Friday, November 25, 2005

TOP STORY >> Polantz to run for mayor

Leader staff writer

Cabot Alderman David Polantz is in his fifth term on the city council. Now, he says he wants to be mayor.
Polantz has been among those known for months to be considering running, but he would never say how serious that consideration was, only that he was praying about it.

He made his announcement quietly to news reporters following Monday night’s city council meeting.
“I am going to run,” he said.

Polantz said in a phone interview Tuesday that he has not developed any sort of platform, but if elected mayor he would continue the work he has been doing for nine years.

“I want to continue to work on quality-of-life issues,” he said. “This is home to me, and I want to work with everyone to ensure it is the best it can be.”

When he was first elected, Polantz worked to get a federal grant for about $500,000 to build sidewalks in Cabot and he has continued to stand firm on waiving sidewalks in new developments. He says that no matter how remote a development seems when it is started, all of Cabot will eventually be covered in houses or businesses and people need to be able to walk to them without getting in the street.

“The goal here is to provide people with a way to move about without cars,” he said.

In recent years, Polantz has sponsored much of the legislation that has gone before the city council. Much of it he says was about “Trying to maintain a system where everybody is treated with equity regardless of who they are or how much they have.”
He said he is proud of the impact fee on building that could be ready for the council to act on before the end of the year.
“The impact fee will be a major shifting of the cost of infrastructure from the people who live here to the people moving in and creating the demand,” he said.

The resolution calling for an impact fee rankled bankers, builders and developers who said they should have input into imposing the fee since they were the ones who would pay it. The mayor and council eventually conceded that they were right and included them in discussions.

Polantz counts the new improved Cabot budget as among his best efforts.

“I’m very proud of getting the budget into a readable form so people can understand where the money is going,” he said.
Polantz says he doesn’t have a campaign manager yet and he doesn’t anticipate holding any fund-raisers until early in 2006.
“People need to spend time with their families now,” he said. “That’s what the holidays are all about. We’ll fire all that up after the first of the year.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Highway scare tactics

Lots of legislators have needed reassuring since learning that the highway bond law they enacted last spring asks voters to surrender their voice on future highway debt, so Gov. Huckabee and the state Highway and Transportation Department applied the balm this week.

Here is their argument for giving the Highway Commission eternal authority to keep a debt of up to $575 million without getting approval of voters each time it borrows: It will save the taxpayers the cost of special elections in the future, and if the Highway Commission cannot issue any more bonds it will not be able to improve primary and secondary highways out around the state.

Both are ridiculous arguments, immediately refutable, but it takes very little to persuade a gullible lawmaker.
Gov. Huckabee has been deploring the cost of special statewide elections - the one he is calling for Dec. 13 will cost you right at $1 million - and he says voters will be saving themselves and their heirs more such costs if they vote to surrender their right to vote on future debt propositions for the Interstate highways. Highway officials offered the same argument to legislators at the Capitol.

That seemed to reassure several lawmakers.

But the taxpayers need not pay a single dime to vote on bonds, even on the current proposition. They could submit the issue to voters at the general election next November, or November 2008 or November 2010. There is, after all, no rush about voting. The Highway Commission does not plan to issue the bonds until 2010 at the earliest and perhaps much later.

The money that will be pledged to pay off the proposed bonds is tied up for the next few years to pay off the existing Interstate bonds.
They do not want bond votes held at the general election because three or four times as many people will vote at a general election. Special elections attract voters with a vested interest.

Everyone should ignore the argument that the bond proposal will economize with taxpayers’ money. Exactly the opposite is true.
If Huckabee were genuinely concerned about election expenses, he would save taxpayers a million dollars by putting his proposals on the 2006 ballot. It apparently never occurred to a legislator to call the highway men’s hand.
And the cost of future special elections is the strongest of their arguments.

Since all of the $575 million that the Highway Commission wants to borrow when it pays down the current debt would be spent on the remaining Interstate mileage that has not been improved, there is no incentive for people far off the Interstates to vote for the proposition and some incentive to vote no.

So highway officials told legislators Tuesday that if voters do not approve future indebtedness for the Interstates everyone’s highway improvements back home, from Lake Village to Salem to Jacksonville to Cabot to Beebe, will be in jeopardy.

That is because the motor fuel taxes and car and truck license fees that are now used to build and maintain primary and secondary highways supposedly will have to be diverted to pay for repairs to the big interstates, delaying the North Belt completion even further, as if it hasn’t been delayed long enough.

Rep. Randy Rankin of Eudora said that did it for him. He wanted the widening of U.S. Highway 65 through his county completed, so he was voting for the Interstate debt, even though the nearest Interstate mileage was more than 100 miles away.

No one needed even a hand-held calculator to figure out the ruse. The Interstate bonds will tie up the state’s allotment of federal Interstate maintenance funds each year plus the receipts from a 4-cent-a-gallon diesel tax. Together, they make up $75 million a year. Without issuing the bonds, the Highway Commission could still spend that $75 million to improve the Interstates each year, which ought to be more than ample. Of course, the Highway Commission could, if it chose, take the $15 million a year from the diesel tax and apply it to primary and secondary roads to supplement other highway taxes.

