Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SPORTS>>Cabot girls take win over Zebras

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers improved their 7A-Central Conference record to 9-3 with a 64-49 home win over Pine Bluff on Friday. The Lady Panthers took control of the game in the opening quarter and never looked back, completing a season sweep on the Lady Zebras. “I was really proud of our effort,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “We played well as a team, and we were able to come away with a lot of rebounds that helped us out down the stretch.”

The underclassmen led the way in the game. Juniors Rachel Glover and Lauren Walker did the bulk of Cabot’s scoring, with sophomore post Shelby Ashcraft leading the way for the Lady Panthers by scoring 15 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. The Lady Panthers took a 17-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, and stretched the advantage to double digits by the intermission at 33-23.

The Lady Zebras stayed fairly even with Cabot in the second half, but by that time, the Lady Panthers had enough of a cushion that they were able to substitute frequently, keeping fresh legs on the court to maintain their advantage. Cabot was able to tack on a few more points to its advantage in the final moments of the third quarter to take a 49-36 lead heading into the final quarter.

Ashcraft’s 15 points would lead Cabot, with 13 points and 10 rebounds from Glover and six points and nine rebounds for Walker. Senior Jamie Sterrenberg also finished in double digits with 12 points for the Lady Panthers. The Lady Panthers are now 20-5 overall and remain in second place in the Central standings.

The boys were not as fortunate on Friday, falling to the Zebras 57-53. The Panthers are now 2-11 in the 7A-Central Conference and 9-17 overall. The Cabot teams closed out the conference season last night with road games against Russellville.

SPORTS>>Lady Wildcats top Riverview for region’s top seed

Leader sportswriter

After splitting two conference games during the regular season, Riverview and Harding Academy would settle things for the season in the finals of the 3A-2 district tournament at the Riverview Activity Center Friday night. The Lady Wildcats would end up as the winner of the series with a 38-33 win over the Lady Raiders in a game that came down to patience and persistence.

The game’s pace became slower and slower as it went on. Both teams got off to a respectable start offensively, but a four-minute scoreless stretch for both teams beginning at the 6:13 mark of the second quarter would reset the theme for the entire contest.

“Holding people under 40 points has been our goal all year,” Harding Academy coach Darren Matthews said. “At times, it was just a matter of who wanted to win it more. It was back and forth, but we were able to put together four quarters, and that’s what you have to do during tournament time.”

The Lady Raiders looked to have their offense running automatically in the opening minutes of the game. Senior guard Kori Meachum followed a Courtney Webster basket with a three-point shot at the 4:36 mark to give Riverview a 5-3 lead, and put in a free-throw shot moments later to put the Lady Raiders up 6-3.

Loghan Lowery answered for Harding Academy with a three pointer at the 1:48 mark of the first quarter to tie the game, and Katie Koch ended the frame for the Wildcats with a put back give HA an 8-6 heading into the second quarter. Jasmine James tied it back up with the first goal of the second period, and Jazmine Washington followed that with a basket to hand the lead back to Riverview.

Koch continued to be the Lady Wildcats’ go-to player offensively in the second quarter. Her three-point shot at the 2:50 mark put Harding Academy back in the lead at 11-10, and ended a scoring drought of nearly four minutes in the process.
Harding went up by three with a shot by Cara White, but the Lady Raiders scored the last seven points of the first half to take a 17-13 lead at the intermission.

The Third quarter would be a struggle for Riverview’s offense, and the Lady Wildcats would take advantage by outscoring their opponent 10-5 in the frame to take a 23-22 lead in the final quarter. Liz Ashley extended the lead to three with 6:45 remaining on a Taylor Pryor-assisted goal, but picked up her fourth personal foul moments later with a charge as she was trying to drive against Webster. Meachum briefly got the lead back for Riverview with an inside basket that made the score 26-25, but two unanswered goals by Koch put the Lady Wildcats back out front for good.

Ashley led the Lady Wildcats with 14 points. Koch added 12 points for Harding Academy. For Riverview, Meachum led with 11 points, and Washington had nine. The win gives Harding Academy a record of 23-4 for the season, and puts the Lady Wildcats as the No. 1 seed in the regionals at Rose Bud this week.

SPORTS>>Lady Jackrabbits take district title

Leader sportswriter

BALD KNOB — After winning the 4A-2 Conference championship for the regular season, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits backed up their title by winning the district tournament in Saturday’s finals against Mountain View 49-40. Senior leadership proved to be the difference, as post players Jenny Evans and Calisha Kirk, along with guard Kristy Shinn all came up big against the Lady Yellowjackets.

Evans got the Lady ‘Rabbits out to the initial lead with three inside shots in the first quarter. Although she would only score one point in the second half, Evans’ defensive play and rebounding ended up being one of the deciding factors in the game. Kirk got Lonoke going whenever the shots began to waiver, driving inside for scores that kept momentum on their side.
While Shinn only had a mediocre night from the floor, the 5’ 10” guard was gold from the charity stripe in the final quarter, going six-for-six at the line, including four in the last 49 seconds to stop a feisty Mountain View comeback from overtaking Lonoke.

“Our seniors were truly the difference in this game tonight,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Kristy Shinn hitting those free throws was huge. Calisha Kirk really took it them inside. Jenny Evans may not have scored as much as those two, but she did a lot of other good things for us down the stretch.”

Lonoke looked to be in complete control by the 3:04 mark of the third quarter when Shinn hit a jumper at the top of the key for a 33-18 Lady ‘Rabbits’ lead. The Lady Yellowjackets felt the game slipping away, and decided to answer with a brutal full-court press.

Kassie Ross got the rally rolling for Mountain View with a basket and foul shot that cut the lead to 12. A shot for Kirk on the other side was disallowed when she was called for a walk. The Lady ‘Jackets came back with a shot from Kelsey Burns that made it 33-23.

Although Mountain View was able to bind up Lonoke’s offense in the open court, they still had no answer for the inside combo of Evans and Kirk. Neither player shot particularly well in the second half, but the tenacity of their rebounding would keep the smaller Lady Yellowjackets at a disadvantage in the paint. It took four tries combined between Kirk and Evans to get the lead back to 12, with a Kirk miss followed by two put-back attempts from Evans before Kirk was able to get it in with 17 seconds left in the third. A quick score from Burns for Mountain View was answered with a layup by Shinn at the buzzer to give the Lady Jackrabbits a 37-25 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

The game really began to tighten up in the fourth quarter. Ross got the Mountain View crowd in the game with two free throws that she followed with a steal and basket at the 6:52 mark to cut Lonoke’s lead to 37-29. Kirk came back for Lonoke with a basket and foul. She missed the free throw, but Evans came up with the board and was fouled. Evans hit the back end of the two-shot foul for her only second half score, putting the Lady Rabbits back up by 11.

A Candace Clark score for the Lady ‘Jackets on an inbound pass from Ross with 2:38 remaining pulled Mountain View to within six at 44-38, but two more chances for the Lady Yellowjackets were thwarted by defensive rebounds from Evans that left no second chance opportunities.

Mountain View had one last chance to make something happen with 49 seconds left, but Evans stepped up defensively once again, causing a tie-up with Ross that gave possession back to Lonoke. The Lady Jackets began to foul at that point, and the Lady Jackrabbits simply put it in the hands of their best free throw shooter to seal the win.

Shinn led the Lady Jackrabbits with 15 points. Kirk added 12 points, and Evans finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Freshmen Michaela Brown and Asiah Scribner, and junior guard Haley O’Cain also put points on the board for Lonoke in the game. For Mountain View, Ross led in scoring with 12 points. The win gave the Lady Jackrabbits a 21-8 record, and puts them in the No. 1 seed for this week’s regionals in Pocahontas.

SPORTS>>Red Devils seal spot in playoffs with win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville pulled even in conference play and assured itself a spot in the state tournament with a 57-38 victory over West Memphis Friday night at the Devils’ Den. The Red Devils struggled through the first three quarters as the Blue Devils were able to control the pace of the game and keep it slow. That changed in the fourth quarter, when Jacksonville’s pressure finally got to the guard-shallow Blue Devils and the home team was able to pull away.

Jacksonville led 37-34 after three quarters, but outscored West Memphis 20-4 in the final frame to win going away. Jacksonville gave up just 14 points the entire second half. They came out in the first half and wanted to play zone because they can’t shoot from the outside,” Joyner said. “But we were getting lethargic. We let ‘em make some cuts on the backside and they got some easy baskets. We just had to keep the ball out of the paint and they were going to struggle. We finally tightened it up in the fourth quarter and they couldn’t score.”

Jacksonville began getting the ball into the paint in the fourth quarter. Most of the points in the fourth period came the same way they did in the first when Jacksonville went on an 11-0 run to open a 13-4 lead. They came from penetration. In the first quarter, it was senior guard LaMarcus Trask that did the damage, scoring seven straight points to spark the Red Devil run.
In the fourth, sophomore guard Antonio Washington came off the bench to score four straight points off dribble penetration to make it 41-34. After a West Memphis miss, senior Kajuan Watson hit a three to make it a 10-point advantage and forcing West Memphis to call timeout.

The Blue Devils missed a shot and broke down on defense, allowing Washington to slip behind everyone for an easy layup. He was also fouled and hit the free throw to make it 47-34 with 4:59 left in the game. West Memphis finally broke up the 10-0 run with a bucket by Terrence Winkfield.

