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November 8, 2018

Vol 45 • No 10

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Looking for a hot and a cot in Little Rock

Winter weather in Central Arkansas means people experiencing homelessness have even fewer options for shelter.

Arkansas Blues Crossword Puzzle: An Answer Key

Biscuits and butter knives.

Come to 2nd Friday Art Night

Plus, much more.

An Arkansas blues crossword puzzle

Whether it's the gospel blues, the jump blues, Delta blues, electric blues or otherwise, Arkansas has been a vital incubator for the sound.

Tomorrow, Part 2

So here we are again. It's the morning of Nov. 6, 2018, as The Observer writes this, a cup of coffee going cold on the edge of the desk, Election Day just a flush of light at the edge of the world.

Open letters to Governor Hutchinson and Education Commissioner Johnny Key

My name is Laura Comstock. I grew up in Mountain Home, then moved to Conway and graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2007. Since then, I've worked in the Little Rock School District at Chicot Elementary.

Johnny Key: the solution

Nikki Hill comes to White Water Tavern

Also, Jose Alejandro performs at La Terraza.

On school performance

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key recently announced he intends to ask the state to grant principals the ability to fire teachers, without due process, in what the state considers failing schools. As a parent of a Little Rock School District student, I thought it would be prudent to share my analysis of the data provided by the Arkansas Department of Education

Inconsequential News Quiz: Meat slappin' edition

Play in your car while driving in the rain!

Campaign takeaways

The accident of journalistic deadlines means that as I write this column, having just cast my vote at Dunbar Recreation Center, it's hours before election results begin arriving from across the city, state and nation.

Abbi's tearoom is steeped in warming atmosphere

Tea and empathy.


Among other eccentricities, I do not possess a smartphone and have never wanted one. It's bad enough that I spend my working hours flitting around the internet like an over-caffeinated sparrow without carrying Google in my pocket.

Any better?

The dismissal of Bret Bielema mere minutes after Arkansas Razorbacks' 2017 season finale was neither surprising nor totally unwelcome across the Razorback landscape. Fans had grown weary of what they perceived to be a coach well out of his so-called element, this godforsaken Yankee lummox who couldn't manage tight games and espoused a football philosophy that was completely incongruous with conventional "norms" of the Southeastern Conference.

The conquering power of love

I will always be a sports fan. I will always be a baseball guy. I will always be a lover of radio. But I am much more than that. I will also always be Jewish.

Keith Urban brought in the reserves at Verizon Arena: Larkin Poe, Kelsea Ballerini and Carrie Underwood

Strings and stringers.

12 dead in California bar shooting

Twelve people, including a sheriff's deputy, have been killed and others wounded in a mass shooting in a western dance bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.  The gunman, who is also dead, apparently began shooting randomly, stopping at one point to reload.

Acting attorney general is political partisan whose former employer launched Arkansas political attack

Matthew Whitaker, now the acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions' firing, is a Donald Trump loyalist, a critic of the Mueller investigation and a political partisan whose past includes work for a group that turned up in an Arkansas political race.

Arkansas man arrested for making threats to CNN

Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, of Mountain Home has been arrested for making threatening calls to CNN headquarters. The calls, according to the Baxter Bulletin, included death threats to anchor Don Lemon.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, same-sex marriage foe, defeated in re-election bid

Allow me a moment of schadenfreude: Voters in Rowan County, Ky., voted this week to replace Republican county clerk Kim Davis with a Democrat in a 54-46 defeat of the woman who became a national figure for refusing in 2015 to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Justice Ginsburg falls, breaks ribs

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been hospitalized after a fall in her office left her with fractured ribs. Fervent best wishes for a speedy recovery are in order.

Trump administration moves to limit insurance coverage for birth control pills

The Trump administration is moving forward with a new rule that will allow employers not to provide coverage under group health policies for contraception such as birth control pills.

