Wednesday, May 02, 2007

SPORTS>>NP ladies win one, lose in quarters

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Lady Falcons made some noise in the Class 5A state soccer tournament, but the season came to a close Monday with a 4-1 loss to Greenwood. A series of unfortunate events caused the Lady Falcons to arrive at the field at Harrison High School just 15 minutes before game time. The combination of a hurried, unfocused start and a talented group of Lady Bulldogs put North Pulaski in an early hole they couldn’t climb out of.

North Pulaski’s team bus was late picking up the team, and late arriving to the pitch. The team dressed on the bus on the way to the game, stretched quickly and began playing its quarterfinal matchup.

“We just never really got a chance to get ready and that really hurt us,” North Pulaski coach Christy Delao said. “We just weren’t focused when the game started.”

Greenwood scored three goals in the first half to take a commanding 3-0 lead into intermission. The Lady Falcons didn’t give up, and cut the margin to 3-1 early in the second half.

Greenwood took the goal personally, and stepped up the defensive aggression and went into a defensive mode the rest of the game.

“They were really wanting that shut out and the game took on a little meaner tone after we scored,” Delao said. “They really went defensive to keep us from scoring and getting closer, and they really got aggressive. I was proud of the girls though, they never quit and they kept it close. Ultimately though, Greenwood is really talented and could very well win state. I think they were sort of expecting a runaway win and I was proud of the girls for scoring and making it close.” The Lady Falcons advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over the Hope Lady Bobcats in the first round.

That game was scoreless for much of the first half until Brittany Hettinger scored an unassisted goal with about 15 minutes left in the half. That stood as the lone goal through the first half, but it was just moments after the second half started that NP took a 2-0 lead.

In the second minute of the second, Sophie Weber broke away for the Lady Falcons’ final goal of the game. The NP ladies gave up a goal with about 12 minutes left, and took a defensive posture the rest of the game. “We wanted to make it as difficult as possible for them to score,” Delao said. The Lady Falcons finished the season with a record of 8-5-1 and won the 5A-East conference championship. The team impressed its coach throughout the season.

“We were a little lucky in that the rec league wasn’t able to put together a U-18 team,” Delao said. “Most of the girls out for that were North Pulaski kids, so we made some phone calls and got some people to come out that had experience playing with each other. That gave us a good start, but the girls were just awesome. They came together as a team and just got better and better. From day one to Greenwood this team continued to improve.”

SPORTS>>Devils bow out of state in second to Wildcats

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville got past the first round of the 6A state playoffs with a 4-1 win over Little Rock Hall on Saturday, but found second-round opponent El Dorado to be much tougher on Monday. The Red Devils fell to the Wildcats 5-1 in the quarterfinal round, ending the best season of Jacksonville soccer in nearly a decade.

As was the case during the regular season, it was the scoring prowess of senior forward Manuel Alvidrez that gave Jacksonville its biggest boost. Alvidrez scored three of the four goals in the Saturday contest against Hall, and came away with the Devils’ only point against El Dorado.

It didn’t take long at all for Alvidrez to receive his first playoff goal in Saturday’s opener. The Warriors had the kickoff, but an interception by Mikey Rose also ended up as an assist, as Alvidrez took the pass from Rose and hit a rocket shot straight ahead for a goal 13 seconds into the first half. That would give the senior a place in the playoff record books for quickest goal scored in state tournament play. Alvidrez completed his hat trick in the first half, with Jimmy Polatsidis scoring the fourth and final goal for the Red Devils in the second half.

The only score for Jacksonville against El Dorado on Monday was a penalty kick for Alvidrez in the second half. The Wildcats went up 2-0 at the intermission with a pair of first half goals, and would repeat in the second half for two more shots good for scores that would put the game out of contention for Jacksonville.

The Red Devils end their season with an 8-3-7 overall record, up dramatically from last year’s 4-12 struggling effort. Jacksonville coach Leighton Canon says the team enjoyed a healthy dose of senior leadership throughout the season; a luxury he says will not be there next season.

“We’re losing nine seniors,” Canon said. “By the end of the season, we only had 13 players on our roster, so we are losing a whole lot. Hopefully with the season we just had, we will get interest from guys in other sports and maybe some younger guys.”

The departing seniors include standout goalkeeper Matt McCullough, whose strong play in front of the net helped lead to a very noticeable improvement in goals allowed from last season. Canon noted that Alvidrez’ performance throughout the season not only caught his attention, but the attention of every coach in the East Conference with a conference-record 30 goals for the season.

“We had a coaches meeting last week,” Canon said. “And all the coaches basically said he’s a man playing amongst boys. He led the conference in goals, and maybe the state. He definitely has the skill and knowledge to play on the next level in college.” Canon said. Alvidrez’ future probably will not be certain until mid-summer, after the state all star game in which he is expected to appear in.

While the personnel of the team itself is still not completely certain for the ’08 season, Canon did state that he will definitely return as head coach next year.

“We need a few more people maybe,” Canon said. “But we can win games and have a successful soccer program at Jacksonville High School, so I have decided that I will continue coaching a building up the program.”

SPORTS>>No facade with JHS senior

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

“Keeping it real” is a phrase most frequently used as a defense by someone who has just done something unpopular or uncouth. For Gabrielle Hart of Jacksonville High School, it’s just a way of doing things. Quiet and unassuming until engaged, direct and confident, but also pleasant, when engaged.

There’s a bareness to interacting with Hart, in both delivery and reception, and that’s part of why she has become one of the state’s premier hitters in high-school fastpitch softball.

She’s confident in herself on the diamond, so she’s confident that her coaches know what they are talking about. In other words, she listens, an attribute coaches, including Hart’s own at JHS, love.

“She’s a coach’s dream as far as I’m concerned,” Jacksonville assistant coach Phil Bradley said. “She’s very coachable, she’s a team player and she loves softball. She works hard on and off the field. That’s why she’s become a premier hitter. She’s had to overcome some setbacks, but she came back with a vengeance.”

The daughter of Greg and Patty Hart of Cabot, Gaby got a late start to the season due to injuries. She missed the first four games of the season with one injury. Upon returning, another injury sidelined her for two more games. Once she finally became a full-time player, she has turned in a record-breaking season. She has hit nine balls out of the park this season, which is a school record, has a batting average that soars to .519 and has driven in 39 runs. Hart has always hit for a high average, but the home runs are new. “I’ve never hit home runs like this,” Hart, admitted.

She was a speedy, dependable leadoff hitter last season for the Lady Red Devils. Now she’s a muscular cleanup hitter, but the transition didn’t happen by accident. It took dedication. Weight training twice a week, and changes in her day-to-day activities were employed to deliver a more polished and capable athlete.

“I work out at least twice a week,” Hart said. “I also changed my eating and sleeping habits. I can tell a big difference.”
Due to the team’s needs, she has moved from her natural position in the outfield to take up the crucial position of shortstop. According to Bradley, she has given full dedication to learning that position as well.

She will do anything you ask of her to help the team,” Bradley said. “We asked her to move to shortstop, and buddy she was all business about learning shortstop. She didn’t complain, didn’t say much at all. She never does. She does her talking with her bat and her glove.”

The dedication doesn’t stop there. Beyond her dedication to batting practice, fielding practice, weight training and diet, Hart is devoted spiritually as well. “Every time I go to the plate, before I step in the batter’s box, recite a scripture,” Hart said. “ ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”

Hart’s emergence as a power-hitter, combined with her already-high batting average and above-average speed has attracted attention from several colleges. She has already decided to attend Butler County Community College in ?? Kansas.

Some of the realness shines through when she explains, quite evenly, why she chose the junior college. “I’m a better softball player than I am a student,” Hart said. “I didn’t qualify to play Division I without having to sit out a year. I plan to change that in college. I see how the dedication made me a better player. I can be dedicated to school like that too if I set my mind to it.”
Hart is so focused on giving her all, she’s knows precisely when she hasn’t, and it bothers her.
“It’s been a great year overall, but there are two times when I’ve left the field not completely satisfied with the effort,” Hart said.

With her senior year drawing to a close, and the Lady Devils taking a No. 2 seed and a contender’s status into this weekend’s state tournament, Hart knows that being completely satisfied with the effort is a must. She has seen her team tighten up its defense over the past couple of weeks, and expects good things when the playoffs arrive.

“We’re all trying to be more focused and make the best of the situation we’re in,” Hart said. “We’re pulling together. Our defense has gotten better and our practices are more strenuous. We know what’s on the line, and we want to win the championship.”

Hart remembers well how close Jacksonville came to the state title game last year, losing the lead in the last inning in the semifinals to eventual state champion Fayetteville. She believes carrying that memory into this year’s tournament will help her team.

“We talk about that all the time,” Hart said. “We definitely don’t want to feel like that again.”

Hart credits her father, who has coached her summer league team the Bashers for years, with most of her progression as an athlete, but also says she learned a lot from Bradley and head coach Tanya Ganey. “My dad has spent so much time working with me and teaching me. Coach Bradley is great. I’ve learned a lot from him and coach Ganey. I appreciate so much everybody who has helped me get better.”

Those people won’t be able to go with her to Butler County CC, but her greatest inspiration will. “Phillipians ??, that’s what I keep with me all the time. That’s what I remember and live by.”

Whether expressing gratitude, listing her awards and accolades, which includes two All-Conference and one All-State awards, or describing her underachievements, Hart states them all with the same plain-spoken frankness.

The phrase, “keeping it real” was never uttered, but one can be certain after speaking with Gabrielle Nichole Hart, that there was no fa├žade.

OBITUARIES >> 5-02-07

Charleene Peterson

Charleene R. Peterson, 69, of Jacksonville passed away April 28. She was born Jan. 11, 1938 in Memphis, Tenn., to the late Charles and Ivamae Timmons McPherson.

She was also preceded in death by her husband, Doyle W. Peterson and granddaughter, Nicole Hackelberg. She was a substitute teacher for 25 years in Pulaski County schools. She enjoyed reading, ceramics, the Jacksonville Senior Center, her grandchildren, lunch with the ladies and crocheting.