Jacksonville’s Terrell Eskridge broke down his man and got to the rack to make it 49-36. Michael Prackett then scored the Blue Devils’ final points with 3:10 left in the game and Jacksonville closed with an 8-0 run, mostly from the foul line.
Watson led all scorers with 16 points, Trask added 12 and Washington scored nine, all in the fourth quarter. Eskridge chipped in eight points for the Red Devils, who improved to 12-10 on the season and 6-6 in conference play. The win put Jacksonville in fourth place and two games ahead of fifth place Sylvan Hills with only two games to go. Jacksonville swept the Bears this season, so a tiebreaker would go to the Red Devils.

Jacksonville is a game behind 7-5 Searcy for third place and the third seed in the state tournament. Forrest City and Jonesboro finished the week tied for first at 11-1. The two teams played last night after Leader deadlines for the conference title. Forrest City won the first matchup between the two teams at Jonesboro. The Mustangs’ lone loss came to the Red Devils last Tuesday.

Jacksonville played Mountain Home last night, and will finish the season hosting Jonesboro Friday. The Lady Devils couldn’t keep up with top-ranked West Memphis and fell 72-30. It was another decent start for the Jacksonville ladies. They were within four points until just a few seconds remained in the opening quarter. West Memphis scored five straight to end the period with a 19-10 lead, and Jacksonville fell apart.

The Blue Devils took a 44-16 lead into halftime and stretched that lead to 70-26 by the end of the third. Junior Tashley Gaines led West Memphis with 14 points. Tarneshia Scott led Jacksonville with 12. The Lady Devils are still just one game behind Jonesboro for the final playoff spot. They finish the season against Jonesboro Friday.


The hurried retirement of Frank Broyles, Athletic Director for Life, was as near an epochal event as we are apt to have in Razorback Nation. Many dreaded and many yearned for the day, but none probably found the spectacle at Fayetteville Saturday very satisfying.

Razorback fans who thought that he meddled needlessly and corrupted the program doubtlessly are nettled that he was allowed to announce his leavetaking on his own terms and then to stay on until the end of the year, the 50th anniversary of his arrival as the head football coach.

Those who believe that he incomparably managed the growth of the athletic program into one of the nation’s most prestigious are depressed that he was forced to retire at all and particularly with only a little of the graciousness that the great man was owed. The chancellor and others insisted that it was Broyles’ decision alone to retire, but it was widely known that the Board of Trustees early in the week had lined up 8 to 2 behind his leaving. They wanted him to retire rather than force a vote for an involuntary leaving. Whatever one thinks of Broyles’ recent stewardship or of the overweening importance of athletics under his guidance, he deserved that courtesy. Worthy or not, his is an unmatched success story.

It was precisely that phenomenal success, the rise of four men’s sports to the top ranks in the country, that brought him down. His firing — nominally the university’s firing — of the most successful major-sport coach in the state’s history over personal antagonisms resulted in a sharp decline in the prestige of the basketball program. Deserving or not, northwest Arkansas boosters also blamed him for the messy departure of an assistant coach and two star recruits in the football program and for the resulting hard luck in recruiting a new class of elite players.

Nothing in a decade has roiled life in this little state like the great quarterback rhubarb. It brought down the indestructible Frank Broyles. And to think, it’s only a game. Let us trust that Frank’s last good deed was to put an end to it so that we can focus on less obligatory matters, like saving education and avoiding a pillage of the state treasury.

EDITORIALS>>Porkmeisters at the trough

The porkmeisters in the legislature continued this week to tinker with a bill to hoodwink the Supreme Court and the state Constitution. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel helpfully suggested a few ways that the bill might be altered so that it was not blatantly unconstitutional — adding an appointee or two by the governor to the little committee that would divide up $50 million or so of tax dollars for little satraps favored by legislators, staggering their terms.

In the end, the purpose will be the same: Voidance of Amendment 14 to the Constitution, which absolutely forbids local and special acts. The legislature a couple of sessions ago began dividing up a sizable number of tax dollars among the 135 members to take back home and spread around among friendly groups. Each legislator was given a quota, and he or she introduced appropriations for local projects until the quota was reached.

Yes, the Supreme Court said, those are local bills and they are unlawful.

Legislative leaders this month came up with a scheme to parcel out the money without an appropriation for each project. There would be one big appropriation for public works, or something, and the lawmakers, instead of filing appropriation bills, would send their requests to a committee appointed by the presiding officers of the Senate and House of Representatives, who would distribute the money. Let the justices find a local bill in that, the scheme’s authors say.

Gov. Beebe seemed to be skeptical of the plan’s legality even after the revisions. He says he is not going to sign any bill for any purpose if he thinks it is unconstitutional. The man is justifying voters’ confidence every day.

Beyond questions about its lawfulness, Beebe has good reason to veto the legislation. It will be a theft of valuable dollars from real state needs, like education and highways.

Although it may not meet the definition of a local act, a Fort Smith Republican — can you call him a conservative? — introduced a bill that perfectly illustrates the waste of state assets. Rep. Jim Medley introduced a bill to spend $25 million of state tax dollars on a museum in his town that would be a tribute to federal marshals.

Local museums, such as the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, are a favorite object of legislative largesse, but Medley can make the claim that his would be statewide and even national in scope and that it would promote tourism for the whole state.

Unless it housed an extravagant tribute to Marshal Rooster Cogburn of Fort Smith, the swashbuckling hero of Buddy Portis’ classic novel “True Grit” and the great movie of the same name that won John Wayne an Oscar, we doubt that a marshal museum will lure them in from around the world. And they are United States marshals, not state troopers. Finding tax support for this boondoggle is a job for, if anybody, the city’s U. S. congressman, John Boozman, not for the legislature.

TOP STORY >>HUD gives housing authority more time to comply

Leader staff writer

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials have agreed to give the Jacksonville Housing Authority more time to comply with federal regulations. Last summer, a HUD review uncovered lack of documentation, inadequate employee training, no-bid contracts for expenditures of more than $25,000, all of which jeopardized thousands of dollars in federal funding.

Along with the less-than-flattering review of the way the JHA was run, its longtime executive director Virginia Simmons submitted her resignation, leading to the resignation of the four remaining JHA board members. HUD officials will not say how much funding, if any, the JHA lost in the past few years because of shoddy management. Phil Nix, the new JHA executive director, and Jim Durham, the new board chairman, are cooperating with HUD officials as they rectify deficiencies to avoid being penalized by federal regulators.

“It’s going to be by their grace not to penalize,” Durham said in an interview. “Our hope is that they will waive all penalties.”
Durham and Nix said they do not know when HUD will make a decision about possible penalties against the JHA. At its regular monthly meeting Thursday, the JHA board approved newly written policies addressing vehicle and credit-card usage. Nix described the one-page vehicle policy used in the past as too vague.

“It didn’t address if you even needed to have a valid driver’s license to use one,” Nix said. About the credit-card policy, Nix said, “To my knowledge, they didn’t have one…at least, I couldn’t find it.”

The JHA board also approved a resolution to accept the negotiated memorandum of agreement with HUD to establish a contracting file system, employee training, promoting active-resident organizations, meeting regularly with resident leadership and dealing with vacant units during specific dates throughout this year.

The JHA board also approved a resolution to demolish apartments 4-A and 4-B. It had been vacant for months after a meth lab was found on the premises. A police substation may be built on the site after the demolition of the unit. Nix said a newly organized resident- advisory group and other tenants approved this course of action at a prior meeting.

There are currently 95 occupied units at the Max Howell complex. Three units are vacant, Nix told the directors. Durham said two of the units were those apartments affected by the meth lab operation. The air-conditioning project, which began last fall, is now completed. All units now have air-conditioning systems at the Max Howell Place in the northwest area of Jacksonville.

Two JHA employees have also been approved to undergo manager’s training. One of those employees will be Nix. The JHA board approved an estimated cost of $4,060 to be spent on staff training at a four-day seminar beginning on April 23 in Denver.

Nix told the three board members present at Thursday’s meeting that there are 309 approved applicants and 190 applicants on a waiting list. Of the 309 who receive rental housing vouchers, 24 applicants were just recently approved. Funding expenditures in a month exceeded $100,000.

The JHA board approved writing off $1,573 in bad debts, which include monthly rents in arrears. These accounts are held open for about 90 days as employees attempt to recover those funds through letters before being written off as a bad debt.

TOP STORY >>Cabot traffic summit Friday

Leader staff writer

Competing plans to remedy Cabot’s traffic ills have been the subject of debate for almost a year with both sides hoping theirs will be the one that gets funded if state and federal money ever becomes available. Since Mayor Eddie Joe Williams favors one plan and Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman favors the other, it is likely that Arkansas Highway Department Director Dan Flowers will hear at least a little about both when he attends the traffic summit Williams has planned for this Friday.

Cong. Marion Berry, D-Ark., and a representative from the governor’s office will also attend the summit, to be held at noon at the new community center. Williams supports building the north interchange in conjunction with a railroad overpass between Cabot and Austin linking Hwy. 367 with Hwy. 38, a plan that was developed with the help of the state Highway Department about six years ago. Troutman supports a plan that came out of a committee he appointed that is made up of elected county and city officials and Cabot business leaders.

The plan from that committee calls for an interchange between the two existing interchanges and a railroad overpass in the vicinity of Richie Road. The immediate hitch in the county committee plan is that the railroad overpass Williams supports has been approved for federal funding and Williams plans to break ground for the project Friday afternoon at the conclusion of his traffic summit.

