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Baker Kurrus

Baker Kurrus

August 30, 2018

Vol 44 • No 52

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Baker Kurrus wants to be mayor of a town with stronger neighborhoods, closer connections

A song for you.

Just wild about Saffron

New Indian eatery vying for best in town

Jesus and politics

I'm not claiming Jesus would be a Democrat if he lived in present-day America, but would he support the GOP?

McCain's legacy

Contemplating the heroic life of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), it was easy to think of him as the last true Republican — a politician who thought it his duty to elevate country over party.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Legislators are selfless public servants! edition

Play at home while wiping your eyes from laughing so hard over that title.

Rusty Cranford's tainted contributions

The man in the middle of a massive public corruption probe gave money to dozens of Arkansas lawmakers.

Leslie Rutledge: do not rehire

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge looks like she will survive revelations from her personnel file that she was a very poor public employee a decade ago when she was supposed to be representing children caught up in family troubles.

Tax cuts for the rich

Governor Hutchinson signaled his preferred approach to state taxation and services last week — keep pinching services to provide a tax cut for the rich.

Freddie McGregor comes to Revolution

And much more.

Florence Price stepped across the threshhold of progress

With a broken foot.

A Rowdy Faith comes to The Joint

Also, Chris Jericho and Fozzy come to Rev Room.

QB plans

For his last (presumably) preseason trick on the eve of his first game as Arkansas Razorback football CEO, Chad Morris took one minor storyline out of the mix this week by announcing that 6-foot-7 Louisiana sophomore Cole Kelley would be the Hogs' starting quarterback against Eastern Illinois.

School treasures

Superdelegate demise

It was done so quietly that it would likely have gone unnoticed even without the news cacophony of the Trump White House, but over the weekend the Democratic National Committee took steps that will impact who will win the 2020 nomination.

A transporting installation at UALR, plus Asian expressions of oppression

On "Water Memory" and more.

Dear John

Others having already said anything we could, and much more profoundly, The Observer is reluctant to chime in at this late hour on the passing of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but we find we can't help our damn self.

Jermain Taylor charged with domestic assault

Former champion middleweight boxer Jermain Taylor was arrested again Wednesday for domestic battery. A woman with whom he lives on Azalea Drive in Southwest Little Rock said he knocked her out in an argument.

Guns in schools: Fear, facts and alternative solutions

More guns or counselors? Which is the better course to safer, better schools?

Minimum wage group says poll in their favor

Arkansans for a Fair Wage, the group backing an initiated act to raise the state minimum wage from $8.50/hour to $11 by 2021, says a poll it commissioned shows strong support among Arkansas voters.

Growing free speech concern on Israel boycott law

Led by evangelical legislators, Arkansas joined a couple dozen other states in adopting a law that prohibits the state from doing business with those who "boycott Israel." It's ripe for a lawsuit.

Big River Steel up for sale UPDATE

A metals industry publication says Big River Steel, the startup in Mississippi County aided by millions in taxpayer subsidies and an equity investment from the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, may be sold and potential buyers include Nucor, the competitor with operations in Mississippi County.

Ecclesia College facing foreclosure of state-financed land

A lawsuit has been filed in circuit court in Benton County seeking to foreclose on property owned by Ecclesia College in Springdale that was pledged as collateral on loans by  Centennial Bank. The land includes some $700,000 worth for which the college got state money through the likely unconstitutional and, at times, criminally corrupt General Improvement Fund scam.

Little Rock police chief testifies he's used racial epithets

On two occasions in his out-of-court testimony in lawsuits over the firing of police recruits, Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner acknowledged he'd used racial epithets since he was 16.

Today's headlines and the open line

The news roundup today has lots of court news. Here's the open line.

Judge takes Issue One challenge under advisement

Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce heard arguments for and against keeping Issue One, the lawsuit-limiting amendment, this morning and said he'd rule quickly.

Guy Fieri goes North for a burger?

All the food blogs are buzzing today about The Food Network's Guy Fieri coming to Little Rock and North Little Rock to film episodes for his "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" show.

