Thursday, May 04, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> More downhome blues

Eb Davis, one of Arkansas’ great soul-blues singers, has a new CD out, Eb Davis and the Super-band: Live at the A-Trane, Berlin (Soul Defender), recorded last year before an enthusiastic crowd in the German capital, where he has lived for many years.

The band is made up of both American and German musicians, including Davis’ wife, Nina, on piano, organ and vocal. Many of the songs are Davis originals, but he also performs songs by fellow Arkansan Junior Wells, as well as Willie Dixon, Larry Garner and others.

Davis enjoys life in Germany and spreading the blues around Europe.

“What I’m hoping to accomplish is to get more people in the land that I love to come to know more about a native son who has taken what he learned in the Delta and spread it around the world,” Davis told us after he finished the CD.
What follows are my liner notes to “Eb Davis and the Superband: Live at the A-Trane, Berlin:”

Eb Davis was the most impressive singer at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in Helena (formerly the King Biscuit Blues Festival) in October 2005. Davis, a native of Elaine, Ark., which is near Helena, now lives in Berlin, but he comes home as often as he can, although his fans back home don’t think he comes back often enough.

There were plenty of fine singers and terrific guitar players at the Helena festival (Robert Junior Lockwood, another Arkansas native, also played at the festival, as he does every year), but Davis’ fine voice made him the favorite with many of the festivalgoers. He has a great stage presence and sense of style and once filled in for the Drifters while they traveled in Europe, which is why he’s now settled in Germany.

He’ll remind you of Junior Parker (another former Arkansas resident), but you can hear traces in his voice of other great Arkansas performers he heard while growing up in the Delta in the 1950s and 1960s. Yes, besides the Mississippi Delta, there is also an Arkansas Delta, which has produced almost as many musical giants as the region across the river: Albert King, Luther Allison, Al Green, Jimmy McCracklin, Son Seals, Roosevelt Sykes, Junior Wells and many others.

Davis, who was born in 1945, is old enough to have soaked in their musical influences, as well as the sounds of Memphis, where he grew up.

He’s a great soul-blues singer who reminds you of other Arkansas-born singers, such as Jimmy Witherspoon, but mostly Eb is his own man, skillfully blending in the Gospel influences from his childhood and creating a sound that is a constant joy to listen to. He’s hip. He’s soulful. His music will move you. It will send you back to Arkansas.

Check out his CDs, including “Wanna Talk About You” (Furniture Records) with Eugene (Hide-away) Bridges and “Fool for the Ladies” with Big Jay McNelly (Wonderland Records). Wonderful music. Davis stands out as one of the best and must not be missed if he performs in your area.

The good news is that he has a new CD out, recorded in 2005.

Turn up the volume and enjoy the greatest music in the world, created and nurtured in the Delta, the most musical region on earth.

If you can’t make it to the Delta, listen to EB Davis on his fine CD or catch him in Europe, but if you’re really lucky, someday you might catch him and his band on his native soil back in the Delta. See you there.

For a mini-Chicago blues festival, check out Michael Coleman and the Delmark All-Stars: Blues Brunch at the Mart (Delmark), recorded live last June at the Jazz Record Mart in downtown Chicago on the same weekend that the city holds its annual blues festival.

Every year, Bob Koester, the producer and record-shop owner, brings in his stable of stars for a free show — and what a lineup. Besides Coleman, who does a soulful version of “The Sky Is Crying,” performers include several other Chicago greats: Lurrie Bell, Bonnie Lee, Steve Freund, Zora Young, Steve Behr, Shirley Johnson, Aaron Moore, the late Willie Kent and Arkansas’ own Tail Dragger.

The music is great and it’s like having a blues festival in your home — and it’s cheaper than the price of gasoline. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

OBITUARIES >> 5-3-06


Mary Louise Burks, 73, of Jacksonville passed away April 30.  She was born on Feb. 8, 1933, in Waverly, Kan., to Walter and Ruth Swenson. She married James O. Burks on April 17, 1953.
Burks was preceded in death by her parents, and a sister, Alice Jones.
She is survived by her husband; two sisters, Gladys Brashere of Coffeyville, Kan., and Virginia Robinett of Tecumseh, Kan., and two brothers, George W. Swenson of Sun City, Ariz., and J. Elvin Swenson of Cleveland, Mo.
Her memory is cherished by four sons and a daughter and their spouses; Robert O. Burks and his wife, Sandy, of Conway, Dr. Ronald A. Burks and his wife, Debbie, of Lonoke, Richard L. Burks and his wife, Pat, of Cabot, Christopher Jones and his wife, Terry, of Cabot, and Susan McCormick and her husband, Capt. (USN) Sam McCormick of Virginia Beach, Va.  
Close family survivors include 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
She was a member of First United Methodist Church of Jack-sonville. She owned and operated The Hair Loft Beauty Salon in Jacksonville for many years. She was always a positive, happy force in her family’s life. She will be sorely missed not only by her immediate family, but also by her extended family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, one may give memorial gifts to Arkansas Cancer Research Center — UAMS, 4301 W. Markham, Slot 623, Little Rock, Ark. 72205.
A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Moore’s Jack-sonville Funeral Home, 1504 Loop Road in Jacksonville.


