Tuesday, July 03, 2007

TOP STORY >>Hamburger tax on agenda

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce wants the brakes put on a proposed two-cent tax on prepared foods, also known as a hamburger tax.

The city council will discuss the tax at its council meetin at 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall.

The new tax, which does not need to be voted on by residents, will bring in about $550,000 annually to be added to the $88,000 the city’s advertising and promotion commission already receives through a two-cent hotel tax.

Money generated from the new tax will give Jacksonville’s military museum a chance to bring in aircraft to display on the museum grounds, help bring in a big- name entertainer to the Wing Ding Festival and fire up the fireworks at the annual patriotic spectacular.

Alderman Marshall Smith, who chairs the advertising and promotion commission, says a number of aldermen are for the tax, but it will only be discussed at this upcoming meeting. “I don’t see us voting on it yet. Everyone needs to take a good look at it, before we put it in an ordinance,” he said.

That’s what the chamber wants, too.

Pat Bond, the chamber board president, said the group is not against the tax, but wants the city and residents to take time to fully understand the implications of the tax and exactly how the money is going to be spent.

The chamber board has passed a resolution stating that position and plans to present it at the city council meeting.
Based on figures provided by the state department of finance, the commission believes the two-cent tax will bring in $550,000 the first year.

The commission has suggested that it use half the income, or $275,000, for professional promotion and marketing campaigns to bring people to Jacksonville and its attractions.

About 30 percent of the tax, or $163,000, will be given to the city’s parks and recreation department to be used for park improvements and operations.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History will get $22,000 of the new money to help get the necessary permission to display static aircraft and to help toward the purchase of an aircraft.

The commission has earmarked $20,000 for the patriotic spectacular show to increase its promotion of the event and allow for a bigger fireworks show.

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield group will get $12,000 to buy Civil War displays and make other improvements to the site to bring in tourists.

Wing Ding will get $10,000 to help bring in a big-name entertainer to the festival, helping to bring in more tourists.
The commission will set aside $30,000 of the tax for projects, requests and ideas that come up during the year that are not already budgeted. Another $18,000 will be used for help pay for the staff to coordinate and collect the tax data, staff training and educating businesses and the public on what types of items are taxable.

“For example,” explained Paul Mushrush, the city’s finance director, “if you go into a store or restaurant and fill a to-go box with salad items from the salad bar that is not a prepared food item, but if you add utensils, then it becomes taxable.”
According to state law, a city can have up to a three-cent tax on prepared foods and up to a three-cent tax on hotel rooms to gain funds for marketing and promotion.

The council can approve up to a two-cent tax in either category without asking for a vote of the residents. A three-cent levy requires a public vote.

TOP STORY >>Highway funds could run dry for area cities

Leader staff writer

Unless Congress dramatically increases its highway funding or the next General Assembly authorizes regional groups to levy taxes and float highway bonds, drivers in central Arkansas are literally facing gridlock in an uncertain future, Jim McKenzie, executive director of Metroplan, told members of the Transportation Advisory Council last week.

The TAC is one of the bodies that must complete Metro 2035, a long-range transportation plan, by 2010.

The rules have changed — most of us just don’t know it yet, he said.

McKenzie said it would take time for central Arkansas residents to realize that it’s probably going to be up to them to pay for new roads and highways and to patch and improve the old ones.

Over the next 10 years, the state Highway and Transportation Department has identified about $19.1 billion worth of needs, but only about $4.1 billion in anticipated revenue.

Even if the new Democratic controlled Congress wanted to raise taxes for the nation’s highways, President Bush is unlikely to sign off on a new tax, according to McKenzie’s assessment. That means that by default, the responsibility for funding road and highway repairs and construction will revert to states and metropolitan areas, McKenzie said.

Except the handful that have already taken action, every metropolitan area and state in the nation will be facing similar problems, according to McKenzie, who as the immediate past vice president of the National Association of Metropolitan Plan-ning Organizations, should know. He was the group’s top professional planner.

McKenzie said that with the interstate system completed, the federal government might opt to turn existing gasoline tax revenues back to the states and wash their hands of it.

If the past is an indicator, Congress won’t raise taxes to keep pace with inflation or increased demand and congestion, so the burden shifts back to the states, he said, even if Congress never passes a law expressly saying so.

“The Highway Trust Fund is on the verge of bankruptcy,” he said. “Major funding (in Congress) is two years late, illusionary and inadequate.”

As for erosion of the dollar, he noted that in 1977, $100 million would widen to five lanes 143 miles of rural highway.
Today that same $100 million would widen about 17 miles.

The General Assembly already has authorized creation of regional mobility authorities, and Metroplan hopes to organize one this year including Pulaski, Lonoke, Faulkner and Saline counties, according to Richard Mcgee, Metroplan deputy director.
McKenzie says the best hope for additional highway funding might be a $2 billion, 10-year bond paid for by either a 5-cent increase in gasoline taxes, a half- percent sales tax increase or a combination.

Then as people in certain areas want bypasses or new highways or roads constructed, they could take proposals to the voters.

Four immediate uncertainties face Arkansas transportation planners as they approach three years of required work on a new 25-year transportation plan for Pulaski, Lonoke, Saline and Faulkner counties.

Uncertainties include:

Whether or not the current federal highway plan will be reauthorized

What the state highway program will pay for and include

Whether or not the next General Assembly will authorize the new regional mobility Authorities to tax sales or gas

And what road-building restrictions may be imposed upon central Arkansas, which seems likely to exceed allowable ozone levels this summer.

TOP STORY >>Beebe is reluctant to outlaw pit bulls

Leader staff writer

The Beebe City Council did not ban pit bulls Monday night as expected.

Instead the council told the city attorney to draft an ordinance with a grandfather clause that would allow pit bull owners to keep the dogs that are licensed now.

Alderman Janice Petray, who reluctantly agreed that responsible dog owners shouldn’t have to give up their pets, pointed out when the council voted to send the ordinance back for revision that there are only four registered pit bulls in the city limits. So when the ordinance eventually passes, the others should have to go, she said.

Although Horace Taylor, the city’s animal control officer, estimates that there are at least 150 pit bulls in Beebe, fewer than 10 residents attended the meeting to protest passing an ordinance that would have given pit bull owners just 60 days to find new homes for their dogs.

Among the protesters were Randy and Teresa Turner, who have kept pit bulls as pets for more than a decade. The Turners said their eight-month-old pit bull puppy never leaves their home without one of them.

Randy Turner said his pit bulls are no more vicious than any other dogs.

“I know little dogs that will eat you up,” he said.

Jaxie Hepner, who runs the Beebe Humane Society, and Marsa Zakowski, who works with Taylor to find new homes for the dogs he picks up, also attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of pit bull owners who have licensed their dogs and care for them like family members.

In other business:

The council voted to give two small pieces of property beside a drainage ditch in the Kamak subdivision to the owners of the adjoining property. The city hasn’t maintained the property and it isn’t big enough to use for anything, Mayor Mike Robertson told the council.

A city-owned, two-acre pond that has been trouble for Kamak residents since it was dug could eventually be divvied up among the residents who surround it. The pond has always leaked and flooded the surrounding yards. It has now been drained and the mayor said it is being filled with dirt. After the fill dirt has stabilized, the council should consider donating it to the residents, he said.

“It might take us a little while to take care of it, but we’re going to work on it until we get it done,” the mayor said.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring drug tests for city employees.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Air strategy saving lives

Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne Schatz is in his office at the headquarters of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he’s the commander, and he reaches for a dagger he’d brought back from Qatar a couple of years ago, when he was in charge of running airlifts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The dagger is a reward for a job well done back in the summer and fall of 2005, when Schatz helped devise a plan to phase out dangerous convoys on the ground and instead use cargo planes to deliver supplies and personnel, especially in Iraq, where trucks were blown up by roadside bombs almost every day.

“The chief of staff said we want to use our air assets to take as many trucks off the roads as we could,” Schatz recalled during an interview last week.

Schatz, who was deputy director of mobility forces based in Qatar, came up with a plan that virtually eliminated the convoys, substituting an armada of planes that the insurgents couldn’t easily attack.

The airlift has replaced more than 6,300 convoys in the last two years.

“We worked to maximize utilization of C-130s we had in theater,” Schatz explained. “We used to bring cargo to two locations, Baghdad and Balad. We expanded that to eight different airfields.”

In addition to the C130s, he said, “We worked to improve utilization of C-17s. We used commercial-type aircraft to fly supplies to Kuwait, Turkey and Kazakhstan. It was a more efficient, effective system.”

The airlift has been a huge undertaking. U.S. forces drop as many as 600 pallets a day and deliver some 300 passengers — soldiers, sailors, Marines and others — in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Schatz said.

“My job was to provide the best support for our troops, and help make Gen. Patreus successful,” the commander explained, referring to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Schatz knows how to move supplies and people, which is why his next assignment was at U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he oversaw all land and sea transport worldwide before taking on his assignment as commander at LRAFB.

He’s been here before as commander of the 50th Airlift Squadron, which was named tops in Air Mobility Command.
While commanding the squadron, he’d overseen several innovative programs, such as “building adverse-weather delivery capability — we were the first in the Air Force,” Schatz said.

That advanced delivery system allows the release of pallets from the air even when crews cannot see the ground below.
That capability comes handy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where planes want to get in and out of a hot spot as quickly as possible and stay high in the air to avoid enemy fire.

