Friday, March 26, 2010

TOP STORY >> Hospitals see reform benefits

Leader staff writer

It might be too soon to celebrate, but hospital administrators are tentatively saying that the historic health-care reform bill signed into law this week has the potential to ease the financial strain they are under.

“From the hospitals’ standpoint, having more people insured is obviously a positive thing,” said Mike Schimming, who on March 1 became chief executive officer of North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville.

“But how are we going to pay for this as a country?” Schimming wonders. “We really won’t know until the specific rules and implementation are in place. That is a whole different thing.”

Schimming is also concerned about how the reform will affect physician reimbursements from Medicare. He says the new law is vague on this issue.

Paul Cunningham, vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, also is taking a wait-and-see attitude, although the association, along with the American Hospital Association, “has been on board” with the Obama administration’s health-care reform effort.

Just what kind of impacts the sweeping legislation will have is “difficult to say right now,” given the fact that most of it won’t go into effect until 2014, Cunningham said. “But we expect that the coverage issue in particular should help hospitals even though $155 billion in Medicare cuts that are included in the law will mostly come from hospitals.”

But it might be worse without the reform, Cunningham thinks. “It could be at least $155 billion and maybe more if the legislation had not passed, and it does provide coverage mandates” – guaranteed sources of payment – “so there are trade-offs.”

Between 1990 and 2007, uncompensated care provided by Arkansas hospitals increased 176 percent, according to the Arkansas Hospital Association, and is regarded as the primary cause of the 163 percent increase in hospital costs for the same period.

Uncompensated-care costs for Arkansas hospitals are among the highest in the nation. In 2007, more than 30,000 persons were admitted to Arkansas hospitals – about 7 percent of all inpatients. The average bill was $16,000. Thousands of more people were treated as outpatients in emergency departments. More than $950 million in uncompensated care was provided by the state’s hospitals; of that, other patients wound up subsidizing $340 million.

Without health-care reform, the number of uninsured nationally was predicted to rise to 66 million. Health-care reform doesn’t mean that the uncompensated care that burdens hospitals will go away. There will still be those without insurance or those who refuse to or can’t pay their portion of a bill.

“The best-case scenario is that growth will slow down considerably,” Cunningham said.
But the reform does provide some hope to hospitals, which compared to a year ago, are doing worse over all due to the ailing economy.

“There are more uninsured coming to emergency rooms; more folks delay care and so they are sicker, which means they use more resources,” Cunningham said. “It is kind of a never-ending circle.”

SPORTS >> Downfall of coach hits hard, hits many

Leader sports editor

In so many cases a basketball play breaks down.

It is drawn up with all of its options, with the right players in the proper positions and every X accounted for by every O. But whether the play is hastily scribbled on a clipboard or drawn from deep within the playbook, it can’t account for the human element.

One moment of hesitation, a flinch, a twinge of human weakness and the whole play breaks down.

Abundant Life seemed to have everything properly drawn up. The Owls had the talent, the fundamentals, the conference championship, high seed and state tournament experience. And they appeared to have the coach in Tim Ballard.

Only there was no accounting for the human element.

On Tuesday, almost a month after Ballard was a no-show for the Owls’ 51-49 loss to Clarendon in the boys 2A-East Region Tournament, Ballard pled not guilty to first-degree sexual assault in Sherwood District Court.

Now, for Abundant Life, many things have broken down.

Sherwood police reports say Ballard — also Abundant Life’s principal, former girls track coach and an 18-year employee of the school — had inappropriate relationships with at least two girls who were students at the time.

One sexual complaint dates back 11 years.

Ballard, 39, pled not guilty and, as is his right, he will get his day in court and the chance to prove if he is innocent.

But what a mess.

This time the scandal doesn’t involve a high-profile golfer or coach, and we’ve seen our share of those lately. This time the scandal is in our backyard, in a local school affecting a local basketball program.

I was asked if this spelled the end of basketball at Abundant Life. The better question is will the school continue? Will parents, with their trust shattered, rush to pull their kids out? This story won’t end with a court verdict; it will end with enrollment figures.

Owls assistant Chris Horton is the interim coach and will be for the foreseeable future. There isn’t a rush to start a coaching search and apparently it isn’t a priority at a school that sooner or later will have to explain how much it new about Ballard and his alleged relationships.

“We really haven’t talked about a timetable to fill that,” athletic director and girls basketball coach Justin Moseley told me.

“Because there have been more important things to deal with.”

If Abundant Life survives, then basketball will too. The Owls program, under Ballard, has become a regular contender not only in the 2A-North Conference but also at the state level.

I feel most sorry for the Owls players. As the top seed, they needed just one victory in the regional to return to the state tournament, where, with a good draw, they would have likely been one of the favorites. Instead, the team missed a trip to state for the first time in three years.

Who knows how much the players knew when they took the floor at White Co. Central High School without Ballard to lead them? They had most likely heard rumors, and in a small school like Abundant Life, rumors can hit close to the truth.

Despite Horton’s best efforts, the Owls (29-5) had to have been thrown off not only by the absence of their coach but what they were no doubt hearing. Tough loss indeed.

What’s to be learned from this? Should we start impeaching coaches every time an accusation is made? No, because then any athlete or parent with an ax to grind could conceivably make hell for an innocent person and we already try people by rumor and opinion too often in this country.

I think the answer for Abundant Life, and for all schools, comes down to something as boring as diligence — a few new rules, maybe, or enforcement of old ones, along with some nosy teachers and parents who won’t settle for the answer “fine” when they ask a kid “how was your day?”

Think what might have been prevented at Abundant Life if the coach had been required to keep an adult witness to one-on-one meetings with athletes. What if an open, office door policy had been required in those situations?

What if those rules already existed and had been enforced?

What if they had a playbook and stuck to it?

SPORTS >> Giving Red Devil his due

Deshone McClure became Jacksonville’s senior leader this year after playing as a junior on the Red Devils’ state championship team last season. McClure now turns toward the college recruiting process.