Over the 12, 15 or 20 years that the Highway Commission would be paying off the debt, the state could spend more on the highways by spending less on interest to investors and fees to underwriters, brokers and bond lawyers. You can take a mortgage payout schedule and figure it out for yourself. Debt is costly. The only time you borrow huge sums of money is when there is an emergency or the task is so huge that you can’t pay for it as you go.

So Rep. Rankin and his constituents stand a much better chance of getting a wider Highway 65 through the Delta if the bonds are defeated.
Besides, with any deference from his region’s highway commissioner, his project should be completed long before the commission gets around to actually using the new borrowing power that voters may be about to give them.



It was with great sadness along with all our love that Henry Heigle joined our Lord on Nov. 17. He was born Sept. 29, 1930, in Tumbling Shoals, Ark., to a family of 12 children.
He is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Betty Jean Heigle; three brothers, Alva, Orville and James; five sisters, Frances, Melba, Lois, Annie and Mary; three children, Deborah Anita Roe, Darlene Rochelle Wagner and Darin Henry Heigle; seven grandchildren, Dana, Dustin, Nicole, Kara, Joshua, Amanda and Jesse; four great-grandchildren: Miran-da, Reyna, Damien and Alicia. He was a veteran of the Korean War and retired from the Teamsters Union Local No. 357.
He spent his spare time with his family camping, water skiing, hiking, picnicking and being involved in any and all sports and activities they were participating in.
He was a devoted, loving and caring husband, father and grandfather.
Funeral services are to be held at Miller Jones Mortuary in Perris, Calif., on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. For any information regarding the services, please call (951) 943-8313.


Ida Mae “Sally” Hawkins, 78, passed away Sunday morning, Nov. 20 at her home in Fort Worth, Texas.
Sally was born in Lonoke on April 14, 1927, to Richard and Ernie Mae Reiff. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband of 25 years, Jeff Thomason of Lonoke, her husband of 31 years, Orval K. Hawkins of Alpena, and four grandchildren.
Sally is survived by sons, Richard and wife Glenda Thomason of Springtown, Texas, Jeff and wife Mary Thomason, Jr. of Malvern and Kenneth and wife Nola Hawkins of Alpena; daughters, Charlotte and husband Burnis Horton of Cabot, Margo Wilson of Fort Worth, Texas, Doris and husband Ted Christian and Le Iva and husband Donald Klein of Alpena, Texas, Kathryn and husband Maynard Craff of East Alton, Ill., and Gayle and husband Dan Bedillian of Bedford, Texas. She also leaves behind eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren from her union with Mr. Thomason, 31 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren from her union with Mr. Hawkins, and many others who adopted her as their “Granny.”
She was small in stature but a giant in sharing love and laughter. Her precious smile stayed with her right up to the threshold of heaven and a strong faith in God carried her across. She was deeply loved and will be sorely missed.
Services officiated by Brother Floyd Flowers will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at Boyd Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow in Hebron Cemetery. Serving as pallbearers will be Jason Coker, Greg Horton, Brad Thomason, Jerry Thomason, A.J. Womack and Andrew Womack. Arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Ernest Gerald Hanson, 74, passed away Nov. 21 at his McRae home. He was born Dec. 24, 1930, in Oregon, Ill., to the late Ernest Otto and Anna E. Guenther Hanson. He was a retired carpenter, a member of the Moose Lodge, Rabbit Breeders Association of MO and a Lutheran.
He is survived by two sons, Ernest A. Hanson of McRae and Gerald E. Hanson of Rochelle, Ill.; grandchildren, Kristy McCall, Christopher Hanson, Angela Hanson, Pamela Hanson, Hans Hanson, Shane Hanson and Kordell Hanson; five great-grandchildren, Xavier McCall, Clayton McCall, Nadji Hanson, Sapora Hanson, and Armani Hanson; a sister, Arlene Lothson of Dekalb, IL. He is preceded in death by a daughter, Mary Ann K Summerville.
Funeral services will be 2 p.m., Sunday at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville. Interment will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park. Visitation will be noon until 2 p.m., Sunday. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Wallace Howard, 64, of Jack-sonville, passed away Monday, Nov. 21. He was born Sept. 20, 1941 in Carlisle to Henry Andrew “Andy” and Delores Hester Howard. He was a U.S. Army veteran, a factory worker and a Baptist. Wallace was a hard-working man and enjoyed music at the Huddle House.
He is survived by his son, Wallace Eugene, Jr. and Lisa of Jacksonville; a grandson, Wallace Eugene III “Scooter” of Jackson-ville; two brothers and their wives, Claude and Carol Howard of Jacksonville, and George and Pat Howard of Russellville; a sister, Thelma Ainsworth and her husband Frank of Ward and other friends and loving family. He was preceded in death by a half-sister, Velma. Thanks to Holly McCloud at the V.A. for being there for him.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m., Friday at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville, with Bro. Elton Balentine officiating. Interment follows at Butlerville Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the funeral home. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jack-sonville Funeral Home (501) 982-2136.


