Sports, water park opens
The Cabot Sports and Aquatic Complex held ribbon cutting ceremonies Saturday morning, although the water park opens officially to the public on Thursday. [FULL TEXT]

Zero tolerance for meth houses
Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert and the city council last week heard a concerned resident complain about an alleged meth house on Barnwell Drive near Central Elementary School. The mayor reassured her the city will not tolerate drug activity anywhere, especially near schools. [FULL TEXT]

Tax needed for our roads
In his weekly column and radio address yesterday, Governor Hutchinson drew an analogy to the first legislative session in the new state Capitol 105 years ago to suggest that his little weekend special session also was truly historic. [FULL TEXT]

Dependable water source
Some of us here remember the Lonoke White Public Water Authority project finally getting off the ground back in the 1990s when area officials had a goal of providing water to the area from Greers Ferry. [FULL TEXT]

State flunks report cards
Do you know what the recent round of state report cards on schools showed? They showed that Arkansas should get an F --- not education --- but the state for ignorance. [FULL TEXT]

How to fix our roads
Leadership sometimes surfaces in the most shocking places, which is to say, in Arkansas, where it should surface. That would be in the lawmaking branch of government. Four senators---all Republicans!---are proposing that the legislature raise excise taxes on motor fuels when they convene next week in a special session that is intended to raise a little cash to repair the state's deteriorating streets and roads. [FULL TEXT]

A symbol to build on
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board this week chose the Titans as the mascot for all of the new district's schools. [FULL TEXT]

Guests of honor are turned away
Twenty honor graduates from North Pulaski High School were locked out of a banquet hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce on Monday. It has angered and embarrassed many people in the community. [FULL TEXT]

Sherwood's new library
The design of Sherwood's new $5.8 million, 14,000-square-foot library was unveiled last week. Taggart Architects of North Little Rock has conceived a modern, nature-oriented facility that the community deserves. [FULL TEXT]

Thanks, Lt. Dan
Gary Sinise, the actor best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in "Forrest Gump," performed Friday with his Lt. Dan Band at Little Rock Air Force Base as part of a USO tour.

Fight against Zika virus
Who would have thought mosquitoes would become such bearers of illness --- malaria, chikungunya, West Nile virus and now Zika --- threatening entire populations including the unborn?

Meaningful new mascot
A public hearing was held last week to discuss ideas for a new mascot for Jacksonville High School. Residents made clear they want a new look and a fresh start for the new Jacksonville High School, which could cost as much as $60 million and will be built at the old middle school site. [FULL TEXT]

Foolish tactics in legislature
Gov. Hutchinson and the bipartisan leadership of the legislature earned no style points with the manner in which they saved Obamacare's big expansion of health coverage in Arkansas, but a mere expression of gratitude for their cunning should suffice. [FULL TEXT]

Farrer goes the distance
Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) has seen the light: Farrer, who previously opposed expanding Medicaid for 265,000 poor Arkansans, now says he will vote for Arkansas Works, the governor's version of the so-called private option. [FULL TEXT]

Arkansas held hostage
The Arkansas legislature will return to the capital today for what was supposed to be 30 days of routine roll calls to rubberstamp budget acts. Now, thanks to two disparate gentlemen---Barack Obama and Asa Hutchinson---it looms as the most momentous legislative session since the state's historic racial crisis 60 years ago. [FULL TEXT]

Merle Haggard, 1937-2016
Like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard was clearly a country singer, but his songs transcended across all lines, across all levels of America. It would be hard to find someone who didn't know where an Okie came from…Muskogee, of course. [FULL TEXT]

Much ado about little
Today's vaunted special session of the Arkansas General Assembly is looking more and more like much ado about very little. Gov. Hutchinson yesterday dropped his ballyhooed managed-care act from the call for the session, which is supposed to consume three or four days this week. [FULL TEXT]

40 years after deadly disaster
A devastating tornado destroyed much of Cabot 40 years ago yesterday. The F3 twister ripped through town a little after 3 p.m. March 29, 1976. [FULL TEXT]

It's not kids' play
The other day, I was waiting in a doctor's office -- a required pastime of mine lately -- and this wait got so long that I finally had to look at those outdated magazines on the waiting room table.


