Saturday, March 12, 2011

SPORTS>>Early start fizzles; Hall victorious

Leader sportswriter

A fast start led to a disappointing finish for the North Pulaski Lady Falcons on Thursday.

The Hall Lady Warriors overtook the Lady Falcons in the top of the fourth inning and added three insurance runs in the fifth to win 7-3 at Field 6 in Dupree Park in a non-conference make-up game from Wednesday’s rainout.

The Lady Falcons (1-1) took a 3-2 lead after the first, but got only one hit from the second inning until the bottom of the seventh, when they put two runners on with two outs before freshman centerfielder Kelsey Seats flew out to second base.

“Our main thing is, we hit the first inning and just quit hitting,” North Pulaski coach Ann Tharp said. “That’s what we’re disappointed in. They made some good defensive plays. When we hit the ball, we hit it right at them, and they made good plays.

“We just have to hit the ball consistently.”

Hall’s rally in the top of the fourth started when Myra Hayes reached on an error at shortstop by sophomore Shayla Evans. Kendra Austin grounded to Shelby Floyd at third to force Hayes for the first out.

Second baseman Brianna Escovedo then committed a throwing error to first on a grounder by Djemile McJankins that allowed Austin to reach third. Leadoff batter Kamicha Curtis drove in both runners with a double to left-center to give the Lady Warriors a 4-3 lead.

Bains had mixed results pitching for North Pulaski. She struck out nine but gave up nine hits, the most damaging of which were the back-to-back doubles in the fifth inning. Defensively, the Lady Falcons committed six errors.

Hall pitcher Jalisa Larry earned the victory with five hits allowed and five strikeouts.

Both pitchers picked up steam after shaky performances in the first inning. Bains needed just 10 pitches to retire the side against Hall in the top of the second as she got three strikeouts, and she struck out two more batters in the next inning.

North Pulaski answered Hall’s two-run first when leadoff hitter Floyd doubled to left and scored when Seats hit to shortstop and Austin made a throwing error to first. Heather Fleshman tied the game with a double against the left field wall that scored Seats, and Fleshman scored on a fielder’s choice to shortstop by Kelsey Whitmore to put the Lady Falcons up 3-2.

Sophomore Anna Langrell grounded out to first and Escovedo flew out on a foul ball to give the Lady Falcons two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh. But Evans gave the Lady Falcons hope from the bottom of the order with a single to center, the team’s first since Seats’ single to left in the second.

Evans advanced on a bloop single by Floyd in shallow, but Seats flew out to second to end it.

Floyd was 2 for 4 with a double and a run.

North Pulaski will begin 5A-Southeast Conference play Tuesday at Crossett.

SPORTS>>No room for meek in 6A-East

Leader sports editor

Hooper Vint.

I wonder where Hooper Vint?

I can tell you where the 6-11 Van Buren center is going. Assuming Arkansas coach John Pelphrey hangs on to his job — or Vint can handle a coaching change — he will play for the Razorbacks next year.

I can tell you where Vint is not going, at least not as a player. He is not going to Summit Arena today to play in the 6A state championship game.

That’s because during the state tournament, Vint and his Van Buren comrades ran into the buzzsaw that is the 6A-East Conference, which will produce this year’s state champion sometime around 5:45 this evening.

Jacksonville and Little Rock Parkview, who finished tied for first in the 6A-East, tip off at Hot Springs’ Summit Arena in the most important of their three meetings this season. Game time is 4:15 p.m.

In the 6A state quarterfinals, No. 5 seed and 6A-East member Marion beat top-seeded Van Buren 45-34. Van Buren earned its top seed playing up a classification in the 7A-Centeral Conference.

In a confusing solution to various logistical problems caused by almost constant reclassification, the Arkansas Activities Association mandated certain 6A schools play in the 7A, and vice versa, with a so-called power-ratings system thrown in to help make up competitive disparities.

Yeah, reading that last paragraph, I don’t know what I just said either.

The bottom line is that Van Buren played in the 7A-Central, and won it, then dropped into the 6A state tournament as the top seed, which clearly did it little good. Van Buren might have been better off playing in the 7A tournament.

But then, anyone running into a 6A-East team this year would have found trouble.

Jacksonville and Little Rock Parkview, who split their season series, survived an all-6A-East semifinal round in which Parkview beat Marion and Jacksonville beat Jonesboro.

Technically, the 6A-East will be able to lay claim to the 7A championship too, as 6A-East members West Memphis and Little Rock Hall jumped up to the 7A tournament and advanced to tonight’s 7A final.

What has made the 6A-East so tough? Well, duh, good players.

Jacksonville’s Raheem Appleby is drawing the attention of college recruiters after going up against 6A-East teams like Searcy, featuring Ole Miss signee Jamal Jones, and Parkview, featuring Arkansas signee Aaron Ross.

What has made the 6A-East so tough? Well, duh, good coaches.

Jacksonville’s Vic Joyner is gunning for his second state championship in three years; Al Flanigan led 10-time state champion Parkview to its most recent championship in 2006, and 30-year veteran Larry Bray has coached the Blue Devils to multiple titles, including two in a row in 2004 and 2005.

Has the 6A-East always been this tough? No. Will it always be? Probably not. Talent pools shrink and expand and players and coaches come and go, so my advice to the state’s basketball aficionados is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Today’s Jacksonville-Parkview game should leave fans of both programs biting their fingernails down to the wrist.

Jacksonville beat Parkview by 16 at the Devils Den and Parkview won the return meeting by 10 in Little Rock. The games were played consecutively in the span of a week because of makeup dates made necessary by winter weather.

Today they will square off on a neutral site after a week’s rest. Seriously, it’s too bad the chairs at Summit Arena don’t come with air bags and roll bars.

Jacksonville’s 61-51 loss to Parkview on Feb. 8 was its last, as the Red Devils then beat defending 6A champion Hall to begin the nine-game winning streak that carried them back to the Summit today.

Parkview is on a seven-game streak after suffering its last loss to, of course, a 6A-East member — the Jonesboro Hurricane.

There is one drawback to this week’s state final festivities — the playing of Queen’s “We are the Champions” after each and every boys and girls game, all 14 of them.

You think if I let on that I was one of Freddie Mercury’s backup singers I’d get a royalty?

But when the song plays for Jacksonville or Parkview it will truly mark the crowning of the best team in the state.

SPORTS>>Talented cast lifts Devils into final

Leader sports editor

Vic Joyner never imagined.

Justin McCleary dared to dream.

Joyner, Jacksonville’s coach, liked the makeup of this year’s Red Devils from the outset of the season. But, eyeballing the tough 6A-East schedule, he had a hard time envisioning Jacksonville (24-3, 11-3) playing for a state championship.

“We figured we might be able to squeak out five games,” Joyner said of the conference slate. “We thought maybe five games, and we knew we were going to go to the tournament and we were going to try to have them ready at the end, but we thought five games at the best.”

McCleary, the Red Devils’ sophomore point guard, may have been giving in to the exuberance of youth, but unlike Joyner he let himself picture the scenario that has in fact played out.

Jacksonville meets Little Rock Parkview today to decide the 6A state championship at Hot Springs’ Summit Arena. Tipoff is 4:15 p.m.

“I had a couple dreams about it,” McCleary said. “I didn’t think we were going to go this deep though. But we came out, we pushed it, worked hard all season and we’re going to the state championship.”

McCleary lent more than his imagination to the Red Devils’ effort.

He is second on the team with an average 9.2 points a game and leads with an average three assists while running the point for Jacksonville. McCleary is a vital member of a rotating cast of characters who have proven capable of coming up with a big moment when needed.

“They’ve been solid all year,” Joyner said. “McCleary and James Aikens, Terrell Brown, Jamison Williams, Aaron Smith. They’ve all, in certain games in the course of the year, they’ve all stepped up and made big shots and big plays.”

Jacksonville’s acknowledged star is senior guard Raheem Appleby, averaging 19.7 points a game. Appleby has posted big night after big night and, even slowed by a bad ankle, he led the Devils with 13 points in their 6A semifinal victory over Jonesboro.

But when Appleby has been double teamed, ill, injured or just taking a breather, someone has always been there to fill the void.