Marie Alice Farrar, 82, of Cabot, formerly of Auburn, N.Y., passed away on Nov. 20. She was born March 1, 1923, in Brooklyn, N.Y. to the late David and Kathryn Meehan.
She was a member of St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville and the Senior Citizen’s in Cabot.
She was preceded in death by her husband William C. Farrar on Nov. 1, 1991.
Survivors include three daughters: Katie Nichols and husband Edwin of Cabot, Sharon Seymour and husband Larry of Auburn, N.Y., and Donna Leontovich of Concord, N. C.; one sister Kathryn Walker of Hemet, Calif.; six grandchildren: Christopher, Heather, Edwin Jr., Scott, Zachary and Stephanie; and two great-grandchildren: Alexis and Tyler David.
Memorial services to be announced at a later date. Cre-mation arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Della Jane Roper DeLao, 68, of Jacksonville, passed away Nov. 19. She was born Jan. 6, 1937, in Sikeston, Mo., to Shirley Bernece Norwood Roper and the late Ralph Dolan Roper. She was a 1954 graduate of Harding Academy in Searcy, and attended Capital City Business College. She had a 35-year civil service career retiring in 1993 as an executive secretary to the hospital commander at Little Rock Air Force Base and was a member of the Church of Christ.
Survivors include her two sons and their wives, Darryl and Teresa DeLao of Altus, Okla., and Kevin and Michelle DeLao of Tuscon, Ariz.; daughter, Gail Greene and husband Tony DeQueen; six grandchildren, Darryl Jr., Blake, Brittany and Chafen DeLao and Camille and Lee Greene. Funeral services were Tuesday at the Harris Chapel with Mr. Bruce Bryant officiating. Burial was at Robertsville Cemetery by Harris Funeral Home of Morrilton
Pallbearers were family and friends.


Karl Douglas Eyer, 31, of Jacksonville, passed away Nov. 14. He was born April 12, 1974, at U.S. Camp Kui Army Hospital in Okinawa, Japan, to Olen and Elizabeth Eyer. Karl was a graduate of Jacksonville High School.
He is survived by his parents, Olen and Elizabeth Eyer; brother, Major Ryan M. Eyer, U.S. Marine Corp, several aunts, uncles and cousins from Illinois.
Private funeral services were conducted by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home 1504 Loop Rd, Jacksonville, Ark., with interment in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Vara S. Seaton, 89, of Batesville passed away Nov. 15. Born April 22, 1916, in Sylvania in Lonoke County, she lived there until moving to Batesville in 1997.
She was a lifelong member of Sylvania Presbyterian Church.
She served as elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher, vacation bible school teacher, youth leader, Women of the Church president, Presbyterian Church Extension Committee chairman, and a home missions committee member. She was a Sunday school teacher for sixty years. She was preceded in death by her husband, Otha.
She is survived by one daughter, Darlene Seaton Byrd of Doniphin, Mo.; two sons, Eddie Seaton of Cabot and Carroll Seaton of Batesville; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Graveside service was Saturday at Sylvania Cemetery, by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.


Jacksonville’s holiday open house is Dec. 16

The city of Jacksonville’s annual Christmas Open House will be held at city hall from noon to 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16.
The ceremony to present year pins and certificates to city employees will begin at 2 p.m. in the council chambers. Everyone is invited to stop by for refreshments.

Junior auxiliary to host Christmas Tour of Homes

The Junior Auxiliary of Jacksonville will host their annual Christmas tour of homes from 2-4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec.11.
The following homes are included on the tour: Mr. and Mrs. John Vanderhoof, Mr. and Mrs. Gid Branscum, Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Carlisle, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Sherman. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds benefit the underprivileged children of Jacksonville. For ticket information, call Mandy Watson at 501-982-1241.

Holiday Closings

Nearly all area city offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for observance of Thanksgiving Day, while sanitation schedules in some communities will be altered because of the holiday.
In Jacksonville, city offices will be closed both days and there will be no sanitation or recycling services on either day. Landfill (bulky items) will instead be collected today.
City offices in Beebe will be closed Thursday, but open on Friday.
In Cabot, city offices will be closed Thursday and Friday. Thursday garbage collections will be moved to Friday and Friday collections will be moved to Saturday for Cabot residents.
In Lonoke, regular sanitation schedule will take place on Friday, while Thursday’s route will also be run on Friday.
Trash pick-up in Ward will also run as usual on Friday and what doesn’t get picked up on Friday will be picked up on Saturday, according to city officials.
Austin’s city offices will be closed Thursday, but will be open Friday. The sanitation schedule won’t change.
Sherwood’s offices will be closed both days. Thursday’s sanitation schedule will be picked up today and Friday’s regular schedule will be picked up on Monday.

NEIGHBORS >> Honoring a new American

Leader staff writer

Sue Hiipakka is proud to be an American.

Born in Germany, she’s even prouder after a special day was hosted in her honor after she became a U.S. citizen earlier this month.
“After 9/11 I wanted to show my allegiance to the United States,” said Hiipakka, a third-grade teacher at Ward Central Elementary in Cabot. “Besides, it’s good to have a say in your government from voting for president to the school board.”

Living near Ramstein, Germany, Sue Reis married Tech Sgt. Tom Hiipakka while he was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in 1983.
Other than a three-year stint in Michigan, the Hiipakkas stayed at Ramstein Air Force Base until 1996 when they were transferred to Little Rock Air Force Base. After Tom Hiipakka retired, Sue got an Arkansas teaching certificate and began teaching at Ward Central Elemen-tary about four years ago.

