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Best of cities, worst of cities

Best of cities, worst of cities

July 19, 2018

Vol 44 • No 46

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Little Rock, cut low

The capital city lands on a ranking of the worst cities in the country.

A deeper dive into a wider 30

A look at ARDOT's environmental report.

Viva cassettes!

Joey Lucas of Little Rock's Sleepcvlt talks tapes.

Satia Spencer & Friends at Wildwood

Elephantom at Stickyz and other things to do.


In 'Leave No Trace,' exile's not for everyone.

Inconsequential News Quiz: The Best Republican Money Can Buy Edition

Play at home, while praying for the profoundly unhappy souls of Merkin Fork, Ark.

Suit seeks to block ballot measure

A lawsuit was filed last week in Pulaski County Circuit Court saying Issue 1, proposed by the legislature, should be removed from the November ballot because it unconstitutionally proposes four separate constitutional amendments to voters in one ballot measure.

7s and 2s

When you consider that about one-sixth of the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision coaching jobs turned over for the 2018 season, it is not that surprising that Chad Morris' ascendancy to the job in Fayetteville has been somewhat beneath the proverbial radar.

Big Dam Horns boogie at Four Quarter

Modest Mouse at the AMP, Joywave at Stickyz


The highway department held a "public hearing" on July 12 at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock about revised plans for Interstate 30 expansion. The options were called "action alternatives."


It's almost proverbial to say that every bully is a coward at heart. But that's wishful thinking. In politics, many strongmen are like Vladimir Putin: ruthless, cunning and sadistic. As the world witnessed in Helsinki, a posturing blowhard like Donald Trump is simply no match for the Russian dictator.

Field trip

After plentiful false starts and failures, "We'll do it next year" years and "Screw it, let's go to the beach" years and years when the financial situation around The Observatory conspired against Yours Truly and our inky wretch's salary, The Observer and Co. are finally going to make it to Washington, D.C.

The Root's the rage

Just like Grandma's house — if your grandma is Michael Pollan.

Party with the stars

At Best of Arkansas: Hollywood Nights.

The Malvern connection

If you read the daily newspaper or the Arkansas Blog you might have seen reporting on activities of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.

Taking the widow's mite

No sense of decency

July 16 had all the attributes of the day when Donald Trump approached that "tide in the affairs of men" where they take the fateful step that leads on to either good fortune in life or misery. Good fortune, you sense, is not going to be the outcome this time.

The latest in Trump: The word 'traitor' gains currency

The New York Times has finally moved from Hillary Clinton's e-mails to Russian election interference with energy it should have deployed during the presidential campaign.

Which Republican are you going to choose for Arkansas Supreme Court?

Arkansas voters have a difficult choice in the race in November for Supreme Court justice — incumbent Courtney Goodson or David Sterling, who's using a state job at DHS (wouldn't you like to see his leave records) to run for the office by making the rounds of Republican gatherings. Goodson has her own Republican ties.

More Republicans feel heat on GOP tax deadbeat

Three weeks too late, Republican Rep. Charlie Collins has announced that his Republican colleague, Rep. Mickey Gates of Hot Springs, should resign from the House and quit the race for re-election because of six pending counts of felony failure to pay state income taxes. Gates, you remember, hasn't paid state taxes for 15 years and has deadbeat the state on withholding payments, too.

Batesville schools prepare to arm up

Batesville is the latest in what is likely to be a long list of school districts opting to put more guns on campus in the hands of staff members who've undergone a state training course. KARK reports.

Judge won't back effort to stop demolition of bridge at Clarendon

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that a deadline to work out a deal to save the abandoned U.S. 79 bridge at Clarendon had passed with no deal between preservationists and the state. It was no surprise.

KATV report: A web of financial woes for hotel owner, political player

KATV reports on financial troubles building for Gary Gibbs and his businesses, including a hotel in Hot Springs and a resort in Desha County. The article reports also on a complaint filed by a prosecutor against Gibbs, who's been a political player in the past.

Correction Board heeds governor, fires Community Correction director for seeking to increase budget

The state Board of Correction has voted to fire Sheila Sharp as Community Correction director. Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanted a change, apparently because Sharp didn't want to cut the budget enough. She said the cuts he wanted endanger public safety.