“Everybody tries to play their roles,” said Brown, the Devils’ junior post player. “I try to get the buckets in the paint and get some trash rebounds here and there. Dustin House, he shoots outside for us good, Jamison Williams plays the three, he gets rebounds and scores for us, Justin McCleary is strong with the ball and plays a good point guard.”

Brown is a case in point. At 6-3, 230 pounds, he has had to work all season against bigger inside players — like Little Rock Parkview forward and Arkansas signee Aaron Ross — and leads a group-rebounding effort with an average 3.6.

“He’s giving up 30 pounds, 40 pounds to those kids,” Joyner said.

Brown expects to bang up against Ross again today in what figures to be a tightly played game between two very familiar opponents.

Jacksonville, gunning for its second state championship in three years, split with Parkview during the regular-season series.

The Red Devils beat the Patriots 60-44 on Feb. 1 at the Devils Den, then traveled to Parkview for the rematch on Feb. 8, with Parkview winning 61-51.

Because of its margin of victory, Jacksonville earned the tiebreaker share of the 6A-East championship and the conference’s highest seed to the state tournament.

“It’s going to be a war of attrition,” Joyner said. “It’s going to be who wants it the worst. It’s going to come down to a couple breaks here and there, a couple of turnovers here and there, a couple of rebounds here and there.

“It’s what it boils down to all the time. Especially when you’re playing a team that’s familiar with you.”

If Appleby, who injured his ankle in the Jonesboro semifinal and wore a boot until Wednesday’s practice, is slowed today — and Joyner was predicting he would only be at about 70 percent of full strength — the other Devils are going to have to show up big one more time.

“You don’t have a choice,” Joyner said. “It’s not like the NBA where you can go out and recruit somebody for the postseason.

“You’ve got to dance with the one you brought and these are the kids we’ve had all year and we’re going to take them win, lose or draw; we’re going to put them out there and they’re going to do the best they can and God’s will be done.”

SPORTS>>Decisions await Goodwin

Leader sports editor

HOT SPRINGS — It may have been hard for Archie Goodwin to see next year through the tears on Friday, but he does have a next year.

So do just about all of Goodwin’s teammates.

But the fact the Bears were mostly juniors was little tonic for the pain of their 80-64 defeat at the hands of Alma in the 5A state championship at Summit Arena.

Goodwin, the Bears’ five-star recruit, scored 29 points, 17 on free throws, and tied a championship game record with 22 free-throw attempts. But the number that mattered to Goodwin most Friday was the final score.

“Individually I think I could have done better,” Goodwin said. “It just wasn’t my night. I had a pretty decent night on free throws but field goal percentage, I didn’t have a good night for the team.”

In contrast to the Bears, the Airedales had three senior starters, including game MVP Isaac McCoy, who scored 39 points and had 20 rebounds.

“I think it was partially their defense and the other part was just me not playing up to me abilities,” Goodwin said. “They had a good defense and they got back and got a lot in transition and they contested a couple shots.

“But I think I still could have gotten those plays that would have helped us win.”

Goodwin has seen a parade of major college recruiters and coaches come through the Sylvan Hills gym, and many other places where he has played this season.

John Calipari, of Kentucky, Bill Self of Kansas, Roy Williams, of North Carolina, Bill Anderson, of Missouri, a representative from Georgetown and, of course, Arkansas’ embattled coach John Pelphrey, have all traveled to see Goodwin play.

Goodwin has also made unofficial visits to several of those schools.

Goodwin was also peripherally pulled into Pelphrey’s ongoing problems when a photo surfaced of Pelphrey with Goodwin and Bears teammate Trey Smith during the Wampus Cat Invitational at Conway in December.

The photo stands as evidence of a secondary, NCAA recruiting violation by Pelphrey for inappropriate contact, further complicating life for the coach, who is already on the hot seat after the Hogs wrapped up another sub-par season by bowing out of the SEC Tournament in the first round.

Goodwin is blameless in posing for the photo, but the issue goes to show the kind of spotlight under which a modern-day recruit must operate.

Goodwin admitted the recruiting questions have been a distraction, but he has had plenty of time to get used to it and learn how to separate the attention from what he does on the floor.

“I got a handle on that from Day One, just because it was happening in AAU and all through the summer,” Goodwin said. “A lot of coaches came to watch us play and I got used to it so I don’t think it was a distraction at all.”

Goodwin couldn’t escape the recruiting questions on Friday either, and now he will focus on narrowing down his numerous college options before making his final choice sometime his senior season.

And yes, he will have a senior season. “I think it’s going to motivate us a lot,” Goodwin said of Friday’s loss. “I think we’re going to go into the summer and the rest of the school year and the offseason working really hard and being more focus on what we should do to get back here next time.”

In his junior year, Goodwin helped Sylvan Hills to a perfect record in the 5A-Southeast Conference and a 3-0 run through the state tournament.

While Goodwin will have to decide where to play basketball someday McCoy is already headed for Oklahoma State to play football as a defensive back.

SPORTS>>Bears bow to Airedales in 5A final

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS – Exper-ience was the deciding factor in Alma’s 80-64 victory over Sylvan Hills in the 5A championship game at Summit Arena on Friday.

Airedales’ senior guard Isaac McCoy earned MVP honors with a record-setting night that included 39 points and 20 rebounds. He tied with Bears junior standout Archie Goodwin for most free throws attempted in a game with 22, and his 20 rebounds tied the state record for a championship game.

McCoy’s numbers were part of a poised, senior-led Airedales effort contrasted to the youthful Bears. McCoy’s classmate and post player Austin Duerr added 11 points for the Airedales, and was often overlooked by the junior-laden Bears defense that focused much of its attention on McCoy.

“This young team that we have has really grown up,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “Certainly with Alma, I think experience could have been a factor. I thought our guys battled all the way through, which they always do for us.

“Sometimes you just need a bounce or a break to go your way, but it didn’t happen.”

The Airedales (24-6) dominated the second half, and pulled away from the Bears rather quickly in the last five minutes. McCoy took over in that time, using his speed to catch the Bears (25-5) out of position.

He drove the length of the floor for an inside basket with 6:37 left to play to give the Airedales a 57-51 lead before extending the lead on a pair of free throws.

He then made it 61-53 when he ducked into the lane for two points after grabbing a defensive rebound.

Foul trouble set in for the Bears in the final three minutes, as post player Devin Pearson fouled out with 2:23 to play and Larry Ziegler followed him to the bench with 1:36 remaining. Ziegler finished with 11 points, as did Sylvan Hills guard Trey Smith, while Goodwin led with 25 points and seven rebounds. The bulk of Goodwin’s points came from his 17-of-22 showing at the free-throw line.

Trey Smith added 13 points for the Bears, while Pearson led in rebounding with 10.

For Alma, Jenson added 10 points. The Airedales shot 43.4 percent from the floor (23-53) compared to 30.6 (19-62) for Sylvan Hills.

McCoy hit his first three-pointer with 7:33 left in the first quarter to give Alma a 3-2 lead, and Austin Duerr got a defensive rebound and brought it down for another three-pointer to extend the Airedales’ advantage to 6-2.

Goodwin fought back from the free-throw line, going 3 for 4 on back-to-back trips. That closed the gap to 6-5, but McCoy answered with a free throw, followed by an inside drive for two points that gave Alma a 9-5 lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter.

Smith cut it to one with a basket and free throw, and Goodwin gave the Bears their first lead of the game at 10-9 with a steal he took for a layup wit 4:23 left in the first quarter.

Alma retook the lead on a basket by Brock Widders and a free throw by Jenson Gage, but Pearson tied the game at 12 with a putback and Smith gave the lead back to Sylvan Hills, 15-12 with a three-point basket with 53 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Jake Martin pulled Alma to within a point before the close of the period with an inside basket.

The Airedales jumped back out to the lead and began to grow the margin midway through the second quarter.

McCoy scored in the lane to make it 24-21 and Gage grabbed the rebound off a missed three-point attempt by Goodwin. He got the ball on the other side and drove in the paint, putting a body to Ziegler to score and give the Airedales a 28-21 lead.