Leader sportswriter

Just because he works hard and excels at basketball doesn’t necessarily mean Deshone McClure takes it seriously — or anything else for that matter.

If not for his basketball prowess, McClure could potentially find work on the stand-up comedy circuit with his quick wit and laid-back demeanor. But his accomplishments on the court stand as evidence to the 6-4 senior guard’s serious side.

With an average 18.3 points a game, McClure has been named The Leader boys player of the year.

McClure’s role with coach Victor Joyner’s Jacksonville Red Devils changed dramatically from his junior season — when Jacksonville won the 6A state championship— to his senior year. McClure was the only junior starter on a team loaded with seniors a year ago, but found himself the elder statesman as the only senior starter this past season.

“I went from being the little brother to the big brother,” McClure said. “At the beginning, it was a little hard. I was use to winning coming in from last year, and then winning championships in summer basketball. But we started out losing. It was a struggle. I had to start listening to coach Joyner.”

McClure received statewide recognition when he hit three winning free throws at the end of the 6A championship game against defending state champion Little Rock Hall in March of 2009. It was Jacksonville’s first state basketball title.

McClure was named most valuable player of that game, and also made a name for himself as a player who could come through in the toughest of clutch situations.

But nerves did not bother McClure that day nearly as much as a piercing stare from his mother, Cynthia.

“I was actually calm, because I looked up at my momma, and she gave me those eyes like, ‘If you don’t make these free throws, we’re going to have it after the game,’ ” McClure said. “I’ve got to make these free throws, or I’ve got to deal with mom after the game.”

Don’t be fooled by the lightheartedness and dismissive demeanor, however. McClure is an intelligent player who turned into a team leader on and off the court.

Joyner said McClure’s work ethic has always been there, but maturity was the variable needed to balance his desire to excel with his fun-loving nature.

“He was an emotional handful that first year,” Joyner said. “We got to a point to where it was either going to be me or him. But we worked some things out. Once his attitude changed, his game accelerated.”

McClure helped the youthful Red Devils to the 6A state quarterfinals this year, and now that his senior season is over McClure has begun the process of visiting colleges. There has been plenty of interest shown by NCAA Division I schools, including Nebraska, Tulsa, Ole Miss and Missouri State.

McClure also has drawn interest from local schools Arkansas State and UALR but so far is leaning toward Ole Miss and coach Andy Kennedy.

“All options are open right now, but I’d probably like to go to Ole Miss,” McClure said. “I like their style, how they get up and down. I met coach Kennedy at a tournament this summer, and I liked his personality. I felt accepted as soon as I met him.”

McClure will make his decision and sign in the coming weeks, and from there, he will take the first step toward shaping his future by coaching the Junior Red Devils, a 12-and-under AAU team.

“Just giving them something to do to keep them out of trouble,” McClure said. “I’m the only coach; I do it by myself.”

Coaching is the line of work McClure wants to enter once his playing days are over. Although football is admittedly his first passion and favorite sport, McClure feels his time under Joyner has given him a unique perspective on basketball.

“Coach Joyner coaches you as if he’s one of the players on the court,” McClure said. “He’s not like one of those coaches who’s always nagging you and telling you what to do. He’s going to tell you right from wrong, but it’s easy to play under him.

“I actually think that from playing under coach Joyner, I could coach against a lot of the teams we played this year.”

McClure’s high-school legacy will undoubtedly include the trio of free throws he shot in the final seconds of the 2009 state final, but McClure has not let success and notoriety affect his personality.

“I try to be laid back, but some people say I’ve never stopped playing,” McClure said. “I guess they’re going to have to deal with it, because I’m just a playful dude.”


Not only did Sylvan Hills’ Archie Goodwin earn all-state and first-team all-Leader honors, his efforts also got him named Leader sophomore of the year.

Goodwin averaged 22 points, five rebounds and two steals a game and is the only sophomore at Sylvan Hills ever named all-state.

SPORTS >> Sitzmann, UALR fall short of Sweet 16

UALR guard Kim Sitzmann, of Cabot, lines up a free throw during a regular season game.


UALR sports information

NORMAN, Okla.—The UALR women’s basketball team ended the team’s first NCAA Tournament trip with a 60-44 loss to No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Tuesday before 6,305 at the Lloyd Nobel Center.

A shooting outage in the first half cost the Trojans, who finished the season at 27-7.

“First of all, I am completely proud of our kids for the second half and coming back,” head coach Joe Foley said. “In the second half, we came back and played with a lot of intensity and made some plays. I think we just got back on our heels in the first half and missed some shots that we normally hit.”

Junior Chastity Reed led the team with 20 points, while junior Shanika Butler and sophomore Marian Kursh contributed nine points each. Butler also led the team with six rebounds.

Cabot’s Kim Sitzmann, UALR’s all-time leader in assists and steals, scored just two points in her final game after scoring 21 to lead UALR in its first-round victory over Georgia Tech.

Oklahoma, which advances to face Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 on Sunday, held UALR to the fewest points in the first half all season, outscoring the Trojans 11-0 over a six-minute stretch to take a 28-13, halftime lead.

Oklahoma opened the half with a layup by Amanda Thompson, before Reed answered with a jumper to tie the score with 18:41 left.

After an Oklahoma basket, Reed made back-to-back jumpers to give UALR its first lead, 6-4.

With 16:40 left, the Sooners started a 6-0 run featuring four points from Carlee Roethlisberger to take the 10-6 lead. Both teams committed turnovers, before Reed made two free throws for UALR’s first points in four minutes.

Back-to-back layups by Oklahoma pushed the team’s lead to four, before a layup by Kursh with 10:04 left gave the Trojans their first field goal in over seven minutes.

After a free throw and layup by the Sooners, Reed made a jumper for the Trojans and Butler made a free throw to cut the Sooners’ lead to 17-13 with 5:44 until the half.

