Wednesday, August 02, 2006

SPORTS >> Bruins advance in state

IN SHORT: Wins over Ft. Smith and Van Buren moved the Bruins to mid-week play at UAFS.

Leader sports writer

FORT SMITH – Sylvan Hills made it through the first weekend of the Class AAA American Legion state tournament at Crowder Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

The Bruins won their opener Saturday against the host team Ft. Smith Kerwins 7-3, but dropped their Sunday game against Searcy Crain Automotive 10-4. The loss put them in the losers bracket, and pitted them against Van Buren in an early Monday game. Van Buren led until the seventh inning, but Sylvan Hills pulled it out in the game’s closing stages for a 6-2 win, knocking the Beau’s Tuxedos Van Buren team out of the tournament.

“We survived that one,” Sylvan Hills coach Mike Bromley said. “There was one play at second that really helped us out. We already had the lead at that point, but that play let us get a cushion.”

Sylvan Hills led Van Buren 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth in-ning with bases loaded and one out. Nathan Van Schoyck then hit into what could have easily been a 6-4-3 double play, but Van Buren shortstop Wesley Strassle missed the throw to second by several feet, and the ball ended up at the fence between first base and right field. Instead of two outs, Van Schoyck’s grounder netted three runs as Ashur Tolliver, Ritchie Irvin and Austin Gwatney easily made it in to clear the bases and set the final margin.

Saturday’s opener against Fort Smith was just as closely contested. The Bruins held a narrow 3-2 lead for much of the contest, but a run from Tolliver in the bottom of the seventh and three more in the eighth helped Sylvan Hills secure the first-round win.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the second, when Hayden Miller scored off a single to right from David Simpson.

Jerry Lawson then tagged up on a pop-up to center from Gwatney for the second run, putting the Bruins up 2-0.

The Kerwins cut that lead in half in the top of the fourth inning with a run from Ian Gilley.

Tolliver scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the fifth for Sylvan Hills, but the Kerwins made that run up in the top of the sixth to keep the game a one-score affair.

Tolliver scored again in the bottom of the seventh, this time off a RBI single to right from Chase Elder to give the Bruins a 4-2 lead.

Tolliver’s biggest contribution in the game was at the mound for the Bruins. The southpaw UALR signee went all nine innings, allowing nine hits and three walks while striking out five batters.

The Bruins put the game away in the bottom of the eighth. Runs from Shawn Bybee, Gwatney and Tolliver increased Sylvan Hills’ lead to 7-2 heading into the final frame.

Ft. Smith’s only hit in the final inning produced a run from Javier Olazigasti, but it would not be enough. The Bruins headed on to the next round of the winners bracket with a Sunday evening matchup with Searcy.

Three Crain team home runs were the deciding factor in the second-round contest on Sunday. Adam Robertson put the first one over the wall in the bottom of the fourth for a 2-0 Crain lead.

Searcy led 3-0 after five innings, but would put the game away in the sixth inning. Shane Crossen started things off with a homer that breezed by the scoreboard in left field.

The next score came from Heath Wyatt off a single from Wesley Benton. Robbie Hohler followed that with a two-run home run that bounced off the light pole in left field to score himself and Benton for a 7-0 lead. Before the end of the seventh, Searcy had built an insurmountable 9-0 lead.

Sylvan Hills made up two runs in the top of the seventh, and a two-run home run from Ryan Wood in the top of the ninth would cut the lead to a more respectable 10-4.

It would be as close as the Bruins would come, however, as the Crain team racked up ten runs off thirteen hits to take the win. Sylvan Hills had four runs off six hits in the game.

Scott Hudgins took the win at the mound for Searcy, going six and one-third innings for Crain and only giving up one earned run.

“They had a young man on the mound that threw very well, and kept us off balance,” Bromley said. “We got so far behind that it was hard to come back. If we could have kept it closer, we might have had a chance to come back on them.”

Monday’s win against Van Buren put them in a Tuesday afternoon game with the loser of the Pine Bluff and Searcy quarterfinals game after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS >> Local rider earns high marks at nationals

IN SHORT: Bradley Bohannon, 14, turned in a personal best time and finished in the top 125 of over 1,000 contestants at the National Barrell Racing Youth World Championships in Jackson, Miss.

Leader sports writer

Bradley Bohannon of Jacksonville competed at the 2006 National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Championships in Jackson, Mississippi, last week. Bohannon was one of 1,023 contestants at the invitational-only barrel-racing event.

The 14-year-old finished 125th out of the over 1,000 competitors in the 13-over teen division, with a personal best time of 15.570 on 10-year-old quarter-horse Jettin’ Valentine. His time was only .08 seconds off the overall winning time, and only .

007 seconds shy of claiming a $1,000 cash and equipment prize.

“It’s always a blast down there,” Bohannon said. “There were kids from all different states there. I got to meet all kinds of new people, and make some new friends.” It was Bohannon’s third trip to Mississippi for the Youth World Championships, and his strongest showing so far in his six-year career.

“I would have to say it was probably one of my better years,” Bohannon said. “I didn’t make it back to the finals, and I probably should have, but all in all it was a good trip.” Bohannon received the invitation to the event by winning the Arkansas 05 District and Reserve Championship. Contestants came from over 45 states, as well as Panama, Canada and Italy.

The event is considered the largest youth barrel race in the world. The Augusta, Georgia, based NBHA has a worldwide membership of over 35,000, and is credited with introducing the divisional concept to barrel racing.

Along with Jettin’ Valentine, Bohannon also qualified six-year-old Hot Cass Chic for the event. He finished first in the 1D division at the Arkansas District and Reserve Championship in Pine Bluff with Jettin’ Valentine, and second in the 2D division with Hot Cass Chic to earn a spot for both horses at the national event.

Bohannon’s local stable is the Central Association at Beebe. He has competed in several events throughout the Midwest this year, placing in the 2D division of the Mid-South Nationals in Tennessee during the first week of July.

As for which of the two horses he prefers, Bohannon says he loves both, but leans slightly towards Jettin’ Valentine because of his experience in competitions. Most of Bohannon’s accolades have also occurred while competing on the 10-year-old quarter horse.

His next major competition will be at the Arkansas State Championship Horse Show on Labor Day weekend at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock. He will attempt to qualify for the barrel races, pole-bending and junior speed race at the event with both horses. He will finish the year out with a pair of shows in Oklahoma in November.

SPORTS >> Cabot All-Stars headed to world series

IN SHORT: The Panther 10-under team won the Southwest Regional tournament in Crossett and advances to the Cal Ripken nationals in Lafayette, La, this weekend.

Leader sports editor

The Cabot 10-year-old All-Star team is leaving tomorrow morning for Lafayette, La., to take part in the Cal Ripken World Series after winning its seventh tournament of the year last weekend. The Cabot U-10 All Stars are the first Cabot team to advance to the world series.

Last weekend’s event was the Cal Ripken regional qualifier, which the Cabot team won by beating Plainview, Texas, 5-4 and 5-0 in the championship round.

They will take part in a banquet honoring the teams on Friday night, and opening ceremonies will be Saturday morning.
Cabot begins tournament play at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Cabot is one of 10 teams left throughout the entire country taking part in the national championship tournament. They will compete with other regional tournament winners, including teams from Florida, California, Missouri, Kentucky, New Jersey, Washington and two teams from Louisiana.

“They are a tough group of kids,” Cabot coach Lance Vocque said. “They set a goal in May to get to this point, and they’ve battled all summer long. They really fought hard and I’m proud of them, very proud of them.”

After completing the city league season, the All Star teams were formed and the 10-year-olds embarked on a seven-tournament winning streak that began in Benton.

They went on to win a tournament in Sheridan, the Junior Deputy tournament in Little Rock, their own Cabot Panther Classic, the district tournament in Cabot, the state tournament in Magnolia and the seven-state regional held in Crossett.

After the seven tournaments, the team’s record now sits at 30 wins to just five losses.

Cabot lost 2-1 to Plainview in the third round of the regional, but came out of the losers bracket with a 10-6 win over Batesville to earn a rematch with the Texas state champions.

In the earlier game, Cabot pitcher Riley Knudsen took the loss despite an outstanding effort on the mound. He made the most of his second chance by posting the win in the first game and forcing the “if” game.

In that one, Hayden Vincent took the mound and threw a two-hit shutout.

Cabot’s Tyler Wilkie was named the tournament’s most valuable player. His efforts were highlighted by a two-run home run in the sixth inning of the Batesville game that pulled his team out of a 5-4 deficit and into the lead for good.

The Cabot team finished the three qualifying tournaments, the district, state and regional, with a combined record of 15-2. They lost one game in district and swept through the state tournament undefeated.

A charter bus will pick the team up around 9 a.m. Thursday morning at Cabot High School. Interested fans can follow the tourney at

EDITORIALS >> Huckabee in Frisco

Gov. Huckabee pops up nowadays in the most unusual venues, newspaper offices, as he plies his unofficial campaign for president.

Last month, we learned of a favorable impression left by the governor in the editorial offices of the Dallas Morning News.

A visit with editorial boards and staffs of big-city papers is a key for obscure presidential candidates because it will soften up editorial writers for favorable comments later. Or not.

It turns out that the governor got a good visit in last week with the opinion people of the San Francisco Chronicle, which prints in perhaps the most liberal precincts in the country.

You wonder what tack a self-described conservative Southern Republican takes when he schmoozes with opinionators in San Francisco.

Obviously he stays away from gay issues.

We might never know except one of the editors wrote about it. She was impressed by what Huckabee said but turned off by what she learned about him independently.

Huckabee was boasting about his compassionate stance on pardons and commutations.

Liberating criminals who have served a measure of punishment and turned their lives around is the right thing to do but earns him no political credit, the governor said.

Specifically, he was talking about pardoning Keith Richards, the brash Rolling Stones guitarist, for a 31-year-old reckless-driving conviction at Fordyce.

The pardon last month got Huckabee lots of publicity, especially in entertainment capitals, and a charge that he was grandstanding from the mayor of Fordyce.

The governor joked to the San Francisco editors that he would pardon them for their crimes, too, if they played guitar as well as Richards did. (Which is not extremely well.)