Survivors include her children, Kelvin Peterson and wife Dorette, Kerry Peterson and husband Jackie, Kaylin Peterson and daughter T. Charleene M. Peterson, all of Jacksonville, Karen Ables and husband Barry of England, Kimberley Hackelberg and Paul Aumann of Two Rivers, and Kenny Peterson and wife Patricia of Seattle, Wash.; brothers and sisters, Charles McPherson and wife Nancy of Memphis, Elizabeth Murphy of California, Halcie Harris and husband Bill of Houston, Texas and Charlotte White and husband Bob of Texas; 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 2 at 612 Neal St. in Jacksonville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Nicole Hackelberg Scholarship Fund, c/o Kimberley Hackelberg, 2325 44th St., Two Rivers, Wis., 54241. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Ronald Rice

Ronald David Rice, 75, of Jacksonville passed away May 1 in Jacksonville. He was born May 1, 1932 in Conrath, Wis., to the late David and Marie Moser Rice.

His sisters Delores Moser, Velma Reeves and Dorothy Ho-eft also preceded him in death.

He was retired from the Army, where he served during both the Vietnam and Korean Wars. He also retired from the U.S. Postal service in North Little Rock. He was lovingly known as “The Mayor of Collinwood” by friends and neighbors.
Survivors include his wife, Haruko Rice of the home, a daughter, Peggy Lavender and husband Leland of Cabot; three grandchildren, Donovan Romine, Taylor Romine and Le Ann Lavender, all of Cabot; two brothers, Robert Rice and wife Mary of Windlake, Wis. and Lowell Rice and wife Sonya of Oscala, Fl.; two sisters, Loretta Matlack and husband Russell of Tony, Wis. and Ruth Schley of Sheboygan, Minn.

Graveside funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Friday, May 4 at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville. Visitation will be at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home on Thursday, May 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.


Florene Wiley

Florene “Blondie” Wiley, 76, of North Little Rock passed away April 28. She was born March 10, 1931 to the late Sylvester and Sarah Tolley.

Also preceding her in death were a son, Mike Wiley; a daughter, Sandra Wiley, and a grandson, Danny Wiley, Jr.
Survivors include her husband, J.R. Wiley of the home; one daughter, Penny and husband David Guess of Sherwood; one son, Danny and wife Dolly Wiley of North Little Rock; three grandchildren, Sarah Wiley, Justin Guess and Salina Wiley; six sisters and two brothers.

Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 2 at Edgewood Cemetery in North Little Rock. Funeral arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service at Cabot.


Gene Dulaney

Gene Paul Dulaney, 72, of Ward passed away April 26. He was born April 23, 1935 in Hoxie to the late Leonard Dulaney, Sr. and Margaret Stephens-Dulaney.

He is survived by five children, Debra Stephens, Ricky and wife Melissa Dulaney, Teresa and husband Harlen Burke, Brett Memknow and Tracie Hudson; four sisters, Mickey Taylor, Joyce Finley, Ruth Calhoun and Helen Tassisstro; two brothers, Leonard Dulaney, Jr. and John Dulaney; 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Cremation arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

TOP STORY >>Residents in Beebe to vote on millage

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Voters in the Beebe School District will go to the polls next Tuesday to decide whether the district should extend the existing millage to raise $5.6 million to turn an old sewing factory into an early childhood education building. All the usual polling places will be open. The majority of the Beebe School Board agreed with board member Lorrie Belew who said last month that even though the turnout might be low for a special election, it should be convenient for those who wanted to vote.

The polling places are Beebe Church of Christ, El Paso Community Center, Antioch Church, McRae Multi-Purpose Building, Floyd Fire Station and Garner City Hall. All city wards and Union Township vote at Beebe Church of Christ. Voting yes will not increase property taxes. Instead, the millage extension will support a $12.2 million bond issue.

Of that amount about $6.6 million would be used to retire three existing bond issues for construction. The new bond issue would be retired in 2037, about 16 years after those it would replace. If voters approve the extension, the district will pay $500,000 for a 42,000-square-foot sewing factory and eight acres on Holly Street and use the new money raised from the extension to help pay for renovations estimated at $10 million.

The state approved the construction Monday during a meeting of the Commission for Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, which means the state will pay 63 percent of the cost and the district will pay 37 percent. If voters turn down the millage extension, Dr. Belinda Shook, school superintendent, said the district will still try to buy the sewing factory and property, even if construction is not possible at this time.

“It’s critical,” Shook said when asked how important it is to the district for voters to approve the millage extension. “Our buildings are full now and we’re growing by 140 a year. “We may have to bring in some portables,” she said.

In recent months, Shook has been looking for other land on which to expand the campus. She has looked at land on Hwy. 38 toward Antioch and on Hwy. 64 toward El Paso. She said Tuesday that renovating the old sewing factory into classrooms will buy the district time to look for the right land at a good price. The district owns three houses, two in Beebe and one in McRae.

The old Baker house on Center Street joins the other school property and Shook said it is almost certain that it and the others will eventually be torn down so more classrooms can be built. For now, however, that house and the others are rented to school employees who, as part of their rent, are required to keep a watch over the campus when school is not in session. The Baker house rents for $500 a month. The others rent for $400 and $300.

The district maintains the property, including mowing the grass. The district anticipates a cost savings by renovating the sewing factory instead of building new. Steve Elliott, the architect who frequently works for the district, has estimated that by keeping the existing steel and concrete in place, the new school will cost $100 a square foot instead of $135.

TOP STORY >>Parents upset over harassment

By ALIYA FELDMAN
Special to The Leader

The Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) may not be abiding by state law requiring programs to prevent fighting, in spite of a recent spate of violence in Jacksonville which left police having to work security on school grounds.

Police arrested four Jacksonville High School students involved in two separate fights and provided security at North Pulaski High School after a student posted death threats on the Internet last month. On April 16, police took a report from the father of a Jacksonville Girls’ Middle School student, who says another student has repeatedly harassed her, but the school has failed to take action on her behalf.

“The girls are continuing to threaten her,” said Peggy Smiley, the grandmother of the girl who reported being bullied. Despite filing a police report, Smiley said the school has still not disciplined the girl who, she says, attacked her granddaughter three times since January.

“If they are not getting a response from the school, then go to the superintendent. If they are not getting anything there, then the Department of Education will investigate,” Julie Thompson, Department of Education spokesperson, said.

Smiley said she contacted PCSSD about what she says is the school’s failure to protect her granddaughter and did not receive a call back.

She plans to report the repeated bullying to the state Department of Education. Jacksonville Girls’ Middle School Principal Kim Forrest, the Pulaski County Special School District and the school board did not return calls for this article.

Bullying is believed to be the main cause of school violence, according to the education department. State law requires all local school boards to adopt policies to prevent pupil harassment and bullying. Bullying is prohibited on school property, at school activities, on buses and at bus stops. Student services must also include programs to prevent bullying.

School districts are also required to have a procedure to discipline students who engage in bullying and harassment, and the punishment for such behavior must be posted in every classroom, cafeteria, restroom, gymnasium, auditorium and school bus in the district as well be provided to parents, students, school volunteers and employees.

The Pulaski County Special School District’s harassment policy states that any report of such behavior should first prompt a conference with the child’s parents. If the incident is repeated, the student should be suspended for two to four days and will be recommended for expulsion if the harassment continues, according to PCSSD policy.

Despite department of education programming for school districts to make sure they comply with state law meant to prevent school violence, Jacksonville Elementary School is the only PCSSD school to receive Arkansas After-School Enrichment Pro-gram funds, which were created to provide prevention programs to target students in middle school, junior high school and high school who demonstrate anti-social behavior, according to Thompson.

J.B. Robertson, the supervisor of school counselors at the Department of Education, who also conducts anti-bullying workshops at schools across the state, said, “School counselors have different kinds of programs regarding getting along with kids that a lot of P.E. teachers also address.”

He said these programs are done consistently at the elementary level, but “at secondary level it stops, which is unfortunate.”
“Pick up any catalogue sent to schools and they are supposed to have these kinds of programs in place,” he said. “Some school districts that have not taken advantage of what is available is the problem,” Robertson said.

TOP STORY >>Opponents fight payday lenders

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Despite the state General Assembly’s failure to criminalize high-interest consumer loans during the 2007 session, just completed, there is progress on several fronts, according to Hank Klein, founder of Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending (AAAPL.)

In the Arkansas House, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to take not only the interest but also the principal out of payday loans. But members of the Arkansas Financial Services Association sandbagged the bill in the Senate Commerce and Banking Subcommittee with a few well-placed $500 campaign contributions.

Payday loans are small loans, usually $100 to $500, made for an average of 14 days, Klein said. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, the average payday borrower pays $800 to borrow $325. A 14-day payday loan typically costs Arkansas borrowers 372 percent to 869 percent annually in interest.

Amendment 60 to the Arkansas Constitution, adopted by voters in 1982, governs usury and limits interest on consumer loans to a maximum of 17 percent per year. Klein said the good news includes a Defense Department initiative, passed by Congress, to make it illegal to make loans to members of the active duty military and their families at interest rates higher than 36 percent annually. Also, the payday lenders failed to push through a bill Klein said was virtually meaningless—“We call it window dressing”—that would have allowed its supporters to pose as doing something to curb abusive loans.

The industry’s bill passed the Senate 30-3, but “we stopped it in the House 57-27,” said Klein. Also, after a slow start, Peggy Matson, director of the Arkansas Board of Collection Agencies, has begun making payday lenders accountable to state law.

Klein said that in the last two weeks, Matson took Dennis Bailey to court and won a $1.3 million judgment against him for an illegal affiliation with a Missouri Bank. One of his “Fast Cash” stores had been operating in Cabot, he said.

Matson will hold a hearing May 21 on a payday lender operating in Jacksonville, American Cash Advance, located in the old Wal-Mart Center, Klein said. The company allegedly made loans as high as $900 in violation of the $300 loan cap in Arkansas, and the loans are made as a money order, which the company then charges 10 percent to cash.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has clamped down on payday lenders associating themselves with banks. As a result, ACE (American Cash Express) in Little Rock quit doing business in April. After Oct. 1, it will be illegal to lend money to active duty service members and their families at interest rates greater than 36 percent. Payday lenders in Arkansas routinely make $300, two-week loans for $350.