UALR was also plagued by 15 first-half turnovers.

Reed opened the second half with a jumper, before the Sooners answered with a layup by Abi Olajuwon. The teams exchanged points, with Kursh scoring for UALR and Olajuwon scoring for Oklahoma to make the Sooners’ lead 32-19 with 17:36 on the clock.

After a steal by Sitzmann, Britteni Williams scored on a putback to cut the lead to 32-21. Oklahoma made two free throws, before a block and fastbreak layup by Butler made the score to 34-23 with 14:11 remaining.

Over the next three minutes, the Sooners outscored the Trojans 6-2, getting four points from Thompson for the 40-25 lead.

A layup by Butler sparked a 9-4 Trojans run to cut the Oklahoma lead to 44-34 with 6:48 on the clock.

But Oklahoma managed to maintain at least a 10-point lead. With 2:13 on the clock, Olajuwon made a layup and free throw to push the Sooners’ lead to 55-42 and they outscored the Trojans 5-2 in the final 1:33.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” Sitzmann said. “Obviously going to the Sweet 16 would have been pretty nice, but to have the ride that we had, I think we put UALR on the map this year.”

Sitzmann entered the year first on UALR’s all-time steals chart with 189 and improved that record to 243 this season. She began the year with a school record 327 assists and winds up her career with 430.

A 5-10 guard, Sitzmann averaged 21 points, four assists, six rebounds and three steals as a senior at Cabot.

At UALR this year she averaged 10.4 points, just over three assists and 1.6 steals.

Sitzmann has been a mainstay of a UALR team that, under Foley, has steadily risen to prominence after the team went 5-23, 0-14 Sun Belt in 2002-03, the last season under Tracey Stewart-Lange.

The Trojans won their first Sun Belt tournament game in 2005, reached the WNIT the past two seasons and finally got a first NCAA Tournament bid this year.

TOP STORY >> John Adams intends to fill Snyder’s seat

Leader editor

John Adams is one of five Democrats running for Congress in the Second District to succeed Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who is retiring.

The winner of the Democratic primary in May will face either Republican Tim Griffin or Scott Wallace.

Adams, 33, says he supports the health-care bill that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday.

“I would have voted for the health- care and reconciliation bills, in spite of my concerns about their cost, because at least one in five central Arkansas working people need access to insurance coverage,” Adams says. “Our focus now should be on improving the bill and controlling costs.

Adams traces his roots to western Arkansas. His father, Al, was born on a farm near Charleston (Franklin County). His mother, Isabel, fled Cuba during the communist revolution.

He is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Michigan Law School. He practiced law briefly in New York before joining the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.

Adams is an assistant attorney general who teaches constitutional law and tax-law classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law. He volunteers with Big Brother-Big Sisters of Central Arkansas at Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock.

“I work every day to keep our families safe from crime,” he said. “I serve as an assistant attorney general in the criminal division, representing the people of Arkansas in state and federal courts and working to uphold our criminal judgments and sentences. In that position, I also get the opportunity to help make the state’s criminal laws more effective when they fail.”

Why are you running for Congress?

I am running for Congress to make Washington work for central Arkansans.

Why are you a Democrat?

I am a Democrat because the party stands up for people who work hard and play by the rules.

What can we do about health care?

I would have voted for the health care and reconciliation bills passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday night. We can and will improve the legislation, but it is long past time to prevent insurance companies from canceling policies and denying coverage after workers or their kids get sick, to help our small businesses afford to cover their workers, and to give tens of thousands of people in central Arkansas access to high-quality coverage. We need to immediately improve the bill by more aggressively tackling the rising health-care costs faced by families and our nation as a whole.

When it comes to health-care costs and taxes, what can we do to lessen the burden on individuals and small businesses?

The health-care reform legislation will start to ease some of the burden on small businesses and families struggling with exploding costs, but we need to encourage market competition and transparency to lower the costs of medical services.

Congress has discouraged small business investment by making small business taxes both too complex and too unpredictable with frequent changes to the law and various sunset provisions.

One practical step we can take to remedy this is to combine and make permanent all the various tax credits and incentives for small business investments Congress has passed in recent years.

How do we restart the economy?

The biggest single step we can take right now to restart the economy is accelerating the $160 billion in unspent stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Spending on infrastructure, in particular, both creates jobs now and reaps dividends for our children.

What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

I will support legislation that does right by veterans, improves our schools and simplifies the tax code.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

Voters all over the Second Congressional District support me: working families who struggle to make ends meet in this difficult economy, students who want to start a family here in central Arkansas but worry there will be no work, business owners who believe the government should work for them and not against them, people who want to start a new business and work for themselves but are unable to purchase health insurance, and people from all walks of life who know the tax code does not work for them.

Will serving in the attorney general’s office prepare you for Congress?

Serving in the Arkansas attorney general’s office has been great experience. I have worked to keep criminals behind bars and improve the justice system, and seen the way that the federal government has at times both helped and hindered the efforts of our local communities to keep us all safe.

Along with my experience as a business lawyer and teacher, representing the people of Arkansas in court has prepared me to serve as a voice for central Arkansans in Washington.

As a business and tax attorney at the Rose Law Firm, I was able to work with local businesses and governments to help create jobs and meet the challenges of the turbulent, globalized economy.

I helped Arkansans craft business and estate plans, negotiated and executed numerous business transactions, drafted legislation, and advised my clients on federal, state and local tax issues.

Specializing in financial and tax law gave me extensive experience working with these complex and often burdensome rules from the perspective of Arkansas entrepreneurs and families.

What makes you different from your Democratic opponents and your potential GOP opponent?

My perspective, experience, and ideas make me different. Growing up in central Arkansas, working my way through school as a paperboy, dishwasher and landscaper, and later advising local families and entrepreneurs as a business lawyer here, gave me the private-sector perspective on the problems we face.