The overpass will cost an estimated $7 million with the city paying about $1 million which voters approved in 2005 as part of a bond issue supported by extending an existing one-cent sales tax. Both plans call for new roads. But as currently drawn, the north interchange would be built through a sparsely populated area. The plan from the county committee calls for road construction in areas that are already populated, but one major road would be built on a power line right of way.

But even though Williams and Troutman disagree about the location of a third interchange for the city they are still working together on a new road that Troutman says he believes will open in May. The road, which was started in 2005, will cost about $1 million by the time it is completed. It will connect Hwy. 5 to the new Wal-Mart in Cabot. At Williams’ request, the city council Monday night approved paying $250,000 to complete the road that is now separated from the super store by a big ditch.

Troutman asked the city for help with the project in 2006, but was turned down. Williams recently told the public works committee of the city council that Troutman was willing to complete the project without the city’s help, but he said, “that wouldn’t be right.”

Frankly, neither would it be exactly what Williams wants inside Cabot city limits. For $250,000, the city gets a $150,000 bridge with a sidewalk over the ditch instead of a culvert in the ditch. The balance of $100,000 will help the county pay for blacktopping the road that is already covered with chip and seal. The 2005 bond issue approved by city voters included $2 million for roads and the $250,000 to the county will come out of that fund.

“We’ve got a $250,000 investment. We get a million dollar road,” Williams said after the council approved the expenditure.
Even though the city needs new roads to handle the traffic, Williams says he realized while standing on the corner of Willie Ray Drive and Hwy. 89 during campaign season that one of the biggest contributors to the traffic problem was the timing of the traffic lights.

At 7:30 a.m., most of the commuters were already gone, he said. Still the light stayed green on Hwy. 89 while school traffic backed up on Willie Ray, he said. Last week a Highway Department engineer examined the lights and made adjustments so that the traffic flows more quickly.

One light had been disconnected from the system, which meant it could not communicate with the master light, he said. Some of the phone lines had been disconnected so that the state could not monitor the lights and make adjustments as needed. And the control boxes on the older lights that the state is not required to monitor had been locked so that no one except city workers could adjust them.

Williams said the phone lines are connected again and the locks have been removed, and he is asking the state for all the help that is available.

TOP STORY >> District, city seek solutions

Leader staff writer

Dr. Frank Holman, superintendent of Cabot schools, has been working with Mayor Eddie Joe Williams to include the traffic congestion around the schools in Williams’ traffic summit on Friday. “The biggest traffic concerns around the district are in the afternoon when students are being picked up from school by their parents in the afternoons,” Holman said.

In the mornings, the drop-off times are spread out between 7:30 to 8:10 a.m., but in the afternoon, cars begin stacking up at some of the schools by 2:15 p.m. for a 3:20 p.m. dismissal. Pick up is a problem at Southside Elementary School even with two pick-up areas.

The area in the front of the building stacks up onto Hwy. 89 and the pick-up area at the north side of the building stacks up onto the street in the adjacent subdivision, blocking one lane of the street.“People living in and trying to exit this subdivision during school dismissal pull into the left lane to pass the stack of cars and often have to back up because other parents enter that lane to go turn around to get in line,” Holman said.

“One man called to complain because it happened to him three times one day,” he added. Northside Elementary has one pick-up area and inadequate parking according to Holman. Parent vehicles stack up in the afternoon onto Old Mountain Springs Road and out onto Locust Street. “This makes any through traffic difficult and a bit of a safety problem,” Holman said. Middle School South has the worth school traffic problem in the district Holman said.

With the pick-up area in the front of the building, parent vehicles stack onto Panther Trail and out onto Kerr Road. Parents are backed up in both directions on Kerr Road making it impossible for through traffic because there are also “No Passing” signs posted in the area.

At Cabot High School and Junior High North, although traffic is extremely heavy in the area, Holman said it flows relatively smoothly with the school paying for persons to direct the traffic.

“The problem of parents leaving Junior High North will get much worse when the new bypass is finished and Polk Street is closed,” Holman said. “There is a lot of exiting traffic in the afternoon that currently turn west on Polk Street that will have to turn toward Hwy. 38 (Lincoln Street) and turn left into the student traffic in order to get to the new bypass,” Holman said.
The new Stagecoach Elementary School is still under construction, but stacking areas were put into the design plan. Located on about one-eight of a mile off Campground on Stagecoach Road, Holman said it is being built with what should be adequate stacking areas for parents, which will prevent cars from having to be lined up on Stagecoach.

However, there are two concerns for the district and community at this location Holman said. The first concern is that Stagecoach Road needs to be widened at least to the far end of the school’s property.

“When exiting the school in the afternoon, practically every bus will turn south out of the school and go to Campground Road where they will turn left onto Campground,” Holman said, adding, “in the mornings almost all of the buses will come off Campground rather than from Main Street.”

The second concern is that a left turn lane may need to be added on Campground from the top of the hill west of the Stagecoach intersection. “If cars are stopped on Campground to turn left onto Stagecoach, it could be dangerous with traffic coming from the west and topping that hill,” Holman said.

Holman also said that there should not be many students being delivered from the west to the school. “Most will be coming from the eastern part of the district. This may not be a concern, but it needs to be considered,” Holman said. At Westside Elementary School, cars are stacked up onto the shoulder of Hwy. 3667 in the afternoon, Holman said. “It is not ideal, but traffic does not get blocked there and the district has not received complaints,” he said.

Traffic is bad sometimes at Magness Creek Elementary Holman said, with some days cars backing up onto Hwy. 5, which is very dangerous. “This is not an everyday occurrence, but happens too often for comfort,” he said. Holman said traffic at Central Elementary flows as well as possible and that at Eastside Elementary, traffic flow is in good shape. “The biggest problems are the narrow intersections (Main and Bellamy and Bellamy and Lillie) for buses turning,” Holman said.

Drainage ditches in that area also drop off several feet. The city worked on the Bellamy/Lillie intersection last year and on Main/Bellamy intersection earlier this month, but Holman said some additional permanent repair is still needed. And last but not least, Ward Central Elementary, which Holman said even with its heavy traffic, the school is isolated enough that there are no real safety issues related to traffic.

“The traffic clears out without causing too much inconvenience to that neighborhood,” Holman said.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood I-440 route submitted

Leader staff writer

The state Highway and Transportation Department has picked a preferred route for the controversial Sherwood segment of the North Belt Freeway, commissioner Carl Rosenbaum said Tuesday night at a reception hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

If the proposal stands up to scrutiny by the Federal Highway Administration and at public hearings planned for area residents, the route will run from Hwy. 67-167 across Sherwood north of the route rejected last time but south of the northernmost proposal.

The route would run roughly like this: It will pass north of Indianhead Lake, cross Hwy. 107 south of Fears Lake, then north of Oakdale Road, crossing Kellogg Acres Road. From there it would cut across to Wayside Road, then southwest to Batesville Pike, where it will join the previously determined route through the southern edge of Camp Robinson and on to I-40 and I-430, near Crystal Hill.

If money were available, the route could be open within about five years, Rosenbaum said. There is, however, no money for the project unless the portion between Hwy 67/167 and Hwy. 107 is built as a toll road. The tolls there could pay about 90 percent of the $90 million needed for the project. It would carry an estimated 40,000 vehicles per day, he said. Two public hearings on the proposed route will be held next month, Rosenbaum said.

The meetings will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 at the Church of the Nazarene, 9860 Brockington Road and Wednesday, March 21 at Cato Elementary School, 9906 Jacksonville Cato Road. Jacksonville chamber members learned that the $2 million relocation in front of Lowe’s Home Center of the northbound entrance ramp onto Hwy. 67/167 from T.P. White Road should be completed by late this year. It will include a new traffic signal at the intersection of T.P. White and Madden roads.

The department will study the notion of also adding an exit ramp in the same area. Jacksonville’s road list includes many wishes—some as small as a sidewalk, others as expensive and complex as completion of the North Belt Freeway. The wish list includes the needs or dreams of various Jacksonville officials, developers and others in the community, and several of the smaller items on the list have been undertaken and completed relatively quickly in recent years.

As a result of these chamber get-togethers, the John Harden Drive-Vandenberg Boulevard in-tersection has had lanes added to minimize southbound congestion and in recent years the ramp dumping traffic from Hwy. 440 onto northbound Hwy. 67/167 has been lengthened to make the highway both less congested and safer.


Sidewalks from James Street to Dupree Park along Redmond Road have been completed and a Highway Department grant has been approved to extend the sidewalk from Dupree Park on to the Community Center on Municipal Drive, said the mayor.
Engineering has been completed and the right-of-way purchased to move the Hwy. 67/167 northbound from its current location across from Lowe’s Home Improvement Center further north and out of Vandenberg Boulevard congestion. Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said he’d also like to see a new off-ramp built in that area, but that’s not yet approved or funded and is far from certain.

Engineering has begun for the widening of Graham Road from Loop Road to Oak Street and the project is approved for the future, but not yet funded, according to Swaim. That project will cost about $5 million, with the city’s share about $1 million. “This is an opportunity to visit with the leadership of the Highway Department and the commissioners,” said Swaim, who called the list a compilation of the wishes and needs of chamber members and local government officials.

The list includes widening of U.S. Hwy. 67/167 from I-40 to North Belt Loop to six lanes. Most of that is currently completed with the widening of the northbound lanes from Keihl to Redmond Road just beginning, with the final segment to be the southbound leg from Redmond to Keihl, according to Metroplan’s Richard McGee.