Debra J. Saunders, who writes a column for the paper, wrote yesterday that she left the meeting intending to write “a gushing French kiss of a column” about the Arkansas governor for his courage and compassion but added, “when I researched the issue I found that the less you know about his record the better Huckabee sounds.”

On that issue, she happens to be right. But let her tell it.

“Huckabee is a brave and good politician when he commutes sentences for nonviolent offenders and pardons for ex-cons who have turned their lives around.

"It is possible he was a paragon of virtue when he shortened the prison terms of some violent offenders.

“Too bad Huckabee has commuted sentences for violent offenders — without appearing to have done his homework.

"In 2004, Huckabee commuted the sentence of convicted murderer Denver Witham — after Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld revealed that Witham had omitted some of his convictions on his clemency application. (Also, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, the former Saline County sheriff testified that he had been threatened on Witham’s behalf.)

"No governor should pardon a murderer so unrepentant that he lies on his clemency application.

“Herzfeld cited other questionable commutations — the three-time drunk driver who served nine months of a six-year sentence, won a Huckabee commutation, then parole, and then his fourth drunken-driving conviction.

"Huckabee advocated the release of a convicted rapist who was then paroled, and later found guilty of murdering a Missouri woman.” [She refers to Wayne Dumond.]

She concluded:
“There is a place for redemption in the criminal-justice system. Governors and presidents have a duty to find that ground and shorten sentences that far outstrip the crime or an inmate’s guilt.

“A good leader wants to correct the system’s excesses, while recognizing a duty to protect the public. My wish for 2008 is a presidential candidate who shares Huckabee’s ideals, but not his rose-colored glasses.”

The writer had one thing wrong. Excessive optimism has not been the governor’s problem.

More often than not, Huckabee’s repeated blunders were not born of compassion but of politically calculated misjudgments.
Even the basest of criminals have connections, and connections work with Mike Huckabee.

OBITUARIES >> 08-02-06

Floy Winham
Floy Ann Warren-Winham, 63, of Jacksonville passed away July 26, in Jacksonville.

She was born on Nov. 16, 1942 to Sanford Lee and Floy Loren Kreager Warren in Tulsa, Okla.

She was preceded in death by her father and her daughter-in-law, Erin Winham.

Survivors include her mother, Floy Warren of Cabot; one son, Chet Winham IV; a daughter, Heather Ann Winham-Fulwood and her husband Scott, all of Brentwood, Calif.; a sister, Laura Lee Buehler and her husband, Randy of Ward; as well as seven grandchildren and numerous other friends and family. Private services will be held at a later date. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jackson-ville Funeral Home.

Brandon Pruitt
Brandon Taylor Pruitt, 9, of Fort Dix, N.J., passed away Friday at Children’s Hospital in Philadel-phia, Penn.

He was born May 11, 1997, in Little Rock, the son of Michael B. and Jennifer L. Massey Pruitt.

Brandon formerly lived in Jacksonville and was a member of the Assembly of God Church. He played football (Mighty Mights) on the Fort Dix “Chargers” team.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by brother Derek Pruitt of Fort Dix, N.J.; grandparents, Betty and William Brewer of Jackson-ville, Oma and Garland Massey of Greenbrier and Michael and Tam-my Pruitt of Austin; aunt, Rebecca Massey of Greenbrier and uncle, Cody Massey of Fayetteville.

Funeral services will be held today at 10 a.m. at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with the Rev. Derek Smith officiating.

Burial will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

Special thanks to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Bran-don’s Oncology Team, the 63rd Ordnance Battalion, the Pelphrey family and Dr. Peter Phillips for their kind care and support.

Cecil Meyer
Cecil Eugene Meyer, 80, of Jacksonville, passed away Friday in North Little Rock.

He was born on Feb. 7, 1926, in Stephenson County, Ill., to the late Russell R. and Florence M. (Neuschwander) Meyer.

He was also preceded in death by a brother, Virgil Meyer. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He retired in 1986 from Franklin Electric where he worked as an accountant.

He is survived by his wife Zelda May Weber Meyer whom he married on Sept. 28, 1944; four sons, Randall Meyer and wife, Nancy of Lacey, Wash., Colin Meyer and wife Linda of Fort Worth, Texas, Spencer Meyer of Houston, Texas and Kevin Meyer and wife Dawn of Little Rock; grandchildren, Tracy, Tami, Kim-berly, Justin, Chanda, Chad, Joshua, Nathan and 19 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Moore’s Jack-sonville Funeral Home Chapel. The family will receive friends an hour before the service.

Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Lanny Weeks
Lanny Weeks, 54, of Beebe, died Tuesday.

He was born Feb. 20, 1952, in Little Rock, a son of David and Lucy Mayfield Weeks. He was an employee of ICM at Jacksonville.

He is survived by his wife, Linda; son, Roger Weeks and wife Nikki of Cabot; daughter, Rhonda Howell and husband Randy of Ward; five grandchildren; seven brothers, William, Mike, Bobby, Carl, Bill, Larry and Jerry Weeks, and one sister, Lucille Weeks, all of Ward .

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Beebe.

FROM THE PUBLISHER>>Lawsuit aims to stop group

Leader publisher

Members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., were again busy this week picketing funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, but lawsuits filed by families who have lost their loved ones could stop the church group from taunting grieving relatives.

Church members, who believe God is killing our soldiers in Iraq because America tolerates homosexuals, have traveled to dozens of cities for the funerals of U.S. soldiers — not to mourn with the families but to mock them.

At least one grieving father, Albert Snyder, has filed suit against the church, which he accuses of invading his family’s privacy and “emotionally damaging” the grieving family when the group protested back in March at the funeral of Snyder’s son, Matthew, at St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster, Md.

The Kansas church's Web site said the elder Snyder taught Mat-thew “to defy his Creator, to divorce and to commit adultery” and “raised him for the devil.”

Snyder’s lawsuit claims the West-boro demonstrators violated his privacy, inflicted emotional pain and defamed him. Snyder wants the demonstrations to stop and is seeking general and punitive damages against the church.

But Jonathan Phelps, whose father started Westboro Baptist Church, says he knows nothing about the lawsuit. Anyway, he told us, no court will stop him from exercising his right of free speech and religion.

You remember Phelps: He and his family came down here in June and picketed the funeral of Army Specialist Bobby West of Beebe. Hundreds of motorcyclists calling themselves the Patriot Guard shielded mourners from about a dozen Westboro Church members, who stood across the road from First Baptist Church of Beebe and held up signs that said “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

It was an improvised explosive device that killed West, 23, on a road near Baghdad.

We asked Phelps this week to give us his reaction to the lawsuit against Westboro, although he insists his church has not been served papers. If he is sued, he suggested he could file a countersuit, as he did in Kansas, where authorities tried to stop his picketing.

“As a matter of law, Westboro Baptist Church cannot invade the privacy of any person or group while standing out on a public sidewalk and holding signs in the air, singing songs and preaching,” Phelps e-mailed us on Monday.

“If you use the example of the ‘funeral’ you were in attendance at in Beebe, Arkansas, which is typical of the events we see (except normally larger), we didn't invade that ‘funeral’ any more than you did, the patriot fart guard did, and the extras lining the highway did. The only difference is the message that we communicated.”

Phelps is clear about the teachings of his church and why members are picketing at soldiers’ funerals.

“WBC and her members sincerely and fervently hold and publish the Scripturally-based viewpoint that God is punishing America for institutionalizing proud sin (homosexuality, divorce/remarriage, adultery, fornication, idolatry, greed, etc.), including by killing American soldiers on the battle fields in the Middle East.

“We believe God is cursing America (a fact hard to dispute with soldiers’ bodies coming home in little pieces in bags); you pretend to believe God is blessing America; that religious debate is supposed to oc-cur in the heart and on the streets, not in the courts, the jury rooms, chief executive suites of the states and federal government and legislative chambers.”

Phelps, who is a lawyer, then sounded an even more ominous note, suggesting he might sue if reports of a lawsuit against his church is inaccurate:

“If they have a legitimate cause of action against WBC, you better be real careful what you write about it in your column; but you know their claim is cow manure.

“The mask of ‘invasion of privacy’ is un-original and banal. The result of any such lawsuit would be that it would not survive motions to dismiss and/or motions for summary judgment.

“Furthermore, such action would be an abuse of process if filed and served, be malicious prosecution as without probable cause and with malice, and probably be a violation of the Civil Rights Act as a conspiracy to abuse governmental power to violate the civil rights of WBC members; and any such vain attempts will be met with vigorous defenses and affirmative suits wherein all attorneys’ fees and expenses would be recovered with interest and with enhancements.”

Phelp knows the law and is confident he can win in court again.

“The government in Kansas has been down this road with us, trying to use government power to stop our preaching, the result of which they have paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in awards of our attorneys’ fees. As a memorial, I keep copies of the checks in the $100,000s of thousands hanging on my wall.

“It is not lawful for any lawyer to pretend to sue us in court and thereby abuse government power to try and get the government to side with them and declare that their religious view called ‘American patriotism,’ ‘God bless America’ and ‘God loves everyone’ as the official religion of this country.

“These soldiers' funerals have become public platforms where various groups (veterans, military personnel, media, politicians, community members, etc.) conduct political patriotic pep rallies declaring their religious views on how God is dealing with America.”

He’s studied the law books and says the law is on his side.

“They became public platforms because the family vigorously pursued that avenue to make them public platforms--and thereby make the dead soldier and their family public figures; they literally thrust themselves and their dead relative into that spotlight and cannot complain when they don’t like the spin Gospel preachers put on the events.

“WBC members have an absolute right to unfettered access to that same platform to publish a counter religious view.
“The law is well-established that the First Amendment prohibits government preferring one religion over another, and mandates the government always be neutral on matters of religion,” he continued.

He’ll take his case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

“The United States Supreme Court reiterated the following long-settled legal principles: Government cannot take action which aids one religion, aids all religions, or prefers one religion over another. In the relationship between man and religion, the government is firmly committed to a position of neutrality. The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another. The establishment clause prohibits the favoring or disfavoring of one religion over others.”

