Wednesday, November 07, 2007

SPORTS >>Badgers, Bulldogs unfamiliar

Leader sports editor

John Shannon’s Beebe Badgers and Rick Jones’ Greenwood Bulldogs run two completely different offenses. The Badgers run a tight, low, compact dead- T formation, while Jones’ two-time defending state champion Bulldogs spread it out and throw the ball about 90 percent of the time.

That made it interesting when both coaches described their team’s experience against the other’s system. Neither team has played against anyone that runs quite what the other runs, but when describing the closest thing they’ve seen, both said precisely, “The closest we’ve seen is Vilonia.”


It is actually true. Vilonia started the season running the spread offense, but went back to the double wing that it had run the previous few years at about the mid-point of the season.

The Eagles spread it out against Beebe, and ran the wing against Greenwood.

The initial confusion aside, neither team has really faced a good comparison to what Beebe will be facing this Friday night near the Oklahoma border.

“Vilonia ran out of it a lot more than Greenwood does,” Shannon said. “Greenwood goes downfield with it quite a bit. They throw it probably 85 to 90 percent of the time.”

Jones remarked, “They run that double wing and try to confuse you. Beebe just lines up and runs right at you. It’s a very manly style of football. You’d better be ready for a fight.”

Another ironic similarity between the two coaches’ keys is that both harped on maintaining assignments.

“You have to be physical and try to match how physical they are,” Jones said. “You also have to be where you’re supposed to be. You can’t get out of position or get blown off the ball.”

Being blown off the ball is one of Jones’ biggest concerns. He has his scout team simulating Beebe’s offense, but knows it won’t match Beebe’s style.

“That’s the thing that’s so unique about what they do,” Jones said. “Pad level is so important, and it’s a chore trying to make our guys understand just how low they’ll be coming off that ball. It’s very difficult. They present a ton of trouble for you.”
While Jones is impressed with Beebe’s line, he’s also impressed with the running backs.

“The whole offense executes so well. When I watch tapes, they blow you off the ball, but the backs run so hard. They hit the hole hard, and they don’t need a whole lot of hole to get good yardage on you. They always seem to fall forward, and a 5-10 guy falling forward is two more yards. They’re well coached and we’re expecting a battle.”

Beebe looks at Greenwood’s team and doesn’t see any major mismatches. The Badgers size up fairly evenly with the favored Bulldogs, much more evenly than they did against at least one of the team’s that beat them.

“I don’t see any big mismatches anywhere,” Shannon said. “They’re not as big as Blytheville, but I don’t know if anybody out there is. If there is a team out there bigger than them, I don’t want to see ‘em. Greenwood has good size, and good speed, but I don’t think we’re overmatched anywhere. I think it’s going to come down to which team executes the best.”

Execution is something the Badgers didn’t do well at times in last week’s 23-20 loss to Batesville, a game that came down to a field goal with nine seconds left that lifted the Pioneers to victory.

Beebe lost two fumbles in that game that led directly to Batesville points. That, according to Shannon, must be eliminated for his team to win Friday.

“We’ve got to hang onto the ball,” Shannon said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. We’ve got to quit beating ourselves.

Shannon is under no illusion that his team will completely shut down the high-powered Greenwood offense. He does think his team can minimize Greenwood’s chances to score.

If we hang onto the ball, keep their offense off the field and score every time we’ve got, we’ve got a good chance,” Shannon said. “I don’t know if you can stop that offense, but you can slow them down. It’s sort of a situation where our best defense could be our offense.”

Greenwood has enjoyed a pair of easy first-round playoff games the last two seasons. Jones isn’t expecting that this week.
“This is a two versus a three, so I don’t think there’s much difference,” Jones said. “The last two years we were a one against a four. I know in our league there wasn’t much difference between one and five. I know they took Batesville to the wire and we had all we wanted of them last year. This is going to be a tough game.”

Jones thinks his team could make it easier if it finally hits its stride, but he isn’t sure when that will take place.

“I just get a sense that we haven’t hit but on about six cylinders this year instead of eight,” Jones said. “Now is the time to change that. You have to go into these playoff games with an urgency and a sense of finality. Hopefully we can do that and starting playing well.”

SPORTS >>Another season of hoops underway

Leader sports editor

The annual Jacksonville preseason basketball jamboree turned out to be a good one for the host team. It involved several teams from the local area and Mountain Home. North Pulaski also took part in the event, along with McClellan, Central and LR Parkview.

While the Red Devils impressed their head coach, the Falcons did not, at least offensively.

North Pulaski started Saturday’s event against Mountain Home. Each team played one half of basketball against two other teams. Final scores were kept, but winning and losing weren’t what coaches were concerned with.

NP lost its halves, falling 25-23 to the Bombers, then losing 21-20 to Little Rock Central.

The Falcon defense gave both teams fits, but the offense wasn’t what head Falcon Raymond Cooper was wanting to see.

“I liked the two teams we played because we got to see two totally different styles,” Cooper said. “And we didn’t handle either one of them that well.”

The big and physical Bombers overpowered the small Falcons early, while Central’s pressure caused some problems for the NP offense.

