes in a nearly endless number of styles, but no matter how you slice it, pizza remains one of the most wonderful things to ever come out of an oven. Everyone has their favorite and most of us were trained to love this stuff from a very young age. Folks will defend their favorite pizza joint until the bitter end, and Little Rock pizza lovers are no different. But some pizza joints remain popular for good reason. They rise above all others…the upper crust of Little Rock pizza. Here are our favorite pizzas in Little Rock.

The 'State of the Art' Four: Salvest, Martin, Bell, Lopez

"State of the Art" coming to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in September will feature more than 200 works by 102 artists selected by museum President Don Bacigalupi and assistant curator Chad Alligood, including work by painter Guy Bell, ceramicist Linda Lopez, printmaker Delita Martin and conceptual artist John Salvest, all of Arkansas.