Teaching constitutional and tax law, and serving as assistant attorney general gives me the public-sector experience to make sure that government works for the people in our community. People in central Arkansas know that the political formulas we have seen from both parties—like promising big tax cuts and spending increases while we’re running a deficit over $1 trillion—simply will not work any longer, and I am offering practical ideas that will work.

How will you help Arkansas if you’re elected to Congress?

By keeping my focus on the military and budgetary issues where Washington most profoundly affects the lives of central Arkansans. All our veterans, including the brave men and women in my generation coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, deserve a congressman committed to honoring their service not just with words.

I will make sure our veterans get better health care, educational and career opportunities. I will also work on refocusing and improving federal support for education in central Arkansas so that we can build lasting prosperity. Easing the burden on central Arkansas taxpayers must start immediately: The first bill I will file simplifies the tax-filing process to give us back the time in April that unnecessary paperwork consumes every year.

Why did you get into public service?

I got into public service because I want to help make sure our government fulfills its fundamental obligation to keep us safe and provide a better life for the next generation.

How close are you politically to Vic Snyder?

There are many areas where Congressman Snyder and I agree and some fiscal and foreign policy areas where we disagree. I very much admire his commitment to clearly state substantive positions on the issues and defend them on the merits.

Snyder has secured millions of dollars worth of projects for Little Rock Air Force Base. Will you support the base if you’re elected?

Definitely. The LRAFB and C-130s are an essential part of our national defense and humanitarian-relief capabilities. Over the last 55 years, the base has brought many of our friends and neighbors to central Arkansas and continues to play a vital role in our community and economy.

What does your family think about your running for office?

Like other families in central Arkansas, my wife Skye and the rest of my family make the youngest generation the priority in our lives. My family supports my public service because I will make sure that we have a government that will share that commitment to future generations.

Could you tell us about your parents, including your mother and her background?

My parents met in church while they were studying to become science teachers at the University of Florida. (As a skeptical teenager, I sought out third-party verification of the “met in church” part of their story.)

My father, Al Adams, grew up around family farms outside Charleston. He has taught physics at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for 30 years. My mother, Isabel (Mesa) Adams, grew up around family farms outside Havana, Cuba. Her family fled the violence of the communist revolution there. Before she retired, she taught biology at high schools, including Mount St. Mary. They frequently talk about their grandchildren, visit national parks, and end grace before meals by giving thanks for “faith, family and friends.”

My family’s history also keeps me mindful of how lucky I am to live here. Because she fled Cuba’s political violence as a child, my mother never lets me forget the importance of freedom. Today I serve on the board of directors of the Arkansas Committee on Foreign Relations, and my pro-bono legal work has included helping to obtain political asylum in the United States for a Chinese citizen living in Magnolia and threatened with death if returned.

Both my parents are science teachers, so I was surrounded by great role models for classroom and individual teaching. Throughout high school, college, and law school, I volunteered as a reading tutor for public school students. I taught English and religion classes at Subiaco Academy and served as dean of the freshman dormitory.

Education gave me some great opportunities to explore the world and take on new challenges, starting with college at Yale. I accompanied Subiaco faculty and students as we tried to perfect our Spanish at a summer course on the coast of Spain.

At the University of Michigan, I was an editor of the Law Review. After law school, I worked for two years as a corporate lawyer at Davis Polk in New York. I completed business transactions all over the world for clients in the airline, financial, manufacturing, and media sectors. Through all these adventures, I never stopped wanting to come home.

Since my great-great-grandfather started farming in Franklin County, my family has lived and worked in Arkansas. Growing up around here was a great privilege, in all kinds of ways large and small.

I got to watch the Travelers win the Texas League at Ray Winder Field in 1989, deliver the Arkansas Democrat when there were still two papers, face adolescence with Father Tribou’s wisdom ringing in my ears, return home from a semester away to discover that the Whole Hog folks were not content to accept anything less than perfection in a barbequed rib, browse Lorenzen’s books, hike the Ouachita Trail on spring breaks and spend summer weekends at Greers Ferry Lake, see kids overcome all kinds of adversity and have a lot of fun at Camp Aldersgate, make lifelong friends at Governor’s School, and stand outside the Old State House in person on election night in 1992.

Central Arkansas has been a great place for my wife and me to start our own family, and I want to work to make sure that living here gets better still.

EDITORIAL >> The birther candidate

It was a matter of time until one of the big stable of Republican candidates for the U. S. Senate became so desperate. Curtis Coleman, the millionaire food broker at Little Rock, announced Wednesday that if he is elected to the Senate he will make President Obama produce his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States and was not an illegal president.

Coleman said he did not know where the president was born, in Kenya as the conspiracists claim or Hawaii. It just needs to be settled and he is going to use his office to do it, he said.

Of course, it was settled while Coleman wasn’t looking. In June 2008, Obama released a digital copy of his birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii. When the conspiracists countered that it must be a doped-up copy, the candidate’s staff made an old certified copy of the birth certificate, complete with the official state seal, available to media organizations, which copied it. The birth certificate is all over the Internet. The director of the Hawaii Bureau of Vital Statistics in Honolulu confirmed that it was an exact replica of the original birth certificate on file in the state Health Department. Hawaii law prohibits the state from releasing a person’s birth certificate or disclosing information on it. Most states have similar privacy laws.

The Obama birth, along with the other births recorded that week at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu was reported August 13, 1961, in the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, which was the custom in most newspapers of the day. It said: "Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy., son, Aug. 4.” The same announcement appeared the next day in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Anyone can examine the newspapers in the state archives or on microfilm.

But wait, the conspiracists exclaimed, even 49 years ago the sinister Obamas were plotting to make their baby the illegal president of the United States some day, and they must have called the newspapers from Kenya and got people on the newspaper staffs to plant young Barack’s name in the birth list that the hospital gave to the newspapers.