It’s not easy moving thousands of people and pallets around the globe, but Schatz can’t think of doing anything else.
He said he acquired his work ethic from his middle-class family in California, where he grew up, and studied hard and later graduated from the Air Force Academy with honors.

He’s also been a Kennedy Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

“I didn’t come from a wealthy family,” he says. “I’m a believer if you apply yourself and work hard, you will be rewarded.”
Schatz succeeded Brig. Gen. Kip Self as wing commander here in May.

Self now commands the Air Force Expeditionary Center, Fort Dix, N.J., and has been promoted to major general. (See story this page.) Schatz himself is being promoted to brigadier general, but he’s not one to brag about his accomplishments.
“I’m primarily a C-130 pilot,” he says modestly, crediting the people who serve with him for his success.

“You don’t get here by yourself,” he says. “You have mentors, people who give you great advice, great co-workers. I’ve had fantastic people who’ve worked for me and made me look good.”

(This is the last of a three-part series of articles about Col. Schatz.)

EDITORIALS>>America’s birthday

We have the vague sense, unsupported by research, that the Fourth of July is the American holiday that people still observe unashamedly for its original spirit and not for its commercial or political abstractions. This is the 231st birthday of our becoming an independent nation, one peculiarly dedicated to individual freedom.

Even the most crass and politicized fireworks demonstration evokes that eternal pride in the promises of freedom that were made in the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and then enumerated 15 years later in the Bill of Rights.
It is the promise and long-evolving guarantee of those unusual civil liberties — not democracy or capitalism or any of the other verities of western prosperity — that set us apart from the other nations of the earth in 1776 and still do in 2007. It is what makes the American celebration of national independence different from all others.

It is what moved Thomas Jefferson to have engraved on his tombstone not that he was the third president of the United States or the sponsor of the country’s great expansion, but that he was the author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty, which set out in more detail one of the central freedoms on which the country was founded.

Think what courage it took in 1776 to declare such freedom.

Jefferson’s signature was not appended to the end of the ringing denunciations of King George and the pronouncements of liberty that he wrote (he was miffed that the Continental Congress had “mutilated” his version), but his name had already settled on the British lists for treason two years earlier for writing and publishing the surly “Summary View of the Rights of British America,” in which he lectured the king: “Let not the name of George the third be a blot in the pages of history. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”

He proceeded to enumerate the ways in which the king was dishonest and violated the natural rights of people in America.
The popular slogan in America was that people were enslaved by the crown, but Jefferson and the Congress avoided the term in the Declaration of Independence for the vaguer word “tyranny,” aware that the British were fond of pointing to our hypocrisy when we invoked the natural law of individual freedom and complained about being “enslaved.”

Jefferson was already conflicted about the hypocrisy, having asked the Virginia assembly to allow him to free his own slaves and getting locked out for his trouble.

All those wrongs enumerated 231 years ago and the rights formulated into the Constitution 15 years later have been a long time actually getting fixed. After 231 years, we are still, little by little, for one and then another group of people, making the rights envisioned by Jefferson and the Continental Congress real. Slavery, racial segregation, male suffrage — they were not the last wrongs vanquished by the evolving perfection of natural law.

Every generation discovers anew the fruits of bigotry. The battle now is over discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the beautiful system of American justice will soon resolve that, too.

Were he alive today, Jefferson might be troubled by contemporary excursions from the rights he envisioned and that were enshrined in the Bill of Rights. President Bush would not get a good grade.

But the Declaration of Independence also complained that King George was obstructing the “Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners” and preventing people from coming to American shores and becoming citizens as was their right under the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”

On that score — who knows? — Jefferson might even compliment George W. Bush and Democratic senators (notably excepting Sen. Mark Pryor) for the immigration bill that perished last week.

But the men who meddled with Jefferson’s great screed and then signed it would no doubt agree that it has been a great run and would join the chorus, “Happy 231st.” And may there be many more and better.

TOP STORY >>New postal outlet

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams went to Washington in April, in part to ask for a post office on the west side of town.
What he has been offered instead is a contract postal unit (CPU) that would be located in an existing business and offer most of the services of a regular post office.

Karen Davis, the mayor’s director of operations, said Monday that the U.S. Postal Service has informed the mayor in a letter that due to “facility guidelines and space requirements” Cabot doesn’t qualify for a post office at this time.

But with such a cryptic explanation, Davis says she doesn’t know what the problem is and neither does the mayor. So she has written to Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, asking him to get more information.

“We want to know what we have to do to get it,” Davis said.

The current facility is frequently overcrowded and the parking lot is too small, she said.

The Postal Service is evaluating four area businesses as possible CPUs, she said. It is not known when one will be selected.
When the mayor was in Washington, he also spoke to Berry about a National Guard readiness center and money for a north interchange, two other large projects that he would like to see started while he is mayor.

Cabot is almost certain to get the $8 million readiness center if the city can provide the land, he told a group of AARP members last week. And Berry has promised $1 million for preliminary work on the north interchange.

TOP STORY >>Group looks into mailings

Leader staff writer

A national watchdog group is looking into possible campaign violations by Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church and other churches in Sherwood.

Cornerstone is among at least eight churches that have apparently mailed out postcards asking church members to support Bill Harmon’s campaign for mayor, and that support may be a violation of election laws and could put the churches’ nonprofit status in jeopardy.

Robert Boston, the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, said, “The key is if any church resources were used. If so, the church could lose its tax-exempt status.
“Did the church turn over its membership list to the campaign, or is this the action of a rogue member? That’s what needs to be determined,” Boston said.

“Most members have a church directory, and some could use them for nefarious purposes without the church knowing,” Boston added.

The Harmon campaign, using a membership mailing list provided by someone at Cornerstone, mailed a postcard to church members telling members that they should vote for Harmon. The postcard was signed by Scott Cromer, who is listed as an elder with the church.

A deacon with First Baptist Church has also signed similar postcards.

Early voting is currently ongoing in the special election to replace Mayor Dan Stedman, who resigned in April, citing health reasons. Harmon, the former mayor, has been serving as interim mayor.

The election is Tuesday, July 10 at eight polling sites across the city. Early voting can be done at the Jack Evans Senior Center or the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. More than 300 people have already cast their ballots.

Mayoral candidate Doris Anderson called the postcard mailings a direct violation of the law. “Churches are for praying, healing and religion. I don’t want my church telling me what my politics should be and who I should vote for. Do you?
“And what is a church doing giving out or selling its membership list to a third party?” Anderson wanted to know. “It would be a breach of my privacy if my church gave out my information,” she said.

All the cards signed by Cromer were mailed by the “Bill Harmon Campaign Committee, 7901 Hwy. 107.”

Anderson filed a complaint with the state board of election commissioners Monday and asked for special-election monitors to be posted at all Sherwood election sites since Cornerstone and most of the other churches involved are also polling sites.
“At the time I talked to the board, I knew of two churches, but now there appears to be at least eight churches,” she said.
The election board reviewed her request for certified-election monitors and said they were not necessary.

Ruth Baines, the board’s deputy director, wrote in a letter to Anderson, “Unless you can substantiate your allegation that poll workers have become compromised, no apparent violation of any election law under the investigative jurisdiction of the state board has occurred. There is no prohibition against poll workers supporting candidates so long as no electioneering occurs while serving in their official capacity as a poll worker. Therefore, it has been determined that the appointment of monitors is unnecessary at this time.

“As a candidate on the ballot, you are entitled to one authorized representative at each polling location during the election, including early voting to observe the election process,” Raines wrote.

According to state law, no candidate can campaign, in any shape or manner, within 100 feet of a polling site, and no campaign material can be posted inside the polling site.

Mike Haigh, a pastor with Cornerstone, said Tuesday that the church had no knowledge about the postcards.
“We don’t get involved with political issues. We may take a Biblical stance on an issue, but not a political one,” he said. “We certainly have not become involved in the mayor’s race.”

Haigh also said that Cromer recently gave up his elder status with the church.

The postcards signed by Cromer say, “Bill and Marvelle Harmon are strong Christians who raised their four children in Sherwood.”

The implication is that the other candidates are not strong Christians.

Anderson’s husband, Mike, is licensed to preach in the United Methodist ministry.

“We have six children and many of them are of different faiths, so we share our church time with them,” Doris Anderson said.
City Clerk Virginia Hillman, also running for mayor, said she is definitely a Christian and that she, her husband and daughter “are actively involved in the church.”

Candidate Victor Sierra said that he was also an active churchgoer and has been attending Central Baptist Church. “I don’t know if these postcards are illegal, but I don’t think it’s right to have churches involved like this,” he said.

Richard Devine, another candidate, said that he, too, was a Christian and attended church. “But is this really relevant?” he asked.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations—that includes many churches—are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

The IRS code says that violations could result in the loss of the organization’s tax-exempt status.

Intervention, according to the IRS, includes “distributing statements prepared by others that favor or oppose any candidate for public office.”

Susan Inman, head of the Pulaski County Election Commission, said her organization doesn’t have the authority to act on complaints like this, and said any action would have to be taken by the state board of elections or the ethics commission.
The postcard from Cornerstone also tells church members that Harmon was helpful in resolving a zoning problem the church had.

“Mayor Harmon worked with the church and the city council to resolve that issue in our favor. Now Mayor Harmon needs your help and support, and we would greatly appreciate you making the effort to get out and vote for him,” Cromer wrote.
The IRS says, to avoid possible conflicts with the campaign law, “organization leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization.”

