Friday, February 20, 2009

SPORTS >> Round 1 to the Falcons

Leader sports editor

The much-anticipated, much-delayed battle of 5A-Southeast titans proved to be very much worth the wait.

In the end, North Pulaski refused to be intimidated by 11 blocked shots and a ferocious Little Rock McClellan press and took over first place with a 77-71 win on Tuesday night at the Falcons’ Nest. The two teams’ first scheduled matchup at McClellan was iced out on Jan. 27. They will play again this Thursday at McClellan.

“That was a fun game,” said North Pulaski head coach Ray Cooper, whose Falcons remained unbeaten in league play at 11-0 and improved to 20-5 overall. “It was back and forth, back and forth. I like it like that.”

What he also liked was McClellan’s decision to press his get-it-and-go Falcons, who exploited the Lions pressure to the tune of 15-of-21 shooting in the second half, while turning the ball over a total of only 12 times. Daquan Bryant and Aaron Cooper led the way for the Falcons with 19 points each. Bryant also added 10 rebounds, two blocks and five assists.

“When teams are going to pressure us, we want to attack and make them pay,” Cooper said. “They were leaving the back end open and when that happens, we have to attack.”

Though North Pulaski threatened to make a laugher of it early, racing to a 9-0 lead in front of the raucous crowd, Cooper said neither he nor his team was fooled by the fast start.

“We talked about coming in here,” Cooper said. “I don’t think (the Falcons) fully understood just how athletic McClellan was and how aggressive they are on the glass. We knew this was going to be a game of runs.”

Sure enough, the Lions (16-6, 10-1) scored 11 of the next 15 points to get back in it. Still, Kyron Ware’s breakaway dunk and free throw gave North Pulaski its biggest lead at 26-15 early in the second period. But McClellan scored the final seven points of the half to take its first lead of the game at 32-31.

Kelby Robinson and Mike Bradley caught fire in the third quarter for McClellan, but Cooper hit a pair of three-pointers and Bryant started driving to the bucket for eight more points and the two teams entered the final period knotted at 55.

The Lions surged to a 61-56 lead after four offensive rebounds on one possession resulted in a putback basket with 5:40 left. But Brian Coulson sparked a 10-0 run with a bucket inside. Jerald Blair narrowed the gap to one with a pair of free throws and Cooper gave the Falcons the lead for good with a difficult high-arcing, 10-foot runner from the left of the lane with 4:05 left.

“Believe it or not, Aaron practices that shot,” Ray Cooper said. “His pet shot is the runner, but he doesn’t use it a lot. They’re so big he couldn’t have got off a jumper there. He came up big on that play.”

Blair hit two more free throws — North Pulaski hit its final 11 charities and 14 of 15 in the second half — and Bryant finished off the run with a fast-break lay-up as the Falcons took a 66-61 lead with three minutes remaining. Twice, McClellan got within four, but the Falcons refused to sit on the lead, continuing to attack. Carlos Donley scored off a Bryant feed with 37 seconds left to push the lead back to six.

Ware and Cooper each hit a pair of free throws to set the final margin.

“(McClellan coach Chris Threatt) and I were talking that this was really good; this is going to help both of us for the state tournament,” Cooper said. “This was a hard-nosed game. They’ve kind of been wearing people out and we’ve been winning by large margins, so this kind of game, we really had to just grind it out.

“That tests your grit and both of these teams showed a lot of grit. We just made a few more plays.”

North Pulaski was playing without guard Joe Agee, who was sick, and was forced to play Christian Knight, who was suffering from a bulging disc. Aaron Cooper was also suffering from the flu.

“Christian gave us some important minutes,” Cooper said. “He wasn’t supposed to play until next week but we knew they were going to get after us so he was able to give some of our guys some rest.”

While North Pulaski finished with a narrow rebounding advantage, the Lions dominated in the second half. The Falcons pulled down only nine boards in the second half, five by Bryant.

“Daquan is a kid that lives for big games,” Cooper said. “He played all five positions tonight. He really stepped up for us on the boards. We need others to step up for us next week.”

With their torrid second-half shooting, North Pulaski finished the night over 50 percent (27 of 53) and made 20 of 26 free throws. Ware added 16 points, while Donley and Blair added eight apiece. Blair pulled down six boards.

The Lions made 29 of 61, 3 of 8 from beyond the arc. They connected on 10 of 12 free throws.

Cooper credited the near-capacity crowd with the Falcons’ energy and intensity.
“I wish we had this every night,” he said. “That’s what we’re building toward. Our student body is getting energized and we play an uptempo style that makes it fun for them to watch.

“We’re trying to build a home-court advantage. That’s what you need in these type of games. The fans were really big tonight.”

North Pulaski headed to Monticello for a game played last night after Leader deadlines.


In a game of runs, McClellan’s proved to be a little more decisive. After North Pulaski opened the second half by scoring the first 10 points to take a five-point lead, the Lady Lions responded with eight straight to take the lead for good heading into the final period.

Laura Dortch’s 12-footer with six minutes left in the contest got the Lady Falcons to within 34-33 and Bianca Harper’s two free throws narrowed it once again to a single point with 3:20 left, but North Pulaski could never get over the top.

Harper came up big for North Pulaski with 14 points and 14 rebounds. She scored all four of the Lady Falcons’ points in the first period, but they trailed the whole way. McClellan led by as many as 10 midway through the second period. North Pulaski took only its second lead of the game on Keke Springs’ eight-foot runner with 5:07 left in the third. Harper followed with a baseline basket and Haley Hudson put back her own miss to give the Lady Falcons a 29-24 lead with 3:16 left.

Springs scored 11 points and Dortch added eight.

SPORTS >> Lady Badgers take over first place

Leader sportswriter

Ty O’Neill made the most of her final game at home as a Lady Badger.

The senior all-purpose guard finished with 31 points, seven steals, six rebounds and four assists to lead Beebe to a 65-53 win over Sylvan Hills on Tuesday night at Badger Sports Arena.

The win gave Beebe (15-8, 11-0) sole possession of first place in the 5A-Southeast Conference standings.

For the Lady Bears (17-5 overall), it was their first league setback of the year, and put them in second place with a 10-1 conference record.

“I felt like we had a great defensive effort tonight,” said Lady Badgers coach Lora Jackson. “We had a great rebounding effort for the most part. We had some letdowns here and there on defense. We were playing so aggressively that sometimes we gave up some easy stuff. But overall, I felt like it was four quarters of great defense and good rebounding.

“We were all a little bit antsy at first, but once we settled down and got into a groove, we pretty much maintained our lead and did what we had to do to win the game.”

Senior night at Beebe High School on Tuesday was just that with O’Neill’s strong performance, but junior Geneshia Edwards also got in on the action with 13 points, including a 6-of-9 performance at the foul line.

Sylvan Hills guard Latrina Brandon paced O’Neill, scoring-wise, with 31 points and four steals of her own, but she was the only Lady Bear to finish in double figures. Ashley Johnson came close with eight points, while Beebe had senior Sha Jackson with eight points and reserve Audrey Renneker with six points to go along with the contributions from O’Neill and Edwards.

“Twenty-six turnovers is way too many against a good team,” said Lady Bears coach Bee Rodden. “We just had too many unforced errors. We got in foul trouble early, and that hurt us. We just didn’t get any support from anybody else, especially in the first half. When we get 21 points and Latrina has all but five of them, we’re not going to beat people.”

Careless passing led to many of Sylvan Hills’ 26 turnovers for the game. That was never exploited more than in the final minute of the third quarter, when O’Neill came away with back-to-back steals at mid-court, both of which she converted into easy lay-ups. That set the Lady Badgers up with a 44-32 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

“After those two steals, we kind of got hot,” said O’Neill. “And we were ready as soon as we got back out on the court for the fourth quarter. I was ready to put on a show. It was my last game here, so I wanted to make sure I went out with a good one. We have to go there now and beat them again so we can go undefeated in conference.”

Beebe ended the first quarter on a 10-0 run. That took the Lady Badgers from a 10-6 deficit at the 4:18 mark when a Terica Kendrick jumper gave Sylvan Hills the first two-score advantage of the game, to a 16-10 lead when Edwards set up Sha Jackson with a feed inside to end the opening period.

O’Neill scored four of her six second-quarter points off steals. Her final bucket with 1:15 left in the half was assisted by Jackson to put Beebe up 27-19.

A putback basket by sophomore guard Amanda Wheeler at the 6:23 mark of the third quarter gave Beebe a 33-23 lead, and Sylvan Hills was not able to come any closer than six points for the remainder of the contest.

The Lady Badgers dominated the game in every aspect, out-rebounding Sylvan Hills 27-18 and gave up half as many turnovers. They went 26 of 50 from the field, compared to a solid but low-volume 20 of 34 for the Lady Bears. Junior post Danna Jackson led the Lady Badgers with seven boards.

“We’ve got to keep playing, because it’s not over,” Jackson said. “The race is not over yet. We can’t have a letdown. We’ve still got three games left, and we could still end up in a tie situation with Sylvan Hills if we don’t take care of business.”


The Badgers attempted a furious comeback in the final two minutes, but the damage had already been done by woeful first-half shooting. Hillside mounted a 46-26 lead over Beebe (14-8, 6-5) with 2:53 left to play before senior guard Zach Kersey got busy with 15 of his game-high 23 points.

The first half was a defensive struggle that resulted in a 19-10 lead for Sylvan Hills (11-12, 6-5) at the break.

Sylvan Hills shot well in the second quarter to erase a dismal shooting percentage in the opening period. The Bears were 2 of 9 in the first quarter, compared to 6 of 11 in the second quarter that combined for 40 percent for the half. Beebe struggled from tip to buzzer, going 2 of 21 for the half.

