Friday, February 13, 2009

SPORTS >> Devils complete gauntlet 3-0

Leader sports writer

After completing the arduous trek through the murderer’s row of West Memphis, Little Rock Hall and Parkview over an eight-day span, Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner admitted he probably would have been happy with two wins.

Jacksonville, however, didn’t settle for 2-1 against the best of the 6A-East. Instead, the Red Devils completed the three-game sweep with a 54-47 win over Parkview on Tuesday night at Charles Ripley Arena.

“That’s a helluva three-game schedule,” said Joyner, whose club beat West Memphis last Tuesday before going on the road to knock off defending champion Little Rock Hall on Friday. “We came out and won ugly, but an ugly win is better than an ugly loss.”

It was a sloppy affair in which neither team could get anything going offensively early, and the game remained scoreless through the first four minutes. The Red Devils seized control of the contest late in the third period with a 12-2 run that had the cold-shooting Patriots reeling with a 41-26 deficit.

But the Red Devils began to get impatient and force the action rather than protect the lead. Three consecutive turnovers led to a 7-0 Parkview run that narrowed the deficit to 44-39 with 2:25 left in the game and shifted the momentum dangerously into the Patriot column.

A couple of time outs later and Joyner had his team steadied again. The Red Devils made 10 of 12 free throws over the final 1:53. Deshone McClure connected on all six of his attempts during the stretch and Jacksonville won its sixth in a row to improve to 14-3 overall, 7-1 in the conference. The Red Devils remain a half-game behind Hall, but currently own the tie-break.

“We came down and showed poise the last two or three minutes,” Joyner said. “Other than that, we didn’t show much poise. I thought we got a little anxious. We’ve got to be a little more patient. That’s the first time since preseason that we were (that impatient).”

The Red Devils got 16 points and a pair of assists from McClure and 13 points and eight rebounds from Laquinton Miles. Cortrell Eskridge scored only two points but came up big on the defensive end with a pair of blocks and 10 rebounds.

“We had four kids been in the sick bed for two days,” Joyner said. “Cortrell came out with the flu bug and stepped up like a man. He’s a totally unselfish kid.”

Eskridge’s lone basket was a huge one. After the Patriots had pulled within two points early in the third period, Eskridge hit an off-balance 10-foot fade-away moving across the lane to spark a 14-2 run that opened the lead to 38-24.

While Jacksonville didn’t shoot the ball particularly well on Tuesday, making just 13 of 35 shots, Parkview was positively woeful. Before hitting five of their final 12 shots in the game, the Patriots had connected on only 10 of 36 and finished under 33 percent. They missed all eight of their three-point attempts.

“We couldn’t make shots,” said Parkview coach Al Flannigan, whose team fell to 13-7, 5-4 in league play. “We were just not patient. We didn’t make them work on defense. And then we allowed them to rebound our missed shots.

“They’re a good club and (Joyner’s) doing a good job with those guys.”

The game was played at a fast pace early and Parkview used three fast breaks to take a 13-7 lead. But twice in a row, the Red Devils broke the Parkview press for jams — one by Antwan Lockhart, the other by McClure as the buzzer sounded to end the first period.

Jacksonville still trailed 16-11 when Miles hit a pair of free throws and a three and Raheem Appleby came off the bench to hit a three for the Devils to take the lead for good at 19-16 midway through the second quarter. Miles’ end-to-end drive and basket in the final seconds of the first half allowed the Red Devils to take a 23-18 lead into the locker room.

Jacksonville won the rebounding battle 36-31. Demetrius Harris had nine boards to go along with seven points and a block. Lockhart had seven points and Stanley Appleby added four points. The Red Devils knocked down 24 of 35 free throws, while Parkview made 17 of 24.

“We came out a little sluggish but you’d expect that,” Joyner said. “We had a long week. And they made us look a little sloppy because they ran a matchup zone and we couldn’t hit our stride. But we banged it down the stretch and made our free throws.”

First-place Hall plays four of its final five games on the road, beginning with a trip to Parkview last night. The Warriors must also travel to West Memphis, Mountain Home and Jonesboro.

Jacksonville’s road appears to be less treacherous, with a home game against Searcy last night, two games with Mountain Home, West Memphis on the road and Marion and Jonesboro at home.

SPORTS >> Late ASU shot sinks Trojans

ASU sports information

JONESBORO – Jazmine Taylor hit a leaning jumper just inside the free-throw line as time expired to lift Arkansas State to a 56-55 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in a Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball game Wednesday night at the Convocation Center.

ASU snapped UALR’s five-game winning streak and handed the Sun Belt Conference West Division leading Trojans just their second loss in league play. 

The Red Wolves picked up their seventh home victory of the season, improving to 11-13 overall and 5-7 in Sun Belt play.  The Trojans now stand 19-5 overall and 11-2 in conference action.

UALR’s Marian Kursh hit a lay-up with 1:03 left in the game to break a 53-53 tie, but that was the Trojans’ last possession of the game as the Red Wolves attempted two free throws and collected four offensive rebounds before Taylor’s final shot.

Following Kursh’s lay-up, Taylor was fouled with 33 seconds remaining and hit the first of her two attempts at the charity stripe.  ASU retained possession after the second attempt bounced out of bounds off a UALR player, setting the Red Wolves up for the game-winning shot.

Following the inbounds pass, Arkansas State took the first of four final shots with 13 seconds to go.  Shania Hurst and Shay Scott collected the first two offensive rebounds and the last one went to Ebonie Jefferson, who passed the ball to Taylor for a drive that led to her last shot.

“When Ebonie got me the ball, I looked at the clock and saw there was seven seconds to go,” said Taylor.  “I just kept working for a shot.  She (Rolfe) played good defense, but I had my eyes on the rim and it felt good when it left my hand.  I thought it was going in.”

“We called an out-of-bounds play, but at that point, she was just creating,” added ASU Head Coach Brian Boyer.  “We liked our chances of being able to create rather than take a timeout and Jaz just picked the right opportunity and got in there and hit the shot.  We are very fortunate to get out of here with a win.  I don’t think we should expect anything less from an Arkansas State-UALR game.”

UALR built a 25-12 lead 15 minutes into the game before Arkansas State closed the first half with a 16-0 run to take a 28-25 halftime advantage. 

“Midway through the first half, Little Rock was obviously very good, and we were in a lot of jeopardy,” said Boyer.  “They had gotten the lead up to 12, and against Little Rock, that is a big, big number. 

“In the second half, (UALR’s) Chasity Reed was awesome.  We made some mistakes but there were a lot of instances where we couldn’t have defended her any better and she still hit them.  Our players just kept battling and we gave ourselves a chance to win it in the end.”

Jefferson scored a team-best 20 points, while Scott scored 19 and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds to lead Arkansas State.  

While UALR shot 43 percent from the field in comparison to ASU’s .385 mark, the Red Wolves outrebounded the Trojans 39-30 and made 15 of 20 free throw attempts for a solid night at the line. ASU also scored 14 more points in the paint than UALR and recorded 14 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds.

Chasity Reed led UALR with a game-high 28 points, including 22 in the second half.  Anshel Cooper added 11 points as the only other UALR player scoring in double digits. 

UALR returns to action today when they travel to ULM.  Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Falcons improve to 9-0 with win

Special to The Leader

Sylvan Hills gave North Pulaski some problems Tuesday night, but Aaron Cooper had all the answers in a 68-57 road win for the Falcons. The win kept the Falcons unbeaten in 5A-Southeast Conference play and tied with McClellan for first place in the league standings.

The Bears took the lead twice in the first quarter and once in the second quarter. Each time they grabbed the lead, Cooper responded with either a three-point play or a three-pointer.

In the third quarter, Sylvan Hills pulled to within five points after falling behind 43-30. Cooper broke that run with back-to-back threes as well.

“Our half-court game was non-existent,” said Falcons coach Raymond Cooper. “Guys weren’t hustling and weren’t in the places they needed to be. I think Aaron just took it on himself to take over at times because that was all we had.”

Sylvan Hills came out and gave North Pulaski all they wanted for most of the game. The Falcons had just beaten rival Mills by 30 points, but had a hard time putting the Bears down for the count.

“Let me first give credit to Sylvan Hills,” Cooper said. “They had a great game plan on defense spreading us out and really attacked us on offense.”
North Pulaski took a 10-point lead just before halftime when Kyron Ware was fouled attempting a three-pointer with just over one second left on the clock. Ware drained all three freebies to give the Falcons a 33-23 lead.

The Falcons improved that lead to 13 points before Harold Ward caught fire for the Bears. Ward scored 17 points in the third quarter, including an 8-0 run that pulled the Bears to within five points.

“This was a game that was fun to watch for the fans,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “Harold had one of the best overall games since I’ve been here. He scored a lot of points, but he was really unselfish with the ball. Cooper just had an answer for everything we did tonight.”