If you believe that happened, you will believe anything. Lots of people will believe anything, and Curtis Coleman apparently thinks there are enough of them in Arkansas to elect him to the Senate. Lord, we pray that there are not.

EDITORIAL >> Our senators let us down

Senator Mark Pryor is an immoderately gentle and considerate man who often seems out of place in the bruising world of politics. Sometimes he is too considerate and agreeable for his own good.

Thursday, Pryor joined Senator Blanche Lincoln in voting against the reconciliation bill that carried the “fix-it” changes in the historic health insurance reform law that the House of Representatives passed Sunday and that President Obama signed into law Tuesday. The House enacted the Senate health insurance bill only after receiving assurance from a majority of the senators that they would approve a handful of changes in the bill that would be incorporated in the reconciliation bill that the House passed Sunday immediately after the Senate health bill.

Nearly all the 59 Democratic and independent senators committed to vote for the reconciliation bill, which used a parliamentary procedure that allowed the Senate to pass it with a majority vote and prevent a filibuster by the Republicans that would kill health reform altogether. Mark Pryor was among the commitments. As late as Wednesday, he said he supported the reconciliation bill and found all the changes acceptable. He praised the new law as a wonderful thing for the people of Arkansas and he enumerated a dozen or so major improvements in the way Arkansas people access the medical system. He was proud to join his political Arkansas forebears, Senator Joe T. Robinson and Representative Wilbur D. Mills, who were among the architects of Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

Then on Thursday Pryor voted against the reconciliation, along with all the Republicans, Senator Lincoln and Senator Ben Nelson, the Nebraska Democrat who had hijacked the original health bill by refusing to give it the critical 60th vote until it was amended to have the rest of the country pay all of his state’s Medicaid benefits for adults. He figured that would raise his stock in Nebraska. The outrage turned much of the country against the bill. The Cornhusker kickback, as it was called, was removed in the reconciliation bill, so Nelson naturally voted against it.

But why Pryor? You had to figure that he did it to give his Arkansas colleague cover so that she would not be sitting out alone with the odious Ben Nelson among the Democrats. Lincoln had voted for the big health insurance bill and had helped write it, but to mollify right-wing critics she said she would vote against the reconciliation bill, which suggested that her real preference was to keep health reform from becoming law. Her public explanation was that she had nothing against the things in the reconciliation bill but that it was crafted without the “transparency” that had characterized the drafting of the original health bill. It was baloney.

So a reporter asked Pryor if he voted no to show support for his beleaguered friend and colleague. It was a factor, Pryor acknowledged, but he actually decided Thursday that there were a few things in the reconciliation bill that he didn’t much like.

For example, he said, the reconciliation bill raised the state’s share of adult Medicaid costs starting in 2010 from 5 percent to 10 percent. (For current Medicaid programs Arkansas has to put up nearly 26 percent of the costs, one of the lowest shares in the country.)
Yes, Arkansas would love 5 percent better than 10 percent, but that changes the Medicaid section of the new law from a stupendous bonanza for Arkansas to a merely incredible one. Hundreds of dollars will flow into Arkansas for the treatment of the working poor and their families, ending the shift of the costs of unreimbursed care at hospitals and doctors to privately insured citizens. So that’s a pretty flimsy excuse, senator.

Well, he said, the reconciliation bill makes rich people start paying the Medicare payroll tax on their unearned income — stock appreciation and the like. That is a negative?

Let’s remember the gallant gesture to a beset lady and forget the excuses.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TOP STORY > >Beebe aldermen visit new shelter

Leader staff writer

The Beebe City Council went to the dogs Monday night.

The mayor, aldermen, other elected officials and employees began the evening with a tour of the new city animal shelter at 1401 E. Center St. before heading to city hall.

After visiting the animal shelter, Alderman Harold Welch said, “It is an asset for Beebe to have the animal shelter to house dogs. It is a really nice facility.”

“It was the nicest thing that Beebe has done for people who especially love animals. It is nice,” Alderman Becky Short said.

According to city clerk-treasurer Carol Crump-Westergren, the city has spent approximately $169,000 to build the animal shelter through February.

Beebe was awarded a $20,000 General Improvement Fund grant from the state in 2008 to build the shelter.

A ribbon cutting and open house for the animal shelter is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 17.

Beebe resident Annieta Mann asked for the city to consider amending the city ordinance banning the selling, trading or giving away of dogs at the flea market.

She wanted the city to allow registered dogs with papers to be sold or traded.

Mann said people have sold dogs at the flea market since April 1966. People arrive Saturday at 3 a.m. and stay until 2 p.m.

Dogs sold at the flea market sell from $500 to $1,500. Hunters from as far away as Malvern and Cave City come to Beebe to trade hounds and blue-tick heelers.

“It is a viable source to trade dogs and goods,” Mann said.

“We have no control of people dumping animals days before Saturday,” she continued.

She said abandoned dogs dropped off along the highway wind up at the flea market looking for food.

Mann said the dog traders could work together to self-police the selling and trading of dogs.

She said sellers would need to have health records for the dogs, along with the name and the address of the seller. They should be held accountable for knowing when and how many dogs were sold, she said.

Mayor Mike Robertson said the people who bring boxes filled with free puppies to flea markets are the main problem, not traders or sellers.

Mann asked if there was another way to work with the city other than giving out summonses and stopping the selling and trading of dogs.

The mayor and the city council decided to see how the self-policing of the dog trading and selling worked out before making a formal change.

The council heard ways to find homes for dogs at the shelter. They learned about the adoption rates, policies and fees and how to adopt dogs at the Cabot and Sherwood animal shelters.

Robertson spoke about using the work-release program to help with cleaning at the animal shelter.

He would like to add Saturdays and Sundays to the work-release schedule for people to work off community service hours.

The animal shelter has 35 indoor pens and 35 outdoor pens.

Roberstson also noted that the Beebe Spring Cleanup will be held April 12 to 24.