Nicole “ Nikki “ Megan Parsons, 19, of Cabot passed away April 28.
She was preceded in death by her grandfather, Chester Parsons. She attended ASU-Beebe.
Survivors include her parents, Craig and Barbara Parsons of Cabot; two brothers, Scott Parsons of Cabot and Jason Daniels of Little Rock; grandparents, Barbara Fomby of Texarkana, John Lowe of Cabot and Patricia Par-sons of Little Rock; along with numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends and love ones.
A private service will be held for the family.  
Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service 713 S. Second St. in Cabot.


Stanley W. Waymire, 56, of Beebe, died April 30. He was an employee of Union Pacific Railroad.
He is survived by his wife, Betty Waymire of Beebe; one son, Shawn Waymire of Carder Lake, Iowa; two daughters, Kelly Way-mire of Beebe and Jamie Waymire of Carder Lake, Iowa; five grandchildren, Micah White, Stanley Waymire, Steven Waymire, Car-son Kyzer and Katie Greenawalt; three brothers, Jimmy Waymire and Lyle Waymire of Omaha, Neb., and Jerry Waymire of Texas, and 24 nieces and nephews.
Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


Mildred Louise Sims, 80, of Cabot died April 30.
She was retired from Tillers Nursing Home in Oswego, Ill., and was a member of the Church of Christ.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Richard C. Sims, Sr.; her parents, Erby and Ellie Smith; her brother, Edmond Smith; her sister, Betty Taylor, and a grandson, Christopher Lents.
She is survived by four sons, Richard Sims, Jr. of Mineola, Texas, Don Sims, Sr. and Edward Sims, Sr., both of Ward, and Jimmy Sims of Gatesville, Texas; one daughter, Shirley Lents of Ward; 12 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; two sisters, Wanda Moody of Beebe and Madie Whittenburg of Carlisle, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial at 2 p.m. Friday at Lincoln Memorial Park, Aurora, Ill.
Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


Vernon B. (Papaw) Hallum, 88, went to be with the Lord April 29.
He was a member of Browns-ville Baptist Church, a loving father, grandpa and friend.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Marie “Mamaw” Hallum.
Survivors are his sons, Carroll and wife Mary Jane Hallum, Don Hallum, and Wayne and wife Jean Hallum; and daughter, Judith and husband Johnnie Tate, all of Lonoke; 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were Monday at Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke, with interment at Lonoke Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Brownsville Baptist Church in Lonoke, the American Heart Association or Arkansas Cancer Society.

SAT 5-3-6 EDITORIAL >> Blame it on Clinton?

Arkansas ranks 48th in per-capita income, just a hair above Louisiana and Mississippi, the states that were decimated last year by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. You have one guess about who is responsible.

You’re exactly right! It was Bill Clinton again. See, he raised the Arkansas sales tax by a penny on the dollar in 1983 to give the schools more money, which he foolishly expected to produce financial rewards for Arkansas people.

That is the explanation anyway of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, a right-wing think tank formed in the 1990s by a group of second-generation rich men and funded by, among others, the Walton Foundation. You read about the group’s analysis of the floundering Arkansas economy Wednesday in David Sanders’ column. Their goal is to shrink state and local governments and taxes and to get them off the backs of rich people. It believes that the public schools are particularly unworthy of the taxpayers’ beneficence. Greg Kaza, the executive director of the Policy Foundation, said Arkansas’ poor economic standing relative to other states was to a considerable extent the result of Clinton’s na├»ve belief that putting more money into the public schools would raise educational achievement and that this would develop the economy and raise personal prosperity. But it doesn’t work that way, Kaza said. Twenty-three years later, Arkansas ranks about where it did then in per-capita income rankings. Only Republican Mike Huckabee among Arkansas governors, Kaza said, has recognized what Arkansas needs to advance, which is to develop durable-goods manufacturing.

Wait, since Huckabee has been governor and implementing his economic wisdom for almost 10 years, could he bear just a little blame? After all, the income gap between Arkansas and the nation as a whole has actually widened during that span. It narrowed some in the Clinton gubernatorial years and soon afterward, in his early years as president. We aren’t privy to Kaza’s explanation for those perversities, but we would guess that it would be that economic policies require many years to have an impact — maybe 23. Young Kaza is brainy enough, but his is the failing of all doctrinaire policy organizations that are funded by interests with selfish agendas. They see only the statistics and trends that fortify their theories.

The analysis of Clinton’s school-reform program suggests how it works. Clinton did justify the increased tax support of education in 1983 partly on the premise that Arkansas needed to compete with other states and other nations in the educational achievement of its children if it was to move forward. But while Arkansas took a modest step that year, and small ones later, in 1987 and 1991, most other states did even more. Arkansas was 48th in educational spending per student that year and it never got much higher. Last year it was 49th at $6,202 per student.

Kaza implied that there was little correlation between public school spending and per-capita income growth. But he will have a hard time proving it as those on the other side have proving that school spending leads directly to higher incomes.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey are at the top of the rankings in school spending and they also rank at the top in per-capita income. The states that are at the bottom in school spending are the familiar ones that are also at the bottom in per-capita income.

And did Clinton, as Kaza asserted, really not understand that durable goods were the key to real economic growth? He pushed through an economic program in 1985 that included tax and other incentives to do just that. For a period, Arkansas was among the few states in the country that increased manufacturing jobs and for a time it led the nation. Since Huckabee became governor in 1996, Arkansas has had a steady attrition in those jobs. So has most of the rest of the country.