Goodwin broke a scoring drought of nearly two minutes for the Bears with a putback that cut it to 28-23, but Jason Hensley answered for the Airedales with a shot assisted by Gage. Smith then hit another three pointer, this one with 54 seconds left until the half to cut Alma’s lead to 30-26.

Widders came back with a basket for Alma before Goodwin hit a free throw and Patton added two more with nine seconds left in the second quarter to make it 32-29 Alma. But Gage got the last word for the Airedales when he drove the length of the floor and laid it in at the buzzer to set the halftime margin at 34-29.

Friday, March 11, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Lobbyists win again

Elections come and go, Republicans gain and Democrats falter, but one thing never changes about the Arkansas legislature: its ultimate constituency. It isn’t the average working family and it isn’t the small Arkansas businessman. One guess on who it is.
There are always a few bills that reveal all too clearly who a lawmaker will stand with when push comes to shove: big corporations. They fill the committee rooms with lobbyists, they supply the campaign checks, and they never lose a fight.

Any bill to tax or regulate the big exploration companies that take fortunes from the Arkansas earth will always meet the same fate in the legislature. Unless the exploration companies—Chesapeake, Southwest Energy, et al—support the legislation, it never gets out of committee. So it is this session with legislation to make the companies pay a little more severance tax on the gas they harvest to pay for a tiny part of the gross damage they cause Arkansas highways, land and streams, not to mention the earthquakes they may cause. The Highway Department estimated that the gas rigs in four years have caused $500 million in damage to highways and they pay a pittance in severance taxes. The little increase in taxes died in committee Thursday. Instead, Arkansans will pay more in sales and motor-fuel taxes to rebuild the roads for them.

Here’s a worse example: the corporate combined-reporting bill. Some brave legislator introduces it every session or so, but the lobbyists for the big multistate corporations bury it in the Revenue and Taxation Committee of the Senate or House of Representatives. It happened again Thursday. This time, Rep. Jim Nickels, Democrat of Sherwood, introduced the bill. His plaintive call to legislators to do something fair for the taxpayers and small businessmen in their districts was met with silence. Then the committee voted it down without a recorded vote. But the lobbyists were there to take note of anyone who muttered a yea half under their breaths.

Over the past two decades, the big corporate accounting firms have come up with a variety of ways for corporations that do business in all the states—big oil companies like Exxon, big retailers like Walmart, Home Depot and Toys R Us—to escape paying state income taxes or to reduce their tax liability to a pittance. You set up a subsidiary corporation in a state without a corporate income tax or a very favorable tax code—say Delaware or Nevada—and you assign your profits in Arkansas to the subsidiary, which may have nothing but a postoffice box in the tax-haven state.

 There are several ways to do it. You can set up a Delaware corporation that will own the company’s logo, and the subsidiary will charge the company’s operations in Arkansas a huge rent for using the franchise logo on its building or in its ads. It lets the retail operations in Arkansas report negligible profits to the state for tax purposes. Or the parent company will set up a real-estate investment trust in Delaware or Nevada to own its store buildings and warehouses—and the company trust will charge the Arkansas stores an exorbitant rent. Nearly all the profits go to the Delaware subsidiary and are not taxed at the state level.

The poor Arkansas merchant who has to compete with the big national companies is at an even greater competitive disadvantage.  A tire dealer in Sherwood who has to compete with Walmart or Sam’s Club has to pay Arkansas taxes on his income, but his big competitors pay little.

Half the states that have income taxes have fixed that giant loophole by requiring combined reporting. They take the company’s total national net income and compute the percentage of the business that is done in their state. That decides the company’s tax liability in that state. If 5 percent of the corporation’s business was in Texas, 5 percent of its profits will be assigned there and taxed. What could be fairer than that?

A Republican small businessman from Berryville named Phil Jackson tried every year for as long as he was in the legislature to level the playing field for small businessmen, but he could never get even one Republican to join him and a few Democrats.

It’s good to see young Jim Nickels take up the lonely fight, but he will pay a price at the next election. There will be some handsome gifts to the campaign of his Republican opponent. Good deeds do not go unpunished.

TOP STORY > >Cities still demand space in county jail

Leader staff writer

Several Cabot officials were in Lonoke Thursday evening to hear a committee of Lonoke County Quorum Court members discuss again how the county will pay to run the new jail when it opens this summer.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, the former Cabot mayor, had talked to county officials last year about leasing space in the new jail and closing the city jail. But by the time Bill Cypert was sworn in as Cabot mayor in January, the attitude about who should have access to the $6.2 million facility appeared to have changed, and Cypert said until the county knew what it wanted, Cabot’s jail would remain open.

The new jail will have 140 beds, at least 40 to 50 more than needed at this time for Lonoke County prisoners alone, and the questions still to be answered are who gets the other beds, how much will they pay and will they pay even on days they don’t need the beds?

Despite the earlier concerns, the consensus of the committee, said JP Tim Lemons, the committee chairman, is that the jail is for the use of the cities as well as the county. The cities should be able to close their lockups except as temporary holding cells, he said.

The members of the committee also decided that they don’t like the term “regional jail,” which had been used when referring to the cities having full use of the county jail.

Lemons said “regional” was a concept with no clear boundaries. County jail is more precise.

“The consensus is this jail was built for the people in the cities and the people in the county,” he said.

But the devil is in the details, and whether the cities will actually have full access to the new jail would likely depend on whether they will sign contracts to ensure that the county receives enough funds to pay the increased cost of running the new facility. Currently the county has $900,000 to run the jail, but the estimated cost is $1.3 million.

Money to build the jail came from a one-cent, county-wide sales tax that was collected for one year only. About one-third came from Cabot, and officials don’t mind saying that contribution has earned them some consideration.

Cypert, along with Eddie Cook, Cypert’s operations director, and Aldermen Rick Prentice, Ed Long and Patrick Hutton attended the Thursday meeting. Lemons said he was glad they did because it showed the city’s interest.

Cabot still wants to close its lockup except as a temporary holding cell.

Lemons said if everyone can agree on a contract for use of the county jail, he believes it will happen. But he said the county will need the cities to contract to pay for a set number of beds that will be paid for even when they are empty. If an agreement can be reached with Cabot, then the county will likely go to the other cities with the same plan, he said.

The county would still likely rent bed space to the state if the beds are available, he added. But for now, nothing is definite and likely won’t be until the April quorum court meeting, when the committee will present a proposal to the full quorum court.

TOP STORY > >McDaniel will fight loan bill

Leader senior staff writer

Two years after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel ran the last of the payday lenders out of the state—including about half a dozen in Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot and North Little Rock—the House Insurance and Commerce Committee has sent a warmed-over version of the Arkansas Check Cashers Act of 1999 on to the full House.

That’s the assessment of Deputy Attorney Gen. Jim DePriest, who said the office is working against passage of House Bill 1846, the Small Installment Loan Act.

Robbie Wills, a former House speaker and failed candidate for the Democratic Dist. 2 congressional nomination, opposed payday lending when he was in office, but as a lobbyist he has worked for this bill and is listed as executive director of the Arkansas Installment Lenders Association in Arkansas.

“The goal of our association is to create safe, responsible credit options for unbanked and under-banked Arkansans,” Wills says. “Many Arkansans needing to borrow small amounts are denied credit and financial products that are generally available to others in Arkansas due to inadequate credit histories or poor credit scores. This has left many small-loan consumers vulnerable to illegal predatory lending and other expensive, but legal, transactions.”

The loans, between $250 and $5,000, are within the state’s 17 percent interest cap, but would allow a number of “fees,” which the law states “shall not be deemed interest.”

The bill, “to enact the small-loan act to help underserved consumers obtain credit and financial opportunities,”- also authorizes the General Assembly to set the loan interest rates.

The bill reads in part, “Small loans cannot be made profitably under the limitations imposed by existing interest and usury laws of this state.”

It would “allow lenders who meet the conditions of this subchapter to charge a sufficient rate to permit a fair business profit and to provide for a regulatory system necessary for effective enforcement.”

DePriest said lenders servicing car and furniture purchases do fine with the state’s 17 percent cap.

Payday loans were typically 14-day loans, while the new installment loans are six months to four years.