Until the entire route from I-40 to the North Belt and Redmond Road is completed, Hwy. 67/167 will continue to function as a four-lane highway. Also on the wish list is increasing Hwy. 67/167 to eight lanes between the North Belt Loop and Main Street and widening from four to six lanes the highway from West Main to Hwy. 5 at Cabot.


Both Metroplan and the state Highway Department have approved making both John Harden Drive and T.P. White Drive—the Hwy. 67/167 frontage roads—into one-way roads between the James Street overpass and Vandenberg Road, but there are not currently funds available, Swaim said.

John Harden eventually will be one-way south and T.P. White will be one-way north, with a flyover turnaround at James Street allowing motorists on John Harden to get easily over to T.P. White and another flyover or cross under at Vandenberg to allow motorists on T.P. White to get over to John Harden. The new highway structures and one-way frontage roads are still well in the future, businesses and others are frequently resistant to the change to one way, said Swaim. Holding hearings early on would help alleviate their fears as well as fine-tune the project to minimize disruption.

Motorists would be expected to adapt quickly to one-way frontage roads and turnarounds as they have further south along Hwy. 67/167 between Wildwood/Trammel roads and McCain. Apart from the turnarounds to accommodate the frontage roads, local officials also want improvements to the James Street overpass and the Vandenberg Boulevard area.


The list of long-term projects includes several proposed by the Dupree family, the developers of the Legacy Center, but not currently approved by either Metroplan or the state Highway Department. The Duprees and their supporters would like the section of the North Belt Loop from Hwy. 67/167 to Hwy. 107 built next, to include a full interchange at Oneida Street.

The Highway Department has no current plans to close the Redmond Road ramps on Hwy. 67/167 in favor of a full-fledged interchange constructed between West Main Street and the North Belt Loop. Metroplan and the Highway Department say there’s not sufficient room between those two interchanges for a third one, but the Dupree’s engineer disputes that claim. That study has been given to the Highway Department.

They also say it would facilitate a second east-west traffic corridor through the city, this one in the developing southern part.

HWY. 107

Completion of the four-laning of state Hwy. 107 from Kellogg Road to the west gate of Little Rock Air Force Base is complete or underway in most sections, with the segment from Brockington Road to Bearpaw Lane being designed and work from Gravel Ridge to General Samuels yet to be completed, according to Richard McGee of Metroplan.

TOP STORY >> Plan to ease out portables

Leader staff writer

Dr. Frank Holman, superintendent of Cabot schools, has a plan to have students at Cabot Junior High North attending school next year in real buildings, not the 30 portable buildings that have comprised CJHN since the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the school.

Holman told the school board’s building and grounds committee last Thursday that safety and finances were not a factor in eliminating the portable buildings. But the district would save half a million dollars in expenses during one year if the portables, which the district pays $40,000 a month in rent for, were gone.

“We have a plan that we could possibly eliminate the portables this summer. It’s not because of finances nor is it for safety reasons,” Holman said. “We did everything we could do for safety concerns – the buildings are staked down, we’ve got alarm systems and fire alarms; we really thought about safety before moving students in there,” Holman said.

Holman’s plan calls for moving ninth-graders to one primary area in the main building of the high school campus. The eighth-graders would be placed on the north part of the high school campus were the ninth-graders currently are, and the seventh-graders would be held at Middle School North for a year.

“This couldn’t have happened had we not moved students into the new facilities (at the high school). Drama and music classes moved in to the Fine Arts building last week, and career and technical classes will move into CHAMPS Hall pretty soon,” Holman said.

“That frees up space and means we could do away with every bit this summer and move the portables out,” Holman said, adding that “Renee (Calhoun, principal of CMSN) would be tight,, but she’s looked at her space; we’d probably have to move two portables over for music and art, but she can make it work for a year.”

School board member Fred Campbell said Holman’s plan would be a wonderful thing for feeding the students, which Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, agreed has been an issue with meals being bused over. Further information and details on eliminating the portables will be reported in March, Holman said.

The Cabot School District recently agreed to a $12 million settlement with its insurer, Great American Insurance Co. of Ohio, to rebuild CJHN. The district is still undecided on the size of the school that will be rebuilt with the help of state funds or what the district’s share in construction costs will be.

The buildings and grounds committee is also looking at several rezoning plans for the district and will hold a public meeting to hear the criteria parents want the district to consider and implement, as well as their opinions on the district’s ideas.
“These are all just brainstorming ideas,” Holman said.

Holman told the committee of school board members that the best option would have to be decided based on several factors the district must consider.

• Cabot schools cannot build enough kindergarten through fourth-grade buildings to keep up with the district’s growth.
Additional classrooms are on the drawing board for Northside and Westside elementaries, in addition to the new Stagecoach Elementary that is still under construction and a possible new elementary on the west side of the district. The goal is to have no more than 450 students per the eight elementary schools, if possible, Holman said.

• The district can not finance without doing one of three things: asking for a millage increase, going to a new model of grade configuration, or trying to get more money from the state for k-12 schools. Other options Holman said would be to cut programs and salaries, two things he knows would not go over well.

• Every transition from building to building (grade to grade) causes more curriculum issues, lack of alignment, and results in more drop-outs as well as inefficiencies, Holman explained.

• If the district moves to a ninth through 12th-grade high school configuration, it would help with fewer dropouts and result in better and tighter alignment and a seamless transition; it would also mean better collaboration and support. “I would never talk to you about doing a nine-12 and just put them on a campus. It’s about having a school within a school. A ninth-grade academy, a smaller learning community, a family-type thing we are moving to already,” Holman said.

• Teachers’ salaries will probably not be increased at all or very little unless the district has a method of financing new construction and facilities.

“It would be very difficult to put addition money in teacher’s salaries if we continue to put money in facilities because we can’t keep up (with growth),” Holman said.

• Another option that could be looked at is reconfiguring the school alignment for the 2007-2008 school year that will be discussed in Saturday’s paper.

OBITUARIES >> 2-21-07


Harril Robert Bowen, Sr., 77, of Jacksonville died Feb. 19. He was the son of the late Floyd Harril and Millie Self Bowen.
He was retired from the Navy and Air Force and was a Korean and Vietnam veteran. He was the owner of Justin TV Service in Jacksonville for several years. He is survived by his wife of almost 56 years, Doris Corrine Bowen; one son, Bobby Bowen; and three daughters, Bonnie Smith and husband David of Jacksonville, Linda Kirk and husband Jim of Hickory Plains, and Carla Howard of Cabot. He is also survived by two brothers, five sisters, seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Visitation with the family will be 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Wood Funeral Home in Jacksonville.

Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 in the chapel of Wood Funeral Home with Rev. Andy Buege and Chaplain Sam Clark officiating. Burial will be at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Jacksonville.


Jerry Lynn Gillis, 65, of Sheridan passed away Feb. 18 at his home. He was born May 6, 1941 in Sheridan to the late Carthel and Edith Mooney Gillis. He was a member of Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Jacksonville and a member of the Sheridan Jaycees serving as President in 1969.

He enjoyed playing golf, the horse races at Oaklawn Park and watching sports. A 1959 graduate of Sheridan High School, he received a degree in accounting from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Dottye Gillis; two daughters and a son-in-law, Pam Gillis of Sheridan, and Dana and Robbie Johnson of Cabot; three grandchildren, Casey Johnson, Delaina Johnson, and Christianna Johnson; two great-grandchildren; two brothers and sisters-in-law, Wayne and Kay Gillis, and Ronnie and Jane Gillis; and aunt and uncle, Jewel and Oakley Butler.

Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 at Buie Funeral Chapel in Sheridan with Brother Tim McMinn officiating. Burial will follow at Salem Cemetery in East End.


James Calvin Marshall, 83, of Ward went to be with the Lord Feb. 18.

He was a faithful Christian witness serving many years as a Baptist deacon. Calvin was a loving, supportive, and encouraging husband and father. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Esther Griffin Marshall, and his wife of 57 years, James Frances Marshall. He is survived by two sons, J.C. Marshall and his wife Shirley of Lowell, Allen Marshall and his fiancé Jamie Gordin of Ward; three daughters, Elizabeth Barrett and husband Woodrow of Little Rock, Martha Thomas and husband Jerry of Jonesboro, and Anita Cochran of Ward.

He is also survived by thirteen grandchildren; fifteen great-grandchildren; a brother, Harold Marshall of England, and a sister, Mary Procell of Bossier City, La. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Ward First Baptist Church with burial in Apple Hill Cemetery. Funeral services by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Walter Maynard Walter (Wally) Henry Maynard, 78, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 10. He was born in Perrysberg, N.Y., on Aug. 16, 1928 to Otis and Caroline Maynard.
Wally served in the Navy during World War II on a Navy vessel in the Pacific. He and his wife Eleanor moved to Jacksonville on April 1, 1996 and made it their home. He loved his country and family very much.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor Maynard, who passed away Nov. 21, 2000, and one brother. He is survived by three brothers, two sons and one daughter. He is also survived by a step-daughter, Ellie Hritz and her husband Richard of Jacksonville, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren all of Jacksonville. Funeral services were Feb. 17 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Chapel, officiated by David Cruthers followed with interment at Rest Hills Memorial Park.