But we would state this caveat: Mike Huckabee is not to blame! Nothing that he has done, as far as we can discern, has damaged the economic climate. He is neither villain nor savior. Clinton doesn’t fit either category either, but on balance we think the statistics favor him.

Nationally, even the Arkansas Policy Foundation surely would acknowledge that all the important economic statistics favor his policies over the 10 years of the two Bush administrations, whose fiscal policies are precisely what the Foundation says will get the job done.

It’s back to the drawingboard for Kaza and his ilk.

WED 5-3-6 EDITORIAL >> Huck at Gitmo

The Bush administration has bungled a lot of crises, but it moved with uncanny shrewdness to combat the reports of detainee mistreatment at the prison camp at Guantanamo Naval Base. It picked Gov. Mike Huckabee to go down one day and check things out with his prison director, Larry Norris.

That judgment was rewarded last week with a perfect report card from the governor. He reported that he saw a comfortable camp where dangerous and evil terrorists were treated politely and respectfully. The cells are more comfortable than those of many inmates in the Arkansas penitentiary, Huckabee remarked on his web site. He watched a few minutes of one interrogation, and he reported that the interrogator sought to establish a foundation of trust and friendship with the terrorist, which he said was the method used to get information from prisoners. His report was at variance with more detailed ones from the United Nations, the FBI and others.

We were reminded of the late ’60s, when a Republican federal judge, J. Smith Henley, called the Arkansas prison “a dark and evil place.” A committee of skeptical lawmakers announced that they would go down and check it out. Cap’n Bishop, the prison super, met them at the gate, carefully manicured lawns behind him. Inside, the beds all had tight hospital folds, garments tucked neatly beneath them, and a few smiling inmates standing at attention greeted them wherever they went. In the chow hall, they bent over plates laden with prime rib, roasted potatoes and fresh okra from the fields — pretty much the same fare as the prisoners got, they were told. Inmates flapped big towels behind them to keep a breeze going in the stifling heat. Big fans were roaring in the hallways.

Then they were bused over to the Tucker Unit, where prison reformer Tom Murton had been put in charge. He was busy tending to a prison crisis but finally greeted them in a weedy lot. He took them inside where one shift of surly prisoners who were not in the fields lounged on unkempt beds. It was, indeed, a grim place.

The lawmakers were outraged. One called it insubordination. “Did you want to see the prison, or did you want a show?” Murton asked.

Like Huckabee, they preferred the show.

WED 5-3-6 EDITORIAL >> Bush sees the light

The Republican proposal to send everyone a $100 check to get them through the gasoline crisis was greeted with jeers and jibes, which was the reaction to the other anemic proposals from the White House and the congressional leadership. The hair must have been standing on President Bush’s neck last week as he read the polls and heard from a skeptical public.

So Friday, Bush got serious, or so we hope. Visiting a gasoline station at Biloxi, Miss., to show his concern for motorists trying to pay $3 plus for gasoline, he announced that he now favored raising the CAFE standards for all vehicles. That is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules, which require vehicle manufacturers to achieve a minimum average fuel efficiency for the entire fleet of vehicles they sell each year. The president and his party have opposed raising those standards because — frankly, we’re making a presumption here — American carmakers and the oil industry opposed them. He did not want to interfere with the free market that way. But Friday he said they would be a good deal.

Nothing that he and the Congress could do that is immediately achievable would have the same salutary effect on the fuel market or the environment as sharply graduating the CAFE standards. That includes the pointless proposal by Sen. Mark Pryor and others to give motorists a little vacation from federal gas taxes. Oil marketers would soak up the margin.

Nothing that has been done since the Arab oil embargo sent oil prices skyrocketing in 1973-74 has had such fine effect as the fuel-efficiency quotas. Without those, the U. S. would be burning hundreds of millions of gallons more gasoline a day and sending tons more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The CAFE standards, which set gradually rising fuel-efficiency quotas for each class of vehicles, actually were hardly controversial when they were included in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, written by a Demo-cratic Congress but signed by President Ford. Automakers reconfigured engines, body designs and weights, and in a few years the average mileage of a gallon of gas in new cars more than doubled. But when oil prices went down sharply in the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration relaxed the standards. The program never really got back on track, although technology breakthroughs would have permitted huge increases in efficiency.

President Clinton sought in 1994 to establish a new regimen of fuel efficiencies, but the congressional elections that fall brought Republicans to power in both houses, and it was the end of progress on CAFE. Congress put riders on transportation appropriations to prevent spending any money on fuel-efficiency studies. That pre-emption was lifted in 2000, Clinton’s last year, and a transportation study the next year recommended sharp increases in the standards beyond the 27.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars and 20.7 for light trucks. But Bush and Congress passed.

Bush said last week that he wanted to raise the standards for every vehicle class, including SUVs. Let us hope that he is serious about it and that it is not just another empty gesture, like the big space initiative he announced years ago. Let us hope, too, that the standards are bold and not stretched out over the next 25 years. In March, his Transportation Department announced that it was going to mildly raise the standards for light trucks and heavy SUVs. Bush has the authority to raise car standards on his own, but he wants Congress to do it. Fine.