Ward finished the game with 23 points and 13 rebounds for Sylvan Hills. Cooper led all scorers with 26 points for the Falcons. Kyron Ware scored 19 points for North Pulaski, while DaQuan Bryant scored four points and had 10 rebounds, four steals and four assists. Alonte Mitchell came off the bench to score 10 points for the Bears.

The win improved the Falcons to 18-5 overall and a perfect 9-0 in the 5A-Southeast. The Bears fell to 9-12 overall and 4-5 in conference.


The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears had an early end to their night thanks to a 56-25 mercy-rule win over North Pulaski Tuesday night in Sherwood.

A free throw by Dede Lewis early in the fourth quarter gave the Lady Bears the 30-point lead they needed to get the running clock started.

“We’ve just been getting better and are playing pretty well right now,” Sylvan Hills coach Bee Rodden said. “We took care of the ball tonight and stayed away from the turnovers.”

The win improves the Lady Bears to 15-4 overall and 9-0 in the 5A-Southeast. North Pulaski fell to 2-7 in conference play.

“The girls know that they’re going to have a target on their backs every game,” said Rodden. “We’ve got to come out be ready for everybody’s best every night.”

Sylvan Hills led 16-6 after the first quarter, then extended that lead to 38-13 by halftime.

North Pulaski played almost even with Sylvan Hills in the third quarter, but couldn’t quite keep the mercy rule from going into effect.

Latrina Brandon led the Lady Bears with 20 points and eight steals. Ashley Johnson scored 19 points while leading the Bears with five rebounds. Lewis led Sylvan Hills with seven assists.

Laura Dortch led North Pulaski with 13 points, while Bianca Harper added 11 points.

SPORTS >> UALR men win sixth in row on road

UALR sports information

JONESBORO— Senior Shane Edwards hit a jumper in the lane with 2.3 seconds remaining to lead the UALR men’s basketball team (18-6, 11-2) to a 58-57 win over Arkansas State (13-11, 5-8) at the Convocation Center on Thursday night.

The win over ASU marked the Trojans’ ninth victory in the team’s last 10 outings, and extended their road winning streak to a school-record six games.
After trailing for the entire game, ASU took its first lead of the night, 57-54, off a three-point play by JeJuan Brown with 31.4 seconds remaining.

Junior Mike Smith pulled UALR within one, 57-56, by sinking a pair of crucial foul shots with 20 seconds to go.
Leading 57-56, the Red Wolves committed a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play when Daniel Bryant lost control of the ball in front of UALR’s goal with 15.3 seconds left.

Down by one, the Trojans got the ball to Edwards and the native of Gilbert, Ariz., backed his defender into the paint and delivered his second game winner of the year — the first of which came at South Alabama.

Edwards led all scorers with 16 points off 6-of-13 shooting, and tied senior Brandon Patterson for team-high honors with six rebounds. Sophomore Matt Mouzy chipped in 13 points, 11 of which came in the second half, by going 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point range.

The victory was the 100th of head coach Steve Shields’ career, making him just the third coach to win 100 games as head coach of the Trojans. Bryant led the Red Wolves with 10 points off the bench, while Eric McKinney grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to help ASU outrebound the Trojans 42-to-40.

The Trojans shot just 37.9 percent for the game, but held the Red Wolves to a .333 field goal percentage.

UALR got two clutch free throws from Smith and the game winner from Edwards to pick up its 11th conference victory.

North Pulaski alum Steven Moore did not play due to illness.

UALR returns to action today when it faces the ULM Warhawks in Monroe, La.

SPORTS >> Panthers make it five straight

Leader sports writer

It wasn’t like his teammates were just standing around watching.

Austin Johnson finished the game with 13 points, Jack Bridges had eight assists, and Gary Clark had a couple of key steals, along with five rebounds. And Miles Monroe had a strong second half on the boards to lead with seven rebounds.

But it all paled compared to Adam Sterrenberg’s 35-point outburst that sealed Cabot’s 66-54 win over North Little Rock on Tuesday night at Wildcat Arena.

The win left Cabot (17-5, 7-2) tied for first in the 7A-Central standings with Conway, and left NLR (12-9, 7-3) a half-game back in third.

Sterrenberg hit from all points on the floor, from a pair of dunks to a buzzer beating three-pointer from long distance to end the first quarter. He went 8 of 11 at the line.

“When Adam’s stuff is falling, he can score in so many different ways,” said Panthers coach Jerry Bridges. “He can be hard to defend. Most importantly, this win puts us back in the state tournament. That was our first goal for the year to qualify for state. This win most likely clinches us. The rest now is just jockeying for position.”

Charging Wildcats guard Omar Nichols did his best to pace Sterrenberg in the second half, and started out on the right track. Nichols finished with a team high 21 points for North Little Rock, eight of which came in the final two minutes of the third quarter.

The third quarter was least productive for Sterrenberg, with only five points, but nine more for Johnson, including 5 of 6 at the line, helped keep momentum on Cabot’s side. Post man Monroe recovered after adapting to the extremely physical play under the goal in the first half by Wildcats post Terry Tidwell. Monroe scored his four points on a pair of critical putbacks in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 31-25 lead.

“I thought Miles did a good job on Tidwell,” Bridges said. “Austin played a tough game as well. Adam was incredible; he did a heck of a job, and the team did a good job of finding him and feeding him the ball.”

No one gave better feeds on the night than senior Jack Bridges, who finished with eight assists. The best of those came at the 3:46 mark of the second quarter when Bridges, who was at the left wing, delivered a cross-court pass to Sterrenberg, who drilled his fourth three of the night to put the Panthers up 24-18. The ASU signee finished with five three-point baskets.

Sterrenberg’s hot hand led to a 21 of 41 night from the field for Cabot, including 6 of 13 from three-point land. The Charging Wildcats struggled from the floor, hitting 19 of 51, including seven straight misses to start the second half.

Cabot edged North Little Rock in the rebounding battle 26-21. Both teams had eight turnovers for the game.

The Wildcat rally was not to be in the final period. Sterrenberg and Johnson combined to go 6 of 9 at the foul line, with eight more from Sterrenberg from the field. Nichols continued to drive the lane for the Wildcats, and went 5 of 5 at the stripe. Nichols scored 18 of his points in the second half.

Cabot hosted Little Rock Central last night, and will be at Bryant on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Electoral College updated

Arkansas did not create the muddled Electoral College way of choosing a president of the United States — it was only a remote territory in 1804 — but it has a chance to be part of the remedy. If the legislature joins the National Popular Vote Compact, it will move the country smartly toward the popular election of the president.

Had the 2008 presidential election turned out differently, there might be a hue and cry now to change the Electoral College as there is each time it produces a perverse result. The last time was 2000, when Al Gore received 600,000 more votes than George W. Bush, but Bush was elected president. It almost happened in 2004, when Bush won by a whopping 3.5 million votes but was within 60,000 votes in Ohio of losing the presidency to John Kerry. Three other times, in 1824, 1876 and 1888, the loser in the presidential balloting be-came president. It may be only coincidence, but history judged the four second-place presidents to be among the country’s worst.

The electoral system undermines majority rule in two ways. Every state gets two extra electors in addition to the distribution of electors based upon each state’s population, which gives voters in states like Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont and Delaware an outsized vote in the college. And all the states except Maine and Nebraska award all their electoral votes to the candidate with a plurality in the state, no matter if the margin in the state is a single vote. Thus, John Kerry, although he was a big-time loser, came within a hair of the presidency.

Amending the Constitu-tion to reform the system is virtually impossible. Each party tends to ponder how a change might affect it immediately, which shifts with every election. The stars were aligned in 1968, when both parties, President Nixon, a big majority in Congress and most of the states wanted to go to direct election, but it was blocked by a filibuster by a few Southern senators who worried that Dixie’s power might somehow be impaired by popular election.

If the legislature enacts the compact (it is HB 1339 by three Democrats and a Republican), Arkansas’ six electoral votes would be pledged to vote for whichever candidate receives the largest popular vote in each election. That would happen only after states totaling 270 electoral votes —a majority — adopted the compact. So far, four states with 50 electoral votes have adopted it. Many states are considering it this year. Two years ago, Governor Beebe supported and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved it. The session adjourned before the Senate could vote.

Under the present system, the entire presidential campaign is conducted in the dozen states where the parties are competitive. Arkansas and the entire South except three Atlantic states are flyover country, inconsequential in the election and in the policy formulations of the candidates. Democracy is a much better way. —Ernie Dumas

EDITORIAL >> What would Reagan do?

The cigarette-tax bill wending its way through the legislature is already providing a considerable stimulus to the moribund Arkansas economy. Witness the full-page advertisements in the big newspapers by Phillip Morris’ parent and the tobacco-front group directed by former U. S. House majority leader Dick Armey and the contract lobbyists who are paid to bend the ears of the handful of state senators who are undecided on the tax.

