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October 18, 2018

Vol 45 • No 7

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The legacy of the 1992 'Save the River Parks' campaign

If not for an unlikely assortment of activists, lawyers and a poultry magnate, a highway in Riverdale would have prevented the Big Dam Bridge from being built.

Space Cowboy

Stoicism is survival in ‘First Man.’

The mob

To hear some people tell it, America stands at the edge of a dangerous precipice. No less an authority than Donald J. Trump, the nation's leading exponent of racial grievance theory, fears for the safety of the republic.

More cut from insurance rolls

Plus, police misdeeds chronicled and more.

The ABCs of Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

27 years of the HSDFF! 26 letters in the alphabet! You get the gist! We don't have much space, so let's go.

Elizabeth Warren, still a contender

Here we go again. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) just released a video addressing her belief she was a descendant of one of the tribes of indigenous people of the Americas, also known as Native Americans.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Giblet wrasslin' Edition

Play at home while sorting through all the stuff you ripped off from the cops!

Vincent Tolliver: running a 'people's campaign

The Little Rock mayoral candidate wants to move Little Rock's City Hall away from operating like a 'private club.'

Red Octopus presents "Straight Outta Coffin"

And more.

In the news. Or not.

Some recent news, not all fit for immediate print in the state's largest newspaper.

The Arkansas Republican Supreme Court

Fair to middlin'

The Observer and Spouse got out to the Arkansas State Fair the other evening thanks to a couple of free tickets and a parking pass we'd scored, the latter helping us bypass the $10 parking fee they're now instituting just to get in the gate.

Good stories

I frequently disagree with the extremes of your politics. I do usually enjoy your columnists' positions if for no other reason than simply to read another opinion on an issue. Further, I am often impressed with the width and breath of some of your investigative articles.

In 'Dracula,' Ballet Arkansas shows its fangs

A pirouette, with teeth.

First hop at frog legs

Flying Fish has 'em, and they're good.

Brooke Miller comes to The Joint

And more!

Such good news

Health care has moved to the top of people's concerns this election year even as the "good" news keeps coming. The question is, how much more good news can people stand?

Hog farm gets a reprieve in Newton County circuit court

Richard H. Mays, attorney for groups attempting to stop operation of the C and H Hog Farm in the Buffalo River watershed, reports that Newton County Circuit Judge John Putman issued an order yesterday that will allow the hog feeding operation to continue despite the state's intent to deny a permit for disposal of liquid hog waste.

The truth about French Hill: On health care and Hollywood money

A couple of points today on the dishonest campaign Republican Rep. French Hill is waging for re-election to 2nd District Congress.

Are there no limits on the Arkansas Supreme Court?

Mike Laux, attorney for Wendell Griffen in his action challenging Arkansas Supreme Court action against the judge following his ruling in a case over ownership of drugs used in executions, has responded succinctly to a Supreme Court announced yesterday that its members would contest an ethical finding against them in the Griffen case:

Supreme Court upholds removal of Issue One from the ballot; clears minimum wage proposal

The Arkansas Supreme Court dealt the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce two major defeats today. 1) It upheld a lower court ruling striking Issue One, the lawsuit limit and court takeover amendment, from the ballot. 2) It declined a petition signature challenge against the proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Mike Lee continues to attack Leslie Rutledge on opioid plan

Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, continues to attack Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for not fighting hard enough against opioid manufacturers.

And speaking of lowdown advertising, here comes more opaque Republican money against Courtney Goodson

More money coming from the opaque Republican State Leadership Committee's judicial election effort in support of David Sterling, the Republican candidate attempting to unseat Justice Courtney Goodson from her nonpartisan Supreme Court seat.

Thursday: News roundup and open line

Get your headlines and comment here. Also the open line.

More hits coming for LRPD drug raids

Here's a taste of more to come from Radley Balko, the Washington Post writer who's already unloaded one damaging report on the dubious activities of the Little Rock police drug raid team. Unproductive no-knock raids, innocent victims, unnecessary dangerous tactics, disproportionate focus on minorities.

Suspension bridge reopened after inspection

The suspension bridge in Carroll County that became infamous thanks to a video of it sagging under an overweight load, has reopened to traffic (10-ton limit). So says the Department of Transportation, which had closed it for more inspection.