“I think most Americans take their citizenship for granted,” Hiipakka said.
Becoming a naturalized citizen can take between five months to two years depending on the number of applications submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Service, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Hiipakka said she had to study a thick, three-ring binder on American history for a civics test as well as an English test.
Applicants must be photographed, fingerprinted and go through an interview process.

After completing her exams, Hiipakka took the oath of citizenship during a ceremony in Little Rock two weeks ago, and the school then decided to surprise her by holding an “American Day.”

Most of the students came to school wearing red, white and blue clothing. Teachers decorated Hiipakka’s classroom with patriotic red, white and blue banners. During a morning ceremony, students raised the flag, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.

Michele French, principal at the school dressed like a judge to reenact Hiipakka’s oath of citizenship ceremony in front of the students.
Connie Kempf, speech pathologist and resident poet at the school, wrote the poem “Congratulations New Citizen” in honor of Hiipakka.

Hip hip hurray
Hip hip hurray
Let’s hear it for Mrs. Hiipakka
It’s her special day!

Way to go, Mrs. Hiipakka
We’re so proud of your new name
The title “U. S. Citizen”
You now can claim!

You studied hard and passed the test
That I would hate to take
But not our “Super Citizen”
For you, it was a piece of cake!

Let’s raise the roof and clap our hands
And show our Ward Central Pride
Red, white and blue shine just for you
Our happiness we cannot hide!

“We are so proud of this lady,” French said, hugging Hiipakka.
After the morning assembly, Zach Owen, manager of Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cabot, delivered 65 snack boxes of chicken and biscuits to the school so the teachers could have an American lunch.

SPORTS >> SH girls fall to FC; JHS tops hurt NP

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls basketball team dropped to 1-2 Saturday with a hard-fought loss to Forrest City in the Heavenly Hoops Classic hosted by Mount St. Mary at the UALR Fieldhouse.

The game’s result gave the Lady Mustangs fifth place in the tournament and left the Lady Bears with sixth.
Two Lady Mustang players finished with double-doubles while three players finished in double figures.
Fareedah Washington led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Cassandra Jackson added 11 points and 11 boards. Kesha Stovall finished with 10 points and four rebounds and had three blocked shots.

LaShunda Rogers added five points and grabbed nine rebounds. It took the team a half to get their game going.
“We came out real sluggish and just didn‚t look like we wanted to be there,” said Lady Mustang Coach Jackie England.
Indeed, Sylvan Hills led 14-13 after one period but Forrest City rallied just enough in the second period to claim a 23-20 lead at the half.
Things picked up quite a bit for the Lady Mustangs in the second half.

The Lady Bears regained the advantage after three periods, leading 28-27 before Forrest City closed the game by outscoring Sylvan Hills 16-10 in the fourth period.

“Sylvan Hills is quicker than us,” England said. “Not as big as we are, but quicker. They are a much better team than they were a year ago.”
The game was knotted at 38-38 with 1:20 left to play. Forrest City dropped in three out of four free throws in the final 30 seconds to put the game away.
“Sylvan Hills never quit and we never lost our composure late in the game,” England said. “We found a way to end the game the way we wanted to end it.”
The two teams will meet twice more in AAAAA-East Conference play.

In the seventh-place game, Jackson-ville beat crosstown rival North Pulaski 57-46 for its first win of the season. North Pulaski dropped to 0-3, but played the whole tournament without two key players, and played its last two games without three of its projected starters.
Jacksonville was led by Tarneshia Scott and Morgan Waits, who each scored 18 points for the Lady Devils.

Neisha Ridgeway and Jessica Carter led the Lady Falcons with 11 points apiece.

The two teams will meet again on December 5 to make up what was supposed to be the season opener for both teams on Nov. 11. That game was rescheduled because Jacksonville’s football playoff game schedule conflicted with the game.
Mount St. Mary won the tournament by beating Russell-ville 51-46 in the final.

The third-place game pitted two AAAAA-South teams against each other, and it was Watson Chapel coming out on top of El Dorado. Jacksonville hosted North Little Rock in its home opener last night after Leader deadlines.

The Lady Falcons played at Little Rock Central Tuesday night, and won’t open at home until the return game with Central on Dec. 13. NP will be in the CAC tournament next week. Look for details of Tuesday’s Jacksonville and North Pulaski games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >> NPHS freshmen upset Red Devils

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski freshman Falcons came from behind in the second half to pull off a minor upset Monday night in Metro Conference play with a 42-39 victory over crosstown rival Jacksonville.

The Falcons win blurs the early race for the final Metro Conference championship, giving Jacksonville one loss, and drops the Devils into a four-way tie for first with North Pulaski, North Little Rock and Cabot Junior High North.

The Falcons put together a furious rally after falling behind 30-24 late in the third quarter. From that point, the Falcons outscored Jacksonville 13-2 to take a 37-32 lead with two minutes left in the game, and held on for the victory.

“The kids played great tonight,” North Pulaski coach Todd Romaine said. “They’re so up and down. They played so poorly in the first half at Cabot, then came out tonight and played like this. I’m very proud of them. They gave a great effort and they played smart at the same time. It’s a good win.”

Falcon center Carlos Donely scored just two points in the first three quarters, but finished with 11 after going on a tear to lead NP in the fourth.

