Editorial


High court makes two bold decisions
Sometimes judging is easy, a matter of simply applying common sense to political disputes about the law. Other times it could not be harder, such as when judges must decide whether to apply great constitutional principles of law like equality to a society still much beholden to ancient prejudices and mores. [FULL TEXT]

Market price or fixed deal
Sometime soon, after hearings and some pondering, the state Public Service Commission will give Entergy Corporation the go-ahead to raise the monthly electricity bills of homeowners, businesses and large industries on the company's distribution system in Arkansas. [FULL TEXT]

Charleston and the past

A boyish white supremacist's slaughter of nine black worshipers at a Charleston, S. C., church reminds us again that, much as we might wish it were not so, the past in this country is still not past. It will never be past until we have fully embraced it. [FULL TEXT]

Hungry seniors
There's been a lot of buzz about senior hunger in Arkansas. The state has won --- for the third year in a row --- the dubious honor of being No. 1 in the nation for hunger among seniors.
[FULL TEXT]

Fireworks ban

The Cabot City Council voted Monday to keep the city's ban on fireworks after hearing from residents who opposed the proposal, which would have allowed fireworks for a few days around July 4th and on New Year's Eve. [FULL TEXT]

Standardized flip-flop-flip
The state might have wasted nearly three months of students', teachers' and principals' time this past school year administrating the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test. [FULL TEXT]

Honoring our nurses
National Nurses Week has been observed in some form since 1954 and in 1991 the American Nurses Association board of directors expanded the well-deserved recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration every year. [FULL TEXT]

Flix on the Bricks pure movie magic
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce's new outdoor movie program called Flix on the Bricks at the Nixon Library pavilion started on Friday and attracted more than 60 people to see "Rio."
[FULL TEXT]

Teachers face layoffs

The Arkansas Department of Education approved a plan to lay off all the teachers in Jacksonville next year as the city completes its separation from the Pulaski County Special School District and the new Jacksonville district. [FULL TEXT]

Chambers closes

Chambers Grill, a long-time Jacksonville fixture in the pharmacy that anchored it, Chambers Drugs, closed yesterday. It was a favorite spot of regulars for years for grilled-cheese sandwiches served with pickles and tasty hamburgers served with their signature French fries. [FULL TEXT]

North Metro still struggles

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville quietly fired its chief executive officer recently and has not yet announced who will be its next leader. [FULL TEXT]

Class of 2015 says farewell

Area high schools have wrapped up graduation season, sending young people on to further their educations in college, technical-training programs and into adulthood. [FULL TEXT]

Whit Davis gets cold shoulder

Whit Davis Lumber Plus is set to open a beautiful new hardware store on Brockington Road in Sherwood. But the city council is not happy about it. [FULL TEXT]

Socializing industries

A conservative governor and a conservative legislature in a conservative state that ranks as one of the poorest in the nation are about to commit a big lump of taxpayer money to support the national military budget and fatten the profits of one the biggest, richest corporations in the world. Does that make sense? Does it pass the smell test? [FULL TEXT]

Jack McNally fraud, thief

Jack McNally, the disgraced former Lonoke County assessor, was arrested for fraud last week after a lengthy investigation that began long before last May's Republican primary in which he was defeated by Jerrell Maxwell after two terms. [FULL TEXT]


Fireworks set fuse in Cabot

The Cabot City Council is considering lifting the city's ban on fireworks, which would make official what has long been known: Police officers have stopped responding to every complaint about bottle rockets. [FULL TEXT]

Col. Rhatigan, farewell friend

Col. Patrick Rhatigan will step down later this month as commander of the 19th Airlift Wing and retire from the Air Force after 22 years of outstanding service to our nation. [FULL TEXT]

PCSSD needs a millage hike

This much is certain. We should always vote. We should always vote in our own best interest, though sometimes we are confused or misled. [FULL TEXT]