“I told the guys how physical they (the Bombers) were going to be, but they didn’t realize it until they got out there,” Cooper said. “They were setting screens and being real physical and weren’t getting through them. We were just running into them and stopping. I think we got a little overwhelmed with that early. I liked that we came back late. That was something for us to build off of.”

North Pulaski fell behind 13-4 in the first quarter. They made a furious charge in the second quarter, but lackluster free-throw shooting ultimately cost them a win. NP took a brief two-point lead, but when the Bombers fouled, the Falcons couldn’t make them pay.

NP hit just four of 12 foul shots against Mountain Home, and three of nine against Central.

Against the Tigers, NP again found itself in an early hole, though not as big as against Mountain Home. The Tigers jumped ahead 11-5 before NP again charged late only to come up short.

“We did not execute our press break one time,” Cooper said. “Our press offense looked more like a fire drill than an offense. I was pretty disappointed in that. I did like our defensive pressure. We were out of position a few times, but the defensive effort was good.”

The lack of offensive execution showed in the scores.

“Forty-three points is not enough for what we do,” Cooper said. “If we’re held to 43 points, that’s not going to win us many games. We need to be up in the 60s.”

Jacksonville almost got into the 60s in its first half against McClellan, scoring 54 points, but only winning by four.
The Red Devils lost 36-24 to Parkview to close the night, but head coach Vic Joyner was pleased with his team’s overall effort.

“The first five I put out there did better than I expected on offense,” Joyner said. “Considering I’ve shortened practices and they haven’t had as much time to prepare, I was pleased with how they played.”

Jacksonville cruised to a big lead over the Lions before letting up and allowing a late comeback. Against Parkview, Jacksonville led by six until midway through the second half. That’s when the Patriots charged and took over the game.

“We didn’t sub a lot so we basically ran out of gas,” Joyner said. “We competed well. We got a little lackadaisical on defense at times, and I think a couple of the younger ones got a little nervous, but we competed and we executed the offense better than I expected.”

The highlight of the night came on a baseline drive and dunk by Red Devil point guard Terrell Eskridge. Eskridge took his man off the dribble, drove baseline and slammed it home against Parkview’s center.

“That shocked me to death,” Joyner said. “It shocked everybody in there. I’ve been watching that kid try to dunk every day in practice for two years, and he’s never done it. It really shocked that big man he dunked on.”

Along with the starting five of Terrell Eskridge, Cortrell Eskridge, Antonion Roy, Quentin Miles and DeShone McClure, Joyner said junior guard Allen Kirby did a good job off the bench.

“The starting five and Allen Kirby played pretty well,” Joyner said. “We’ve got some other guys on the bench that aren’t ready yet. Hopefully some of them will have a chance to step up and show us they can get in there.”

SPORTS >>Har-Ber expects challenges

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers will make their first appearance in the state football playoffs in three seasons when they travel to Springdale to take on Har-Ber High School, the West co-champion and No. 1 seed. Har-Ber, named for local philanthropists Harvey and Bernice Jones, tied with Bentonville for the league title, but won the top seed by virtue of beating the Tigers head-to-head.

There is little about the Cabot Panthers that the Wildcats are familiar with, but the game against Bentonville might have been their most significant tell-tale.

Har-Ber beat Bentonville, the West’s most prolific running team, 24-21, but still gave up a lot of yards on the ground. That fact, and the fact that Cabot’s running style is not very similar to Bentonville’s, concerns head Wildcat Chris Wood.

“It’s a big challenge for us to prepare for that offense,” Wood said. “It’s difficult to simulate. As hard as we try and as hard as the scout team tries to simulate it, you can’t really do it like Cabot is going to do it. Most teams we play are in a two-point on the line. They’re lining up foot-to-foot, coming off low; it’s just almost impossible to simulate.”

Conversely, Cabot has seen some spread this season, but likely not as efficiently as Har-Ber runs it.

Wood quarterbacked the spread for one of Gus Malzahn’s state championship teams at Shiloh Christian, and no one has really stopped the Wildcat offense this season. Their two losses were their season opener against Lawton, Okla., and week seven 16-12 loss to Fort Smith Northside. Northside did the best defensive job of the Wildcats, and did it mostly with defensive speed.

Cabot doesn’t have the same kind of speed, so head Panther Mike Malham and defensive coordinator Randall Black have the task of finding other ways to stop the Wildcats.

Mimicking its own efforts in the second and third quarters against Russellville would help the Panthers. Mimicking their effort in the middle quarters would spell a long night.

Cabot gave up just seven of Russellville’s 42 points on the second and third quarters, and 35 in the first and fourth combined.

“I thought the defense played well in spots,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said of the Russellville game. “Really after the first quarter they came back when turnovers came into play. That’s what we’re really going to have to be careful about. We can’t afford to turn the ball over.”

The offense has never looked better than it did last week. Cabot gained 525 yards, mostly on the ground. A number not even Malham ever expected.