Do not let our kids fail
About 45 percent of Arkansas' elementary school pupils are failing, according to the state's annual test, and the number is much worse in Pulaski County. [FULL TEXT]

Billionaires vs. Trump
The Republican establishment and the party's wealthy donors are still hoping they can deny Donald Trump the presidential nomination. But Trump gets millions of dollars worth of free advertising with his telephone interviews on just about every news program on television almost around the clock seven days a week. [FULL TEXT]

Panthers' win earns respect
Congratulations again to the Cabot Panthers for their stunning run to the Class 7A state championship last weekend. Their play in the championship win over Bentonville and senior sensation Malik Monk was inspiring and proved once again that defense wins championships. [FULL TEXT]

Hometown boy runs for Senate
After a long day on the campaign trail, Conner Eldridge, who's running against Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas), dropped by the paper Tuesday night to visit with the newsroom staff and meet with the nightshift workers as they prepared the paper for printing and delivery. The mailroom and pressmen aren't used to having Senate candidates drop by, but Eldridge was in his element, shaking hands and making conversation like a local. [FULL TEXT]

Runoff voting is underway
Early voting is underway for three runoffs in Lonoke County and will continue through Friday and Monday with Election Day on Tuesday. [FULL TEXT]

Districts free at last
The state Board of Education announced this week that it will release the Pulaski County Special School District from state supervision after five roller-coaster years. Patrons in PCSSD, including Sherwood, will elect their own school board later this year in hopes of rebuilding the district's depleted resources following the departure of Jacksonville and much of north Pulaski County, where residents recently passed a millage increase that will pay for new schools and other improvements. [FULL TEXT]

Welcome, Judge Bailey
Judge Rita Bailey was elected last week to preside over the newly formed Jacksonville-Maumelle District Court. Having easily defeated Democratic state Sen. David Johnson from Little Rock, she will take over in January from Judge Robert Batton, who is retiring after almost 40 years on the bench. [FULL TEXT]

Coroner's race is complicated
The Lonoke County coroner’s race last week taught a civics lesson to even the savviest residents and political observers. [FULL TEXT]

Debate below the belt
We thought we had seen everything in the wildest presidential debates ever seen or heard. Then came the last two Republican debates and the great dispute over the size of the candidates' sexual organs. Now we hope we never see the likes of them again.

Asa wins primary
On the day after Arkansas' historically early party primaries and election, Gov. Hutchinson sort of claimed victory. Although his name was not on the ballot, he said the election---at least the Republican segment of it---was indeed a referendum on Asa Hutchinson. He had performed the rare expedient of openly endorsing seven candidates for the legislature in his own party's primary, which we do not recall having happened in modern times. He bragged that five of them won, including state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock).

Big winners on Tuesday
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continued their march across the South on Super Tuesday toward to their parties' nomination after also winning big recently in South Carolina. They easily won in Arkansas, while racking up impressive numbers in most of the contested races in a dozen states yesterday. [FULL TEXT]

Primary day on Tuesday
Tuesday is Election Day in Arkansas---two party primaries and a mini-general election rolled into one. We are voting now instead of the spring or summer for the Democratic and Republican primaries and November for part of the general election because Gov. Hutchinson and the legislature last spring thought the most important thing for Arkansas was the political career of former Arkansan Mike Huckabee, not the convenience of voters or tradition. Huckabee thought he needed the near-certain early victory in Arkansas to propel his campaign for president. So, although it would interfere with the legislative calendar and the normal rhythms of governance, all the elections that could be moved were advanced to the same wintry day. [FULL TEXT]