SPORTS >> Cabot tops Nettleton, prepares to host state

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panthers fastpitch winning streak continues into the state tournament as a result of a 6-0 win over Nettleton Monday evening in Cabot. The Lady Panthers got just six base hits, but scored in four straight innings to get the win going away.

Freshman pitcher Cherie’ Barfield got the win, throwing a two-hitter while striking out 12 Lady Raiders.
Barfield got some help from her defense as well. The Lady Panthers got several outs with good hustle on balls that could have dropped in for base hits.

“Once again our defense did a good job,” Cabot coach Becky Steward said. “There were a couple of hustle plays that they could have given up on. Hopefully this will carry over to the state tournament.”

The Lady Panthers got on the board in the second inning. Becca Bakalekos led off with a single, and scored on a one-out triple by Ashton Seidl. Seidl then scored on a base hit by Jessica Walton to put Cabot up 2-0.

In the third, Haley Dougan and Crystal Cox walked to lead off the inning, but the next two went down in order.

Rachel Glover then got a two-out single to score Dougan, but Cox was left stranded on third with Cabot leading 3-0.
Jessica Lovell walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Again, the next two batters made outs, setting up another two-out rally.

It started with a single by Dougan, and ended with a two-RBI double by Cox to push the Lady Panthers’ lead to 5-0.

The final run came in the fifth when Glover hit a triple with one out. She scored two batters later on a single by Seidl that set the final margin.

Nettelton’s only real threat came in the top of the seventh inning when Whitley Carter hit a triple with one out. Jordan Hupard then flew out to third base, and Barfield fanned Lindsey Farris to end the contest.

The win lifts the Lady Panthers to 21-7 overall.

They will begin play in the Class AAAAA state tournament at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Conway at the Cabot city park.

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills makes league title official

Forrest City Times-Herald

Going into Monday’s conference doubleheader, fourth-ranked Sylvan Hills needed to win only one of the two games to clinch the AAAAA-East Conference title.

Forrest City, 0-12 in the league with nothing to lose, tried to play the spoilers role, but the Bears had plans of their own.
Sylvan Hills won game one 10-1 and then completed the doubleheader sweep by winning the nightcap 15-3 in five innings.
Next up for the Bears, 12-2 in the East, is the Class AAAAA state tournament on Saturday, where they will face the No. 4 seed from the AAAAA-Central at 5 p.m., at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

Forrest City, 7-19 overall, will finish up Wednesday in a varsity doubleheader at West Memphis.

Facing one of the state’s best pitchers in Sylvan Hills senior southpaw Ashur Tolliver, the Mustangs kept the game scoreless through three innings, holding the Bears to just three hits behind the pitching of senior Travis Holloway.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Bears made their move, scoring four runs to chase Holloway.

The Bears scored their four runs on four hits – all singles, by Jarrett Boles, Mark Turpin, Hayden Miller and Tolliver.
Sylvan Hills added a run in the fifth to make it 5-0 when Hunter Miller singled with two outs and scored on
Boles’ RBI single. The Bears then plated five runs in the top of the seventh using base hits by Austin Gwatney, Hunter Miller, Boles, Trupin and Roark.

The Mustangs got their only run in the bottom of the seventh with Sylvan Hills reliever Ross Bogard on the mound when Kiel Smith and Chance Pearson walked and advanced on Blake Davis’ sacrifice fly out. Smith scored on Baker Aldridge’s RBI single to left field. Holloway worked 3 1/3 innings and allowed two Sylvan Hills runs on five hits and two walks.

Terrance Pendleton took over in the top of the fourth with two on and one out to finish out the first game.

Pendleton gave up eight runs on nine hits with two strikeouts. Tolliver held Forrest City to just two hits while striking out nine.

Forrest City picked off two Sylvan Hills runners in the first game and erased two others in rundowns.

Taylor Roark and Hayden Miller were each tagged out in the top of the first inning of game one after being caught in rundowns. Roark between first and second and Miller between second and third. Roark was picked off at first base in the top of the third and Jarrett Boles was picked off at first in the top of the fifth. Hayden Miller and Boles scored two runs each for the Bears.

In game two, Forrest City’s Ray Patillo started and pitched into the bottom of the second before giving way to Davis. Barett Beshears took over in the bottom of the third. Forrest City used runs by Davis and Aldridge in the top of the second inning to lead 2-1 in game two.

Sylvan Hills tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the second and took a 5-2 lead on Tolliver’s three-run, home run with Roark and Hayden Miller on base. Sylvan Hills’ starter Tony Pavan set down the Mustangs in order in the top of the third before the Bears plated four runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 9-2.

Sylvan Hills closed out the five-inning victory by scoring six runs in the bottom of the fourth.

Forrest City got their final run in the top of the fourth inning when Holloway legged out an infield single, went to second on a Sylvan Hills’ throwing error, stole third and scored on a straight steal of home.

NEIGHBORS >> Angels in Arkansas

Leader staff writer

Pleasant Hill Baptist Church ministry serves community with low prices.

For the past year, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Hwy. 89 six miles south of Cabot has been helping hungry families stretch their food dollar further with Angel Food Ministries.

Each month, people can order a unit, or box of food for $25. The groceries inside retail at local grocery stores for $50 to $75.

“Because of the Angel Food Ministry, I’ve been able to save a lot of money on my grocery bill for my family. This month’s box and one special will give me more than 10 meals for less than $50,” said Nina Burgan of Lonoke.