But some of the influence peddling is not bringing any cash to the state. Grover Norquist, the professional right winger who runs the potent Washington lobbying outfit called Americans for Tax Reform, stayed in his office yesterday to make a pitch with the Arkansas media against the tax. Norquist was often accorded the title of the most influential man in Washington during the George W. Bush years. His influence has seriously ebbed when he is trying to stop a tobacco tax in Arkansas.

Norquist prefaced his tobacco defense the other day with an attack on Governor Beebe for refusing to designate a Ronald Reagan Day in Arkansas to memorialize the achievements of the 40th president. His group has tried to get all the states to establish a Reagan day. Beebe says he will only recognize the presidential days established by federal law. If a Reagan day, how could you say no to a Clinton Day, a Jefferson Day, a Madison Day, or even a Franklin Pierce Day?

The juxtaposition of honoring Ronald Reagan for his low-taxes mantra and opposing higher cigarette taxes because the country is in a recession is particularly ironic. In the depth of the deepest and longest recession since the Great Depression, President Reagan doubled the federal excise tax on cigarettes from 8 to 16 cents. Not only that, he raised the gasoline tax a nickel a gallon, raised income taxes and signed a big increase in Social Security payroll taxes. In one year while the nation was recovering from an economic slide that took unemployment to double digits, Reagan raised more taxes on more people than any peacetime president. He had cut taxes sharply before that, of course, but hagiographers of the nation’s most pleasant president ignore the second act.

Oh, and when Reagan became governor of California in 1967, he immediately raised taxes by a billion dollars, a whopping sum back then. Mike Huckabee pointed that out last year when Norquist was attacking the former Arkansas governor as one of the biggest taxers and spenders in the country. Governor Huckabee, incidentally, raised tobacco taxes in 1997 and again in 2003.

The hypocrisy of it aside, what Ronald Reagan and Mike Huckabee might have done about tobacco or any other taxable commodity is beside the point. The need for the medical services that the cigarette tax would support isn’t. Where Mr. Armey and Mr. Norquist live, cigarettes are already taxed locally at a dollar a pack, and if tragedy befalls them or their families, a world-class trauma system, medical network and comprehensive insurance are at their disposal. Who are they to reproach Arkansas for wanting the same?

TOP STORY >> Temple of knowledge on Main St.

Leader editor

The day has finally arrived for the grand opening of the new $4 million Jacksonville library, housed down the street from the building that was its former location, built in ­1969. That building, the oldest in the Central Arkansas Library System, closed Jan. 14 in preparation for the new location’s opening.

Festivities begin with an open house at 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, and celebrations are planned throughout Saturday at the Esther D. Nixon Library, 703 W. Main St.

“I’m so excited for the people of Jacksonville,” Kathy Seymour, the branch’s manager, said. “They’ve been waiting for so long for this and I’m just so happy for them.” Construction began in January 2008. Seymour and other library staff are already working at the new location.

“We had the move on Jan. 20 and 21,” she said. “We moved all the materials over here. We had about 30 people in the CALS system help with the move,” she added.
Seymour was busy Monday preparing the library for its grand opening. “Right now, I’m just looking out at the land and hope the sodding gets completed,” she said.

“There have been a lot of different tasks,” she added. The branch houses 58,000 books. “We have had additional materials added over the past several months,” Seymour said.

“It feels wonderful. It’s quite a change from the old location,” Seymour, who has managed the library since June 2007, said about the move.

Programs on Saturday include a live performance by Brian and Terri Kinder and singers of their original children’s songs.

There will be a magic show by Michael Wilkinson at 11:30 a.m., and a puppet show by Jan Wolfe at 1 p.m. The fun, and showcase for some of the library’s additions, continues with Wii game time from 3 to 4 p.m. That program is targeted toward children ages 10 and older.

The facility will also house additional computers and audiovisual equipment for children and adults.

At 13,500 square feet, the new library has more space.

“There are new services for the public,” Seymour said.

“There are three study rooms, where there were zero at the old location,” she said.

There is one more computer in the children’s area.

“The meeting room is outstanding, with a state-of-the-art projector, and new furniture and a little kitchenette,” she said.

Seymour said she has already gotten calls from people who want to make reservations for the new meeting room.

There is also a pavilion outside of the library for use by the public.

In addition to the new books and performances on Saturday, Jacksonville residents will want to come to the grand opening for the door prizes. “We’ll have door prizes every half-hour,” Seymour said. “There is a variety of prizes, including gift certificates,” she said.

There will also be gift bags.

New library hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. The library’s new phone number is 457-5038.

Jacksonville voters approved a temporary millage in 2005 to build the library. The 1-mill property tax, private donations, $300,000 from the Central Arkansas Library System and $400,000 in city sales tax revenue made the library possible.

Witsell, Evans and Rasco Architects designed the building, Julie Grisham designed the interior and Wilkins Construction served as contractor.

The library was named for Esther Dewitt Nixon, the first librarian at the Jacksonville Library. She was librarian for 27 years, until she retired in 1986.

TOP STORY >> Cabot likes boom-town designation

Leader staff writer

Cabot has had its share of growing pains over the years, but city officials are pleased they’re getting new state and national recognition for their ever-expanding town.

City leaders, who have worked for decades to meet the needs of a fast-growing community, have received a pat on the back: and a Little Rock marketing firm, in their search for the fastest-growing communities in the nation, have discovered that Cabot is a “boom town.”

Earlier this year, the Gadberry Group named Cabot the third fastest-growing city in the state behind Lowell in the Rogers-Springdale area and Maumelle. The boom-town designation is the result of a survey conducted in association with the Gadberry Group, which considered such factors as continual population growth over the past 10 years and the whopping 83 percent increase in household income, which is now estimated at $98,555.

Eddie Joe Williams — now in his third year as mayor of the city with an official population of 22,092 from a special census in 2006 but an estimated population of 22,500 — is pleased with the recognition and confident that even though the national economy is in a slump, Cabot will continue to flourish.

Williams says Cabot needs a hospital, possibly built halfway between Cabot and Jacksonville where it could serve both cities.

“We’d love to have a hospital in Cabot, or at least a shared hospital out on the interstate,” he said.

Sometimes called “Little Rock Air Force Base North,” the Cabot area is home to about 40 percent of base personnel. And like all the former Little Rock-area civilians who have moved to Cabot, they come for the schools. Enrollment in Cabot schools is more than 9,000. There are already eight elementary schools and another will be built soon.

The economic development committee of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, in a meeting to talk about the state of the city considering the economic downturn before the boomtown designation was announced, concluded that Cabot is in good shape.

Cabot’s strength is its schools, and that’s not likely to change, Mark Eisold, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church and one of 12 members of the chamber’s board of directors, said then. So even in a recession, Cabot should continue to prosper.

“Cabot is strong and we’re stable,” Eisold said. “We’re solidly based in education and we’ve got decades backing that up,” he said.

One truism city leaders count on when they are planning costly infrastructure improvements is that “commercial development follows rooftops.” When the population is large enough to support business, business will come.

“We had 43 ribbon cuttings last year,” Williams told the city council’s budget and personnel committee Monday night during a brief discussion of the boomtown designation. Those businesses give Cabot residents a place to shop and the tax revenue to pay for the facilities and services that the city must provide for those residents. Case in point: the $30 million bond issue, supported by a one-cent sales tax, for a new sewer treatment plant and to help pay for street improvements, an animal shelter, community center and the railroad overpass that is supposed to open in the spring.

The bonds were originally scheduled to pay off in December 2031, but with the increased population and more businesses producing more tax revenue, the bonds are now projected to pay off in June 2016.

If the schools are the biggest draw to Cabot, traffic has been the biggest drawback.

“Forget taxes,” Williams said Monday during a discussion about a city tax on the alcohol that is now being served in some restaurants in the city. “Traffic was keeping people from coming to Cabot.”

The $2 million for streets that was included in the 2005 $30 million bond issue was used to add lanes and repair streets all over the city to make traffic flow smoother. Williams maintains that the $7 million, mostly federally-funded overpass that is opening soon will help with that problem, but a north interchange in conjunction with the overpass would help more. That project would cost more than $19 million with Cabot paying about $4 million if the cost is split with the federal government 80/20.

Building homes for all the new city residents has been the biggest industry in Cabot. But in the past two years, home construction has declined. However, Bill O’Brien, a realtor who keeps city officials abreast of the housing market, pointed earlier to the steady sale of existing houses in the Cabot School District as evidence that Cabot’s growth is not slowing down.

Cabot Public Works records show that 183 building permits for single-family homes were issued in 2007 compared to 113 in 2008. But at the same time, the number of houses for sale in the Cabot School District fell from 590 to 460.

O’Brien says that means the inventory of homes is dropping and will need to be replenished soon. But the homes they will build in Cabot will be larger than in past years, he said.