“That kind of shocked me,” Malham said. “If we can move the ball and not put it on the ground, we’ve got a chance. The second half against Bryant is really the only time I remember us not moving it at all. The rest of the time, we either turned it over, or fumbled it and lost yardage, or got a penalty. We were always doing something to stop ourselves. That one half, though, we didn’t move it. Hopefully we’ll be able to move it and keep it away from them.”

The injury report from Cabot is getting a little better. Tight end Blake Carter was expected to miss last week’s game, but was able to suit up and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass.

Ethan Coffee came back at linebacker. Sophomore Alex Bray played well in his place. He was hurt and missed the second half last week, but is expected to play this week. His replacement in the second half last week, sophomore Jared Maxwell, played well also.

Sophomore defensive back Joe Bryant could play this week. That would be a big help, but as of Monday, Malham wasn’t counting on it.

“It’s getting a little better,” Malham said. “If Bryant comes back we’ll be able to get Neumann off safety and back at linebacker. Right now though we’re going to have to move forward like he’s not going to be there.”

One of the biggest concers for Malham is Har-Ber’s experience. It’s a senior-dominated team that has been playing together since the school’s inception three seasons ago. This is their first year to make the playoffs, but teams full of seniors are always dangerous.

“They’ve played together for three years now,” Malham said. “They work pretty well together. Any time you’re the number one team in the west, you’re supposed to be the best there is. You come out of there No. 1, you’ve got to be pretty good.”
While Malham lauded Har-Ber’s strengths, Wood reciprocated the praise. The head Wildcat wouldn’t even acknowledge that his team is the favorite.

“It’s a one-and-four matchup but it’s one of those deals where I don’t think we’re the favorite in this kind of situation,” Wood said. “We won a conference championship, but that’s out the door now. Cabot’s a tradition-rich program. We’re trying to create tradition but I think from that standpoint, I’d have to give the advantage to Cabot.”

EDITORIALS>>Letters: Help our schools

To the editor:

I just read the Nov. 3 letter to the editor from a concerned parent regarding the situation in Jacksonville’s schools. The letter made some references to the Jacksonville World Class Education Organization and the recent report on the student enrollment numbers in the PCSSD. I encourage that parent to contact the Jacksonville WCEO to better understand its purpose.

The Jacksonville WCEO is an organization of concerned citizens and parents committed to a quality world-class educational environment for all of Jacksonville’s students.

The Jacksonville WCEO has been meeting and working for students in Jacksonville long before this report came out. That re-port was not a product of the Jacksonville WCEO; it was from the Arkansas Department of Education. Of the decline in enrollment in PCSSD, 190 students out of 361 left out of Jacksonville. That is 53 percent of the total district-wide loss. That is the most revealing number from the report. What the PCSSD is going to do about it should be the concern from the citizens of Jacksonville. It does not matter what color they are, we are losing students.

All Jacksonville schools are in trouble. Our building facilities are old and the majority of them need to be replaced completely. While Jacksonville is in the PCSSD we have no choice but to work with the district. Is it a realistic goal that PCSSD is going to replace all the schools in Jacksonville immediately? No. The Jacksonville WCEO decided that a focused effort on one project was the best way to get anything accomplished. We felt as a group that the middle schools were the best place to start. Both the boys and girls campuses need replacement. There are other school facilities in Jacksonville in worse shape, but they do not affect as many families in Jacksonville as the middle schools do.

When approached about the concept of gender specific schools, Jacksonville was promised a new multi-million dollar media center/cafeteria building that would have plans for expansion for classrooms for both the boys and girls to be built between the schools with readily available grant money. Architectural renderings were passed out, promises were made, and hopes were renewed.

The PCSSD failed to deliver once again. We have great administrators and teachers in those schools. They are doing a great job with what they have, but they deserve better. Jacksonville deserves better.

Daniel Gray
Jacksonville World Class Education Organization

EDITORIALS>>A profile in courage

The brave on the battlefield will find their heroism acknowledged by medals and commendations, but unusual courage in politics may have to wait on the accumulation of time and wisdom for its recognition. That was the case for Ray S. Smith Jr., who died last weekend at the age of 83.

Smith served for a generation in the state House of Representatives from Hot Springs. He was a tireless champion of good government, education and progressive taxation and, for most of his career, a remarkably effective one. When Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s mammoth program of income, sales and excise taxes collapsed in 1969, Smith, who knew the House’s possibilities better than anyone, cobbled together a modest program to save state services and maneuvered it through the legislature.

But Ray Smith’s public character was tested and formed a decade earlier in the most dangerous time in which someone could serve in public life in the 20th century. It was during the integration crisis at Little Rock in 1958 and Gov. Orval E. Faubus, who had achieved demigod status, had summoned the legislature to a special session to give him dictatorial powers over the public schools of Arkansas. He wanted authority to block the desegregation of schools wherever he wanted: to close schools that the courts ordered desegregated and move tax funds to private all-white schools. (He would use the power almost instantly to close all the high schools in Little Rock, but the courts blocked him from funding a white private school with tax dollars.) With rebel yells ringing across the House chamber, the legislature passed the program easily. The key bill passed the House and Senate by a combined vote of 127 to 1.

Young Ray Smith was the one.

