Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aug. 24, 2015
"I'm asking the question: Why are we building the state exchange rather than relying upon the continued partnership with the federal exchange?"
-Governor Asa Hutchinson, last week
Thank you, Governor Hutchinson. We've been asking the same question. Over and over again. And we can't seem to get a good answer. Maybe the folks who matter will listen now. The governor carries some weight.
Why is Arkansas doing this?
Word has it that the state is looking to a handful of companies to provide the technical gizmos needed to create the state's health-insurance exchange under Obamacare. The last story said that Such-and-Such Consulting wants to do this, and So-and-So Associates thinks it can do that. But why?
This thing could cost nearly $100 million. For this state alone. Yet there are only 16 states that have their own state-run exchanges, and look at some of the horror stories coming from those state capitals. There's a reason most states use the federal exchange.
Considering the risks, and the costs, and the track record of companies working for the states, why is Arkansas still trying to spend this money?
Maybe because it's "only government money," and from the feds, no less. We've also heard that the money might not be there in the future if the state decides (later) to create its own exchange hub. So the idea is to spend the money now before it's unavailable? That does sound like government work.
Some say a state exchange would give Arkansas "more flexibility." If that is such an advantage, why hasn't state flexibility worked in Hawaii, Minnesota, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont . . . . The papers are full of stories about states giving up on their own exchanges and letting Washington, D.C., handle it. Why would Arkansas go in the opposite direction?
One smart and well-regarded state senator, David Sanders, told the paper he's not ready "to wholesale farm out significant parts of state-based insurance regulation to the federal government."
Why not? Obamacare is the feds' idea. Let them handle the exchanges.
Besides, once Arkansas has its own exchange, assuming that it works, that's certainly another layer of state bureaucracy the rest of us are going to have to navigate.
Here's an idea: Turn that $99.9 million (!) back to the taxpayers and let the feds handle the exchange. That would save money, and not just for Arkansas' taxpayers.
Or does that sound too reasonable?
The governor has the right idea. Again. Arkansas doesn't need this additional headache.
Texarkana Gazette, Aug. 23, 2015
It's the kind of thing that makes you shake your head and wonder just what the world is coming to.
For the past couple of years, residents and their furry friends have been able to enjoy the dog park at Jefferson Park on the Arkansas side of town.
The park came about from the efforts of a group of local residents who campaigned tirelessly to get the votes needed to win a 2012 contest sponsored by PetSafe, a manufacturer of pet products.
It's a nice facility, as many Texarkana pet owners can attest. There are separate areas for small and large dogs and there is plenty of space for animals to run and play.
There was also something else at the park— a metal sculpture of a dog that was commissioned by the Quality Hill Neighborhood Association and dedicated to the memory of association member and animal lover Dru Hall.
It was put in place in June along with a plaque explaining its significance.
It was a nice addition to the dog park. But now it's gone.
Last week, one or more people decided to make off with the sculpture. It took some effort as it was secured to a concrete base. It appears the thieves used some sort of metal cutters.
We can't imagine anyone trying to display or sell the piece. It's unique and would be easily recognized. If sold for scrap, it would probably have to be cut up beforehand so it could not be identified. We can't imagine the risk and work involved would be worth the return.
But then thieves don't always think straight.
Of course, it could just be vandalism. But it seems like more work than most vandals would want to take on. In any case, the reason doesn't really matter. The fact of the theft is enough to make us and many others in the Twin Cities angry.
The thief or thieves have the sculpture. Now they have to figure out what to do with it. And that means there is a good chance someone out there will find out who did this.
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aug. 23, 2015
A place for knowledge
It had to be simply excruciating.
The new and improved — i.e., construction done — Fayetteville High School opened for a new year, the same year the school system implemented a grade shift at all levels that moved incoming ninth-graders to the 543,792-square-foot high school facility. On Monday, both ninth- and 10th-graders got their first tastes of high school life in a building that can give even grown-ups that lost look.
The excruciating part? The school system opened school with a half-day for the newcomers only — and their parents. Ugh! They actually sat in the same classrooms and walked the halls at the same time their kids did. More than one kid undoubtedly sat their praying his mom's cell phone wouldn't go off, revealing the "Kool and the Gang" ringtone. Who wants to crawl under a desk on Day One?
In reality, the move was brilliant. It recognized the uncertainty that comes with new and unfamiliar surroundings. It was based on the value of knowledge and its power in smoothing a transition from the familiar to the less known. It made a period of change less stressful, and set a foundation to increase the potential for success under new circumstances.
It reminds us a lot of what two nonprofit groups are trying to do as they open five immigrant resource centers statewide within the next month. At these centers — in Springdale, Little Rock, Fort Smith, De Queen and McGehee — immigrants can find guidance to help them find legal services, leadership development opportunities and support for their civic involvement.
Springdale's center, a project of the Arkansas United Community Coalition and Catholic Charities Immigration Services, is open. It's naturally a place where Northwest Arkansas' Hispanic population can seek out answers in understanding the way things are done in the United States, but the center will also serve Marshallese, Hmong, Indian and other communities of people who have migrated to the area.
The U.S. Census Bureau says the state's foreign-born population increased from 1.1 percent in 1990 to 4.5 percent, or 133,888 immigrants. The Hispanic or Latino population in 2013 was 6.9 percent statewide.
Northwest Arkansas' Hispanic population grew from 1.4 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2013.
The opening of the Springdale center is good news for immigration groups, but for the community as a whole.
The project could — and no doubt has in some arenas — spark a robust discussion about illegal immigration, with some challenging the idea that anything should be done to make life easier for those who are not legally here. While immigration policy is worthy of a discussion, just as it's getting amid all the presidential politics these days, it would be shortsighted to decry these nonprofits' efforts to educate and facilitate for immigrants.
Mayor Doug Sprouse attended the recent celebration in Springdale, putting the issue into perspective. Leave all the talk of birthright baby bans, walls on the border and deportation to the presidential debates. In Arkansas, communities have to deal with what comes.
"Cities deal with the realities on the ground," Sprouse said. "I think resources like this that help new residents assimilate is a plus for Springdale and all of Northwest Arkansas."
Locally, the mistake too many people make is in assuming all immigrants are illegal. They're not. The folks who are legally here will be well served by this organized effort to empower them with knowledge. And Sprouse is right: People who are here illegally make up a portion of Northwest Arkansas' population. As long as they're here, it will be useful to have a place that helps them become familiar with local customs and practices. Good, well-informed neighbors of all sorts are preferred over people who feel just as much like strangers a year later as the day they arrived.
Such efforts should remind critics that immigrants are not here to take over our country, but to join it. Certainly we need a legal immigration system that works and controls the flow into our country, but let's not forget the nation's outstanding history of immigration and how new arrivals, over time, assimilated into our nation's culture and brought with them new threads for the national tapestry.
Ensuring immigrants have a place to seek out information is a positive step for Springdale and the entire state of Arkansas.