“I don’t know if we’re going to see as many of the beginner houses because the price of land is too high in Cabot. Those houses are being built in Ward and Austin (also in the Cabot School District).”

TOP STORY >> Board argues over future of two schools

Leader senior staff writer

The board of the Pulaski County Special School District voted 4-3 Tuesday night to combine Jacksonville Middle School for Boys with the Jacksonville Middle School for Girls.

Board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville and Superintendent James Sharpe accused each other of being the force behind considering the measure.

Some board members had expressed an interest in tabling the issue.

Several Boys Middle School teachers and counselors spoke in favor of leaving the middle schoolers separated by gender.

Using official district data, they showed that discipline referrals at the Boys School were cut nearly in half between the first year of gender-specific schools and last year, and were on course for an additional 35 percent decline this year.

They showed that benchmark scores climbed steadily over the three years, with 75 percent of Algebra 1 students testing proficient or advanced in 2008.

Eighth grade benchmarks climbed from 16 percent proficient or advanced in 2006 to 42 percent proficient or advanced in 2008, and this in a school with the highest percentage of free and reduced lunches and highest percentage of children with disabilities, said one teacher.

Sharpe said he thought the measure to combine the schools should be tabled—that it should be a matter for Jacksonville to decide when it gets its own district.

State Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville spoke against combining the schools.

He and school board president Tim Clark had a testy exchange.

Vasquez said he was surprised to find the matter on the agenda, saying it was Sharpe’s doing.

Sharpe responded that Vasquez had a short memory and had only last summer failed in an effort to combine the two schools and to reduce the number of principals and had asked him to look into it.

“I find it offensive that you come here and call me a liar,” Vasquez told Sharpe.

In other action, the board passed by one vote to suspend the rules and endorse selling second lien bonds to raise $81 million to build a new Maumelle High School in his district, putting off construction of the Sherwood Middle School into the indefinite future.

Chief Financial Officer Larry O’Briant said the Sherwood school could be built in a couple years when the environment is different and the district gets a millage increase passed.

Maumelle will have all new schools by then, and may not see any reason to vote for a millage increase, one person said in the lobby.

Parents also came to complain about a small colony of bats, perhaps 200 of them, living in the attic of Sherwood Elementary School and sometimes finding their way into halls and classrooms.

Asst. Superintendent James Warren promised the problem was being taken care of and that, meanwhile, district personnel would inspect every classroom and hall every morning to ensure there were not bats.

TOP STORY >> Mayoral candidates filing

Leader staff writer

Local developer Tommy Dupree and Alderman Kenny Elliot have filed their required petition of signatures with the Pulaski County clerk as candidates for mayor of Jacksonville.

The filing period started Tuesday and runs until noon March 2.

Jacksonville residents interested in running for mayor in the May 12 special election need to turn in a petition with at least 30 signatures of Jacksonville residents who are registered voters.

The Pulaski County clerk’s staff is in the process of verifying the signatures on Dupree’s and Elliot’s petitions. Once verified, those two will be certified as candidates.

Three other residents — Alderman Gary Fletcher, motorcycle minister Randy (Doc) Rhodd and former police Lieutenant Bill Shelly – have also announced their intentions to run for the spot being vacated by the retirement of Mayor Tommy Swaim.

Swaim announced in January that he would retire from his $95,000 a year job come July 1.

Swaim said he decided to retire to spend more time with his family. His term expires Dec. 31, 2010.

Elliott, who has been on the city council for 12 years, says he wants to bring his experience and knowledge of city government as he seeks to move behind the mayor’s desk in a special election.

Elliott, a Jacksonville native, said he wants to make improvements in the Sunnyside Addition, a low-income neighborhood with decaying housing and high crime.

Elliott, 55, works for the Pulaski County Special School District, where he is coordinator of energy management.

Dupree, 71, whose family helped settle Jacksonville, said his platform includes widening Hwy. 67/167 with interchange improvements; establishing a public safety commission with police, fire and emergency medical department under it; encouraging expansion of the city along Hwy. 67/167, Hwy. 161 and Hwy. 294 through annexation; supporting creation of a north Pulaski County school district; working toward expansion and improvement of the Jacksonville park system, and continuing Keep Jacksonville Beautiful improvement projects.

Fletcher, who has been on the city council for 30 years, says he’s ready to become mayor. “I want to bring passion to the job,” said Fletcher, who is 54. “We’ve lost that passion when it comes to running the city.”

“I want to bring back the human factor to government,” Fletcher said in an interview. “We need to make some changes. We need someone with fresh ideas. We need someone with passion, energy and vision and try to inspire others.”

Fletcher said he believes in the three R’s to move forward — “re-identify ourselves, reinvest in ourselves and rejuvenate the community.”

TOP STORY >> Cabot school building continues at fast pace

Leader staff writer

In order to keep pace with the rapid growth in Cabot and surrounding areas, the public schools are in a constant expansion mode.

Annual increases to the student population in recent years have averaged about 300 to 400 students, or about 3 to 4 percent, explained Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent of Cabot Public Schools, in a recent interview.

One year, enrollment leapt 9 percent; another year it was a mere 1 percent. As required by state law, the district every two years updates a 10-year plan that lays out proposed construction and improvement projects, but, “it is very difficult to project out that far,” Dalton explained.

Enrollment in Cabot public schools is 9,400 students.

Current projects include construction of a new elementary school, a new junior high school to replace one destroyed by fire in 2006, and renovations to the high school.

Last week, the district acquired the land on which to build a new elementary school on Mountain Springs Road, off state Hwy. 5. The new school, projected to open in the fall of 2010, “will bring relief to Magness Elementary School, which is growing by leaps and bounds,” Dalton said. Last week, the district let for bid site work for the project.

The district has also let for bid work on the final phase of rebuilding Junior High North, which was razed in an electrical fire in August 2006. The building is now in the dry, and work on the interior is under way. The plan, Dalton said, is to move the teachers and their materials into the new building over the summer and open this fall.

“It will be good to finally get students out of portables and back into a brick and mortar building,” Dalton said.

A number of improvements, in part driven by the jump in enrollment, are planned for the high school over the next five years. The existing gymnasium is no longer adequate for the school’s offerings in physical education, health and recreation.

Planned is a larger building that will accommodate all those programs as well as a cafeteria with the capacity to seat half the student population at once. That is in response to a state law that mandates schools feed students in two shifts to reduce the wait for lunch. The existing cafeteria can seat only 350; the school’s current enrollment is more than 1,700 students.

The new building will have two lobby entrances, each with a dual purpose. One will be an entrance for both the health building and fine arts auditorium; the other will serve as an entrance to the health building as well as to the cafeteria. That area will also work as overflow seating for the cafeteria. Construction on this project will commence in the fall; completion is anticipated in 2011.

After that, renovations to the auditorium, which includes new seating, will begin. When the new cafeteria opens, the old one will become the home of the school’s agriculture and shop programs.

This spring the high school’s old media center will be renovated to house the Junior Air Force ROTC program.

Cabot public schools serve the cities of Cabot, Ward, Austin, and several small townships and unincorporated areas that comprise 184 square miles in northern Lonoke County.

The district has eight elementary schools (K-fourth grade), two middle schools (fifth and sixth grades) two junior high schools (seventh to ninth grades), one high school (10th-12th grades), one charter school and one alternative school.

SPORTS >> Red Devils unseat Beast of the East

Leader sports editor

You can give the officials credit for taking away one Little Rock Hall basket on Friday night. But you can chalk up the rest of the Warriors’ offensive futility to a fired-up Jacksonville defense.

The Red Devils snapped the defending 6A champion Warriors’ 28-game conference winning streak with a decisive 58-44 road win at Little Rock Hall.

“You don’t come into Hall and do that to them unless you have a lot of heart,” said Jacksonville head coach Victor Joyner. “The kids showed a lot of heart.”

The Red Devils, whose only league loss came to these same Warriors by three points back on Jan. 9, secured this one by limiting Baylor-bound point guard A.J. Walton to seven points and dead-eye perimeter shooter Marland Smith to just six. They shut down the inside by blocking eight shots.

“Never in a million years,” said Joyner when asked if he thought his team could limit the dynamic Warrior duo to 13 points. “Those are two helluva players. I thought we did a great job of stopping their penetration and that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to make them jump shooters.

“I thought the kids did a great job of following the game plan and keeping them out of the paint.”

It was the second huge win for the Red Devils (14-3, 6-1) in three days. On Tuesday night, they handled West Memphis at home.

“I don’t know about Jacksonville, but for Victor Joyner, there hasn’t been a better week of basketball,” said Joyner. “But you got to turn around and get ready for Al Flannigan and Parkview (last night).”

Hall (20-2, 7-1) made only 17 of 53 shots and connected on 5 of 21 threes. The Devils blocked eight shots — three each by Demetrius Harris and Cortrell Eskridge. On the other end, Jacksonville showed much better patience than the Warriors and made 21 of 40 shots.