Ahmad Scott extended that lead for the Bears midway through the third period with a putback, followed by another basket assisted by P.J. Ross that made it 24-11 with 5:33 left in the quarter.

Ross led the Bears with 16 points, followed by 14 for senior guard Harold Ward, but it was the inside play of Demetric Gross that caused the most damage to Beebe. Gross finished with 13 rebounds.

Anthony Forte added eight points and nine rebounds for Beebe.

The Bears finished the game 20 of 41 from the floor, while Beebe went 14 of 54.

The win puts Beebe and Sylvan Hills in a tie for third place in the 5A-Southeast standings.

SPORTS >> Red Devils roll along to eighth win in a row

Special to The Leader

Jonesboro gave Jacksonville all they could handle, but it wasn’t quite enough as the Golden Hurricane fell 59-52 Tuesday night at the Devils’ Den. It marked the eighth-straight win for the top-ranked Red Devils.

Jacksonville led by at least six points eight different times during the first three quarters. Each time, Jonesboro was able to come back within one possession of tying or taking the lead.

“I was proud of the way our kids hung in there and really had a chance to win against the number-one team in the state,” Jonesboro coach Barry Pruitt said. “It just seemed like they could turn it up on defense whenever they wanted to, shut us down, and go back up by six or eight points. That’s the best Jacksonville team I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

Jonesboro tied the game at 40-40 with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter thanks to a short jumper by Daniel Campbell. Cortrell Eskridge answered with a bucket at the end of the quarter, followed by baskets from Laquinton Miles and Antwan Lockhart to start the fourth quarter.

The Hurricane quickly pulled within two points only to have Eskridge score back-to-back baskets to make it a two-possession game for good. Eskridge led Jacksonville with 18 points and seven rebounds. Lockhart finished with 17 points.

“I thought we played uninspired and that’s not the way you want to win, but we’ll take it any way we can get it,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “Coach Pruitt is going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. He’s too good of a coach to not play inspired against, because his guys are going to come in here ready to play.”

Campbell came off the bench to provide a spark for the Hurricane with 11 points – all during the first three quarters. Terrence Walker and Ryan Anderson led Jonesboro with 12 points apiece, while Lucas Nutt added another 11 points.

Jacksonville typically plays aggressive on defense, but Joyner thought they lacked intensity on Tuesday. That hurt Jonesboro in a way as Jacksonville committed just six fouls in the game and kept the Hurricane off the free throw line. Jonesboro was just 2 of 6 from the line, while Jacksonville was 12 of 19.

Jacksonville improved to 16-3 overall and 9-1 in the 6A-East with the win. Jonesboro fell to 14-10 and 4-7.


During a fourth quarter timeout, Jonesboro coach David Daniel told his team that Jacksonville was like a bad habit – they just wouldn’t go away.

Jonesboro was finally able to break that habit over the final four minutes of the game and pulled away for a 57-40 win over the Lady Red Devils.

Jacksonville had pulled to within six points at 46-40 with just over four minutes remaining in the fourth, but Jonesboro didn’t allow another point while going on an 11-0 run to close out the contest.

Jacksonville trailed 13-8 after the first quarter, but played just about even with the Lady Hurricane for the next two quarters.

The Lady Red Devils’ defense kept Jonesboro out of synch for much of the game and especially in the first half. Jacksonville forced 11 first-half turnovers.

The fourth quarter, and really the game, came down to free throws.

The Lady Hurricane were 12 of 16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter – including 10 of 12 over the final three minutes. Jacksonville was 0 for 4 from the line in the quarter and just 2 of 11 for the game. Jonesboro made 20 of 30 freebies in the game.

“The girls played hard, but the shots stopped falling there in the fourth quarter,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “We didn’t have any luck from the field or the line at the end of the fourth. Jonesboro made just about everything late and pulled away a little.”

Jacksonville shot well early with Tyra Terry making a pair of three pointers on her way to a team-high 13 points. All nine of Sherice Randell’s points came from beyond the arc. Coach Daniel switched his defense to a box-and-one on Terry in the first half to try and neutralize the Lady Devil.

Jonesboro’s Calendra Graham led all scorers with 23 points.

SPORTS >> Harding Academy stuns 3A champs

Leader sports editor

The upset itself was noteworthy enough.

The way it came about was positively stunning.

Harding Academy dismantled the defending 3A champion Rose Bud Ramblers on Thursday night with a dominating 52-34 victory to reach the finals of the 2-3A district tournament at the Riverview Activity Center in Searcy. They took on Riverview last night for the district title.

“I thought it was a big-hearted performance from all our kids,” said Harding Academy head coach Brad Francis, who picked up his first win over the Ramblers since taking over the job in 2007. “I think we’re kind of over the mental thing (with Rose Bud). Every time we played them, it was a little bit closer and I think the kids really believed they could do it.”

The Wildcats might have had some doubts early on when Rose Bud surged to leads of 7-2 and 16-9 early in the second period. But Rose Bud wouldn’t score again for eight minutes and 33 seconds, missing 16 of their next 17 shots. Harding Academy seized the opportunity to go on a 20-0 run. All tolled, the Wildcats outscored the Ramblers by a remarkable 34-4 over a 17-minute span to put the game out of reach at 43-20 early in the final period.

“The key was to weather the stuff early,” Francis said. “They came out and put a lot of pressure on us and we got down 7-2 and 16-9. Then, we got back and got it even and all of a sudden, I thought (Rose Bud’s) energy level on the defensive end dropped a bit. And we started executing on the offensive end and knocked down some shots.”
Shooting and rebounding told the tale of this one. Rose Bud took 17 more shots, but connected just 13 of 49 overall and a woeful 3 of 27 from beyond the arc. Harding Academy, which was paced by a 15-point, 15-rebound, 4-assist outing by Daniel Stevens, made 17 of 32 shots, including 6 of 10 from long range.

The Wildcats owned the boards with a 36-22 advantage.

Harding Academy was able to shut down the paint on the defensive end, limiting Zeb Prothro to only eight points. Hot-shooting guards Jacob Pio (11) and Cody Smith (6) managed just 17 points.

“Last time we played them, we did a good job on Pio and Smith, but Prothro got 17 on us,” Francis said. “So we tried to take his possessions away and then we tried to contest every shot (on the perimeter). The kids executed the game plan to perfection.”

In addition to Stevens’ production, Seth Keese poured in 12 points and had five boards and two steals. Zack Kirby added eight points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Francis reserved some of his highest praise for the play of Caleb Hall, who scored 11 points, grabbed five boards and dished out two assists.

“Caleb with 11 points and going 4 of 5 at the line, he was really tough,” Francis said. “I think (Rose Bud) was probably testing him to see if he could knock them down and he did.”

The high-octane Ramblers got off to a typically fast start, getting a driving bucket and three-pointer from Pio to race to a 7-2 lead. But Hall and Keese delivered three-pointers to knot the score at nine and perhaps announce to the Ramblers that the Wildcats weren’t going away.

Rose Bud answered with seven straight points to take a 16-9 lead 22 seconds into the second quarter. Rose Bud missed its final nine shots of the period and scored only four points over the next 17 1/2 minutes.

Keese began Harding Academy’s 20-0 run with a driving bank shot, followed by a Stevens lay-up. Kirby tied the game with a three-pointer and Stevens gave the Wildcats the lead for good by going end to end for a bucket and free throws. Marshall Price and Kirby added three-pointers and Tate Benton closed out the half with a driving bucket as Rose Bud stumbled into the locker room suddenly down 27-16.

The Ramblers were still within 11 midway through the third period when Keese hit a three from the top of the key, and added a pull-up six-footer. Stevens hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Wildcats a 37-20 lead after three.

Harding Academy exploited Rose Bud’s signature pressure defense with crisp passing and delivered 12 assists in their 17 field goals.

“They come at you with pressure every time and we knew they were going to do that,” Francis said. “We felt like we were prepared for it. We were able to execute very well. And Daniel was just a man on the boards.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Turf battle over lottery

Whatever you think about the wisdom of a lottery, you know that it is a dangerous business. Any operation that processes $100 million a year or more is fraught with peril, and if it is the public’s money the public wants all the safeguards that can be arranged. That should be doubly true of a public enterprise that once was the province of mobsters and was known as “the numbers game.”

That is where we begin on the question of whether the freshly minted lottery law, the one that voters installed in the Constitution last year, should be amended to require that lottery proceeds like all other public funds be subject to appropriation by the legislature. The amendment ratified by voters specifies that all the money generated by lottery sales will go into accounts outside the state treasury and it is to be spent freely by the people who run the lottery without the fiscal controls that the Constitution has always required of every program and enterprise run by the government.

That is terrible fiscal policy and we are frankly astonished that it was incorporated into the lottery amendment by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, whose ideas about running the lottery and the scholarship programs that it will support are otherwise superior to what we know of the implementing legislation being devised by legislative leaders.

If exemption from appropriation and fiscal controls would be good for the lottery, as some have argued — notably yesterday’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette editorial page — then why should it not be good for other state programs, say the Highway Department, the Game and Fish Commission, the prisons, or the University of Central Arkansas? The university, in fact, makes a good case for closing that loophole. The university was sneaking bonus payments to the president through unappropriated foundation and cash funds.

The lottery will be sort of like those quasi-private “foundations.” The commissioners or the director or whoever winds up controlling the lottery could use lottery proceeds to pay whatever salaries and perks they wanted and attend the resort conventions of GTech and Scientific Games, the big gaming contractors who will shortly be operating the Arkansas lottery, or take golf outings to Scotland.