Quapaw Tribe points to early 2020 opening for Pine Bluff casino

John Berrey, chairman of the Oklahoma-based Quapaw Tribe, says he hopes to have a permit for a casino in Pine Bluff by the end of April, to be "digging dirt" by June and to open a casino in Pine Bluff early in 2020.

Death penalty reversed in Pine Bluff killing for ineffective defense

The Arkansas Supreme Court today reversed the death penalty given Kenneth Reams by a Jefferson County jury in the 1993 shooting death of Gary Turner during a robbery at an ATM machine. The court said Reams had ineffective counsel during the penalty phase of the trial.

Race, poverty and school quality: More facts behind the school grades

Dr. Michael Mills, an education professor, has dug deeper into school statistics to illustrate a point the Hutchinson administration is missing in grading schools and awarding bonus money — race and poverty matter.

New episode of Out in Arkansas: "The Rainbow Wave"

Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen talk about all the things because all the things are LGBTQ things. This week they talk about the outcome of the mid-term elections and finding positives in even the smallest steps of progress, as well as what comes next. It doesn’t stop with our votes! Thank you for listening! #outinarkansas #beinggayinthesouth #dontbeadouche #beadecentperson

Almost 900 votes uncounted in Benton County precinct

The Benton County Election Commission has discovered that 897 votes cast at the Centro Christiano church polling place were not counted.

Speaking of failing schools and where to lay the blame

UAMS announced today that it and Our House will announce a plan next week to help homeless pregnant women and families with young children Naturally, schools came to my mind.

Thursday: News roundup and open line

The open line and daily video news roundup.

Counting the uncountable votes on ballot issues UPDATE: Lots of opposition to Issue One

Thanks to some misleading politicking by Republican Sen. Trent Garner I learned that some information is available about ballot issues — lawsuit limits and term limits — removed from the ballot by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Capitalism at work, chamber of commerce style

My thanks to veteran business reporter David Smith of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who covered the Monday annual meeting of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. It featured a discussion by Stephens Inc. CEO Warren Stephens and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone about the glories of capitalism and free enterprise.

New episode of Rock the Culture: "Vote for a Change"

In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the 2018 local elections in Little Rock and Central Arkansas.

Push pause on Arkansas's Medicaid work requirement, federal oversight panel says

Among those beneficiaries who are required to report, "91.6 percent ... failed to do so in September 2018," the letter said. That sends "a strong warning signal that the current process may not be structured in a way that provides individuals an opportunity to succeed, with high stakes for beneficiaries who fail."

Vote counting and challenges continue in Florida and Georgia

Close elections in Florida and Georgia continue to spur controversy. Some issues stem from a Voter ID law similar to the one now in force in Arkanss.

For the record: Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a) a liar b) full of 'HuckaBS'

AP calls Sarah Huckabee Sanders' distribution of a doctored video a "new low." At leat until today.

Arkansas a high wage state? After a fashion, yes

The Washington Post reports today on passage of a minimum wage increase in Arkansas. The article says the state will have the "highest effective minimum wage" soon and thus perhaps provide a test for the economic impact of a higher guaranteed wage.

More than 1,000 ballots uncounted in Pulaski County

Bryan Poe, election coordinator in Pulaski County, tells me there are 1,037 provisional ballots not included in unofficial totals announced Tuesday night.

Lameduck Mayor Stodola reportedly seeking pay raise

I've confirmed with a couple of city sources that Mayor Mark Stodola, who leaves office Dec. 31, is seeking a pay raise for his last month or so in office, most likely to increase his retirement benefits.

The populus did not regnat on term limits

You can see why legislators feared the term limits so much that their pals in the state's biggest corporate lobby sued to knock it off the ballot. The people loved it

Verizon Arena to be renamed in 2019

Verizon Arena announced today that the naming rights to the 18,000-seat venue have been secured by Simmons Bank. The arena will be renamed in 2019.