But when Cromer addressed the signed postcards to “Dear Fellow CBF Member,” the implication was that the mailing was a church-sponsored event.

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills into state

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills 15-year old Junior Babe Ruth team earned a spot in the state tournament by taking the runner-up trophy in district over the weekend in Cabot. Sylvan Hills lost twice to Maumelle in the event to take second place, and will play in the state tournament at El Dorado that begins July 13.

Sylvan Hills competed well with Maumelle in both encounters of the seventh inning. They trailed 4-1 in their first meeting when a 90-minute rain delay halted the game in the sixth. When the two teams returned, Maumelle scored 10 runs in the top of the seventh to set the final margin. In the championship game, the two teams scored two runs apiece in the first inning and stayed tied until Maumelle added two more in the fourth. The score remained 4-2 until the seventh, when Maumelle again piled on five runs to take the championship 9-2.

“We hit the ball all up and down the lineup until we played Maumelle,” Sylvan Hills coach Walt Delt said. “Their pitcher was throwing 3-2 curve balls for strikes, which is cruel at this level. He’s a good one.”

Delt’s All-Star team got some good pitching in the tournament as well. Greg Atchison threw six innings on Sunday and gave up just two earned runs while striking out eight Maumelle batters.

“He did an outstanding job for us,” Delt said. “He’s not our No. 1 starter and he did a great job of keeping a really good-hitting team off balance.”

Atchison was on the receiving end of pitches in the team’s two wins. Sylvan Hills beat Jacksonville 11-7 in the opening round, and toppled Lakewood 15-4 later in the tournament. Cameron Graves was on the mound to get the wins in both of those games.

“Cameron had a fantastic tournament,” Delt said.

Atchison also led the team offensively, collecting eight base hits in the tournament. Jonathan Delt reached six times on base hits, including a three-hit effort in the win over Lakewood.

Delt also singled out shortstop Cory Arnold and utility player Michael Lock for their offensive performances in the tournament.

“We had a lot of guys get a lot of base hits for us,” Delt said. “We just couldn’t produce like we needed against Maumelle.”
Sylvan Hills’ opponent isn’t yet certain, but it will open the state tournament at 11 a.m. Friday, July 13 in El Dorado

SPORTS>>Cabot AAA splits two at Blytheville

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s Class AAA American Legion team had very mixed results during a two-game stand at Blytheville on Saturday. Post 71 dropped the first game of the twin-bill in five innings during a miserable 13-0 performance, but recovered nicely to take the nightcap 6-2 without the benefit of head coach Andy Runyan’s input during the final three innings.

There was little for Cabot fans to write home about in the opener, in which Post 71 sent 11 Blytheville batters to the bag by either walks or hit-by-pitches. Cabot itself only ended up with four runners on base the entire contest off two hits and two walks.

The defensive performance overall left a little to be desired, as two Cabot errors helped an already-hot Blytheville team extend their already large lead into run-rule status by the end of the fifth inning.

The second game was much more closely contested, and definitely more heated.

“I got tossed in the fourth inning,” Runyan told the Leader. “I had what you could call a disagreement with the umpire over a strikeout. (Justin) Haas had a 3-1 count, and they called strike two on a marginal pitch. When he got called on the K, I debated the second strike with the umpire. Our assistant coach Chris Gross took the reigns from there and did a great job getting the win for us.”

Cabot’s first run would arrive in the second inning when Jeremy Wilson tripled to bring in Jackson Chism. Three more runs came one inning later in the third, when Ben Wainwright, Chism and Sean Clarkson all came away with RBIs to increase the lead to 4-1.

Despite leading most of the way in game two, Post 71 took the proper precautions to assure themselves the win with a pair of insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning. The two scores were almost gimmies by Blytheville, as Haas and Chad Bryant both received walks to reach base, and both runners would come in for their respective scores during passed balls at the plate.

Clarkson took the win at the mound for Cabot. Clarkson went the distance, giving up two runs while striking out four batters.
The split moved Cabot’s record to 8-9 on the season. Cabot was scheduled to host Searcy Monday night. With the number of strong teams remaining on the schedule, and Post 71’s already improved 2-1 zone record this season over last year’s winless effort, Runyan says his team is looking better by the day for the upcoming zone tournaments.

“We have definitely made progress in the last 12 months,” Runyan said. “We didn’t have a single zone win this time last year; we went 0-5. I feel a lot better about things this year for sure. We have a lot of good teams still left to play. Hopefully that will have us ready to play once tournament time rolls around.”

SPORTS>>Title bid ends for Bruins in

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills bounced back from a loss to Benton during the first day of pool play to win its next two games of the Fourth of July Classic American Legion baseball tournament at Dupree Park in Jacksonville over the weekend. The Bruins shut out Dunklin Co., Missouri, Saturday morning to set up a battle with familiar foe and host team Jacksonville for the pool A runner-up slot. Sylvan Hills would take the win over the Chevy boys 10-4.

The teams were familiar, but the locale was slightly different, as the two teams took to Shireman Field at Dupree Park instead of the usual Hickingbotham Field. Shireman Field, better known to locals as the North Pulaski field, was used for the Gwatney/SH showdown while the Chevy boys’ normal home field was in use by Sheridan and Paragould.

Besides battling each other, the two teams also faced a strong threat from Mother Nature during the Saturday afternoon contest. Most of the first five innings were played during a steady drizzle, with one solid outburst in the fourth inning that ended just quickly enough to avoid what seemed to be an unavoidable rain delay.

The wet stuff subsided, and the Bruins proceeded to send the tourney’s host packing after a strong opening day on Friday.
The first three innings were fairly uneventful, but once Sylvan Hills got going in the top of the fourth inning, they would steadily increase their advantage over Gwatney during the final half of the contest.

UALR signee Ross Bogard got things going for the Bruins in the fourth when he received a walk from starting Gwatney pitcher Jordan Payer to lead off the frame. Jarrett Boles followed that with a single grounder down the third base line. A single to shortstop by Grant Garlington loaded the bases for Sylvan Hills, followed by the first RBI of the game by Ryan Wood. Wood’s single down the left side scored Bogard and Boles, giving the Bruins the early advantage, 2-0.

Gwatney answered those two scores on the bottom side of the fourth. The Chevy boys scored their first run on a single by Caleb Mitchell, and Mitchell’s courtesy runner crossed the plate one batter later on an error during Seth Tomboli’s charge to first base after an infield hit.

That would tie the score at 2-2, but the game would not stay that way for long. The Bruins came back in the top of the fifth to regain control. Henderson State bound Taylor Roark led off the inning with a single grounder to left field, and advanced on two straight walks by Payer for Nathan Eller and Bogard. Roark then tagged up on a pop-up by Garlington to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.

That would lead up to the biggest hit of the game for Sylvan Hills. Wood stepped up to the plate with one out and two one, and proceeded to blast Payer’s offering over the left field wall to take the game from closely contested to a healthy 6-2 lead for Sylvan Hills.

Wood’s homer did more than just give the Bruins a cushion; it also proceeded to take the wind out of what had up to that point been a spirited and competitive Jacksonville team. The Chevy Boys played hard up until the home run, but just appeared to be going through the motions from the bottom of the fifth on.

Casey Winstead relieved Payer at the mound to close out the fifth, but one more Bruins run managed to slip through before the end of the frame. Future ASU Indian Tony Pavan doubled right before Payer’s exit, and was driven in for the score off a single by Eller on Winstead’s first batter faced.

Sylvan Hills pitcher Joe Gardener gave up one hit in the bottom of the fifth to Blake Mattison on a hopper to left center, but Mattison and walk recipient Adam Ussery were left on the bag when the next three batters flew out.

The Bruins started the sixth inning out threatening once again, landing their first two batters of the frame on base with singles off of Winstead, but the Gwatney defense caught one of the few breaks in the late going, retiring the next three batters to thwart the runaway.

Little insurance was needed for the Bruins in the seventh inning, but they took it anyway. It wasn’t so much that their hitting was the best of the game, but four Gwatney errors in the top of the seventh kept the turn going much longer than either team intended.

Garlington led off the inning for Sylvan Hills by taking advantage of an error up the middle to reach, and scored on a fielder’s choice by Wood. Pavan was the next error recipient on a simple hit up the middle, and moved to second on a walk for Eller.
Both runners moved to third and second when balking was called on Winstead, and a big error at first for an attempted out against Chris Eastham scored both runners to give the Bruins a 10-2 lead.

Gwatney was able to do some level of damage control during their final chance in the bottom of the seventh inning. Gardener took the win for Sylvan Hills, but not after giving up a double to Mitchell that scored Eric Berry and Clayton Fenton to set the final score at 10-4.

Jacksonville looked like they would be a serious threat during Friday’s opener against Benton. Despite having a number of players absent due to work obligations during the early afternoon contest, the Chevy boys enjoyed one of their strongest defensive performances of the season backed by a two-hitter performance at the mound by Seth Tomboli.

They were not able to keep the momentum going for a Saturday morning game against Dunklin County, as the visitors from Missouri downed Jacksonville 15-5. The loss to Sylvan Hills would be the end of pool play for Gwatney, and consequentially the end of their stint in the tourney altogether.

The Bruins’ journey through the Classic was quite the opposite. Sylvan Hills’ defense struggled tremendously during a 13-11 loss to Benton during the opening game Thursday night, but bounced back to down Dunklin Friday afternoon in a 3-0 shutout. The win over Jacksonville on Saturday earned Sylvan Hills the runner-up out of Pool A, sending them into Sunday’s semifinals in a game against Paragould, who breezed though pool play undefeated with wins over North Little Rock, Sheridan and Little Rock Blue.