There is no application to fill out as well as no limit to the number of $25 boxes or monthly specials people can order.
Angel Food Ministries participates in the food stamp program using the off-line food stamp voucher system. People get the date and time to pick up the food when placing and paying for the order at the first part of each month.

This month each $25 box contains:

• five pounds of chicken leg quarters;
• four bacon wrapped beef filets;
• three pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts;
• two pounds of boneless pork roast;
• two pound of french fries;
• two pounds of onions;
• one pound of buffalo chicken bites;
• 16 ounces of peas and carrots;
• 16 ounces of mixed vegetables;
• 15 ounce can of soup;
• 10 four ounce beef burritos;
• 7.5 ounce muffin mix;
• 7.5 ounce macaroni and cheese;
• one package of hot dogs;
• ketchup;
• a dozen eggs; and
• a dessert item.

The menu of the boxes changes monthly.

Other month’s boxes have included rib eye steaks, smoked sausage, meatballs, chicken wings, rice and pasta.
“Generally one box of food assists in feeding a family of four for about a week or a single senior citizen for almost a month,” said Kristy Underwood of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.

Typically there are monthly specials that can be ordered as well. May’s specials includes a 10 pound box of breaded chicken tenders for $16 or a $18 box containing:

• 8 four-ounce bacon wrapped pork filets and
• 4 eight ounce T-bone steaks.

Orders for May must be paid for by Sunday. For more information, please call (501) 843-7306, (501)413-1334 or (501) 843-6870.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Old days recalled by Faught

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
Rudyard Kipling,

“The Ballad of East and West”

If you’re taking the pulse of the community, you could check with Dewey Faught, the Air Force veteran and retired executive director of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.

And if you want to know how to make friends and influence people, you could shake his hand, and he’ll look straight at you and beam his big smile and ask, “How are you doing today?”

If you do it just like Dewey does — big, booming voice, along with his big smile — you’ll make friends wherever you go.
Now, it helps if you grew up near Jonesboro in the Arkansas Delta and went to high school even deeper in the Delta down in Chicot County, before television made almost everyone talk and think the same.

Dewey and his wife, Jane, who is a native of Gillett (Arkansas County) celebrated their 50th anniversary a few weeks early last Saturday at the Mather Lodge at Petit Jean Mountain with 36 family members.

Last October, Dewey, who had been president of his high school class, had invited his classmates for a reunion at Petit Jean. That’s how he got the idea to celebrate his wedding anniversary there.

Dewey, 71, graduated from Eudora High School in 1953 and joined the Air Force in Greenville, Miss., right after high school.
He found himself in the Middle East for the next three years, delivering supplies on old C-47s.
“I enjoyed seeing that part of the world,” Dewey told us.

He served in the Air Force for 20 years and retired here as a senior master sergeant. He remembers every place he went to and every airman he worked with and every officer he served under.

“Lieut. Col. Parker C. Porter was the first commander,” he says. “I’ll never forget his name.”

“It was really an experience,” he recalls. “Flying over the Sahara — nothing but sand. All of a sudden, an Arab and his camel would pop up. There’d be old Roman ruins. It was interesting for an old country boy from Arkansas.”

Going to the Middle East was a lot different from the Delta, and it’s as if not much has changed in all those years.
“The main thing that has stuck in my mind is the difference in the way those people live and the difference in our priorities,” he tells us.

“When we unloaded in Tripoli, Libya,” he recalls, “there were 50 farm tractors. They sat there and rusted in the sun.”
“I saw something I’ll never forget as long as I live,” he continues.

The authorities had caught a teenager who had broken the law, and when they caught him, “they beat him to death with a rubber hose.”

“They didn’t want our help then,” he says, “and in my opinion, they don’t want our help now. A lot of our American boys are getting killed, wounded and ruined.

“I support them,” Dewey goes on. “I love the Air Force, but people in other parts of the world don’t understand what we’re trying to do. Their way of life is entrenched. It’s difficult to change them.”

He hesitates to criticize the war because his eyes well up when he talks about his country.

He’s grateful the Air Force let him serve for 20 years and gave him a chance to make something of himself and raise a big family — he and Jane have five sons and numerous grandchildren — and yet as he watches the casualties mount in Iraq — nearly 2,400 Americans killed and countless civilians — he says, “I don’t know. It’s pretty confusing to me.”

He’s not the only one who feels that way.
But if you see Dewey and Jane, wish them a happy 50th wedding anniversary.

TOP STORY >> Pulaski jail remains mostly closed

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility has been closed 10 times more than it has been open this year because of overcrowded conditions.

Through March, the jail was closed to new inmates 1,999 hours out of a possible 2,160 hours because all the bed space was full, meaning the jail had openings for just 160.5 hours through the first three months of the year. Figures for April haven’t been released yet.

The jail is on a record pace for being closed. In 2005, the jail closed down 175 times for a total of 3,188 hours, and in 2003, when it had 245 more beds, it still closed 1,999 times for a total of 2,371 hours.

But at the current pace, the jail will be closed nearly 8,000 hours by the end of 2006. In fact, so far this year, the jail was open for intake of prisoners just one day in January, six days in February and five days in March.

It costs $21.2 million a year to run the jail, which has lost about 250 beds for lack of funds. The county is considering adding between $4.5 million and $34.1 million for more jail beds. Cities in Pulaski County this year have contributed about $1 million to keep addition 80 beds in use, but that money may not be available next year.