On those days, residents and businesses can bring trash and debris to the dumpster at the city shop at no charge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday during the cleanup.

Street department superintendent Milton McCullar said the spring cleanup is not a curbside pickup service.

No tires, roofing materials or liquid paint are allowed to be dropped off.

TOP STORY > >As rumors fly, principal says he’s innocent

Leader staff writer

Tim Ballard, the former principal and boys basketball coach of Abundant Life School, pleaded not guilty to first-degree sexual assault Tuesday morning at Sherwood District Court.

His case was also moved to Pulaski County Circuit Court and the files are being sent to the prosecuting attorney’s office.

Once the files are reviewed by the prosecuting attorney’s office and deemed sufficient to proceed, a date in circuit court will be set. If the prosecutor feels there is not enough evidence to support the felony charge, the charge could be reduced and the case sent back to Sherwood.

Sherwood District Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III also allowed Ballard, 39, to remain free on the $50,000 bond he posted over the weekend after his Friday arrest.

Police are interviewing 10 to 12 other possible victims.

Both Ballard and his wife Sharon, who is an English teacher at Abundant Life, have been placed on administrative leave with pay.

According to Sherwood police reports, Ballard apparently had inappropriate relationships with at least two girls, and his bosses were aware of sexual complaints as long as 11 years ago.

Sherwood police started their investigation on March 1 after the school had placed Ballard, an 18-year veteran of the school, on administrative leave in late February. The department received a phone call from an anonymous male who said that Ballard had been accused of having sexual relationships with several female students and asked that something be done about it.

Sherwood police detectives interviewed Dr. Russell Eudy, the school’s superintendent, and Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church Pastor Keith Brickell. The school is affiliated with the church.

Eudy told the detectives that he received an e-mail on Feb. 21 from a former student stating that she had carried on an inappropriate, long-term relationship with Ballard starting in seventh grade and going through her senior year.

The e-mail, which was turned over to the detectives, supposedly gave specific details about the relationship. Eudy said he informed Pastor Brickell about the e-mail on Feb. 24.

According to the report, both Brickell and Eudy said it was not the first time accusations had been made toward the coach.

Eudy said the first time was 11 years ago and, before this incident, the most recent was in September 2009.

While detectives were interviewing Brickell and Eudy, the police department received a call from another female saying she was also a victim and wanted to speak to the detectives in the case.

Ballard was a no-show as a coach at a Feb. 25 game that his boys team lost.

Assistant coach Chris Horton has been appointed interim coach. The athletic director, Justin Moseley, said the school had no plans yet for a permanent replacement.

At this point, Ballard has only been charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault/sexual contact by a professional in position of trust/authority over a person less than 18 years of age. But authorities say there could be additional charges involving more victims.

Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said the charge is a felony and carries a penalty of six to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

Ballard’s attorney is Hubert Alexander of Jacksonville.

The allegations are similar to the case of Sylvan Hills Middle School coach Tyson Norsworthy of Jacksonville, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student. He was sentenced to five years in prison on March 9.

EDITORIAL >>Health care a good deal

By Arkansas standards, our area is relatively prosperous and secure, but in the next three to six months, some 13,000 people who have lost their health insurance because of chronic sickness or a pre-existing condition will get to buy affordable insurance for the first time, another 75,000 to 100,000 elderly residents with high drug bills will get some help, and insurance companies will stop dropping people when they get sick, stop denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and stop capping lifetime medical payments for people with catastrophic illnesses.

Those are some of the first consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law yesterday morning. Scores of other changes in the nation’s patchwork insurance system, the more sweeping ones, will occur over the next nine years. It will take three years or so for state governments and the insurance industry to set up exchanges where more than 150,000 uninsured people and 16,500 small businesses in our eight counties can for the first time shop for affordable coverage for their doctor and hospital bills.

That is the big change that is roiling the country. The Republican Party calls it socialism and tyranny and promises to repeal the law if the party controls Congress next year. Almost to the last person, Republican candidates for the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives in Arkansas joined that crusade this week.

We mentioned the first effects of the law only to emphasize how far-fetched is the idea that the Republican Party or any party will repeal the massive law no matter how many gains the party makes in the approaching election. Modifications, yes — it will need fine-tuning for many years, just like every other economic-security law in history — but it will not be repealed.

Here are the arguments that the repealers will have to make should they get a bill to the floor even late this year: “We must stop today insuring children with birth disabilities or crippling childhood illnesses; we must stop drug discounts and make the elderly and disabled pay more for their medicine; we have to stop allowing people with long-term illnesses or pre-existing conditions to get affordable insurance; we must kick sons and daughters off their parents’ insurance policies if they are over 21.” And so on.

The insurance lobbyists will cheer them on — that will be quite a racket — but not many others.

As people learn about the more far-reaching provisions of the bewilderingly complex law and discover that all the scary claims were lies, they will not want to go back on those either. When they find that the law affects insurance and not their medical care and that the government is not taking over medical care, few will want to go back to the good old days when only the well-to-do or the well-employed could get insurance, and even they were at the whims of the underwriters.

If there was anything at all to the fearmongering charges that the bill would destroy the doctor-patient relationship and put medical care under the control of government bureaucrats, the act would not have had the strong support of American hospitals, nurses and the American Medical Association, which spent 60 years fighting every national health-insurance proposal on those very grounds, until this one.

It was reassuring that our congressman, Vic Snyder, voted for the bill, the only one in the delegation to do so, although the representatives from our east and south, Marion Berry and Mike Ross, had voted for more liberal versions of it at some point last year.

Snyder knew the huge benefits to his district and the greater benefits to the rest of the state even if his colleagues were afraid to acknowledge them. We wished Snyder would be more assertive rather than merely consistent and knowledgeable, but that is Snyder’s manner. We will miss it.