Rep. Rick Green has introduced a constitutional amendment that would require lottery proceeds to be appropriated by the General Assembly like all other school funds. Rep. Green doesn’t do much that we like (though he was one of the heroic few Republicans who broke ranks and supported the cigarette tax), but he is right about the appropriations. That is how we have always done things, Green said. It is not simply tradition but elemental good government.

The two objections are that the legislature cannot be trusted to make the maximum allocations from lottery proceeds and that it is too soon after adoption of the lottery amendment to be changing it. The law strangely says that the legislature itself can manage and maintain the lottery funds although it is mystifying how it could do that without the appropriation power.

The Democrat Gazette suspected that legislators would funnel the lottery money into pork projects back in their hometowns. That would be a crime. Every dime of the net proceeds from the lottery beyond administrative costs and prizes must be spent on scholarships. Green’s little amendment wouldn’t change that. They don’t want the elected legislators appropriating lottery proceeds but they are all right with appropriating the income taxes that you pay? Utter nonsense.

As for amending a fresh law, what is wrong with that? Not 100 voters in Arkansas last November knew or at least thought about the appropriation provision. They merely wanted to have a lottery and give what they didn’t win on their scratch tickets to kids so they could go to college. Given the choice and an explanation of what was at stake, we think nearly all of them would not want a lottery run by commissars who were unaccountable and unfettered by the fiscal controls of good government everywhere.

TOP STORY >> Bills aim to cut teen fatalities

Leader staff writer

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in this country, and Arkansas teens are killed while driving at far higher rates than in other states.

Some area residents, who know many teens who have lost their lives in traffic accidents here, are working to change this, along with legislation that was approved in the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate bills 309 and 78 propose bringing some of the state’s driving laws up to speed with much of the rest of the country. They are sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress (D-Crossett) and Sen. Henry Wilkins IV (D-Pine Bluff.)

If approved by the House, Senate Bill 309 will require teens to complete a more rigorous licensing process as compared to current standards.

The bill intends to implement graduated driver-licensing, a three-staged process that its supporters say makes roads safer for everyone and prevents teens from dying, while Senate Bill 78 will stiffen the state’s seat belt laws by allowing law-enforcement officers to pull over drivers who are not buckled up. In other words, not wearing seat belts will be a primary offense.

Proponents of the bills say that right now teenagers are fast-tracked to getting a full license. The new licensing format, they say, will provide a more thorough introduction to driving by placing tighter restrictions on teenage drivers.

Young drivers will receive an intermediate license, and undergo a supervised learning period.

Intermediate license holders will not be allowed to drive unsupervised between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless traveling to school, church events, or work. Most teens who die while driving were doing so between the hours of 9 p.m and 6 a.m., and most of those accidents occurred during weekends, according to the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Teens will not be allowed to drive with more than one passenger in order to limit any dangerous distractions, nor will they be allowed to use a cell phone while driving except in emergencies.

Statistics from the Injury Prevention Center also indicate that graduated licensing and primary seat belt laws greatly reduce traffic-fatality rates.

People wear seat belts more often in states with primary seat belt laws than in ones without such laws.

Teens who have earned their driver’s licenses through the graduated methods have lower accident rates, which means fewer injuries and deaths.

Some states have seen drops in fatality rates among teens by as much as 38 percent and 40 percent drops in injurious accidents, according to the Injury Prevention Center.

About two of every three drivers killed while driving are boys, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There were 679 Arkansans between the ages of 14 and 20 who died in car wrecks from 2000 to 2005, a figure far higher than the rest of the nation, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Teens dying in car wrecks is not a statistical matter for Erica Roberg, 17, and a senior at Cabot High School. Her friend, John Fortner, died in a late-night car accident in Cabot. She had known him since preschool.

Roberg was shocked by Fortner’s death. She wondered if accidents like that were common and began asking questions about driving safety among teenagers. She was alarmed at the frequency of accidents involving teens and learned that in many cases, the accidents were preventable.

With the help of her mother — Jetta Roberg, an emergency room nurse for 22 years at Children’s Hospital — the two set out to educate their community about the importance of safe driving.

The Robergs have delivered a Powerpoint presentation prepared by the Injury Prevention Center, an advocacy group formed by Arkansas Children’s Hospital, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Allstate Insurance to approximately half of Cabot’s ninth graders who are preparing for their driving tests.

Cabot Middle School North and Cabot Middle School South have asked the Robergs to explain the major causes of car accidents and the dangers that teenage drivers face.

Despite her hectic nursing schedule, Jetta Roberg says that she and her daughter will speak to any school or community organization interested in the safety issues posed by young drivers.

They attended the Senate committee meeting on Monday that unanimously passed the bills.
“Passing this is a no-brainer,” Jetta Roberg said about the bills.

She says reducing death rates among teenagers is a common-sense and bipartisan issue.
“Parents need to teach and guide their children through the driving process,” she said.

That is the only way to lower fatality rates, she said. She sees these bills as empowering to parents because it allows them to ease their children into driving life instead of unleashing them onto the roads with little practice.

“Cars are very convenient, but they are also as potentially dangerous as a weapon. You don’t want to turn someone loose with something like that, but we do it all the time in Arkansas,” Roberg said.

The Robergs don’t want other families and communities to feel the despair brought by the deaths of young friends, many of which they see as preventable.

She is also pleased from the support the bills have received. “When people call their state representatives and senators, things do get done.”

Senate Bill 309 passed 30 to 2, and Senate Bill 78 passed 28 to 6.

“Irrespective of the inconveniences, these bills will save lives,” Sen. Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle) said on Tuesday just before the full Senate voted on the bills.

“We tried to get the graduated-driver license (bill) done in the last session,” he said. He expects these bills to be taken up by the House sometime next week.

Sen. Glover said there was such little opposition to these bills because the facts related to teen drivers are clear.

Sen. John Paul Capps (D-Searcy) is chairman of the Trans-portation, Technology and Legis-lative Affairs Committee, which reviewed both bills. “Arkansas is ranked sixth in the nation for traffic fatalities (among teens) over the last ten years,” Capps said.

Capps is appreciative of the National Highway Safety Administration that helped bring these tragic statistics to light.

He is also pleased that the bills are progressing well.

“We are losing a lot of teenagers. I don’t think this legislation will intrude on their freedoms,” referring to the proposed restrictions on teen drivers.

Capps estimated that the House will vote on both bills within the next ten days.

“I’ve been working hard to see that lives are saved. I’m very happy,” Erica Roberg said after learning that the Senate had approved both measures.

TOP STORY >> New lawmakers settle in

Special to The Leader

State Rep. Jane English had a big smile on her face when she came out of the House chamber at the state Capitol on Monday afternoon. Her first bill had been up for a floor vote moments before and her colleagues favored HB1400 with 97 ayes.

And while she owned up to experiencing some butterflies during her first time in “the well,” as the sponsor’s podium is called, “I just told them about the bill,” English (R-North Little Rock) said with a cheery confidence.

She’s one of six freshmen from northern Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties in the House of Representatives – three Republicans and three Democrats – and they’ve just hit the halfway point in their first regular session. For six weeks they’ve been exposed to the arcanae of legislative procedure, the persuasive arts of lobbyists and the high expectations of constituents. They’ve also experienced the first truly hard-fought battle this year – the tobacco tax hike, which Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law on Tuesday – and have the single biggest issue of the session still looming in the form of the lottery.

If there’s a consensus among the freshmen so far, it’s that surprises have been few.
“I think I had somewhat of a feel for how it would be,” said Rep. Davy Carter (R-Cabot) in the halls outside the House chamber Monday. “I haven’t been thrown too many curve balls.”

For her part, English said being on the decision-making side of the legislative process isn’t all that big a change from her past work.

“I’ve been in and out of state government for 20 years,” she said, including a nearly 14-year stint with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “This is a really good freshman class. They are very intelligent, lots of young people.”

And both Reps. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke) say the only thing that’s surprised them is the amount of time re-quired, and the amount of information that has to be assimilated.

“It’s more hours than I thought,” noted McCrary.

“It’s like riding a bicycle if you’ve never done it before,” said Perry of the learning curve. “It can take you awhile to get the hang of it.”

For Rep. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe), the highlight of the session so far was having a bill die in committee. HB1178 would have limited the ability of gas companies to use eminent domain to lay pipelines across private property.

“It was very exciting, a learning experience,” he said, noting that he’s still holding the bill for a possible second run later in the session.

Dismang said he’s heard that while the volume of bills isn’t up to last session’s, they’re already dealing with legislation of major consequence in the tobacco and lottery bills. And such high-profile legislation piques constituent interest.

“One thing I’m trying to figure out is how to tell my constituents why I voted as I do,” Dismang said, adding that the constituent services office told him that before the tobacco tax vote, he received more calls asking him to vote against it than any other representative.

That’s what he did, and now he says he’s proposing a bill to look at how the tobacco settlement money the state already receives might be used to help smokers quit.

“Now that we’re punishing smokers with a tax, we also should help them,” said Dismang.

While English is pleased with the passage of HB1400 – which requires uniform collection and sharing of school records for students of military parents, to ease their transition between schools and help make sure they graduate on time – she won’t be trying to push a slew of bills through this session.
I’m very careful,” she said. “I didn’t come down here with 50 bills. Sometimes I think we pass too many laws.”

The only other bill she has filed, HB1245, would exempt military retirement pay from the state income tax. She says it will encourage more military retirees to relocate here, noting that many are young enough to have a second career, which will promote economic growth.

Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sher-wood) has had one piece of legislation already signed into law – it allows property taxes that have been frozen for senior citizens and people with disabilities to be unfrozen and adjusted downward if their property values have fallen – and has two more filed:

One that would penalize contractors who hire illegal aliens, and another that would equalize the state minimum wage with the federal minimum wage.