That’s in excess of 300 percent when figured as an annual interest rate, while the state’s usury rate is 17 percent. Furthermore, it prohibits the lenders from taking a check for security and an arbitration clause in the contract that won’t let borrowers resolve issues in court. It also prohibits access to a person’s bank account. The law is also aimed at tax refund anticipation lenders, he said.

In local courts, Fort Smith lawyer Todd Turner has a case remanded from the state Supreme Court to Circuit Judge Barry Sims’ court that would force bonding companies to make good on bonds when payday lenders default.

TOP STORY >>A deal seen on getting new water

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

If negotiations continue the way they are going, members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority will eventually get permission to take the water they need from Greers Ferry Lake, but exactly how they will pay for that water remains unknown.

Members know they can borrow the money to build the project that is expected to cost about $60 million, but they hope they also qualify for some grant money. There is also talk that Central Arkansas Water (CAW), which formed when the water departments in Little Rock and North Little Rock merged, might be willing to help build the line to secure water they will need in about 40 years. In the meantime, the members of Lonoke White are trying to get at least half of the lake water allocation, enough to take care of their needs now and for several years to come.

How much water can be taken from the lake is determined by the United States Congress and administered by the Corps of Engineers. Currently, the allocation is 15 million gallons a day. Early talk about the allocation made it appear that every city and water association that needed that water would ask for more than its fair share. But after a recent meeting in Little Rock, it appears the water allocation could be divided so that everyone who needs water will get it.

The meeting was for members of the Mid Arkansas Water Alliance (MAWA) members north of the Arkansas River – those who would reasonably be expected to eventually get at least part of their water from Greers Ferry Lake. Of that group, many were also members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority, which as an entity is not a member of MAWA.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke, whose city needs the water now, has been a strong proponent of the Lonoke White Project, which has been in development for about 15 years.

Its current members include Ward, Bayou Two, Grand Prairie, Austin, Lonoke, McRae, Beebe, North Pulaski Water Association, Cabot and Jacksonville. Some, like Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski, are also working with CAW to secure a long-term source of water.

Cabot and Jacksonville were frankly brought into the Lonoke White Public Water Authority because their large customer bases would give the organization the clout needed to ask for a larger allocation. But when the Lonoke White Water Authority met recently with MAWA, which secured the allocation for dividing among its members, they met as individuals and still they will likely get most of the 7.5 million gallons a day they are asking for. Although the allocations for the cities and water associations are not set in stone, Brooke said this week that he is happy with the turn the negotiations have taken. “The good thing is we’re all working together,” he said. “We’re going to end up getting the water we need.”

The group is expected to meet again early this month to fine tune the allocations, but for now, these are the numbers: Cabot and Jacksonville, 1.5 million gallons a day; Ward, Lonoke, Bayou Two Water Association, North Pulaski Water Association and Grand Prairie, .9 million gallons a day.

The other members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority are not asking for allocations. Financing the Lonoke White Project remains the biggest question. The project has been engineered. The rights-of-way and intake site have been purchased.

The plan is to build the intake facility and lay a 30-inch line to bring the water to its customers. If CAW will need some of that water by 2050, now would be the time to consider helping lay a larger line, Brooke said. “While we’re in the construction phase would be a good time for them to get on the bandwagon,” he said.

EDITORIALS>>More on firings

Every emanation from the bowels of the U. S. Justice Department leaves us less satisfied than before about what happened last year to our chief federal law enforcement agency. Local developments magnify our hunger.

Murray Waas, an investigative journalist whose reporting took the lid off the Wayne Dumond scandal a few years ago, disclosed that before the firing of U.S. attorneys last year, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed an executive order giving a couple of young assistants who had come over from the Republican political operations pretty much carte blanche authority to relieve and appoint people to positions throughout the department. Both of those assistants have resigned in the furor of the attorney firings. One has refused to testify on grounds of self-incrimination.

Did their authority include the firing and hiring of district prosecutors like H. E. “Bud” Cummins III in the eastern judicial district of Arkansas? Both had said early on that it was not their decision. But whose was it? Yesterday, Gonzales’ chief deputy said he did not choose which prosecutors were to be fired and who were to take their places.

All the evidence — e-mails and memos — points to the White House political office run by Karl Rove, the boss of Tim Griffin, who got Cummins’ job. If true, that is not so surprising. The White House, after all, makes all political appointments, although in the case of the Justice Department, the district attorneys are supervised and are supposed to be screened by the professionals first.

So why exactly was Bud Cummins fired? He was not exactly a firebrand prosecutor when it came to public corruption cases, as we now know in our precincts. Were there complaints about either his diligence or lack of it? It could be either. He passed on the prosecution of alleged corruption with a Republican regime in Missouri last year — with good reasons for all we know — and he left wholesale corruption in Lonoke to the overworked county prosecutor. The sordid stuff that came out at the trial touched the skirts of his office.

The only way we can know is if the White House turns over all the e-mails on the attorney firings from Rove’s and the White House counsel staff, including official correspondence dispatched secretly over the Republican Party network. And they should testify in person, too. Let’s hope the president orders his men and women to tell what they know and did.

EDITORIALS>>Bush vetoes spending bill

As he had vowed, President Bush vetoed the supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war Tuesday evening, settling a score with the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The posturing on both sides had been extravagant and, by any reckoning, this doughty president and this pesky Congress are now even.

But the American people have not had their satisfaction, and they are running out of patience with the political scorekeeping. President Bush says he will work with Congress to reach an accommodation that will keep the money flowing through the summer for the materiel that the troops need. Let us hope that he is serious and that the Democrats are serious, too, about reaching a compromise that does not rub the president’s face in defeat.

Mr. Bush finds any resolution that sets any sort of timetable for withdrawing all, or even any, of U.S. forces from Iraq to be an acknowledgement that the war and his entire foreign policy are failures.

It need not be that way and the Democrats should go out of their way to see that the next resolution does not try to send that message. It would help if Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and others piped down the rhetoric.

The president also needs to grasp an inescapable fact. Congress cannot pass a war appropriation now that does not somehow make the end of U.S. battle engagement in Iraq a certainty — at some date and on certain terms. Vague statements about hopeful timetables, all of which have passed unheeded for four years, will not pass muster again.

Mr. Bush’s surge may eventually tamp down the day-to-day violence in Baghdad and in an outlying province or two, and we pray for even better results than that. But there is no sum of results on Iraq’s killing streets foreseen by even the most optimistic warrior that would change the conclusion of the vast majority of Americans that the United States’ combat role must end. President Bush and his commanders say that the Iraq mission will take years, well past the end of his term, but the public does not have the will for that.

The death toll of American and British soldiers (who are beginning to stand down) as well as Iraqi soldiers and civilians has been rising since the surge began. Sunnis are battling Shiites, and Shiites are battling each other. Americans do not want their sons and daughters buffering them any longer.

Mr. Bush’s yearning for a peace-loving and democratic Iraq is as noble as ever. He has been ardent and persistent in making his case for a determined strategy to stabilize the gulf states with American power. But the president of the United States cannot for long conduct a foreign policy — or a domestic program either — that is decidedly at odds with the passionate beliefs of the people. George Bush personally can stand an even more precipitous decline in his already abysmal standing in the polls — a couple of predecessors have for a short time — but the country pays a dear price when the national will is flouted. The president should not ask it, and his political adversaries should not force him into that corner. They can work it out.

EDITORIALS>>U.S. prosecutor demoted over bullying e-mail

IN SHORT: Witness in Campbell trial used his government computer and official title to try to intimidate newspaper with threat of a $50 million libel suit and takeover of The Leader.

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor

A deputy prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock has fantasies about owning this newspaper.

Robert Govar of Lonoke — formerly chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock who’s now been demoted — threatened to sue me last week over a column I wrote about him and his buddy Jay Campbell, the crooked cop who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, along with his wife Kelly, who received a 20-year sentence.

The deputy prosecutor fired off an hysterical e-mail from his office, predicting he would win a $50 million judgment against us, so we’d better get ready to turn The Leader over to him.

“I hope you and some of your ‘sources’ have fifty million dollars but, if you don’t, take good care of my newspaper,” he wrote Friday morning, acting as if he already owned the place.

Imagine Govar as a newspaper publisher: Govar probably would have reported the Campbell trial more favorably toward his friends. He thinks we’ve ruined his reputation because we wrote he’d been hanging out with Campbell too long.

A lot of people think Govar sullied his reputation long before we wrote about him. (See his complete e-mail on p. 7A.) His colleagues in law enforcement consider Govar arrogant and boorish who should have been dismissed from his job a long time ago.

In their heyday, Campbell and Govar were both known as bullies as they worked together on various criminal investigations.
“Two peas in a pod” — that’s how a law-enforcement official characterized the pair when he heard about Govar’s ridiculous e-mail.

Fortunately, Govar’s boss, U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin, doesn’t think his employees should write outrageous e-mails on government computers, on government time, using their government title to intimidate the press. And he probably doesn’t want them to be aspiring publishers either.

Govar lost his position after I forwarded his e-mail to the U.S. attorney on Friday afternoon. Griffin said Govar had not shown him the e-mail before he sent it to me.

Monday morning, Griffin named longtime prosecutor Pat Harris as Govar’s successor.

Griffin said in a statement to The Leader on Monday, “Mr. Govar sent the email without notice to me or approval by me.
“Despite the fact that he sent it on DOJ email, on DOJ time and using his official title, he did not speak for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

“Any libel action contemplated by Mr. Govar would be a matter filed in his personal capacity and would not involve the U.S. government.”

Govar is unhappy with our coverage of the Campbell trial, which revealed that the former chief criminal prosecutor used Act 309 prison laborers to clear a lot for his new home. Act 309 prisoners are held in local jails while they await transfer to overcrowded state prisons, but they cannot be used as laborers.

Govar testified he didn’t know he was using Act 309 inmates when he asked Campbell, who was then Lonoke police chief, to clear Govar’s land. Govar claims the inmates were paid for their work, but who kept the money?

Former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett will be tried for using Act 309 inmates to put up Christmas decorations and to repair his air conditioner at his house.