It was Walton’s second-half penetration and repeated trips to the free-throw line that put Hall over the top at Jacksonville last month. On Friday night, Joyner, who was shorthanded without back-up point guard Stan Appleby, opted to play zone most of the way. In Jacksonville, Walton wore down the Red Devils’ man defense with his crossover dribbles and penetration.

“We were really fearful of Marland hitting threes and we got tired last time,” Joyner said. “With Stan sick, we had to flex our rotation. We had to play zone to rest our kids.”

In the absence of Appleby, little-used Cailin Davis stepped up to the spotlight and delivered. Davis scored four points, dished out two assists and had three steals in limited action.

“Cailin is the one that stepped up,” Joyner said. “I thought he made the difference down the stretch. He was able to give our guys some rest. He made a couple of key baskets and some nice passes.”

Laquinton Miles and Deshone McClure took it to the Warriors in the first half, totaling 18 Jacksonville points to give the Red Devils a 29-26 lead at intermission. The game got off to a bizarre beginning when Smith made a basket on a breakaway and Eskridge was called for an intentional foul. None of the three officials, however, saw Smith’s basket go in and did not award the Warriors with the points.

The Warriors fired up hurried three-pointers throughout the first half, making only 4 of 13. It would get worse in the second half when they made only 1 of 8.

Jacksonville, which relies on its depth and balance to wear down teams in the second half, began to assert itself late in the third quarter. After the Warriors had narrowed the lead to two on a rebound basket with 3:07 left in the period, Antwan Lockhart scored on a reverse, and three consecutive McClure assists – one for a rousing Antonio Roy fast break jam – allowed the Red Devils to carry a 44-37 lead into the final period.

McClure delivered inside to Harris for a bucket, then added a pull-up 14-footer as Jacksonville’s lead grew to 48-37 two minutes into the final quarter. McClure had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Two consecutive baskets by Davis, the second off a steal, opened the lead to 13 at the 4:48 mark. The Warriors’ final push came on a 5-0 run that whittled the lead to five, but McClure scored on a runner with 2:50 left and the Warriors never scored again.

It was another remarkably balanced attack by the Red Devils, who had seven players score four or more points, led by Miles’ 15 points, seven boards and three steals. In addition to McClure’s 13, Harris added eight points and eight boards and Lockhart added eight as well. Roy scored six points, while Eskridge added four points and six rebounds.

Jacksonville dominated the glass, especially in the second half, to finish with a 38-28 advantage. And, while free-throw shooting cost them in the two teams’ first meeting, the Red Devils knocked down 14 of 19 on Friday.

It was Hall’s first conference loss since Jan. 26, 2007 at El Dorado.

“We knew this was coming,” said Hall head coach George Cierks. “I think (Jacksonville) played harder and wanted it more than we did. They got on the glass and took it away from us. They’re a good basketball team. They’ll be hard for anybody to beat if they keep up that intensity.”

SPORTS >> Talented Jacksonville comes of age against Hall

Leader sports editor

Thirteen months ago, the Jacksonville Red Devils were reeling.

Having lost three times already to cross-county rival North Pulaski, the Red Devils, comprised of one senior leader and a whole lot of underclassmen, entered the New Year and the 6A-East Conference race with a 3-9 record.

The youthful Devils posted home wins over Marion and Forrest City to begin a turnaround that eventually landed them a No. 3 seed in the state tournament last March.

Though Jacksonville did reach the state quarterfinals last year after posting a 10-4 league record, the Red Devils never fully cohered as a team and were often given to individual flourishes and look-at-me showmanship.

Keep in mind this is a team that has all the ingredients, the one exception perhaps being a true point guard to run the show. But depth, balance, size, athleticism, hops, scoring, shot blocking, rebounding … yeah, the Red Devils have all that in abundance. From the interior play of Demetrius Harris, Antwan Lockhart, Antonio Roy and Cortrell Eskridge to the outside shooting and penetration of Laquinton Miles and Deshone McClure to heady role players such as Darius Morant, Stan Appleby and Cailen Davis, this club is loaded.

But early this season, Joyner’s frustrations with his immensely talented club boiled over at times, never more so than when the Red Devils let one get away at home against 6A defending champion Little Rock Hall on Jan. 9.

“We’ve got to make better decisions down the stretch,” Joyner said shortly after that 58-55 loss to the Warriors. “That’s what Hall does is put pressure on your guards. Our post men were stepping up early and we were hitting the post. Then we started overdribbling. You got guys driving down the lane and doing crossovers and trying to get the ‘and-one’ instead off passing the ball off.

“Monday, that’s going to stop. We’re that close, but we just didn’t play smart.”

Apparently, Joyner made his point. The Red Devils haven’t lost since. Their fifth-straight victory was their most impressive yet — a 58-44 road win at Hall last Friday in a game in which they trailed only once and dominated over the final 12 minutes. They improved to 13-3 overall, 6-1 in the league.

Joyner maintains that those struggling 3-9 Red Devils of a season ago never felt the pressure to win. Instead, he said, the coaches chose to stress something else.

“We were trying to change their mindset about the classroom,” he said. “If they could handle that part, handle their grades, the basketball would take care of itself. We wanted them to try to make something out of themselves, to be productive, to try to get to college.

“Now, almost all these kids are doing what they need to do.”

Their grades are all up and so is their on-court production and maturity. Deshone McClure, perhaps, provides the best example. An immensely talented sophomore last year, McClure could wow his coaches on one possession and have them tearing at their hair on the next.

McClure, like just about everybody else on this balanced club, has come to realize that there is plenty of scoring to go around. He has taken a back seat offensively on several nights throughout the early conference season. Against Hall, McClure scored 13 points, but also dished out six assists.

“The best thing about this is we won it as a team,” he said afterward.

While the unselfishness has continued to develop, so too has the maturity level. Part of that might harken back to those early 2007-08 struggles, which helped forge a toughness. Much of it has to do with being battle-tested in the rugged 6A-East.

“When you play the caliber teams we’re playing, in the electric atmospheres like at Hall, the game slows down for those kids,” Joyner said. “They’ve been in those situations so many times, they’re able to keep their calm.”

While Hall was fighting to get back in the game on Friday, Jacksonville was not sitting on its lead, but continuing to push the action. That’s the sign of a confident team. It’s the sign of something else, too, Joyner said.

“These kids are trying to get to college,” he said. “They want to win championships, but these kids knew there were a lot of college coaches in the stands and they’re trying to make their own legacy. Hall and (Baylor-bound point guard) A.J. Walton already got it. But Jacksonville, people don’t expect them to do what they’re doing.

“They’re just looking for a little respect.”

They found it in Hall head coach George Cierks, whose team suffered its first conference loss in more than two years on Friday night.

“They’re a good basketball team,” he said. “They’ll be hard for anybody to beat if they keep that intensity.”

And keep taking care of all their other business.

The Red Devils have already beaten Parkview, West Memphis and Hall, but the road ahead remains treacherous, beginning with last night’s rematch with the Patriots. Bring it on, seems to be the attitude of the Red Devils.

“We ain’t done yet,” McClure said. “We’re just getting started. We got to go for them rings.”

SPORTS >> Late steal dooms Lonoke girls

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke had all the Lady Bulldogs right where it wanted them in the final three seconds — except for one Bald Knob sophomore.

Guard McKenzie Cox provided a dramatic ending to Bald Knob’s 40-38 win over the Lady Jackrabbits on Friday night at the LHS gymnasium with a steal and game-winning lay-up at the buzzer.

Lonoke (18-6, 9-3 in the 2-4A) had 3.3 seconds to set up a winning shot after a defensive rebound by Asiah Scribner gave the Lady ’Rabbits possession in the 38-38 game.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris called time-out once the ball reached mid-court to talk things over, but that plan went awry when Cox intercepted the inbounds pass to Michaela Brown at mid court and scored at the other end to complete the regular-season sweep of the Lady ’Rabbits.

“The coach shouldn’t have called time-out there with five seconds left; he should have just let it play out,” said Morris on his time-out call. “That’s the bottom line. (I) should have just let it play out. If I had it to do all over again 100 times, I wouldn’t call it.”

The Lady Bulldogs (23-3 overall) finished the season with an unbeaten 12-0 mark in the 2-4A Conference, and claimed the league title outright for the second straight year.

“That’s two good ball clubs right there,” said Bald Knob coach Tim Fulks. “Year after year, it’s us and Lonoke. Nathan does a heck of a job, and I hope I do a heck of a job. We match wits every year. I mean, it’s either us or it’s them. We played our best ballgame tonight. We had to.”

The game was filled with physical play, plenty of lead changes and few surprises. The surprise factor changed, however, when Cox, who was held to only three points during the first meeting between the two teams in January, began to find her way to the basket in the second half.