Choices for Supreme Court
Justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court---indeed, all judges---are supposed to be above partisanship and altogether inconsiderate of politics and public opinion, but voters will chose two of the seven Supreme Court members at the party primaries Tuesday instead of the general election this November. The choices could not be more important, although the immense money spent and the dark strategies used in the campaigns seem to leave confused voters no obviously sensible choices. We will try to make some sense of the chaos created by the large dumps of money into the campaigns by "independent" and largely anonymous groups outside the state. [FULL TEXT]

Telling it like it is (sort of)
News by its nature is mostly distressing, but you still have to pity poor Asa Hutchinson, who gets a double or triple dose of bad tidings each morning when he snatches up the public prints from the Mansion porch. The paper is full of stories about legislative races around the state, each one detailing how one or sometimes both Republican candidates for a legislative seat are denouncing "the private option" and promising to kill it if the voters will only install them in office next year. [FULL TEXT]

This week's millage vote
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District millage increase passed with just a little over 600 votes --- far from a landslide many predicted, but still at a comfortable margin of 55-45 percent. That’s considered a landslide in today's political elections. A 65 percent plurality would be have been better --- after all, residents voted 95 percent in favor of separating from the Pulaski County Special School District in 2014 --- but the anti-tax sentiment out in Bayou Meto this week was huge. [FULL TEXT]

A big win for district
Jacksonville-area residents voted Tuesday to raise their property taxes to benefit their new school district, showing once again their commitment to improving the quality of education and building new campuses, something the Pulaski County Special School District refused to do for decades. [FULL TEXT]

Why you should support millage
Here’s what happens if the 7.6-mill increase in property taxes on the ballot passes:
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, completely on its own for the first time for the 2016-2017 school year, will begin construction on the first new public school buildings in the area in nearly 40 years---a high school and an elementary---the best remaining building will be remodeled as a middle school and the four other elementary schools will each get a new multipurpose building.

Millage election to decide future
Jacksonville-area residents are about to decide the future of their community as they vote on a proposed millage increase for their new school district. Election Day is Tuesday, but early voting is underway. [FULL TEXT]

North Belt alternative
Area mayors have the support of Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) for an alternate route to replace the North Belt Loop, the now-abandoned plan to build a freeway from the Jacksonville bean fields to I-40 at Crystal Hill Road. [FULL TEXT]

Time to build for a new era
Rebuilding in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District has to start now. [FULL TEXT]

SIG Sauer's new home
The area's economy got a needed boost last week when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that SIG Sauer will open an ammunations plant in Jacksonville and Remington Arms will expand its Lonoke factory. [FULL TEXT]

Custodian passes away
Kenneth L. King, 60, of North Little Rock passed away on Jan. 16. He was a big, quiet fellow who kept the Jacksonville post office clean for more than 25 years. [FULL TEXT]

Rebuilding our schools
Support for the Feb. 9 millage vote in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is building, with early voting set to begin Tuesday. [FULL TEXT]

Lt. Adams, RIP, fallen firefighter
The brotherhood of first responders is mourning the loss of one of their own. [FULL TEXT]

Bumpers' legacy (V)
Dale Bumpers' first legislative victory as senator was passage of a law in 1975 letting driver make right turns on red lights if traffic was clear. The nation was in the midst of an energy crisis and he said drivers would save millions of gallons of gas a year if they did not have to idle at corners where the traffic was light. [FULL TEXT]

Bumpers' legacy (IV)
In 1974, Dale Bumpers, who died on New Year's Day at the age of 90, talked to some friends about running for president in 1976. His friend Jimmy Carter, the governor of Georgia, made that race and won. But on the Saturday deadline he set for himself to make a decision about whether to run for a third two-year term, which would position him to run for president in 1976, or to run for the Senate against Sen. William Fulbright, he decided to run for the Senate. [FULL TEXT]

Bumpers' legacy (III)
Dale Bumpers, who died on New Year's Day at the age of 90, toyed with running for governor in 1968. His father-in-law, H. E. "Babe" Flanagan, walked into his house one morning and woke him and Betty up. [FULL TEXT]

Bumpers' legacy (II)
Former Governor and Senator Dale Bumpers, who passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 90, was born Aug. 12, 1925, at Charleston, the county seat of southern Franklin County.