Griffin is trying to restore confidence in the U.S. attorney’s office after the Justice Department fired eight federal prosecutors (including his predecessor Bud Cummins). I’m glad he’s acted swiftly against a rogue deputy, but Griffin hasn’t gone far enough: He should fire Govar if he hopes to bring back respect to the U.S. attorney’s office.

E-mail that started furor
Mr. Garrick Feldman,
I just wanted you to know that I will be engaging the services of the best libel lawyers I can find to sue you, your newspaper, “The Leader”, and Leader Publishing, Inc. Your article, “Why didn’t feds take this case?”, in the April 25, 2007 issue of The Leader contains lies which damage my professional reputation.
You will be receiving a letter from me soon which will provide more details. I hope you and some of your “sources” have fifty million dollars but, if you don’t, take good care of my newspaper. And for Pete’s sake, if you are going to destroy a professional person’s reputation by printing lies, at least get their title correct.

Robert J. Govar
Chief, Criminal Division
United States Attorneys Office
Eastern District of Arkansas
501-340-2616
Bob.govar@usdoj

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> U.S. prosecutor demoted over bullying e-mail

IN SHORT: Witness in Campbell trial used his government computer and official title to try to intimidate newspaper with threat of a $50 million libel suit and takeover of The Leader.

A deputy prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock has fantasies about owning this newspaper.

Robert Govar of Lonoke — formerly chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock who’s now been demoted — threatened to sue me last week over a column I wrote about him and his buddy Jay Campbell, the crooked cop who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, along with his wife Kelly, who received a 20-year sentence.

The deputy prosecutor fired off an hysterical e-mail from his office, predicting he would win a $50 million judgment against us, so we’d better get ready to turn The Leader over to him.

“I hope you and some of your ‘sources’ have fifty million dollars but, if you don’t, take good care of my newspaper,” he wrote Friday morning, acting as if he already owned the place.

Imagine Govar as a newspaper publisher: Govar probably would have reported the Campbell trial more favorably toward his friends. He thinks we’ve ruined his reputation because we wrote he’d been hanging out with Campbell too long.

A lot of people think Govar sullied his reputation long before we wrote about him. (See his complete e-mail on p. 7A.) His colleagues in law enforcement consider Govar arrogant and boorish who should have been dismissed from his job a long time ago.

In their heyday, Campbell and Govar were both known as bullies as they worked together on various criminal investigations.
“Two peas in a pod” — that’s how a law-enforcement official characterized the pair when he heard about Govar’s ridiculous e-mail.

Fortunately, Govar’s boss, U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin, doesn’t think his employees should write outrageous e-mails on government computers, on government time, using their government title to intimidate the press. And he probably doesn’t want them to be aspiring publishers either.

Govar lost his position after I forwarded his e-mail to the U.S. attorney on Friday afternoon. Griffin said Govar had not shown him the e-mail before he sent it to me.

Monday morning, Griffin named longtime prosecutor Pat Harris as Govar’s successor.

Griffin said in a statement to The Leader on Monday, “Mr. Govar sent the email without notice to me or approval by me.
“Despite the fact that he sent it on DOJ email, on DOJ time and using his official title, he did not speak for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

“Any libel action contemplated by Mr. Govar would be a matter filed in his personal capacity and would not involve the U.S. government.”

Govar is unhappy with our coverage of the Campbell trial, which revealed that the former chief criminal prosecutor used Act 309 prison laborers to clear a lot for his new home. Act 309 prisoners are held in local jails while they await transfer to overcrowded state prisons, but they cannot be used as laborers.

Govar testified he didn’t know he was using Act 309 inmates when he asked Campbell, who was then Lonoke police chief, to clear Govar’s land. Govar claims the inmates were paid for their work, but who kept the money?

Former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett will be tried for using Act 309 inmates to put up Christmas decorations and to repair his air conditioner at his house.

Griffin is trying to restore confidence in the U.S. attorney’s office after the Justice Department fired eight federal prosecutors (including his predecessor Bud Cummins). I’m glad he’s acted swiftly against a rogue deputy, but Griffin hasn’t gone far enough: He should fire Govar if he hopes to bring back respect to the U.S. attorney’s office.

E-mail that started furor
Mr. Garrick Feldman,
I just wanted you to know that I will be engaging the services of the best libel lawyers I can find to sue you, your newspaper, “The Leader”, and Leader Publishing, Inc. Your article, “Why didn’t feds take this case?”, in the April 25, 2007 issue of The Leader contains lies which damage my professional reputation.
You will be receiving a letter from me soon which will provide more details. I hope you and some of your “sources” have fifty million dollars but, if you don’t, take good care of my newspaper. And for Pete’s sake, if you are going to destroy a professional person’s reputation by printing lies, at least get their title correct.

Robert J. Govar
Chief, Criminal Division
United States Attorneys Office
Eastern District of Arkansas
501-340-2616
Bob.govar@usdoj

TOP STORY >>U.S. prosecutor demoted over bullying e-mail

IN SHORT: Witness in Campbell trial used his government computer and official title to try to intimidate newspaper with threat of a $50 million libel suit and takeover of The Leader.

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor

A deputy prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock has fantasies about owning this newspaper.

Robert Govar of Lonoke — formerly chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock who’s now been demoted — threatened to sue me last week over a column I wrote about him and his buddy Jay Campbell, the crooked cop who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, along with his wife Kelly, who received a 20-year sentence.

The deputy prosecutor fired off an hysterical e-mail from his office, predicting he would win a $50 million judgment against us, so we’d better get ready to turn The Leader over to him.

“I hope you and some of your ‘sources’ have fifty million dollars but, if you don’t, take good care of my newspaper,” he wrote Friday morning, acting as if he already owned the place.

Imagine Govar as a newspaper publisher: Govar probably would have reported the Campbell trial more favorably toward his friends. He thinks we’ve ruined his reputation because we wrote he’d been hanging out with Campbell too long.

A lot of people think Govar sullied his reputation long before we wrote about him. (See his complete e-mail on p. 7A.) His colleagues in law enforcement consider Govar arrogant and boorish who should have been dismissed from his job a long time ago.

In their heyday, Campbell and Govar were both known as bullies as they worked together on various criminal investigations.
“Two peas in a pod” — that’s how a law-enforcement official characterized the pair when he heard about Govar’s ridiculous e-mail.

Fortunately, Govar’s boss, U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin, doesn’t think his employees should write outrageous e-mails on government computers, on government time, using their government title to intimidate the press. And he probably doesn’t want them to be aspiring publishers either.

Govar lost his position after I forwarded his e-mail to the U.S. attorney on Friday afternoon. Griffin said Govar had not shown him the e-mail before he sent it to me.

Monday morning, Griffin named longtime prosecutor Pat Harris as Govar’s successor.

Griffin said in a statement to The Leader on Monday, “Mr. Govar sent the email without notice to me or approval by me.
“Despite the fact that he sent it on DOJ email, on DOJ time and using his official title, he did not speak for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

“Any libel action contemplated by Mr. Govar would be a matter filed in his personal capacity and would not involve the U.S. government.”

Govar is unhappy with our coverage of the Campbell trial, which revealed that the former chief criminal prosecutor used Act 309 prison laborers to clear a lot for his new home. Act 309 prisoners are held in local jails while they await transfer to overcrowded state prisons, but they cannot be used as laborers.

Govar testified he didn’t know he was using Act 309 inmates when he asked Campbell, who was then Lonoke police chief, to clear Govar’s land. Govar claims the inmates were paid for their work, but who kept the money?

Former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett will be tried for using Act 309 inmates to put up Christmas decorations and to repair his air conditioner at his house.

Griffin is trying to restore confidence in the U.S. attorney’s office after the Justice Department fired eight federal prosecutors (including his predecessor Bud Cummins). I’m glad he’s acted swiftly against a rogue deputy, but Griffin hasn’t gone far enough: He should fire Govar if he hopes to bring back respect to the U.S. attorney’s office.

E-mail that started furor
Mr. Garrick Feldman,
I just wanted you to know that I will be engaging the services of the best libel lawyers I can find to sue you, your newspaper, “The Leader”, and Leader Publishing, Inc. Your article, “Why didn’t feds take this case?”, in the April 25, 2007 issue of The Leader contains lies which damage my professional reputation.
You will be receiving a letter from me soon which will provide more details. I hope you and some of your “sources” have fifty million dollars but, if you don’t, take good care of my newspaper. And for Pete’s sake, if you are going to destroy a professional person’s reputation by printing lies, at least get their title correct.

Robert J. Govar
Chief, Criminal Division
United States Attorneys Office
Eastern District of Arkansas
501-340-2616
Bob.govar@usdoj

TOP STORY >>No bond for pair, will stay in prison

IN SHORT: Campbells stay locked up after judge changes his mind about letting the couple out on bail.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

After a week in prison, former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly thought they’d be freed on bond and back home in Lonoke Tuesday afternoon, reunited with their three children.

Instead, they were locked in Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars and transported back to prison to continue serving lengthy prison terms. In their wake, they left stunned and sobbing relatives in the parking lot of the Cabot City Annex.

The sudden change in their expectations occurred when Special Judge John Cole vacated his own April 24 ruling that the Campbells were eligible to be free on appeals bonds—he on a $200,000 bond, she on a $100,000 bond.

Getting into the patrol car, Jay Campbell said he couldn’t go back to prison, so for security purposes, a second deputy rode in the car. He arrived back at the Corrections Department without incident.

Jay Campbell is assigned to the Diagnostic Unit at Pine Bluff, and she’s at the McPherson Unit at Newport.

An unsuspecting Kelly Campbell had entered the courtroom wearing a big smile, handcuffs and bright prison whites.

But the smile vanished from her face when Cole ruled that he had been in error last week when considering only the flight risk while determining that the Campbells could be freed on bond. Tuesday he said he was not convinced they didn’t pose other sorts of risks.

Defense attorneys have speculated that it would take 18 months to get the appeal before the state Supreme Court—seven months alone for the court recorder to transcribe the two-month-long trial.

Until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Campbells had expected to be free during that year and a half.