State flunks report cards

Schools give students report cards, so the idea of the state giving schools a report card makes sense. [FULL TEXT]

New district fields all stars

Tony Wood, Jacksonville-North Pulaski's superintendent-select, is due to take over those duties for the fledgling district July 1 from hometown hero Bobby Lester, and it's hard to imagine anyone better qualified for the job. [FULL TEXT]

Report cards a mixed bag

In the state's efforts to give parents a simple way of seeing how their schools are doing, it has created an often contradictory, hard-to-understand report card that doesn't show how the state decided on the grade for each school. [FULL TEXT]

Wood and his faculty
Former Arkansas education commissioner Tony Wood is now, or will be once the contracts are signed, the first official Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District superintendent, succeeding the interim superintendent, Bobby Lester, who’ll keep the job through June. [FULL TEXT]


Why districts look to Cabot

The Van Buren School Board voted unanimously last week to hire Cabot School District deputy superintendent Harold Jeffcoat as the new superintendent of the historic community in western Arkansas. [FULL TEXT]

PACE helps small firms

Local businesses have a friend in Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde.
Hyde is seeking support of area mayors and the quorum court for an initiative to help businesses finance upgrades in their electrical and water systems, which will save companies money and improve the environment.
[FULL TEXT]

Educators young, old

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School District may hire a superintendent who is nearing retirement age. Meanwhile, it's been suggested that the district will fire aging teachers in favor of establishing a young and innovative faculty. [FULL TEXT]

Base opens new center

Little Rock Air Force Base last week celebrated the grand opening of the Walters Community Support Center, a multi-purpose building that will serve the needs airmen and their families for generations. [FULL TEXT]

Asa saves us from disaster
Gov. Hutchinson's learning curve in his first 80 days has been both steep and gradual, but either way he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to finesse his way out of a mess, even one of his own creation. On the last day of the legislative session he executed a complete about-face and killed a bill permitting businesses to discriminate against sexual minorities that only four days earlier he had earnestly sought. Everyone seemed to cheer. [FULL TEXT]


District says it will be fair

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is not quite off the ground yet --- it’s still a two-person operation with a couple of part-timers and an interim school board --- but teachers are concerned about future pay and even if they'll have a job once the district completes its separation from the Pulaski County Special School District. [FULL TEXT]


Broken glass still lies in parking lot

Someone’s sideview mirror must have broken during a visit to the Jacksonville post office during the ice storm early last month. [FULL TEXT]


Districts' split turns messy

The separation between the Pulaski County Special School District and the new Jacksonville district is much like a divorce, albeit a somewhat friendly one. [FULL TEXT]


Cabot board sounds alarm

The Cabot School Board last week released an open letter criticizing proposed legislation that could hurt the district. The Leader ran an article Saturday under the headline, "Board warns on state cuts." The school board is worried that more open-enrollment charter schools and more taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools will drain aid for public education. [FULL TEXT]

French lessons on the air base

Freshman Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) visited Little Rock Air Force Base last week and warned about tough times ahead for the military as spending cuts --- or sequestration in government jargon --- could hit our base with reduction in personnel and airplanes. [FULL TEXT]

Give district all its money

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is completing its separation from the Pulaski County Special School District on schedule. An interim school board is in place, and school board elections will be held in September. The new district should become completely independent during the 2016-17 school year. [FULL TEXT]


Big potholes plague area

How bad are the potholes right now?
"I've driven or been driven in Newton County, Belize, Mexico, Greece and Kathmandu, and the potholes on Hwy. 67/167 at Jacksonville are probably the worst I've seen," Leader senior staff writer John Hofheimer said.
[FULL TEXT]


Petitioners get big break

Although the Jacksonville and Sherwood wet-dry campaigns did not get enough signatures to get their initiative on the ballot this spring, they got a boost last week in the legislature, which passed a bill that requires signatures from far fewer registered voters to put the measure before voters. [FULL TEXT]