Arliss Ann Fitzgerald, 63, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord Feb. 11 in Jacksonville. She was born Sept. 19, 1943 to the late Granville and Pamelia Sullivan Fulmer in Lonoke and was also preceded in death by her husband, Roy Fitzgerald.
She was Pentecostal and a loving, compassionate mother and grandmother.

Survivors include her sons, Dr. Terry Peery and wife Jackie of Cabot, and James Brewer and wife Kathy of Jacksonville; daughter, Teresa Brewer Christy and husband Keith; two brothers, Bobby Fulmer of Bentonville and Granvile Fulmer, Jr., of Cabot; sisters, Jean Gordon of North Little Rock, Donna Fulmer of Jacksonville, Gloria Lopez of Little Rock, and Debbie Fulmer of Jacksonville; grandchildren, Stephen Fruggiero, Stephanie Fruggiero, Angela Brewer and Jay Brewer, as well as a great-grand child, Sofia Fruggiero.

Funeral services were Feb. 14 at the Lonoke Apostolic Church with Rev. Donald Sjostrand officiating. Interment followed in Lonoke Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Oney Dealey Randof, 72, of Cabot went to be with the Lord after a five year battle with cancer. She was born on Aug. 20, 1934 in Wynnewood, Okla., to the late Jesse and Addie Brooks Marchbanks. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Carl Randof, and eight brothers and sisters. She accepted Christ at the age of 11 and was a member of Mt. Springs Baptist Church in Cabot.

She graduated from Research Hospital School of Nursing in Kansas City, Mo., and worked as a nurse for over 40 years.
For many years she was Dr. James Durham’s nurse at Crestview Clinic in Jacksonville and then went to work for Dr. Joe Shotts at the Cabot Medical Clinic for 14 years before her retirement. She considered nursing and caring for people a gift from God and always had an ear to lend to patients. She is survived by her children, Joyce Randof of Jacksonville, Robert Randof of Roanoke, Va., Carla Armstrong of Copperas Cove, Texas, and David Randof of Cabot.

She is also survived by one sister, Tilda Zdun of Belville, Mich.; grandchildren, Pamela Randof of Maumelle, Bruce Mathis of Copperas Cove, Texas, Kelli Shukait of Etowah, Tenn., and Dawson Randof of Cabot; one great-grandchild, Alyssa Shukait, and a host of nieces, nephews and friends. The family would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Joe and Lisa Shotts and their children for your special love and care thoughout the years. We would like to thank Dr. Stan Keller, Dr. Anthony Bucolo, and the nursing staff at UAMS and Springhill Baptist Hospital.

We appreciate the very many friends whom she truly loved and cherished. Her final words were “I love the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Funeral services were Feb. 18 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Roland Spears officiating. Interment followed at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville.


Louise D. Henderson, 90, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 15 at Arkansas Hospice in Searcy. She was born Nov. 17, 1916 in Beebe to Benjamin Edgar and Eva Georgia Galbreath Edwards. She was a member of Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years, J.U. Henderson in 1994; four sisters; one brother, and a nephew, Harold Edwards.

She is survived by two daughters, Janis Henderson of Jacksonville, and Judy Till and husband Scott of Jacksonville, Fla.; two grandsons, Chris Henderson and wife Amanda, and Kevin Till; two great-grandchildren, Blake and Abi Henderson; and a nephew, James “Sonny” Edwards of Greer’s Ferry. Funeral services were Feb. 19 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with Reverend Ronald Raines officiating. Interment followed at Rest Hills Memorial Park.

Monday, February 19, 2007

SPORTS>>Playoffs hope over for young Panthers

Leader sports writer

The Panthers held out a slim hope of slipping into one of the final 7A state playoff spots until Tuesday’s 66-52 loss to Bryant mathematically knocked them out of contention. The Panthers only trailed by six points at halftime, but the Hornets would not allow them to close that gap in the second half. Instead, Bryant slowly pulled away, and took Cabot’s post-season hopes with them.

“We’re playing for pride from here on out,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “We had our shot, okay, but we’re out of it now. These are good kids, and they’re not going to lay down now. It’s been hard for them to endure a lot of things this year, but I feel like they have taken it all in stride.”

Adam Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 28 points. Alex Sharp added 12 points for Cabot. Although they were very competitive in all but a few of their league games, Cabot’s 2-10 conference record puts them out of the chase for one of the six seeds from the Central Conference. Bridges made no excuses for their record, but also acknowledged his teams’ disadvantage when it came to experience compared to a number of their conference rivals.

“Yeah, it’s a tough conference,” Bridges said. “But we came from a tough conference before. There’s not much difference between 6A and 7A. Heck, Jonesboro and Forrest City are probably better than just about anyone in 7A. “Experience as a big thing for us; Experience and confidence. If you go back to those three games we lost by four points, what if we could have won those? That would have done wonders for our confidence, but when you lose those like we did, it can affect your whole psyche.”

The Lady Panthers kept themselves in a second-place tie with Conway in the 7A-Central standings with a 67-46 win over the Lady Hornets. The win improved Cabot’s record to 19-5 overall and 9-3 in conference. The Cabot teams played their final home game of the season last night against visiting Pine Bluff, before ending their regular season on the road at Russellville on Tuesday.

SPORTS>>Academy upsets Riverview

Leader sports writer

Riverview went undefeated through the conference regular season, and was the favorites to win the district tournament held at its own place. Harding Academy took the league champs to overtime on the same floor in the last meeting between the two teams, and knew it could beat the favored Raiders. The Wildcats proved it Thursday night with an exciting 70-61 win in Thursday night’s semifinals.

A half-court shot from Alex Beene at the halftime buzzer did more than just tie the game at 31-31; it seemed to stop Riverview’s effortless momentum that it enjoyed through most of the first half. The Wildcats came out on fire in the second half, with Beene and fellow senior guard Luke Tribble scoring from nearly every pocket on the floor.

“Those two guys both had a terrific game tonight,” Harding Academy coach Rick Beene said. “I have had a lot of good guards over the years, but those two could be the best I’ve seen.” Tribble and Alex Beene combined for 28 of the Wildcats’ 39 second half points. The biggest key down the stretch would be solid free throw shooting by Harding Academy. The Wildcats hit 13 of 14 attempts in the final three minutes, staying at least three scores ahead of the Raiders until the final buzzer.
Although both teams had their bright and dark spots, the biggest inconsistency in the game was on the hands of the officiating crew. A number of questionable calls in the first half prevented the Wildcats from building any true momentum. A technical foul on Rick Beene at the 2:32 mark of the first after asking for an explanation of a call allowed Riverview senior Tony Hall to tie the game from the foul line at 12-12.

The second half would be Riverview’s turn on the wrong end of the whistle. The Raiders received a number of player-control fouls during times when the HA defenders did not appear to be even close to being set. The Riverview crowd voiced their displeasure on a number of occasions, as did Raiders coach Danny Starkey at the 4:52 mark of the third quarter when a Joe Overstreet basket that would have cut the Wildcats’ lead to two points was disallowed.

Despite the bewildered refs, the game was closely contested through the final minutes of the game. Riverview junior Dominique Baker had a chance to tie the game for the Raiders with 40 seconds left, but his three-point attempt bounced off the cylinder and into the waiting hands of HA’s Alex Beene. Beene was fouled after the rebound, and hit both ends of his one and one attempt.

Beene helped the Wildcats out to a 5-0 lead at the start of the game with a three and a basket in the first 48 seconds. James Kee added to that lead with an inside basket before Hall finally answered for the Raiders. Overstreet cut the lead to two when he was fouled by B.J. Roller while attempting a three-point shot. Overstreet nailed all three charity shots to make it 7-5 HA with 5:39 left in the first quarter.

The Raiders fought through the entire second quarter until Baker hit a perfect three pointer with three seconds left until the intermission that put the Raiders up 31-28. The shot appeared to have given Riverview the momentum for the start of the second half, but Alex Beene’s hurl from 45 feet out fell through the net as the buzzer sounded to dead lock the game at 31.
Beene went on to lead all scorers in the game with 28 points. Tribble added 16 points for the Wildcats. For Riverview, Tony Hall led with 16 points. Thatcher Cooperwood added 11 points, and Overstreet had 10 points for the Raiders. Harding Academy played Rose Bud in last night’s district finals. Look for details of that game in the Saturday edition of The Leader.

SPORTS>>Red Devils shake road woes, topple Sylvan Hills

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got a clean sweep on the road at Sylvan Hills Tuesday night. The girls won a close contest while the boys took a 54-44 victory for their first conference road win of the season. The Lady Bears mounted a rally in the fourth quarter that turned an eight-point Jacksonville lead into a one-point Sylvan Hills lead with 5:23 left in the game. Jacksonville quickly reclaimed the lead, but Sylvan Hills’ Rochelle Dobbins hit a free throw with 1:57 left to put the Lady Bears up 43-42. It would be the last points for the home team until a meaningless shot at the buzzer set the final margin, despite several opportunities.

The first came when Dobbins got the rebound of her own miss on the second attempt of the same trip to the line. The putback attempt was no good, teammate Brianna Austin got the rebound and missed, SH’s Myesha Harris got that board and was fouled on the floor. She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but got her own rebound only to miss the putback attempt.

Jacksonville turned the ball over at the other end of the floor, and Dobbins was fouled driving to the basket. She missed both free throws and Jacksonville’s Marleka Bell got the rebound. Bell’s outlet pass went to junior Morgan Waits, who hit a layup to put the Lady Devils back in front 44-43. Sylvan Hills missed a shot, but Waits walked at the other end with 23 seconds left.
Austin then missed a short jumper and Lady Devil Marie Livings got the rebound and was fouled with nine seconds remaining. She hit both free throws to make it 46-43, then Bell stole the inbound pass and hit an uncontested layup with six seconds left to put the game out of reach.