Bumpers' legacy (I)
Dale Bumpers, whom a poll of historians and political scientists in 1998 ranked as Arkansas' only great governor of the 20th century and who served for nearly a quarter of a century in the U.S. Senate, died Friday night at his home at Little Rock. [FULL TEXT]

New Year's resolutions
Happy New Year to our readers and the communities The Leader covers. May 2016 be fortunate and filled with blessings, good health and sustenance. We've been reflecting on the big stories that kept us occupied in 2015 so we thought we'd offer a few New Year's resolutions and goals for our hometowns. [FULL TEXT]

The season for giving
Two generous gifts brightened Christmas for youngsters in the area. The Defense Department has awarded $250,000 to the Jacksonville Lighthouse charter schools to improve educational opportunities for students at K-12 school on North First Street and the middle school Flightline Academy on the air base. [FULL TEXT]

Body cameras for our police
State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) presented a $5,000 check to the Jacksonville Police Department at a recent city council meeting. [FULL TEXT]

Lives they lived (RIP)
Several notable deaths have appeared in the obituary pages just before the holidays, including the passing of distinguished local veterans who served their country with distinction. We had the fortune to know many of them. They were unpretentious elderly gentlemen who never bragged about their accomplishments. [FULL TEXT]

Let's not cut local funding
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials know that a new high school will have to make a strong statement architecturally, as well as academically, in order to make the city's school system first rate. [FULL TEXT]

School plan impressive
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials know that a new high school will have to make a strong statement architecturally, as well as academically, in order to make the city's school system first rate. [FULL TEXT]

Seeing what C's mean
When did a "C" become OK on a report card? [FULL TEXT]

Prison reform close to home
A halfway house may be coming near you if you live in Lonoke County. [FULL TEXT]

Arkansas says no to refugees
Gov. Hutchinson's announcement Monday that Syrian refugees are not welcome here came as no surprise after Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris and the disclosure that at least one of the attackers sneaked in from Syria with a wave of refugees fleeing the Assad regime. [FULL TEXT]

Candidates get company
Don't call Arkansas a one-party state. There will be several primary contests March 1 between establishment Republicans and Tea Party candidates, as well as Democrats who will then face off with Republicans in November. [FULL TEXT]

Can't stand heat, blame the media
Mike Huckabee and Gov. Chris Christie found themselves relegated to the undercard at last night's Republican debate on Fox Business News, dealing a blow to their campaigns. Don't be surprised if both candidates drop out before the end of the month. [FULL TEXT]

Welcome, Judge Bailey
Judge Rita Bailey was elected last week to preside over the newly formed Jacksonville-Maumelle District Court. Having easily defeated Democratic state Sen. David Johnson from Little Rock, she will take over in January from Judge Robert Batton, who is retiring after almost 40 years on the bench. [FULL TEXT]


Good choice for school site
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School board on Monday went along with Mayor Gary Fletcher's proposal to build a new high school on the site of the old middle schools near Hwy. 67/167, which the mayor endorsed Saturday in The Leader. The board also authorized a 7.6-mill property tax increase to help pay for the new district's building program, calling for a Feb. 9 special election on that increase, approved the proposed long-range facilities plan and will apply for state financial help through the facilities building partnership program. [FULL TEXT]

Areas revisit wet-dry laws
The Lonoke County Quorum Court and Jacksonville officials in separate undertakings are hoping to do away with local alcohol restrictions that prohibit sales in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, except with a private-club license. And liquor stores are banned entirely. [FULL TEXT]

State needing organ donors
Kristy and Rodney Cotillier of Cabot got to listen to their son's heart earlier this month. Their 16-year-old son was an organ donor, and his heart has given new life to a 20-year-old in Iowa.