Feds get four guilty pleas in multi-million-dollar prescription drug kickback scheme

The U.S. attorney in Little Rock has announced four guilty pleas in a kickback scheme involving drug prescriptions covered by TRICARE, the military health insurer.

The slime gets deep in the race for 2nd District UPDATE

Whoa. A conservative group claiming to be representative of black people supporting Donald Trump has bought radio advertising on black-oriented stations in Little Rock to help Republican Rep. French Hill.

A price tag on Alice Walton's contributions to school choice

Mercedes Schneider, a public school advocate and blogger in Louisiana, decided to do a 50-state check on billionaire Alice Walton's spending on education politics. A 50-state check turned up more than $17 million in spending on her voucher/charter/public school dollar control agenda.

And speaking of education politics: Rally for schools set this weekend

Speaking of politics and education: The Arkansas Public Policy Panel sent word of a public school rally Saturday at the Capitol backed by the Arkansas Education Association. It's a warmup for the 2019 legislative session.

Former candidate/wife of current Monticello candidate charged in murder plot

Seark Today has an intriguing story though lacking in all the details just yet about a murder conspiracy involving a former political candidate:

French Hill and the truth: He flunks four-way test

Amid a spate of dishonest advertising in support of his re-election campaign, Republican Rep. French Hill led the downtown Rotary Club this week in recitation of Rotary's four-way test. The Hill campaign is failing it.

Trump cheers criminal assault on reporter

Did I miss coverage of this in the morning paper? Donald Trump, at a rally in Montana, praised Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte's criminal assault on a news reporter to raucous cheers. None dare call them a mob.

Unemployment rate continues drop to new low

The Arkansas unemployment rate in September was 3.5 percent, down from 3.6 percent the month before. It's a historic low.

New episode of Out in Arkansas: 'T & A Talk'

Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen talk about all the things...winter rescue, being know, all the things. Thank you for listening!

Mafia pic "Arkansas" to star Vince Vaughn, Liam Hemsworth

Glenwood, Arkansas native and actor Clark Duke is slated to write and direct "Arkansas," a new film starring Duke himself alongside Vince Vaughn and Liam Hensworth.

Term limits amendment is dead, Arkansas Supreme Court rules

A new term limits proposal will not make the fall ballot, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled today in a split decision.

Another made-up Republican attack: The Saline County socialists are coming to take your business

The latest in bogus Republican political attacks comes from Saline County, where Steve Lux, chairman of the county Republican Committee, has sent a letter warning members of the Benton-Bryant Chamber of Commerce that a progressive group working to elect Democrats in the county is allied with a socialist group that wants nothing less than "the elimination of private business." This is, of course, nonsense.

Rich white people fund PAC behind racist attack ads supporting French Hill UPDATE

More reporting on the people contributing to Black Americans for the President's Agenda, which is running racist ads in Little Rock in support of Republican Rep. French Hill. The money isn't coming from black Americans, but wealthy conservative Republicans such as an owner of the San Francisco Giants. GOP feeling heat, files ethics complaint on ad.

TGIF: News roundup, open line

The week-ending news roundup and open line.

No Small Talk, Ep. 30: "Tampopo"

This week, we talk arts news and peer into the brothy underbelly of Juzo Itami's ramen western "Tampopo," the next film in our Arkansas Times Film Series.

The Greedy on Issue 1 Edition

Max and Lindsey talk about the nixing of Issue 1 from ballots, the removal of another 4,000 from Medicaid rolls because of a new work requirement rule and new reporting on Little Rock police abuse and bad behavior.

Truth in state contracting an issue in $342 million computer deal

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Andy Davis reported today on a huge piece of state business I'd been following — A $342 million seven-year contract the Human Services Department has decided to award to Deloitte Consulting to manage Medicaid and other welfare benefit enrollment over seven years. The cost, after post-award negotiations, is about $95 million higher than Deloitte's original bid.

San Francisco Giants respond to owner's contribution to racist ad for French HIll

The San Francisco Giants baseball team has issued a statement distancing itself from owner Charles Johnson's contribution to a racist ad running on black radio stations in Arkansas in support of Republican Rep. French Hill.