Dobbins ran down the court for the three that set the final margin. Absent from much of the action in the final two minutes, Lady Red Devil post Tarneshia Scott made her presents known throughout the game. Scott finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds. She, Waits and Livings combined to hit 17 of 20 free throws. Livings made all five of her attempts from the line.
The win lifts Jacksonville to 2-9 in conference play, and one game behind Jonesboro for the final spot in the state tournament.

Sylvan Hills fell to 0-10 in conference play.The boys game was also close most of the way. Jacksonville started the game with a big size advantage, and it only got bigger when Bear post players T.J. Shelton and Lamar Bassett got into foul trouble.
Jacksonville seized the opportunity quickly, and post players Gerron Riddles and Antwan Lockhart began scoring inside.
Jacksonville took a 24-19 lead into halftime, and stretched it to 10 early in the third quarter. Shelton and Bassett sat the entire third period, but after the Red Devils’ initial run, shots stopped falling, especially from the inside.

After taking the 10-point lead, Jacksonville committed four turnovers on consecutive possessions without taking a shot.
Unfortunately for the home team, Sylvan Hills was having an even harder time getting shots to fall. In the same time span, the Bears missed six shots that could have cut into Jacksonville’s lead.

Finally after a three minute span of neither team scoring, Jacksonville’s Norvel Gabriel hit two free throws after Shelton’s fourth foul to make it 38-26 with 7:10 left in the game. From that point, the Bears started finding the range, but so did Jacksonville. The two teams traded baskets and the lead stayed around eight to 10 points until inside of a minute. The Bears rallied to within 49-44 on a Chris Wallace three with 35 seconds left, but Jacksonville’s Kajuan Watson and Antonio Washington hit four straight free throws to set the final margin.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner glad to see his team finally get the road monkey off its back.“We made some plays down the stretch this time that we hadn’t been making,” Joyner said. “We had a chance to put them away in the third quarter but started turning it over and missing little chip shots. We have to get better and putting teams away, but we did make plays at the end to keep them from getting back in it and having a chance to win. I think they grew up a little in this game. I’m proud of ‘em.”

Despite the size disadvantage and its two biggest players on the bench much of the time, the Bears out-rebounded the usually strong rebounding Red Devils 27-26. Bear coach Kevin Davis lauded praise on his team for effort, but lamented the shooting woes.

“It’s been somewhat our Achilles heel,” Davis said. “We’ve struggled to score all year. To quote a coach we beat here last year, ‘an old coach told me one time, at some point you’ve got to make some shots’. That’s about what it boils down to. You can do everything else well, but if you don’t make some shots, it’s hard to win the game.”

Sylvan Hills took 21 more shots than Jacksonville. The Bears made just 18 of their 62 attempts while Jacksonville hit 19 of 41.
The win lifts the Red Devils to 5-6 in league play while Sylvan Hills fell to 4-6. The Bears will make up their game with Forrest City Saturday, a day after taking on Jonesboro.

Jacksonville hosted West Memphis last night after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>>Rabbits hold off Stuttgart

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits blew a big lead, but came away with a 55-52 overtime win over Stuttgart Thursday night in the semfinal round of the 4A-2 district tournament in Bald Knob. Lonoke coach Wes Swift downplayed losing a 15-point lead and having to rally to tie it by the end of regulation. “I’m not worried about that at all,” Swift said. “At this point in the season, the name of the game is win and advance. That’s it.”

Stuttgart was possibly the hottest team in the tournament coming into the game after hammering Batesville-Southside in the first round, and then running away with an easy upset over Newport in the quarterfinals. After both teams struggled to score through the first half of the first quarter, Lonoke appeared to be putting an emphatic and sudden end to the Ricebirds’ hot streak.

Lonoke’s first bucket didn’t come until 1:45 was left in the opening period, but it gave the Jackrabbits a two-point lead. They finished the quarter up 10-2, and 16-2 just two minutes into the second. The lead grew to as much as 19-4, but Stuttgart finished the second with a 9-4 run to make it 23-13 at the half. Stuttgart post player Reggie Smith sat much of the first quarter with two fouls, but dominated the boards in the second quarter, and began scoring in the third to get the Ricebirds back into the game.

Helping open things up for Smith was the six three pointers Stuttgart hit in the second half. Many that were missed were rebounded by Smith. He sailed high above the rim for a rebound and massive dunk wth 7:40 left in regulation to give the Ricebirds their first lead of the game at 37-36. The dunk ignited Stuttgart’s cheering section, but Lonoke’s Bradley Spencer quieted them quickly, getting a bucket plus one at the other end just seconds later.

Stuttgart answered with back-to-back three pointers to take a 42-39 lead with 4:53 remaining. Spencer then hit two more free throws, but Stuttgart got another second-chance bucket, this time by Ray Henderson, to make 44-41. Stuttgart then hit a three pointer after a Lonoke turnover to give the Ricebirds their biggest lead at 47-41 with 2:58 left in regulation. They wouldn’t score again in regulation while Lonoke clawed back to tie it.

Senior point guard Kylon Boyd entered the game and immediately hit a three wth 2:40 left. Stuttgart was then called for three seconds in the lane, but Lonoke failed to capitalize in the turnover. Stuttgart called time, and Lonoke fouled #3, who missed the front end of a one-and-one with 40 seconds on the clock. Tyrone Dobbins got the rebound and threw the outlet pass to Spencer.

Spencer missed and got his own rebound, but got it stripped. He was able to chase down the loose ball and found teammate Stanley Staggers. Staggers was quickly double teamed, and threw the ball back out to Boyd, who sank another three with 20 seconds on the clock to tie the game. Lonoke instantly called timeout and set up in full-court pressure out of the break. Stuttgart didn’t handle it well. Spencer knocked the ball away at midcourt. Dobbins wound up with the loose ball and found Staggers,who missed a 15-footer at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

Lonoke instantly took command in the extra period. Dobbins got a steal and was fouled. He hit both free throws to give Lonoke its first lead since the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter. After a missed Stuttgart three, Staggers got a driving bucket and a foul for a 52-47 lead with 2:36 left in the extra period. Stuttgart’s Carrison Vaughn nailed a three make it a two-point game with 1:49 left. After Lonoke missed three shots at the other end, Stuttgart’s Tevin Robinson hit two free throws to tie it with 1:18 left.

Spencer then made one of two foul shots, but Robinson threw the ball away at the other end. Boyd missed for Lonoke and Stuttgart’s Desean Osby was fouled on the rebound. He missed the front end of a one-and-one with 47 seconds left and Lonoke’s Brock Clement pulled down one of his four overtime rebounds. Lonoke got the ball into Spencer’s hands, who was fouled and sent to the line. He hit both shots to set the final margin. Stuttgart got a look, but it wasn’t a good one and was way off the mark.

Clement only scored two points, but drew Swift’s praises after the game. “He didn’t play much because I use him to sub for Stanley (Staggers) and Stanley was playing. That kind of made him the odd man out. But when I called on him he was huge. Those were some big rebounds that we needed because we had not done well on the boards at all.”

Spencer led all scorers with 18 points. Staggers finished with 15. Both players had five rebounds. Clement led the Jackrabbits on the boards with six in limited play. Smith led Stuttgart with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Lonoke improved to ?? and will tip-off against Marianna in the district title game at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

TOP STORY >> Unveiling art at Jacksonville Chamber

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce opened the doors to its new art gallery during an unveiling of 85 Richard DeSpain prints Thursday. The pen-and-ink prints of military life and scenes from Camp Pike now adorn the meeting room walls at the chamber building. “This is a happy occasion for the chamber. We are blessed that Mr. DeSpain has allowed us to display his work,” Pat Bond, chairman of the board of directors, said. “I’m just delighted to have them here for us and the community to enjoy,” she said. “I hope people enjoy looking at them and come back often to do so.”

Although the framed prints on the wall are not available for purchase, copies of each print are; the chamber has a complete listing of DeSpain’s works and prices for those interested in owning one. “We have so many meetings here, at least 50 people in and out daily, hopefully they will want to look at the prints while they are here,” Bonita Rownd, chamber chief executive officer, said.

Rownd said the display would be at the chamber as long as Jacksonville is on the map. “Possibly when he is a world- renowned artist, this collection will be famous,” Rownd said. Rownd explained that DeSpain’s work came to be at the chamber in a matter of days.

“We were having a conversation and one thing led to another, I asked about his prints and told him he needed a gallery,” Rownd said. “And we’ve got this big room with all this space. Two days later he came in with all these prints,” she said.
Rownd then called J. Hudson Galleries, 512 N. 1st Street, to frame the prints.

“He framed them in record time and did an unbelievably good job,” Rownd said. “They all look gorgeous and are very tasteful,” she said. Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, and Col. Scott Lockard, commander of the 314th Mission Support Group, were in attendance for the unveiling and spent time looking at the pen and ink drawings of scenes from the base. “He gives an accurate portrayal of Little Rock Air Force Base,” Self said.
Self and DeSpain spent a few minutes looking at pieces together while DeSpain briefed the general on how certain works came about and pointed out the intricate details he captured that only those familiar with C-130 aircraft and military life would recognize.