In other words, even the kookiest religion is protected under the Constitution, even if its members act in bad taste.
“In any event,” Phelps promises, “the Westboro Baptist Church is not going to stop preaching this message—America is Doomed—in a timely, topical manner, and the ultimate outcome would be that the Westboro Baptist Church would triumph wonderfully.

“In the meantime, the efforts these fools engage in to attempt to stop our preaching has had one primary result, to wit: the message has gained much wider publication than we would have ever imagined. So, in essence they are doing a great service, albeit they receive no credit because they do so unwittingly and they intend it for evil.”

“Have a nice day,” Phelps concluded.

Church members on Monday demonstrated at the funeral of Army Cpl. Adam J. Fargo in Culpepper, Va.

On Tuesday, they picketed at the funeral of Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Dickenson II in Fayetteville, N.C.

The group also headed for Arlington National Cemetery, where Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Chiomento was laid to rest yesterday.

TOP STORY>>Firefighters taking heat precautions

IN SHORT: July saw six triple-digit days and heat indices in the 100s most days.

Leader staff writer

Temperatures topped 90 degrees on 24 days in July, meaning the heat index was in or near triple digits, and the heat wave is expected to continue at least through the week.

The actual temperature broke the century mark six times during July, hitting as high as 104 degrees on July 19, 20 and 21 and setting records on the 19th and 21st.

But despite the heat here and nationwide, area fire departments had no heat-related runs.

“Luckily we had no major fires during the month,” Jacksonville Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said.

Assistant fire chief Mark Smart, with the Cabot Fire Department, echoed those sentiments. “It’s been amazing how light our July calls were. Normally were out constantly chasing grass fires,” Smart said.

Vanderhoof said his firefighters are prepared for the hot weather. “We make sure there’s extra ice water on the trucks and we have access to misters. We’ve just got to use common sense in weather like this,” the chief added.

Smart said his department is limiting the amount of outside work for the firefighters. “And when we are on scene, we try to have enough personnel there to rotate in and out.”

Jacksonville did have about 200 ambulance runs during July, and several of them were to respond to individuals suffering from possible heat exhaustion on Little Rock Air Force Base’s flightline where the heat index exceeded 120 degrees. “Overall, we’ve been real lucky,” Vanderhoof said.

Smart said his department has assisted on some heat-related ambulance calls. “Nothing serious, thank goodness,” he said.

Capt. John Sawyer with the Sherwood Fire Department said his department had no heat-related calls in July. Sherwood, like Jacksonville and Cabot, is carrying ice chest and extra water on the trucks. “We are telling firefighters to make sure they hydrate themselves and to keep an eye on each other,” Sawyer said.

The hot, dry weather has put Pulaski and Lonoke counties under a burn ban and the National Weather Service’s long-term forecast calls for drought conditions to continue through October for central and southern Arkansas.

Precipitation in central Arkan-sas is about two inches below normal for the year.

Overall, July’s average high temperature of 94.5 degrees was about two degrees above the long-term average and the rain total was about a half an inch.

July started off with 90-degree plus days, but July Fourth was a comfortable 88 degrees, and temperatures remained in the high 80s through July 7. On July 8, the temperature hit 90 degrees and stayed above 90 degrees through July 22. For most of those 15 days the temperature hover over or near 100 degrees.

On July 29, the temperature soared near 100 degrees again and has been holding steady. Forecasts call for high 90s through the rest of the week. Surprisingly, the wettest day of the month also turned out to be one of the record-setting heat days. On the 21st, when the mercury hit 104 degrees, the local area also had about a half-inch of rain. Area fire chiefs recommend that everyone check on their neighbors, friends and family, especially the elderly and the young during extended periods of hot weather.

Even though there is a fire burn ban on, the fire departments still advise everyone to be careful with cigarettes as a burning or hot cigarette can ignite dry trash and grass along the roadway.

Also check for metal dragging from vehicles as it can cause sparks and start fires.

TOP STORY>>Sheriff: Inmate release is valid

IN SHORT: Roberson says he made a deal with judge to allow nonviolent prisoners to go free because of overcrowding.

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson has complained about crowding at the jail for years, and he has released some prisoners in the past to make way for more dangerous criminals.

That is why he is perplexed by an order Monday from Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw to appear in court Tuesday and explain why he is still strapping monitoring devices to pri-soners and turning them free until there is room for them in the prison system rehab programs.

Roberson said he hasn’t released anyone sentenced to the Arkansas Department of Community Corr-ections since Hanshaw issued an order on July 5 to stop.

The release of three women, all nonviolent drug offenders, prompted Hanshaw to order the sheriff to put the prisoners back in jail.

The sheriff insists there was no room for the three women in the county jail when he released them.

“At the time I let these out, I had 18 (with only 11 beds for female prisoners in the jail), so I just put them on ankle bracelets so I would know where they’re at,” he said.

Roberson said he is most confused by Hanshaw’s change of heart about releasing non-violent drug offenders.

Before the July 5 order, he and the judge had a verbal agreement that releasing some prisoners was acceptable. In fact, the sheriff said, the judge released three without ankle bracelets.

“I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve just done what I’ve always done,” Roberson said.

Hanshaw was not available for comment, but an assistant told The Leader he would not talk anyway. He does all his talking from the bench, she said.

“I’ve always respected the judge even before I was sheriff,” Roberson said. “I always thought he was tough, but I always thought he was fair.”

But recently, the sheriff said Hanshaw’s behavior seemed erratic. “What he wants changes from one day to the next,” he complained.

Roberson said Tuesday he had not seen any paperwork on the order for him to appear in court next week and he believes its release to the media could be political.

“I’d like to see the fax number it came from,” he said.

On Tuesday, the census at the jail was 65 (nine over the maximum allowed) and included the three women Roberson had previously released.

Roberson said he called them after he heard about the judge’s order and they turned themselves in Monday evening. “One of them had a baby who was very seriously ill,” he said. “She needed to be at home and she wasn’t going to be doing anybody any good by staying in jail six months before she went into treatment.”

Roberson said prisoners wearing the ankle bracelets are non-violent offenders. Their activity while wearing the bracelets is limited. They are confined to their homes most of the time. But some start going to church, which Roberson says he believes is a good first step toward getting off drugs.

“You can’t do anything without the grace of God,” he said.

The county has about $300,000 to add onto the jail. The money came from the state and was secured by State Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle. Rober-son wants to add about 15 or 20 beds, but County Judge Charlie Troutman said the architect is dragging his feet with the plans.

The jail committee chose Taggart Foster Currence Gray Architects Inc., of Little Rock to design the addition, but after six months Troutman said all he’s seen is a rough draft.

The architects are concerned that the county doesn’t have enough money to do the project, Troutman said.

But he is concerned that if they don’t get it started soon and use the money the state has given them, they won’t get any more.

Troutman said he and Roberson want to take the project as far as possible this year and try to complete it in 2007.

TOP STORY>>City may condemn property for library

IN SHORT: Jacksonville will consider eminent-domain procedures to gain library land.

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council will vote Thursday on plans to use the power of eminent domain to condemn three lots of land so the city can go ahead with its plans to build a new $2.5 million library.

If the council approves the resolution, the city can take immediate possession of the land. The acreage the city is looking at condemning is three lots on or near the corner of West Main and Warren streets. B&C Rental Properties, Inc owns all three lots.

According to secretary of state records, the president of B&C Rental is Robert W. Dougherty, of 3715 Christy Lane. Mary Dougherty is listed as the company’s secretary.

City Attorney Bobby Bamburg explained that under eminent domain the land owners would still have to be fairly compensated for the land, but eminent domain will allow the city to proceed with its public project—in this case the library—while the sides work out fair compensation.

Earlier this summer, the city came to financial agreements to purchase two-thirds of the land on the south side of West Main Street between Walgreens and Warren Street it is seeking for the library.

The city purchased the building and land that housed the Tobacco Store and Fishnet Missions from the Abdin family and the Texaco station land from the Sheaffer family. The two lots totaled about an acre and cost the city $380,300. The city has been in negotiations since then on the remaining section of the block, which is broken into a number of smaller lots owned by either B&C Rental or MSF, Inc.

MSF, according to state records, is a for-profit corporation and the president is Harry K. Dougherty II, of 607 W. Main St. The secretary is Cathy Dougherty.

The council resolution to exercise eminent domain states that “despite extensive efforts on behalf of the City of Jacksonville to purchase certain properties owned by B&C Rental for construction and development of a new Jacksonville Public Library, lengthy efforts to amicably resolve the parties’ differences have failed.”

Because the city needs the land immediately, the resolution calls for the city to “exercise its rights of eminent domain to obtain and condemn” the property.

Along with the resolution to use eminent domain, the council will also consider a resolution giving the mayor and the city clerk authority to negotiate “a reasonable price as just compensation” for the lots of land owned by B&C Rental and MSF that are not under consideration for condemnation.

Bamburg said it is possible for the city to reach an agreement with B&C Rental without filing the condemnation papers, but passing the eminent-domain resolution gives the city option for quick access and the ability to start construction without a long delay.

In July 2004, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mil property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library building.

The mayor has said that most of the cost of the land would be paid for by private donations.

When asked about the amount of land needed for the library, Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “We’re looking at different configurations.

We’d like to have a large enough area for green space, about one and one-half or two acres.

“I’d like for this to be a centerpiece for the downtown area,” Swaim added, with amenities including a park-like setting.
Swaim said he was “fairly confident” that the city and the Central Arkansas Library System would break ground on the new library by the end of the year.

Roberts said he hoped the project could be put out to bid in about 90 days, noting that the rising cost of materials will require the city to raise more money or cutback on at least $150,000 worth of expectations.

He said material costs were up at least 12 percent.

The new library building will be approximately 13,500 square feet, about 4,000 square feet larger than the current Nixon Library, also located on Main Street, but on the other side of the street and a couple of blocks east.

The Nixon Library was constructed in 1969.

It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System and has roof and drain problems, which caused the library to be closed for a month in 2004. The building also contains asbestos.

TOP STORY>>Census will start late fall in Cabot

IN SHORT: Cabot is spending money as it seeks to document its growth so it can qualify for more state turnback funds.

Leader staff writer

Sometime before Christmas, more than 150 census workers should be in Cabot, knocking on every door, counting every person and asking personal questions.