Clarke Tucker to French Hill: Where is the decency?

Speaking of campaign advertising: Clarke Tucker, the Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress, has issued his toughest TV yet against Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill.

Judicial election watchdog blasts ads targeting Justice Courtney Goodson

A volunteer group established to police campaigns for judicial elections is blasting a Republican group's advertising aimed at supporting David Sterling's attempt to unseat Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

More criticism of Little Rock police no-knock drug raids

Radley Balko of the Washington Post has written at length about the legal issues underlying whether Little Rock police have been acting constitutionally in no-knock drug raids (never mind that they have often come up empty-handed, relied on a liar and disproportionately busted black people.)

The good news/bad news open line: Tom Cotton edition

Here's the open line and what I'd call a good news/bad news mention of  Republican U.S. Senator Tom Cotton in today's New York Times.

Trump administration's expanded attack on transgender people

If you don't like something, define it out of existence. The latest from the Trump administration:

Blue wave in Arkansas? Not even a ripple in sight.

The Washington Post has assembled a graphic look at the chances for Democrats to pick up state legislative seats around the U.S. Spoiler: Little hope in Arkansas.

Sunday's open line, plus a quiet boast over Jason Rapert's endorsement

The open line includes a plug for the Arkansas Blog from none other than Jason Rapert.

Early voting begins today

Early voting begins today. Stakes are high.

City Board won't vote on action against candidate who registered outside ward

Ward 2 Little Rock City Director Ken Richardson tells me there will be no special meeting on City Attorney Tom Carpenter's finding that another candidate for Ward 2, Valerie Tatum, registered to run from an address outside the ward and thus should be disqualified.

Pulaski deputies fire on fleeing car

Pulaski deputies fired on a vehicle that they said had tried to strike them during an attempt to serve a warrant Sunday night. No one was seriously hurt.

Garland County leaves Susan Inman off election ballot

Talk about vote suppression. The Garland County Election Commission left Susan Inman, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, off the election ballot and early voting began without her as an option.

Trump administration moving to allow more waivers from Medicaid coverage

The Trump administration has issued new guidance on Medicaid today that will give states broader ability to waive Obamacare requirements on health coverage.

Blue Hog Report: On the trail of Laurie Rushing

Back in May, Little Rock lawyer Matt Campbell sued Republican state Rep. Laurie Rushing in North Carolina for defamation for saying that Marine Capt. Thomas Watts had killed his wife and Rushing's daughter, Tara. Tara Watts died of natural causes, the medical examiner said, in 2016. And, so you ask, whatever became of the lawsuit?

Monday: The open line and news roundup

Let the voting and open line comments begin. With the video roundup of news and comment.

John Thurston spends $22,000 on radio ads encouraging property tax payment

State Land Commissioner John Thurston spent $22,000 in October for radio advertising urging people to pay their property taxes.

Our pal, Saudi royalty

How do you feel about this? The Saudis seem happy to tout our treasury secretary chit-chatting with the Crown Prince.

Another prison death reported

Another prison death, this one at Tucker Max.

Johnny Key moves to weaken or end agreement with Little Rock teachers union

Citing low scores on many Little Rock School Distrrict schools' standardized test, State Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who acts as district school board under state control, has rejected a new negotiating agreement with the Little Rock Education Association without a change that appears to allow an end to fair dismissal protection for. teachers at schools with D and F grades.

Teachers respond to state's break from contract agreement

The Little Rock Education Association responded sharply last night to state Education Commissioner Johnny Key's decision to reject a contract agreement with the group so that it will be easier to fire Little Rock School District teachers. "Even murderers receive due process," the teachers union news release said.

The Trumpifying of politics: Nasty nicknames nationally and in Arkansas

Donald Trump-style demeaning nicknames have become the new normal in politics and not just in the U.S., but also in Arkansas. It is not a moment for celebration.

Gender pay gap: Arkansas ranks 30th

The AAUW's annual wage survey ranks Arkansas 30th in the gender pay gap comparing the median income of men and women.

Stepson critically wounded in domestic shooting

Little Rock police say Jibri Rigsby, 25, was critically wounded about  7 p.m. Monday near his home at 9301 Labette Drive.  Patrick Morris, 45, has been charged with first-degree domestic battery. Police said he was Rigsby's stepfather.