DePriest said that there is no obvious connection between the five entities currently in the Arkansas Installment Lenders Association and the companies that previously ran 230 payday-lending stores in the state.

He said the attorney general’s office has been busy combating the online payday lenders that do business in the state.

In 2006, there were 275 payday-lending stores in the state—more than twice the number of McDonald’s restaurants.

“This is just as onerous as payday lending,” said Hank Klein, founder and former chairman of Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending. “It will be used by the same people, who will end up with larger obligations and larger problems.”

“I don’t know the motive behind the bill,” said Reta Kahley, president of the Arkansas Credit Union League, “but credit unions make small loans to consumers every day of the week.” She said credit unions help needy borrowers rebuild credit.

DePriest said Thursday that like the payday lenders before them, after loan rollovers and fees, the effective rate charged by small-installment lenders could be several hundred percent.

“We’re hoping it won’t pass,” said DePriest, but if does, “We hope no lender will risk violating the (state) Constitution.”

“The focus now is to beat back the bill,” said Aaron Sadler, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

Related bills still in the legislative hopper also would clear the way for questionable lending practices by amending Act 89, but they would be constitutional amendments and would require three-quarters approval in the General Assembly, instead of a simple majority.

TOP STORY > >FEMA drops flood rules

Leader senior staff writer

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has rewarded Sen. Mark Pryor’s long-standing effort to keep flood insurance affordable and available by considering local levees and flood-control structures when updating flood-insurance rate maps.

FEMA administrator Craig Fugate told Pryor, as well as Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that he has directed an end to the practice of using “without-levee” mapping when, in fact, there’s sufficient local flood protection to keep rates low or even make insurance unnecessary.

“For several years now, I have been telling FEMA officials that their approach to flood insurance is unreasonable and detrimental to Arkansas homeowners and businesses,” Pryor said Friday. “Dismissing existing infrastructure isn’t logical or practical. FEMA has finally come around, offering a more precise solution.”

Pryor has worked to overturn FEMA’s tough new methodology since it was announced during the Bush administration, said Michael Teague, a Pryor spokesman.

“They were dead set on doing it in a certain way,” said Teague, and they targeted Arkansas and Mississippi first.

Pryor had said that as other states were included, opposition would grow, and he was right.

Some areas that have never been in a flood plain are now suddenly in a flood plain, Teague said.

Some people already have been forced to buy expensive or more expensive flood insurance, he added. He said it would take a while to unravel the situation, see who has been affected and fix it.

“They shouldn’t be stuck with this moving forward,” he said.

Early last month, 14 Repub-lican and 13 Democratic senators sent Fugate a letter asking that mapping “be terminated because it completely wiped some flood-control structures off the map instead of more precisely determining their effectiveness.”

“This will affect Cabot and Beebe because of the levees around here, and Bayou Meto,” Pryor said in an interview with The Leader last June.

The old rules could have brought “everything to a halt,” Pryor said at the time. “Cities and counties aren’t sure what they are agreeing to.”

FEMA sent letters to cities in Arkansas indicating they would no longer be eligible for federal disaster assistance, and residents and businesses could not buy or renew existing flood-insurance plans if the new floodplain measures were not adopted.

“This is very heavy handed. They want any new development, anything anywhere, to be elevated, get above floodplain when it’s already sitting behind a world-class levee—and local people pay for the levees,” the senator said at the time.

Flood insurance, administered by FEMA, can cost Arkansas homeowners from $131 to $2,647 annually, depending on coverage and location, according to the senator. It can cost businesses up to $5,000 annually and deter economic development in communities, Pryor said.

FEMA had sent out ordinances to cities and counties saying they must pass them or loans and developments will stop.

“FEMA is finally listening,” Pryor said. “I commend them for acknowledging the need for a more accurate and precise analysis of existing flood-control protections before forcing consumers and businesses to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for insurance.”

In a letter to the senators, Fugate agreed that his agency had the technical ability to affordably and efficiently produce more accurate flood maps unnecessarily.

If FEMA determines an area has a 1 percent annual chance of flood, property owners in that area are required to purchase National Flood Insurance Program coverage to protect against such flooding hazards if their mortgage is backed by the federal government.

Communities across the country have complained that FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have disregarded locally funded flood-control projects and repairs that may provide some level of actual protection in the development of the new flood maps.

“In order to increase the credibility of our Flood Insurance Rate Maps in areas where levees are not accredited, I have directed my staff to replace the ‘without levee’ modeling approach with a suite of methodologies that are technically sound, credible and cost-effective,” Fugate wrote. “The approach will better meet the needs of our citizens while providing more precise results that better reflect the flood risk in areas impacted by levees.”

“It makes sense to take existing flood-control structures into account,” according to Wicker. “This should be a significant help to residents in areas that faced higher insurance rates.”

TOP STORY > >More foreigners train at air base

Leader executive editor

More foreign nations are being represented at Little Rock Air Force Base, the home of C-130 combat airlift. More than 40 nations have trained at the base, and as many as 322 foreign airmen are expected to complete their training here by the end of the year.

“Their numbers have grown dramatically,” said Arlo Taylor, a spokesman at Little Rock Air Force Base.

He attributed their rising number to the popularity of C-130s, especially the late-model C-130Js, which are more computerized and more maneuvarable.

Hundreds of C-130Js have been made in the last decade, with sales to Britain, Italy, Israel, India, Australia and other countries, which usually train at LRAFB.

“International training has continued to dramatically increase throughout the last five years,” says Lt. Col. Mark Livelsberger, 714th Training Squadron commander with the 314th Airlift Wing here.

LRAFB is the only C-130 training base for the Department of Defense. The 314th trains C-130 pilots, navigators, flight engineers and loadmasters from all branches of the U.S. military, as well as allied nations, in tactical-airlift and aerial delivery.

“In 2007, we trained 48 international students, and this year, there are 275 operators and maintainers programmed for training, and the projections for 2012 will continue to increase,” Livelsberger wrote recently in the Combat Airlifter, the weekly newspaper at Little Rock Air Force Base.

“The mission of the 314th Airlift Wing is to train the world’s best C-130 and C-21 combat airlifters to fly, fight and win,” according to Livelsberger. “This mission is achieved by our experienced maintainers and operators and aided by a strong partnership with our contractors and host wing. In fact, the rest of the world is aware of our excellence in building C-130 combat airlifters that they, too, want to be trained at Little Rock.

“You may have noticed there are more international students on the flightline, getting strapped into an aircraft for a training sortie, or visiting the dining facility, BX and commissary.”

“In fact,” he continued, “Little Rock Air Force Base has been the temporary home for some 42 different partner nations as they train to maintain and operate the most versatile aircraft in the inventory, the C-130 Hercules. We have and will continue to see increased training requirements as more countries purchase the newly produced C-130J aircraft.”

A field-studies program offers an introduction to the U.S. government, society, culture, democratic institutions and respect for common human-rights principles,” the colonel said. To highlight the local community, students take trips to downtown Little Rock to see the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, Central High School and the USS Razorback. Other trips include Hot Springs National Park, Bathhouse Row and the Mountain Tower.

“We’ve also partnered with International Friendship Out-reach, a local Little Rock organization to foster community relations with our international students,” according to Livelsberger.

On weekends, international military students take overnight bus trips to Memphis to see Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum, the National Sciences Museum and a tour of the Gibson guitar factory.

Foreign officers can also go to Washington, where they tour Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the National Archives and the Capitol building.

“The purpose of this tour is to give the students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the United States and to acquaint them with some of the functions of our national government and the salient aspects of governmental activities that exist in Washington,” Livelsberger wrote.

“While they’re here, international students develop an understanding of American society and culture, he said. “And what better place to get their training than at Little Rock Air Force Base, the foundation of America’s combat-airlift capability, where we train the world’s best C-130 combat airlifters?”

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

SPORTS >> Raiders hit by injury, take defeat

Leader sportswriter

SEARCY – Taylor Smith has carried the Riverview Raiders a few times in his high-school career.

But when his knee blew out midway through the second quarter of the Raiders’ 3A state quarterfinals game with Rivercrest, Smith couldn’t put Riverview on his back when the Raiders needed it most as Rivercrest won 67-52 at Rhodes Field House on Friday.