Re-homing harms kids

We had heard about "re-homing" children, mainly from a Reuters investigation two years ago about Americans who adopted children from overseas and then used the Internet to dump them, sometimes to predators, when the kids proved to be troublesome. But we were shocked to learn that trafficking in vulnerable children happens right here in Arkansas, apparently legally, with the tragic results you would expect. [FULL TEXT]

More funds for air base

"Sequestration is the dark cloud up ahead, and it could affect us in readiness," Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, recently told The Leader. [FULL TEXT]

How to sue legislators

State legislators continue to violate the recently passed ethics amendment that prohibits lobbyists from offering free meals and booze to lawmakers. [FULL TEXT]


Common Core fails many kids

The biggest problem with Common Core is not the curriculum, but the testing --- it sets up Jacksonville students to fail. [FULL TEXT]


Jacksonville taking lead

Jacksonville's new school district is showing the way for Sherwood and Maumelle, which are also trying to separate from the troubled Pulaski County Special School District. [FULL TEXT]


Last chance, sign petition

Kudos and good luck to those collecting signatures on the wet-dry petitions in Jacksonville. Organizers are only 500 signatures short now and "sprinting to the finish line," Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board president Roger Sundermeier said Friday. [FULL TEXT]

Remember Wilbur Mills

In 1965, Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Kensett), the longtime Second District congressman and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, helped pass Medicare and Medicaid legislation that has provided health care to the state's elderly and poor. [FULL TEXT]


New district will rebuild

The Jacksonville School District, which is working toward a complete separation from the Pulaski County Special School District, is floating several new ideas that will improve schools. Plans include closing at least one old school in the new district --- some of the buildings are 50 years or older --- and consolidating two high schools into a new campus near the air base. [FULL TEXT]


Liquor drive running dry

Efforts to loosen liquor laws in Jacksonville and Sherwood seem to have hit a wall. [FULL TEXT]

Who can lead new district?

The Jacksonville School Board is looking for a permanent superintendent to run the fledgling district as it continues the process of breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District. [FULL TEXT]

Rep. Farrer is on board

Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), having heard from his constituents, has dropped his opposition to Medicaid expansion for working-poor Arkansans and has co-sponsored the bill to continue the private option program for at least another year. [FULL TEXT]

Cherishing local history

Several efforts to preserve and promote local history deserve the public's support. Volunteers throughout the area have worked hard to keep alive the stories of the past that provide context about our hometowns. [FULL TEXT]


Construction all around us

The $107 million runway renovation on Little Rock Air Force Base is one of the major construction projects in our community — the first major overhaul of the flightline in 60 years. [FULL TEXT]

 

Chamber sets a big agenda

Roger Sundermeier, the new president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, has a plan for reviving the city’s often dormant downtown. During his inaugural speech last week at the chamber's annual banquet, Sundermeier announced the formation of a small-business initiative to support local businesses. He said Jacksonville needs a good mix of retail chains and restaurants and locally owned businesses. [FULL TEXT]

 

Expansion affordable

You thought Mike Beebe was Merlin for the way he orchestrated the legislature to get what he wanted, year after year, even when the other party controlled it. What about Governor Asa Hutchinson? [FULL TEXT]


Honoring 'The Boss'

The closing of Arkansas Funeral Care in Jacksonville, where more than 30 bodies piled up while awaiting a decent burial or cremation, overshadowed the news last week that Dr. Thomas Wortham, a much-loved local physician, had passed away at the age of 88. [FULL TEXT]

Asa's healthy state of mind

It could have been no surprise to anyone, except the new lieutenant governor, that Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to continue to insure more than 200,000 Arkansans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the infamous Obamacare. What may have been surprising to many is that the conservative Republican did so not grudgingly but warmly. [FULL TEXT]

Schools need improving

The bad news is that, mathematically, the Pulaski County Special School District is shortchanging Jacksonville schools again when it comes to facility dollars. [FULL TEXT]