Benton was the first team to make it into the final game scheduled for Sunday evening.

Sylvan Hills held strong against Paragould, playing them to a 4-4 tie through four innings. Mother Nature would intervene, however, as a strong downpour would render Hickingbotham field useless, and Paragould would take the tournament title with their undefeated record during pool-bracket play.

In other Saturday games, Little Rock Blue defeated North Little Rock 3-2, Benton beat Dunklin County 11-5 and Paragould downed Sheridan 9-1.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

SPORTS >>Gwatney takes win in opener

IN SHORT: Jacksonville took a decisive win over Benton’s McClendon’s Appliance team.

Leader sportswriter

Even though four of their starters were not present, Gwatney Chevrolet took a huge win over Benton Friday afternoon in the opening round of their own Fourth of July Classic at Dupree Park, 4-1.

Starting pitcher Seth Tomboli did his part and then some in the contest, going all seven innings with only two hits allowed, along with four walks and ten strikeouts. For Tomboli, it was simply par for the course during a strong summer in which the Jacksonville High School junior has thrown a pair of one hitters earlier this month in both Class A and AAA, along with a relief performance last week at Sheridan where he struck out eight of the nine batters he faced.

“Today was great,” Tomboli said after the game. “We had four or five guys that were not here, so we had to try out some guys that had never been in some of those positions. I’ve had a few bad games this summer, but my teammates usually pull me out of it when things go wrong.”

Gwatney led the whole way, but a run by Zach Thomas off an error on a hit by Tomboli in the top of the seventh inning set the final score at 4-1, and proved to be more than enough insurance for Jacksonville.

Jacksonville had the rare opportunity to be the visitors at Dupree in the tournament format, leading off the game with a pair of runs. Blake Mattison led off for Gwatney hitting into a 5-3, but following batters Jason Regnas and Caleb Mitchell both took free trips to the bag on walks.

This set up the first score of the game. Thomas batted 1.000 for the game, including his first of four hits in the top of the first that scored Regnas for a 1-0 Jacksonville lead.

Tomboli followed that with a single into right field that brought home Mitchell. Eric Berry suffered a K on his first at-bat, and Daniel Henard popped one into right for the final out.

Tomboli showed his hand early on in the contest. Tyler Keene led off for Benton with a fly-out to center before Greg Noble received one of four walks allowed by Tomboli in the game. The Gwatney hurler recovered to strike out the next two batters, retiring the side with one runner left on.

Gwatney struck again in the second inning with a walk for Adam Ussery to start the inning, and a single for Terrell Brown to score Ussery for a 3-0 Jacksonville lead.

Although Benton has played rather sloppily during their first two games of the Fourth of July Classic defensively, its ability to turn the double play Friday was somewhat surprising.

Mattison’s second smack would be proof of that, as McClendon’s Appliance defense got a rare U4-3 double play to catch both Brown and Mattison for the first two outs of the second inning.

Regnas doubled after the turn-two, but an infield roller to second base would end Gwatney’s turn.

Tomboli’s weakest point in the game happened during the second and third innings. He walked the first two batters in the second inning before settling down with two strikeouts and a forced pop-up. The third inning started out shaky as well, with a fielding error at third allowing the only Benton score of the game on at first.

Keene was the runner at second when Matt Sample hit a blooper into shallow center. That would score Keene and put another runner at third, but another strikeout and pop-up to shortstop would slow Benton’s efforts.

Unbeknownst to Benton at the time, it would be their last opportunity to even put a man on for the better part of three innings. Stuart Snell led off for Benton in the bottom of the fourth inning, hitting to third for the first out. Tomboli then went on strikeout frenzy, retiring the next six batters with Ks.

He struck out the final two batters in the fourth inning, and backed that up with a three-up-three-down performance in the fifth. Another strikeout against Matt Sample to lead off the sixth would end the streak, as Austin Johnson then got the second and final hit of the game for Benton.

Johnson sent the ball into the far corner of left field on a hit that was close to going foul, but stayed in just enough to tarnish Tomboli’s good effort a little more. It would not turn out to be a factor in the game, however, as the infield worked Snell for the third out.

Another Gwatney run would score due to a Benton error in the top of the seventh. Thomas singled after an out from Mitchell, and Tomboli hit what appeared to be the second out of the inning, until Benton shortstop Seth Hobbs’ throw to first ended up about five feet too high. This would allow Thomas in for the score, setting the final margin at 4-1.

Benton was left with a lot of work to do and not much time to do it in the bottom of the seventh inning, but didn’t get any of it done. The Gwatney defense held strong until the very end, sending Benton out in order to secure the game.

Thomas led Jacksonville offensively, going 4 for 4 with two RBIs. Regnas was 1 for 2 with an RBI, and Brown was 1 for 3 with an RBI.

Tomboli took the win with two hits, four walks and 10 strikeouts. Jacksonville will play two games today beginning at 11:30 a.m. against Dunklin Co., Missouri.

SPORTS >>LR Red pounds out 18 at Dupree

IN SHORT: Continental Express trucked their way to a big win over Gwatney Chevrolet Tuesday.

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville bats sounded off for a couple of innings Tuesday night at Dupree Park against Little Rock-Continental Express. The trouble for Jacksonville is that Continental’s bats never shut up. The result was a three-hour, 18-10 marathon that dropped Gwatney’s record to 4-12 on the season.

LRCE, also known as Little Rock Red, scored seven runs in the top of the first inning to take a lead it would almost, but never relinquish.

Red’s leadoff and nine-hole hitters got home runs in the opening inning. Leadoff hitter Blake Frazier sent the game’s second pitch bouncing off the top of the wall in centerfield for a solo homer. Nine-hole batter Russell Goss put one in the street behind right field for two RBIs that capped the half-inning’s scoring.

Jacksonville answered with four runs in the bottom of the same frame. Leadoff singles by Blake Mattison and Jason Regnas put two runners on. Cameron Hood loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch. A passed ball scored Mattison from third, but cost Zach Thomas a grand slam. Thomas sent the next pitch out over the left field wall to make it 7-4 before the next three batters went down in order.

An RBI single by Luke Osborne scored Matt DeSalvo, who was hit by a pitch to make it 8-4, and Jacksonville cut the margin to one run on its next at bat.

Ricky Tomboli singled to lead off the second inning and Adam Ussery walked. Mattison’s ground ball advanced the runners and Regnas’ sac grounder scored Tomboli. Hood then walked with two outs and Thomas singled to score Ussery and drive in his fourth run of the game. Eric Berry then doubled into the gap in right-centerfield to score Hood and cut Little Rock’s lead to 8-7.

Jacksonville’s defense broke down a bit in the top of the third. Three base hits, three walks and two errors gave LRCE an 11-7 lead, but Jacksonville got it back to a one-run game in the bottom of the third.

They did so with two outs and without a base hit. Three walks and two Little Rock errors plated the runs after a groundout and strikeout started the inning. Ussery and Mattison drew walks and Regnas loaded the bases when he reached on an error at first base. Hood walked to drive in the first run. An error on a high, shallow pop up in left field off Thomas’ bat allowed Mattison and Regnas to score to make it 11-10.

The two teams put a temporary end to the run festival with a pitching change. Little Rock’s Clay Washington gave up just one hit the rest of the game, an infield single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jacksonville’s Eric Berry shut Red’s bats down for three innings, but ran into some trouble in the seventh.

Little Rock got one run in the fourth off a walk, two sacrifice fly balls and a wild pitch, but Berry gave up just one base hit in his three-plus innings of work.

Two infield errors put two runners on to start the top of the final frame and jump-started another big rally. Berry walked the next two batters before being pulled with the bases loaded. Blake Frazier then got his second home run of the game, only this one didn’t just barely get out, and it wasn’t a solo shot. Frazier’s second home run was a grand slam that landed in the softball fields behind right field.

It wasn’t quite over. Little Rock got its fourth home run two batters later when Washington sent one out to left field to set the final margin.

Jacksonville began play in the Gwatney Chevrolet Fourth of July Classic yesterday at Dupree Park. They will play twice today, starting with Dunklin County Missouri at 11:30 a.m., and ending against Sylvan Hills at 4 p.m.

SPORTS >>Bruins fall in slugout

IN SHORT: The Sylvan Hills AAA team dropped its first-round matchup in the Fourth of July Classic at Dupree.

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills kicked off the Fourth of July Classic at Dupree Park in Jacksonville against Benton McClendon’s Appliance Thursday evening, losing 13-11 in a game that can only be described as a slugfest.

The lead swapped hands five times in the seven-inning affair. The Bruins recovered from a grand-slam home run by Benton’s Nick Shoptaw in the bottom of the first inning to retake the lead in the top of the third inning.

Sylvan Hills stretched their lead to as much a five runs in the third, but Benton fought back to tie the game up at 9-9 heading into the fourth inning.

A two-run lead by the Bruins heading into the bottom of the sixth would not be enough. Benton answered with four runs during their turn in the sixth to take the lead for the final time.

The defensive sloppiness in the game would be apparent from the very start, with starting Benton pitcher Nathan Piel walking two out of the first three SH batters, and giving up a single to two-hole hitter Matt Rugger. Rugger would eventually be tagged out at third, but base-on-balls recipients Taylor Roark and Grant Garlington made it in off of hits by Jarrett Boles and Ryan Woods to give the Bruins an early 2-0 lead.