No shot was bigger than a 16-footer from the elbow that put the Falcons up 40-37 with 35 seconds left in the game. The shot rattled around the rim before popping straight up and falling straight back through.

“Everybody kind of gasped when he shot that, but that pretty much sealed it for us,” Romaine said. “It was a huge shot. He really stepped up. He got in early foul trouble and I couldn’t play him. When he went in there in the fourth quarter he played smart and he hit the big one.”
A rebound and putback by Antwan Lockhart pulled the Red Devils back to within 40-39 with 15 seconds left. North Pulaski guard Jordan Anderson was then fouled with 6.5 seconds left and went to the line, where he smoothly nailed both free throws to set the final margin.
Jacksonville’s LaQuentin Miles got an open look from three at the other end, but the shot was too long as time expired.

Jacksonville grabbed a small lead early in the game and kept it until the fourth quarter when the Falcons went on their 13-2 run.
NP had tied the game at 24-24 before Jacksonville scored six- straight points.

Romaine called timeout, but afterwards said he didn’t try to inspire his guys, just the opposite.
“It wasn’t gut-check time,” Romaine said. “I was trying to get them to calm down. I’ve got some good athletes this year, but we’re not going to out-athlete that bunch. They were getting us into a type of game that they were going to beat us at. I just called a play and told ‘em to relax and run the offense like they had been. They responded, they executed and you can see what it got us.”

Donley’s 11 led the Falcons. Anderson added 10 points while guard Stanley Appleby scored eight. Cody Wafe added seven for the Falcons.
Lockhart led all scorers with 13 points while Antonio Wash-ington added 10 for the Red Devils. Miles scored eight.

The two teams, as well as the rest of the Metro Conference, will be back in action next Monday. Jacksonville will host Oak Grove while North Pulaski travels to Mills.

North Little Rock improved to 4-1 with a home win over Mills Monday. Cabot North traveled to Sylvan Hills for another victory to also improve to 4-1.

Cabot South beat Oak Grove for its first conference win of the year, but is a major player in the title race this year despite the 1-3 record.
South took North Pulaski and North Little Rock into overtime this season, while losing by just four points to Jacksonville.

EDITORIAL >> Murtha’s clarion call

It can be recorded that on the sere autumn day of the 17th of November in Washington, D.C., the great American tragedy of Iraq reached its denouement when the end if not the absolute solution could be seen clearly.

It was the day U.S. Rep. John Murtha, quite an obscure man for most Americans, said that the United States should very soon withdraw nearly all of its troops from Iraq and redeploy them.

Men and women of far greater stature had criticized the war and called for withdrawal without causing a blip in the enduring discourse on the war. But after the war speech by the meek Pennsylvanian, the Bush administration’s favorite Democrat, the White House went on the attack.
President Bush, Vice President Cheney, GOP leaders called him disloyal, a boon to terrorists, the exponent of traitorous ideas that gave succor to the enemies of freedom and discouragement to our troops.

Three days later, the administration had reconsidered and called Murtha a patriotic American, just a wrongheaded one.
Perhaps the president had divined that Murtha was not right, at least most Americans believed that he was. Murtha said he was far behind the American people. A decorated war hero and the military’s best friend in Congress, Murtha was a firm advocate of the invasion of Iraq and one of Bush’s few defenders on the Democratic side.

What Murtha offered on the 17th was not another broadside against the administration but a thoughtful and detailed analysis of the war and a way out of it, which even Republicans in Congress are beginning to demand that the administration formulate.

He would pull nearly all foreign troops from Iraqi soil in phases over six months, bring Reservists and Guardsmen home and redeploy troops in the region as a fast-strike force. Security and stability in Iraq would be pursued diplomatically.

While Bush and Cheney continue to say the United States will stay the course and remain in Iraq until it is a secure and prosperous democracy, sometime before the midterm elections in 2006 the government, probably over Cheney’s private objections, will embrace something like Murtha’s strategy. When close to 70 percent of Americans believe the war was wrong or badly conducted, an administration that makes a religion of politics will have no choice.

Forget the debate over whether the administration cooked the evidence for invading Iraq. If there is one thing clear about this murky war it is that regardless of the valorous and humanitarian work of our warriors, we are getting no closer to winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis or of securing the safety of the people or the stability of their government. Iraqi security forces will never secure the country as long as we are willing to do it for them.

Murtha thought it was imperative to end the war because U.S. presence was feeding the insurgency and radicalism in a country that had always eschewed religious extremism and, under Saddam Hussein, even butchered it. As long as U.S. troops are around, even the elected government will be seen as puppets, which may explain why it called for an early withdrawal of our military. It is hard to argue that withdrawal will lead to chaos when we see it every day in the rubble and the blood-streaked faces of innocent Iraqi citizens.
But Murtha had a more heartfelt reason. The military that he loves is deteriorating daily.

Readiness is strained, recruiting has collapsed, ground equipment is worn out and soldiers are unprotected, procurement corruption is rampant and troops are fatigued after two and sometimes three tours of duty.