A corrupt judiciary

Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio's admission this month that he took bribes before slicing $4.2 million from a jury's award to the family of a woman who died from negligence in a Conway nursing home was a severe wound to the reputation of the courts in our fair state. We hope it was not a mortal one, for the founders considered confidence in an independent judiciary to be the bedrock of democracy. [FULL TEXT]

A good start for governor

We do not remember a new Arkansas governor who struck a discordant note in his inaugural address, and Asa Hutchinson did not disappoint yesterday either. Dare we hope that Governor Hutchinson will be the pragmatic, problem-solving, careful leader that the voters of Arkansas seem to want? We say that this is what voters want because they have seemed inordinately pleased with Mike Beebe, who embodied those qualities almost to perfection and who left after eight years with the highest approval rating of any chief executive in America. [FULL TEXT]

 

New schools won't be easy

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District needs a large or even staggering amount of money to build its way out of one of the worst school building situations in one of the poorest states in the country. [FULL TEXT]

 

If Huck runs for president

Neither pardon is as bad as Huckabee paroling rapist Wayne DuMond and granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who, between them, killed six people after Huckabee turned them loose. [FULL TEXT]


Hwy. 67/167 needs funding

Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville could see more major improvements that would ease traffic congestion, especially at North First Street and Vandenberg Boulevard near Little Rock Air Force Base. [FULL TEXT]


Making jails self-sufficient

Jacksonville officials know when to hold them and when to fold them. After a bitter, year-long showdown with Pulaski County officials over the city's share to fund the county jail, the Jacksonville City Council caved in and agreed to budget $201,000 a year for the right to send local prisoners to Pulaski County. [FULL TEXT]

Liquor petitions

Jacksonville has gathered about 4,000 signatures and needs only 400 more to do away with its outdated liquor laws and annually inject about $600,000 into the city's economy once restaurants start selling alcohol and grocery and convenience stores can stock beer and wine on their shelves. [FULL TEXT]

Who loves fruitcake?

A few times every year, I question God's intentions.
In the summertime, I wonder why He created mosquitoes, and, in the wintertime, I wonder what He was thinking when He allowed fruitcake to come into this world.
[FULL TEXT]

Millage rate is set locally

The Pulaski County School District is seeking a 5.6-mill property tax increase in September, but Jacksonville residents will not even vote on that request. Instead, voters in the newly formed Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District will keep the current 40.6 mills or decide to raise their millage possibly as soon as this fall when they will elect a new school board to replace an interim board appointed by the state. [FULL TEXT]

District plans on schedule

It seems the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District has a few friends in Little Rock. The state Board of Education recognized the new district soon after area residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of leaving the Pulaski County Special School District. [FULL TEXT]


Give judges raises in Lonoke County

Lonoke District Court Judge Teresa Smith wants a $5,000 raise for 2015, but the city council approved her request only as part of a preliminary budget that could easily be changed. [FULL TEXT]


Don't ignore people's will

The old political maxim that money will find its way to where its owners want it to go, like water to the sea, may be proved again with Arkansas' new ethics law. In the month since voters adopted tough rules to limit money's influence on government decision-making, lobbyists, their bosses and many legislators have searched for loopholes in the law that might permit business as usual. [FULL TEXT]


Infrastructure spending pays

County and city officials in Lonoke on Friday celebrated the official opening of the $9.6 million Hwy. 89 and I-40 interchange in Lonoke, which not only provides convenience to motorists but should encourage economic development in the area once the city extends water and sewer lines out there. [FULL TEXT]

Security plan at courthouse

Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham says security at the courthouse must be improved before someone gets killed or injured. [FULL TEXT]


Possible sites for a library

Sherwood voters on Election Day passed a special property tax to build a $6 million library. It will be a first-rate addition for the growing community that will help attract families to the area and serve readers of all ages. [FULL TEXT]