“I feel like, for a freshman class, we’ve been hit with some pretty heavy issues: The cigarette tax, the lottery,” said Nickels. “We have to realize in a hurry that our votes do make a difference in the lives of Arkansans.”

Nickels said he got a fair amount of input before the tobacco tax vote. Special interest groups were “quite heavily involved” in the lobbying, he said, and he heard from a lot of voters, as well.

But many of those were from people outside his district, Nickels said, although his own constituents also made their opinions known.

Perry said the feedback from constituents on the tobacco tax ran about 50-50 pro and con, but he received no pressure from either lobbyists or the bill’s opponents in the House.

So far, he’s heard nothing from his constituents on the lottery, but acknowledges there’s a ways to go before it takes its final shape. Among his concerns are that nontraditional students – those who are not graduating high school seniors – will not be provided for, as well. English also expressed the same concern, as did Nickels.

One of Carter’s concerns for the lottery bill is that the process of applying for and receiving scholarships be transparent and simple. Parents and students should be able to get online and see right away how to qualify and how to apply.

“I’d like to see most, if not all, of the money go to a new scholarship” program, he said, with “just a straight GPA minimum [requirement] and let it go from there.”

For McCrary, the goal is simple: “As many scholarships for as many kids as possible.”
Still, he said this “seems like a complicated situation that the leadership is trying to simplify.”

And all six representatives emphasized a familiar refrain for legislators: They were honored to be here.

“The truth to tell is that I agonize over every vote,” said Carter. “I try to think through every single vote. When I press that button, I’m representing 30,000 people.”

TOP STORY >> Seventh candidate runs for mayor

Special to The Leader

Emphasizing the fact he was born at Rebsamen Medical Center and is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, Jody Urquhart filed papers with the Pulaski County clerk on Tuesday to run for mayor.

“I take great pride in that, actually,” said Urquhart of his nativity.
A special election will be held May 12 to succeed Mayor Tommy Swaim, who will resign on July 1.

Urquhart, 36, is an area coordinator for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, working with “farm and ranch folks” in 13 north-central Arkansas counties. He and his wife Keri have been married 10 years and have a 7-year-old daughter at Pinewood Elementary School. He attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello, where he majored in agriculture and animal science.

“I think the way the city has been run and operated for the past several years is fantastic, but we’ve been losing in the people count,” Urquhart said.

The best ways to address that are through establishing a city school district, encouraging economic development and improving the city’s hospital, he said, with education at the forefront.

“Ultimately, when it comes to folks that are coming home from school or starting their families or moving here in the military, I believe they take a look and understand that our facilities at the schools are just not what they want to put their children in,” he said.

“I think the next mayor has to play a pivotal role in that,” he added.

Urquhart said he has worked with Jacksonville World Class Education to get the Pulaski County Special School District to clear the way for the city to have its own school district, and says that would remain a priority if he is elected mayor.

He’s also in his second term on the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board and is its incoming treasurer. Urquhart says Jacksonville needs to exploit what he sees as an advantageous environment for businesses in the city.

“When you take a ride down to our industrial park, I think we have a fantastic new zone down there, and some facilities are sitting empty,” he said.

“If we can’t get some big industry, we need to get some light industry. I think we need to look at some packages to attract those people, some tax incentives like some of the communities around us seem to be able to offer.

“And we need to focus on the small businesses in the community to make sure they continue to be viable,” he added.

Maintaining a strong relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base is vital, said Urquhart, and part of his job as mayor would be to ensure the federal government knows the city appreciates and values the base and the jobs it provides.

In addition to jobs and schools, Urquhart said North Metro Medical Center will be a priority.

“It’s no secret our hospital has had quite a few financial problems,” he said. “We’re going to have to continue to strengthen and firm up our hospital, get our community to start using our hospital first rather than going down the road.”

Urquhart makes no secret of the fact he’s a cheerleader for Jacksonville, and says that encouraging civic pride is one of city hall’s most important jobs.

“I want to see this community continue to grow and attract some of our young families back,” he said.

Aldermen Kenny Elliott and Gary Fletcher and local developer Tommy Dupree have also filed their required petition of signatures with the Pulaski County clerk as candidates for mayor and have been certified.

Three other candidates —realtor Beckie Brooks, motorcycle minister Randy (Doc) Rhodd and former police Lieutenant Bill Shelly — have also announced their intentions to run for the spot being vacated by Swaim.

Jacksonville banker Donny Farmer is also thinking about entering the race.

The filing period started last week and runs until noon on March 12. Jacksonville residents interested in running for mayor in the special election need to turn in a petition with at least 30 signatures of Jacksonville residents registered to vote.

TOP STORY >> Railroad spur could drive Cabot growth

Leader staff writer

Entergy’s plan to build a substation and two high voltage transmission lines near the railroad track in Cabot could mean more to the city than just the assurance of enough electricity to accommodate growth.

The project will connect the two existing high-voltage lines at the new substation.

The huge components of the project are too big and heavy to be delivered by truck. They will come by rail and that will require the construction of a railroad spur that could be used to attract industry to the area.

The railroad runs through Cabot, but it doesn’t stop and that is a detriment to industrial growth. But Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said recently that when he learned two months ago of Entergy’s plans for the Cabot area, he alerted the Arkansas Economic Development Commission that Cabot could soon have more to offer industry looking for a place to locate.

Entergy officials said last week during an open house to introduce the proposed project that it would be to their advantage for industry to locate next to the spur Entergy will build. Once construction is completed, the spur would be used so seldom that the railroad would charge for the non use.

Industry in the area could ensure that the spur is used often so the extra charges could be averted.

Nothing is certain at this point about the construction of the new lines and substation, except Entergy intends to begin building this year and have them in service by 2011.

The environmental and hydrology studies have not been done because the site for the substation has not been selected.

The location of the two new lines connecting the substation to the existing lines will be determined by the location of the substation.

The open house last week was not well attended. Entergy employees, on hand to answer questions, almost out-numbered the guests.

However, there were maps showing that the four sites being considered are not populated areas, and experts were available to answer such questions as, do those high-voltage lines cause cancer?

A pamphlet provided by En-tergy engineer and employee Margaret Snow, a senior environmental specialist with environmental management, said statistical studies and laboratory research to determine the physical effects of long-term exposure to electric and magnetic fields, like those under power lines and near home appliances, have been contradictory.

A 1990 government report said prolonged exposure to magnetic fields is a possible, but not proven cause of cancer in humans.

But a 1992 government report concluded that electric and magnetic fields generated by such sources as household appliances, video-display terminals and local power lines are not health hazards.

Magnetic fields are measured in milligauss. The magnetic field directly under a high voltage line is 200 milligauss, which is considerably less than the reading two inches from a microwave oven, which is 750 to 2,000 milligauss.

Both diminish quickly with distance. A high-voltage transmission line is 10 milligauss at 100 feet away and 2 milligauss at 250 feet.

A microwave oven is 40 to 80 milligauss at 12 inches and 3-8 milligauss at 36 inches.

The study on the effects of electric and magnetic fields continues, but whenever possible, Entergy officials say they build away from populated areas.

SPORTS >> A near-miracle

Leader sports editor

If they handed out state wrestling championships purely on success rates, North Pulaski would hold the title today. As it is, the Falcons will have to be content to be state runners-up in the 1A-5A division.

The Falcons, along with their coaches and parents, are more than content with the finish; they’re thrilled — not only with the second-place medal but with the fact that all eight of their wrestlers finished in the top six and three won their weight categories.

“It was phenomenal really,” said North Pulaski head coach Tony Mongno, who was able to fill only eight of the 14 weight divisions at the state meet last weekend at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. “They went in there and really bought into it. They wrestled their very best. All of them were so happy, it’s unbelievable.

“(189-pound wrestler) Vinnie Osmun didn’t stop smiling for two or three hours after he got that medal.”

Osmun, along with Jonathan Buzzitta in the 119-pound division and Tony Mongno (130) won titles for North Pulaski, which was edged out by CAC by 26 points. CAC, though, had every weight division represented, as did most of the top 10 teams in the first-ever Arkansas Activities Association-sanctioned state meet. Beebe finished fourth, while Sylvan Hills was 14th and Harding Academy 17th.

Tony Buzzitta, Jonathan’s father and a part-time volunteer for the Falcons the past two seasons, compared the Falcons’ finish to a movie.

“Really, it was like five kids at the playground getting together to go win an NBA championship,” he said. “I don’t think any other team had all of their wrestlers finish in the medals. The coaches have done a tremendous job with these kids and every kid just wrestled tremendously.”

In the 6-7A state meet, Cabot finished fifth. Cody Ealy won his second-consecutive state title wrestling in the 125-pound class.

“Cody is just a great wrestler,” said Cabot coach Brandon Jay of the Wisconsin move-in. He was just head and shoulders above everybody else.”

Ealy finished his two-year career as a Panther 35-0, but received perhaps his best competition in his final match. He narrowly decisioned Catholic High’s Michael Reynolds, 10-8.

“It probably wasn’t quite as close as that score,” Jay said. “But it was a great final match for him.”

Bentonville once again won the 6-7A meet, followed by Heritage, Catholic and Central. The Panthers, who also finished fifth a year ago, were hoping for a better finish and got off to a sterling start on Friday night. Jay said they opened with eight or nine straight wins, then lost the next nine.

“It put a lot of people in consolation matches we didn’t think would be there,” he said. “But we came back to finish strong at the end. We’re still a young team with four ninth-graders and some sophomores who were in their first state tournament.”
First-timer Chad Hankins made a great showing, taking home a third-place in the 152-pound division. Not so fortunate was defending champion Chavin Scales, who lost to archrival Tanner Mann of Central in the semifinals and finished fifth.