On other bills to enforce segregation and punish teachers and anyone on a public payroll who might have different ideas, two or three others occasionally joined Smith. His votes at the time were not viewed as heroic but obstinate. The abiding fear was that voters would turn on any dissenter. But Smith, a World War II veteran, knew something about danger. He had been in Hot Springs when the returning veterans, led by Sid McMath, threw out the corrupt political machine. Hot Springs voters never punished Smith. He went on to serve 28 years.

His bravery and independence would not go unpunished at the Capitol. In 1965 nearly all the members of the House had signed pledges making him the speaker for the 1965-66 General Assembly, a ritual that goes on every two years. But Faubus would not have the man who had bearded him with his votes presiding over the House while he was governor. On the first day of the session, a score of House members stared solemnly at their desks as they pushed the button to renege on their word and elect the man that Faubus had put up at the last minute. Some went to Smith and asked his forgiveness. Smith would be elected speaker unanimously six years later when Dale Bumpers became governor.

Thus was Ray Smith not left a prophet without honor in his own tribe. He retired with the high estimation of his colleagues. But there was never a public acknowledgement that at the most pivotal moment of the century for the state, one man and one only of those charged with the duty did the right thing.

EDITORIALS>>Nelson’s severance tax

The last time we heard from Sheffield Nelson he was helping the Bush-Cheney re-election effort in Arkansas and working closely with his best political friend, Mike Huckabee, who put him on the state Game and Fish Commission. Nelson was the Republican candidate for governor twice, in 1990 and 1994, and the Republican national committeeman from Arkansas, and he fed the campaign to undermine President Clinton.

But it was an earlier version of the longtime politico who surfaced last week. Nelson announced that he was heading an effort to put an initiated act on the 2008 ballot to impose a 7 percent severance tax on natural gas to provide college scholarships and otherwise raise the quality of higher education in Arkansas.

Some will remember Nelson from the 1970s and 1980s when at age 30 he was one of the youngest CEOs of a major corporation in America, Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co. He broke ranks with the rest of the energy industry and called for the state to impose a real severance tax on natural gas. Arkansas is the only gas-producing state that does not tax gas at the wellhead. Well, it does levy a microscopic tax that is no more than a nuisance for the exploration companies.

Nelson said it was a shame that the state put heavy taxes on families but did not ask profitable exploration companies to pay the public for taking a vanishing resource that could never be recaptured. Gov. Bill Clinton proposed a modest tax to support education in 1983 and Nelson testified for it in the legislature, but it failed.

Gov. Beebe says he will ask the legislature in 2009 to pass a tax that he hopes the big energy companies will agree on. If they don’t, he will support an initiated act to do it in November 2010. Nelson said it was pointless to wait. Waiting will cost college students $100 million or more. He is drafting an act that would levy a tax at about the average collected in the nearby gas-producing states, which is 7 percent. Texas has the highest tax, 7.5 percent. Nelson will organize a petition drive to put the measure on the November 2008 ballot.

The point that Nelson made to lawmakers in 1983 to brace their political will is even truer today. Most of the gas produced in Arkansas, particularly in the Fayetteville shale play, is piped out of the state and if end users — say, factories in the Ohio River Valley — wind up paying the tax, the burden will not be Arkansans’. Our kids, for once, would reap the benefits. We hope Nelson’s drive will prove more fruitful than all his elective pursuits. His purpose is nobler, so perhaps better results can be expected.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

OBITUARIES >> 11-07-07

Lorrain Deal

Lorrain Leah Groce Deal, 99, of Beebe, died Nov. 6.

She was born Nov. 1, 1908, at Carlisle to Homer and Nettie Oldenhouse Groce.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Gus Deal; her parents, brothers and sisters.

She is survived by several nieces and nephews.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Graveside services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock.

Bessie Mathews

Bessie Mae Brown Mathews, 88, departed this earthly life peacefully Nov. 1 at the home of her twin sister, Tressie Fay Barker.
She was born Sept. 17, 1919 to Jessie and Ivy Brown in Cabot.  

She spent many memorable years with her siblings, growing up on the family farm.  

Even though she had health problems to overcome, she never let that stop her from accomplishing her goals and having a great sense of humor.  

She was valedictorian of Midway High School’s graduating class of 1937.  

She attended Beebe Junior College for two years, and began her teaching career at Midway High School.

When the Second World War was declared, she chose to join the Women’s Army Corp.  

After training in the United States she was sent to the China-Burma-India Theater and served in India until the end of the war.   

When she returned to Arkansas, she completed her education at Arkansas State Teachers College, becoming the only family member to graduate from college.

Her first job was in the Gravette Arkansas School District.  

After leaving there, she taught in the Cabot, Pulaski County and North Little Rock School Districts.  

“Miss Brown”, as she was known to her many students, taught for over 20 years.  

When she finally met the love of her life, George Mathews, she then retired to help her husband with his business.  

She also loved gardening.

She was preceded in death by her husband, George Mathews and siblings, Lee, Len, Alice, Jessie “Bill,” Ed “Shorty,” Flora and Marion Brown.