Col. Lockard said his favorite print in the chamber’s new gallery is an aerial view of the base. “I love the aerial shot with the C-135s on the flight line and I also like the print with all the paratroopers,” Lockard said. “They are all beautiful prints, some of these I’ve never seen before,” Lockard said. Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said he owns DeSpain’s LRAFB 50th anniversary print, a few prints of C-130s and one of the Old Mill.

“They are excellent; he is very knowledgeable in this area,” Swaim said. “The variety and amount available all compliment the base,” he added. DeSpain said he hopes to do some pieces on the C-130J model in the future. “I have a cockpit series in the works with the help of Gen. Self,” he said. DeSpain said he usually spends about three months on each piece. After taking pictures of the best angle for his new piece, a rough sketch is developed from the details in the photos.

He then enlarges the rough pen sketch to an average size of 24 inches by 36 inches on vellum paper and temporarily mounts it on illustration board. The next step is to turn the rough sketch into a pen and ink drawing, which takes on average 24 days to two months of drawing in. If the pen-and-ink drawing is developed into a watercolor version, an additional two to three weeks is needed for completion.

After the colors are added, he puts another layer of pen-and-ink over the watercolor version, making three layers of artwork on one piece. Aside from the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, DeSpain’s work can also be purchased through his Website,, or at Deck the Walls in North Little Rock, now located at 4621 E. McCain Blvd. in the shopping center across from Wal-Mart Supercenter.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke QC adamant about jail expansion

Leader staff writer

Unless its jail architects quickly come up with a plan that satisfies the reticent Lonoke City Council, the Lonoke County Quorum Court seems intent upon expanding its jail with or without permission from the city. The city council Monday night unanimously turned thumbs down on the county’s planned 22-bed jail expansion, which it says would infringe on city right-of-way and sidewalks. County Judge Charlie Troutman told the quorum court Thursday night that architects now believe they can draw a plan the city can live with. Troutman said he would drag the architect over to Lonoke to review the situation Friday, but by late Friday afternoon, the Foster and Taggert architect had not returned his call.

But the quorum court quickly turned to talk of taking the needed land by right of eminent domain, and Justice Larry Odom, head of the county building committee, says he’s had enough. “It’s time to pin our ears back, get in the water and try to get to the other side,” Odom told fellow justices. “I think it’s time to start building.” Both Odom and Troutman said time was of the essence. Lonoke County has about $225,000 in General Improvement Funds earmarked by local legislators last session for renovation of the jail but needs to spend or commit that money soon—especially if they hope for money from the current legislature.

Odom said the city and Alderman Pat Howell in particular had drawn a line in the sand and would not approve any city jail expansion. “What they are asking us to do is a violation of the city law,” Howell said Monday. “We don’t have the authority to give them permission to break the law.”

“Even if they close the street, they still can’t build on top of a public utility,” said Howell, who says the water line runs under the proposed addition. “They can build anything they want to build as long as it conforms to city building code,” he added. The county previously attached its 911 call center onto the old jail, encroaching on city-owned land without a variance or a building permit, according to Howell. Troutman said Thursday night that the county did have a building permit for the 911 center—but that it doesn’t need one. Justice Mike Dolan said the minority—4,500 Lonoke residents—shouldn’t be able to impose its will on the 58,000 county residents.

Odom reminded the quorum court members, five of whom were sworn in only in January, that the county already had been sued twice for $3 million because of a rape and a hanging in the overcrowded jail. County attorney Jeff Sikes reminded the justices that taking the land by right of eminent domain would require court action, followed by court challenges to the appeals court and supreme court level.

TOP STORY >> C-130 drops: Saving lives

314th Airlift Wing Strategic Information Flight

A small group of airmen gathered in the cold Tuesday at a sign outside of the 463rd Airlift Group building at Little Rock Air Force Base to tack up the number 5,001. The sign has been up for about four months and designates the number of convoy vehicles that have been taken off dangerous roads in Iraq and replaced with much safer C-130 airlift missions. The group’s airlift mission is to vastly reduce the number of road convoys, which face the danger of improvised explosive devices that explode on highways.

Airmen from the 463rd Airlift Group carry a large part of the deployment burden due to the busy C-130 mission of its deployed squadron, the 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The 777th stays busy, averaging about 25 sorties a day, according to Lt. Col. Tim Anderson, who recently returned as squadron commander. “The C-130 community is being used pretty heavily,” said Anderson, but you’ll never hear folks complain.

“Our whole mission is convoy mitigation” said Anderson. “What we’re doing is impacting American lives. The (improvised explosive device) threat is one of the biggest threats to our ground troops. I don’t think people fully understand the impact we have over there.” The need for this awareness is what prompted members from the 463rd to take action in conjunction with members of the 314th Airlift Wing, creating the sign that now stands in front of the group building.

“I drive by it (the sign) every day on the way to work,” said Senior Airman Cecil Johnson, loadmaster from the 50th Airlift Squadron, who recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq. “I think back to the amount of people I’ve helped, it’s very rewarding.” “We talk to a lot of the Army (personnel),” said Senior Airman Nate Southwick, a loadmaster with the 61st Airlift Squadron. “A lot of guys cheer as soon as we’re wheels up.”

“A lot of people on the base don’t realize the true impact the squadron is making,” he said. “After every flight I calculate totals of passengers and cargo so I get to see the impact,” he added. While aircrews stay busy replacing convoys, deployed maintenance airmen face their own challenges. Senior Airman Courtney Coker, who works in nondestructive inspection testing for the 314th Airlift Wing Maintenance Squadron, is “on the other side of flight crews. We keep the planes in the air.”
Coker, whose husband is a flight engineer with the 50th AS, was recently deployed to Balad with the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. Two months into her four-month deployment, her husband deployed to the same location.

Keeping up with the busy maintenance schedule, Airmen Coker feels especially connected to convoy mitigation mission.
“We have to keep them (C-130s) flying to continue the missions,” she said. “Especially because my husband will be flying.”
Another 120 airmen, most of them aircrews from the 463rd AG deployed, last week to Iraq. For most, this was not the first, nor the last time they will deploy in support of the C-130 convoy mitigation mission. Many aircrews are in the one-to-one dwell, meaning that airmen spend equal time deployed and at home stations.

TOP STORY >> Bringing down the school

Leader staff writer

As demolition is underway at what remained of Cabot Junior High North after the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the school, district administrators are looking to the future for their building and rezoning options both at CJHN and in the district overall. Cabot Public Schools’ building and grounds committee met Thursday night and agreed a public meeting would be held in the near future to determine the best options for the district to consider based on growth and finance.

“We want the opportunity to hear what the community wants the school to do,” Dr. Frank Holman, superintendent, said. “We envision a large group meeting to discuss why we need to rezone, then break into groups to get the community’s answers on some issues,” he said. The district completed negotiations with Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company, and received a check for the final amount of $12,069,000, not $17 million as previously reported.
“We’ve gone through six months of frustration, but the check was air delivered to us this morning (Thursday) for the balance of the settlement, just under $4 million,” Holman said. The district had previously received a little over $7 million Holman said.

The settlement was split into four payments: $8 million for building replacement, $2 million for operating costs, $2.069 million for contents, and $10 thousand for personal effects. The actual cost to date the district has incurred for operating costs at CJHN is $2.14 million, which includes $171,838 for demolition and $577,536 in rent for the 30 portable buildings through May 2008. The actual cost to the district for the contents of the school was $2.3 million.

The district has three proposals prepared for Doug Eaton, director of the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, that the district views as options for rebuilding CJHN with the help of state funds through the partnership or catastrophic program in which state funds provide 60 percent of costs for construction based on the wealth index, and the district provides the remaining 40 percent.

Proposal one calls for rebuilding at the same square footage as the original building, 101,900 square feet, with a waiver for state construction standards upgrade, to hold just over 1,000 students. The cost of construction would be almost $16 million with the district’s share being $6.3 million. Proposal two would rebuild the school to match the original spaces, but would upgrade to meet the current state space standards for 1,200 students at a total of 118,037 square feet. Total cost would be $18.5 million with the district paying $7.36 million.

The third proposal would rebuild CJHN to plan for growth meeting current state spacing codes for 1,500 students. The 162,914 square feet building would cost a total of $25.57 million; the district’s share would be $10.16 million. “We still have to see what the state will do with the catastrophic and what they will approve,” Holman said. “We don’t know how they will apply the $8 million from the insurance company,” he said, “they may say they’re going to take the $8 million before they do the 60/40.”

“There are still some unknowns, we haven’t gotten anything from catastrophic, not even one dime, so why even have it if its not going to help some schools, I think this qualifies for catastrophic, but we don’t know,” Holman said. “We’re looking at everything we can do as far as not obligating the district any additional money,” Holman said. Another option the district has thought about when building back Junior High North is to make a ninth- through twelfth-grade campus with ninth and tenth on the north (CJHN) and eleventh and twelfth on the south (the high school) with an underground walk-way connecting the two.

Holman also said the district wants to eliminate this summer the portable buildings that currently make up the Junior High North campus. The ninth-graders would go into the main building on the high school campus; the eight-graders would go into the buildings on the north of the high school campus, which currently house ninth-graders from CJHN; and the seventh-graders would remain at Middle School North during the 2007-2008 school year.

All of these options will be addressed during the public meeting held at a future date.