Ivory Bill sighting in Siloam Springs

Northwest Arkansas craft beer news: On Sept. 15, Casey Letellier and Dorothy Hall will open their new venture, Ivory Bill Brewing, at 516 E. Main St. in Siloam Springs.

Trump cancels federal employee pay raise

Donald Trump has canceled pay raises for 2 million federal employees.

AFL-CIO endorses Mike Lee for attorney general

The AFL-CIO, with some 19,000 Arkansas members, has endorsed Democrat Mike Lee for attorney general

2nd District candidate promises in-person 'town halls'

Clarke Tucker, the Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress, says he won't shy away from public appearances with constituents as Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill has done.

UCA rape charge ends in probation plea bargain

The Log Cabin Democrat in Conway reports that a rape charge filed in 2017 against a UCA student overl sex with an incoherent, drunk woman was plea bargained to a reduced charge and probation under a first-offender statute.

Colleges inflating football game attendance, including UA and ASU

The Wall Street Journal concludes most major colleges, including those in Arkansas, are inflating football game attendance figures.

Starting tomorrow, some Arkansans will lose Medicaid due to work requirement

A group of Arkansas Works beneficiaries are likely to be the first in the history of the Medicaid program, in any state, to be dropped from coverage because of a work requirement.

Aretha Franklin's funeral underway

Aretha Franklin's funeral is underway in Detroit. The service began with a musical tribute from the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir. Former President Bill Clinton is among those expected to speak.

Legislative subcommittee to examine inmate deaths at Varner

The death of five inmates this week at the Varner Unit has prompted state Sen. Joyce Elliott to call a meeting of the legislative subcommittee on correctional institutions that she chairs, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Illicit drugs are suspected as the cause of death. The meeting of the Subcommittee on Charitable, Penal and Correctional Institutions will take place next Tuesday.

State House candidate Gayatri Agnew reveals her secret rock & roll past

Gayatri Agnew of Bentonville, a Democratic candidate for the District 93 seat in northwest Arkansas currently held by Rep. Jim Dotson, revealed on Twitter that she was once a bassist in an all-female grunge band. Dotson, a right-wing graduate of Ecclesia College, has never been in a grunge band, so far as I know.

State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to resign following federal indictment

The indictment alleges that Hutchinson converted more than $200,000 in campaign contributions to his personal use over the period 2010 to 2017.

Democrats respond to Hutchinson indictment

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Henderson released a statement this afternoon in the wake of Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's indictment, with a sharp rebuke of his opponent, the senator's uncle, Governor Asa Hutchinson. Plus statements from other prominent Arkansas Democrats.

Trump jokes Sarah Huckabee Sanders having "a nervous breakdown"

Asked by Bloomberg reporters yesterday whether the late Sen. John McCain would have made a better president than Barack Obama had he won in 2008, President Trump had zero to say.

Democratic congressional candidate Hayden Shamel expresses opposition to measures limiting damages to malpractice victims

Hayden Shamel, a 36-year-old Hot Springs teacher and chair of the Garland County Democratic Party who is running for the 4th District Congressional seat against incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman, issued a statement today expressing opposition to so-called "tort reform" measures in Congress and on the state ballot this November.

Governor's School may move to Tech, and Rapert is hot about it

Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) is vociferously protesting on his Facebook page a committee's choice of Arkansas Tech University in Russellville for the 2019 Arkansas Governor's School instead of Hendrix College in Conway, which has sponsored the program for rising seniors since its inception 38 years ago.

Open line

Over to you.

It's official: Jeremy Hutchinson issues resignation letter

The letter arrived to the governor's office late this afternoon.

Wanna work for the state AND boycott Israel?

The ACLU of Arkansas is looking for plaintiffs to sue over a law that requires state employees and contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel.

Saturday open line

Fire it up.

Mollie Tibbetts' father rejects use of her death against immigrants

Rob Tibbetts, father of Mollie Tibbetts, the Iowa college student whose slaying has been employed by Donald Trump's anti-immigration campaign, wrote a powerful op-ed this weekend for the Des Moines Register asking that her death not be used to advance racist views.