Free speech and politics

Jacksonville City Attorney Robert Bamburg has demanded the resignation of three civil service commissioners because they participated in the recent mayoral election. Bamburg says the statute that is being used to relieve these three commissioners --- two supporters of former Police Chief Gary Sipes and one a supporter of Mayor Gary Fletcher --- clearly states that civil service commissioners should stay above politics. [FULL TEXT]

 

Schools win state grants

You may have seen our report Saturday that eight schools in the Cabot School District and two schools in the Pulaski County Special School District have received $408,859 from the state Department of Education's Arkansas School Recognition and Reward program for academic excellence. [FULL TEXT]


Vote for McDonald

Clinton McDonald, former Red Devil and current lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is up for a spot in the Pro Bowl game and needs the support of his hometown. [FULL TEXT]


Enthusiasm for schools

The new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board was off to a good start at its first meeting Monday evening at city hall. [FULL TEXT]

Right decision on consultant

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and the city's controversial economic development consultant quietly parted ways during a divisive campaign for re-election that Fletcher won by 841 votes
[FULL TEXT]

Impressive new board

The state Board of Education will meet Thursday, when it is expected to approve a proposed seven-member Jacksonville School Board. The names for the interim board were submitted by a committee headed by state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), which also included Sen. Linda Chesterfield, Sen. Jane English, Rep. Doug House, all of North Little Rock, along with Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Rep.-elect Bob Johnson, also of Jacksonville. [FULL TEXT]

Our lobbyists under attack

Democrats were not the only ones who wore long faces Wednesday morning when the full panoply of results from the general election were known. The saddest---and most shocked---people in Arkansas may have been the army of lobbyists who toil in the legislative and executive branches of government on behalf of their corporate employers. [FULL TEXT]


GOP sweeps into office

It's taken Arkansas Republicans almost 50 years to get here, flipping the state away from Democrats and joining the rest of the South solidly in the GOP column. [FULL TEXT]


Liquor vote: You decide

If you believe that alcohol is the degradation of man and the ruin of families --- a notion with which we sometimes do not vigorously quarrel — then you will want to vote against Ballot Issue 4, which legalizes liquor sales in currently dry counties. [FULL TEXT]


Vote to increase minimum wage

Old canards never die; they don't even fade away. So it is that in 2014, with minimum-wage laws facing voters or legislatures, the cries go up, "My God, when you raise the minimum wage, you drive people out of jobs and hurt the economy." [FULL TEXT]


Helpful hints for ballot box

Changing a constitution, even the state Constitution, is a serious labor for voters since it either authorizes government or the citizens to do something or else forbids them to do it forever, at least until the constitution can be changed again. Altering a constitution is supposed to be a rare event since it tampers with individual rights or with the structure and powers of government. [FULL TEXT]


Top award for 19th AW

The Air Force Historical Foundation recently presented its James H. Doolittle Award to the 19th Airlift Wing for its contribution to airpower for more than 80 years It's an amazing history from the early decades of air combat to the modern era. [FULL TEXT]


Voter ID law overturned

Sometimes the law is so clear that appellate courts seem almost superfluous. Anyone who could read could see that the Arkansas legislature violated the state Constitution over and over last year with the act that stopped people from voting if they did not submit official government-issued photographic proof that they were the person they claimed to be when they went to the polls or mailed their absentee ballots. [FULL TEXT]


Feisty debate in Jacksonville

Last night's debate at the Jacksonville Community Center between Mayor Gary Fletcher and his opponent, former Police Chief Gary Sipes, revealed the tensions that have been brewing in this race since the day Sipes resigned to run against his old boss. [FULL TEXT]


Parolee in rape case

Elderly abuse isn't talked about enough. But, when it is, we often hear about family members or caregivers who abuse older people physically and financially. [FULL TEXT]


How state will build schools

The new Jacksonville school district will need tens of millions of dollars from the state's Academic Facilities partnership program to build new schools, and, despite a $20 million infusion by the governor, the fund for that program is $65 million short for the next two years. [FULL TEXT]

 

Questions for debate

Pat O'Brien will moderate the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce's debate between Mayor Gary Fletcher and former Police Chief Gary Sipes at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Jacksonville Community Center. [FULL TEXT]


What's next for district?