She is survived by Tressie Barker, Bert Brown and Mary Lyons.  

She leaves behind many family members and caregivers who loved her dearly.

The family would like to thank Hospice of the Valley and Homecare in Phoenix, Ariz. Everyone did an excellent job in taking care of our “Bessie Girl.”  

They will all miss her “spunky spirit.”

There will be a viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 at Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.  

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 at the funeral home.  

William Taylor

William Grant Taylor, Jr., 49, passed away Nov. 3.

He was a member of Russell Chapel Nazarene Church.

He was preceded in death by a son, James Owen Taylor and two brothers, Anthony Taylor and James David Taylor.

Survivors include his wife, Teresa Humphrey Taylor; four children, Niki Taylor, William Taylor III and Angie Stanley, all of Cabot and Billy Wayne Taylor of Calif.; his mother, Nancy Romine of Jacksonville; father and step-mother, William “Dub” Taylor, Sr. and wife Patsy of Cabot; two sisters, Nancy Rena Hightower and Amanda Midkiff, both of Cabot; two step-brothers, William Lloyd Taylor and Glen Dwayne Taylor, both of Cabot, and six grandchildren.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7 at Russell Chapel Nazarene Church in Cabot with burial in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Funeral arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home of Lonoke.

Ruthel Kyle

Ruthel Kyle, 90, of Cabot, died Oct. 30 at Des Arc Nursing and Rehab.

She was born Sept. 4, 1917, at Dermott (Chicot County), to Albert Clinton and Maude Collins Abernathy.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Wes H. Kyle, Sr. and three brothers, Harley, Everett and Clyde Abernathy.

She is survived by one son, Wes Kyle, Jr. and wife Helen of Cabot; one granddaughter, one grandson, two step-grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild and several nieces and nephews.

A memorial service was held at McRae United Methodist Church Friday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m.

Marceil Anderson

Marceil Anderson, 92, longtime resident of Little Rock, passed away in Searcy Nov. 2.  

She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul R. Anderson; parents, Wesley Johnson and Bertha Dickson Johnson Collie; and longtime best friend, Cecil Suitt.

She is survived by a daughter, Marylin Dandridge of Searcy and son, Gary Anderson and wife Pam of Little Rock; five grandchildren, Angela Elder of Searcy, Beverly Beck of East End, Shanna O’Neal and husband Keith of Cabot, Tracy Fisher and husband Tommy of Redfield and Brian Anderson; seven great-grandchildren, Charlie and Jason Beck, Nicole and Blake Elder, Meagan O’Neal, Brayden and Shelby Fisher and Julia Anderson and a host of other friends and relatives.

Funeral services to celebrate her life were Nov. 5 at Grace Fellowship in Cabot.

Burial was in Sumner Cemetery in Cabot. Funeral services were by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.

TOP STORY >>Veteran has to travel out of state for treatment

Leader staff writer

After traveling from his home in Jacksonville to the VA Hospital in Jackson, Miss., for 40 radiation treatments that began three years ago, Gary Gilmore isn’t cancer free and is still unable to work. He says the Veterans Administration cut his disability benefits even though he planned on depending on its care when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a result of being exposed to Agent Orange when he served in Vietnam in 1972.

“I love the United States, but I cannot stand the government,” the 66-year-old former soldier said.

“It’s unreal how they treat the veterans. If we have Agent Orange, we should be paid 100 percent,” said Gilmore, who also served for 12 years in the Army after Vietnam.

The VA ranks disabilities by percentage. Gilmore has what the VA considers a 20-percent disability because his cancer is considered to be in remission. He received disability benefits in full, or 100 percent, upon diagnosis. Gilmore said that even though he underwent his last radiation treatment two years ago, tests show his cancer increasing.

Dr. Margie Scott, chief of staff of Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, said radiation therapy is not available in Little Rock. Scott said if the central Arkansas VA does not provide a service, treatment is always sought in the VA system first if the patient is willing and able to travel for care. If the patient is unable to travel, Scott said therapy could be done in a local private hospital. “We always check for VA resources first,” Scott said, adding that the VA wants to keep costs low. “We want to take care of as many patients as possible,” she said.

Scott said Arkansas VA hospitals take patients from Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri who need surgery and mental-health care, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder.

Officials in Washington say they are trying to do more to help the 268,000 veterans who live in Arkansas. One office with 124 employees handles disability compensation and pension benefits, survivors’ benefits, vocational rehabilitation and counseling. The Little Rock office authorizes more than $45 million each month in pension and compensation payments.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., helped pass legislation increasing the VA budget by $70 million so that more claims processors can be hired.

Lincoln said disabilities claims grew 39 percent from 2000 to 2006, creating a backlog of 400,000 claims. The average time to process a claim is nearly six months. Lincoln also wants to end the Pentagon’s practice of subtracting veterans’ disability payments from their entire pension amount.

She has proposed an amendment to a century-old law that would give veterans who cannot work at all due to a service-connected disability their full pensions and disability pay.

In 2004, Congress agreed to a 10-year phase-in of concurrent receipt to all veterans who are 50 to 100 percent disabled. She said she wants immediate compensation given to veterans.