Razorbacks, Red Wolves win. But what was the score on attendance?

The Razorbacks dined on cupcake Eastern Illinois to open the football season with a 55-20 win on a blistering hot day Saturday in Fayetteville and they announced the crowd at more than 63,000. in the newly expanded Razorback Stadium, which can seat 76,000. Was that the actual attendance?

Cliff Baker hospitalized in N.Y.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre founder Cliff Fannin Baker collapsed Monday, Aug. 27, while at a workshop in New York and has been hospitalized with an intercranial brain hemorrhage, a news release issued today by The Rep's board chair, Ruth Shepherd, says.

The open line: duck and cover

Guns and more guns. The open line

The underbelly of Arkansas politics revealed in unsealed text messages

Federal Judge Timothy Brooks last week unsealed more than 500 pages of information filed in the trial that convicted former Sen. Jon Woods of taking kickbacks from government money sent to Ecclesia College. Despite many redactions, it is a mother lode for insight to the seamy underbelly of the Arkansas legislature. Vote trading, lobbyist gift-making, medical marijuana plotting and more.

Hutchinson reference, secret tape, Woods' proffer detailed in newly released documents

Still more new stuff from Jon Woods trial documents — more dirty legislators and a lawyer's attempt to get Jon Woods to tell the truth apparently led to a change of lawyers.

CNN on 2nd District race: Clinton, Trump, the black vote among the keys

CNN's Dan Merica has taken a long lookat the race for 2nd District Congress, with a focus on distance being put between Democrat Clarke Tucker and Republican incumbent French Hill and two presidents, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively.

More from federal court: A Lamoureux appearance in money trail and report of a Woods bribe offer

Here's more reading in corrupt Arkansas politics. It includes a succinct statement of crimes the feds were investigating against Jon Woods, not all of them ultimately presented in court. The document brings others uncharged into the picture, such as former Sen. Michael Lamoureux, who served for a time as Gov. Asa Hutchinson's chief of staff and is now a lobbyist. It outlines another new bribe allegation against Woods that didn't result in a charge.

Here's a Jon Woods mystery for tonight's open line

In the federal court document dump last week in the Jon Woods case there was also an order issued by federal Judge Timothy Brooks about documents filed under seal, described in the docket entry above and including a cooperation agreement. What does it mean?

Permit holder faces gun charge

A concealed carry permit holder was arrested Sunday in Greenwood for pointing her Glock at some middle school kids. KFSM reports.

Kaepernick deal with Nike ignites new rage

Burn, baby, burn. Nike ignites the Kaepernick critics

Here's the count on the UA football game Saturday

The University of Arkansas has responded to my request for a count on scanned tickets Saturday at the Razorback's football opener against Eastern Illinois. I've been less successful so far in getting information from Arkansas State University.

Mike Lee makes ethics complaint against Jeremy Hutchinson

Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, today will file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission against former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson for using campaign money for personal expenses, as a federal indictment alleges.

Bob Woodward's Trump book should provoke a Tweet storm. 'Crazytown'

The Washington Post gets an advance look at Bob Woodward's book on Donald Trump and it describes a "nervous breakdown" of the presidency. Trump should be in high Twitter gear soon.

Windgate awards $1 million to UA Pulaski Tech

The Windgate Foundation of Siloam Springs, which supports college education across Arkansas, has awarded a grant of $1 million to UA Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock to endow the Windgate Foundation General Scholarship.

Woman's death in home declared a homicide

Little Rock police say they are investigating the death Sunday of Margaret Clevenger, 56, in her home on Old Forge Court, as a homicide. No arrests have been made.

Tuesday: From burgeoning public corruption to the 'Crazytown' White House

The open line and today's video, with news and comment ranging from "Crazytown" (the Trump White House) to the festering cesspool of the Arkansas Capitol.

Corporate interests sue to kill minimum wage increase

As promised, major corporate interests have sued to knock a minimum wage increase from the November ballot.