New group encouraging
The Downtown Jacksonville Business Association held its first meeting in August. Since then, it has quickly made its mark on the community by providing a venue for local business owners and residents to discuss ways to improve the city's economic prospects and the community overall. [FULL TEXT]

Expansion helps state
Here's some news that should cheer Gov. Hutchinson and the Republican lawmakers who designed the private-option plan for implementing the Medicaid portion of Obamacare, but it will not please their friends in any of our surrounding states. The Kaiser Family Foundation, the national health-care research group, reported that state spending on all Medicaid programs increased twice as fast in the 21 states that did not expand Medicaid to poor adults as it did in the other 29 states, including Arkansas, that did. [FULL TEXT]

Plan to save North Metro
Rock Bordelon, chief executive officer of Allegiance Health Management, claims he and his company are the saviors of North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville. But it looks more like a bull turned loose in a fine china shop to deal with a mouse problem. [FULL TEXT]

Making kids look good
Appearances are everything, right? So, if your kids don't pass the test, just lower the scale to show that they passed. Everyone is happy --- the kids, their parents, the teachers, school administrators and state officials, who can proclaim, after all, that their schools are preparing children for college and good careers. [FULL TEXT]

Words change
Kidnapping is a serious offense, and it's not just the taking of people. Kidnapping words and holding them until the original meaning has been squeezed out of them is becoming more and more commonplace. [FULL TEXT]

Supporting new district
We share your excitement --- the opportunity to grow Jacksonville by transforming Jacksonville-North Pulaski into a world-class, destination school district. [FULL TEXT]

Anniversary for air base
The Leader's special section in today’s newspaper commemorating the 60th anniversary of Little Rock Air Force Base tells the history, mostly in photos, of one of the premier military installations in the country. [FULL TEXT]

Our man in Havana
It does not match President Nixon’s opening to communist China in 1972 for boldness and certainly not for historical significance, but Governor Asa Hutchinson's visit to the little neighboring communist state of Cuba is noteworthy because, well, because he didn’t need to do it but he did it anyway. [FULL TEXT]

Foster care needs you!
Arkansas' foster-care system needs our help, and that has never been more painfully obvious as when Michelle Hood spoke to the Jacksonville and North Little Rock Sertoma Clubs during a combined meeting last week at Southern Oaks Country Club. [FULL TEXT]

Lonoke County Fair takes GOP straw poll
One of the more interesting sideshows at the Lonoke County Fair last week was a straw poll by the local Republican Party committee asking fairgoers about their preferred presidential candidates. [FULL TEXT]

The future of Asacare
Confusion and indecision rarely serve the public interest, but they can be useful for a government official in the throes of a terrible political dilemma. So it is for Gov. Hutchinson, who must somehow persuade quarrelsome members of his own party to accept a program they viscerally hate. You know what that is---Obamacare and particularly the giant part of it that has insured medical care for 250,000 Arkansans for much of the past two years. [FULL TEXT]

Sore spots for JNPSD
It’s inevitable, this divergence of interests among groups in the new school district. [FULL TEXT]

North Metro heads south
North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville is in turmoil after two of its top administrators resigned when its Louisiana owners reinstated a doctor who was believed to be drunk on the job.