Gov. Mike Beebe weighed in after the vote that he would have voted against the final bill, although he thought much of it would be good for the state. He worried that the burden on the state government from the expansion of Medicaid coverage to children and childless adults in 2014 would be too great. Beebe must not have understood the bill.

As Snyder ever so politely pointed out, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the Medicaid costs through 2016, and over the next four years after that the state will start bearing a small share of the cost each year until it reaches close to 10 percent. Hundreds of billions of dollars will flow into the state, shouldered by wealthy taxpayers in other states and the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical-equipment industries, and Arkansas will match only a small portion of those funds.

The extra state revenues generated from such an infusion of capital will surely oblige the governor’s fiscal concerns.

Even Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who was for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before she joined the Republican coalition to try to trap and kill it on a procedural technicality, was moved yesterday to praise the law’s great benefits to Arkansas. She may be timid, but she ain’t dumb.

That adjective has to describe the Arkansas politicians who joined the cry this week to use the ancient slaveholders’ doctrine of nullification to try to stop the patient protections from becoming law in Arkansas. They want the state attorney general to issue an opinion saying that the United States Constitution doesn’t mean what it says in the Supremacy Clause and that the United States Supreme Court misspoke in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, which settled for all time the issue of whether every state can interpret the U. S. Constitution as it wishes.

SPORTS>>First round to UALR as Sitzmann scores 21 in Georgia Tech upset

UALR sports information

NORMAN, Okla. — In the team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance, No. 11 UALR beat a higher seed, No. 6 Georgia Tech, 63-53 at Lloyd Nobel Center on Sunday.

Senior Kim Sitzmann of Cabot scored a season-high 21 points and tied a season-high with four three-pointers. Junior
Chastity Reed scored 14 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, while junior Shanika Butler scored 10 points.

“I thought it was a great game,” UALR coach Joe Foley said. “I thought that we did the two things that I felt like we need to do.

I felt like we needed to handle their pressure. I thought we did a great job of handling press, and get some good layups, and some good opportunities to score.”

The Trojans (27-6) had the most victories in school history as they entered Tuesday’s second-round game with Oklahoma.

After Georgia Tech won the opening tip, the Yellow Jackets took a 6-0 lead on layups. TheTrojans scored the team’s first field goal with 16:15 left on a three-pointer by Sitzmann, before Georgia Tech answered with a three by Jasmine Blaine to extend their lead to 9-3.

“I thought Kim knocked down some big threes in the first half to get us going,” Foley said. “I thought our defensive effort was outstanding.”

Sitzmann scored 18 points in the first half, the most in a half she has scored all season, and hit a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in the first period to give UALR a 35-26 halftime lead.

Asriel Rolfe opened the second half with a three-pointer, then Georgia Tech scored the team’s first field goal with a putback with 18:36 to go.

UALR outscored Georgia Tech 7-2 over the next three minutes, with four points from Reed for the 45-30 lead with 14:36 remaining.

A jumper by Reed sparked a 7-2 run by the Trojans for the team’s biggest lead, 52-32, with 7:48 to go.

A putback by Chelsea Regins started an 11-0 Georgia Tech run that cut the Trojans’ lead to 52-42 with 4:10 remaining, but UALR was able to hold on down the stretch as each team scored six points in the final 58.4 seconds.

With 15:50 left in the first half, the Trojans went on an 11-2 run, holding the Yellow Jackets scoreless for more than two minutes to take the team’s first lead and extended it to 14-11 with 12:56 until halftime.

Georgia Tech got four straight points from Bridgitte Ardossi to regain the lead, before a three-pointer by Sitzmann followed by a steal by Butler to Britteni Williams for the layup, put UALR back on top 19-15 with 10:22 on the clock.

Over the next four minutes, Sitzmann scored six points for the Trojans to four by Sasha Goodlett for the Yellow Jackets to extend UALR’s lead to 25-19 with 5:21 left in the half.

The teams exchanged points before two free throws by Kursh followed by a fastbreak layup from Sitzmann gave UALR the 32-24 lead. In the remaining 1:17, both teams scored, with Sitzmann making her three-pointer with 4.2 seconds left for the nine-point halfitme lead.

SPORTS>>Langley’s long ball in sixth gives Lions edge against Eagles

Leader sportswriter

Searcy first baseman Zach Langley hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning Friday to thwart a potential Vilonia comeback and help Searcy to a 9-3, non-conference victory at Vilonia City Park.

Langley smashed a 2-1 pitch from Tyler Berry to stretch the Lions’ lead to 8-3 after the Eagles had cut the deficit to two.

“That was a big hit for Zach Langley,” Searcy coach Clay McCammon said. “And if I’m not mistaken, they had bases loaded and two outs the inning before that. We made a couple of good pitches that inning, and then Zach comes up and gets the big hit.

That definitely took some pressure off of us.”

The Eagles threatened to take over in the bottom of the fifth when catcher Hunter Henderson and Cameron DiMatteo singled and Zack Mitchell was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But Searcy reliever Preston Tarkington got Drew Knowles to ground out andleave all three runners stranded.

Searcy starter Chris Bond led off the top of the sixth with a single to center, and pinch hitter Mike Brown beat out a bunt for a single to set up Langley’s three-run homer.

The Lions scored their final run in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk.

Langley was 2 of 4 with a home run and four RBI. Jared Haggard was 2 of 5 with a double and an RBI and Dillon Howard was 2 of 4 with two runs scored.

“I thought we pitched well and defensively played pretty well,” McCammon said. “We made some mental mistakes throughout the game that we’ve got to get corrected, but I can’t fault the effort of our guys. I thought they played hard.”

Bond earned the victory for Searcy with four strikeouts and one hit in three innings, while Tarkington struck out five and gave up two hits through four innings.

“Our pitchers have thrown well all year long,” McCammon said. “We’re ready to start stretching them out a little bit and getting them more pitches. We feel like we’re ready for conference. Like most years, as the season goes on, we feel like we’re going to swing the bats better.”