Her three-point basket from 28 feet out at the 2:36 mark of the third quarter gave the Lady ’Dogs their biggest lead of the game at 26-20. Her winning shot was two of her eight fourth-quarter points, as she went on to lead Bald Knob with 15 points and six rebounds.
Lonoke gave most of its extra defensive attention to senior all-state player Phagen Altom, who was held to 10 points.

Scribner won the battle down low against Bald Knob post Brittany Fulks. Scribner finished with a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds, along with two steals and two blocked shots. Fulks managed six points and six rebounds.

“Scribner’s going to get hers,” said Tim Fulks. “She’s so dad-gum strong, she goes to the boards hard. Realistically, I don’t know of too many times that she caught the ball and actually scored. Maybe six or eight points; the rest of them were off putback baskets and stuff like that. That’s her game – she’s strong, she’s a good ballplayer.”

There were four lead changes in the first half. The Lady Jackrabbits finished the second quarter with a Scribner basket at the 1:35 mark and an inside jumper by Cara Neighbors with eight seconds left for an 18-17 lead at the half.

Scribner fought back once Bald Knob went up by six with a pair of free throws, followed by an inside basket assisted by Neighbors.

She also drew a foul on the play and hit the free throw to pull Lonoke within 26-25 with 1:15 left in the third.

Altom gave the Lady Bulldogs a 33-29 lead with 6:53 left to play with a driving basket and free throw, but a pair of free throws by Lonoke’s Lauren Harper cut the lead in half.

Scribner tied it at 33 with a pair of foul shots that followed a steal by Ashleigh Himstedt.

“I’m proud of the kids. We played well enough to win,” said Morris. “There’s certainly things we can take from it that can make us better for the next time. In the fourth quarter, the kids stepped up.

“We did an outstanding job on Altom and held her to 10 points. We just let the sophomore loose. They ran their offense, and she made the right cuts, and they made the right passes.”

Neighbors added 11 points for the Lady Jackrabbits. Lonoke had 10 turnovers to Bald Knob’s 11, and both teams finished with 21 rebounds.


The Jackrabbits pulled away in the second half after securing a 37-23 lead at intermission. Senior post Juicy Lambert put up six of his 10 points for the game in the first quarter, including a jump shot in the paint at the 3:41 mark to put Lonoke up 11-6.

Trenton Spencer gave the ’Rabbits their first double-digit lead of the game in the last minute of the period with a lay-in to put Lonoke up 19-9.

Sophomore post Chad Dixon extended the lead at the 3:44 mark of the second quarter with a lay-up and free throw that gave the Jackrabbits a 27-16 lead.

Lance Jackson led Lonoke with 11 points, while Darius Scott Michael Howard and Lambert all finished with 10 points.

The Jackrabbits are 16-5 overall, and finished the 2-4A Conference season with a 9-3 record, which will give them a No. 2 seed at next week’s district tourney at Batesville Southside.

SPORTS >> Cabot boys pick up ground after 4th straight win

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers made it four straight and picked up ground on first-place North Little Rock with a 54-47 win at Catholic on Friday night.

Adam Sterrenberg followed up back-to-back 29-point performances with 23 more against the Rockets as the Panthers improved to 16-5 overall, 6-2 in the 7A-Central.

“It was a good win to get on the road,” said Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges. “It gets us a step closer (to a state tournament seed).”

The Panthers were coming off come-from-behind home wins against Russellville and Conway after trailing by nine points in the second half of both games.

“I’m proud of the way they kept competing when they had every reason to give up,” Bridges said of his team’s two dramatic victories. “You have to take care of the home court. We’ve got four left on the road so we did our job as far as holding serve.”

The win, coupled with Conway’s victory over North Little Rock, drew the Panthers and the Wampus Cats to within a half-game of the Charging Wildcats. Cabot, which beat North Little Rock by 20 points in January, played the Wildcats last night in a game after Leader deadlines.

Cabot was never threatened by Catholic and led by 15 at the half and at the end of three. Though Sterrenberg accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Panthers’ points on Friday, Cabot got good effort up and down the lineup. Austin Johnson scored 10 points and Miles Monroe added 11.

Jack Bridges dished out six assists and claimed six rebounds, while Gary Clark helped to shut down Catholic big man Michael Drake in the first half.

“Everybody is doing their jobs,” Bridges said. “I thought we played well, start to finish. Overall, I was pleased with our defense.”


Stephanie Glover was nearly perfect in Cabot’s third consecutive win. The senior post player went inside to make 12 of 13 shots on her way to 25 points.

“They played a 1-3-1 zone on us and that gave us an opportunity to run the double post with Sarah Moore inside,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “And we got exceptional outside shooting.”

Amber Rock hit three three-pointers and scored 13 points, while Jenna Bailey added 11.
While UALR signee Shelby Ashcraft was held to one point, her presence opened up things for Moore and Glover.

“(Mount St. Mary) put a lot of emphasis on her and that opened it up for Rachel,” Ruple said. “Shelby did a good job of rebounding and assists.”

Ruple also said Amalie Benjamin and Lindsay Hoggatt played exceptionally well off the bench.

The Lady Panthers (16-5 overall) improved to 6-2 in the 7A-Central, two-and-half games behind 9-0 North Little Rock. Cabot took on the Lady Wildcats last night in a game played after Leader deadlines. It is one-and-a-half games in back of Bryant (8-1).

SPORTS>>No. Pulaski boys and girls prevail

Special to The Leader

Fans can usually expect sparks to fly when the North Pulaski Falcons and Mills Comets meet on the basketball court.

Sparks were definitely flying for the Falcons Friday night, but the Comets fizzled as North Pulaski took a 70-40 win at The Galaxy.

North Pulaski played the entire fourth quarter with the 30-point mercy rule in effect.

The win improved the Falcons to 17-5 overall and keeps them perfect at 8-0 in the conference.

The Comets were missing their best player in Nick Hansberry, but providing a 30-point swing would be a lot to ask of any player.

“I certainly didn’t expect this kind of game coming into this gym,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said. “The first time basically came down to the buzzer, but they had Nick in that one.”

This time the game came down to North Pulaski’s pressure defense taking control.

The Falcons forced the Comets into 23 turnovers by the end of the third quarter when they held a 30-point lead.

“I thought we played much better, much more aggressive on defense,” said Cooper. “We got a little ragged once we got ahead, but we played better overall.”

The Comets tried to make a game of it early in the second quarter. North Pulaski led 21-8 after the first, but Mills opened the second quarter with six straight points.

That was just about the end of any good times for the Comets.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Aaron Cooper sparked a 16-1 run by the Falcons. Cooper dished out three assists during the run, while DaQuan Bryant had three steals, two rebounds and an assist in the quarter. Mills committed nine turnovers in the second quarter.

Bryant led all scorers with 17 points to go along with nine rebounds, five steals and five assists — all in three quarters of work.

“We passed the ball pretty well tonight and that’s something I’ve been looking for,” Cooper said. “We did a good job on the perimeter and getting the ball in the paint. It was just a good win for us.”

Jerald Blair scored 16 points for North Pulaski, while Cooper scored 14. Kyron Ware added 11 points in the win. Cooper also dished out six assists for the Falcons.

North Pulaski put the game away in the third quarter after coming out of halftime with a 43-22 lead. A 10-0 run late in the third gave the Falcons a 30-pint lead heading into the fourth.


Maybe the North Pulaski Lady Falcons should try to play the Mills Lady Comets more often.

Two games against the Comets have provided two exciting one-point victories.

The latest came Friday night at The Galaxy.

“It was another good nail-biter against Mills,” North Pulaski coach Todd Romaine said. “We were pretty lucky to come out of this one with a win.”

North Pulaski was outscored in each of the first three quarters and trailed by eight points heading into the fourth.

The Lady Falcons came back with one of their best quarters of the season in the fourth, outscoring the Lady Comets 14-5.

“The girls played hard,” said Romaine. “We’re still making too many mistakes, but that’s going to happen with any team this young. We started causing Mills to make some mistakes in the fourth quarter.”

The Lady Falcons completed the comeback when Laura Dortch drained a shot with just under seven seconds left to play.

That basket didn’t end the game’s excitement however. There was still enough time for the Comets to get down the court and get off a shot and a putback attempt. Both shots rimmed out.

“It’s easy to get excited and not get back on defense after a go-ahead shot like that,” Romaine said. “I’m proud of the way the girls never gave up and battled back at the end.”

Dortch led the Lady Falcons with nine points, while Keke Springs was right behind her with eight points. Breyana Trent scored four, while Jackie Moragne added two more in the win.

Monday, February 09, 2009

EDITORIAL>>Nation needs a stimulus bill

Enough Republicans — three, to be exact — agreed on Friday to support a $780 billion stimulus package to get it passed in the Senate. But the virtually solid Republican opposition to President Obama’s big stimulus program is as mysterious as it is dangerous. Either the party leaders remain wedded to the economic doctrines that guided the Bush administration — cut taxes on the well-to-do and wait for the good times to roll — or else they embrace the ideas of its most vocal Republican ideologue, Rush Limbaugh, who says the party’s task is to see that the United States collapses under Barack Obama to prove that his liberal ideas do not work.