A countywide governmental task force has been meeting to look at ways to resolve the jail problems. The task force met in Little Rock in March, Jacksonville in April, and will meet tomorrow in Maumelle. The task force has also set a meeting May 24 in Sherwood.

The group is looking at ways to open more jail space, increase jail funding and better utilize jail space and funds.
A citizens’ group calling itself County Jail Reform Now is working with the county task force and believes the jail closings are one of the major reasons that the crime rate in Pulaski County has risen 300 percent since October 2005.

FBI crime statistics seem to bear out the group’s conviction. In 2004, the latest year for complete figures, the Little Rock metropolitan area — which includes Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville and Maumelle — had crimes statistics above the national average in all major categories.

Also in that year, the jail, which had space for 1,125 prisoners, was closed down for prisoner intake 162 times for nearly 2,000 hours.

In 2004, the murder rate for the Little Rock metropolitan area was 15.4 per 100,000 people; nearly triple the national average of 5.5 per 100,000, and higher than New York and Los Angeles and nearly equal to Chicago.

The number of forcible rapes in 2004 was 58.4 per 100,000 area residents. The national average was 32.2. The Little Rock area figure was higher than that of New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

Reported robberies in 2004 in the Little Rock area stood at 361.9 per 100,000, nearly three times higher than the national average, and more than New York’s rate of 300.9 per 100,000.

The local aggravated assault rate in 2004 was 881.2 per 100,000, compared to 291.1 nationally. The Little Rock metropolitan area’s assault rate was more than the rates in Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York or Los Angeles.

The burglary rate in 2004 was also more than double the national rate. Locally it was 1755.7 per 100,000 and nationally it stood at 729.9.

Statistically the local rate was more than New York’s and Los Angeles combined.

Larceny theft in 2004 stood locally at a rate of 5,655.2 per 100,000, double the national average, and vehicle thefts were at 498.3 per 100,000, up from the national average of 421.3

TOP STORY >> Counties still struggle with voting machines

Staff and wire reports

Most counties in Arkansas will be using paper ballots when early voting begins next week because of problems with the recently purchased electronic voting machines, Secretary of State Charlie Daniels said Tuesday, but locally, Pulaski County and Lonoke County officials still hope to use their new touch-screen Ivotronics.

Electronic balloting will be available for early voting in the eight counties that comprise the 2nd Congressional District in central Arkansas because there is a competitive federal party primary on the ballot, Daniels said. The federal Help America Vote Act requires the machines be available in contested federal races this year.

The eight counties in the 2nd Congressional District where electronic machines will be available for early voting are Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Pulaski, Saline, Van Buren, White and Yell.

Daniels said he was confident that electronic voting machines would be available in all 75 counties by the May 23 primary.
The secretary of state spoke at a news conference Tuesday to address questions being raised about whether Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., would be able to provide electronic voting machines, ballot software and absentee ballots in time for early voting that begins Monday.

While at least 14 counties missed a Friday deadline to deliver absentee ballots to their clerks’ offices for mailing, Pulaski County made its deadline, according to Election Director Susan Inman. Lonoke County is still waiting for its ballots.
Several other counties, including Pulaski, have reported receiving defective software for their new machines.

“We got some stuff yesterday and it didn’t work,” said Inman. A computer file intended to test the optical scanner’s reading of absentee paper ballots is “programmed incorrectly. Imagine that.”

Inman said she was “fearful we can’t meet testing deadlines.”

She said Pulaski County had enough electronic machines for early voting—if they can get them programmed.
“We have paper ballots for early voting if necessary,” Inman said.

In Lonoke County, the envelopes are addressed and waiting for absentee ballots that were supposed to be delivered Tuesday afternoon, according to County Clerk Prudie Perceful.

“They should have been delivered by Friday, she said. The new optical scanner is here,” said Perceful. “ES & S unboxed it today, checked it out and said it was fine.”

She said the county had received enough Ivotronic voting machines—“I think 38 machines—and the ES&S technicians had checked them. “But, I don’t know if they will be programmed in time (for the start of early voting Monday.”

The Nebraska company was awarded $15 million contract in November to deliver electronic voting machines for state compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act. The federal legislation was passed after the 2000 recount that determined George W. Bush’s win over Al Gore in the presidential race.

Under the law, at least one new electronic voting machine was required at each of the polls by the May 23 primary elections in Arkansas.

Mark Kelley, a regional account manager for ES&S, attended the press conference and admitted that his company has been stretched thin with trying to get equipment to Arkansas and 47 other states in time to meet the federal law.

Kelley said the company has had just two full-time employees working in Arkansas, but more are expected this week because primaries in Ohio and Indiana were held earlier this week.

“With the nationwide implementation of the Help America Vote Act, this has been a challenging year,” Kelley said. “The unprecedented level of change has presented challenges all across the country for election officials, voters and election vendors.”

Daniels said any additional election costs accrued by counties because of using the paper ballots would be reimbursed by the state. He said ES&S would probably be asked to help cover the extra costs, but that any discussion about additional costs would have to wait until after this year.

The Financial Times of London reported Friday that with voters in some jurisdictions headed to the polls in the first primaries Tuesday, confusion and concern reign throughout the country with the federally mandated switch to electronic voting—at least for the handicapped—kicking in.