Jay Campbell is sentenced to a 40-year term for running an ongoing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and 21 other charges including several residential burglaries and several counts of receiving of a controlled substance by fraud.

Unless his case is overturned on appeal, he’ll serve at least 10 years in the state Correction Department.

Kelly Campbell is sentenced to 20 years for 26 convictions including several residential burglaries and several charges of receiving a controlled substance by theft. With good behavior, she could be out in about three years and four months.

Cole informed Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and defense lawyers Patrick Benca and Mark Hampton at 2 p.m. Monday that he would not allow the Campbells to be freed on bond, but neither defendant knew that until arriving at the temporary circuit courtroom in Cabot.

“I’m happy,” said McCastlain. “I think the people will be pleased that justice was served and the appeal bond denied.”
Both Campbells tested positive for drugs in urinalysis, McCastlain told the court, but since Cole ruled they were not eligible for bond under Rule Six of the Arkansas Code, she did not call the witnesses to establish that the couple had drugs in their system.

McCastlain said Jay Campbell tested positive for hydrocodone and that Kelly’s urine revealed the presence of opiates, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Benca told the court that his client, Jay Campbell, had a prescription for the drug in his system.
In the emotional aftermath of Cole’s ruling, Kelly Campbell glared at McCastlain.

McCastlain dismissed her behavior later, saying it was a reasonable reaction to the sudden change in expectations and loss of liberty.

Cole also denied Benca and Hampton’s challenge of his appeal-bond ruling and their motions for mistrials and retrials.
Benca argued that since Kelly Campbell was found innocent of participating in a continuing criminal enterprise with her husband, that Jay Campbell’s guilty verdict on that count must be set aside.

Cole denied his motion.

He did relieve both attorneys of the responsibility of further defending their clients during the appeals process and also ruled that both Campbells were indigent and that he would appoint them new lawyers.

Benca said it was probable that new lawyers for the Campbells would challenge Cole’s ruling on the appeals bond within the next 30 days.

The indigency ruling also meant they would not have to pay the estimated $70,000 to have the trial notes transcribed.
Jay Campbell’s easy smile, decreasingly evident over the past few court appearances, surfaced only briefly for his mother. Otherwise, he sat in quiet concern.

Waiting for the hearing to begin, the gallery behind the prosecutors’ table was chatty and festive. It included at least one victim of the Campbells, one jury member and some of McCastlain’s staff.

In stark contrast, across the aisle and behind the defendants and their attorneys, somber family members and a former co-defendant sat quietly, some crying and hugging. The families knew what Jay and Kelly Campbell did not—that they were headed back to prison—but relatives couldn’t reach them in prison.

“Until (new inmates) have an account and a phone list, they don’t have phone privileges,” according to George Brewer, a Correction Department spokesman. “We don’t set that up during intake.”

One former juror, who last week complained in tears to McCastlain that the system didn’t work and that the jury had expected the Campbells to go straight to jail two weeks ago, when they were convicted, was all smiles Tuesday when the judge ruled the Campbells were not eligible for bond.

Speaking for the first time to the press on the condition of anonymity, the woman said the jurors were appalled by Campbell’s breach of trust and abuse of his position.

That’s why they gave the maximum penalty on almost every count. But, she said, the Campbells were young enough to learn and perhaps earn redemption, so they recommended the judge run the sentences concurrently.

Also happy to see Jay Campbell in prison was Linda Ives, who has long held that he and another lawman killed her son Kevin and another teenaged boy 20 years ago and left their bodies on a Saline County railroad track, where they were struck by a train.

She said Campbell’s high-placed friends were no longer able to protect him. “None of this is new,” she said Tuesday.
“It’s not fair. She didn’t get to come home today,” said Tammy Crow, Kelly Campbell’s sister. “We’ve had no contact with her.”

Crow is the primary custodian of the Campbells’ three children while their parents are in prison.

Crow, her mother Caroline Hoagland, and two other sisters huddled and hugged after Kelly Campbell was driven off.
“We’re a strong, close family and we’ll get through this,” she said. “We’re trying to be strong for Kelly and the children,” she said.

Benca said Campbell needed a new attorney for the appeal, someone who wasn’t so close to the case and someone who could argue, if necessary, that Benca did a poor job of representing the former chief.

Hampton asked to be replaced because he’s not an appeals attorney.
“I have approved (Pulaski County Prosecutor) Larry Jegley as (Larry) Norwood’s special prosecutor,” Cole said in a related matter. Norwood, a bail bondsman, was at one time a codefendant in the Campbell case and is charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine with Jay Campbell and fellow bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox.

There was testimony in the Campbell trial that Cox, then a codefendant, solicited Ron “Bear” Tyler to kill McCastlain and also witness Ryan Adams, the meth cook.

While currently neither Cox nor Norwood is charged with soliciting capital murder, Jegley instead of McCastlain will handle their charges. McCastlain is an alleged intended victim.

Jegley could not be reached for comment Tuesday and it was uncertain whether the two bail bondsmen would be tried together, and also whether or not he expected to charge one or both Cox and Norwood with solicitation of capital murder charges.

Cole will be the judge not only for charges against Cox and Norwood, but for former dispatcher Amy Staley’s charge of having sex with inmates and former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett’s misdemeanor theft-of-services trial for having Act 309 inmates hang his Christmas decorations and repair an air conditioner at his home.

Monday, April 30, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Supreme Court rejects TIFs

What we like about this state Supreme Court is its stern devotion to the Constitution, which is what we should always expect but do not always get from appellate courts.

The justices, all seven of them, reaffirmed our faith again when they prohibited prosperous local governments from robbing public schools and libraries to help commercial developers.

Thursday, the Supreme Court tossed a 14-inch Stilson wrench into the developers’ machinery by declaring much of the school and library taxes off limits.

The court said 25 mills of operating taxes for the schools and the one-mill library tax were protected by the state Constitution and could not be drained away for development purposes. Thus do generations of Arkansas children have still another reason beyond the Lake View orders to rise up and call the justices blessed.

Amendment 78 to the Arkansas Constitution, which flew under the radar of voters in 2000, legalized a procedure called tax-increment financing, TIF for short.

Local governments could siphon off the real estate taxes from economic growth and use them to pay for improvements to benefit commercial developments like shopping centers.

The idea of TIFs was that tax growth from development, although originally intended for schools, libraries and city and county governments, would pay off the debt that made the growth possible.

It was supposed to help severely blighted neighborhoods. But it has been the most prosperous rather than depressed or blighted communities that have leaped at the TIF opportunity.

Booming Fayetteville brought the case that produced Thursday’s unanimous decision. It wanted to divert school and library taxes to redevelop a downtown section along old U.S. Highway 71.

Truthfully, the Supreme Court had no choice, although two sessions of the Arkansas legislature tried to amend the Constitution by legislative fiat to accommodate the developers. The court noted that only the people, not legislators, can alter the Constitution and that the lawmakers cannot pass a law saying what the Constitution really means.

Amendment 74 to the Constitution, ratified by the voters only four years before Amendment 78, declared 25 mills of real estate taxes throughout the state a statewide tax for education. The millage is collected locally and sent to Little Rock, where it is redistributed across the state based on the needs of the local schools.

Those taxes could never be used for any purpose except the schools. The city of Fayetteville and the developers, along with the legislature, said Amendment 78 repealed it by “implication” since 78 was adopted later and could be said to conflict with the earlier amendment.

If the authors of Amendment 78 intended to repeal Amendment 74 and dip into those school revenues, they should have clearly said so in the amendment, the court said. Arkansas voters were “never put on notice” that the wordy amendment on the ballot would take away some of the future school millage, the court said.

It recalled that in 2000 Arkansas was struggling to meet a constitutional mandate to fund the schools to provide a suitable and equal education.

“In that climate,” wrote Justice Robert L. Brown, “it is unreasonable to conclude that the voters intended to divert money exclusively dedicated for school purposes under Amendment 74 to fund redevelopment projects under Amendment 78.”
Indeed, it was unreasonable. And the court supplied the same reasoning in declaring the one-mill library millage off limits because the constitutional provision authorizing the library tax also said that it could never be used for another purpose, and Amendment 78 did not specifically repeal it.

The ruling jeopardizes a number of developing TIF projects in the booming northwest quadrant, Jonesboro and North Little Rock, among other cities.

It puts in peril the big Bass Pro Shop mall at North Hills and a mixed-use development near the Arkansas River, both authorized by the North Little Rock City Council in December. They will have to downsize or string out the debt using the small amount of school, county and municipal millage that can be applied as a result of the decision.

The decision will be welcomed by Arkansas’ schools, every one of which would have been hurt by every single TIF project because of the labyrinthine way it would have worked if the 25 mills could be used. More than that, the decision sent a message to legislators and those who draft these constitutional amendments that they should achieve their purposes straightforwardly and not by craftiness.

Tell the voters what you are up to. Don’t depend upon lawmaking legerdemain and winking courts to get it done.

SPORTS>>Jacksonville proves point, beats Marion

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Jacksonville had some things to prove this week in its two final fastpitch conference games of the season. They proved them. The Lady Red Devils couldn’t finish ahead of league champion Marion by beating the Lady Patriots Tuesday, but they could prove they are just as good or better, and they did with a 1-0 victory to avenge a 2-1 loss earlier in the season.

Jacksonville’s Jessica Bock hit a single deep into left field in the fifth inning to score Rochelle Holder for the game’s only run.
Bock also threw a one-hitter against a powerful Lady Patriot lineup, while Jacksonville kept Marion on the ropes in several innings.

Jacksonville played a game of missed opportunities until Holder and Bock coordinated the game winner.

An inning earlier, Jacksonville loaded the bases with no outs and failed to score. In the sixth innings, the Lady Devils put runners on second and third with one out, and loaded the bases with two outs and failed to score.

In the end, Bock was too strong and too crafty for the Marion batting lineup to figure out.

Even though Marion is still to top seed, Bradley says the win was important for other reasons.

“We wanted to prove we’re as good or better than they are,” Bradley said. “We gave the first one away, and we had a lot more opportunities to score in this one than we did. So I think we proved that. It also proved to us that we can compete with and beat the top teams. Marion is an outstanding team, they’re top tier, and we beat ‘em. That’s important for us heading into the state tournament.” The win locked up the No. 2 seed in the 6A-East for Jacksonville regardless of Thursday’s outcome against Sylvan Hills, but Bock had something to prove in that game as well.