We ought to be satisfied now that cutting taxes and doing nothing in the face of economic withdrawal are not a remedy but a failed experiment. In eight years that featured three major tax cuts for corporations and high incomes the country gained a net of fewer than 2 million jobs, the worst economic performance for any eight-year period since the Great Depression. Compare it with 22.6 million under eight years of Bill Clinton. The country shed 3.6 million jobs in President Bush’s final year, which ended two weeks ago, and a million pink slips are now being handed out every seven weeks. Economists say the worst is yet to come. We pray that they are wrong.

Everyone should be a little nervous about borrowing $780 billion in a gamble that it will restart the country’s great economic engine. After all, the massive deficits incurred by the profligacy of the Bush years were not an inconsiderable factor in the troubles. He inherited a mighty economy fueled by the first back-to-back treasury surpluses in two generations.

But there is hardly an economist of any stripe who does not now believe that the risk should be taken to stimulate the economy. Some say that the $780 billion is too much. Others, even conservatives, wonder if it is far too little. President Franklin Roosevelt’s spending programs moved the country out of the Depression’s depths but it took the truly mammoth investment in war industries to kick the economy into high gear.

The president’s program includes large tax cuts both for business and middle-class taxpayers, but Republican critics want more relief for people with investment incomes. A few say it includes too little for infrastructure work and too much for people down on their luck: extended unemployment benefits, food stamps, education and medical care. They are wrong. Human relief is just as effective a stimulus as building a bridge. It puts money into the pockets of people who will spend it on goods and services.

What the country needs is productive economic activity, even if it puts food on the table of a hungry family, and the stimulus will provide it. If the Republicans have a better idea besides collapse, the country is waiting. Cataclysm may be a desirable goal for Rush Limbaugh, but Congress will find that the strategy will be little appreciated by the American people.

EDITORIAL>>No-dough Garner

President Obama uttered words Thursday that we thought we would never hear from a president of the United States again, “I screwed up.” He was talking about nominating a cabinet officer who was discovered later to have ducked a considerable sum of income taxes on perks that he had received from a contractor. It was the third hire of the president to acknowledge tax problems, and two of them withdrew with the president’s assent if not his encouragement.

This was no niggling matter, although some said such nitpicking deprived the president and the country of the services of some astute people. But we expect the government and its agents to oblige the same rules that it punishes ordinary citizens for flouting. We have a tax system that is functionally voluntary and that depends upon everyone faithfully meeting their duty as citizens to remit the taxes they owe or collect. It cannot work if people who duck their duty are rewarded with high responsibility.

That is true at every level of government. On the same day that Obama’s health and human services nominee withdrew, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the ranking Republican member of the Arkansas House Revenue and Taxation Committee had failed for many years to remit to the state treasury sales taxes that he had collected at his bakery business in Little Rock and the income taxes that he had withheld from his employees’ checks. The state filed tax liens against Rep. Ed Garner, Republican of Maumelle, last year seeking recovery of some $50,000 that he had not remitted. The employees’ withholding that he had kept dated as far back as 1995.

Rep. Garner said it was no big deal, that his bakery business had struggled for a while and that, anyway, he had been making payments on the debt since the state got after him. He did not think his delinquency impaired his ability to influence tax policy as a member of the Revenue and Taxation Committee, where most tax bills are lodged. Garner led the fight in the House this week against the cigarette tax.

Garner’s problem is far more grievous than that of Tom Daschle, though the sum was smaller. These were not his own taxes but taxes he had collected from others and kept for his own use.

“I think I have plenty of credibility in that committee,” Garner said. If he does, he shouldn’t. He has none with the taxpaying public.

TOP STORY>>Otey glad he’s back at LRAFB

Leader senior staff writer

Good things happen to Col. Gregory S. Otey, new commander of Little Rock Air Force Base, when he’s stationed at the Rock, and the big, affable former football player says he’s glad to be back.

“This is a wing commander’s dream; the community support is so strong,” he said.

“I met Lisa here,” he said of his wife of 15 years. She was working at the Excelsior Hotel (now the Peabody) as a sales representative when Otey was stationed at the base in 1991 for Air Force Commanders’ School. When he returned to the base in 1995 to help stand up the C-130 Weapons School and near the beginning of that assignment, their first son Jacob was born at Baptist Hospital in North Little Rock.

Before the Oteys left in 1997, their second son, Lukas, was born. The couple has another son, Chris.

The Oteys bought their first house in Cabot during that period.

Now he’s back as base commander and commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, an expeditionary wing of war fighters.

He said two of his predecessors, Maj. Gen. Kip Self and Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz told him, “You will not find community support any better in the Air Force than at Little Rock Air Force Base.”

Otey said he has several goals for the time he spends at the base.

“I would like to improve educational opportunities for military families,” he said, and also to see the privatized military housing contract successfully implemented.

Schatz, Otey’s immediate predecessor, arrived at the base in May 2007 just as Carabetta-American Eagle’s failure as the developer became clear, and Schatz left just weeks after a new, trusted team of developers and managers has bought out Carabetta’s contract. Hunt-Pinnacle LLD is ramping up to demolish some houses Carabetta left unfinished, to finish others and to build and remodel hundreds more.

“Mission first, people always,” Otey said. “That’s nothing I thought up on my own. It’s a cliché, but it works.”

He said he would continue Schatz’s advocacy for better local public schools, for a new elementary school serving the children of airmen in place of Arnold Drive Elementary School, and that he would continue support for a standalone Jacksonville school district.

Ground should be broken soon for the $15 million Joint Education Center, funded two-thirds by the federal government and one-third by Jacksonville residents who voted to tax themselves. That center will house representatives of several colleges that provide classes for airmen and also area residents.

It is likely to be completed on Otey’s watch.

Otey was born at Roanoke, Va.

“I always wanted to fly planes,” said Otey, who soloed in a Cessna C-172 before he was old enough for a driver’s license.

He attended Virginia Military Institute on a football scholarship as a tight end. From VMI, he was accepted into pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz.

“I worked hard and asked (to pilot) a C-130 and I got C-130s,” he recalled.

He came to Little Rock Air Force Base for co-pilot school around June 1989 and returned in 1991 for Air Force Commander’s School. That was when he met the woman he would later marry.

“I came back in 1993 for an instructor pilot upgrade,” he said.

Otey’s most recent posting was as vice commander of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center at Fort Dix, N.J. Otey said he knew he was getting close to Arkansas when a Memphis waitress said, “Mornin’, darlin’, what do you want for breakfast?”

Otey said he and Col. Charles K. Hyde served at the same time in Iraq and Afghanistan and knew each other, though they hadn’t actually worked together.

Hyde is commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, the base’s other Air Force wing. The 19th is the host wing, and the 314th, which trains virtually all C-130 pilots, crews and maintainers for the U.S. and its allies, is the tenant.

The base is also home to the Air Guard’s 189th Wing, which trains C-130 teachers for the schools maintained by the 314th.

Otey, a Bronze Star recipient, is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours in military aircraft, including the C-130E and the state of the art C-130J.

Among 11 other awards, Otey received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

TOP STORY>>Period for filing opens Tuesday in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council made only one change to the plans to elect a new mayor to succeed Tommy Swaim.

The proposed ordinance had the last date to file to run as March 12, but City Attorney Robert Bamburg explained that the day was a “typo” and the last date to file would be noon March 2.

The election will be May 12 with at least five polling sites open in the city. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The winning candidate will be just the city’s third mayor in 34 years. Swaim, when he retires July 1, will have served as the city’s leader for 22 and a half years. He defeated former Mayor James Reid, who served 12 years.

According to the unanimously passed ordinance, the filing period will run from Tuesday through noon March 2. All necessary paperwork must be filed with the Pulaski County clerk’s office in Little Rock, but candidacy packets can be picked up in the city clerk’s office at city hall.

The first step in becoming a candidate is turning in a petition with the signatures of 30 registered Jacksonville voters. City Clerk Susan Davitt said that may seem like a small number, but many people will sign the petitions and say they are a registered voter of Jacksonville when they aren’t.”

Besides the petition, candidates must sign a political practice pledge that, among other things, states that the candidate has never been convicted of a felony.

So far four people—Aldermen Kenny Elliot and Gary Fletcher, businessman Tommy Dupree and motorcycle minister Doc Rhodd have announced that they plan to seek Swaim’s seat.

If none of the candidates have a majority of the vote (50 percent, plus one vote) then a run-off will be held June 2 between the two candidates receiving the most votes.

The ordinance states that the “duly elected candidate, shall, upon proper certification, take the oath and office of the mayor on or about July 1.”