Change in today's I-630 hearing; plaintiffs hope for delay in bridge demolition: UPDATE: Bridge to come down

A federal case concerning the lawsuit filed yesterday to stop the Interstate 630 widening project has been transferred to federal Judge Jay Moody and the hearing scheduled today was moved to 2:45 p.m

Troubled bridges and other news on Thursday's open line

Bridges over water and a controversial Interstate project are among the headlines today on our daily roundup of news and comment. Here's the open line.

Corruption probe nets another guilty plea, implicates another senator

Jerry Walsh, 72, who ran the now-defunct South Arkansas Youth Services, has pleaded guilty to paying $120,000 to an unnamed Arkansas state senator in return for action favorable to the agency, Walsh and others.He pleaded guilty today in federal court in El Dorado. The scheme altogether diverted $380,000 in public money.

17 dead in duck boat sinking in Table Rock Lake storm

Thirteen are dead and four missing after another duck boat calamity, this one on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo.

Cover jinx? A bad night in Little Rock if you're counting

How bad is Little Rock? Not so bad our cover story this week makes clear. But bad stuff happens even in lovely Little Rock.

ICYMI: Lamoureux's response to latest corruption plea

In case you missed it: Former Sen. Michael Lamoureux provided an e-mail response to the latest guilty plea in the sprawling public corruption probe that has so far netted five former legislators.

Griffen asks for broadcast of judicial discipline proceeding

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, through his lawyer Michael Laux, has asked for broadcast of proceedings by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission about ethics charges brought against him.

Arkansas unemployment rate steady at 3.8 percent

The Arkansas unemployment rate in June was 3.8 percent in June, the same as in May. The workforce declined by 1,348 jobs.

Study: Democrats less inclined to cheat on spouses

The Guardian reports on social science research using hacked data from the Ashley Madison adultery website and voter data from five states that concludes Democrats are less inclined to cheat on their spouses than Republicans. Josh Duggar anyone?

Judge refuses to lift hold on state anti-abortion law

Federal Judge Kristine Baker today denied the state's attempt to lift her preliminary order stopping enforcement of a state law aimed at putting medicine abortion providers out of business.

TGIF and the news roundup

Here's your open line, plus the headline/comment roundup.

Less Cowbell: Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult at Magic Springs

A dozen years or so separated visits to the Timberwood Amphitheater for me and my son. But one thought was the same, and at the same time reminded me that a dozen years of watching your kid grow up flies by like a flash. That thought: Man, I wish Little Rock had an outdoor music site like this.

Tucker hits Hill on vote against election security measure

State Rep. Clarke Tucker, the Democratic opposing Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill criticizes Hill for opposing legislation to increase spending on election security measures.

The Corruption Scandal Gets Bigger Edition

A new guilty plea in the seemingly ever-expanding public corruption scandal, the state Board of Corrections voting to fire the director of the parole and probations division and a lawsuit aimed at halting I-630 expansion.

For Sarah Sanders, loyalty to Trump is more important than truth

Megan Garber of The Atlantic blisters Sarah Huckabee Sanders for her devotion to Donald Trump over truth in a lengthy essay.

Another ranking, another low score for Arkansas as a place to do business

Another ranking is out with a bad finish for Arkansas. But remember, as Lindsey Millar's cover story this week tells us, these statistical mashups don't mean much, except, perhaps, that they might contribute to perceptions by others.

EPA sues over 2013 oil spill near Magnolia

The oil spill many probably never heard about — far bigger than the Mayflower pipeline rupture — has now led to a federal lawsuit against the owner of the operation in Magnolia where the spill occurred.

Winds, race and an open line

The open line includes power outages, Republicans and racism.

University pay ranking puts UA System chief at 57

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released its survey of pay of top public and private university leaders in 2016-17. Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, checked in at No. 57 on the list of 251 public university leaders.

The Mondo Trumpe open line

A world of the dogs? Check out Trump's latest poll ratings.

Trump Tweets threat to Iran

Donald Trump declared a Twitter war on Iran Sunday night. He's angry about the FISA warrant information, too, which didn't help his cause.

Lies, damn lies and statistics: The school score edition

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's veteran education reporter, Cynthia Howell, reported this morning on public school adjustment to the third year of using a new standardized test for judging school performance. A key factor was missing in the discussion.

Cabot woman a $1 million lottery winner

Bridget Putt of Cabot has won $1 million in the Arkansas Lottery's Play It Again drawing.

Monday's open line

A slow start to to the week. Here's the open line.