The Lady Bears employed a bunt-often strategy in their first meeting with Jacksonville, and the result was Bock’s season-low strikeout total and season-high earned run total in an 8-3 Lady Devil win.

This time, Bock fanned 15 Lady Bears and threw a no-hitter as Jacksonville cruised to a 10-0 victory. “I think she’s getting stronger as the season goes,” Jacksonville coach Phil Bradley said. “Her last two games have been downright impressive, and our defense has been a lot better.”

Offensively, Kayla Williams went 3 for 3 while Bailey Herlacher and Ellen Burr went 2 for 3. Senior shortstop Gaby Hart got one hit, but it was good enough for her 10th home run of the season and ended the game.

Somer Grimes led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, and Hart hit one out to left field to put the Lady Devils ahead by the 10-runs-after-five-innings rule. Errors have been the root cause for all but one of Jacksonville’s four losses, but the Lady Devils haven’t committed an error this week.

Jacksonville closed out the regular season last night against Wynne, the only team to beat Jacksonville without the aid of Jacksonville errors.

Look for details of that game, as well as a complete wrap-up of the 6A-East final standings and a preview of the class 6A state softball tournament in Wednesday’s edition of the Leader.

SPORTS>>SH catcher readying to become a Reddy

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills catcher Taylor Roark is headed to Arkadelphia in the fall after signing his letter of intent to attend Henderson State University on a baseball scholarship. Roark signed in front of family and friends at the media center at SHHS Wednesday afternoon.

The signing came on the heels of Tuesday’s split with Marion, in which the Bears found they could take the East title for the second straight year after Searcy and Jonesboro split their series on the same day.

Roark has had his options open, but with an eye on the Henderson offer the whole way. He says that after all the smoke settled, the offer from the Reddies was still the best one for him.

“It was getting late, and I hadn’t heard from anyone,” Roark said. “I like the campus, and I will probably have a chance to play earlier, so that gives me more motivation.”

Roark will have at least one familiar face on the team when he arrives on campus. Former Bears third baseman Cody Duncan is now a sophomore at HSU, and a member of the Henderson baseball program as well. Roark says the two have not talked extensively about the school or the team, but he says he looks forward to reconnecting with his old teammate.

For Henderson State coach John Harvey, the addition of Roark to his team is one that he says will give them more versatility.
“He’s a very good player; I think he can help us out right away,” Harvey said. “He is a good athlete, and he can do a lot of things.” Harvey said that along with Roark’s athletic ability, his efforts in the classroom at Sylvan Hills was another factor in the decision. Roark’s 3.6 GPA and ACT test score of 27 is just as impressive as his baseball stats, which also caught the attention of the Henderson staff.

“I think it’s a big consideration,” Harvey said. “A player that makes good grades is beneficial all the way around. It shows that he’s responsible, and you know that you’re not just getting a good ball player, but a good kid as well.”

Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton agrees that of all of Roark’s talents, that the versatility factor will be one of his greatest assets to the Reddies baseball program.

“I think Taylor will be a good fit for Henderson State,” Tipton said. “He can play infield, outfield, or pitch, and that will give him a chance to play early most likely. He is also a good runner and will give them a lot of speed, so I believe he will be a benefit for them in a lot of different areas.” Roark was the fifth signee of the year for Henderson State, which expects to haul in 20 new players before recruiting time is over.

Although his future is set, this season is far from over for Roark and the rest of the Bears. A possible conference title for the second straight year, and an unbelievable 13th consecutive playoff appearance lie ahead in the final weeks of the 2007 season.

SPORTS>>Jackrabbit guard signs with SAU

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Lonoke senior Kristy Shinn will take the next step as a collegiate basketball player in the fall, when she heads to Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. Shinn signed her letter of intent on Tuesday afternoon at the Lonoke gym in front of her teammates and the Lonoke Jr. girls team.

Shinn was a vital part of the Lady Jackrabbits’ trip to the state finals this past season, and has been on the All-Conference list for the past two years.

Lady Muleriders coach Sam Biley got his first look at Shinn during the 4A state championship game at Hot Springs back in March, and invited her to open tryouts.

“It’s exciting, but it’s scary also,” Shinn said of her upcoming tenure. “I know I need to improve some. It’s a small campus, but it seems like it is its own little community.”

Shinn averaged 10.2 points per game last season as one of the tallest guards in the 4A-2 Conference at 5’ 10”, and had 1.7 steals. She averaged 4.1 rebounds per game and led the team in assists with 3.6 per game.

“We knew how good she was last year in a lineup with two other strong guards,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “But we didn’t know what kind of stand-alone player she would be whenever Meagan (Kelleybrew) and Libby (Gay) left us. She ended up all over the map for us. Some nights, she was our best defender and others she was the leading scorer. She seemed to come through wherever we needed her the most, and you always knew you would get maximum effort from her every night.”

Shinn’s signing was the third for Lonoke girls athletics in the last two years, and an announcement concerning fellow senior Calisha Kirk is expected within the next two weeks. Morris, who has taken a beating on message boards and rumor circles since the controversial finale to the title game with CAC, says the harsh words have little effect on him, as long as his girls continue to on to the next level.

“People can say whatever they want,” Morris said. “But this is the very reason we do things the way we do here. And as long as the girls continue to have success and move on to get a free college education, guess what? We will probably continue to do things that way.”

Shinn is one of three seniors that made up the core of the state runner-up team. While post player Jenny Evans has decided to attend junior college locally, Kirk will most likely play college ball, which would make four signings out of the six Lonoke seniors from the past two seasons.

Lady Muleriders coach Sam Biley says that while he was very impressed with Shinn’s overall athleticism, it was knowledge of her ruthless practice regimen that closed the deal for him.

“Kristy is a very hard worker,” Biley said. “We think that makes her a good fit for our program. We want girls with strong work ethics on our team. She can give us a good push off the bench, and I think she can become a great player once she comes in and begins to focus on one sport.”

After last season’s 9-5 finish in the Gulf South Conference in which SAU took third in the standings behind Arkansas Tech and Delta State, the Lady Muleriders lost five seniors, three of which were posts. Biley says that has been addressed with the signing of three six foot plus players, and a 5’7” guard to replace the departing point guard. Shinn, as a guard at 5’ 10”, will undoubtedly have most of the same advantages athletically in the Gulf South that she had as a Lady Jackrabbit.

TOP STORY >>District aims to complete zones soon

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District hopes to have the new rezoning map for elementary attendance zones completed by the May school board meeting. When the boundaries for each of the eight elementary schools are set, students outside the new zones will not be grandfathered in to their old schools, Dr. Frank Holman, district superintendent, told parents Thursday night during the last public meeting on the matter.

“Once a zone is set, if you are in that zone, that is the school they will go to,” Holman said, adding, “this is the best plan we know of right now.”

He said they have four or five schools set aside for students with severe problems, medical conditions or hardships that would hinder them moving schools after the plan is set. The rezoning plan showed to parents is not finalized yet and because of that, some lines might still get moved a quarter- mile one way or a half-mile another way before it is completed.
There are three areas that might move from their proposed zones before it is said and done – the Butlerville community and the Autumnwood and Pinewood subdivisions.

Butlerville’s 69 elementary students have been attending Ward Central Elementary, but in the draft plan, they will go to the new $6.6 million Stagecoach Elementary, which is 1.7 miles further to travel. Autumnwood and Pinewood students, currently at Central Elementary, are to change to Eastside Elementary, but they might end up going to Stagecoach if Butlerville continues at Ward Central.

“The Butlerville community area we would love to see stay at Ward Central, it just depends how full we want to start Stagecoach,” Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, said. He added that, ideally, they would also like to put Autumnwood and Pinewood at Stagecoach if they can work it out.

Dalton explained attendance boundary changes school by school, highlighting the areas of biggest change.
School zones

Westside Elementary’s boundary, in the draft plan, begins at Hwy. 89 at the high school campus and heads east to Hwy. 67/167, going out to Hwy. 5, just short of West Oaks and the trailer park. Westside Elementary’s zone will not include Bill Foster Memorial Highway or the subdivision behind Kroger.

Central Elementary’s zone includes up to Hwy. 321 to the south, Hwy. 89 to the east, and the railroad tracks to the west; it also includes the area around the post office.

Eastside Elementary’s zone is proposed smaller and longer; Hwy. 89 will be the dividing line between it and Central Elementary. The line between Eastside and Ward Central has not changed in the draft plan. Eastside will take in the Linderman Trail area, Jones Road, Allison Road, Jack Fossett, Ray Sowell Road, Linda Lane, Woodbridge Drive and the Shiloh community.

Stagecoach Elementary, the district’s newest elementary and the reason for the rezoning, will include Crooked Creek, Willow Drive, Crooked Creek Circle, Crooked Creek Drive, Willow Cove, Blooming Ridge, half of Diederich Lane, New Country Road, Winwood Heights, Lemay Road, Bethlehem Road, and stops at the Cabot district boundary, butting up against the Carlisle, Des Arc and Lonoke school districts.

Southside Elementary will include Feland Lane, Kerr Station south of Hwy. 321, Pickthorne, Candlewood, part of Mt. Tabor Road, the other half of Diederich Lane, and stops at the Pulaski County line.

Northside Elementary will include Deer Creek, Willow Lake Cove, Meir Road, Seven Point Lane, Douglas Road, Spotted Fawn Lane, and Willie Ray Drive. The intersection of Thompson Drive and Mt. Springs Road is its boundary point with Magness Creek Elementary, and the boundary with Ward Central is just outside of the Cabot city limits near the industrial park.
Magness Creek Elementary is set to include Paula Lane, W. Oak Drive, Griffin Road and High Point Drive; its boundary with Ward Central will be at the intersection of Lewisburg and Waters Road.

Ward Central Elementary has grown to include all of the Austin area, Williams Road, Waters Road, Revely Road and Sandy Lane; it ends at Hwy. 267 out to the east.