The lead was very short lived. The first three Benton batters reached with singles against SH starter Pavan to load the bases before cleanup hitter Shoptaw’s shot over the wall scored all of them.

The Bruins got one of those runs back in the second inning with a single from Garlington that scored Roark, who reached on a double. Garlington would be the tying run, but Joe Gardener hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the turn.
Pavan sent Benton three up and three down in the bottom of the second. It would be only one of two times in the game when such a defensive feat was accomplished.

The top of the third inning would be the Bruins’ strongest effort of the game. Trailing 4-3 to start their turn, Sylvan Hills went through the entire lineup for six runs in the frame.

Boles led off with a single, followed by a fielder’s-choice smack by Woods that landed Boles out at second. Nathan Eller advanced Woods with a single into left field for two on.

That set up one of the oddest plays witnessed all summer. With two on, Shane Graham stepped up to the plate, and was struck out. However, the ball got away from McClendon’s catcher Austin Johnson on the final pitch, and Graham scrambled to first.

The throw to first by Johnson tagged Graham in the shoulder, and bounced out of play behind the Benton dugout. This would score Woods to tie the game at 4-4.

Roark then walked to load the bases with one out, and Rugger sent in all three runners with a double into centerfield. Eller and Graham made it in with ease, but the throw to the plate from the outfield by Benton centerfielder Noble was strong, and Roark had to thwart the play at home with a slide in for the score.

Garlington followed that with the first of two SH home runs, sending in Rugger with a shot that not only cleared the fence, but also the Hickingbotham Field scoreboard that sits a good 15 feet over the wall.

Just as before, Benton did not allow the Bruins to hold on to the lead for very long, rallying in the bottom of the third to tie. Pavan was retired to centerfield during the inning in an even swap for Graham. Pavan gave up one run in the frame, and Graham gave up the other four on two hits and an error.

With the score tied at 9-9, the Bruins entered the top of the fourth inning determined to re- take control of the game.
They didn’t accomplish taking control, but did manage a run from Pavan off a hit by Chris Eastham to give them a 10-9 lead.
The Bruins appeared to have their defensive struggles under control in the bottom of the fourth. SH shortstop Rugger made a couple of great plays up the middle for two of the outs, with a strikeout by Graham in between.

Sylvan Hills loaded the bases again in the top of the fifth, but Benton was able to prevent a score.
Benton put two on in the bottom side, but two straight pop ups to second baseman Woods left the score at 10-9 heading into the sixth inning.
Seth Hobbs took to the mound for Benton in the top of the sixth to relieve starter Stuart Snell, but Hobbs would start out on very shaky ground.
Woods sent his very first offering over the left field wall for the second Sylvan Hills’ home run of the contest to increase the Bruins’ lead to 11-9.

Hobbs recovered to strikeout the last two Bruins batters to minimize the damage done from the bat of Woods.

Whatever consistency the Bruins defense found in the fifth was no longer with them in the bottom of the sixth inning. Graham looked reasonably strong on the mound for three innings considering the game’s tone, but his stamina faded quickly in the opening moments of the bottom half of the sixth inning.

Leadoff Tyler Keene doubled, and advanced when a strikeout on Greg Noble turned into a free trip to first courtesy of a passed ball. A walk for Shoptaw loaded the bases, and the first run would score when Graham hit Matt Sample with a pitch.

It would be Graham’s final offering, as Eastham was brought in to close out the game. Cash Taylor welcomed Eastham to the mound with a smack into right field that scored two runs, giving Benton their first lead of the game since the third inning.

McClendon added one more run before the end of their turn, leaving Sylvan Hills with one more chance to keep the highlight show going.

They put the tying run in position when Rugger singled and Gardner reached on an error, but Benton got the first out with a strikeout on Garlington, and turned another double play, this time a 1-4-3 on an infield hit by Ross Bogard to escape with the win.

Sylvan Hills will have two more chances to capture a win during this year’s edition of the annual Fourth of July Classic. They played yesterday against Dunklin County, and will take on host team Gwatney Chevrolet at 4 p.m. today.

EDITORIALS>>Don't rush 'burger tax'

People supposedly don’t notice the tax they pay when they go to a restaurant, which is one of the reasons a Jacksonville alderman is pushing to add a two-cent levy to prepared foods—and that adage may be correct.

The city is considering spending upwards of half-a-million dollars to bring in more tourists. But it will take an awful lot of visitors to recover that kind of an investment, so city fathers should examine the proposal very carefully before they act on it.

Jacksonville’s advertising and promotion commission, which often meets without notifying the media, in violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act, is now on a charm offensive and wants the city to approve the two-cent tax—and no vote of the people is necessary—to generate every year about $275,000 for promotion and marketing of the city, and about another $163,000 to the parks and recreation department. The commission has slated $20,000 to increase promotion for the Fourth of July patriotic spectacular and allow for a bigger fireworks show.

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield group will get $12,000 to buy Civil War displays and make other improvements to the site to bring in tourists.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History will receive $22,000 of the new money to help get the necessary permission to display static aircraft and to help toward the purchase of an aircraft, while just $10,000 would go to the city’s annual Wing Ding festival.

The liberty show, museum and Civil War site already get a portion of the $88,000 the advertising and promotion commission is collecting through a hotel tax.

The commission will also set aside $30,000 of the tax for projects, requests and ideas that come up during the year that are not already budgeted.

Another $18,000 will be used to help pay for the staff to coordinate and collect the tax data, staff training and educating businesses and the public on what types of items are taxable.

The supporters of these projects, however worthwhile, could find private funds to promote the museum, battlefield and patriotic spectacular. Jacksonville has more pressing needs right now: It should spend money to erase urban blight, build better roads, replace crumbling schools, fill empty storefronts, not to mention work on raising its stagnant population count, which has hardly budged in 20 years.

The board of directors of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has asked the city council to weigh all options before approving a hamburger tax. A full hearing next Thursday evening should bring out a large crowd at city hall. Let your views be heard.

EDITORIALS>>Release all emails now

Here’s a surprise: The Arkansas Supreme Court has temporarily put on hold a lower court decision ordering Pulaski County to release potentially embarrassing emails from a former employee accused of stealing public funds and romancing a woman who works for a vendor that does business with the county.

Before issuing a ruling, the justices want more details about the case, especially how the state’s Freedom of Information Act might or might not include private emails to and from county employees using public computers.

Pulaski Circuit Judge Mary Ann McGowan had it right when she first ruled on this case last week: She said the freedom of information law means what it says about letting the public see public records and that it applies to the county government.

It didn’t take Judge McGowan long to rule that the county did not have a leg to stand on when it refused to allow access to the emails of the county comptroller that were written while he was sitting at his government desk working on his government computer and the taxpayers were paying him.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette had sued to get access to the emails after the former comptroller was arrested and charged with fraud in the misuse of county funds.

A few, or many, of the emails seemed to be correspondence with a woman with whom Ron Quillin, the former comptroller and director of administrative services for the county, was doing business. The two apparently had become lovers as well while they were doing the taxpayers’ business, and the email exchanges had gotten steamy. The county attorney said some were too graphic and too personal for a reporter to see. It turns out that Quillin also was trying to get the county attorney a state government job.

The Freedom of Information Act does not exempt material of a sexual nature from public access. We have had occasion in our suburban community, notably in Lonoke, to see how sex and the conduct of the public’s business can collide.

County Judge F. G. “Buddy” Villines ought to order the release of every shred of record connected with Quillin’s work instead of filing appeals of a ruling that he has little chance of overturning when the high court weighs all the facts.

Villines will not budge till the Supreme Court tells him to release all the emails. Here’s hoping the justices act quickly and side with the public’s right to know what goes on behind closed doors in public buildings.

OBITUARIES >> 06-30-07

Thomas Miller
Thomas Wesley Miller, 87, of Beebe went to be with the Lord June 27. He was born July 8, 1919.

He was a veteran of the Second World War, where he earned two Bronze Stars. He was the director of Arkansas Veterans Affairs office in Little Rock for more than 10 years and was instrumental in establishing the Arkansas Veterans Home there.

He was also a volunteer at the VA Hospital for more than 20 years. He was an insurance and real estate agent at Jonesboro for over 25 years.

He was the state director of the 55 Alive driving program for senior adults. He was a member of the Scottish Rite since 1951, a 32nd Degree Mason, a member of American Legion for 60 years and served as state commander and was an officer in the UCT.

An active deacon in First Baptist Churches at Jonesboro, Hot Springs and Pulaski Heights Baptist at Little Rock, Tom was always faithful in bringing his family to church.

He was a member of Calvary Baptist at Little Rock, but recently, he attended First Baptist Church at Beebe with his son and daughter-in-law.

He loved being a greeter at church, loved gospel music, Sunday school and worship. He enjoyed helping other people and spent years at Lake Hamilton where he liked to cut firewood and give it away to friends and family.
He spent many days at Hot Springs, distributing food to needy people. He had a heart for service to others throughout his life.

The love of his life was his wife, Betty Anne, who passed away in November 1997, after 57 years of marriage. They enjoyed traveling together and had made trips to Russia, Europe, Israel and South America.

Nine brothers and sisters also preceded him in death.