When Vietnam veteran Jerry Bowan sees $440 less each month in his veterans’ benefit check, he said it means the Pentagon has more money to spend on the war in Iraq. He served in Vietnam twice and was in the Army for 26 years. Because he had skin cancer, not a combat-duty related injury, he does not qualify for concurrent receipt, so the Pentagon deducts his disability compensation from his veterans’ pension.

“For the vast majority of us, disability did not occur in combat duty,” he said. He cannot prove that filling sand bags in the blazing Vietnamese sun caused his skin cancer because he also chopped cotton near Newport as a teenager. Still, the VA ruled that his disability was caused during combat.

“The VA will always rule on the side of a veteran,” he said. “I think the VA is very considerate to say we will always rule in favor of a veteran.

“But if a veteran has a service-connected disability, the Pentagon won’t let you have that retirement money,” he said. “When they take my money they have more money to spend in Iraq,” he said.

Rep. Marion Berry, who sits on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, recently urged President Bush to fix problems facing the VA.

“As task forces and commissions from various agencies devote considerable resources to finding better ways to help the men and women who have served, time passes and veterans continue to go without care,” Berry wrote in a recent letter to the president.

TOP STORY >>Judge calling it quits

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Circuit Judge Lance L. Hanshaw announced Monday that he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2008, saying he wants to give prospective candidates time to consider running for his position.

Hanshaw, who has served as the Division One circuit judge in the 23rd Judicial District since 1991, said he will complete the present term that ends Dec. 31, 2008. At 69 with almost 30 years on the bench, he says it is time he stepped down.

“I could probably run one more term, but I would be 76 years old when it ended,” he said.

Although candidates for circuit judge may begin raising money for their campaigns in two weeks for the May 2008 election, so far, only one has officially announced.

Sandy Huckabee, Han-shaw’s son-in-law, has announced for the Division Three seat now held by Barbara Elmore, who was appointed by the governor in July when the Division Three seat was created. Elmore cannot run for another term in that position. Division Two Judge Phillip Whiteaker is running for re-election.

Although Elmore has not formally announced, she said Tuesday that she will run for Hanshaw’s position. “I’ve heard that Chuck Graham (a deputy prosecutor for more than five years) is running but he doesn’t know for what. A judge has to be decisive,” she said. “I’m running for Division One.”

“It’s not that I can’t decide; it’s just a little early in the process,” Graham said. “It’s either (Division) One or (Division) Three. I’m certainly running.”

Graham spoke to The Leader while he was on vacation. He said he would make his announcement when he returns in about two weeks. Whiteaker, who has been unopposed since he won over Cabot District Judge Joe O’Bryan 11 years ago, said Tuesday that he intends to run again and that he will make his formal announcement in about a week and a half. He said he hopes he will be unopposed for this election.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain also has been listed among the likely candidates for circuit judge, but she has not announced.

The judicial elections are non-partisan. Candidates get on the ballot either by a petition of 3 percent of the voters in the last governor’s race or by paying a filing fee of $5,248.

Candidates may begin collecting signatures for petitions on Dec. 2. The petitions must be submitted to the secretary of state between noon Jan. 17 and noon Jan 31. Filing fees are due between noon March 3 and noon March 10.

“I want to thank the great citizens of Lonoke County for having the confidence in me to elect me to this office and then support me in such a way that I have not had opponents during my time on the bench,” Hanshaw said in the press release announcing his decision. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of this county. It has been my goal to be fair, impartial and unbiased, and I believe I have accomplished that goal. Thank you, Lonoke County.”

Admitted to the bar in 1962, Hanshaw clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlton Harris prior to joining the Air Force as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s office. He also served in the Arkansas attorney general’s office before entering private law practice in Little Rock in 1968.

Elected Lonoke County Circuit Judge in 1990, Hanshaw had previously served as district judge (formerly called municipal judge) in Cabot, Austin, Ward and Lonoke for a total of 12 years and had been engaged in the private practice of law in Cabot since 1977.

While on the bench, he was named Outstanding Arkansas Trial Judge of the Year.

Hanshaw said he has had high-profile cases like that of infamous child rapist Jack Walls, the murder of high school student Rodney Spence of Cabot and a ritualistic murder in a cemetery. But it has been the cases involving children that he has found heartbreaking, he said. He plans to travel with his wife Leann when his term ends and spend time with his six grandchildren, three of whom live in Texas. But he is not leaving the bench altogether. Retirement brings an opportunity to serve as special judge in other judicial districts and Hanshaw says he intends to be on the list when one is needed.

TOP STORY >>Warning: identities get taken

Leader staff writer

Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, and Jacksonville has seen its share of it, according to Police Chief Robert Baker.

Baker updated aldermen on the crime statistics at their council meeting Thursday night.

The chief said in the past five years, across the country, identity theft has cost businesses $48 billion and consumers $5 billion.

“There were 10 million victims last year alone,” Baker said.