Simmons Bank buys naming rights to Verizon Arena for $10.5 million

Simmons Bank has bought the naming rights to what is now Verizon Arena, a 15-year deal costing $10.5 million. The name change of the publicly owned North Little Rock venue will take effect in 2019.

Trump meets (berates) the press MEANWHILE

Crazy White House lawn Q&A with Donald Trump.

Friday: Open line and news roundup

Friday's open line and the daily video news roundup.

No Small Talk, Ep. 32: Charlie Hunter

This week, we make some recommendations and talk with Charlie Hunter, a brilliant jazz/blues guitarist who lands at CALS Ron Robinson tonight as part of the Arkansas Sounds series.

The Still Dead Red Edition

Max and Lindsey talk election results, including Republicans' continued ballot dominance in Arkansas, ballot issues and the runoff for Little Rock mayor. Also, a new lawsuit that challenges the I-30 expansion corridor.

No news on Little Rock teacher talks

The Little Rock School District and the Little Rock Education Association have no progress to report on continued talks toward a new contract with teachers following Education Commissioner Johnny Key's rejection of a contract that wouldn't allow him to fire teachers at will at 22 district schools.

Marijuana Commission sets meeting

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission will meet at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alcoholic Beverage Control Division offices at 1515 W. 7th. This meeting is set to be streamed on the web.

An Arkansas Marine talks about gun safety

The mass shooting in California last week produced the usual outpouring of thoughts on gun violence and gun safety. Thanks to Facebook, I ran across relevant commentary from an Arkansas native with ample gun experience. He's concluded the safest home is a home without a gun.

Stodola disputes report on interest in pay raise

Mayor Mark Stodola responded to me today on a report that he'd talked to city officials about a pay raise for his last few weeks in office, a change that could improve his coming retirement benefits. He said the report wasn't true.

The this-isn't-Charlottesville open line

The open line here. Note that today was the day scheduled for a Capitol "rally" of white nationalists. As yet, it's no Charlottesville.

For Veterans Day: What would Pat Tillman say?

Marie Tillman, widow of Pat Tillman, the pro football player killed 14 years ago in Afghanistan finally addresses in the Washington Post the question many have asked: What would he say about pro football players who kneel during the National Anthem as a symbol of concern about racial inequity in the U.S.

Sunday's open line. With Trump's French connection

Gee, not much to allow. Plenty of attention to events in Paris, led today by a rebuke of nationalism by the leader of France, Emanuel Macron.

No holiday for teacher talks

Most government offices will be closed today, but talks will continue between Little Rock School District administrators and the Little Rock Education Association over a contract to replace the teacher agreement that expired Oct. 31.

Rainy day Donald Trump

You've no doubt heard that Donald Trump skipped the first Armistice commemoration ceremony in France on account of rain. He did make a rainy day appearance at a cemetery Sunday, but he managed to make his rain appearance about himself.

Count the votes! Preferably just my votes!

The deeply split Florida vote would be a mess even without fraudulent claims of fraud by Republican senatorial candidate Rick Scott, who wants vote counting stopped with him ahead.

Report: Arkansas nonprofits face declining contributions

A new report shows a drop in funding for nonprofit organizations in Arkansas, a 10 percent decline since 2000.

Hunter kills 72-year-old woman he mistook for a deer

40/29 reports from Johnson County on the shooting death of a 72-year-old woman.

Monday: The open line and daily news roundup

The open line and daily news roundup on a dreary state holiday.

Tax task force proposals benefit, surprise, corporations and the top 1 percent

A new report emphasizes the obvious: Recommendations by a task force studying state taxes would benefit corporations and the 1 percent the most, while raising the tax burden on the poor. The proposals not only are unfair, they'd likely cripple the state budget.

No progress on LR teacher talks

Another day, another no-agreement announcement.

Another guilty plea in Missouri in nonprofit scandal involving Arkansas legislators

Marilyn Nolan, the former CEO of Preferred Family Healthcare, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Springfield to a conspiracy charge.