TOP STORY >> Defense wins one of three

Leader staff writer

Special Judge John Cole pushed the final pretrial hearing back to Feb. 26 with jury selection to start the next day in the continuing criminal-enterprise trial of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and two codefendants. That was the highlight for the defense at a pretrial hearing Friday in Cabot. It lost bids to disqualify Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and replace her with a special prosecutor or else to exclude certain witnesses against Campbell, his wife Kelly Harrison Campbell and bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox.

“They’ve been trying to disqualify me since way before the election,” said McCastlain of the defense. “They don’t get to choose the prosecutor.” Cole also said he probably would quash the defense subpoena for Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw—who has had conflicts in the past with McCastlain. Cole told Shannon Green of the state attorney general’s office, representing Hanshaw, that he didn’t believe Hanshaw would have to testify, but he said he would reserve judgment. “What I’ve heard so far has no place in the trial.”

Cole also ruled against a defense motion of limine, which would have prevented McCastlain from trying or mentioning the sexually related charges against Kelly Campbell. She is charged with having sexual relations with at least two inmates. “If introduced, it has a huge prejudicial impact,” said attorney, Mark Hampton. He said it could taint the jury’s perception oft Kelly Campbell, who faces 36 other charges. Cole said that Kelly Campbell’s alleged sex crimes would be supportive of the continuing criminal enterprise charge against her. In denying the motion to liminie, Cole called the allegations “relevant and permissible.”

Patrick Benca told the court Hanshaw could testify that the prosecutor’s office may have listened into his telephone calls and also Campbell’s. “I don’t see how it’s relevant to the issue of guilt or innocence,” said Cole. The Campbells and Cox are being tried on a variety of charges, all under the umbrella of running and participating in an ongoing criminal enterprise. The chief is charged with running that enterprise and his wife and Cox with being members. Criminal enterprise convictions trigger longer sentences.

The Campbells are charged with various felony theft and drug charges. Kelly Campbell is also charged with having sex with inmates in her husband’s jail. Cox, Jay Campbell and bail bondsman Larry Norwood are charged with conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine. Norwood is being tried separately.

Attorneys Hampton and Benca told Cole that discovery, including evidence that is exculpatory, impeaches witnesses or is mitigating, has only trickled in from the prosecution and that at the minimum they needed more time to prepare.Benca said that his office had received about 15,000 pages of investigation and testimony, in-cluding 1,400 pages in the last few days. With the trial originally slated to begin Tuesday, “How am I going to prepare a defense? I haven’t even begun (reading) the 1,400 pages,” he asked. McCastlain objected that the defense was trying the case in the media, attempting bias the public, including the jury pool, against the state and in favor of the defendants.

Benca and Hampton, as they have for about a year, told the judge they were not getting all the Brady information from the prosecution. The defense gave several accounts of information they said they never received from the prosecution about, for instance, one witness being on psychiatric drugs, about Lonoke Police Detective David Huggs—a witness—having sexual relations with witness Rose Taylor in her mobile home while methamphetamine was being cooked, about witnesses changing their story and other concerns.

Benca said he had reviewed nine of the video taped interrogation of witnesses the prosecution was ordered to supply him last week and “without question there is Brady evidence” on most of the tapes that he had not been given earlier. McCastlain said the defense had all the information if it went thoroughly through the information it was given. The trial, which could last one to two months, will be held in the Cabot District Courtroom.

OBITUARIES >> 2-17-07


Charles F. Waller, 82, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 12 in Little Rock. He was born on July 9, 1924, in Knoxville, Tenn., to the late Marshall and Cinna McPherson Waller. He was also preceded in death by a daughter, Nancy Cochran; daughter-in-law, Debbie Waller; six brothers and two sisters. Charlie was a member of St. Jude’s Catholic Church where he served as a Eucharistic Minister and was an active member of the Knights of Columbus. He enjoyed playing golf and was an avid golfer.

He is survived by his loving wife Cleo Waller of the home; daughter, Cinna Peterson and husband, Roger of Cabot; son, William “Bill” Waller of Cabot; one sister, Trula; son-in-law, Tony Cochran; seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held Feb. 15 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville with Father Les Farley officiating. Arrangements were by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Ruby Sumler Weeks, 88, of Beebe was born Oct. 10, 1918, at Dabney, to Aaron Crowder and Martha Thompson Bridges, and she died Feb. 13. She was a member of Union Valley Baptist Church. She was preceded in death by her husbands, Roy Sumler and Daniel Weeks. She is survived by three sons, Carlos Sumler of Beebe, Dwight Sumler of Camden, Tenn., and Keith Sumler of Judsonia; two daughters, Delores Ramsey of Beebe and Allese Walker of El Dorado; 14 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were Feb. 15 at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial at Antioch Cemetery.

EDITORIALS>>GOP makes poor choice

Tim Griffin said this week that he would rather not be the United States attorney for the eastern district of Arkansas if it meant that he would have to answer questions about his past political work as others have had to do the past century or so. So he told the Justice Department not to nominate him for the permanent position.

Does that inspire confidence in the courage, independence and competence of the office that prosecutes federal justice in our region? Griffin, a former aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove and a political director for the Republican National Committee, was appointed U.S. attorney in December after the Justice Department forced Bud Cummins to resign. Cummins had been a good soldier in the Republican army but he was deemed to be insufficiently zealous in the party’s cause. As the head prosecutor, the Justice Department acknowledged, he had been outstanding but people in the White House wanted Griffin in the office.

Cummins was one of seven Republican district attorneys across the country who were told to resign to make room for new acolytes who would be on hand for the 2008 elections. They were appointed under a provision quietly inserted last year into a reconstitution of the USAPatriot Act. The administration could appoint U.S. attorneys on an “emergency” basis while Congress was in recess and they would not be subject to Senate confirmation. Historically, appointees have been subject to confirmation.

The appointments took senators, including Republicans, aback. They were unaware that the legislation they had passed carried the exemption for interim appointments of prosecutors. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee began work on legislation to restore the important check that the founders created in the distribution of power.

This week, the Justice Department told the Judiciary Committee that it had instructed Cummins to resign because Harriet E. Miers, then the chief White House counsel, wanted Tim Griffin in the office. Miers, who has since departed, is a close friend of Rove. They were part of Bush’s Texas political team.

The Justice Department was clearly bothered by the furor, especially after the disavowal of Republican senators, and announced that it would reappoint the seven interim prosecutors so that senators could hold the usual hearings and confirm the attorneys. But Griffin told Justice not to submit his name. He told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that his hearing would be a “circus” and that the Democrats would not give him a fair hearing. He would have been asked about his role in voter suppression in Florida in 2004 and other election activities.

So Griffin will remain the U.S. attorney until the Justice Department finds a replacement who satisfies U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., and the Senate confirms him. That could be a few months or it could be never. But in his leave-taking, if that is what it turns out to be, Griffin confirmed the worst insinuations about him, that he is first a partisan guerrilla fighter. He denounced Sen. Mark Pryor, a prime target of Republicans in 2008, for partisanship. Pryor has been one of the least partisan of Democratic senators, usually bucking his party to confirm President Bush’s controversial judicial nominees. But Pryor insisted that every nominee has a hearing.

“It’s unfortunate that Sen. Pryor is blaming the administration for using a law that he voted for to appoint me, apparently with the excuse that he didn’t know what he was voting for when he voted,” Griffin said. But the sponsor of the legislation himself, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., apologized to his fellow senators this month because he said he never knew until recently that without his permission a committee aide had inserted the provision into the legislation at the last minute to give political appointees like Griffin a free pass. — Ernie Dumas

EDITORIALS>>Beebe: good on promise

Starting July 1, you will pay a few pennies less in the grocery checkout line. The state tax will drop from 6 cents on a dollar to 3 cents. You have Gov. Mike Beebe to thank for that because he rendered it inevitable when he made it his first and unequivocal campaign promise last year. Tip your hat, too, to every single member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, who voted for the tax cut in the end.

Beebe signed the act Thursday with the appropriate ceremonial flourish. It is the largest tax cut, in dollar terms, in the state’s history and the first in a package of tax cuts that will surpass $200 million, maybe much more, before the legislature adjourns.

When nearly everyone’s taxes are cut, even if ever so slightly, it is an occasion to share the credit. Gov. Beebe was generous. Sen. Bobby Glover of Carlisle shepherded the bill through the tender shoals of the Senate. Beebe invited former Sen. Bud Canada of Hot Springs to the ceremony. Canada, the old Razorback linebacker, had introduced a bill to eliminate grocery taxes altogether in every session for as far back as memory runs until he was term-limited out of office. His refrain always was that the legislature had fixed the law so that chickens and hogs got their food tax-free but lawmakers wouldn’t do the same for children. The state just never could afford the revenue loss.

The former governor, Mike Huckabee, was not there but he had a news conference the day before to promote his presidential campaign and took most of the credit for the tax cut. He said he had created the climate for the tax cut by talking about lower taxes last year. Reporters asked Beebe about Huckabee’s remarks and the new governor, following his style, refused to be drawn into a rebuke of his predecessor. But Canada was not so circumspect. He served with Huckabee, he said, and the governor never lifted a finger to help pass his bills. In fact, Huckabee had talked favorably about eliminating the tax when he was running for lieutenant governor but once he was in the governor’s office the big retailers told him that they opposed repeal of the tax. The sales tax is a major profit center for big retailers because they keep a percentage of the tax receipts every month. Huckabee dropped the idea and never supported a repeal bill.

When taxes are the issue, it is never too hard to identify a politician’s real constituency, the people or a private interest.