For North Pulaski, Adolphe Stephens was one of two Falcons to reach the championship round but came up short. Stephens lost to Beebe’s Sammy Williams on a 4-3 decision. Jared Pflasterer lost in a fall to Gentry’s Connor Willett.

Other Falcons who finished in the points were Jacob McClain (fourth in the 125-pound division); Dylan Sheffield (fourth at 215); and Jacob Sowell (sixth at 145).

North Pulaski’s showing didn’t escape the notice of fellow coaches at the event.

“Pretty much non-stop someone was stopping me to talk about our team and the kids,” Mongno said. “They were wowed by what we did.”

Mongno, who spent 10 years in submission wrestling, credits the help of volunteer coaches Chris Valliere and Roli Delgado. For the Falcons to get to that next level, though, Mongno needs to fill the other weight slots, he said. He hopes the showing last weekend will draw attention from other athletes and from the athletic department.

“Hopefully, this will generate some interest,” he said. “It’s a great sport and it gives the 103-pound kid who’s too small to play football and basketball a chance to compete. That kid can be a great wrestler.”

North Pulaski had 11 wrestlers competing last year. The Falcons had nine to open this season, though Mongno’s daughter, Mariah, broke her collarbone and missed the latter part of the year. Sixteen came out this year, but several quit.

“A lot of them just can’t take the extreme physical conditioning,” Mongno said. “Six minutes may not sound like a lot but six minutes of hard wrestling really takes it out of you.”

The Falcons lose only Phlasterer and Sheffield to graduation.

Beebe’s Josh Freeman (103 pounds), Ross Stroud (215) and Williams all won titles in their weight divisions.

Despite the disappointment at the Panthers’ finish, Jay remains hopeful for the future of not only Cabot, but of central Arkansas wrestling. Bentonville and northwest Arkansas has been dominant the first two seasons.

“We’re physically stronger down here,” Jay said. “But their technique always takes over. We hope to get more football players involved. It really helps the larger players with their balance and coordination.”

SPORTS >> Falcons tune up for McClellan with easy win

Leader sports writer

North Pulaski went up 11-0 just over two minutes into the game, and it only got more lop-sided from there.

The Falcons (19-5 overall) upped their 5A-Southeast Conference record to 11-0 with a 72-35 rout of Crossett on Friday night at the Falcons’ Nest. North Pulaski grabbed the initial lead on a barrage of three-point baskets, and streaked out to an 18-0 advantage by the 3:54 mark of the first quarter before the Eagles (6-7, 4-6 found their way to the scoreboard. The Falcons led 24-4 at the end of the opening period, and 45-19 at the half.

“I wish I could put this night in a bottle and keep it,” said Falcons coach Ray Cooper. “My hat’s off to the kids. We were really disappointed in our defensive effort in our last game. We’ve strictly had defensive practices since then. And tonight, the guys really stepped up and got after it and played hard.”

The Eagles struggled to get around the North Pulaski press, and the Falcons also had a fluid night on the offensive side with Aaron Cooper, Daquan Bryant and Kyron Ware all in double figures.

“Those three are capable on any night of scoring 30 points,” said Ray Cooper. “This is the first night that we got all three of them going on the same night. We had other people step up, so we didn’t have to get that from them, but they’re all capable of it, and tonight, they got it going early. And when they’re all going early and we’re playing defense like that, we’re pretty tough.”

The Falcons kept pace with 11-0 McClellan, who they hosted last night in a first-place battle.

Post player Carlos Donnelly made the most of senior night with seven points and eight rebounds, which included a three-point basket in the fourth quarter, along with a breakaway steal and lay-up just before the half for the 6-9, 325-pound senior.

“Surprisingly, for a guy that size, he’s a pretty good ball handler,” Cooper said. “He’s been dying and begging me for an opportunity, and I guess with it being senior night, he just decided he wasn’t going to wait any longer. He’s leading our team in free-throw percentage. He’s probably one of our better outside shooters.”

Joe Agee’s trey at the 7:28 mark of the first quarter got the ball rolling for the Falcons, and Aaron Cooper followed with a pair of threes on the next two possessions. Daquan Bryant added a jumper that was assisted by Cooper to give the Falcons an 11-0 lead with 5:36 left in the first quarter.

With 4:30 left in the third, the Eagles had had enough and their bench requested the mercy-rule. The Falcons held a 58-23 lead at that point, and used their bench to complete the rout.

The frequent three-point attempts by the NP subs brought the Falcons’ shooting percentage down for the game, but did provide a nice moment for the crowd when junior Bradley Bohannon netted a trey with less than five minutes remaining. His first two attempts were a bit off target, but his third one was all net which fired up the home crowd.

“I’m so glad he hit one,” Cooper said. “He’s been wanting to hit one so bad. I’ve been telling him to just relax. He’s so wound up, and when he gets in a game, he gives you everything he has, so I’m glad for him. I’m as relieved as he is.”

The Falcons made 28 of 61 shots from the field and went 10 of 26 behind the three-point line. Crossett was 12 of 45 from the floor, including a dismal 2 of 13 in the opening period. North Pulaski had 33 rebounds compared to 22 for the Eagles. The Falcons finished with eight turnovers, while Crossett had 11 giveaways.

Cooper led the Falcons with 20 points and five assists. Agee also finished with five assists. Bryant had 16 points and eight rebounds. Kyron Ware added 11 points, while T.J. Green had six points and two steals and senior Jerald Blair had four points.


The Lady Falcons led the entire way until the 5:28 mark of the fourth quarter, when a pair of foul shots lifted the Lady Eagles to their first lead of the game, 37-36. Regulation ended in a 45-45 tie when Shanae Govan hit a jumper in the lane for Crossett to force overtime.

The night took a turn for the worse moments earlier when senior all-purpose player Laura Dortch was charged with her fifth personal foul. Dortch had led the way defensively for the Lady Falcons, and had 10 points.

Crossett went up by as much as four in overtime, but the Lady Falcons stayed alive with a running jumper by Bianca Harper with 1:31 left, and a pair of free throws by Ke Ke Springs with 23 seconds remaining to tie it at 56-all. But it was all for naught, as Govan nailed a three-point basket in the final six seconds.

Harper led the Lady Falcons with 23 points, with 15 points from Springs. Brittany Bowen led Crossett with 16 points.

SPORTS >> Sterrenberg, Cabot still hot, beat Central

Leader sports editor

No one preaches the team concept of basketball more than Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. And it’s clear that his appreciation for his role players is passionate and genuine.

But over the past five games, Adam Sterrenberg is making it difficult to talk about anybody else. The Arkansas State signee added another standout performance to a remarkable five-game stretch, scoring 27 points to lead Cabot to a 62-47 win over a dangerous Little Rock Central team on Friday night at the Panther Pavilion.

Sterrenberg’s output brought his five-game total to 143 points, or just under 29 per game, as Cabot won its sixth in a row.

“He’s one of the best in the state and I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves,” Bridges said. “I’m his coach and I may be biased, but the numbers speak for themselves. You can’t mention (Baylor-bound Little Rock Hall guard) A.J. Walton or (Oklahoma State-bound Fayetteville guard) Fred Gulley without mentioning Adam Sterrenberg.”

The victory kept Cabot in a tie with Conway for first place in the 7A Central at 8-2. The Panthers improved to 18-5 overall.

The Panthers were 2-2 and trailing by nine late against Russellville on Jan. 30 when Sterrenberg erupted for 22 points in the final five minutes as Cabot rallied for a critical win. Neither the Panthers, nor Sterrenberg, have faltered since. They rallied against Conway, then won at Catholic and North Little Rock before breaking open a tight game against Central on Friday.

The game was knotted at 34 when Sterrenberg hit a three-pointer and a buzzer-beating 18-footer over the final 52 seconds of the third period to put Cabot ahead for good.

“Central’s a good team, folks,” Bridges said. “They’ve got young talent and a good mix. They’re quick, athletic and their big men can get to the post. This was a very dangerous game and I didn’t sleep much worrying about it.

“But what was big was Adam hitting that shot at the end of the third quarter that got it to five.”

Central kept pace early in the final period, but a Sterrenberg runner and spin basket followed by four free throws opened up an 11-point lead and Central never got closer the rest of the way. Cabot made all 16 of their free throws in the second half, 19 of 21 overall.

Sterrenberg scored only six points in the first half, but Jack Bridges bookended the first-quarter scoring with three-pointers and Austin Johnson scored 10 points in the first half and that allowed the Panthers to get to the locker room in a 24-24 tie. That, despite being dominated on the boards 20-9.

The Panthers overcame their rebounding disadvantage by taking nearly perfect care of the basketball. They turned the ball over just once in the first half and had none in the third quarter. They finished with six giveaways.

“That’s been a trait of ours all season,” Bridges said. “We’re not a great rebounding team so we have to be good in other areas. Taking care of the ball is one of those.”

Central shot it well from the perimeter in the first half, knocking down 5 of 11 from three, but the Tigers (11-10, 4-7) cooled down in the second half to finish 7 of 20 from deep.

The lead switched hands nine times in the third period. Cabot fell behind 33-30 late in the period before Miles Monroe scored on a reverse, and Sterrenberg made a pair of free throws to briefly put the Panthers back on top. After a Central charity knotted the game at 34 with 1:10 left, Sterrenberg delivered a three-pointer and followed that with a well-guarded, lean-in 18-footer at the buzzer.

Cabot began to hit the glass in the second half and finished with a 16-12 advantage after intermission. Gary Clark got four of his five boards in the second half.