State Farm pays $250 million to settle lawsuit over judicial politicking

State Farm will pay $250 million to settle a lawsuit that said the big insurance company tried to rig the Illinois justice system to overturn a $1 billion jury verdict on use of non-manufacturer parts in car crash claims.

Bonus episode of Rock the Culture podcast: 'We Are They'

In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles have a special Labor Day Conversation with author and entrepreneur Mario Settles, the founder of TrukPlease. They discuss his new business, the entrepreneurial mindset, and becoming who you expected others to be.

Legislature takes up prison drug deaths

A legislative committee heard from Correction Department officials today on a recent spate of deaths in the Varner Unit presumed to be related to illegal drugs, perhaps the synthetic drug known as K2.

Arkansas Baptist College announces new leadership

Arkansas Baptist College has issued a news release, posted on KTHV, announcing new leadership for the college, which has had a series of financial struggles.

Arkansas connection leads to evidence in potential Tennessee hate crime

A Murfreesboro, Tenn., newspaper reports a purported Arkansas white supremacist connection led authorities to find a letter a Tennessee jail inmate had written saying he'd doused a black man with lighter fluid and burned him to death.

Little Rock police making strides in racial diversity

A report to the Little Rock City Board shows some geographic and racial diversity in the latest class of police recruits.

City revenue not meeting growth expectations

Here's an issue of discussion for the Little Rock mayor's race and those for city board seats: Low growth in tax revenue.

State tax revenue running ahead of last year

Two months into a new fiscal year, Arkansas tax revenue is running comfortably ahead of last year.

Today: Leslie Rutledge goes to court to take away sick people's insurance UPDATE

Federal court arguments begin today in Texas on a lawsuit aiming to kill the Affordable Care Act and with it required coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, parental coverage of older children and other health-positive requirements of the law, not to mention expanded Medicaid. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is among those attempting to kill the law. That would mean loss health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Arkansans.

Secretary of state certifies casino amendment; backers change logo

The group pushing to expand casino gambling in Arkansas has announced the certification of its ballot petitions by the secretary of state's office.

Little Rock wins in abortion protesters' appeal of arrests

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court finding that the city of Little Rock didn't violate the rights of two abortion protesters by arrests in September 2012 for using loudspeakers in an abortion clinic protest that disturbed neighbors.

A good day to call out corruption

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Henderson has scheduled a news conference this afternoon to talk about government corruption and legislative candidates in Northwest Arkansas are also calling out corruption heavily concentrated in the Republican stronghold of Northwest Arkansas. It is of course timed with the first sentencing today in the Ecclesia College scandal.

Jon Woods' sentencing hearing still underway; points against him stacking up

Sentencing of former Sen. Jon Woods is underway today in federal court in Fayetteville and a stiff sentence seems likely.

The video report and open line

Court news from all over in the video report. Here's the open line.

Bank robbery in downtown Little Rock

KARK reports a bank robbery about 1:30 at the Bank OZK branch at 325 W. Capitol. That is all.

Dueling photo opps: Rulebook editing vs. stronger ethics laws

Dueling photo opps today in the race for governor. Gov. Asa Hutchinson had a photo opp today to tout results of a legislative housecleaning bill to strip agency rulebooks of outdated rules. His Democratic opponent, Jared Henderson, put on display points of his public ethics package.

The resistance inside the Trump administration

From inside the Trump administration, more resistance to the leader.

Losing your insurance? No prob. Grab your iPhone and text DHS

More evidence of the nuttiness of the state’s Medicaid work rules.

UPDATE: Judge hammers Jon Woods with more than 18 years in prison

Federal Judge Timothy Brooks has sentenced former Sen. Jon Woods to 220 months, or more than 18 years in prison and ordered him to make restitution of $1.6 million for masterminding kickback schemes from state money.

Rep founder Cliff Baker dies in New York

Cliff Baker, the founder of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, died today in New York where he'd been hospitalized since last week after a brain aneurysm.