He added that so far this year in Jacksonville, there have been 63 reports of theft or fraudulent use of credit cards, 142 cases of counterfeit currency, checks or money orders, 14 fraudulent Internet transactions and seven thefts by deception or use of closed accounts.

The department has cleared more than 50 percent of those cases and about 10 percent remain open. The chief said that half of identity thefts are victims of credit card fraud.

“In about 26 percent of the cases, the victim knew who misused their personal information,” Baker said.

He added that 9 percent of the time the thief was a family member or relative, while 6 percent of the time it was someone who worked with the victim.

The chief said many times the thieves get someone’s personal information from stealing files at work, school or a bank, stealing a wallet or purse, stealing mail or sending an email requesting personal information.

Thieves will also Dumpster dive, shoulder surf, bribe employees for information, go phishing on the Internet, hack into computer files or run credit card scams, according to the chief.

Once thieves get personal information they can use the victim’s credit cards, get more credit cards, forge checks, obtain bank accounts and even get personal, student, car or mortgage loans—all in the victim’s name.

This can ruin the victim’s credit and even cause a victim to be arrested on bad check or fraud charges.

“And often it takes months or years for the victim to discover the fraudulent bills and debt,” the chief said.

So how can people protect themselves from identity theft?

The chief offered the following tips:

Secure personal information in the home from others.

Limit the amount of personal information on checks.

Photocopy documents normally carried in wallets and purses.

Do not give out personal information over the phone, Internet or through the mail.

Keep computer virus protection updated.

Never use a Social Security number as a password.

Avoid contests requiring personal information.

Baker said that victims of actual identity theft or even attempted theft need to contact the police and file a report. Victims need a copy of the report to show to financial institutions and credit companies.

“Notify each creditor where the identity thief committed fraud by phone to get stops put on the accounts and then follow up in writing,” the chief said.

TOP STORY >>Backers cry out for new schools

Leader staff writers

As Jacksonville schools continue to lose students, many of them to Cabot and other nearby districts, community leaders said Tuesday that losses can only be stopped if new schools are built.

Danny Gilliland, a Pulaski County Special School Board member who represents parts of Jacksonville, told members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce that they must get behind their schools, otherwise there’s no guarantee they will survive.
“I’m amazed by the number of Jacksonville (area) leaders who don’t have their kids in the system,” Gililland said.

Gililland told the meeting at the community center that he had trouble finding employees for his Popeye’s restaurants who could read, count change and speak good English.

He said that people in the community and in the business community needed to support and fight to keep the district, “otherwise you’re asking for the community to die.”

“Common sense does not prevail on a regular basis on that school board,” he said when asked if the board would put the Jacksonville Middle School buildings on the 10-year facilities master plan.

A new group called Jacksonville World Class Education Organization is pushing to replace the city’s aging schools, some of them 50 years or older. The Jacksonville Education Foundation is also working to improve the schools.

“The Jacksonville Education Foundation hopes to hire a part-time director by the end of the year to focus efforts on improving education in Jacksonville-area schools,” former state Rep. Pat Bond said Monday.

“What we need is someone to keep us all going in the same direction,” said Bond, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

That person will gather and disseminate information, stay in touch with the school board, administration and other players involved in public education in Jacksonville.

Echoing Gilliland’s warnings, Bond decried an education system that made it difficult for her husband, Tommy, to hire qualified engineers.

Also addressing the chamber’s annual education luncheon was Bill Vasquez, Jacksonville’s newest representative on the Pulaski County Special School District Board, who, along with Gilliland, pledged his support for adding Jacksonville’s middle schools to the district’s 10-year facilities master plan.

The school board members said they thought the idea had broad board support and could be approved at the January meeting.

Jacksonville activists, who have been foiled for more than 20 years in their efforts to carve a stand-alone school district from the far-flung PCSSD, have broadened their approach to improve area schools and facilities here without waiting for a separate district.

The district filed in federal district court Oct. 29 for unitary status, which could clear the way for a Jacksonville district.
Bond said she was frustrated by people asking why the chamber was involved in school issues, and some of the activists said they were disappointed by the response.

“It’s only the number-one economic issue that drives any community. Everyone who makes a dollar in this community has an interest,” she said.

“The city stands ready to help with financing,” said Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim, provided that the district would commit those funds to the Jacksonville area.

He said passing a bond issue supported by a dedicated sales tax could raise funds.

Swaim said earlier efforts to fund a computer lab in local schools was rebuffed by the district, which said it couldn’t guarantee that the computers would stay in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville has a good history of passing taxes if the residents understand how their community would benefit, most recently the tax to pay for the new public library.

Vasquez said public education in Pulaski County is a half-billion-dollar-a-year industry, perhaps three-quarters of a billion dollars if you include private schools.

Changes are coming, he said.

“Ninety percent of the classrooms in this county my grandmother would be comfortable in. My son, with a $600 (iPhone) has more technology in his back pocket than some schools.”

With public and private schools, distance learning and home schooling, education is changing from a monopoly to a competitive model, he said.

“The challenge is how to become dynamic in a competitive market place to meet the needs of your children,” he said.
The World Class Organization of Jacksonville, the newly formed group dedicated to improving Jacksonville area schools regardless of the district they are in, showed the video it made of the poor conditions of facilities in the area.