But before you brush them off as if they were pushy telemarketers, you should know that answering their questions will help the city cash in on its growing numbers, and that could eventually mean more money for streets and fire and police protection.

The 2000 census showed Cabot had a population of 15,261. Now its estimated population is more than 20,000. But before the city can collect more than $300,000 extra a year from the state for the estimated 5,000 new people who have moved in within the last six years, they have to be counted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Donna Kingston, program coordinator with the regional census bureau office in Kansas City, Kansas, told The Leader Monday that the census workers (called enumerators) will literally go to every home in the city. No long forms to fill out will arrive in the mail. The enumerators will bring the “short form” with them.

The questions are few and simple, she said. The enumerators will ask how many people live in the home. They also will ask for their ages, dates of birth, race, ethnicity, gender, relationship to the head of the household and whether the home is rented or owned.

They won’t ask whether residents are Amer-ican citizens, she said. So illegal immigrants should not be afraid to answer the questions.

The city mailed a check for $165,550 to the U.S. Census Bureau last week to pay for its part of the special census – making maps and lists of addresses for workers to go to and processing the data they collect. But the city will have to pay an additional $111,000 to hire the workers.

Kingston said a city the size of Cabot, would require at least 135 enumerators, 15 clerks and 15 crew leaders, all hired locally and paid about $9 an hour.

Karen Davis, director of operations for Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, said last week that she has not yet started taking applications for the jobs, but City Clerk Marva Verkler has said filling the positions is not difficult.

This will be the city’s second special census. Verkler helped with the first one that was conducted in the early 1990s after officials with Metroplan noticed the growth and told the council the city would be losing money if they didn’t have it done.

Kingston said the Census Bureau would likely start on the Cabot census in a few weeks. Putting together maps and add-resses and training the enumerators takes about three months. The door-to-door counting takes about four weeks and processing the data takes two or three months. Add all the parts and it could be February before the results are available, and city officials aren’t sure when the additional state turn-back money will start coming in.

The city council voted in 2005 to conduct a special census, and the 2006 budget had $200,000 in additional revenue that was expected to come from the state when the census was completed.

But lack of funds to pay for the census has caused a year-long delay in getting it done.

The $200,000 that wasn’t collected was money that was needed for street repairs.

TOP STORY>>More work for North Belt

IN SHORT: Work to extend second phase of loop to Highway 107 should start within 10 years at a cost of $95 million, while other area projects include work on Highway 67/167 and Highway 5 between Highway 89 and 319.

Leader staff writer

Construction could start on another four miles of the North Belt Freeway in the next 10 years, according to a report just released by the state Highway Department.

In its 66-page 2006 Arkansas State Highway Needs Study and Highway Improvement Plan, the department says it will have an estimated $4.1 billion to spend on highway construction projects over the next 10 years, but it has identified $19.1 billion in needs and improvements.

The continuance of I-440 from Highway 67/167 to Highway 107 is projected to cost $95 million.

“We expect to have public hearings on the possible routes from Highway 67/167 to Highway 107 in the fall, along with costs and environmental impact, and then a locked-in route by spring,” explained Scott Bennett, assistant chief of planning for the state Highway Department.

In all, the released highway plan lists 98 highway projects the state would like to fund between now and 2017, including 11 in Pulaski County, two in Lonoke County and two in White County. The 15 local projects carry a total price tag of nearly $275 million.

The 2006 highway plan is open to public comment, Bennett said, through Aug. 18, but unless there is a major outcry or concern the plan will pretty much stand, Bennett told The Leader.

Bennett called the plan a picture of what “we can reasonably do over the next 10 years.”

The study prioritizes highway projects into long-range, intermediate-range and short-range projects.

Identification and placement on the 10-year list doesn’t guarantee that any particular project will get funding, according to Bennett.

“A lot can happen before we get to a project that will cause changes in need, priority or funding,” he added.
In Pulaski County, projects on the 10-year list include:

- Widening 1.5 miles of Highway 67/167 at Kiehl Avenue from four lanes to six, for $7.9 million.

- Widening of 1.8 miles of Highway 67/167 at Redmond Road and Highway 440, at a cost of $14.4 million.

- Interchange improvements to Highway 67/167 and the James Street overpass at a cost of $13.6 million.

- Widening about a mile of Highway 107 to four lanes from Jacksonville Cato Road to Bayou Meto at a cost of $3.2 million.

- Improvements to the I-430/I-630 interchange at a cost of $25 million.

- Rehabilitation of the I-440 south terminal interchange at a cost of $1.5 million.

- Rehabilitation of the I-440 interchange at Frazier Pike and the Arkansas River for $14.5 million.

- Extending the North Belt Freeway (I-440) from Highway 67/167 to Highway 107, a distance of 4.3 miles, at a cost of $95 million.

- Widening 9 miles of I-40 from I-430 to the Faulkner County line from four to six lanes at a cost of $30 million.

- Improving the I-40 Mau-melle interchange at a cost of $1.95 million.

- Widening 1.2 miles of Highway 5 from Saline County to Otter Creek at a cost of $4 million.

In Lonoke County:

- Improvements to the I-40 and Highway 89 interchange for $2.55 million.

- Widening 5.5 miles of Highway 5 from Highway 89 to Highway 319 at a cost of $55 million.

In White County:
- Minor widening and rehabilitation of 3.8 miles of Highway 64 near Bald Knob and the White River at a cost of $4.5 million.

Monday, July 31, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Internet disputes

The Morning News, Springdale—Every-thing’s up to date in Arkansas this week, with a pair of high-tech news items grabbing our attention. We’ll admit to being less than savvy on technical matters. It’s the arcane lure of writing that keeps us here, not the daily interfacing with infernal machines. We’re writers — not information technicians. But we’re writers with a highly developed sense of curiosity. We see things that pique our interest and we must explore them, even when they sometimes devolve into arguments over bits of technical gibberish beyond our capacity to decipher.

That’s why we’re fascinated with the Internet and all that goes with it. Normally, Internet-related news items have datelines from far-off places, like Silicon Valley or Bangalore. If government gets involved Washington is another common source of tech news. So when we saw Texarkana as the site of a story involving a legal dispute over Internet advertising we had a more parochial interest. What could those folks in Miller County be up to? It seems less technical than it might have been. It’s essentially an argument over who counts the number of “clicks” or visits to a company’s ad on the Internet and how those clicks determine the cost to the company doing the advertising. We were a little bit disappointed. While we’re sure it’s of vital interest to the advertisers and the folks they’re doing business with, it’s basically an internal squabble, too dry a subject to generate much popular angst.

But the second story made up for the routine of the first. It seems someone had taken to slandering the good name of Pine Bluff on the site of the Internet encyclopedia “Wikipedia” and city officials and boosters decided to fight back. It seems someone, apparently anonymously, edited a section of the Web site to include some cutting remarks about Pine Bluff’s mayor, the city’s supposedly failing economy and otherwise criticizing the town’s social amenities. Offending entries were apparently noted and deleted on two occasions by an employee of the local chamber of commerce, who naturally felt stung by the criticism. Now, that’s the kind of action we like to see. This is the Internet, no Marquis of Queensberry rules observed here. Defend yourselves at all times. Shake hands, go back to your computers and come out deleting.

Some people express surprise or hurt feelings over bad behavior on the Internet. They may have thought the Internet business community would operate with an entirely new set of rules that everyone would agree to and abide by.
It’s possible they really bought into the notion of a utopian community linked together on the World Wide Web where everything would be sweetness and light. We never did. We’re not surprised by allegations of bad behavior or sharp practices. We’re not surprised that people might try to make a buck or propagate their own version of “the truth” about Pine Bluff or any other subject.

Yes, the Internet is new and different in many ways. But it’s still operated by people, just like everything else in this world, and those people are subject to the same passions and prejudices we’ve always fallen victim to. That’s why the old Latin phrase “caveat emptor’’ is still valid. Even in Arkansas.

Insurance law targets Wal-Mart

Texarkana Gazette — A federal judge last week overturned a Maryland law requiring large employers to spend 8 percent of payroll on health care for employees or pay the difference in taxes. The law targeted Wal-Mart, the huge Arkansas-based retailer. Wal-Mart is the only employer in Maryland that is large enough to fall under the law. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz correctly reasoned the law would put an undue burden on Wal-Mart. But there is a larger principle involved.
States are looking for ways to reduce Medicaid spending — in Maryland alone it runs about $4.6 billion a year — and businesses that employ a lot of low-wage workers are an obvious target. If the state can force a business to pay more in health care costs, the state saves money. And if, as in Maryland’s case, the law also provides for confiscatory taxes on any difference, the state can rake in some needed revenue. Wal-Mart, of course, is the employer wearing the biggest bull’s-eye.
In other words, it’s legislated extortion. Whatever one thinks of Wal-Mart’s employment practices, and the chain has more than its share of critics, health insurance is a benefit, not a right. A worker is entitled to be paid for hours worked, including extra pay for overtime, and there are wage and hour laws in place to protect workers.

But benefits are, for all intents and purposes, given at the employer’s discretion as a way to attract and retain good employees. One can argue all day about what a responsible corporate citizen should do, but the truth is no state should be allowed to compel an employer to offer a specific benefit. Benefit mandates that affect larger employers are bad enough, but once states get a taste of decreased spending and increased revenue, there is little doubt they would try to pass the costs of Medicaid farther along, to smaller businesses. Such burdens could drive many out of business. The judge’s ruling was good for all businesses, not just Wal-Mart.

Fort Smith could get U.S. Marshal Museum

The Baxter Bulletin, Mountain Home — Arkansas could be the new home of the U.S. Marshals Museum, it was learned Monday. Fort Smith and Staunton, Va., are the two finalists for the museum to commemorate the U.S. Marshal Servicee.A traveling exhibit created for the service’s bicentennial set down roots in 1991 at Laramie, Wy., but in 2003 it was closed and the exhibits put into storage. Since then, the Marshals Service has been looking for a new site. Fort Smith would be an excellent location for the national museum considering the city’s history and connection with U.S. marshals. It was from Fort Smith that Judge Isaac Parker dispatched deputy marshals to keep the peace in the 74,000 square-mile Indian Territory during the late 1800s.