Speaking of election fraud: Who's scamming who?

Donald Trump is saying repeatedly, without evidence, that fraud is afoot in the counting of votes, particularly in Florida. In one Republican-leaning Florida county, some 150 ballots were cast by fax or e-mail, contrary to the law. None dare call this voter fraud.

Love, Amazon

Well it appears that the Virginia suburbs of Washington and New York city will divide new Amazon headquarters operations. Here's a critical review of the outcome from The New Republic.

New episode of Rock the Culture: "People's Police"

In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the ongoing contract negotiations between Little Rock Education Association and Little Rock School District regarding Fair Teacher Dismissal Act, the Little Rock Mayoral Runoff Election, and lack of coverage of white nationalist’s rally. In addition, they interview Sgt. Willie Davis of the Little Rock Police Department regarding importance of community policing and his involvement in the O.K. Program, a mentoring program for teenage black males.

Jon Woods to Donald Trump: Let's make a deal! UPDATE

Jon Woods has a scheme to get out of prison. Given that it involves Donald Trump, who knows?

Tuesday: The open line and daily news video

Tuesday: Open line and the news roundup.

Grassroots Arkansas to demonstrate for schools

Grassroots Arkansas is demonstrating outside the state Education Department this afternoon in support of the Little Rock School District and its teachers.

Our House announces partnership with UAMS on new behavioral health program for pregnant and new mothers

Our House will partner with UAMS on a new program to provide access to behavioral health services for homeless and near homeless pregnant and new mothers with young children, Our House and UAMS officials announced today.

Medical Marijuana Commission responds to complaints, hears progress on dispensary permits

The Medical Marijuana Commission issued responses today to questions raised at a recent public session.

The Rep to reopen its doors with "Chicago"; names alley after founder Cliff Baker

In an announcement ceremony featuring song, dance and homage, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre revealed the lineup tonight for its 2019-20 “Rebuild the Rep” season.

State approves new agreement with LR teachers, includes waiver of dismissal law UPDATE

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who's controlled the Little Rock School District for four years since state takeover for deficiencies in test scores in six schools, announced this evening that he'd approved a contract agreement between the district and the Little Rock Education Association that includes a waiver of the teacher fair dismissal law that he'd sought over teacher objections.

Election assessments: There WAS a blue wave, if not in Arkansas

As results continue to trickle in, the national media has realized that Donald Trump was blowing smoke in claiming a sweeping Republican victory in last Tuesday's election. The Senate losses will be smaller than originally thought thanks to Democratic pickups in Arizona and Nevada; House Democratic gains seem likely to be between 35 and 40, with some agonizing close losses elsewhere. Democrats made gains in governorships and legislatures, too. But then, there's Arkansas:

How about some good news? A science whiz from Little Rock

A reader points me to a Forbes "30 under 30" feature on promising young scientists who include Little Rock native Luke Osborn, 29 now a Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins University.

Hutchinson outlines budget for coming year; tax cuts the big ticket item

Gov. Asa Hutchinson talked budget today, including teacher pay and tax cuts.

A different take on the state budget: Invest in vital services, don't cut taxes on rich

A coalition calling itself Arkansans for Responsible Spending has responded to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's budget outline: Invest in services and people before cutting taxes.

ASU to get $400,000 to settle lawsuit with Miami over canceled footbal game

ASU and Miami settle lawsuits over canceled football game

Wednesday: Open line and the daily roundup

Here's the open line. Also, the daily roundup of news and comment, beginning with state spending — cut taxes or invest in services?

Little Rock voting: Neighborhood matters

Voting patterns in the race for 2nd District Congress might provide some clues on keys to victory in the runoff for Little Rock mayor.

Corporate welfare hostage-taking

Wisconsin offers the latest example of what's wrong with corporate welfare and Arkansas figures in what amounts to a hostage situation.