“Gary and Jack probably don’t get the credit they deserve,” Bridges said. “We all read about the scoring and this, that and the other, but there’s so much to the game of basketball and we’ve got other guys believing in their roles. Gary did his job rebounding for us tonight. Jack’s probably going to lead us in assists about every night, but he hit some big shots tonight.

“Adam and Austin are going to get their points, but we’ve all got to do those other things.”

Johnson scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and two steals and handed out three assists. Bridges finished with nine points. Monroe and Alex Baker added six apiece.

Next up for Cabot was a trip to last-place Bryant for a game played after Leader deadlines last night. The Panthers also have two games left with Van Buren and a trip to Russellville to close out the regular season.

“I know this qualified us for the state tournament,” Bridges said of the win over the Tigers. “Now we’re just trying to jockey for position. If it comes down to the final week and we’ve got a chance to play for the conference championship, great. I’m proud of the kids for what they’ve been doing.”

SPORTS >> Devils win seventh straight

Special to The Leader

Searcy had Jacksonville’s full attention this time around.

The Red Devils scored the first seven points of the game on the way to a 16-3 run and a 63-37 win over the Lions on Friday night at the Devils’ Den.

“We were in this position last year where we were playing well and went up there and they knocked us off,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “One of the kids brought that up before the game. They didn’t want that to happen again.”

Jacksonville improved to 15-3 overall and 8-1 in the 6A-East with the win.

Matt Barkley hit a pair of threes early in the second quarter to give Searcy some life. Laquinton Miles answered with back-to-back three-pointers as Jacksonville scored the last seven points of the half to take a 32-15 lead into halftime. Miles led all scorers with 15 points.

Jacksonville let Searcy know they weren’t going to let up by completing a 12-0 run with five quick points to begin the third quarter.

The first of those baskets came on an off-the-backboard dunk by Antwan Lockhart.

Searcy was able to pull as close as 16 points midway through the fourth quarter before Jacksonville went on a 9-0 run to take away any thoughts of a Lion comeback.

Inexperience and a lack of size hurt the Lions against the top-ranked Red Devils. Searcy starts four sophomores and a junior compared to Jacksonville upperclassmen-laden squad. The size disparity was evident as Jacksonville out rebounded Searcy 38-16.

“Searcy is a well-coached team, they’re just young,” Joyner said. “They’re an athletic bunch, but the way the offense is spread around helped us get some rebounds.”

The Red Devils spread the scoring evenly with Miles leading the way with 15 points, while DeShone McClure and Demetrious Harris both scored 13 points. Antwon Lockhart led the Devils with eight rebounds and added nine points. Harris and Miles each pulled down six rebounds.

Jacksonville will be at home this week to take on Jonesboro and Marion as the Red Devils try to stay on top of the conference.

“The second half of the conference schedule is so hard,” said Joyner. “The other teams all have tape on us now. Now we’re also the team that everyone will be gunning for. We can’t overlook anyone.”


The Jacksonville Lady Devils came up just short in their bid to upset the Searcy Lady Lions Friday night in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville fell 64-63 in overtime, showing great improvement over recent performances.

“We missed a lot of chances against Parkview,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “Tonight we were able to find an offensive spark.”

Jacksonville found itself down 47-34 after a 10-0 run by Searcy that began in the third quarter and lasted until the 6:33 mark of the fourth.

Tyra Terry broke the run with a three-pointer from the corner that brought the Lady Devils back to life.

The Lady Red Devils kept closing the gap with baskets from Apollonia Sims, Jessica Lanier and Sherice Randell.

Jacksonville wasn’t able to pull even with Searcy until the final seconds. After a basket by Randell made the score 57-55, Searcy’s Kristen Celsor was fouled and left an opening for the Devils by making just one of two free throws.

Cierra Morant came through for Jacksonville with a deep three-pointer that tied the game 58-58 with four seconds left to play.

Searcy wasn’t able to get off a clean shot as the game went into overtime.

Celsor came out and immediately gave the Lady Lions the lead with a lay-up. Searcy made two free throws over the next two minutes, while Tyquia Robinson made a pair of baskets to tie the game 62-62 with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Jacksonville still had a chance after Searcy retook the lead with just over 10 seconds left to play.

Morant was fouled and went to the line for Jacksonville with six seconds remaining in the game. The first shot was good, but the second free throw rimmed out as time expired on the Lady Devils.

“I thought we just played better on offense and defense,” said Mimms. “The biggest thing is that we shot the ball a lot better and played with a lot of heart.”

Randell led Jacksonville with 17 points, while Lanier had 16. Sims scored 10 points and Terry added 8. Searcy’s Celsor led all scorers with 26 points, while Lauren Harrison added 18 points for the Lady Lions.

SPORTS >> Lonoke reveals list of candidates for head-coaching job

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke High School athletic department is currently holding interviews for the football head coaching position vacated by Springdale-bound Jeff Jones.

Three internal applicants and six other applicants from around the state are currently under consideration by athletic director Mark Hobson and staff.

Doug Bost, Tim Scarborough and Larry Smith are the current members of the LHS athletic staff who are interviewing for the job. They are going up against an impressive list of candidates, which includes current Mayflower head coach Jeb Davis.

Also under consideration are Greenwood’s Jeremy Pool, Prescott head coach Greg Smith, Bentonville assistant Benji Mahan, Vince Perron from Springdale High School and Wayne Randell from Cordova, Tenn.

Hobson told The Leader that he hopes to have a decision by the first of next week so a recommendation can be given to the school board at their meeting on Monday night.

SPORTS >> Balance leads Lady Panthers past Lady Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers used remarkable balance to overcome the one-woman show of Shawnessai Arnold in a 49-41 win over Little Rock Central on Friday night at the Panther Pavilion.

The Lady Panthers improved to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the 7A Central. Bryant’s loss to Conway on Friday allowed Cabot to move within one-and-a-half games of the second-place Lady Hornets. Cabot traveled to Bryant last night.

The Lady Panthers bounced back from a tough two-point road loss at first-place North Little Rock on Tuesday.

“We needed to rebound,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder. “We played hard on Tuesday but things just didn’t fall our way. North Little Rock is a very good team. Central is a very good team. We’re glad to be back on the winning path.”

The way the Lady Tigers were racing past Cabot in the early going, that path looked as though it might be elusive. Central made 9 of 13 shots in the opening period. Central used an up-tempo style and easy penetration to post the high shooting percentage. Amber Rock’s buzzer-beating three got Cabot within 20-14 after one period. Though Sarah Moore scored six straight points for the Lady Panthers to open the second quarter, Cabot struggled to close the gap and Arnold, who scored 20 points, scored on a lay-up in the final minute to send the Lady Tigers to the locker room up 28-22.

But Cabot began to tighten up the interior in the second half and scored the first nine points to take its first lead of the game at 31-28 on Rock’s runner.

“Amber can score if she’s ready to shoot,” Crowder said. “She’s a really good player.”

Though Stephanie Glover scored in the lane late in the period, Arnold hit a three-pointer to tie the game heading into the final period.

Central briefly took the lead on a lay-up a minute into the fourth quarter, but Cabot scored twice off inbound plays from Glover to Shelby Ashcraft to take the lead for good at 37-35 with 5:50 left in the contest.

Despite a nearly five-minute Lady Tiger scoring drought, Cabot struggled to pull away and still led only 43-35 after Glover’s fast break lay-up off a Rock feed with 3:18 left. Arnold shot Central right back in it with back-to-back threes over a 54-second span that whittled the lead to 43-41 at the 1:03 mark.

But Rock hit four straight free throws and Jenna Bailey added two more to set the final margin. Cabot won the game at the line by making 18 of 23, compared to just 7 of 11 for Central.

“They’re so much quicker than we are,” Crowder said. “We tried not to let them penetrate like they did in the first half. We played a little more solid in the second half.”

After making 9 of 13 field goals in the first quarter, Central connected on only 6 of 23 the rest of the way. Of its final eight field goals in the contest, seven were by Arnold.

Glover paced Cabot with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Ashcraft scored all nine of her points in the second half and also pulled down 11 rebounds overall. Rock added nine points, while Moore and Bailey each chipped in with eight. Bailey also had five steals.

The Lady Panthers made 15 of 37 from the field and out-rebounded Central 27-21.

Monday, February 16, 2009

EDITIORIAL >> Icy reception for repairmen

Madison County, the rugged mountain county south of Fayetteville through which the beautiful drive known as the Pig Trail traverses, does not make the news very often. Never would suit us better.

The Madison County Record, the sprightly weekly newspaper published at Huntsville, the county seat, broke the news first, but the nature of it guaranteed some national attention. Some 100 workers from Pennsylvania, about a third of them African Americans, came down to help the local electric cooperative restore power after the devastating ice storm last month took down just about every power pole in the county. They worked tirelessly clearing trees and putting up poles and lines in the ice and freezing rain to try to speed power to people.

For their trouble, they were harassed and threatened by roving groups of young men shouting racial epithets and pointing guns at them. The county sheriff said the young men would drive around the work teams waving Rebel flags and cursing the blacks. The workers were frightened enough to contact the sheriff’s office in nearby Washington County.

Madison County is all white.

The last time Madison County made national news was the day after the general election in which Sen. Barack Obama was elected president by a landslide. The owners of the Faubus Motel at Huntsville, named after the Arkansas governor who sent the National Guard to Little Rock Central High School to block nine black children from attending classes in 1957, took down the American flag the morning after the election and put up a Confederate flag. The proprietor said the voters of the United States had abandoned the principles of the nation’s founders in electing Obama.

The Faubus family once owned the motel, but the former governor’s wife, whom he divorced in 1969, sold it in the 1980s and it no longer has any connection with the family. Whatever his historical image, Faubus himself would not have put up a Confederate flag — he counted himself an integrationist and a socialist as a young man — nor would he have condoned the race-baiting.