Those were the days when, for many people, the Wild West started just across the Arkansas line in what would become Oklahoma. Judge Parker’s marshals faced a formidable task, possibly the most formidable any in the Marshals Service had to deal with in the 19th century. According to a National Park Service publication on the Fort Smith National Historic Site, U.S. marshals working out of Fort Smith were authorized to “make arrest for murder, manslaughter, assault with intent to kill or to maim, attempt to murder, arson, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, incest (and) adultery” — a wide range of offenses in a wide-ranging territory. More than 65 marshals working out of Fort Smith died in the line of duty. While most marshals were white, the Fort Smith force was considered one of the most integrated on the frontier with Indian and African-American officers. Using such a mixed group of marshals was believed to have been efficient and effective in carrying out the federal court’s responsibilities because of the multicultural population of the territory. Yet as daunting as their task was, the marshals based at Fort Smith played a key role in bringing law and order to a wild frontier.

Not only does Fort Smith’s own history make it an appropriate site, but so does its central location in the country. The city is relatively accessible to much of the nation, possibly more so than Virginia or the museum’s previous location in Wyoming.
Fort Smith being only a couple of hours from the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock — which is becoming one of the most-visited presidential libraries — would be a plus, too. Fort Smith is an appropriate location for a national museum honoring not only those U.S. marshals who served the federal court there, but all those whose work with the Marshals Service through more than two centuries has advanced the cause of justice in America. ...

SPORTS >> Max Hatfield takes over Jacksonville ninth grade

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville High School has a new front man for its ninth-grade football program. Former assistant ninth-grade football coach and assistant high school girls basketball coach Max Hatfield was named the new head coach Thursday after former coach Eric Redmond took a job at Maumelle Middle School, an Oak Grove feeder school. Hatfield has been in coaching just five years, and all five have been at Jacksonville.

He spent two seasons as an assistant football coach at Jacksonville Junior High, and since has held the position prior to this promotion. He will also be the head boys track coach for the freshmen. “I’m really happy about it,” Hatfield said. “To me the main thing for the ninth-grade coach is to prepare them for high school and still be competitive. We want to get them into the high-school program already knowing the terminology and base formations. So we’re going to run what the high school runs.”

Hatfield will also be an unofficial part of the high school coaching staff, and will be helped by the high school staff with his group. “It’s going to be more team oriented this year,” Hatfield said. “We’re going to work together more. Last year with the new coach and the new scheduling format, everything was new and it just made it kind of difficult for everybody. It takes some time to get used to the situation.” Hatfield feels he has a good group of athletes coming up from the middle school, and a team that already knows most of the terminology and running game that he will be using this season.

“We’re going to be pretty good,” Hatfield said. “With what Barry Hickingbotham did with them last year, and how much success they had, we should be competitive. Coach Hickingbotham and coach Stuckey did a good job with what they taught them last year. They did most of our running game, so we’ll have to see what we have as far as passing. It’s one of those things where we’ll have to wait until they get here to evaluate what we have. Once we do that we’ll know more about what direction to go.” The new coach will be leading his freshmen Red Devils into a brand new conference after the longstanding Metro Conference dissolved last year. Jacksonville’s new league will consist of Mills, LR Christian, Robinson, White Hall, Oak Grove, Sylvan Hills, Pulaski Academy, North Pulaski and CAC. Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills won’t be allowed to compete for a conference championship in any sport for two years, but that doesn’t deter Hatfield.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t go out there and beat everybody we can,” Hatfield said. “If we go out there and win all our games, it’ll mean something. To me, if you do well, it doesn’t really matter.” Hatfield spent years as operations manager at Airbon Express before deciding to go back to school and finish his degree. After doing so he began working at Jacksonville Junior High and pursuing his Masters, which he completed this year. With the addition of Hatfield, Jacksonville should have some stability at the helm of the freshmen team. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity for sure, but also as a home,” Hatfield said. “I’m comfortable in the ninth grade job. It’s definitely not a stepping stone kind of thing.”

SPORTS >> Mimms is JHS's new girls head Red Devil

Leader sports writer

For the second consecutive year, Jacksonville High School has hired a head basketball coach away from North Pulaski. JHS principal Kenneth Clark announced Katrina Mimms as the new head girls basketball coach at Jacksonville. “I liked her work ethic,” Clark said. “She lives here and she knows the kids and people in the district. It’s a great fit.” Mimms has spent 14 years at North Pulaski, all of them as the head girls basketball coach. The decision to pursue a job at JHS wasn’t an easy one at first with so much time spent at North Pulaski.

“Like I would tell, and have told people, I was not unhappy at North Pulaski High School,” Mimms said. “I’ve told people I would probably retire there. A change, though, sometimes revives you. There’s great community support for the school. The possibility that it will be its own district is also appealing. It’s something they’re really fighting for and could accomplish. I’m a resident and will have kids coming up through the school system. There were a lot of reasons. “The big thing though was how the city of Jacksonville does such a good job of supporting the school. That really excites me. I worked hard to get support up at North Pulaski. I may not have to work so hard now,” Mimms added with a laugh.

Mimms is taking over a program that failed to make the playoffs for the third year last season, but she believes that kind of run won’t last at a school like JHS. “I’m not sure what kind of talent the team has,” Mimms said. “I haven’t met the girls yet. Just from being at North Pulaski and living in Jacksonville, I know they always have athletic kids. It will just be getting the athletic kids to become good basketball players. That starts at the lower levels, and that situation will be better than it was at North Pulaski.” Mimms’ middle school feeder was miles away from NPHS and difficult for her to oversee. She will now have a feeder school nearby and plans to be a part of every facet of the JHS girls basketball program.

“That’s a big advantage,” Mimms said. “North Pulaski was so isolated from Northwood. We made some efforts and worked more with them recently, but we just haven’t been able to get it on the same page. I think that is going to be a lot better at Jacksonville. I believe at Jacksonville we can get it all on the same page, 7th through 12th.” Tanya Ganey, the longtime renowned coach that stepped down as Jacksonville girls basketall coach at the end of last season, is taking over the freshman team. Mimms believes that will be a good working relationship.

“She called and congratulated me and told me she would support this program in any way she can,” Mimms said. “That meant a lot to me and I think we’re going to have a great relationship. Her style and my style are also basically the same and she knows how to coach it. They’re not exactly the same, but they are similar enough we can work out the details about it.”
Mimms currently has no assistant. Former assistant coach Max Hatfield was promoted to head football and track coach for the freshman boys. She is looking forward to reuniting with former co-worker Vic Joyner.

“I’m very excited about that,” Mimms said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with him and we’ve always had a good relationship.”
The competition level will increase, although it’s not going to be totally new to Mimms. NP used to be in Jacksonville’s conference before dropping a classification six years ago. She’s fully aware of how much stronger the competition will be.
“The AAAA Southeast’s top teams are always pretty good and could compete with anybody,” Mimms said. “The biggest difference is going to be in the middle of the pack and the bottom. There’s not going to be anybody on the schedule you can look at as a win. But again, it’s nothing I’m not used to, and I know it’s nothing these girls don’t know.”

Mimms wasn’t sure Thursday when she would have her players report for duty. She was still working on getting things moved from one office to another, but she’s ready to start. “I haven’t really gotten to all that yet. I just know I’m excited. The change has done me good, it’s sparked me. Right now I’ll just start working on getting a staff in order.”

SPORTS >> Southern Tag wins world

Leader sportswriter

For two years running, the Southern Tag 13-under fast pitch softball team has brought a USSSA world title home to Jacksonville. After last year’s 12-U West World Series Championship, the now 13-U team traveled to Cincinatti, Ohio, earlier this month to go up against 22 of the country’s best fast-pitch teams. Southern Tag outlasted teams from 14 different states that showed up for the tourney to claim their fourth USSSA tournament win in the last two years.

“They all did a good job,” Southern Tag coach Eric Pack said. “The nucleus of this team has been together for six years now. They just understand each other really well, and what to expect. We have had good pitching and great defense this year.”
Jacksonville beat the Smokey Mountain Sting of North Carolina 10-2 in the finals of the winners bracket, but the Sting would have their chance for revenge in the tournament finals. After winning the finals of the losers bracket, Southern Tag handled them just as easily the second time around. In one of their best defensive performances of the tournament, Tag held the Sting to only a single run to take a decisive 7-1 win, and the trophy for the world title.

Southern Tag went an impressive 8-0 in the world series to improve their overall season record to an incredible 58-13, but that’s not to say there weren’t a few scary moments for the team. In fact, the first two games of pool play in the tournament were come-from-behind wins for Southern Tag. Tag rallies in the first two games against Chicago’s Oaklawn Ice Blue and the Crystal Lake Tidal Waves forced International tiebreaks in both contests, with Southern Tag pulling out the extra-inning wins. The game against the Tidal Waves took two days to complete, with inclement weather delaying the remainder of the game until the next day.

Crystal Lake held the advantage until the sixth inning. Southern Tag tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth, and scored one more run in the eighth inning to pull out the razor-thin victory. The final game of pool play against the Nightmares from Ohio started out close, with both teams failing to score through the first five innings. Southern Tag got their bats in order for the sixth inning, scoring six runs on their side to shut out the Nightmares 6-0 and assuring themselves a spot in the winners bracket.
The semifinal matchup against Smokey Mountain Sting of North Carolina was anticipated to be one of the closest contested matchups of the entire tournament. Both teams had rolled through pool play and opening round bracket play undefeated, but Southern Tag wasted little time taking the advantage on their much-hyped opponents. Tag scored four runs in the opening inning to create a lead that would only grow larger as the game went on. The fourth inning was the only scoreless inning for Southern Tag in the game, as they went on to rout the Sting by a final score of 10-2.

Along with the USSSA World title, Southern Tag has won its share of big tournaments this season. Out of 13 total tournaments entered, Southern Tag has brought home first place in eight of them. Third-place overall finishes in Longview, Texas, and the Fayro tournament at Fayetteville have been the worst to date for Tag, who also have three runner-up finishes.
The impressive tournament results have been enough to merit a number-one national ranking in the USSSA bracket A season standings. Southern Tag has taken first place at the ASA 14-U state tournament, the state and world qualifier in Jackson, Tennessee, the West Tennessee Memorial Blast, the Kansas City Memorial Day tourney and the Early Bird Classic along with the world title and two other preseason titles.