He is survived by two sons, Tom B. Miller and his wife Debbie of Beebe and Wesley Miller and his wife Esperanza Palacio of Sebastopol, Calif.; five grandchildren, Faran Hearyman and her husband Marty, Liann Loftin and her husband Toby, twins Benjamin G. Penn and Veronica J. Penn, and Suzanna M. Bailis; three great-grandchildren, Zoe, Lily and Ellie; a sister, Margaret Womack of Jonesboro, and a brother, John E. Miller of Melbourne.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 1 at Westbrook Funeral Home, in Beebe. Funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Monday, July 2 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial at 4:30 p.m. in Gray Cemetery in Sage.

Valrie Johnson
Valrie M. Johnson, 90, of Beebe, having led a long and wonderful life, has gone to rejoice her homecoming with her beloved family on June 27. She was born February 22, 1917, at El Paso. She was the daughter of Duncan D. and Linnie B. Blasingame Manning.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, James M. Johnson; four sisters, Eura, Florance, Lillie and Bonnie, and one brother, Harvey.

She is survived by three children, Martha Fagan and husband Bill of Beebe, Mary Wilson and husband Don of Austin, and James Johnson and wife Debbie of Heavener, Okla.; four grandsons, Tony and Mark Fagan, Donald and Justin Wilson, and granddaughter, Heather Trowbridge; six great-grandchildren, C.J. and Caleb Fagan, Winter Fagan, Jacob, Joshua, and Abigail Trowbridge; plus many nieces and nephews.

Thanks to Hospice for the tender care and wonderful support. A special thank you to caregivers, Barbara Cassio and Michelle Fagan.

Family received friends on Thursday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe. The funeral was Friday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Rest Hills Memorial Park, Sherwood.

Memorials may be made to Baptist Health Hospice, 11900 Colonel Glenn Road, Suite 2000, Little Rock, Ark. 72210.

Bobby G. Miller
Bobby Gene Miller, 77, of Lonoke went to be with the Lord June 27. He was a member of Steel Bridge Baptist Church.

He was an Army veteran and a 50-year member of American Legion.

He was former owner of Lonoke Western Auto and was a member of Rolling Hills Country Club for many years.

He served on the board of the country club and president for two terms, and was an avid golfer.

He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers and two sisters.

Survivors include his wife, Jewell Houser Miller; a son, Todd and his wife Missy Miller of Lonoke; a brother, James Miller of Sherwood; a sister, Ann Mixon of Euless, Texas, and many other relatives and friends.

Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 30 at Lonoke Cemetery by Boyd Funeral Home of Lonoke.

Mattie Larkin
Mattie Irene Larkin, 90, of Jacksonville passed away June 27 in her home.

She was born Aug. 28, 1916 in Florence, Ala., to the late James and Mattie Austin Malone.  

She was a homemaker and a member of the Eastern Star.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Melvin Larkin; a daughter, Joanetta Nichols; three brothers, Frank, James, and Tom Malone; and a sister, Florence Combs.   

Survivors include three grandchildren, Kimala J. Forrest of Jacksonville, Rochone R. and wife Cathy Nichols of Arlington, Texas, Carletta I. Wilson and husband Jerry of Jacksonville, seven great-grandchildren; Aramy Forrest, Qualenta Forrest, Cortessa Wilson, Jerica Wilson, Jeremy Wilson, Ashley Nichols, and Adreanna Nichols; one great-great-grandchild, Areiya Goodman-Forrest; sister, Lillian Lyles of Jacksonville; brother, Billy Malone of Jacksonville, Fla., and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 30 at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville.  Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

Matthew Spradlin
Matthew Aaron Spradlin, 20, of Beebe went to be with the Lord June 27.  

He was born Aug. 26, 1986 at Searcy to David and Tonia Spradlin.

He was a 2005 honor graduate of Beebe High School.  He attended ASU and graduated with an associates degree in May with plans to attend UALR in the fall.  

He was a member of Stoney Point United Methodist Church.  

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Bob and Anna Caldwell of Floyd.

He is survived by his parents, David and Tonia; a sister, Laura Spradlin Bedwell and her husband, Michael Bedwell; his grandparents, Charles and Anna Spradlin of Beebe; and two nieces, Ashten and Chloe Bedwell of Vilonia, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

Family received friends June 29 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 30 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with burial in Stoney Point Cemetery.

Rickey Whitlock
Rickey Ray Whitlock, 46, of Beebe died June 27.

He worked in the oil field industry in Texas and also owned a detail shop at Beebe.

He was preceded in death by his father, Raymond Thomas Whitlock; a brother, Terry Lynn Whitlock; his grandparents, Raymond Max Whitlock and Charlie and Minnie James.

He is survived by a son, Ryan Whitlock of Cabot; a daughter, Cameron Jewett and her husband Randall and grandson, Landon of Sheridan; his mother, Martha Whitlock of Beebe; his grandmother, Flora Mae Whitlock of North Little Rock; three sisters, Denia Williams of Floyd, Ronda Vines of Cabot and Lyndi Whitlock of Beebe; special friends Vickie Sullivant of Grapevine and Steve and Arnold Richardson of North Little Rock and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 30 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with burial in New Floyd Cemetery.

Pauline Benton
Pauline G. Benton, 88, of Beebe died June 29. She was born Sept. 14, 1918, at McRae to the late Ernie and Emma Taylor Crisco.

Pauline’s joy in this world was attending church, her Home Extension Club activities, where she served as president, and quilting. She retired from Vickers Manufacturing in Searcy. She always gave of herself, always thinking of others first.

She was preceded in death by her beloved son, James Benton; brothers, Doyle and Jack Crisco; and sisters, Blanche Cook and Mary Alice Crisco, all of McRae.

She is survived by her husband of 71 years, Bernie Benton of Antioch; daughters, Marie Webb and husband Bill of White Buff, Texas, and Lynda Pickard of Ft. Smith; six grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; a brother, Emmett Crisco of McCrory, and a host of friends who loved her.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 30 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 1 at Antioch Church with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Beebe.

Riley Decker
Riley Sordis Decker, 74, of Cabot died June 26 at his home. He was born April 7, 1933 in Leachville to the late Cordis Elmer and Fannie Pauline Baker Decker.

He was preceded in death by a brother, Jerry Wayne Decker and two sisters, Mary Reeves and Ruby Harrell.

He is survived by two daughters, Linda Zigler of Cabot and Janice Bise of Jacksonville; five sons, Larry Decker and Terral Decker of Kentucky, Ronnie Decker of Austin, and Curtis Decker and Riley Decker, both of Heber Springs; three grandsons, Walter Decker of Kentucky, Chad Zigler of Cabot and Matthew Decker of Austin; three granddaughters, Stephanie Decker Madison of Kentucky, Christina Zigler of Cabot and Heather Decker of Austin; four great-grandsons, Adam Decker and William Decker of Kentucky, Dylan Jackson of Austin and Ian Gill of Austin; a great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Decker of Kentucky; three brothers, Gene Decker and Jim Decker of Michigan and Robin Decker of Manila; three sisters, Sue Lester of Manila, Lovie Woldring of Michigan and Brenda Bratton of Atkin; many nieces and nephews and lots of friends.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 30 at Moore’s Funeral Home in Jacksonville with Rev. Walter Decker officiating. Entombment will follow in Chapel Hill Mausoleum.

Jerry Thompson
Jerry Dean Thompson, 74, of Searcy died June 26 at Searcy. He was born Nov. 28, 1932, at Fairview.

He was a retired master electrician. He attended school at Fairview and graduated from Beebe High School where he played basketball. He was in the Air Force and was a Methodist.

Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, W. J. and Blanche Thompson; daughter, Kimberly Jackson and brothers, Billy J. and Harry Thompson.

Survivors include daughter, Monica and husband Reggie Neis of Belton, Texas; sons, Rodney and Bradley Thompson; sister, Sharron Clark of Lonoke; seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Cremation arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe. Memorials may be made to Hester Cemetery Fund, c/o Bill Hester, 1201 Commons Drive, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076.

EVENTS>>Summer 2007

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department and National Exercise Trainers Association will co-sponsor a personal trainers certification program next Saturday and Sunday at the Jacksonville Community Center.
Personal trainers are the fastest growing segment in the fitness industry. The two-day NETA certification includes 14 hours of lecture, demonstrations and hands-on applications. This extensive workshop is designed for people with some fitness experience. It includes exercise science refresher, health and fitness assessments, exercise programming for healthy adults, cardiovascular and strength-training equipment, dynamics of communication and leadership skills.
To register you can call 1-800-AEROBIC or online at www.netafit.com.  For more information, call Kristen Griggs, program service manager for the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation, at 982-4171.

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Teen Council is having a school uniform drive. The council will collect, care and distribute to those who need school uniforms. Donations accepted at Martin Street Youth Center, 201 Martin St. For more information, call 982-0818.

On Aug. 2, Cabot Public Schools will be conducting a training session at Cabot Middle School South for all interested and approved substitute teacher candidates. Last year the chamber donated several items for drawings during the day.
Contact Robert Martin at the Cabot District Administration Building if you can provide door prizes for drawings this year.
For more information, call Martin at 843-3363, Ext. 1018.

A seminar on starting a business in Arkansas is being cosponsored by Community Bank in conjunction with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Arkansas Small Business Development Center.
The seminar will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 10 at Community Bank in Cabot, 2171 W. Main St. The speaker will be a ASBDC Representative. To register call the ASBDC at (501) 683-7700 or online at www.asbdc.ualr.edu/training. The cost of the seminar will be $25.
This seminar prepares for the intensive business planning process, identifies major steps crucial to starting a business and so much more.