Smith and Demoine Brown, Rivercrest’s star player, collided at midcourt with 3:44 left in the first half and Riverview holding a 23-15 lead. Brown was charged with the foul to send Smith to the free-throw line, but it was immediately obvious something was wrong with Smith’s right knee.

Smith grimaced and limped to the line while coach Jon Laffoon called for a substitute, but Smith, the team captain, waved it off. He played the remainder of the game, but was at half speed and unable to penetrate for his trademark slashing drives.

The Raiders were also more vulnerable to Rivercrest’s full-court press without Smith’s speed.

“He’s just one of those special players that you can’t really replace,” Riverview coach Jon Laffoon said. “I’m not sure what happened — he said it was knee to knee. It was just unfortunate. When he went out, we’re just not the same team.”

The Colts (20-6) pulled to within four points at halftime and controlled the last two quarters. Rivercrest took the lead for good with 1:32 left in the third quarter and pulled away in the last four minutes.

“Me and D. Brown, our knees went head-on with each other,” Smith said. “I tried to play on it the best I could; I was limping around a little bit, but I still tried.”

Smith, who finished with seven points, racked up five assists in the first quarter, but following the injury he managed just two more. His rebounding also suffered as he finished with seven total.

Sixth man Rashard Bailey led the Raiders with 19 points while senior post player D.J. Teague had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Brown led Rivercrest with 28 points and 13 rebounds.

“I saw it happen, but I tried not to pay too much attention to it,” Rivercrest coach Rick Wilson said of Smith’s injury. “He did a great job for them. I really appreciate him as a basketball player, and he did a heck of a job.”

Smith was injured earlier in the season in a non-conference game against Augusta and had to sit several games. In that time, the Raiders (25-7) watched their perfect season slip away.

It was an unceremonious ending for Smith, who finished his high school career with fellow seniors Teague, point guard Keinan Lee, reserve post Jamar Alexander and Cameron Moore.

“It’s a great group of kids,” Laffoon said. “They’re going to be successful in life, and that’s the most important thing. I told them at the first of the year, the ball’s going to stop bouncing for everybody. You just want to keep it bouncing as long as you can.

“Day by day, and they did that, and I enjoyed coaching them.”

It’s not the end of Smith’s basketball career, however. He has interest from several colleges, including Harding University, UCA, Tulsa, UALR and Arkansas State.

Smith has persevered despite playing for several coaches.

Danny Starkey, who led the Raiders to the 3A state championship in 2007, left following Smith’s sophomore season to become athletic director at White County Central High School. Russell Stumpenhous coached the boys and girls last season before Laffoon took over the boys just prior to the start of the season.

“I really enjoyed it,” Smith said. “Throughout my high-school career, I had a lot of coaching changes. I had to adjust. This year, I’m happy I still stuck with it and played with this team.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

TOP STORY >> PCSSD appoints new principals

Leader senior staff writer

Danny Ebbs, principal of Sylvan Hills High School until this week, has gone fishing, according to Pulaski County Special School District spokeswoman Deborah Roush, setting off a round of interim transfers for three veteran district administrators.

Roush said Ebbs, who had worked for the district for about 40 years, retired for health reasons related to his vision.

Jacksonville Middle School principal Dr. Veronica Perkins replaces Ebbs.

Perkins, who has a PhD, began her career in education as a junior high language-arts teacher in 1994 at Jack Robey Jr. High School in Pine Bluff. She maintained that position for six years before moving into the administrative ranks with PCSSD as an assistant principal at Oak Grove Junior-Senior High School in 2000.

She spent five years learning the intricacies of building-level administration and operations, according to Roush. Hoping to broaden her view of the educational process, Perkins moved into the role of the district language-arts coordinator, where she remained until she returned to building-level administration as a principal in 2007.

Perkins is in the second year of the Master Principal Institute of the Arkansas Leadership Academy. She serves on the district’s Closing the Achievement Gap committee as well as the exhibit coordinator for the Arkansas Association of Middle Level Educators, and instructs as an adjunct professor at Cambridge College (satellite campus) in Memphis. Perkins has three daughters in the district, one each at Clinton Elementary School, Fuller Middle School and Mills University Studies High School.

Star Academy principal Charlotte Wallace replaces Perkins at Jacksonville Middle School, according to Roush, and former Jacksonville Girls Middle School principal Kimala Forrest will take over as principal at the Star Academy.

Forrest most recently served as PCSSD test coordinator, a position that will be eliminated, with the duties absorbed by the district counseling office, Roush said.

Wallace is a graduate of Southern Nazarene University at Oklahoma City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in curriculum and instruction. She received her educational-specialist degree from UALR and is working on a doctorate in educational leadership.

Wallace began her teaching career at Mayfield Middle School in Oklahoma City. After three years, she returned to her native Arkansas and began teaching at North Pulaski High School. During that time, she won the Bobby G. Lester Excellence in Education Award for language arts.

After five years at North Pulaski, she became an assistant principal at Jacksonville High School and then an assistant principal at Pinewood Elementary School. In 2009, she was selected to open Star Academy for the Pulaski County Special School District, where she served until Monday.

Forrest has been employed by PCSSD for 21 years in the positions of classroom teacher (social studies, American history, computer technology, keyboarding, adult education and career orientation), assistant principal, principal and, most recently, as district test coordinator.

She is a member of the National Alliance of Black School Educators, the Pulaski County Administrator Network and Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association. She works on numerous committees, including the District Handbook Committee.

She was the 2000 Sherwood Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year.

Roush says Forrest has a passion for educating and helping students and parents work toward achieving individual successes.

She is a graduate of Jacksonville High School and received a bachelor of science in business education from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and master of science in education in educational leadership from the University of Central Arkansas.

Her two children are Jacksonville High School graduates. Both are college graduates, and one is a law-school graduate. She has three grandchildren.

TOP STORY >> Hate speech is protected, court decides

Leader executive editor

(The U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld the right of Westboro Baptist Church members to demonstrate at military funerals. This column about the Kansas-based group, which demonstrated in Beebe nearly five years ago, appeared on Aug. 2, 2006.)

Members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., were again busy this week picketing funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, but lawsuits filed by families who have lost their loved ones could stop the church group from taunting grieving relatives.

Church members, who believe God is killing our soldiers in Iraq because America tolerates homosexuals, have traveled to dozens of cities for the funerals of U.S. soldiers — not to mourn with the families but to mock them.

At least one grieving father, Albert Snyder, has filed suit against the church, which he accuses of invading his family’s privacy and “emotionally damaging” the grieving family when the group protested back in March at the funeral of Snyder’s son, Matthew, at St. John’s Catholic Church in Westminster, Md.

The Kansas church’s Web site said the elder Snyder taught Matthew “to defy his Creator, to divorce and to commit adultery” and “raised him for the devil.”

Snyder’s lawsuit claims the Westboro demonstrators violated his privacy, inflicted emotional pain and defamed him. Snyder wants the demonstrations to stop and is seeking general and punitive damages against the church.

But Jonathan Phelps, whose father started Westboro Baptist Church, says he knows nothing about the lawsuit. Anyway, he told us, no court will stop him from exercising his right of free speech and religion.

You remember Phelps: He and his family came down here in June and picketed the funeral of Army Specialist Bobby West of Beebe. Hundreds of motorcyclists calling themselves the Patriot Guard shielded mourners from about a dozen Westboro Church members, who stood across the road from First Baptist Church of Beebe and held up signs that said “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

It was an improvised-explosive device that killed West, 23, on a road near Baghdad.

We asked Phelps this week to give us his reaction to the lawsuit against Westboro, although he insists his church has not been served papers. If he is sued, he suggested he could file a countersuit, as he did in Kansas, where authorities tried to stop his picketing.

“As a matter of law, Westboro Baptist Church cannot invade the privacy of any person or group while standing out on a public sidewalk and holding signs in the air, singing songs and preaching,” Phelps e-mailed us on Monday.

“If you use the example of the ‘funeral’ you were in attendance at in Beebe, Arkansas, which is typical of the events we see (except normally larger), we didn’t invade that ‘funeral’ any more than you did, the patriot fart guard did, and the extras lining the highway did. The only difference is the message that we communicated.”