The Times said that “With about 8,000 separate election authorities managing approximately 175,000 polling places and perhaps as many as 150,000 different ballot forms, American elections are complex even when all goes well. But this cycle sees many states and smaller jurisdictions making last-minute efforts to switch to electronic voting, and early signs of trouble are appearing.”

In April, Oregon filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Election Systems & Software, alleging that “The company reneged on a commitment to supply the state with electronic voting machines suitable for handicapped people for its May 16 primary.”

That’s the vendor supplying the voting machines to most of Arkansas.

Tim Humphries, attorney for the secretary of state’s office, said he did not think the state would be in violation of the new federal law because there will be electronic machines available during the early voting period in the 2nd District, the location of the state’s only contested federal primary.

Janet Harris, deputy secretary of state, said the counties that do not have their absentee ballots by today have been instructed to send federal write-in absentee ballots with a list of the candidates and issues oversees to military personnel.
The Arkansas News Bureau contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Cabot biggest winner in state funding

Leader staff writers

Arkansas’ School Facilities Commission tentatively approved funding of hundreds of construction projects Monday, including $13 million for the Cabot School District. Its numerous building projects include , among others, $7.8 million for a new cafeteria and physical education building, as well as $4.5 million for a new elementary school to be constructed near Campground and Stagecoach roads.

This state funding is the largest part of a three-tiered program of nearly $1 billion in school improvements.
Other local districts didn’t apply for or receive the big dollars in this round of facilities funding, with Pulaski County Special School District applying for and receiving about $1.5 million, most of it earmarked for a new elementary school on the west side of the county.

The Lonoke School District re-ceived funding for projects totaling about $373,000, and Carlisle’s tentative share should be about $125,000.

The total cost of the 1,202 projects, including local districts’ share, will be about $600 million. The state’s cost for the projects tentatively approved this week will be about $250.3 million over three years, according to Doug Eaton, director of the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation. The local districts’ share is based on a wealth index.
The state pays a larger portion of the repairs and expansions for relatively poor districts, a smaller percentage for the wealthier districts.

Eaton told the facilities commission that the state’s share could decrease after the division assesses the merits of the construction projects. School districts will not receive state aid if a project is not in its facilities master plan or if it involves a non-academic building.

“Our goal right now is to do a much closer review of the projects versus the master plan,” Eaton said.
A final decision by the commission on state-supported projects is expected by July 1.

The Cabot School District received $13 million in funding, including $303,916 for the addition of four new classrooms at Northside Elementary as well as funding for several projects on the high school campus, such as $294,034 for additional parking spaces and bus drive for the new high school building; $120,506 for an outdoor amphitheater; $42,177 for demolition of old buildings after the new high school opens and $30,126 to remodel the agriculture building into an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps classroom.

The commission decided not to fund a pedestrian walkway over Hwy. 89 for students of both the high school and Cabot Junior High North, saying the walkway was not a prudent use of state funding.

Beebe School District was funded $802,597 for its projects, including $617,510 for the addition of six classrooms to the front of the junior high school.

For the middle school campus in McRae, the district received $46,556 for an addition to the cafeteria; $36,546 for roof replacement and $19,936 for additional parking. Beebe Primary School was funded $41,291 to install new flooring for physical education activities and $26,581 to make doors throughout the building wheelchair accessible. Beebe High School physical education also received $14,177 to install new flooring for physical education activities.

The Pulaski County Special School District got about $1.6 million for the state’s portion of virtually everything for which the district applied.

Asked why the district applied for so little, Jerry Holder, director of plant planning for the district, said, “That was all we felt we could do with the funds we have.”

PCSSD is considered a relatively wealthy district, so the state funds only about 18 percent of qualifying projects, leaving the district to pay the other 82 percent, Holder explained.

He said the $1.5 million approved is for construction of a new elementary school for fourth and fifth graders currently served by aging Baker, Lawson and Robinson elementary schools.

Also included is $32,556 to repair roofs on three Homer Adkins Elementary School classroom buildings and the cafeteria—though the school will be converted to serve only pre-kindergarten students next year, part of the district’s Fiscal Distress Improvement Plan.

The Lonoke District was approved for $373,054 in state funds, most of it for items such as making doorways, restrooms and sidewalks comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or replacing lighting, exit signs and emergency lighting.
About two thirds of the money is earmarked for the Lonoke Primary School, with $97,000 for construction of two new classrooms.

The primary school also qualified for $40,000 toward creation of 60 new parking spaces.

The old Lonoke Middle School qualified for $48,000 toward asbestos abatement and some demolition. That school will be converted into a vocational-technical center when students move into the new middle school after Christmas.

The state tentatively signed off on about $125,000 worth of improvements in the Carlisle District, with the state contributing $64,000 toward a new heating system for the elementary school and nearly $20,000 for parking lot improvement.

Among the $30,390 the state will contribute toward improvements at the Carlisle High School, the largest allocation is $7,773 toward renovation—including painting—of the classroom building and gymnasium.

This fiscal year, the commission has approved $600 million in construction related to its facilities partnership program, $300 million for its transitional program and $71 million for immediate repair needs. That puts school and state appropriations for facilities at $971 million.

The highest state share for a project approved under the partnership program is $9.8 million for a new junior high school at Marion. The lowest is $26 to make a lavatory in the Two Rivers School District accessible for those with handicaps.