Haggard led off the first with a double down the third base line and scored two batters later off a passed ball that walked Tarkington.

The cleanup hitter Howard moved Tarkington to second with an infield single, but Hayden Mercer grounded into a force play at third for the second out. Dillon scored when B.J. Slaughter stole second as the throw from Henderson was too high.

SPORTS>>Pitching helps Cabot put stop on Jacksonville

Leader sports editor
Cabot jumped on Jacksonville early and shut down the Red Devils late in a 4-1, non-conference victory at Dupree Park on Friday.

The Panthers (6-2) got two runs in the first inning and the pitching staff quieted what had been an explosive upper part of the order for the Red Devils (6-2), holding Jacksonville to three hits and retiring 11 of the final 12 hitters in order.

“It’s a rivalry game,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “We’re not conference anymore but they’re still a big game on our schedule and we are for them. I know they were 6-1 coming in and had just pounded West Memphis; we knew they could swing it.”

Jacksonville is a member of the 6A-East Conference while Cabot is in the 7A-Central. Cabot was coming off a recent victory over nationally ranked Fayetteville and got four hits and benefited from three errors in Friday’s two-run first.

Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said Cabot starter Matt Evans was the best pitcher his team had faced. Evans worked five innings, giving up one run and three hits while striking out four, walking one and hitting a batter.

“That’s the reason we schedule these guys,” Burrows said. “And that’s the reason later in the year we scheduled Benton and Sheridan and Sylvan Hills in the middle of our conference.”

Powell Bryant led off the game with a single and advanced on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Jacksonville starter JesseHarbin, then scored when Evans doubled but was gunned down trying to take third.

Tyler Erickson singled to left, advanced on Tyler Crook’s fielding error and scored when catcher Patrick Castleberry fielded Brandon Surdam’s bunt and threw wildly to first to make it 2-0.

Left fielder Andrew Reynolds led off the fourth with a home run off Harbin over the right field fence and in the fifth, Bryant walked, advanced on the Red Devils’ fifth error and scored on a fielder’s choice.

Jacksonville’s lone run came in the fourth when the hot-hitting Castleberry doubled to right-center and scored on Nick Rodriguez’s single. The Red Devils’ only baserunner after that was Caleb Mitchell, who walked and was stranded in the sixth.

SPORTS>>Asiah ascending

Leader sportswriter

Size is only one characteristic of someone who walks tall.

At 6-0, Lonoke senior post player Asiah Scribner has the size, but she also has the other attributes that make a player stand above the rest.

For her qualities and accomplishments, Scribner is the All-Leader girls player of the year.

“A girl like her comes along once in a long time,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “The things she can do with a basketball — and I think her best basketball is ahead of her.

“When she’s in a tough mode, she’s extremely hard to handle. She can guard any position on the floor. And really, other than point guard, there’s not a spot she can’t play.”

Scribner has started since her freshman year, making three trips to the 4A state championship game her first three seasons.

She wrapped up her high-school career this year with conference, district and regional championships and a trip to the 4A state semifinals.

“On game day, there is no underdog, no ranking,” Scribner said. “It’s just who can go out and play the best game that day.”
Scribner was named All-State for the third time and averaged 15.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals a game. She led the
Lady Jackrabbits with a 59.3 field-goal percentage and also led in charging fouls taken.

Scribner, with fellow seniors Michaela Brown and Ashleigh Himstedt, was looking to make a fourth trip to the 4A state finals before Prairie Grove derailed Lonoke in the state semifinals earlier this month.

“It was awful,” Scribner said. “I didn’t know what it was like not to be able to go to the state championship game. I didn’t before now. I use to wonder would it be worse to go and lose, or lose early. But, either way it goes, it’s all bad.”

Scribner has been looked to as a leader since her sophomore season. By her junior year, she and Brown were the two most experienced players on the Lady Jackrabbits.

Shiloh Christian beat Lonoke in the 2009 4A state championship, marking the third time Scribner and the LadyJackrabbits went to the final and came up short.

Lonoke was a favorite to return to Summit Arena in Hot Springs for this year’s final, and swept the 2-4A Conference at 14-0.

Lonoke also cruised through the district and regional tournament to earn the No. 1 seed in the East.

“It went by real fast. And you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone,” Scribner said. “That’s what they say, and it’s really true. All the days we came in here and we were ready to get out, but when you get out you realize you really want to go back and do it all over again.”

Scribner took over a number of Lonoke’s conference games this season. She scored 19 points against Clinton and a game-high 23 against Heber Springs, including 10 straight points as part of a 20-0 run that put the game away for the Lady Jackrabbits.

The state championship may not have been meant to be for Scribner and her teammates, but the lack of a ring does not leave a vacancy in Scribner’s heart. There have been plenty of other things to fill that void, most notably friendship.

“I’d rather have what we have right now than to have won a championship,” Scribner said. “If it means making the friends I have now and getting to know all the people I have met, just being the person that I am, I think I’d rather just have this than a ring, honestly.”

Scribner is the youngest of four siblings and the daughter of Demetri Rice and Marvin Scribner. She will graduate seventh in her senior class with a 3.94 GPA and next fall will play for the UALR Trojans.

Scribner is leaning toward majoring in early childhood development or nursing, but has not ruled out coaching.

For Morris, now preparing for his sixth season, watching Scribner develop as a player and a person the past five seasons reminds him why he entered coaching.

“When she was in eighth grade, she was the typical awkward girl, you know, taller than the other girls and kind of shy, insecure,” Morris said. “She used to scrunch down so she wouldn’t look as tall. She doesn’t do that now.

“She’s leaving here a very intelligent and very responsible young lady. When she walks through those gym doors, she walks tall.”


Melissa Wolff quickly emerged as a leading scorer and playmaker for the Cabot Lady Panthers this season.

Wolff averaged 12.5 points, seven rebounds, three assists per game and 2.5 steals a game and made 68 percent of her free throws.