Madison County deserves better. It has a place of honor in the sad annals of race and bigotry. When the Civil War came and Arkansas debated whether to secede and join the Confederacy, a schoolmaster from Madison County was the lone delegate at the state secession convention to vote to save the union.

The delegates from all the other counties finally whooped secession through, bringing along four of the five holdout delegates from the mountains. They wanted the vote to be unanimous, but Isaac Murphy of Madison County said he would not violate his conscience for the sake of unanimity in a lost and unsavory cause. “I have cast the vote after mature reflection,” he said. He would later be governor and try to repair the ravages of that decision. He brought Arkansas back into the union. His example, alas, seems to have been lost on Madison County.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville’s new library is open to public

Leader staff writer

Invited Jacksonville residents packed a sneak preview Friday night of the new Esther D. Nixon Public Library that their tax dollars helped build on Main Street.

Visitors were pleased by their first look inside the library, considered an anchor for downtown revitalization.

It opened to the public Saturday.

“It is a great day for the city of Jacksonville; it is a wonderful improvement for our community,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said.

“The library was not located here by accident. It was located here because this is the center of the downtown of Jacksonville as we once knew it. This makes a statement for all to see. We are not moving backward in Jacksonville. We are moving forward.”

“It is fabulous, it is beautiful. I’m just glad we could get it on Main Street,” said Alderman Marshall Smith. “This is a real plus for Jacksonville.”

“This library is great. It is new. It’s pretty. It is attractive from the outside. It has got that dignified library look from the outside. You know it is a library,” city administrator Jay Whisker said.

In a brief program, several speakers proclaimed the new library as a tribute to what a caring community and government can accomplish together.

“This is a good example of a community coming together; it will serve the community well for many, many years,” said Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

Mark Wilson, who represents Jacksonville on the CALS Board of Trustees, told the group that 68 percent of Jacksonville voters approved the 1-mill increase in property taxes that helped make possible the new library.

“I want to thank my fellow citizens of Jacksonville for support of this project,” Wilson said. “This is proof that the citizens of Jacksonville will support quality educational institutions in Jacksonville.”

Wally Nixon, the son of Esther Nixon, called the new library “a great tribute to what can be done by government, a crowning achievement in the heart of town. My mother would be thrilled by what has been achieved here.”

The new 13,500-square-foot facility is one of 12 libraries in the Central Arkansas Library System. It replaces what had been the system’s oldest library.

The $4.8 million land and building project was paid for with a combination of revenue from a temporary 1-mil increase in property tax, city sales tax revenue, private donations, a contribution from CALS, and a bond issue.

The library opened officially Saturday at 9:30 a.m., with a day of special events beginning with a musical performance by Brian and Terri Kinder at 10 a.m. Other activities were a magic show by Michael Wilkinson at 11:30 a.m., a puppet show by Jan Wolfe at 1 p.m., and a Wii electronic game time for children age 10 and older from 3 to 4 p.m.
The new library has new hours: 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.

TOP STORY >> Ex-legislator pleased her plan passed

Leader editor-in-chief

Former Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville, who had introduced a bill for more trauma centers in the state when she was still in the legislature, is glad the tobacco-tax increase was approved in the Senate this week and in the House the week before.

The bill will establish trauma and health centers around the state, especially in rural areas.

“It will assist the whole state,” Prater said after the Senate voted this week to raise the tobacco tax 56 cents a pack.

“We’re trying to save lives. I’m glad it passed.”

She said hospitals in many parts of the state will have trauma centers with full-time staffs around the clock, seven days a week. The tax increase, which will raise $87.8 million a year for health programs and a medical school in Fayetteville, goes into effect on March 1.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who championed the bill, is expected to sign it into law next week.
The tobacco industry was badly burned on Thursday when a supermajority in the state Senate approved the tax increase.

Big tobacco also failed a week earlier in the House, where a three-fourths majority approved the higher tax.

The tobacco lobby might have to rethink its battle plans after getting its nose bloodied again. Every time a state gets ready to increase the tobacco tax to pay for health programs, the industry parachutes its lobbyists into state capitols to complain about how unfair it is to raise taxes on people who can’t kick their nicotine addiction.

Arkansas smokers cost the state $627 million a year for healthcare needs, or about $7.50 a pack, according to one state official.

The higher tax is put on a toxic product that kills about 5,000 Arkansans a year, or about 10 percent of smokers in the state. More Arkansans smoke per capita than in the prosperous areas of the country because the less affluent and the less educated still think of smoking as glamorous and pretend it’s not harmful, although millions around the world die from heart and lung disease and other related illnesses every year.

These tax fights in state legislatures make the tobacco industry look pretty awful. People are reminded how lethal smoking is, and they even think about quitting, especially because of the higher taxes. Even Mississippi — where Haley Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist, is the governor — will increase the tax by about the same amount as Arkansas, and perhaps even more.

You wonder why tobacco companies pick fights they can’t win. They might as well save the money they spend on lobbyists and legislators and go along with the tax increases, even if it means losing some customers. They’ll probably see a 5 percent drop in the number of smokers here, but there are better prospects in Third World countries, where there are no embarrassing health warnings or noisy media to point out the dangers of smoking.

The votes in the House and Senate generally went along party lines, with every Democrat in the area favoring the tax increase, while every local Republican opposed it, even though health programs will benefit their constituents.

Why the reluctance to raise the sales tax on a narcotic? Some legislators smoke and didn’t want to raise the tax on their drug of choice.

But can anybody explain why a pro-life party voted anti-life on the tobacco tax? Every healthcare provider said the tax would reduce smoking, save lives and offer more health services throughout the state.

Leading the fight for better healthcare in the Senate were Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, and John Paul Capps, D-Searcy. In the House, those siding for health care include Rep. Walls McCrary, D-Lonoke, whose parents died from smoking, as well as Reps. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville and Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood.

Local Republicans voting against the tax were Davy Carter, R-Cabot, Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, and Jane English, R-North Little Rock.

Dismang told us, “I do not think that is good public policy to raise taxes and pull $90 million from our state’s economy, especially when we have a $300 million surplus and experiencing a national recession. I ran as a fiscal conservative and I will hold my office as a fiscal conservative.”

But look at the Republican representatives who voted for the bill: Robert Dale of Dover (Pope County), Roy Ragland of Marshall (Searcy County), and Rep. Beverly Pyle of Cedarville (Crawford County). Not only do they have more smokers per capita in those poor rural areas, but they could use more health clinics and other health services that the tobacco tax will provide.

The tax had strong opposition in northwest Arkansas, as most Republicans went against the tax, even though it will pay for that medical school in Fayetteville. Still, such pragmatists as Sen. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, and Sen. Cecil Bledsoe, R-Rogers, saw the benefits of a medical school and voted for the tax hike.

Surgeon General Joe Thomp-son says the tax increase was about more than just a trauma system.

“Tobacco is the major burden on our citizens, and a strategy to increase its price is a well-proven mechanism to keep youth from starting smoking and to reduce adult smoking,” Thompson told reporters. “The health-care programs are broadly based and meet a lot of needs.”

The tax passed because most representatives saw the benefits of new health-care programs in their districts, especially in rural areas. Don’t let the industry and its lobbyists blow smoke in your face.

TOP STORY >> State holds up work on loop

Leader staff writer

The state Highway Department will not buy any rights-of-way for the North Belt until the Sherwood City Council puts the latest route of the proposed bypass on its master street plan.

The council has been tabling any action on the street plan, waiting for the Highway Department to purchase rights-of-way around the Brockington Road-Hwy. 107 area.

But in a Feb. 9 letter to Mayor Virginia Hillman, dated, Dan Flowers, the director of the state Highway and Transportation Department, said, “In light of the city being unwilling to amend the Master Street Plan to show the correct location of the proposed North Belt Freeway, we do not believe it is prudent to proceed.”

Flowers’ letter suggests closing negotiations are not as close as the aldermen think.

“As you are aware,” Flowers wrote to the mayor, “the department has made offers to purchase right of way from two property owners in the vicinity of Highway 107 and Brockington Road.

“Both property owners subsequently made counteroffers well in excess of the department’s initial offers. Because of the large difference in our offers and the property owners’ counter offers, the department contracted with a third-party firm to appraise the property.

“The third-party appraisal has been received by the department, and we are prepared to make a counter offer,” Flowers wrote.

However, he continued, “We believe that the city should amend the master street plan to show the federally approved location of the North Belt Freeway before a counter- offer being made to the property owners.”

In his letter to the mayor, Flowers cited an article in The Leader that stated the council was tabling any action on the street plan until the city saw some movement from the state.

“We believe,” Flowers said, “that movement has been made over the past year to 18 months by the department working with the city to minimize the footprint of the proposed North Belt Freeway’s interchange with Hwy. 107, by amending the Statewide Transportation Improvement Pro-gram to include funds for early purchase of right of way, by making offers to two property owners in the vicinity of the proposed interchange and by contracting for a third-party appraisal.”

On Feb. 10, the Sherwood planning commission tabled a proposed development for at least the third time because the city street plan has not been approved, even after a lawyer for the developers suggested that the city could be in “financial peril” if it did not approve the plans.

Attorney Hal Kemp said then the Highway Department was the bad guy and the city was just a pawn for the state and that it could not make a developer give up something for the state.

The commission wants the developer to show the North Belt on his plans, even though its latest location is not on the city’s street plans. If the developer does show it, then the right-of-way chews up about 60 acres of his acreage and could prevent another 150 acres from being developed.

Kemp said the city could ultimately end up financially responsible for the acreage it wants to take for the North Belt.