“The realization is that the middle school facility is really in trouble,” according to Pat O’Brien, the Pulaski County circuit/county clerk and himself a former PCSSD board member.

It was formed because “we wanted to fight for our community,” he said.

Said O’Brien, “There’s hope. We’re not giving up.”

The wrapup speaker was state Rep. Will Bond, who not only took over his mother’s place in the state Legislature five years ago, but also her devotion to education issues.

Bond said that even if on the district’s 10-year facilities master plan, the state would only pay 13 percent of the cost of building new middle schools, but that without inclusion on the list, the project could receive no state funding.

But the slide in enrollment will make it even more difficult to replace old schools — many of them are less than half full — although he said Arnold Drive Elementary School on the base could be combined with nearby Tolleson Elementary, with a new school built on the periphery of the base.

The district is losing its middle class, Bond said, pointing out that 70 percent of the middle school students receive reduced or free lunches.

TOP STORY >>Taking over ANG command

Leader staff writer

Col. James R. Summers of Sherwood assumed command of the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing from Col. Travis D. Balch of Vilonia during a change of command Saturday at Little Rock Air Force Base, home to the ANG’s 189th.
Balch will be filling the Arkansas Air National Guard’s chief of staff position at the state’s Joint Force Headquarters.

Summers, a command pilot with more than 9,100 hours in various military aircraft, had been serving as the wing’s vice-commander since last August.

Thanking Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Riley Porter, assistant adjutant general of Arkansas ANG at LRAFB, for their vote of confidence that will allow him to serve as the wing commander, Summers also credited Balch for leaving behind a strong unit.

“I know that due to Col. Balch’s strong leadership, the wing has a solid foundation on which to continue its tradition of success and to build a winning team for the 2008 ORI (Operational Readiness Inspection),” Summers said. He also addressed the 850 airmen, those in attendance and the 88 currently deployed, that make up the 189th AW.

“The fact that you have chosen to wear the uniform and do the job you do indicates that you are a true patriot,” Summers said. “But the ultimate measure of our success as a unit will be judged by our ability to safely and effectively execute our mission in support of national and state objectives. I look forward to working with you as we meet future challenges.

“I consider it a great honor and privilege to be allowed to continue to serve with the most highly skilled, highly trained and highly motivated group of individuals in the Air National Guard,” Summers added.

He joined the Arkansas ANG’s 154th Training Squadron in 1991 as an instructor pilot.

In 1999, he became the 189th Maintenance Squadron commander, and in 2002 he was named the 189th Operations Group commander.

While serving as vice commander, he was second in command of the wing and assisted Balch in the tactical employment, administration and training of all units within the 189th AW.

TOP STORY >>Growth in Cabot costing one city

Leader senior staff writer

There are 67 fewer white students attending Jacksonville middle schools this year than last, and 33 more white students attending the Cabot middle schools.

Recent growth in Cabot has outpaced growth in Jacksonville, and there are those who say that Jacksonville’s loss is Cabot’s gain.

Although the state Education Department has not yet released enough data to support the conclusion that students fleeing Jacksonville middle schools landed in the nearly all-white Cabot middle schools, the numbers don’t refute the long-held theory that area parents are locating in the Cabot district or moving their children to qualify for Cabot schools, schools elsewhere, private schools or in some cases are home schooling their children.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of such an enrollment shift.

“The vast majority of new enrollment comes from people moving into this area, and they research where they want to live,” said Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent of Cabot schools.

“Most are being transferred into the (Little Rock Air Force) base or the metropolitan area and they research the schools,” Dalton said. “One of our middle schools is recognized as one of the top 14 schools in the state.”

That school was recognized Friday by the state Education Department as a higher performing school based on state ACTAAP exams.

“It’s not as much flight as selection of location when they come,” Dalton said. State school assignment guidelines make it difficult or impossible for white students to transfer from Jacksonville schools, perceived by many as dangerous, decrepit and educationally inadequate — unless parents submit a home address in the Cabot district.

Cabot Middle School South increased its enrollment of white students this year by 61—a 10 percent increase from last year’s 625.

The number of black students in the district remained the same at 14. Cabot Middle School North did not fare as well, losing 28 white students—a 4 percent decrease. The number of black middle school students dropped from eight to five.

At Jacksonville’s Boys Middle School, enrollment among white male students for the 2007-2008 school year declined by 50 — a 26 percent decline compared to last year.

At the Jacksonville Girls Middle School, enrollment dropped by 8 percent, 35 students fewer this school year than last.
That school lost 11 black students and 17 white students.

“This puts an exclamation mark on the need for new facilities,” said Bond. Some long-time advocates for Jacksonville areas schools say the sorry condition of Jacksonville facilities — the middle schools in particular — are driving a migration out of the district and they are lobbying the board again for a new middle school to be included on the 10-year master facilities plan.

The group wants to raise or find money for new Jacksonville Middle School facilities.

State Rep. Will Bond, a Jacksonville school activist, says the district needs to break ground for a new facility in the next six to eight months.