I-630 hearing underway UPDATE

A hearing is underway in federal court on a motion for a temporary restraining order to halt work on an Interstate 630 widening project in Little Rock until a lawsuit can be tried arguing the project didn't have a necessary environmental impact assessment. Update: No decision today.

Life after Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House. Hurry the day.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she has no plans to depart but Politico reports that a list of potential replacements is shaping up for Donald Trump's press secretary. After her performance yesterday, it can't come too soon.

Decision today on I-630 lawsuit

As I mentioned last night, Judge Jay Moody will announce today whether he'll grant a temporary restraining order on the lawsuit arguing the Arkansas Department of Transportation should have performed an environmental assessment before undertaking an $87 million, 2.5-mile widening of Interstate 630. Barry Haas, a civic activist of long-standing, observed events and provided a report to me on yesterday's hearing.

Woo Pig! Athletics dominate round of pay raises at UA

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees recently approved a round of campus pay raises in excess of line-item maximums allowed by law and, as ever, attention was focused on athletics at the Fayetteville campus.

Trump plans $12 billion in farmer welfare payments to offset tariff damage

The Washington Post says Trump plans $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers to offset damage done by his trade war.

An early open line

An early open line and an early headline roundup because I've got some things to do this afternoon.

Rock the Culture podcast is back for its second season with 'Almost Viral'

Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the Murphy Arts District Music Festival, Rogerick Talley’s allegations that he was framed by LRPD, and the lawsuit to suspend the expansion of Interstate 630. They also discuss the impact of the death penalty with Furonda Brasfield, the Executive Director of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Judge Moody denies request to stop I-630 widening project

Federal Judge James Moody Jr. today emailed the parties in the lawsuit over the widening of Interstate 630 that he was denying plaintiffs' request for a temporary injunction.

Study examines feasibility of UA Little Rock football program

Getting a football program off the ground would require the university's athletics expenditures to more than double, the report said — and that may be a lowball figure.

DHS shifts six Preferred Family Healthcare contracts to other providers

DHS said the contracts will be temporarily transitioned to three other behavioral providers: Northeast Arkansas Community Mental Health Center, Ozark Guidance, and Counseling Associates.

Rapert critic convicted of filing false police report

Stephan Ferry, a critic of Sen. Jason Rapert who was charged on a complaint by Rapert with filing a false police report, was convicted of the charge Tuesday in District Court in Conway and sentenced to 30 days in jail. He said he would appeal.

The battle in Washington County: The women step up

I'll be out of pocket this morning, driving back from Fayetteville, where I talked last night with the Democratic Women of Washington County. Denise Garner is just one of the gang of women (and a few good men) who've stepped up to challenge the Republican political order in the Northwest corner of the state.

Richard Linklater, Jeff Nichols, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen in Little Rock for Arkansas Cinema Society's "Filmland"

Richard Linklater, Christina and David Arquette, Phoenix, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and more are on Arkansas Cinema Society's star-studded lineup for “Filmland,” its annual film festival, set Aug. 23-26.

Study: More voters purged from rolls nationwide since Voting Rights Act rollback

Nationwide, "almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008," the Brennan Center report states. That's an increase of 33 percent in the number of removed voters. By contrast, the increase in the number of total registered voters was 18 percent.

Report: Arkansas shows sluggish growth

Since Gov. Asa Hutchinson seems to be pinning a lot of his campaign on the robust Arkansas economy he's created, it's worth noting this from the Arkansas Economist on GDP growth in Arkansas. It has lagged since he was elected in 2014.

Here comes the business lobby to preserve the end of your right to jury trial

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce — or more precisely its director Randy Zook as head of the chamber puppet pro-Issue One committee — filed a motion today to intervene in the lawsuit that says the amendment should be removed from the ballot for unconstitutionally offering up four separate amendments rather than a single issue and upending the balance of power of Arkansas government.

Midweek: The open line and resistance report

The Wednesday open line and news headlines and comment after a trip to the resistance front line in Washington County.

Three plead to defrauding government surplus property program

The U.S. attorney's office said today that three Little Rock men had pleaded guilty to making more than $1 million by defrauding a program meant to help distressed businesses.

Dispensary applicants to be scored by third party, marijuana commission decides

Commissioners Stephen Carroll, James Miller and Ronda Henry-Tillman (the chair) voted in favor of using the independent consultant. Commissioners Carlos Roman and Travis Story voted against it.

Casino petitioners get more time for signatures

The secretary of state's office says the initial group of petitions for a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling fell short, but the group has 30 more days to meet the requirement.