He may have remembered the explanation by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, the Army chief of staff, for America’s departure from Vietnam. We went there to save Vietnam and got out to save the U.S. Army.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Administration runs into trap door overseas

Every administration has its defining moment that symbolizes its successes or failures — from John Kennedy’s “Ich bien ein Berliner” to Ronald Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” from Richard Nixon’s “I’m not a crook” to Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman,” from George H.W. Bush throwing up in Japan to George W. visiting Beijing more than a decade later and getting stuck in front of a door that would not open. (Maybe it was the first Bush’s immortal words, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” that got him defeated.)

The trap door where President Bush found himself on Sunday as he tried to leave a press conference that was going badly is a pretty good snapshot of an administration that has lost its way.

The President’s poll numbers are down 50 points in four years — an unprecedented decline that speaks volumes about lost opportunities since 9/11. Unable to convince most Americans that the war in Iraq was worth fighting, the administration, while attacking its critics, is speeding up plans to withdraw our troops starting next fall, just in time for the November congressional elections.

The Senate two weeks ago passed a measure calling for a pullback starting next year.

Iraqi factions on Tuesday called for a similar timetable, leaving the Bush administration little choice but to join the bandwagon, with or without Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who are still true believers.

Republicans made a mistake picking a fight with Rep. John Murtha, an avuncular figure who last week called for an early withdrawal from Iraq.

The administration and its supporters tried to attack Murtha, then backed off, calling him a patriot who has every right to speak out.
Speak out? Invite him into the Bush cabinet.

Although the Republican-passed Senate resolution is similar to Murtha’s position on the war, the House last Friday voted on an absurd Republican measure calling for immediate withdrawal. It was rejected after a nasty partisan fight, but it revealed deep divisions in a once solidly united Repub-lican Party, where support for the war has dropped as casualties continue to rise.

Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is a plain-spoken conservative Democrat who is one of the Pentagon’s biggest boosters in Congress. Like CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, who turned against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and changed public opinion almost overnight, Murtha has won over millions of Americans who see our involvement in Iraq as a series of mistakes — from faulty intelligence to inadequate troop strength and supplies — although most Americans have believed that for months.

Bush has lost the support of the left, center and right. A trifecta.

Just a third of the public approves the way Bush is handling his job, which will make him a lame duck for the next three years, unless he reaches out to new advisers and fires his national security team, from Cheney on down, and starts all over, refocusing his energies and leveling with the public on why his administration has faltered so badly.

Voters and pundits from across the political spectrum have concluded that we have stumbled badly in Iraq. The President could start by admitting that the so-called intelligence that led us into war was totally wrong and the people who misled him and the nation are banished from government forever.

He owes that much to the nation and the people who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

TOP STORY >> Ruling favorable to payday lenders

Arkansas News Bureau

A circuit judge in Little Rock upheld Arkansas’ payday lending law Tuesday.

Opponents who challenged the six-year-old law said they would appeal Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims’ ruling that the Check Cashers Act of 1999 is constitutional.

Sims ruled after a 40-minute hearing that there has been no misuse of taxpayer funds by the State Board of Collection Agencies, and that the 1999 statute passed by the legislature to regulate payday lending is legally sound.

“The statute as written is constitutional,” Sims said in his one-sentence decision.
Jacksonville, Cabot and Sher-wood have several payday lenders that cater to the working poor and members of the military and their families.

The issue was back before Sims after the state Supreme Court in January reversed its earlier decision dismissing the original complaint for failure to state facts upon which relief could be granted.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by attorney Todd Turner of Arkadelphia, argued the check-cashing law violates state usury laws, allowing pay-day lenders to charge annual interest rates in excess of 400 percent despite the state Constitution’s usury cap of 17 percent on consumer loans.

“What I am asking the court to do is overrule what the General Assembly did when it passed the checking-cashing law ... and declare it unconstitutional,” Turner told the judge. But lawyers for the state Board of Collection Agencies and the Arkansas Financial Services Association, which represent the payday lending industry, disputed Turner’s arguments on two fronts.

Thomas Thrash, representing the ABCA, contended Turner could not argue the 1999 act’s legal integrity unless he proved that state funds were misused in applying the law.

“This is a very simple (issue), but we’ve done our very best to complicate it,” Thrash said.

If the plaintiffs were going to attack the constitutionality of the law, then they must first exhaust all their remedies before the ABCA, he said.
“This entire case hinges on whether or not there were taxpayer funds in use to finance the ABCA’s division of check cashing,” the Little Rock attorney said.

TOP STORY >> Cabot developers frustrated

Leader staff writer

Five Cabot-area developers were among those who attended a hearing called to air grievances against the actions of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality which has stepped up enforcement of federal EPA storm-water runoff regulations.

One of those developers says he appreciates the interest of Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, who called the hearing earlier this month, but he says nothing has changed.

The ADEQ is hardnosed in its enforcement and he fears higher fines if he complains.
The developer said he was fined twice, once for $4,800 and once for $2,800.
Fines generally range from $3,000 to $10,000 per violation.

The developer, who asked not to be identified, said ADEQ’s requirements are adding significantly to the cost of development.
“It’s getting expensive,” he said. “I can spend $30,000 to $40,000 to put bales of hay and screening around a subdivision before I even start building. And some of it is uphill. Where’s anything going to run to?”

During the hearing, developers complained that the ADEQ has unfairly fined them for violating storm-water runoff regulations without giving them time to correct problems.

Glover said the department has been nitpicking the developers—fines for not having a rain gauge in the right place or papers in the right place, for instance.