School board gets voted in
Congratulations and welcome to the seven new and returning Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board members elected last night. They succeed the interim school board that was appointed after voters last year approved the split from the Pulaski County Special School District. [FULL TEXT]

More C-130s from Keesler
Second District Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) wants to bring all 10 C-130Js at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi to Little Rock Air Force Base, saving taxpayers $60 million to $100 million over five years. [FULL TEXT]

Saving Jacksonville
A new group called the Downtown Jack-sonville Business Association recently held its first meeting. Members include several Jacksonville business owners and concerned residents who want to improve the appeal of downtown, which has lost several shops and restaurants to areas closer to Hwy. 67/167. [FULL TEXT]

Long road for schools
Not only are facilities substandard in Jacksonville and the Pulaski County Special School District school district, so is academic performance at nearly 25 percent of the schools. [FULL TEXT]

A good choice for high court
You expect governors to make political appointments whenever there is a vacancy in the electoral establishment, even when the vacancy is in the judicial branch, where independence from politics is a foundational principle. Just like his predecessors, Gov. Asa Hutchinson took the political route in his first six months in office, but not last week when he was faced with the task of replacing the venerable Chief Justice Jim Hannah, whose grave health problems forced his resignation. [FULL TEXT]

How Asa can fix it
We must give Gov. Hutchinson credit for searching high and low for a way to bring recalcitrant legislators in his party along for the ride to provide everyone, including the poorest Arkansans, good medical care when they get sick. [FULL TEXT]

JNP District gets warned
Saying the districts aren't making satisfactory progress in achieving unitary status, U.S. District Judge Price Marshall on Thursday ordered the Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District and the Joshua Intervenors to meet monthly to work out specifics of school facilities plans and report back to him in December.

New library instant hit
Cabot opened its new $2.6 million public library on West Main Street on Monday. The spacious modern design has 24,000 square feet, six times the size of the old Arlene Cherry Library.

Schools set to reopen
It's back-to-school time!
But it's more than just new clothes, notebook paper and a pack of pencils.

Metrotrends notes growth
Jacksonville was once the fastest-growing community in the area, but that was before its schools were entangled in an important, if debilitating, desegregation agreement. [FULL TEXT]

Former sergeant needs your help
Harold "Hutch" Hutchison –– a local Mason and master sergeant retired from 24 years in the Air Force –– was doing what he does, helping people, when tragedy struck. [FULL TEXT]

Dog gone it, here to stay
Almost all pet owners understand the importance of searching for their next pet. Whether it's finding the right breed or visiting the local shelters, hoping to save the life of the perfect animal, finding the right pet is an endeavor most people have undertaken at some point. But, sometimes, pets find their owners. [FULL TEXT]

Alimony check from PCSSD
An agreement reached Monday between the new Jacksonville school district and the Pulaski County Special School District is a bargain by any measure and should secure the city's fledgling school system while it gets its footing. [FULL TEXT]

Jacksonville gets its turn
For the first time in a long time, Jacksonville is growing faster than its neighboring communities of Sherwood and Cabot. [FULL TEXT]

New district fears lawsuits
Keep your friends close, but your adversaries closer---going forward, that needs to be the motto of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board and administrators, or its detachment from the Pulaski County Special School District could slip into another expensive, long-running legal quagmire. [FULL TEXT]

The mayor vs. ex-police chief
(This Leader editorial from Sept. 10, 2014, placed first in the Arkansas Press Association's Better Newspaper contest for large weeklies.)
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.

Teachers' pay
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District's school board approved a salary schedule Tuesday that would cut the pay of some veteran teachers by as much as 20 percent and reduce their benefits by half. That's all the board, administration and consultants are sure they can afford. [FULL TEXT]

Save Ward library
Ward could lose its little library at the end of the year if the city does not come up with funds for a librarian. The Lonoke-Prairie County Regional System has lost $35,000 in funding after the state legislature cut $1 million in aid to Arkansas libraries. [FULL TEXT]

Tony Wood gets to work
As superintendent of the newly formed Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School District, Tony Wood has taken on the biggest challenge of his career. He took over for Bobby Lester last week, having previously been Searcy's superintendent and education commissioner under former Gov. Mike Beebe. [FULL TEXT]

Do we need a high court?
You may or may not care about the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on several monumental issues, from legalizing same-sex marriage to upholding Obamacare, but at least the highest court in the land made cogent arguments in those landmark cases. [FULL TEXT]

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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

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]