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Support of Searcy will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 10 at Simmons First Bank on Main Street in Searcy.
Tamara Jenkins, Office of Emergency Managagement and 911 coordinator for White County will speak. Anyone with a child or knows of anyone with developmental disabilities and is interested in the subject is invited to attend. The group is a chapter of the Arkansas Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, Inc.
For more information, contact Suzanne Modlin at 593-5399, James at 593-3534 or email to aaddsos@gmail.com.

Sherwood First Church of the Nazarene will have a free divorce care program at the church in August.
The first session will be held Aug. 7 and will meet each Tuesday at 7pm for 13 sessions.
Childcare will be provided. For more information or to register for the program, call 835-2072 or 607-1147.

Discovery Day Camp at Woolly Hollow State Park will introduce children ages 7-12 to the wonders of the natural world through camping, hiking, kayaking and crafting using principles of biology, ecology and conservation in two three-day sessions from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The first will be held July 10-12 for children ages 7-9; the second is July 17-19 for ages 10-12. Children will be carefully supervised by the park interpreter and park volunteers but parents are welcome as volunteers or for the one overnight stay on Thursday night of each session. The cost is $75 per child. Deadline to register for either session is Saturday, July 7. For more information or to register, call 501-679-2098 or email julie.lovett@arkansas.gov.

TOP STORY >>New voting machines for election

IN SHORT: Residents of Sherwood casting their ballots will see some changes.

Leader staff writer

Sherwood residents voting for mayor will notice a change in the voting machines and ballots.

Gone are the blue machines and ballots where arrows had to be connected. In their place are new gray machines and ballots that just need to be bubbled in.

“The Sherwood mayoral election will be the first time that we have used the new machines,” said Pam Walker, voting equipment specialist for the county. “We think most voters will find the process easier and we don’t expect any glitches.”

But the election commission will offer demonstration of the new machine and ballot marking at noon July 7 at the Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, on Thornhill, off Kiehl Avenue.

The commission will train poll workers on the new machines and ballots earlier that day.
The county has been used the blue Eagle brand voting machines since 1994, but they are now being replaced by what the election commissioners call a younger more sophisticated model, the M100.

“The county received the new machines through state and federal funding,” Walker said. “Pulaski County is fortunate to have this new equipment at no charge to the county,” she said.

Besides the new M100-brand machines, each polling site will also have an iVotronic machine. “This machine uses an audio ballot so voters with visual disabilities are able to vote unassisted,” Walker said.

Any voter may use the iVotronic, Walker said, but with just one at each site it’s not feasible for most non-handicapped voters to use this machine.

As of Friday afternoon, 20 Sherwood residents had already cast their mayoral vote at the Pulaski County Courthouse where early voting for the election started Monday.

Early voting will continue at the courthouse through July 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Early voting will start in Sherwood Monday and run through Friday at the senior citizens center. Voting times there will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Both voting sites will be closed July 4. The actual election date is Tuesday, July 10 and there will be eight sites open for voting from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The sites are Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church, Brockington Road Church of the Nazarene, Sylvan Hills Community Church, the Jack Evans Senior Citizens’ Center, First Baptist Church of Sherwood, Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church, Indianhead Lake Baptist Church and the Sherwood Youth Center.

TOP STORY >>Cabot closing in on Sherwood as population soars

IN SHORT: Census and UALR data show area cities have seen an increase in their populations over the past six years, although some have grown more than others.

Leader staff writer

Cabot, one of the fastest growing cities in Arkansas, is slightly more than a 1,000 residents away from overtaking Sherwood. Following population trends, Cabot could overtake Sherwood within two years and Jacksonville within 10 years.

However, Sherwood’s recent annexation of 1,951 acres of undeveloped land opens the door for an explosion of growth and may allow that city to have a greater population than Cabot for a longer period of time.

According to figures provided by the U.S. Census and UALR’s Institute for Economic Advancement, Cabot’s population, as of July 1, 2006, was 22,186 people, up from 15,466 people six years ago, while Sherwood was 23, 422 in 2006 and at 21,553 in 2000.

Jacksonville has remained relatively stagnant, gaining just 405 people in six years, going from 30,101 in 2000 to 30,506 in 2006.

Lonoke and England have also remained pretty stagnant, but Austin’s population has almost doubled in the past six years.

Based on growth statistics over the past six years, Cabot is growing at a rate of 1,120 people a year, Sherwood is adding just 311 people per year, while Jacksonville lags with just 67.5 new residents a year.

Jacksonville is the 12th largest city in the state, behind Bentonville’s population of 32,049.

Sherwood is the 18th largest city, while Cabot is 19th on the list. Sherwood is just behind Paragould at 24,248 residents, while Cabot is ahead of Van Buren, which has 21,818 residents.

Overall, the latest statistics show that Arkansas has added about 150,000 residents to the state since July 2000.

Pulaski County has seen a rise of about 5,500 people in the past six years, going from 361, 707 in 2000 to 367,319.

This despite little growth in Little Rock and a loss of residents in North Little Rock.

Lonoke County has gained almost twice as many people during the same time period, going from 53,162 residents in 2000 to 62,902 in 2006.

White County has seen about a 5,000 person increase in its population, going from 67,416 in 2000 to 72,560 in 2006.
Searcy picked up about 2,000 new residents, going from 18,943 in 2000 to 20,993 in 2006.

Beebe and Ward both gained about 900 residents from 2000 to 2006.

Beebe went from 5,058 in 2000 to 5,926 in 2006, while Ward increased from 2,617 to 3,508.

Austin has gone from 608 residents in July 2000 to 1,037 in July 2006.

Lonoke has gained slightly more than 200 people over the past six years, going from 4,294 to 4,605, while England has gained just 25 people, going from 3,020 to 3,045.

TOP STORY >>Illegal fireworks shooting starts brush fire

IN SHORT: Two Cabot boys turned themselves in after they accidentally started a blaze in a rock quarry this week.

Leader staff writer

Two boys illegally shooting fireworks in Cabot Wednesday evening at an abandoned rock quarry off Willie Ray Drive set fire to a half-acre tinder box of tree stumps and logs that had been dumped and drying there for many years.

The resulting blaze kept firefighters busy from about 9:30 that evening until the early morning hours when all but one crew went home. About 11 a.m. the next day, the fire trucks had to roll out again when a driver working for Roland Tree Service, which has been dumping at the quarry, unwittingly added fresh fuel to the fire.

Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson said Thursday afternoon that the heat was intense, but the fire was contained so that none of the adjoining property was damaged.

The fire was near Sun Terrace subdivision, a church, a machine shop and a wooded area filled with inhabited travel trailers, Robinson said.

Every available Cabot firefighter was called out to fight the fire. Robinson said firefighters from North Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department manned Central Fire Station so the city would not be unprotected. Mountain Springs Volunteer Fire Department came to the fire with a tanker and a brush truck. Volunteer firefighters from Ward and Butlerville offered aid, he said, but the area was difficult to access and there simply wasn’t room for them. The city has a ban on shooting fireworks that is disregarded by many every year.

The boys who started the fire at the quarry reported it and then went to the police department to talk to the police.
Since they are juveniles their names will not be released.

Sgt. Brent Lucas, public information officer for the Cabot Police Department, said the illegal shooting of fireworks becomes more of a problem as Independence Day draws closer.

At press time, it was not known whether the boys would be cited for breaking the city ordinance against discharging fireworks.

The fire chief said it had not been determined if the boys’ parents would be billed for any of the cost of fighting the fire.
Fireworks are prohibited inside the city limits of Austin, Ward, Sherwood, Cabot and Jacksonville. Beebe allows the use of fireworks in the city on 8 a.m to 10 p.m., July 3 and 7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. July 4.

Lonoke allows fireworks in the city on private property from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 1 to July 3, and 8 a.m. to midnight on July 4.

Chief Robinson had these comments for Independence Day firework shooters.

“Each year, more than 10,000 personal injuries are the results of fireworks used on the Fourth of July.
“Additionally, they result in nearly $20 million each year in property damage.

“It is my hope that Cabot Fire Department personnel provide information to our citizens that will reduce, if not eliminate, injuries, and property damage associated with the use of fireworks.”

Therefore the fire department issued a release with several safety tips for residents to keep in mind during this holiday season.

Linda Sakiewicz, Jacksonville Animal Control Department, says to be sure pets are secured so that firework noise and lights won’t cause them to become scared and run away.

“You won’t believe the number of calls we get the day after the Fourth for missing pets,” she said.The best way to avoid injuries with fireworks is to not use them at all.

Instead, attend a public display conducted by fireworks professionals.

If a person feels they have to shoot their own, Robinson encourages residents to follow these simple rules:
- Always read and follow label directions.

- Always have a fire extinguisher or water hose nearby.

- Never try to re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks.

- Never give fireworks to small children.

- Never throw fireworks at another person.

- Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then disposing of them in your trashcan.

- Light only one firework at a time.

- Always have an adult present.

Leader staff writer Jeffrey Smith contributed to this article.

TOP STORY >>Beebe allows fireworks in city for first time in years

IN SHORT: Not only will residents be able to use firecrackers this holiday they will also be able to buy them within the city limits.

Leader staff writer

If you’re looking for fireworks for the Fourth of July, you can find them inside the city limits of Beebe this year for the first time in many years.

“We decided if we were going to shoot them in the city limits we might as well sell them in the city limits,” Mayor Mike Robertson explained Tuesday.