Each development must have a permit in plain sight, with an approved pollution-discharge plan in an ADEQ mail box at the development and must have devices like straw bales and mesh netting to reduce the discharge of silt from construction sites.

The Cabot developer said this week that one of the biggest problems is dirt on the street that comes off delivery trucks that have driven across muddy construction sites.

“There is no way to prevent that,” he said.
Dennis Benson, chief of the ADEQ water division enforcement section, said enforcement was stepped up about 18 months ago after a sweep of central Arkansas showed that about 75 percent of developers were in violation of runoff regulations.
“Sediment can have a lot of impact on receiving waters,” Ben-son said.

For instance, he said, they are talking about a drawdown of Lake Conway because of sediment coming from developments.
In cities, silt fills up storm-water drains and can cause flooding. In Cabot, improperly maintained silt fences and improper discharge of water from a subdivision muddied the city pond on Kerr Station Road so badly that one resident who fished there every Sunday feared Arkansas Game and Fish would not be able to stock it with trout in December as planned.

Tim Lemons, a Cabot civil engineer, represents several developers. While he says ADEQ inspectors are polite and professional, he said the developers need time to adjust to the new inspection rules and time to correct any deficiencies before they are fined.
“My problem is not with the ADEQ staff, my problem is with the system itself,” Lemons said.

He said he wants a probationary period for developers to find out what they are doing wrong and fix it and learn before the fining phase.
But the Cabot developer said he believes any effort to get ADEQ to soften its enforcement practices is “dead in the water.”
While Lemons was reserved and respectful with his comments, the developer was more plain spoken.

“They’ve gone from one extreme to the other,” he said. “It used to be that they came out and talked to us and told us what we were doing wrong. Now they fine us. I think they want us to be afraid of them.”

TOP STORY >> District official defends himself

Leader staff writer

Marvin H. Jeter III said Monday that the reason he was not rehired at Forest (Miss.) Municipal School District was that he championed racial equality and also allowed an integrated prom, which displeased the superintendent.

Jeter, director of learning services for Pulaski County Special School District, also denied charges by Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Director Bonita Rownd that he asked her for help in transferring Michael Nellums from his position as principal of the Jacksonville Middle School boys campus.

On Oct. 18, Rownd sent a letter to then-acting PCSSD superintendent Robert Clowers alleging that Jeter sought her help because Nellums had a lot of community support in the Jacksonville area.

According to Rownd’s letter, Jeter told her privately that Nellums “didn’t have the experience to handle the intricacies of a challenging new program” and said he needed to be moved to another school, but that the community seemed to support Nellums.

In her letter, Rownd wrote that Jeter charged that Nellums, school board member Rev. James Bolden III and Karl Brown, assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services, had formed “a power block to try to get things done their own way.”

Speaking Monday night after a community meeting over the proposed closing of Homer Adkins Elementary School, Jeter flatly denied having that conversation or anything resembling it with Rownd.

“I deny the accusations made in the first and second paragraphs of Ms. Rownd’s letter,” Jeter wrote in a memo to Clowers.
“Although I have previously discussed with you my disappointment in Michael Nellums’ performance as principal of Jacksonville Middle School, boys campus, I did not discuss that personally with Ms. Rownd.”

“I stand by my letter,” Rownd said Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t want to escalate the rhetoric. I don’t want to get into a war of words.”
Jeter said he didn’t include Skip Lathem, superintendent of Forest Municipal Schools, as a reference when he sought his current job with Pulaski County Special School District because “I was philosophically, ethically and morally repulsed by Mr. Lathem’s position on the inequitable treatment of students and teachers.”

In a telephone interview last week, Lathem said Jeter was involved in “divisive-type issues” while at the district and was not eligible for rehire as long as he was superintendent.

“Whatever the problem between Mr. Jeter and Mr. Lathem, I don’t know,” said Sammye Jean Webb, former president of the Forest Municipal School District Board and Jeter’s reference in lieu of Lathem.

“The students liked him very well,” she said. Webb, who said Jeter told her Tuesday to expect a reporter’s inquiry, confirmed that prior to Jeter’s arrival, the district had segregated proms but said she didn’t know if racial issues were at the root of the problems between Lathem and Jeter. She characterized Jeter as very forward-looking and talented.

“He had some ideas that might have worked had he been able to put them in place,” Webb said.

Webb said she didn’t recall whether or not PCSSD personnel had checked with her as Jeter’s reference before he was hired.
Jeter said that while academics were his priority, he never neglected his duties as athletic director for the district.

TOP STORY >> Roundup of holiday activities

Leader managing editor

Many area churches have spent the past couple of weeks preparing and distributing food baskets for needy families and at least one church will host a Thanksgiving Day meal for those in need on Thursday.

First United Methodist Church in Beebe will host a noon lunch on Thursday for anyone in need. There are no eligibility requirements for the free meal, which last year drew a crowd of 375 hungry diners.

“One year we had someone just passing through town who saw our sign and just came in and ate,” said Bill Palmisano, coordinator of the event.

The VFW post in Jacksonville hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for 238 guests on Saturday.
“It went very well,” said Paula Jahoda, assistant manager at the VFW. “The size of crowd we had was just about average.”
First Baptist Church in Jacksonville was one of many churches in the area which prepared food baskets.
“We just delivered our final one just a little bit ago,” the church secretary said Tuesday afternoon.