Phelps is clear about the teachings of his church and why members are picketing at soldiers’ funerals.

“WBC and her members sincerely and fervently hold and publish the Scripturally-based viewpoint that God is punishing America for institutionalizing proud sin (homosexuality, divorce/remarriage, adultery, fornication, idolatry, greed, etc.), including by killing American soldiers on the battle fields in the Middle East.

“We believe God is cursing America (a fact hard to dispute with soldiers’ bodies coming home in little pieces in bags); you pretend to believe God is blessing America; that religious debate is supposed to occur in the heart and on the streets, not in the courts, the jury rooms, chief executive suites of the states and federal government and legislative chambers.”

Phelps, who is a lawyer, then sounded an even more ominous note, suggesting he might sue if reports of a lawsuit against his church are inaccurate:

“If they have a legitimate cause of action against WBC, you better be real careful what you write about it in your column; but you know their claim is cow manure.

“The mask of ‘invasion of privacy’ is unoriginal and banal. The result of any such lawsuit would be that it would not survive motions to dismiss and/or motions for summary judgment.

“Furthermore, such action would be an abuse of process if filed and served, be malicious prosecution as without probable cause and with malice, and probably be a violation of the Civil Rights Act as a conspiracy to abuse governmental power to violate the civil rights of WBC members; and any such vain attempts will be met with vigorous defenses and affirmative suits wherein all attorneys’ fees and expenses would be recovered with interest and with enhancements.”

Phelps knows the law and is confident he can win in court again.

“The government in Kansas has been down this road with us, trying to use government power to stop our preaching, the result of which they have paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in awards of our attorneys’ fees. As a memorial, I keep copies of the checks in the $100,000s hanging on my wall.

“It is not lawful for any lawyer to pretend to sue us in court and thereby abuse government power to try and get the government to side with them and declare that their religious view called ‘American patriotism,’ ‘God bless America’ and ‘God loves everyone’ as the official religion of this country.

“These soldiers’ funerals have become public platforms where various groups (veterans, military personnel, media, politicians, community members, etc.) conduct political patriotic pep rallies declaring their religious views on how God is dealing with America.”

He’s studied the law books and says the law is on his side.

“They became public platforms because the family vigorously pursued that avenue to make them public platforms—and thereby make the dead soldier and their family public figures; they literally thrust themselves and their dead relative into that spotlight and cannot complain when they don’t like the spin Gospel preachers put on the events.

“WBC members have an absolute right to unfettered access to that same platform to publish a counter religious view.

The law is well-established that the First Amendment prohibits government preferring one religion over another, and mandates the government always be neutral on matters of religion,” he continued.

He’ll take his case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

“The United States Supreme Court reiterated the following long-settled legal principles: Government cannot take action which aids one religion, aids all religions, or prefers one religion over another. In the relationship between man and religion, the government is firmly committed to a position of neutrality. The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another. The Establishment Clause prohibits the favoring or disfavoring of one religion over others.”

In other words, even the kookiest religion is protected under the Constitution, even if its members act in bad taste.

“In any event,” Phelps promises, “the Westboro Baptist Church is not going to stop preaching this message—America is Doomed—in a timely, topical manner, and the ultimate outcome would be that the Westboro Baptist Church would triumph wonderfully.

“In the meantime, the efforts these fools engage in to attempt to stop our preaching has had one primary result, to wit: the message has gained much wider publication than we would have ever imagined. So, in essence they are doing a great service, albeit they receive no credit because they do so unwittingly and they intend it for evil.”

“Have a nice day,” Phelps concluded.

Church members on Monday demonstrated at the funeral of Army Cpl. Adam J. Fargo in Culpepper, Va.

On Tuesday, they picketed at the funeral of Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Dickenson II in Fayetteville, N.C.

The group also headed for Arlington National Cemetery, where Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Chiomento was laid to rest yesterday.

TOP STORY >> School plans move ahead

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District on Tuesday night unanimously approved the hiring of architects and builders for the construction and rehabilitation of as many as seven district schools beginning this summer.

The board previously approved spending $1.5 million to get those professionals to rough out plans and costs for the projects before the actual commitment to go ahead with one or all projects.

Any commitment would happen at the April board meeting, when the board approves the 2011-2012 budget, according board president Bill Vasquez.

“I’m feeling optimistic that we will be able to go forward,” said Derek Scott, district chief of operations.

Scott and Superintendent Charles Hopson have proposed building two new elementary schools and one new middle school in Jacksonville and extreme makeovers—Scott calls those “add-alters” — for Harris, Scott and College Station elementary schools and Robinson Middle School.

The estimated $104 million required for those projects would come from bonds secured by cutting $8 million a year from the district budget, and the groundwork for some of those cuts was laid Tuesday night at the meeting.

Of the savings, about $780,000 would come from closing the existing Jacksonville Elementary School next fall.

The vision includes both new Jacksonville Elementary School and Middle School buildings as wings to a central building that would house administration offices, kitchen, the media center and other areas, but the classrooms, cafeterias and some other areas would be separate.

Also slated for construction is a new elementary school on 20 acres at Little Rock Air Force Base that would serve students in attendance zones from which Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools currently draw.

Witsell, Evans, Rasco Architects will plan both the new Jacksonville Elementary School and Jacksonville Middle School.Baldwin Shell will serve as construction manager on both jobs.

Wittenberg, Delony, Davidson Architects will plan the replacement elementary school, to be built on Harris Road at Little Rock Air Force Base, for Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools. Baldwin Shell will be construction manager for that project as well.

Wittenberg, Delony, Davidson will also be architects for both the rebuilt Robinson Middle School and Harris Elementary School with Harco serving as the construction manager on both.
Polk, Stanley, Wilcox Architects will plan the College Station and Harris elementary school makeovers with East Harding serving as the construction managers.

The board moved forward on some of the cuts and economies required to raise the money to pay for the $104 million bond issue. It authorized the administration to advertise for lawn-care service with an eye toward reducing the size of the maintenance department and also for managed document services to include district copiers and other document services.

The district hopes to save $52,000 a year by awarding a contract for school bus and auto- parts management, expected to “enhance fiscal control and significantly improve fleet performance,” and the board approved advertising a request for proposals.

Scott told the board that the district could realize large energy savings by contracting an energy-services company to develop an energy-savings performance contract. Scott said the gist of this is for a company to obtain financing for the district to install new, efficient HVAC systems for some buildings, augmented by increased insulation and energy- efficient windows.

The new equipment would be paid for from part of the savings realized by using more efficient equipment. This is fairly common in the private sector, and the Air Force has used such contracts, Scott said.

Some parents and teachers seemed unhappy with the interim assignment of Veronica Perkins to replace Danny Ebbs as Sylvan Hills High School principal, and asked for and received acknowledgment that the school’s site-based council would participate in selecting the permanent replacement.

EDITORIAL >> The harder they fall

Many rejoice at the disgrace of a politician, especially the sanctimonious kind, of which there have been many recently—good Christian leaders who foundered on greed or lust.  

The official reaction to the downfall of affable Lu Hardin, however, was sadness. His old friend, Gov. Mike Beebe, and his political ally and enabler, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, grieved at Hardin’s guilty plea in federal court to charges of money laundering and wire fraud. His friend and supporter Sheffield Nelson and trustees of the university that he tried to cheat out of $300,000 or $400,000 told the morning paper that Hardin was a very good man who got into debt and made bad choices. 

We have no impulse to celebrate Hardin’s indictment and instantaneous guilty plea. Like each of the fallen angels in Congress, most of them publicly pious men who had done some good things with their lives, Lu Hardin never struck us as a bad man, only as a ruthlessly ambitious one. But there are thousands of men in the state’s penitentiaries who were driven to do bad things by economic or social circumstances, and most of them never got close to $400,000. 

Hardin, a former state senator, commissioner of higher education and president of two universities, could get 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines, but if he gets a prison sentence or a fine at all it will be very light.  We are not sure it would serve any purpose to lock up Lu Hardin, although there are men and women who sold illegal drugs or knocked over a few vending machines who are sweating out many years in prison. 