So while the Highway Depart-ment and the planning commission are waiting on the city council, the city council has been waiting on the Highway Department.

An official with the Highway Department told Sherwood officials in late December that the state had $4 million to purchase rights-of-way and would be ready to purchase the Brockington acreage by the end of January.

Alderman Charlie Harmon and others on the council felt it was prudent to delay approving the street plan until the highway department made the purchase. Even in late January, the word from the highway department was that the final appraisal was in and just needed final review.

Of course, a counteroffer doesn’t mean acceptance, and negotiations could drag on for some time.

Even though the route is not yet on the street plan that is in use, the council did pass a resolution in 2007 accepting the latest approved routing of the bypass.

The council has already approved two readings of the new master street plan, but it needs to be approved a third time to become law.

Without a specially called meeting, the council will take up the street plan again at its regular monthly meeting Feb. 25.

TOP STORY >> Principal: decision is harmful to students

Leader senior staff writer

The decision this week to recombine the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Middle schools had nothing to do with the welfare of the students and everything to do with appeasing the teachers’ union and with getting rid of him, said boys school principal Mike Nellums.

By recombining the two schools, the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers believes it can gain control by asserting the authority of the site-based, decis-ion-making council at the girls’ school, which it controls, Nellums said.

Bill Vasquez, who represents most of Jacksonville on the Pulaski County Special School District Board, led the way Tuesday on a 4-3 vote to recombine the boys and girls schools next year, saying neither school had made adequate yearly progress.

That was despite data that the boys school had shown large increases in the percentage of students testing adequate or proficient in algebra and several other benchmark exam categories.

Vasquez’s argument was false and misleading, Nellums insisted.
He said that few, if any, PCSSD secondary schools were making the federally mandated adequate yearly progress,

Vasquez sacrificed the welfare of Jacksonville students in his zeal to do the bidding of the PACT, including efforts to get rid of him, Nellums said.

Bill Barnes, director of secondary education for the district, confirmed Thursday that of the 13 secondary schools in PCSSD, 12 failed to make adequate yearly progress. Only Robinson Middle School met that goal.

Nellums said some groups at the school made adequate yearly progress, but not those in special education and not black males. He said, “Those students still made more progress than most (corresponding) groups in the district.”

“It was a concerted effort by a handful of board members to meet the request of one board member. Several of them had not visited our school at all.”

“Vasquez came in as union- supported and for 18 months he’s tried to move this one administrator,” Nellums said. “They want to control the school and the community from the site-based decision making council,” he said, which is dominated by union members.

Others who voted to recombine the two schools, with the possible side effect of getting rid of Nellums, are board president Tim Clark and board members Gwen Williams and Charlie Wood.


Clark was unopposed in Sep-tember in his effort to take the open seat when Pam Roberts stepped down and Williams was re-elected.

Both took contributions from the teachers union or activist members, according to campaign- finance reports on file with the Pulaski County clerk’s office.

Williams took at least $600. Williams has voted steadfastly in the union’s interest for years and Clark has voted consistent with union interests since taking office.
Charlie Wood has joined Clark, Williams and Vasquez.

Superintendent James Sharpe had recommended that Vasquez’s motion to combine the schools be tabled and that the decision be left for Jacksonville residents to make once it gets its own school district.

The Jacksonville World Class Education Organization had sent Sharpe and all board members letters asking for just such a delay.

Using official PCSSD data, proponents of leaving the schools separate 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.

Again using school data, they showed that benchmark scores climbed steadily over the three years of data, 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.


Barnes said work would begin immediately to reorganize the single-gender schools into a coeducation school for the 2009-2010 school year.

He said core curriculuum might still be gender specific. He postulated that the two school would be combined in what is currently the Boys School, in part because of the audio-visual lab that Nellums and his teachers had established.

He said administrators would have to deal with seniority of teacher wanting to transfer in or out of the new school, with a master schedule and with who the principal would be.

The school would need a new LEA number from the state, which identifies the school for many purposes, including tracking testing and scores.

“There’s a lot of things still up in the air,” he said.


Of even greater concern to those promoting a standalone Jacksonville district was a 4-3 decision by the board—Clark, Williams, Vasquez and Wood—to float $81 million worth of second-lien bonds to build a new high school at Maumelle.

In addition to committing the district to $5.6 million a year in payments to retire that bond, it puts the new Sylvan Hills Middle School on a back burner and leaves the promised replacement for the Arnold Drive School at Little Rock Air Force Base in question. It also seems to postpone indefinitely construction of a new Jacksonville Middle School.

Chief financial officer Larry O’Briant said inflation in the cost of building materials had suddenly escalated the cost of the new Maumelle high school, originally slated for construction in Oak Grove, from about $45 million to about $80 million.

Wood, who represents Sher-wood and Sylvan Hills, voted for that measure even after O’Briant told him his district’s new school would probably have to wait now for voters to approve some future millage issue.

Maumelle will have all new schools, so residents there might be less likely to vote for a millage increase.

Jacksonville school district advocates say that when they finally split off from PCSSD, they don’t want to be saddled with 15 percent of the payments on $81 million for a new school in Maumelle.

One suggested that additional financial burden could doom efforts to have a standalone district.

TOP STORY >> Brooks is latest to run for mayor

Beckie Brooks, a local realtor and longtime Jack-sonville activist, is running for mayor to succeed Tommy Swaim, who is resigning. A special election will be held May 12.

“I want them to feel the city is theirs again,” she said, referring to residents. “It’s not that way anymore.”

Although she said she appreciates the work of the present mayor, Brooks believes “there are a number of issues that could renew and reenergize the citizens of Jacksonville.”

She wants the city to be “more user friendly.”

A strong supporter of the Main Street overpass, Brooks now believes that “the opening of the Graham Road railroad crossing is crucial to revitalizing the southeastern section of Jacksonville, including Sunnyside Hills Addition.”

“This has hurt too many people,” she said, referring to the closing. “Having support in city hall would help the effort” to reopen the crossing.

Brooks wants to eliminate the city’s privilege license, saying that “one should not have to pay a tax to do business in the city.”

“Citizens need to be more appreciative of government,” Brooks said, “and government, at the same time, should never forget that it works for and serves the public.”

Brooks supports an independent Jacksonville school district, as well as charter schools in the city. She wants more programs for the elderly, including citywide transportation to every neighborhood and assist them in other ways so they live at home as long as possible.

She said she wants to maintain a strong relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base.

She was instrumental in the cleanup of the old Vertac chemical plant.

The owner of Beckie Brooks Real Estate Co., she has been in business in Jacksonville since 1975, first operating a business with her husband, Harold, and then as a local realtor.

A former teacher at Homer Adkins and Warren Dupree Elementary schools, Brooks graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College (now UCA) with a degree in home economics.

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

The clerk’s office has certified all three candidates.

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

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

Two other residents—motorcycle minister Randy (Doc) Rhodd and former police Lieutenant Bill Shelly – have also announced their intentions to run for the spot being vacated by Swaim.

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

TOP STORY >> Alcohol tax on the table in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Will an extra tax be added to the alcoholic drinks served in Cabot restaurants? Area residents could help answer that question.

Aldermen Eddie Cook, Rick Prentice and Jon Moore, serving as the city council’s budget and personnel committee, met this week at the city hall annex to discuss a proposed ordinance adding a 5 percent tax to beer and wine, and a 10 percent tax to mixed drinks, the same ordinance adopted by Little Rock, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Ward.

Sitting on the right-hand side of the council chambers were several members of the Lonoke County Republican Committee who were adamant that no additional tax should be charged.

On the left-hand side were Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, City Attorney Jim Taylor, Alderman Ed Long and Alderman Ann Gilliam. They were, for the most part, non-committal, but the consensus of those present was that more people need to get involved.

“This is too small a group for any big decision,” Gilliam said. So the public is asked to attend the next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 9, to let the council members know what they think.

Irene Webb, who opposes a tax, asked the committee if the purpose of the proposed tax was to deter restaurants from serving alcohol.

She pointed out that the private clubs at the golf courses in the city never have been taxed and she asked, “So why now?”

Cabot is in a dry county and has not had any restaurants open to the public that serve alcohol until recent months, when Fat Daddy’s and Kopan were issued private-club liquor licenses by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams has fought those licenses, telling the commission that the city already has enough trouble with drunk drivers. Webb also talked about drunk drivers.

With no place in Lonoke County to get alcohol, Cabot-area residents go to Pulaski County. Cabot lost the revenue and gained impaired drivers.

“We have all these people driving up and down the highway spending money in Pulaski County,” she said.

Former Alderman Becky Le-master told the committee that the ordinance they were considering came close to “socialism.”

She especially resented the section that would require owners of restaurants that served alcohol to give a list of all their employees to the city.

“I don’t answer to the mayor with my employees,” Lemaster said, adding, “We have no business adding any tax in a downturn economy. People who are going to drink are going to drink. If you are going to tax them, they are going to Outback (in Pulaski County).”

Asked what the tax revenue would be used for, Prentice said it should be used for the police department. The mayor said the city will likely need money to help pay for a north interchange.

But since the revenue would not likely be high, Alderman Patrick Hutton, who sat with members of the Republican Committee, said administration costs might be more than the tax revenue.

Long said he had mixed feeling about taxing alcohol, but he agreed that the revenue would not be significant.

“It probably wouldn’t bring in enough now to pay for (City Clerk Marva Verkler’s) bookkeeping,” Long said.

He disagreed with opponents’ implication that a tax would keep other restaurants intending to serve alcohol from opening in Cabot. Some had said restaurants wouldn’t come to Cabot because of the city’s 1.5 percent hamburger tax, Long said, and they have come anyway.