TOP STORY >>Students will attend high school campus

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Beginning this fall, all Cabot Junior High North students, seventh- through ninth-grade, will attend the north end of the Cabot High School campus.

At least that is what the Cabot School Board’s Building and Grounds Committee will recommend to the entire board at the May board meeting.

The building and grounds committee, comprised of Brooks Nash (committee chair) and members Alan Turnbo and Fred Campbell, reached this conclusion during a committee meeting Thursday.

“I appreciate all the hard work that was done by the group that put together the plan leaving the kids (seventh-graders) at Middle School North, but I think what is best for the kids is to move forward with putting them all, seventh through ninth grade, at the north half of the high school campus,” Turnbo said, making the motion to the committee. Campbell seconded the motion and it was passed with unanimous approval to recommend to the school board at the next meeting.

The ninth graders will attend classes at the end of the north wing of the high school building, which is closest to the current JHN principal’s complex. The seventh and eighth graders will attend classes in K, S, the old high school media center and 15 portable classrooms.

“There were lots of emotions both ways, but as long as we know the goal is to go back to two junior high schools, we should try to keep the kids together as much as we can,”

Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, said, adding the students will be able to get from the portable classrooms to solid structures very quickly.

CJHN principal Georgia Chastain has wanted all of her students to be at the high school campus since the committee met earlier this month and heard Cabot Middle School South principal Renee Calhoun’s plan. Chastain said then that she wanted her students to have one unified area to call their school and cited many benefits of having them all together at the high school campus.

“They would be in more permanent structures, have a team of seven administrators to watch out for them, have science labs, and a consistent structure and curriculum like junior high south,” Chastain said. She added there would also be no classroom time lost in the shuffle between campuses, no more limits on student services and a variety of food options at the high school cafeteria.

The 30 portable buildings that make up “the village” of junior high north will be removed; 15 will go across the street to the high school. The four old portables currently at the high school will be replaced and five newer ones will go in their place; 10 more will be added on the other side of the media center.

That is a total of 30 classrooms in the double portable buildings; one building holds two classrooms. There will be no bathrooms in the portable classrooms; students will use the bathrooms in K and S buildings. “We will do our best to keep all the students safe, no matter what grade,” Dr. Tony Thurman, CHS principal, said. “We’re going to be looking at ways to accommodate the concerns of parents at having their children here over the summer, and do anything we can do to alleviate concerns until they get here,” Thurman said.

Although the district will cut the amount of portables in use by half, the amount saved in monthly rent won’t be significant. They currently pay $40,000 a month for the 30 portables. “The rent on 15 portables we keep will be a little less a month than what we currently pay, and the contract amount as a total would be less,” Dalton said.

Six months will also be added to the contract, but the district will not face a penalty in letting the double portables go back to Williams Scotsman, Inc., the company supplying the buildings. The district also has one multiplex building, a five-section building of eight rooms that is used as a bank of restrooms; it alone costs the district $10,000 a month in rent.

“We have referred two schools and a university to them, so we’ve already covered the buildings for them that we’re getting out of here and he’s aware of it,” Dalton said. “I think he’ll make every effort to get the multiplex out of here as soon as possible,” he added. The cost to move the multiplex is $58,000, Dalton said, which includes the company tearing it down, hauling it back, and storing it on their site.

Junior High North students have been separated between the village and the high school campus since the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the eight-year-old, $9 million CJHN. The district reached a settlement with insurance carrier Great American Insurance Company of Ohio in February for $12,069,000 to help rebuild the school. The state Facilities Division agreed earlier this month to pay up to $5.2 million to help rebuild.

TOP STORY >>City could get woman for mayor

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Is Sherwood ready for a woman mayor?

It might get one, as two of the five candidates for mayor are female. All five are competing for the seat left vacant when Mayor Dan Stedman resigned in early April, citing health reasons. Stedman was mayor for just four months.

The city council appointed former Mayor Bill Harmon, who opted to retire instead of running for mayor last year, as the interim mayor and set July 10 as the date to elect a new mayor who will serve out the nearly three-and-a-half years left on Stedman’s term. Candidates may file for the office until noon Wednesday.

The first to file was City Clerk Virginia Hillman, 43, on the first day of the filing period, April 13. City activist Doris Anderson, 52, filed April 18. Mayor Bill Harmon, 79, filed April 19, followed by Richard Devine, 54, a realty specialist, on April 20 and retired Air Force veteran Victor Sierra, 57, on April 23.

Hillman, who has been the city clerk for six years and solidly won re-election in November, said that the city is ready for a change. “We’ve got some great things happening here in Sherwood, but some areas of the city are in need of drainage and street improvements. We need to take care of what we have,” Hillman said.

“I’m ready and just think that I would do a really good job,” she said. Anderson, who works for the Department of Labor, has been an advocate for Sherwood residents for years, attending city council and other meetings and letting city officials know when they have overstepped their bounds or not given citizens a fair shake.

“I can bring professional and efficient government to the city,” said Anderson, a certified public manager.
Anderson also promises not to bring a sales tax to the people for the purchase of the municipal golf course. She said she would also develop a sound plan to spend accordingly.

Harmon first became mayor in 1992, when Mayor Jack Evans died in office, and a special election was called.
He opted not to run again in 2006, saying it was time for him to retire. When he was named interim mayor earlier this month, Harmon remarked, “I’m tired of retirement and ready to serve the city again.” Harmon said he likes being mayor and wants to finish the term. “There are a lot of exciting things happening in Sherwood and I want to be a part of it,” he said.

The interim mayor added, “I’ll give the same leadership I’ve given the city over the past 14 years, and we made a lot of progress during that time.” Devine, who works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said he has lived in Sherwood since 1961 and is running because he wants the best for Sherwood.

“I can provide stability and leadership,” Devine said. “I’m good at negotiating and that’s what is needed at this time.” “One thing I want to get across is that I want to allow the city council to do their job and I’ll do the job of mayor and not cross boundaries — in other words work together,” Devine said.

Sierra, who has made Sherwood his home for more than 20 years, says the focus of the mayor should be on ways to make the city grow with new businesses. “I feel the city needs new blood. I look forward to cracking down on drugs, providing a free health clinic and bringing in family restaurants like Red Lobster,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Lawyer expects couple to post bond

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly could be freed on appeals bonds as early as Tuesday, but it could be more than a year before the state Supreme Court hears their appeal, Mark Hampton, her lawyer, said Thursday.
Jay Campbell is being held at the state Correction Department’s Diagnostic Unit in Little Rock and Kelly is at the women’s McPherson Unit at Newport.

Following a two-year corruption investigation and a two-month long trial, Jay Campbell was convicted of 23 counts and sentenced to 40 years in prison, and Kelly Campbell was convicted of 26 counts and sentenced to 20 years.
Most serious among his convictions were running a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Both were convicted of several counts of residential burglary and obtaining a controlled substance by theft or fraud.

Hampton said he had been unsuccessful both Wednesday and Thursday in talking to Kelly Campbell on the phone, but that he would continue his efforts. Hampton already has filed a motion seeking a directed verdict of not guilty or alternatively, a mistrial for his client. He alleges that her trial should have been separated from her husband’s and that all the testimony about her alleged sexual relations with Lonoke Jail inmates, and other testimony involving her husband prejudiced the jury against her.

At the hearing Tuesday, Special Circuit Judge John Cole will rule on motions by Hampton and by Jay Campbell’s lawyer Patrick Benca for a new trial. Such motions are routine and routinely denied, said Hampton, but are part of the process of covering all legal basis.

Then Benca and Hampton will file notice of appeal with the judge, Hampton said, and after that, the Campbells will be eligible to be bonded out.

“After giving notice to the circuit court and the world that we intend to appeal,” said Hampton, “next thing, we are requesting a transcript. I promise it will be a full seven months until it’s ready. Then the record is lodged with the court of appeals or Supreme Court. Then we write briefs on the issues. The state has the right to respond. We can reply—I can’t see it being submitted for at least 18 months.”

Cole last week set Kelly Campbell’s appeal bond at $100,000 and Jay Campbell’s at $200,000. Prosecutor Lona McCastlain strenuously argued that the Campbell’s should not be free on appeal. Hampton said Thursday that he expected the friends and families of both Campbells to raise the 10 percent needed to post bond. “They are both broke, but family members are willing to put a lot of stuff on the line,” Hampton said.

After formal sentencing by Cole last Tuesday, the Campbells were taken by Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies to North Little Rock, where they submitted to hair-follicle analysis to check for drugs in their past, then to the Lonoke County Jail and finally to the state Correction Department.

TOP STORY >>Drinking, drug use a teenage problem

By ALIYA FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

As alcohol and drug abuse is shown to have surged among north Pulaski County youth, government officials slated with handling such problems admit to a lack of programs to prevent them.

Early this month, the state created an Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force in response to the federal government’s requirement that each state have one, according to Jill Cox of the Department of Health and Human Services, a member of the taskforce.

As for prevention of alcohol abuse and other factors that contribute to youth violence, Cox said, “We (the task force) will make recommendations on the state and community level, but schools may or may not choose to do them. Schools get instruction from the Department of Education,” Cox said.

“In Arkansas, the average age of first alcohol use is 14,” Cox said. “The taskforce can tell (the schools) how to address the issue, but we’re a resource and cannot require schools to do anything. We give them the data but it’s up to the schools on how they want to use it,” she said.

Bobby Cole, director of health for the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), said that he was unaware of the Prevention Needs Assessment Student Survey conducted in 2005 by the DHHS that showed high numbers of children in north Pulaski County drink alcohol, use drugs and have acted violently.

The study reported that 21 percent of sixth graders have experimented with alcohol and the same number have already been suspended from school. Seventy percent of 12th graders in north Pulaski County said they already experimented with alcohol and 15 percent have been suspended from school. That same number have attacked other people in an attempt to harm them.

Cole said most of his duties involve making sure the 28 schools in PCSSD meet the physical education state guidelines. The state legislature recently reduced the required time that children must exercise each week and increased the amount of time children will take health education, Cole said.

“I think it’s wise to educate the students …but it reduces physical activity time,” Cole said. “It will allow freedom for the schools to create their own climates, that’s a good thing.”