Hardin’s crimes are well known—they were well known even when a Christian school in Florida, Palm Beach Atlantic University, hired him as president 20 months ago. Huckabee helped get him the job, though the deeds that earned him the indictment had been spread across the pages of Arkansas newspapers, and he was under investigation. 

Mired in debt, reportedly to gambling casinos, Hardin kept getting himself big raises and bonuses at the University of Central Arkansas and finally dictated a memo to his secretary to be distributed to the university’s board of trustees. He attached to the memo the names of three vice presidents, without their knowledge, saying that $300,000 in private funds was available to advance him money under a deferred-compensation agreement. He was already getting the maximum that the law allowed in public compensation, $250,000, and the $300,000 would be illegal unless it really were totally private money. It was not. It was taxpayer money. Then Hardin turned around and sent a phony memo from the board president to the disbursing officer telling him to start giving Hardin the money. 

The indictment mentioned another $100,000 illegal advance that had never been reported.  

That was not all there was to the mess that his administration created at UCA, but it was the part that was clearly illegal. The investigation is continuing. The grand jury has said nothing yet about a Hardin subterfuge to sneak money illegally to the football coach by laundering it through an advertising account. 

Although even-handed justice might require it, no one, we imagine, has any interest in seeing Lu Hardin go to the penitentiary. The headlines, the disgrace and the end of a lucrative academic career are substantial punishment. The university got all the money back, from Hardin or his friends, though it has not recovered its reputation and stability. 

It is important that Hardin was called to account in criminal court for his deeds and not simply endure the bad publicity. Powerful men who do wrong are celebrated for their honorable deeds and their Christian piety, but they must be held to accounts the same as the poor man who is driven by the same impulses to commit petty crimes but gets hard time and no public encomiums. 

Hardin was driven by political ambition. He wanted to be governor or a United States senator. He lost a close race for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary of 1996 and then switched to the party of Huckabee. The governor appointed him director of the state Department of Higher Education, which put him into position to angle for the presidency at UCA, held by Dr. Winfred Thompson. The UCA board had chosen Thompson over Hardin 15 years earlier.  

When Huckabee neared having a majority on the UCA board, Thompson saw that he would soon be fired. He resigned and became president of the American University in the United Arab Emirates. Huckabee and Nelson pressured the UCA board into appointing Hardin president. It would put him in position to run for governor or the Senate in a few years. Hardin turned the school into a public-relations studio, appearing in regular television commercials promoting the school and starring in lavish editorials in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the wunderkind of higher education. 

The story line now is that he developed a high-roller gambling habit, which disoriented his moral compass. At least it was not sex.

Mike Huckabee said he was going to pray for his good friend, so we believe things will turn out all right for him.

SPORTS >> Nicholson no-hits Pats for Panthers

Leader sports editor

Cole Nicholson was grateful to his Cabot teammates for the many runs they gave him Monday.

But really, Nicholson only needed one.

The Panthers’ right-hander no-hit the Little Rock Parkview Patriots in a 10-0, run-ruled victory in the home opener at Conrade Sports Complex.

The game ended in five innings after center fielder Brandon Surdam dumped a bloop single over first base to drive in Nicholson. But, five innings, seven innings or extra innings, the no-hitter was still special to Nicholson.

“I’ve gotten close but I’ve never gotten one,” Nicholson said. “It doesn’t matter as long as you shut them down.”

Nicholson only had to deal with one base runner, thanks to a second-inning error. While walking none, he struck out seven, setting the tone when he retired Parkview in order in the first.

“I felt really good out on the mound,” Nicholson said. “I felt like everything was working. My changeup was pretty nasty today. That was the one that was working most effectively.”

Meanwhile, the Cabot offense was pacing Nicholson to a big lead with a seven-run first. Nicholson doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the inning while Justin Goff hit an RBI single and Zachery Patterson added a two-run double as 12 Panthers batted.

“It always makes me feel a little bit better starting off the game with a lot of runs so I can relax a little bit more,” Nicholson said.

Parkview, which used most of its roster, replaced starter Caleb Jenkins with Caylon Harden after the first inning, and Harden held Cabot in check for most of the rest of the game.

“The kid wasn’t overpowering but he was doing a good job of throwing outside,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “And we were doing a bad job of going to the right side of the field with it. We were trying to pull that we were getting nubbers back to the pitcher and weak ground balls.”

Surdam reached on an error, stole second and scored on T.C. Carter’s single in the fourth. Bryson Morris singled with two out in the fifth, Nicholson drove him in with a single to center and Surdam ended it when drove in Nicholson.

Nicholson was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI and was the only Panther with more than one hit. Morris walked twice and scored twice while Nicholson and Surdam also scored two runs apiece.

Monday’s victory was gratifying to Fitch after the Panthers opened the season 0-3 at the Benton tournament.

SPORTS >> Fayetteville knocks out Cabot girls

Leader sports editor

Top-seeded Fayetteville ended Cabot’s season with a 74-46 victory in the 7A state semifinals on Saturday.

Fayetteville’s Callie Berna scored 28 points as Fayetteville (29-2) advanced to meet Fort Smith Northside in the state championship game in Hot Springs on Saturday.

Fayetteville took a 30-point lead over Cabot at one point in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to Berna going 10 for 10 with four three-pointers.

Melissa Wolff continued to lead Cabot (19-10) as she scored 15 points. She was the scoring leader with 18 points in the Lady Panthers’ 39-37 victory over Rogers in the second round.

Cabot, which had a first-round bye after finishing second in the 7A-Central Conference, also got 11 points from Elliot Taylor in the victory over Rogers.

SPORTS >> Bulldogs bump off Wildcats in double overtime

Leader sportswriter

SEARCY — The miracles ran out for Harding Academy as Earle beat the Wildcats 70-61 in double overtime in the 3A state quarterfinals at Rhodes Field House on Friday.

The Wildcats (23-7) tied the game late in regulation and sent it into the second overtime on Daniel Stevens’ inside shot with just over three seconds left in the first overtime.

But the Bulldogs (22-6) pulled away in the second overtime with an 8-2 run that ended the year for the host Wildcats.

Earle went up 51-48 in the final minute of regulation, forcing Harding Academy to foul.

It took five fouls just to reach the one-and-one bonus, but it paid off as Daquane Willford missed and Stevens pulled down the rebound for Harding Academy.

Lane Dailey made a basket to pull the Wildcats within one and hit two free throws with 3.5 seconds left to force the first overtime.

It was a complex strategy that forced the extra periods, and one that Wildcats coach Brad Francis could barely recall following the game, which lasted well over two hours.

“That’s so long ago, I don’t honestly remember,” Francis said. “I know that at some point, they missed some free throws that gave us a chance. We try to practice those situations.

“We were just going to try and push the ball up the floor. They fouled us, and Lane stepped up and hit two big free throws.”

The Wildcats looked to be in control with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter when senior guard Marshal Price converted a three-point play to give Harding Academy a 46-39 lead. But Autry Allen answered for the Bulldogs with back-to-back three-pointers to cut the lead to one with 3:31 remaining.

“They can score so quick,” Francis said. “We got up seven, all of a sudden, they hit two threes in a row and got back in it. The kids fought hard; we did the things we wanted to do. Credit them for hitting some big shots.

“Anytime you go two overtimes, you know it’s a battle.”

The loss marked the end of a long road for Stevens, Harding Academy’s senior 6-2 post player. Stevens, who has started for the Wildcats since his freshman year, finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds and fired up the Harding Academy student section when he dunked with 6:31 left in the first half to cut Earle’s lead to 16-15.

“We felt like he was just as quick and athletic as a lot of those guys,” Francis said. “We told him to take it right to the rim when he got a chance, and I thought he did that. Really, when they had their bigger guys in, it was a bigger advantage. When they had their smaller lineup in, they were quicker and tougher to defend.”

Will Francis led the Wildcats with 19 points while Seth Keese added 13. Dailey and Price each had nine.

Allen scored 24 points to lead Earle and had five steals while Dalvin Kimble scored 14 points and Willford had 13.

It was the last game for seniors Stevens, Price, Tyler Curtis and Keese, who is also the Wildcats’ all-state quarterback who led Harding Academy to the 3A state football championship, where it lost to Rivercrest.