The election is coming about because Swaim, after more than 22 years of running the city, announced in mid-January that he was resigning as of July 1, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

He told the council in January that he missed a lot of his children’s activities while mayor and didn’t want to do the same with his grandchildren.

“It was a hard decision to make, but the right one,” he said. “I’m comfortable with leaving. The city’s in good financial shape and has good employees.”

When Swaim retires he will immediately be eligible for retirement pay of half his current salary of $95,499.

For an elected official to be eligible for retirement pay, they must serve at least 10 years in their elected position. Retirement pay is half of their final year’s salary. They may start to collect when they turn 60.

Former Mayor James Reid has been collecting his mayoral retirement of $14,640 (half of his final year’s salary) since the early 1990s.

Alderman Bob Stroud felt the long dragged out negotiations to save the city’s hospital did the mayor in. “He agonized for that for months,” Stroud said, adding, “I appreciate that he got us through numerous trouble spots and has the city on a super foundation.”

TOP STORY>>Murder suspect ruled insane

Leader senior staff writer

Ronald Dean Charles, 31, of Jacksonville lacks the mental capacity to stand trial for the capital murder of Sandra Ann Givens and prosecutors can’t proceed against his co-defendant without Charles’ testimony.

“That puts us in a bind with George Smith,” said Deputy Pulaski County Prosecutor Marianne Satterfield. At a Friday morning hearing, she dropped the capital murder charge against Smith, 33, also of Jacksonville, and he had been released from the Pulaski County Detention Center by 2 p.m., according to a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Charles had implicated himself and Smith in Givens’ murder, but without Charles’ testimony, Satterfield said she had insufficient evidence to convict Smith. He could be charged again later if there is a change in Charles’ mental capacity.

Charles’ Pulaski County mental evaluation was not yet completed Friday, Satterfield said. But a completed evaluation filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court in a separate murder case found Charles mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Charles has been returned to the Faulkner County Jail pending further developments, she said.

He could end up in the Arkansas State Hospital, she said.

Charles led lawmen to the remains of Givens, a White County native who was 32 when she was killed. Family members reported her missing in October 2007.

Her remains were found on the grounds of Wright’s Cabinet Shop at Redmond Road in Jacksonville.

At the time of the discovery Charles was already was in the Faulkner County Jail with Troy Allen Crook, 29, awaiting trial for the April 9, 2008 murders of cousins Bobby Don Brock, 45, and Lonnie Franklin Brock, 62. The Brocks lived near Vilonia. Crook was not implicated in the Givens murder.

In addition to two capital murder charges, Charles and Crook each face a bevy of other charges related to the Brock killings.

Charles is charged as a habitual criminal with four or more prior felonies, Satterfield said.

Both men have prior records, Charles’ stretching back to a 1995 Pulaski County conviction for two counts of commercial burglary and two counts of theft of property. He was 18 at the time, and was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1999, he was sentenced to six years for residential burglary and theft of property.

Crook was convicted in Pulaski County for residential burglary in 2000, probation revocation in 2001, and was convicted in 2006 of fraudulent use of a credit card.

At the time that Charles led officials to Givens’ remains, he told Faulkner County deputies that he had been involved in another area murder and maybe 15 more in different states.

The search for the second local body was fruitless, although local residents say the search area floods easily and floodwaters could have carried a body off.

Charles was appointed a lawyer soon after making those claims and refused to cooperate with officials after that, according to Maj. Andy Shock of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office.

TOP STORY>>Junkyard in Beebe is told to clean up

Leader staff writer

The owner of Dave’s Core in Beebe is in trouble with city and state officials who say he must screen his unsightly scrap metal business from public view.

Located between U.S. Hwy. 67-167 and Arkansas Hwy. 367, David Hepp’s business is visible from both and even he admits that it is an eyesore.

For several months, Mayor Mike Robertson has been unable to get the Arkansas Highway Department to force Hepp to erect a screen around his property. So he turned the matter over to the city attorney and Hepp will be prosecuted in Beebe District Court.

But The Leader learned Thurs-day, after Robertson ran an ad asking residents to call the Arkansas Highway Department and not the city with their complaints, that the Highway Department also plans to prosecute Hepp.

Although Hwy. 367, where the business is technically located, is not on the list of state roads where screening of junkyards is required, Hwy. 67-167 is on the list.

“If you can see it from the highway, you’ve got to keep it reasonably clean,” David Nilles, a spokesman for the Highway Department, said Thursday. “We’ve been out there and given him two or three chances to clean it up and he’s done nothing. We’re going to the (circuit court) prosecutor (Chris Raff) next week.

Like the city, Nilles said the state wants a screen erected.

Robertson also learned on Thursday that the Highway Department intends to prosecute Hepp and says it must have been all the calls that finally moved them to action.

“They have an office in Batesville and an office in Little Rock and they go up and down that road every day,” the mayor said. “They saw it and they should have taken care of it.”

The department is always out on Saturday pulling up yard sale signs, church revival signs and campaign signs, he said. And there can be no good reason for neglecting the condition of Hepp’s property for so long.

Hepp, whose property was annexed into the city about two years ago, told The Leader in late September that he was getting bids for a screening fence around his property as the city had already requested. But he said this week that since his profit from the sale of scrap metal was cut in half when prices dropped in the fall, he can no longer afford to build the fence.

“I’m just barely scraping by,” he said.

He proposes instead to stop using the area beside the freeway for storage. That way the junk beside the “Welcome to Beebe” sign that is so offensive to the mayor and others would no longer be an issue.

Since the price for scrap metal fell, he isn’t buying much from the local scrap dealers who keep him supplied, so he doesn’t need as much storage room, Hepp said he told the mayor this week.

“If I clean it up, I wouldn’t need a fence, but they’re telling me I need a fence anyway,” Hepp said.

The mayor said that is exactly what he told Hepp, who is willing to move the scrap metal away from the freeway now because business is bad and he doesn’t need the storage space. But if business picks up the junk will be back.

The law says Hepp’s business is supposed to be screened and the mayor says he wants it screened.

“Complying with rules and regulations is not based on the economy,” he said.

TOP STORY>>Principal lashes out at accusers

Leader senior staff writer

The president of the Pulaski County Special School District Board has accused an outspoken principal of slandering him and has instigated an investigation, which the principal calls “an inquisition.”

Board president Tim Clark, Super-intendent James Sharpe, district administrators and the district’s lawyer are investigating the charge that Jacksonville Boys Middle School Principal Mike Nellums told a second principal that Clark had paid board member Gwen Williams for her vote impeaching then-president Mildred Tatum and electing Clark to the position.

Clark alleged that Nellums made the slanderous comment at a Jan. 14 meeting of principals.

Nellums says the alleged slander never occurred, that the board president doesn’t have the authority to authorize an investigation and that even if Nellums had made the comment, it would have been protected speech under the Constitution.

It’s difficult to libel or slander public figures, who are said to be in the limelight.
Those investigating the incident — Deborah Coley, Bill Barnes and Jay Bequette — interviewed several principals and at least two teachers.

Coley is assistant superintendent for human resources.

Barnes is director of secondary education and Bequette is the district’s lawyer.

Clark and Coley said they couldn’t discuss a personnel matter and Sharpe didn’t return a call.

Neither of the two teachers — both PACT members — who reported Nellums’ alleged slander to the union was at the principals’ meeting, but according to Nellums, they reported to PACT leaders who forwarded the hearsay comments to Clark.

Nellums said the investigation is prompted by his longstanding enmity with the union.

PACT has been supportive of and supported by three of the seven sitting board members — Clark, Williams and Bill Vasquez.

A message left on the PACT answering machine was not returned.

Clark signed his Jan. 19 letter to Sharpe requesting the investigation, “Tim Clark, president, PCSSD School Board.”

“It was reported to me that Mr. Nellums made slanderous/defamatory statements about me and fellow Board Member Gwen Williams to other PCSSD administrators who attended a meeting of PCSSD principals…”

Clark called his letter a formal complaint and asked for an investigation including interviews of all PCSSD administrators who attended the meeting.

In a Jan. 29 letter to Barnes and Coley, Nellums said the statement attributed to him was incorrect.

“I am the most credible source, and I simply did not say anything about a paid-for activity to (Principal) Karne Sullards or anyone else.”

Sullards is the principal to whom Nellums allegedly made the statements to which Clark objects.

Nellums asserted that Sullards first told administrators that it hadn’t happened.

“At the behest of Mr. Clark,” Nellums said, “she was browbeaten by Mr. Bequette because her first statement, which exonerated me, simply did not satisfy Mr. Clark’s need to punish and intimidate me.”

Sullard finally submitted a third letter in which she said she really didn’t remember what was said, if anything.

Nellums wants Clark to reimburse the district for several thousand dollars worth of time that Coley, Barnes and the other principals interviewed spent improperly on the investigation and also for Bequette’s time, which Nellums says is billed at $200 an hour.