The team has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Plans for the Arkansas Fall State and Texas Fall State tournaments will have Southern Tag competing into October. At the rate they have been going, that could be bad news for teams everywhere.

OBITUARIES >> 07-29-06


Carlotta Jane Rogers McLeod, 54, of Jacksonville passed away July 25. She was the daughter of Stella Rogers and the late Thomas Rogers. Survivors include one daughter, Tina Potts and her fiancé James Cole; one son, Tommy McLeod; three sisters, Joyce Linker and Linda Dickens, both of Greenbrier, and Donna Romine of Jacksonville; three grandchildren, Bonnie Potts, Elizabeth Potts and Adam Cole, all of Jacksonville, and two great-grandsons, Caleb and Colby Brackett.

She was a wonderful mother and was loved by her family and will be deeply missed. She lost a fight with cancer at Arkansas Hospice Care Center in North Little Rock. Her family is very grateful for all the loving care and support during her stay at the hospital and the family wants to extend a special thanks to the staff and nurses at Hospice for their dedication to their patients and their families. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Beebe City Cemetery. Arrangements made by Thomas funeral Service in Cabot.


Donald V. White, 63, of Cabot died July 25 in Jacksonville. He was born December 13, 1942, in Cabot to the late Virgil and Mary Tackett White. He was a lifelong resident of Cabot and a truck driver for Jimelco Corporation. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his son, Ronald White. Survivors include four brothers, Kenneth White, James White, Billy White and Bobby White, all of Cabot; one sister, Betty White of Cabot; one grandson, Ronald White and three granddaughters, Mary Madine White, Rhonda White and Brittany White. Services were held July 28 in the chapel of Cabot Funeral Home. Burial was in
Pat Howell Cemetery.


Jeanne G. Beasley, 49, of Cabot died Wednesday in Jacksonville. She was born February 7, 1957, to Betty Bunch Rice of Searcy and the late Edward Eugene. She is survived by her mother, Betty Moran as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and other family and friends. Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the chapel of Cabot Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Concord Cemetery in Furlow.


Lucille Verser Baker, 92, of Lonoke, beloved mother, grandmother, sister and friend passed away Wednesday. She was born December 11, 1913, in Lonoke, to Earl and Maggie Verser. She was preceded in death by her loving husband of 62 years, Robert H. Baker; one sister, Allene Rauch and two brothers, Earl, Jr. and Jerry Verser.

Survivors include one son, Philip Baker and wife Jenna, of Houston, Texas; one daughter, Patricia Barnett and husband Jim, of North Little Rock; grandchildren, Phillip Baker, II, and wife Wendy, of Tyler, Texas, Elizabeth Currey and husband Jeff, of Dallas, Maggie Dicus and husband Craig, of Montclair, Va., and David Barnett and wife Kim, of North Little Rock; great-grandchildren, who will miss their Oma and Nannie, are Julianne, Laura, Phillip III, Matthew and Joshua Baker, Joseph and Jackson Dicus and Austin Barnett. Also surviving are four sisters, Josephine Bryant, Evelyn Hauk and Martha Chrietzberg of Lonoke and Carolyn Oudin and husband Marc of Little Rock.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Lonoke First United Methodist Church, followed by burial in Salem Ceme-tery, nine miles north of Lonoke on Bethlehem Road. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, Pine at Center St, Lonoke Ark.,72086. The family would like to thank the staff at Golden Years Manor, Lonoke and Dr. Diane Wilder and staff at Little Rock Hematology Oncology for their loving concern and attention.


Mary Margaret Griffin, 79, of Austin died July 25. She was a retired manufacturing worker and a member of Oak Ridge Baptist Church. She was preceded in death by her husband, David Griffin. She is survived by one daughter, Vickie Joslin of Austin and one son, Ricky Griffin and wife Pam of Ward; one sister, Elaine Weatherly of Cabot; three grandchildren, Stacy Ostraski and husband Mike of Ward, Rocky Joslin of Austin, David Griffin and wife Sara of Beebe, and one great-grandchild; Mackenna Griffin (Little Mack).

Funeral services were held July 28 in the chapel of Cabot Funeral Home with the Rev. Otto Brown officiating. Burial was in the 16th Section Cemetery in Austin.


Melva E. BeCraft, 58, passed away Wednesday. She fought a very long and hard courageous battle. She was a loving wife, caring mother and an astounding nana. She was a member of Hwy. 89 Community Church. Survivors include her husband, Garnett “Lee” BeCraft; one son and his wife, Phillip and wife Laura Morris; two grandsons, Brandon and Aaron; eight sisters, Francis Mitchell, Barbara and husband Ralph Anderson, Kaye and husband Earl Willey, Diane and husband Jerry Turner, Linda Cle-ments, Tammy Mandoza, Kathy Faith and Anna Martin; two brothers, Charles and wife Billie Peach and Paul Scott; closest friends, Jean Turner and Norman Boggs and 27 nieces and nephews. Graveside services will be held today at 2 p.m. in Sunset Memorial Gardens in Lonoke.


Ruby Pruitt, 86, of Beebe passed away July 22. She was a charter member of First Christian Church of Beebe and was retired from College Inn Restaurant in Beebe. Ruby was a loving and caring person who never met a stranger. She will be missed by everyone who knew her, especially her family which she loved so much. She is survived by two daughters, Paulette Anderson and her husband Jack of Beebe, Naomi Kyzer and her husband Tommy of St. George, Utah; six grandchildren, Tommy Kyzer and his wife Jennifer of Acworth, Ga., Stacy Romines of Moore, Okla., Chris Kyzer and his wife Cuma of Centerton; Shannon Anderson and his wife Jennifer of Beebe, Clinton Pruitt and his wife Jeanie of Dermott, and Larry Pruitt and his wife Alice of Denard; 13 greatgrandchildren, Brittany and Zachary Kyzer, Blake, Garrett and Lauryn Romines, Cameron Kyzer, Brittany, Amber and Shannon Anderson, Jr., Amanda, Rusty, Earl and Elizabeth Pruitt; and a great-great-granddaughter, Julie Pruitt. She was preceded in death by her parents, Moses and Mora Cannon Taylor; her husband, Roy Pruitt; a son, LeRoy Pruitt, Jr.; grandson, Jack Anderson, Jr.; sisters, Mexie Hembrey, Edna Hem-brey, and brother, Houston Taylor.
Funeral services were held July 28 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Meadowbrook Me-morial Gardens.


Jesse Allen Mizer, 15, of Beebe died July 21. He was born July 7, 1991, in Omaha, Neb., to Rodney and Sujuana Mizer of Beebe. He was preceded in death by his brother, Rodney Mizer, II. Survivors include his parents, three sisters, Marquita Moss of McCrory, Crystal Huntsman of Abilene, Texas, and Kimberly Mizer of Beebe; two brothers-in-law, Daniel Moss of McCrory and Shawn Huntsman of Abilene, Texas; and his nephew, Payton Moss of McCory. He is also survived by his grandparents, John and Louise Mizer of Dover, Ohio; Rusty and Nell Davis of Ward and Glenn Marksbury of Omaha. Funeral services were held July 25 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.


Gladys Nivall Thomas, 83, of Jacksonville passed away Saturday, July 22 at Searcy Healthcare. She was born Feb. 28, 1923, in Atkins, a daughter of the late George Venable and Lillie Mae Johnston Venable. She retired from Pulaski County School District where she worked in the cafeteria. She was a member of First Freewill Baptist Church in Jacksonville and the Order of the Eastern Star. She loved her friends and family. She will be missed by all who knew her. She is survived by two children, Clinton Earl Thomas and wife Mayfan, of Batesville, Judy Kirsch and husband Jerry of Cabot; two brothers, Oliver Venable of Rus-sellville and Jerry Venable of Mayflower; one sister, Sybil Teague of Atkins; four grandchildren, Clinton Scott Thomas of Texarkana, Shannon Renee Arndt of Daphne, Al., Wesley Hill of Jacksonville, and Jerry Kirsch, Jr., of Long Beach, Calif., and six great-grandchildren along with numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Clinton Leon Thomas, one son and four brothers.

Funeral services were held Tuesday, July 25, at St. Joe Freewill Baptist Church in Atkins with the Rev. Roy Dale Smith Officiating. Burial was in St. Joe Cemetery under the direction of Griffin Leggett Funeral Home in Conway. Memorials may be made to First Freewill Baptist Church of Jacksonville, P.O. Box 294, Jack-sonville, Ark. 72078.


Nellie Strayhorn, 83, of North Little Rock, died Tuesday at Springhill Baptist Memorial Hospital in North Little Rock. She was born Sept. 11, 1922, in Beebe to the late Frank Elmer and Clara Elea-nor Lindsey Peterson. She was a longtime resident of North Little Rock and a member of Lynch Drive Assembly of God Church. She is survived by her husband, Herman Strayhorn and two sons, Benny Lammers and Lynn Lammers, both of Beebe; one daughter, Tommie and husband Jerry Heath of Searcy and grandchildren, Honnye and husband Ted Athanasiou of North Little Rock, and Kris and wife Christina Heath and their two children, Ella and Thomas of Jonesboro; two stepdaughters, Linda Baker of North Little Rock and her five children and 13 grandchildren and Peggy and husband Johnny Robinson of Little Rock and their three children and five grandchildren; four sisters, Kaye Martinsen of Long Beach, Calif., Fran Parker of West Covina, Calif., Irma McCann of American Fork, Utah, and Ellen Reid of Frankfort, Ind.; one brother, Don Peterson of Cut Bank, Mont., and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents, one brother and three sisters. Funeral services were held July 28 at Westbrook Funeral Home Chapel in Beebe with Rev. Bill Sims officiating. Burial was in Rest Hills Memorial Park in Sherwood. Ted Athanasiou, Johnny Robinson, Kris Heath, Franklin Strayhorn, Don Cannon and Buddy Powers served as pallbearers.