The council lifted its ban on selling fireworks in June 2006 when it approved an updated code book. Then last month, the council passed an ordinance that set the days and hours when fireworks can legally be discharged. The ordinance also reiterated that the ban had been lifted.

Celebrating Independence Day with fireworks is legal in Beebe on July 3 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 7 a.m. July 4 to 12:30 a.m. on July 5.

Shooting fireworks for the New Year is legal in Beebe from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Dec. 30 and from 7 a.m. on Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.

The stands are allowed in C-2 and I-1 zones.

Permits cost $50 for each stand and must be purchased before each holiday.
The only problem so far is that young residents are not adhering to the restrictions on shooting the fireworks they buy, said Police Chief Don Inns.

“We’re getting inundated with calls,” Inns said.

Inns said he would like to warn youngsters for the first offense and take their fireworks and give them a citation if they break the ordinance a second time.

But to be fair, he will make sure the parents have been contacted before issuing any citations.
“Inevitably, if a kid gets a citation, it’s going to come out of the parents’ pockets,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Race ruling won't affect planning for new district

IN SHORT: A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday may not affect Jacksonville and PCSSD immediately, according to district attorney Sam Jones, but Chris Heller, an attorney for the Little Rock School District, believes that the race-based school assignment plan that the high court declared unconstitutional in Seattle and Louisville will eventually have an impact on programs and school assignments in the local school districts.

Leader senior staff writer

While the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday found race-based, school assignment plans—similar to those in effect locally—unconstitutional, the ruling probably doesn’t apply to the Pulaski County Special School District or the North Little Rock School District and should not affect the future of a proposed Jacksonville school district.

At least that’s the opinion of PCSSD attorney Sam Jones and of state Rep. Will Bond, (D-Jacksonville), a lawyer who represents Jacksonville parents and officials who have rigorously promoted a stand-alone district for years. The state attorney general’s office agrees.

But an attorney for the Little Rock School District thinks the ruling could eventually have an effect locally.

By a 5-4 vote, the court found that race-based, student assignment plans in Seattle and Louisville public schools violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing due process and equal protection. The Seattle schools have never been under court order to desegregate and the Louisville district was released from court supervision in 2000 but continued to make assignments to ensure a degree of racial diversity. Jones and Bond say they think that’s a critical distinction.

Little Rock District
The Supreme Court ruling will probably change the way the Little Rock School District assigns students once the Pulaski County district is declared desegregated, a lawyer for the Little Rock district says.

Chris Heller, a lawyer for the Little Rock district, said Thursday that the ruling wasn’t likely to affect the district for now. The Supreme Court ruling apparently does not affect public school districts that remain under federal court order to desegregate.
“These are cases involving voluntary desegregation plans,” Heller said, referring to the Supreme Court cases. “Little Rock is involved in a (court-ordered) remedial plan.”

Heller said the 27,000-student Little Rock district should still be able to use race in assigning students to magnet schools and as part of its transfer policy — although that would likely change once the Pulaski County district attains a unitary, or desegregated, designation in federal court.

“We’ll clearly be governed by this decision as soon as the county achieves unitary status,” Heller said.

“We could not keep in place a system such as presently governs majority-to-minority transfers or assignments to magnet schools — where race is the only or at least the primary factor.”

Little Rock School District has been released from federal court oversight, so it could affect the way its students are assigned and possibly its use of majority-to-minority transfers, magnet schools and eligibility for a share of the roughly $60 million a year in state support of desegregation, but the other two districts in the county are still under court oversight.

But if the ruling does apply to the local districts, it could remove perhaps the most significant impediment to a stand-alone Jacksonville-area school district, according to Bond.

U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson has ruled that Jacksonville may not secede from PCSSD because all three districts in the county had not achieved unitary status and had not been released from the desegregation-consent decree.

If the decree were dissolved and federal court oversight ended, then presumably Jacksonville could proceed with efforts to form its own district.

Bond said racial diversity would not be a problem for a Jacksonville district.

“We are integrated. We need to take control of our local schools, make them world class and everybody (regardless of race) will want to go there,” Bond said.

The days of federal oversight may be numbered anyway.

Act 395 of 2007, sponsored by Bond, requires the state to hire a consultant by Oct. 1 to determine what needs to be done to achieve unitary status and release from the courts.

The act requires both PCSSD and NLRSD to file petitions for unitary or partial unitary status by Sept. 30 and to be declared unitary by June 14, 2008 to be eligible for financial incentives.

Toward that end, legislators appropriated $250,000 to reimburse costs of lawyers in moving forward.

“The state, through the attor-ney general, is working with the two remaining districts to help move their cases forward,” according to Gabe Holmstrom, spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

“The state is also in the process of retaining an expert to assist in evaluating the unitary status of those two districts and moving the case forward where appropriate.

“In addition, the state looks forward to working with Judge (Andre) Roaf, the new director of the Office of Desegregation Monitoring, in that office’s ongoing work of evaluating the districts and assisting them in their continued efforts to operate in accordance with their desegregation plans and the law.”

Speaking of Thursday’s Su-preme Court ruling, Holmstrom said, “Our preliminary impression is that it will have a larger effect on the school districts after they are deemed unitary.”

“This court has carved out a narrow exception…for cases in which a school district has a history of maintaining two sets of schools in a single school system deliberatively operated to carry out a governmental policy to separate pupils in schools solely on the basis of race,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas—part of the majority—in a concurring opinion.

Jones says his interpretation, which would allow continued race-based assignment in the PCSSD and NLR school district, is based primarily on Thomas’ decision, Bond said.

“It may not apply here because …Pulaski County Special School District has not been declared unitary, so (assignment plans) are still in effect because of our desegregation agreements and federal court oversight,” he said.

Bond said Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion found that “There are some measures districts can take to insure desegregation.

Even if it doesn’t affect the local districts, the decision overturns decades of legal interpretation of the landmark Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education ruling, which resulted in the now-infamous desegregation of Little Rock schools at Central High School in 1957.

Nationwide, more than 1,000 districts use race as an assignment factor, according to some estimates, often through mechanisms such as transfer policies and magnet schools.

Kennedy wrote that racial diversity in public schools is a legitimate goal, but that it generally must be pursued by such measures as designing attendance zones or locating new schools to minimize racial isolation.

If those measures are inadequate, a district might justify an enrollment system that takes a student’s race into account, saying that both Seattle and Louisville districts failed to meet that test.

John Walker, attorney for the Joshua Intervenors and a major mover in the county’s desegregation-consent decree, did not return a telephone call.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >>Commander favors abandoning PCSSD

IN SHORT: New base boss pushes for an independent school district for Jacksonville, citing outdated facilities.

Leader editor

Col. Rowayne Schatz, the new commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, wants an independent school district for north Pulaski County, saying that outdated school facilities in Jacksonville have not provided adequate educational opportunities for the children of airmen stationed at the base.

In an interview in his office Thursday, Schatz said education is one of his priorities, along with better housing and family support.

“Arnold Drive Elementary School is substandard and needs to be replaced,” the colonel said. “I’m looking forward to meeting with the school superintendent (James Sharpe) and asking him: ‘What’s the plan? How can we help?’”

Some 400 children of airmen attend Arnold Drive on base and Tolleson Elementary School just outside the base. The Defense Department pays the Pulaski County Special School District about $250,000 a year in federal impact aid in lieu of taxes.
“I’m interested in seeing how that money is spent to support our kids on base,” Schatz said.

The commander pointed to the Cabot School District, where many airmen live and send their children to new schools, while Jacksonville schools are in very poor shape.

He said that while the Cabot School District continues to build new schools, the PCSSD is languishing.“If you look at Cabot compared with Jacksonville, you have a visible example of how good schools can drive growth in a community,” the commander said.

The state Legislature passed a law allowing the formation of a north Pulaski County school district, but the legislation is tied up in federal court.

The bill was passed with support from former Rep. Pat Bond (D-Jacksonville) and later her son, Rep. Will Bond, who helped pass legislation allowing a feasibility study on the viability of such a district, which the study found would be self-supporting.
Because PCSSD has opted to build new schools outside the Jacksonville area, Schatz likes the idea of an independent district that might replace its old schools, which are 30-50 years old or older.

He has two children in the sixth and eighth grades and will have to decide where to send them to school.

He is familiarizing himself with the district not only for the sake of his own children, but for all the families with school-age children in the district.

“I’m obviously interested that they provide the best quality education possible,” the colonel said.

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, Schatz’s predecessor at Little Rock Air Force Base, has pushed for a new elementary school on base property, and although the district has agreed in principle to build one, that could take several years because of PCSSD’s financial problems.

“Four to five years is too long,” Schatz said, referring to the district’s promise to build an elementary school sometime in the next decade.

The school could cost as much as $16 million.

Carmie Henry, president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, a citizens group that supports the base, agrees Arnold Drive is in terrible shape.

“The school is literally 50 years old, leaks like a sieve and is not large enough,” he said recently.

Supt. Sharpe said previously that Arnold Drive had been added to the Pulaski district’s master plan because of lobbying by Self, the state’s congressional delegation and community leaders, who said a new elementary school would add to the future and viability of the base.

The Arnold Drive project may have jumped ahead of the proposed new Jacksonville Middle School building discussed publicly by Sharpe and Jacksonville school board member James Bolden III.

(This is the second part of a three-part series on Col. Schatz. The first article appeared last Wednesday, and the third part will appear next week.)