The Cabot Rotary Club held their annual Thanksgiving food drive and used money earned from a four-wheeler give-away to buy food at a discounted price from Kroger in Cabot.

On Saturday, 150 care baskets were put together and delivered in Lonoke County, including 30 baskets which were delivered to spouses of airmen deployed overseas.

The leadership personnel at Little Rock Air Force Base will serve airmen Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, according to 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan.
“The command chief and commander are among those who serve Thanksgiving dinner to the troops who are here,” Quinlan said.
“All the airmen who are required to stay on base or students who can’t go home come and eat. We usually have a full house.”

TOP STORY >> FEMA funding ends soon

Leader staff report

“Right now, we’re trying to find a house to rent,” said Wade Morgan, 26, who has hunkered down at the Holiday Inn Express in Lonoke with his 2-year-old son and his son’s mother and said he was looking forward to a fresh start.

The 1,023 families evacuated from hurricanes Katrina and Rita still living in Arkansas hotels — 2,083 people in all — will have to pay living costs out-of-pocket either with Federal Emer-gency Management Agency rental housing aid or from their own funds after an extended Jan. 7 deadline, according Bob Alvey, public affairs officer for the Arkansas FEMA office.

“No one is being kicked out, it’s just the rooms aren’t going to be paid for automatically,” Alvey said.

In the immediate wake of Hurri-cane Katrina, and then Hurricane Rita, the Holiday Inn Express was disaster central for evacuees in the Lonoke area. Now Morgan and his family are the last remaining family seeking refuge.

“We’re probably moving back toward Baton Rouge or to Tulsa,” he said, adding he has filled out paperwork, but has yet to be approved for FEMA help with an apartment or rental house.

Three or four families have settled in Lonoke, according to Mayor Thomas Privett.
Morgan expects to be moved out by the end of December. While the motel room has been a great help, it’s been claustrophobic, he said.
Morgan, an oil refinery construction worker, says the rent home he had in the New Orleans area was ruined.
He has some possessions secure in a mini storage, he said.

“They can pay for the rooms with housing-aid money from FEMA but it is more cost effective to put that money towards rent,” Alvey said.
By Jan. 7, the thousands of evacuees who receive FEMA housing aid in vouchers issued though state or local authorities will have to sign a rental lease to remain eligible for the funding.

According to an Associated Press report, the hotel rooms have cost FEMA $274 million since the storms struck.

Critics say FEMA has not given evacuees enough time to find homes and sign leases — a process that can take months in rental markets already nearing capacity. So far, FEMA says it has provided $1.2 billion in transitional housing assistance to more than 500,000 households displaced by the hurricanes.

Locally, there are 319 families of hurricane evacuees living in hotels in Pulaski County, four families are living in hotels in White County and one evacuee is living in a Lonoke motel. Families will need to apply and qualify by Dec. 1 for the assistance, Alvey said.

“These evacuee numbers are very fluid because these are the people who have returned data sheets to FEMA, it can go up or down as more people apply or people return home,” Alvey said.

In Jacksonville, there are three families still living in hotels.
“Those families are filling out paperwork with the Jacksonville Housing Authority to get into homes,” said Angie Mitchell, a volunteer with the Hurricane Katrina Assistance Center in Jacksonville.

Although the center closed in mid-November, the center still helps evacuees with assistance through the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Mitchell spent most of this week passing out vouchers for free turkeys from Kroger to the 100 evacuee families who have housing in Jacksonville.

Approximately 15,856 families had applied for FEMA assistance in Arkansas since Katrina hit on Aug. 29, followed by Rita on Sept. 24.
FEMA granted extensions to 9,830 families in hotels in Louisi-ana and 2,508 in hotels in Mississippi, where there is a housing shortage, according to Alvey. Evacuees in those states have until Jan. 7 to find homes. Additionally, the six-month leases for evacuees living on cruise ships will end March 1. FEMA previously had set the December deadline as a goal to have evacuees out of hotels and into travel trailers, mobile homes or apartments until they find permanent homes.

The FEMA deadline for getting out of hotels and into more permanent housing was never an issue in Cabot and Beebe.
Peggy Moss, chairman of Cabot KARE, said that organization worked closely with Alan Turnbo with the Cabot Housing Authority to get families into permanent housing as soon as they arrived.

Currently, 40-45 families call the Cabot area home, she said.

As for Cabot KARE, headquartered in the old Knight’s grocery store, it has closed its doors. Moss said the tentative plan for donations stored there is to sell them in a rummage sale and divide the proceeds among the hurricane victims.
Julie Hill, with Beebe KARES, said the hotel deadline was never an issue in Beebe.
“Our folks went into housing or they went back home,” Hill said.

As for the organization she co-chaired with husband Paul Hill, Beebe’s clerk-treasurer, Hill said it’s not closing its doors. It will stay around in some form to help those in need.

In Sherwood, about 95 percent of Chief Elwin Warhorse Gillum’s St. Tammany Parrish Native American Tribe have moved from the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church to the Park Crest apartments, with the rest living elsewhere, according to Pastor Larry Potts.

The church keeps its laundro-mat open for the Native Americans, and several of them attend services there and are active in the music ministry, he said.