By a resounding, overwhelming, huge, making-a-statement margin, Jacksonville residents have said loud and clear that they have had enough of second-class treatment under the Pulaski County Special School District and are ready to soar higher. [FULL TEXT]


New district is approved

It's finally happening - Jacksonville is getting its own school district. [FULL TEXT]


Vote Tuesday in Jacksonville

A standalone Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district is finally within our grasp. [FULL TEXT]


The mayor vs. ex-police chief

The Jacksonville mayoral race is heating up, with former Police Chief Gary Sipes gaining momentum and laying out several goals for the city if he is elected. [FULL TEXT]


The campaign here so far

If you have followed the Arkansas election ads you know that each party faces a single challenge. Republicans must overcome a philosophy problem, Democrats an Obama problem. [FULL TEXT]


Early voting (continued)

The Lonoke County Election Commission reversed itself on Friday and agreed to hold early voting at Cabot, Lonoke, Carlisle and England for the general election on Nov. 4. [FULL TEXT]


Health care costs falling

Call us suckers for good news, but can it hurt to celebrate some now and then in this sea of troubles? [FULL TEXT]


Still hauling after 60 years

The mighty C-130 Hercules reached a milestone Saturday, marking the 60th anniversary of its first flight at Burbank, Calif., on Aug. 23, 1954. [FULL TEXT]


Don't end early voting

Jacksonville voters will decide Sept. 16 on forming their own school district. They can vote early starting Sept. 9-Sept. 15 at the Jacksonville Community Center, William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock and the Pulaski County Regional Building in downtown Little Rock. [FULL TEXT]


Chamber is on board

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce's board of directors on Thursday voted to support the citys efforts aimed at getting its own school district ahead of a Sept. 16 election asking residents to break away from the Pulaski County Special School District. [FULL TEXT]


Ward's tax vote

Ward voters will decide in November if the city should raise its sales tax from 1 cent up to 2 cents. [FULL TEXT]


Pupils need recess break

Just when it seemed the Pulaski County Special School was doing right, it turns right around and does something stupid — it has taken away recess at the elementary level. [FULL TEXT]


School-year excitement

As students return to school on Monday and Jacksonville voters count down to Sept. 16 to form their own district, we can't recall a more exciting start to any school year. [FULL TEXT]


The future is up to us

We've said it before: Jacksonville puts "unity" in community. [FULL TEXT]


Benchmark: Plus, minus

The Leader has just finished running a three-part series taking an in-depth look at Benchmark scores, and, though there is some good news in the recently released information from the state, there are also disturbing trends. [FULL TEXT]


Good news for Arkansas

Governor Beebe and Davy Carter, the speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, rushed yesterday to get out statements claiming bragging rights for a bit of national good news for the state: Arkansas leads the nation in reducing the number of people who are not insured for sickness. [FULL TEXT]


Help walkers and bicyclists

As Cabot gears up for construction of the new North Interchange on Hwy. 67/167, adding two roundabouts on Lincoln Street near the high school and the beautification of West Main Street into downtown, city leaders and planners have overlooked an improvement that could help many people — adding a protected pedestrian and bicycle bridge onto the Hwy. 89/West Main Street overpass. [FULL TEXT]


Our air base safe, secure

Little Rock Air Force Base officials went into high alert last week when they received a report of a suspicious person on base. Fortunately, it was a false alarm. But, even if there had been just a 1 percent chance of a maniac loose, the authorities had no choice but to close the base for several hours. [FULL TEXT]


Achievements please schools

Talk about being the elite of the elite — Lonoke Middle School and Searcy's Ahlf Junior High are in sky-high company. [FULL TEXT]