EDITORIAL>>Special election is ill-advised

Pulaski County, which is too broke to afford to house hardly any new prisoners, is about to get $100,000 deeper in debt and be out of jail options because of the quorum court’s ill-advised decision to hold a special election. The election, set for Sept. 12, will ask voters to raise the county’s sales tax by a quarter cent to build and maintain additional jail space. County Judge Buddy Villines pushed for the special election less than two months before the general election because he didn’t want the jail issue to be lost among the candidate issues of the general election.

The more lost the issue gets the better chance it has of passing—no one wants to raise taxes. And when you ask county residents to give up a nice September day to cast a vote for higher taxes, it just isn’t going to happen we wish it would, the county needs more jail space. But the only people who will come out by the droves on Sept. 12 will be the naysayers. The silent majority, which the county needs to vote, will stay at work, be with families, anything but out voting — and once this bid is voted down, what does the county do?

If they would have put the issue on November’s general ballot, it would have a good chance of passing. First off, because of the sheer number of voters that will turn out because we will be electing, for the first time in years, a new governor, a new lieutenant governor and a new attorney general. The silent majority will be out and while in the voting booth, they will see the tax issue, cuss slightly under their breath, as we all do when taxes must be raised, and then pull the “yes” lever. But the county won’t get to see this happen, because its JPs voted to spend money they don’t have to get money they won’t get to open up jail space that won’t be open.

The county’s “stinkin’ thinkin’” got us in this jail mess, and it looks like it’ll keep us in it and the criminals out.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Sheik, rattle and roll as war goes on

Leader publisher

You look at this chubby figure in clerical garb (he’s eating well while his people suffer), as well as al Qaida’s No. 2 man, Ayman Al Zawahiri, both determined to kill non-Moslems, and they make you appreciate civilization. Nasrallah and Al Zawahiri remind you of the Mexican bandits in “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” — thugs who kill for the thrill of it. Fighting continues in the Middle East, but the outcome will be the same it’s been in every war between Israel and the Arabs for the last 58 years: Israel will vanquish its enemies, although peace remains as elusive as ever.

As Hezbollah is brought down to size, we know this much: A free nation cannot compromise with terrorists, or they’ll come at you from all directions. Although much of the world is critical of Israel, support for the Jewish state remains strong in this country, especially among Christian Zionists. Most readers may not have heard of Christian Zionists until this latest war as the major media are talking more about the phenomenon. Christian Zionists, such as evangelist John Hagee of San Antonio, have organized rallies in behalf of Israel and raised millions of dollars in donations. Fox News, the most pro-Israel of the cablenews channels, is owned and managed by Christian Zionists, much to the chagrin of Israel bashers.

Most American Christians have long supported Israel, but more and more are calling themselves Zionists. My friend Jim Lewis, a former Jacksonville policeman, might not call himself that, but he’s raising funds and gathering support for Israel every way he can. Responding to my Wednesday column (“Beware: lines are signs of W.W. III”), John has emailed me this assessment of the fighting in the Middle East: “I believe that WWIII has started and that war will be much wider than most believe. I believe that it started on Hoshanah Rabbah 5761 (October 2001), when the U.S. attacked Afghanistan.
“WWIII, yes, it has started and though it may seem at times that nothing is happening, don’t be fooled. Many things are happening behind the scenes and those who have conspired to defeat Israel and push her into the sea are steadily at work. They will cry to the UN and to the World Court and may even have some successes.

“The end results will be the nations coming against Israel to enforce a UN resolution against Israel to make her comply with their wishes. This will happen in much the same way as the U.S. did against Iraq, but the nations coming will not be the same.
“The quartet....U.S., Russia, E.U. and U.N. Why are there four? Why the Big Four mentioned before the other world wars? There were four in the beginning and so it shall be in the end of time. Four nations who scattered Israel — Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece and Rome. For those who know the patterns within the Scriptures we know also the outcome. “In the coming days we can look for Damascus to cease from being a city. How this will happen I do not know, but it shall happen. Will this make Russia the new defender of the Islamic faith with others against the U.S. and Israel?

“Well, we will have to wait and see. Do I have an opinion, yes, but then so does everyone else. But for those who can read between the lines it should not be hard to see what I believe will happen. “In the meantime my job here is to help those in Israel as much as I can with finances and encouragement! I pray that everyone who reads your article will do the same thing.”
Jim has asked me to mention two groups that are helping Israel and are accepting donations:

Hands Of Mercy
P.O. Box 31663
Jerusalem, 91000
Hands of Mercy
P.O. Box 795
Portland, Tenn.
USA Gush Etzion Foundation
P.O. Box 1030
Manchester, N.H. 03105

TOP STORY>>Mayor opens animal shelter in Cabot

Leader staff writer

The opening ceremony for Cabot’s long-awaited animal shelter was held Thursday, but it was not quite the celebration that might have been expected. Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, who presided over the ribbon cutting, criticized the seven city council members who did not attend. “It kind of surprised me,” he said. “I understand that there are some who couldn’t be there, but it seemed like there were some who could have been considering that they say they are so concerned about animals. It was disheartening. That was a huge day for the city,” Stumbaugh said. “It’s been a struggle to do things to better this city.”

Only Alderman David Polantz attended the ceremony and he showed up late. Stumbaugh called the lack of attendance “politics” but declined to elaborate on that assessment. Alderman Odis Waymack, one of the seven council members who didn’t attend the ceremony, sent The Leader a written response to Stumbaugh’s criticism. “I would like to apologize to the citizens of Cabot for not being at the animal shelter opening, but I lost a family member and was unable to attend,” Waymack wrote.

“I would like to thank the city council members who supported the ordinance allowing the citizens to vote for the extension of the one-cent tax to enable the city to build the animal shelter – Bob Duke, Tom Armstrong, James Glenn and especially Eddie Cook for cosponsoring the ordinance. “Most of all I want to thank the citizens of Cabot who overwhelmingly passed the extension of the one-cent sales tax making it possible to build the animal shelter along with the community center, the railroad overpass and make major repairs to the roads. “This was done with Mayor Stumbaugh saying that the extension would never pass,” he wrote.

During a phone interview, Waymack went further, saying extending the sales tax was the only way to build the animal shelter and community center, which is now under construction. And Stumbaugh was opposed to extending the tax because it passed originally by only one vote and was supposed to sunset when the water debt it supported was paid. The extension that voters approved in September 2005 supports a bond issue of about $30 million. In a breakdown of the bonds, $7 million was used to pay off the old bonds the tax supported; $17.5 million will build a new sewer plant and pay for improvements to the sewer collection system; $800,000 will pay for the city’s part of a $6 million railroad overpass; $1.5 million went toward the community center which should open at the end of October; $2.1 million will be used for streets; and $200,000 was used to build the $452,000, 7,000-square-foot animal shelter.

The new shelter is located at the AllmanBevis Sports Complex where it is hoped unwanted dogs and cats will have a better chance of finding homes. The new shelter has an inside play area and an outside play area, so prospective pet owners will have a chance to get to know the animals before they take them home. It has two rooms for cats which cannot be housed at the old shelter, a puppy room, 20 kennels, a laundry room for washing bedding, an office, a room for storing food and one for preparing it, a quarantine room and a room for euthanizing animals and performing surgery. The old shelter, located next to the old city shop on Kerr Station Road, is known to be a dismal place that is off the beaten path. The hope is that volunteers will be more willing to help out at the new shelter, said Jim Towe, the city’s director of public works.

Sandra Graham, the city’s lead animal control officer for many years, said Friday that she still needs a form from the city attorney releasing the city from liability for volunteer injuries. And volunteers will have to take a short course on caring for animals, but she agrees with Towe that area residents are more likely to volunteer at the new shelter. The opening of the new shelter also means the beginning of enforcement of a 2002 ordinance that requires city residents to control their cats. Although the shelter is empty now, Graham said she will start moving animals in next week after the cat room floors are sealed.

After the rooms are ready, cats that are not sterilized will not be allowed to run free. Sterilized cats may run free, but only if they are not nuisances.

TOP STORY>>Excellence gives base free pass

Leader staff writer

The men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base are so good at what they do, the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has decided to skip next month’s scheduled Operational Readiness Inspection. Instead, AETC will inspect the base in two years to coincide with the 463rd Airlift Group’s inspection. “I’ve never been in a unit that got a ‘pass’ on an ORI, particularly a wing of this size and responsibility. It’s not given lightly or without careful consideration of the risks by higher headquarters,” said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, the 314th Airlift Wing commander.

The commander says since receiving an “excellent” rating during the 2004 inspection, LRAFB has been “the gem in AETC’s crown” garnering major command and Air Force recognition at the unit and individual levels. “We have creatively managed the fleet ensuring combat ready crews continue to graduate. As recently as June we achieved a 100 percent on-time graduation rate for the first time in years,” Self said.

“Did I mention that we were the international hub for Hurricane Katrina Relief and performed essential logistical support for 29 countries and processed 1,963 tons of relief supplies during this period? Nothing seems to detract from our readiness,” Self said. Col. Don Wilhite, 314th Airlift Wing Inspector General, pointed out to AETC leadership that the 314th also won the “Best C-130 Wing” and “Best Air Drop Wing” at the 2005 International Rodeo competition. Other accomplishments include: the 314th Maintenance Group garnering the 2005 Daedalian Award for the best maintenance group in AETC and the 314th Civil Engineer Squadron being named the best civil engineering squadron in the Air Force leaving the leadership with nothing to critique or criticize.  

Up until this year, AETC has been doing a base ORI every two years. The 314th Airlift Wing proposed inspections in conjunction with 463rd Airlift Group’s ORI, which is on a three-year cycle. The push for rescheduling the inspection began several months ago, but was reinforced during AETC Commander Gen. William R. Looney III’s tour of LRAFB in June. 
“During Gen. Looney’s stay with us, we had the opportunity to share some ideas that made ‘smart operating’ sense,” Self said. “We were able to demonstrate how Little Rock supports both Air Mobility Command and AETC and is inspected repeatedly by both commands. For example, the 314th Mission Support Group and 314th Medical Group are accountable in both inspections. 