The state’s share is $5 million or more on some projects, including the new high school cafeteria and physical education building at Cabot; $9.4 million on remodeling and rebuilding at Rogers High School; $8.7 million on a new high school at Trumann; $5.6 million on a new elementary school at Clarksville; $5.7 million at Dover for a primary school, and $5 million for replacement of middle school classrooms at Pine Bluff Dollarway.

Districts will be allowed to apply for assistance through the partnership program annually.

In addition to the state’s share of $250 million for the projects approved Monday, the commission since October has obligated the state to about $121 million for the other programs.

Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, said the state has about $106 million available for school facilities this year, including $50 million appropriated by the General Assembly during a special session last month.

Broadway, chairman of the Senate Academic Facilities Oversight Committee, said he expects the $106 million will be more than enough to meet the state’s obligations for this year.

The Legislature will consider another facilities appropriation during the 2007 session, he said.
Eaton told commissioners that only about 25 percent of immediate repair funding and 30 percent of transition funding has been distributed to districts. The commission rejected applications for 226 projects.

“We still feel comfortable in terms of actual dollars we’re going to have to spend between now and January,” Broadway said. “A lot of these projects, it’s about an 18-month process. You’re not going to spend a lot of money up front. A lot of the expense is going to come the next couple of years.”

Eaton said more than half of the funded projects were for a state share of less than $20,000.

Broadway said the number of projects likely would decline next year.

“We’re addressing a lot of that need that’s been sitting out there for years and years,” he said. “I suspect that next year’s applications will be substantially less than this year’s, and on down the road.”

The 2005 General Assembly created the three facilities programs after an assessment of school buildings proposed about $2 billion in facilities needs.

The immediate repair program was designed to address projects where repairs or construction was needed immediately; the transitional program covers school facility costs from Jan. 1, 2005, to June 30 of this year. The partnership program begins July 1 and continues annually.

State facilities aid is calculated based on an index that takes into account a district’s wealth and property values. Several districts, including the state’s largest in Lit-tle Rock, do not qualify for state help.

Education Commissioner Ken James, a member of the three-member facilities commission, said the state has moved quickly to improve school facilities.

The state Supreme Court was critical of the Legislature’s facilities funding in a December ruling that declared academic funding unconstitutional.

“I have a real good feeling that we’re moving in the right direction, there’s no doubt about it,” James said after Monday’s meeting.

“If you look from where the state was and where we are now, in terms of not only having a better understanding of where facility needs are, we’ve made phenomenal progress in a short period of time,” he said.

Department of Finance and Administration director Richard Weiss and Mac Dodson, president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, are the two other members of the Commis-sion for Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation.

Stephens Media contributed to this story.

TOP STORY >> Base would give land for school

Leader staff writer

Brig. Gen Kip Self, Little Rock Air Force Base commander, said Monday that if the Pulaski County Special School District will pony up the money for a new school building to replace Arnold Drive Elementary, the base could donate property along Harris Road to relocate the school on the northwest side of the city.

By moving the base’s perimeter fence, the school would be accessible to both military and civilian families, Self said during an informal tour of Tolleson Elementary with PCSSD School Board member Carol Burgett.

Built on base in 1963 as a temporary measure to alleviate overcrowding at nearby Tolleson Elementary, Arnold Drive is a crowded, 32,652 square-foot metal building with a leaking roof and outdated playground equipment. All of the 300 students at Arnold Drive Elementary are from military families.

While older, Tolleson Elemen-tary is larger with 54,048 square feet and in much better shape than Arnold Drive Elementary. About 75 percent of Tolleson’s 290 students are from military families, says Tolleson principal Diane Ashen-berger, adding the school can serve up to 500 children.

“There’s a perception that Arnold Drive is a better school because it is on base, but students at both schools do well academically,” Ashenberger said.

“Quality of education has never been an issue. The issue is 40-year-old buildings and overcrowded classrooms. A new school might attract more people to the area,” Self said, citing new housing areas in Jacksonville, such as Base Meadows and Lost Creek subdivisions.

On fiscal distress for the past school year, PCSSD has been in a financial bind for several years. Burgett says once the fiscal-distress label is removed by the state, the district could receive more funding to help schools across the large district.
“This part of the district has not been growing until recently. The last capital investment in this area was Northwood Middle School in the mid-1980s,” Burgett said. She represents Arnold Drive on the base and nearby Tolleson, as well as Bayou Meto Elementary, Cato Elementary, Dupree Elementary, North Pulaski High School and Northwood Middle School.

“The district has started making a list of all the growth in the area. We know something has to be done. Steel and concrete prices have quadrupled recently, making $6 million school buildings cost $15 to 25 million,” Burgett said.

The average school in the district is probably 30 years old and in need of help or replacement. But because so much of the district’s revenues are obligated to salaries and benefits, there has been money for only two new schools in recent years—Daisy Bates Elementary and a new Maumelle Middle School.

As much as $10 million a year earmarked for capital improvement has instead been diverted—legally—into the district’s annual $134 million budget.

Arnold Drive is unique in that it is a public school located on a military base.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. military established the De-partment of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) overseas, and the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Sec-ondary Schools (DDESS) in the U.S.

Currently, there are only a handful of DDESS schools in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Guam and Puerto Rico.