New episode of Rock the Culture podcast: 'Unify Our City'

Perspective and conversation about the Washington Post exposé on the Little Rock Police Department’s use of no-knock warrants and a political radio ad alleging that black people should vote republican to avoid being lynched again. Guest: Little Rock Mayoral Candidate Frank Scott.

Little Rock Nine endorse Clarke Tucker for Congress

Ernest Green, speaking for the Little Rock Nine (eight are living), announces here the endorsement of fellow Central High graduate, Democrat Clarke Tucker, for 2nd District Congress.

Bryant mayoral race heats up; Republican Dabbs unhappy about twerking at city pool

A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was filed in Saline Circuit Court today against Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs for the city's failure to fully comply with request for records concerning employee complaints about the mayor.  The back story is rich.

Kurrus, Sabin object to Johnny Key's attack on LR school teachers UPDATE

Baker Kurrus and State Rep. Warwick Sabin, candidates for Little Rock mayor, have jumped in on Education Commissioner Johnny Key's rejection of a teacher contract that doesn't allow firing teachers at will.  Both raise questions about waiving state law as the first means to address school improvement, Kurrus most pointedly, with references to the charter school drain encouraged by Key and the unfairness of singling out Little Rock schools for this. UPDATED WEDNESDAY with Frank Scott comment.

Tuesday: News roundup and open line

Here's the open line. Also today's news and comment.

Jared Henderson calls on Hutchinson administration to stop 'demeaning' teachers

Jared Henderson, the Democratic candidate for governor, has blasted the move by Education Commissioner Johnny Key to weaken job protection for certain Little Rock School District teachers. He says it's of a piece with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's "empty rhetoric" about education.

Ethics Commission to review illegal contribution to Leslie Rutledge

Blue Hog Report says that the Ethics Commission has confirmed it will investigate what appears to be a clear ethics law violation he found in Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's campaign records — a May 21 contribution of $2,700 from the Republican Attorneys General Association eight days before the PAC was registered in the state.

Key seeks to end protections for Little Rock teachers — but only in certain schools

The fair dismissal act would no longer apply to teachers at 22 campuses in Little Rock that recently received a "D" or an "F" grade under a new accountability system. That would create two classes of employees in the LRSD.

Rutledge filing says tax money can't be reclaimed from Ecclesia College UPDATE

Developments in a lawsuit involving Ecclesia College, the Springdale church that received at least $600,000 in questionable taxpayer support and then shipped some back to legislators in a felonious kickback scheme, indicate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge isn't as serious about getting the money back as she once claimed.

Affidavit details murder-for-hire plot in which wife of mayoral candidate is charged

An affidavit for the arrest of Stephanie Rogers of Monticello, a former political candidate and wife of former Mayor Joe Rogers, says she plotted to kill his ex-wife and then Rogers  himself so she could collect on a life insurance policy and inherit his business.

So much wrong in Johnny Key's attack on teacher firing law

So much is wrong about Education Commissioner Johnny Key's move to make it easier to fire select Little Rock School District teachers, but one point that's being overlooked is how easy it already is to fire teachers.

UPDATE: Bombs sent to multiple addresses — of Democrats and CNN — in U.S.

Authorities say a "functioning explosive device" was found this morning in mail sent to Bill and HIllary Clinton's home in Chappaqua, New York Soon after came reports of bombs or suspicious devices directed to many other Democratic mailboxes and also CNN.

Candidate forum stirs controversy over Senate candidate exchange and apology from Democrat UPDATE

A candidate forum in Fayetteville yesterday produced a post-debate exchange between opponents for a state Senate seat — Democrat Greg Leding and Republican Dawn Clemence — that at least one Republican Party employee has called an "assault."

Wednesday: Headlines and the open line

Here's the midweek open line. And headlines and comment.

Public hearing set on medical marijuana

The state Medical Marijuana Commission will hold a public hearing Friday to take comments from the public on the law, not yet implemented just under two years after voter approval. I'm guessing people will have things to say. Public comments haven't been taken at commission meetings.

Police Chief Buckner finalist for Syracuse job

Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner is a finalist for the police chief's job in Syracuse, N.Y., a department spokesman confirmed today.