“By combining these intensive events into a single inspection we save money, manpower and, in the end, reduce the wear and tear on our facilities and people,” Self said.  The general said AETC is also impressed by how far the wing has performed in the face of grounded aircraft and manpower reductions.  “I didn’t add the multitude of individual achievements and award winners,” Self said. ”There are plenty more, but the (AETC) inspector general didn’t have any more ink. They just said, ‘Great, see you in 2008." “The confidence AETC has placed in this wing is a tremendous reflection on the professionalism of the men and women who comprise the 314th Airlift Wing,” Wilhite said.

Self said ORI’s are a necessary tool to ensure a unit’s capability to do the mission and its compliance with policies and instructions. The only way for commanders to assess their readiness is to inspect them. Self told LRAFB airmen the canceling of the ORI was recognition for excellence from the flight line to the main gate but it’s no time to slack off. “Now let’s get ready for the air show,” Self said. LRAFB’s 51st annual air show is scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 4 and 5. Last year’s air show drew 150,000 spectators to the base.

This year the Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet aerial demonstration team is the featured performance for the show, tentatively scheduled to fly at 2:45 p.m. both days. The biggest member of the Navy Blue Angels team is a Lockheed Martin C-130T Hercules, known as Fat Albert Airlines. The plane has jet-assisted take-off (JATO) capability with eight solid fuel rocket bottles, four on each side, attached near the rear paratrooper doors. Fired simultaneously, JATO bottles allow the transport aircraft to take off within 1,500 ft., climb at a 45-degree angle, and propel it to an altitude of 1,000 ft. in approximately 15 seconds.

Fat Albert joined the Blue Angels team in 1970 and flies more than 140,000 miles each season. It carries more than 40 maintenance and support personnel, their gear and enough spare parts and communication equipment to complete a successful air show. Other military aircraft performances include the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-16 Viper and the Canadian Forces CF-18. The Air Force Wings of Blue parachute demonstration team will feature 12 parachutists jumping from a C-130 cargo aircraft in four separate maneuvers at altitudes ranging from 4,500 to 11,000 feet above the ground.
Paratroopers of the 82nd Air-borne at Fort Bragg, N. C. will partner with the C-130s of LRAFB to drop more than 250 soldiers, demonstrating what the plane was built to do, delivering beans, bullets and bodies to the battlefield.

TOP STORY>>McDaniel backs district

Leader editor

The Democratic nominee for attorney general has thrown his support behind an independent Jacksonville school district, but he says federal oversight of the Pulaski County school districts must end before a new district is to be carved out in north Pulaski County. Rep. Dustin McDaniel, D-Jonesboro, told Jacksonville supporters Friday that if he’s elected in November, he will work toward the creation of an independent Jacksonville school district. Attending a fundraiser in Jacksonville, he agreed with local supporters that communities need independent school districts to attract new residents and businesses.

In an interview with The Leader afterward, he pointed plants. “A quality school district is critical,” McDaniel said. “Jack-sonville is too important, and it has too much pride, not to have its own school district.” He said Jacksonville will not gets its own district until federal desegregation lawsuit is settled. A federal judge has previously squashed attempts to form a new Jacksonville district. But as attorney general, McDaniel said he would work to get the Pulaski County school districts out from under court supervision. McDaniel also said his local supporters have asked him to help create a Jacksonville Senate district, which the city lost during reapportionment. The city is now in District 29, which also includes White County, whose senator is John Paul Capps, D-Searcy. McDaniel continues to campaign around the state, making stops in Gilett and Dumas this weekend. He said his opponent’s focus on McDaniel’s vote to provide state funded scholarships for children of illegal immigrants oversimplifies immigration issues.

The Republican nominee for the office, Gunner DeLay, a former state senator from Fort Smith, has criticized McDaniel for supporting the scholarships during last year’s legislative session. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says we have to provide unlimited benefits to people who enter this country illegally,” DeLay said. “If you provide incentives for people to break the law, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.” But McDaniel noted Wednesday that the scholarship proposal, which failed, was backed by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, and said immigration enforcement should not punish the children of illegal immigrants. “I think on this issue overall, there’s been an attempt to oversimplify things,” said McDaniel, D-Jonesboro.
The two candidates for attorney general addressed the Political Animals Club at an off-the-record forum Wednesday at the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas in Little Rock. But McDaniel and DeLay went on the record in speaking to reporters after the meeting.

DeLay said that, if he were to be elected, he would seek a court order to prevent Entergy Arkansas from incurring additional costs under its contract with sister Entergy Corp. utilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. State regulators have said they fear the agreement could lead to additional costs for 667,000 ratepayers in the state. Entergy Arkansas officials say they cannot leave the agreement before 2013.

“Looking at the problem, that is an avenue we could pursue,’’ DeLay said. “It only makes sense that all parties be enjoined from adding additional costs to the system.’’ McDaniel described DeLay’s proposal as “wielding the sword of the attorney general’s office against those who hire and employ Arkansans without giving adequate thought to the efficacy of doing so or the prudency of doing so.”

“There’s a big difference between having the Public Service Commission do its job in a regulatory manner and filing suit on behalf of the state to enjoin a company from incurring debt or paying bills even in the normal course of business,” McDaniel said. “You can’t just go off into court filing motions that may do more harm than good.”

TOP STORY>>Hutchinson touts experience

Leader staff writer

The success of the Lonoke County Drug Court program prompted Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson to pick Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot as his first stop Wednesday on a statewide tour outlining his plan to wage war on drugs in the natural state. Hutchinson plans to use $10 million of the projected $400 million state surplus to create a Bureau of Drug Enforcement inside the Arkansas State Police, $3 million in additional funding for the state’s drug task forces to cover cuts in federal funding and $5 million to ex-pand the state’s drug-treatment courts.

“I’ve fought this battle for a long time. Enforcement, treatment and education are puzzle pieces that work together,” Hutchinson said. Hutchinson is a former U.S. Attorney and Congressman in the 3rd District in northwest Arkansas. He left Arkansas politics in 2001 to become the head of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He is running for governor against Democratic nominee Attorney General Mike Beebe and independent candidate Rod Bryan, a sandwich shop worker from Little Rock, in the Tuesday, Nov. 7 general election.


Implemented in 2003, the Lonoke County Drug Court is at capacity with 35 people working to be stay gainfully employed and off drugs. “We’ve seen a lot of success with our drug court program and I think Hutchinson certainly has the experience to make his program work,” said Lona McCastlain, Lonoke County Prosecutor. Under the traditional court system, a person found guilty of felony possession of a controlled substance could be sentenced to three years in prison. With good behavior, that person could be back on the street in six months without any drug treatment or coping skill—a threat to reoffend.

Instead, an eligible offender who pleads guilty in drug court put into a highly intensified treatment for a minimum of 12 months, usually 18 months, required getting drug treatment and participation in a 12-step program under constant monitoring and supervision. Judges and probation officers make sure those in the program are complying with the intensive stipulations, including drug treatment, getting or keeping a job and being supportive of their children and families.
If and when someone in the program fails, the court has the option to revoke the probation and impose the full range of punishment appropriate to the offense.

There are 37 drug courts throughout the state. “Drug courts have proven to be one of the most effective approaches to battling drug abuse by steering non-violent offenders away from a cycle of addiction and crime, these programs not only ease the strain on our crowded jails. Even more important, they help users beat their addictions, get their lives back on track, and return to the workforce as productive members of society,” Hutchinson said.


Hutchinson says a state Bureau of Drug Enforcement would assist local agencies with sharing information and enforcement One example of information sharing would be a State Police monitored database to track the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a primary ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Pharmacies are now keeping medicines that contain pseudoephedrine behind the counter or in locked cases along with requiring people to show their driver’s license and sign for it. The only way for law enforcement to know how much pseudoephedrine someone bought is going to each pharmacy and checking the paperwork.

Earlier this month North Little Rock passed an ordinance requiring pharmacies in North Little to install such software. Pharmacists scan the drug’s product code and swipe the consumer’s driver’s license. Each day this information is uploaded to the Internet allowing every pharmacy in the city to see how much pseudoephedrine has been purchased in the last 30 days. “Our Drug Task Forces are doing a tremendous job of fighting, against tough odds, the drug dealers and the trafficking cartels that ship drugs into our state,” Hutchinson said. “The Arkansas Bureau of Drug Enforcement would help even the playing field against these criminal organizations by working in partnership with task forces already in place and helping to coordinate statewide enforcement efforts more effectively.”


In the past two years, the federal grant source used to fund Arkansas’ Drug Task Forces has been cut by approximately $3 million dollars annually. “Given the current projected state surplus of $700 million, there is no reason that we can’t allocate a modest portion of that surplus toward strengthening Arkansas’ Drug Task Forces,” Hutchinson said. The only reporting requirements at present for State Drug Task Forces are to file a report with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. As a condition of receiving state money, intelligence, drug trafficking and target reports should be submitted to and coordinated with the Bureau of Drug Enforcement, Hutchinson said, to ensure greater coordination and cooperation between law enforcement agencies.


To qualify for federal funding, Hutchinson wants the state designated as part of the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. This designation would recognize that Arkansas is a trafficking route for major criminal organizations and would allow additional federal funding for the state’s battle against drugs.


Hutchinson want the private sector to step forward to fund public education and awareness of the danger of drugs by waging a large scale public service advertising and Internet marketing campaign targeted at Arkansas’ youth and to mobilize community groups across the state in drug education and prevention efforts. Mt. Carmel Baptist Church hosts Celebrate Recovery; a faith-based, 12-step program for “hurts, habits and hang-ups” says pastor Larry White. “I applaud Mt. Carmel for Celebrate Recovery. It’s an example of how communities can help fight the war on drugs,” Hutchin-son said. The plan has drawn comments from the campaigns of both Bryan and Beebe. Zac Wright, a spokesman for Beebe, blamed the influx of drugs in Arkansas, particularly the importing of meth made in Mexico, on Hutchinson’s tenure at the DEA. Bryan, who supports legalizing marijuana for medical purposes said Hutchin-son’s plan focuses too much on enforcement.
“The drug problems are because of other problems that we need to address first,” Bryan said.

“If we fix our economy, our drug problems will improve.”