Keese sat out basketball last year as he recovered from a knee injury he sustained in the 2009 state football semifinal against Fountain Lake.

Ironically, Rivercrest is advancing to the basketball championship after beating Harding Academy’s crosstown rival Riverview in the other 3A semifinal.

Rivercrest beat Riverview 67-52.

“It’s been a great four years,” Francis said. “I know that anytime your season ends and you don’t get that final win, it’s tough. Especially tough that last time around for some guys.

“To battle so hard and come up short there, it’s tough. But a great four-year run, and it’s been a joy to coach them.”

SPORTS >> Red Devils ready to retake Summit

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils repaid Raheem Appleby’s numerous favors Saturday and as a result are playing in their second 6A state championship game in three years.

Jacksonville beat fellow 6A-East member Jonesboro for the fourth time this season, taking a 50-40, semifinal victory to advance to the state final at Hot Springs’ Summit Arena on Saturday.

The victory sets up another 6A-East rematch as Jacksonville meets Little Rock Parkview for the third time this year. Tipoff is 4:15 p.m.

Jacksonville beat Little Rock Hall for the state championship in 2009.

Things looked dicey for the Red Devils in their semifinal when Appleby, the team’s standout guard and scoring leader, was hobbled by a twisted ankle approximately four minutes into the game and had to sit out the rest of the first half.

But the rest of the Red Devils took up the slack, and Jacksonville broke open a close game by outscoring Jonesboro 20-8 in the fourth quarter.

“I told them, ‘He’s been carrying you guys all year, you have to come out and carry him now,’ ” coach Vic Joyner said of his halftime remarks. “I was very emphatic and they came out and they helped.”

Though stationary, Appleby was able to make three three pointers as part of his 13 points. But support came thanks to sophomore Justin McCleary, who scored 10 points, James Aiken who scored nine on three-pointers and Terrell Brown, who scored seven.

Joyner also praised Xavier Huskey, Jamison Williams, Dustin House, Aaron Smith and Crushawn Hayes for their quality minutes.

“They all came out and stepped their game up when Raheem got hurt,” Joyner said.

Appleby was wearing a boot to support his injured ankle early in the week and Joyner was hoping to get him some rest first and practice time if possible, but to at least have Appleby ready for Saturday.

If Appleby, who was averaging more than 19 points a game entering the tournament, can’t go, Joyner is at least encouraged bythe way the rest of the roster has contributed lately.

And if Appleby can play, he is certain to face the same box-and-one defense Parkview threw at him in the regular season, which makes the contribution of the other players just as important.

“Being able to play without Raheem at his peak and having to force those guys to have to step up is a microcosm of what we have to do Saturday,” Joyner said.

Jacksonville and Parkview played their regular-season games during a brutal stretch in which many teams were forced to play three games in one week, sometimes two on consecutive nights, because of weather-related postponements.

Jacksonville won at the Devils Den by 18 points and Parkview won on its home court by 10. The teams finished tied atop the conference standings but Jacksonville got the 6A-East championship and the No. 2 seed to the state tournament because it held the tiebreaker thanks to its larger margin of victory.

Van Buren was the top seed after winning the 7A/6A-Central Conference and dropping into the 6A tournament as the East No. 1 seed in a wrinkle developed by the Arkansas Activities Association during the last round of reclassification.

Marion blew out Van Buren on its way to the semifinals, which featured all 6A-East teams.

Defending state champion Little Rock Hall and West Memphis, who played in the 6A-East but jumped up to 7A for the state tournament, will meet in the 7A final.

“The last three weeks they have gone 9-0 in three weeks where we had three games,” Joyner said. “That’s phenomenal. As brutal as this conference is, to do that was a real feat.”

Joyner had a chance to discuss the strength of the 6A-East with West Memphis coach Larry Bray.

“It goes without saying,” Joyner said. “I’ve been harping on it all year long. I asked Larry Bray, who is a legend around here with his 30-some years of coaching, and he said, ‘Coach I’ve only seen a conference this good, top to bottom, once in 30 years of coaching.’ ”

Arkansas Razorbacks signee Aaron Ross, who has been dealing with a bad shoulder, leads Parkview.

Even if both teams’ stars are hobbled, Saturday’s game should be quite a showdown, Joyner said.

“It’s a whole new ballgame every time you get there,” Joyner said. “Just the sheer intensity that these guys had to bring every night in that conference, Parkview included.

“It won’t be a wildness factor, I hope. You never know with teenagers. But they have played on the road in some hostile environments and they were up for the challenge.”

SPORTS >> Bears set for prime time

Leader sportswriter

It may sound like the title of a 1970’s situation comedy, but “The Archie and Isaac Show” promises to be more entertaining.

The showdown between Sylvan Hills’ junior shooting guard Archie Goodwin and Alma’s senior point guard Isaac McCoy won’t follow a special episode of “Three’s Company” or “That’s My Mama”, and it can only be seen at Summit Arena in Hot Springs when the Bears (25-3) and Airedales (23-6) play for the 5A state championship Friday.

Tipoff is 7 p.m.

The Bears punched their ticket Saturday with a 56-43 victory over Siloam Springs in the semifinals at Alma. Goodwin led the team with a game-high 29 points, but it was the 75-73 nail biter over Harrison two days earlier that drew the most attention.

Goodwin went on a 10-point scoring run over the last two minutes to rally the Bears from a five-point deficit to victory, and he led the scoring with 38 points.

The trip to the finals is in stark contrast from a year ago, when the sophomore-laden Bears failed to qualify for the state tournament.

“They’ve definitely shown me that they’re making some high-level decisions,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “But you’ve got to think, I played them as 10th-graders. You feel likeyou gamble somewhat when you play 10th-graders, because you’re going to take your lumps, but that pays off down the road.

“I think it’s pretty evident that it paid off.”

Davis, in his 13th season, led the Bears to the 2004 5A state finals, where they lost to Mills. The school’s first state tournament victory came the previous year when Sylvan Hills beat Beebe in the opening round.

The Bears reached the semifinals as a 6A program in 2006 and lost to Little Rock Parkview. The Bears also made state tournament appearances in 2007 and 2009.

The 2009 first-round loss to eventual champion Greene Co. Tech was also Goodwin’s second varsity game. He scored 22 points to lead the Bears and was named to the 5A all-tournament team as a freshman.

Goodwin scored 89 points in the three tournament games at Alma this year, averaging just under 30 per game.

“His competitiveness really took over late in the Harrison game,” Davis said. “We teach that here and try to drive that into those kids. And Archie, he took it out there, and late in the game when we had to have plays, he was able to hit two big threes and then two and-ones in that span.

“It was really fun to watch.”

The Archie and Isaac show should have a dazzling cast of supporting characters, including Bears junior forward Larry Ziegler, who displayed star power of his own at Alma. Ziegler scored 19 points and had 10 critical rebounds in the squeaker against Harrison.

The junior-laden starting lineup for Sylvan Hills also stars point guard Dion Patton, a transfer from Parkview, guard/forward Trey Smith and post player Devin Pearson.

Alma’s McCoy is joined by teammates Dee Candelaria, Austin Duerr and Greg Jansen, all proven outside shooters.

“Alma has a solid ball club,” Davis said. “Run the break extremely well, shoot the three very well. And they’re balanced all the way across their lineup. We expect a heck of a ballgame, just like the environment when we were up there.”

While Goodwin and Ziegler have put up the offensive numbers most of the season, Pearson’s physical inside play can wear down the scrappiest of competitors. Pearson, a muscular 6-5, could end up playing a starring role if the other standouts begin canceling each other out.

“I wouldn’t want to have to guard Archie all night, and I wouldn’t want Devin guarding me all night,” Davis said. “Because his motor runs all the time. His hustle is just second to none. The guy is just tenacious.”

McCoy posted numbers comparable to Goodwin’s in Alma’s three tournament victories, including 27 points against North Pulaski and 31 points and 13 rebounds against Huntsville in the semifinals. At 6-1, compared to Goodwin’s 6-5, McCoy gives up size but is able to match Goodwin in speed and shooting versatility.

“They bring so much to their ballclubs,” Davis said of Goodwin and McCoy. “To see them go head to head should be a lot of fun.”