But prevention of drug abuse and alcohol use among young people, considered causes of youth violence and other detrimental behaviors, are not yet fully on the radar of local officials.

When asked what schools do with the information that shows youth violence and alcohol and drug abuse are rampant, DHHS representative Hayes Miller said that “for a lot of the school districts, it’s not necessary.” Miller oversaw the study that found that north Pulaski County students are drinking at rates often well beyond children in other parts of Arkansas. In 2005, PCCSD participated in the study but the person who oversaw the study is no longer there, he said.

“The study allows the school to get an idea of what’s going on in the community,” he said. “We have to look at risk factors. It’s important to look at drop out rates. Pro social activities, poverty rates, there are a variety of behaviors considered.” He said the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that children be identified for risk factors, but a plan of action is the school’s choice once those problems are identified.

“A school could then identify law enforcement, youth services, private citizens, the mayor, social services, form a coalition and identify those problems and look at what prevention programs are available and what social services gaps exist for these underserved populations,” Miller said.

The Jacksonville Health Improvement Coalition is one such group that has formed to promote health awareness. The group organizes health education classes, health fairs and other educational tools intended to reverse the high death rates in the state caused by mostly preventable disease.

“There aren’t necessarily programs to target the drug use problems. The local coalitions tend to focus more on diabetes, West Nile virus, obesity and cancer. What tends to be missing is focus on drug-related issues,” Miller said.

In terms of solving the addiction problems of youth, Miller said that communities will have to work together to solve the problem. “One organization won’t have all the resources needed,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Williams will visit Congress for funds

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

At the end of his fourth month in office, Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams will travel to Washington to ask Arkansas’ congressional delegation for help with several large projects: a new post office, a north interchange and a National Guard armory or readiness center as they are now called.

Meanwhile, he is taking small steps toward easing the traffic congestion that is generally held as the city’s biggest problem.
“I wish there was one thing that would fix it all,” Williams said this week. “But there just isn’t.”

What area residents will see next week is an extra lane for right turns off South Rockwood coming out of Wal-Mart to be followed by re-striping to create a second turn lane off Hwy. 89 onto Rockwood so traffic doesn’t back up to the overpass.
Then the outside lane of Hwy. 89 that ends at Rockwood will be extended to allow traffic to flow uninterrupted to Hwy. 5.
Four lanes all the way to Hwy. 5 are likely years away from becoming a reality, but the changes in just that one intersection combined with adjustments to the timing of the traffic signals on Hwy. 89 should improve traffic considerably, Williams says.
A new traffic signal is planned for Hwy. 5 near the Heber Springs off-ramp to keep traffic from backing up on the freeway. The signal, which will be installed in conjunction with resurfacing of the highway, should be up within two weeks, the mayor said.

Williams, who was an engineer for Union Pacific when he ran for mayor, but also spent several years in management for the same company, has talked a lot since he took office, about building relationships with the people in county, state and federal offices who can help the city.

He held a traffic summit in February which included a tour of the city’s streets in which he pointed out several trouble spots that needed their attention. Since then, he has been in frequent contact with Mark Lyons, the chief signal engineer for the state, who is helping him make traffic flow smoother.

“We had a meeting this week and it’s a go and it’s only going to cost the city $10,000,” he said of the new light planned for Hwy. 5.

Since it literally takes an act of Congress to get a new post office, Williams is going to Washington Monday. He said he sees the existing post office becoming a branch to a larger post office that will be conveniently located for more residents, possibly in the Rockwood area.

“Every time I go there I have to stand in a long line,” Williams said when asked why he wants another post office. “There’s a need.”

When he says he sees the old post office as a branch, he means that almost literally. The mayor says he has been greatly influenced by a book written about 10 years ago by Steven Covey, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” From that book he says he has learned to “begin with the end in mind.”

TOP STORY >>Term limits to end legislators’ careers

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Whether or not you think term limits are a good idea, your current state representative won’t be there for you when the state House of Representatives next reconvenes in 2009 if you live in or around Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood or Lonoke.
Gone from office will be Reps. Will Bond, Sandra Prater, Jeff Wood, Susan Schulte and Lenville Evans.

The current law limits state representatives to three two-year terms and state senators to two four-year terms. But Bond points out that by the end of his six years in office, the legislature will have been in session less than one year, including special sessions.

The Arkansas General Assembly meets every two years for 90 days—so that’s three years times 90 days, or 270 days.
Actually, the current crop of area representatives will have “termed out” after four years and 91 days, according to his reckoning.

Bond, the Jacksonville representative, has been particularly outspoken in his opposition to term limits as they now exist, and for his articulate and outspoken advocacy for change, U.S. Termlimits Inc., a national group, has mocked him in a 30-second television spot that features dancing cartoon pigs in a hay loft.

“Bond wants to gut term limits, just so (he) can dance with the lobbyists a little longer,” an off-screen voice says.
Bond sponsored an act to let voters decide whether or not to let both state representatives and senators each serve 12 years, but his act—far from partying with the lobbyists—would have prohibited any legislator from taking any sort of gratuity, trip, item, drink, meal or anything from a lobbyist. It also would have prohibited legislators from going to work a lobbyist for 12 months after leaving office.

Called the government reform act, it “would have banned lobbying and entertainment,” said Bond. “It made it to the joint committee, which adjourned without referring the bill out,” Bond said. Bond said he had been accused of trying to extend his own term, but said “I’m done. I’m not running for the House again, even if (limits) are extended.”

Including federal funds that pass through the legislature, lawmakers budget more than $14 billion, while employing about 10,000 people—more than Wal-Mart, and it’s not a job for a lot of inexperienced people. “We oversee appropriations,” said Bond. “We make determinations of budgets. No business would operate with anyone with less than one year experience making those decisions.” Evans, Schulte, Prater and Wood each agreed that representatives could be more effective if term limits were longer.

Each of the legislators expressed pride at the work done in the General Assembly during their three terms.


BOND

“As a group, legislatively, we’ve committed a tremendous amount of resources to education,” he said. “In 2004, we make tough tax decisions on Lakeview school adequacy,” he said. “I’m proud of the consolidation measure, it made a whole lot of sense.”

He said lawmakers enacted meaningful sentencing reform, including use of transitional housing as an options for some inmates.

“We have a moral imperative to give folks an opportunity at redemption,” he said. For many of his constituents, the leadership Bond asserted in advancing the possibility of a stand-alone Jacksonville school district may be his legislative legacy.

In 2005, he arranged for the state Education Department to hire consultants to assess the feasibility of a Jacksonville district.
Now that the idea has been found feasible, Bond promoted bills intended to help the state save about $60 million a year desegregation costs, and to hire consultants and lawyers to help get all Pulaski County school districts in compliance with the court-ordered desegregation agreement.


PRATER

Prater, who worked closely with Bond on several issues, sponsored a new law that requires additional training in Alzheimer’s and other dementia for certified nurse assistants, so they would better understand the disease process and be better able to take care of such patients in a nursing home, she said This session, she also passed a law creating the Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force. She said she had been asked the serve on that task force. It can help families who have to deal with family members with such injuries, including those coming back from Iraq. “We want to develop a statewide plan to move us forward, looking at treatment and at the same time having opportunities for families to get formation for necessary help,” she said.

She was lead sponsor on a bill that requires counseling and helps patients and their families assess various services available, including home health care, assisting living or nursing homes. “We think the cost factor will be better as well,” she said, “costing fewer Medicaid dollars.”

Prater wouldn’t rule out running for another office in the future, perhaps the seat to be vacated by state Sen. John Paul Capps in 2010.

WOOD

State Rep. Jeff Wood, D-Sherwood, said he would miss the people and the process, but would get to spend more time with his family. I enjoyed working the bill through the legislature, making a difference in lives of my constituents.Wood said he believed that term limits weakens the legislative body while strengthening the judicial and executive branches and the lobbyists.

He said he would consider running for the state senate after Mary Ann Salmon is term limited, depending on redistricting and other variables. “We’ll wait and see,” he said. Wood, a lawyer in the National Guard’s JAG corps, frequently sponsored legislation helpful to Arkansas soldiers.

“I really enjoyed in getting the income tax exemption raised from $6,000 to $10,000 for enlisted men and officers,” he said. “I like working more behind the scenes to get the bill passed.

He sponsored the military protection act, passed in 2005. He said when the new law passed by Congress takes effect on October 1, payday lenders will have to limit loans to military and their families to 36 percent.

Ironically, he said, his law was used as an excuse in the past to continue making high interest loans—several hundred percent in interest—to the military, so as to not discriminate against the military.

“I’m going to miss serving with Will (Bond) and Sandra (Prater),” he said. “I think we built a real strong relationship working together.”

SCHULTE

“This was a quiet session for me,” Schulte said. “I was excited to see the energy bill that Lindsley Smith passed. She said it should provide an incentive to chicken farmers to capture and burn the naturally occurring methane gas in used chicken litter to generate electricity for their own use and to sell back to power companies on the electric grid.

”I think over my three terms I’ve seen a progressively conservative legislature,” said Schulte, the area’s only Republican representative. “It’s been gratifying to see more pro-life bills have passed and that we were able to reduce taxes this time and to take care of some of the gaps we had in services with the surplus.

She said it was difficult for a small business owner like her to juggle the responsibilities of work and duty during the sessions, but, “I feel very lucky to have been able to do this--to see how government works. She said a beneficial aspect of term limits is that regular folks come in and “Have a hand protecting the government and changing it to be what they think it ought to be.”

She thinks the terms should be extended however. “We come in with so little knowledge and don’t have any kind of (institutional) memory. She said she’d be in favor of a constitutional amendment that would require the general assembly to meet annually, dealing with the budget the first year of the biennium and other matters on the second. “Whenever we enacted term limits, we didn’t understand the unintended consequences,” she said.


EVANS

Evans, who served about six years as Lonoke mayor prior to his election as state representative, says he favors term limits, but the current limits are too short.

He said the highlight of his terms in office was “Getting the schools situated. We should be through with Lakeview now.” He said he also was proud that legislators greatly reduced the tax on groceries. He said he also was proud of “Some of the stuff I voted against,” but didn’t elaborate. “This has been a very rewarding, humbling experience,” he said.