Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
El Dorado News-Times, June 18, 2013
'A little lemonade goes a long way'
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb ... and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
The above scripture verse came to mind when we read the latest Westboro Baptist Church-related story out of Topeka, Kansas
The story came about when five-year-old Jayden Sink, the daughter of Jon Sink, founder of the philanthropic arts group FRESHCASSETTE — Creative Compassion, decided to set up a stand last Friday selling pink lemonade on the front lawn of the Equality House, the rainbow-colored building located directly across the street from the Topeka headquarters of Westboro Baptist Church.
The child decided to do so after her parents explained to her the meaning of the Equality House, and the fact that the purpose of the "church" across the street was to promote hate. Moved by these revelations, Jayden set a goal of raising money to go toward promoting a message of love and peace.
With the help of her father, she painted a banner reading "Pink Lemonade for Peace: $1 Suggested Donation," set out her donation jar and waited.
She didn't have to wait long.
As word got out, droves of supporters began stopping by, and by the time Jayden shut her stand down Friday evening, she had raised $400 on her own, and more than $10,000 through an online campaign set up through Crowd Rise. Single donations ranged from $1 to $230, and one person gave $26, donating $1 for every person killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre six months ago.
During the time Jayden was open for business, Westboro Baptist Church members, true to form, came outside to try to stop the event. "Visibly aggravated," according to reports, they tried to call the police on the girl, and even resorted to shouting profanities (in the presence of a little child, mind you). They ridiculed a group of soldiers who came by on their motorcycles to support Jayden by calling them "bastards," and sent out a series of vicious tweets.
But all of Westboro's venom fell on deaf ears as love won out over hate that day.
Aaron Jackson, owner of the Equality House and one of the founders of Planting Peace, a non-profit aimed at spreading goodwill and equality around the world, commented on that love: "As we all know, Westboro Baptist Church puts a lot of hate into the world. Since we cannot stop them, the next best thing is to smother it with love. That is what 5-year-old Jayden accomplished today. Not only did she quench the thirst of a lot of loving supporters, the money she raised was donated to Planting Peace so she could help Planting Peace promote a more peaceful world."
Davis Hammett, another Planting Peace official, observed, "Jayden represents the natural humanity we are born with. We come into this world compassionate, caring beings, and only become hateful if we are taught to be."
We agree with this observation, and are impressed not only with Jayden, who had the spirit and courage to take a stand for love and peace even when confronted by foul-mouthed Westboro dingbats, but also with the large number of supporters who turned out to stand with her. It only goes to show that even the smallest action can have a huge effect on the world if carried out with the right intentions.
As the Equality House tweeted on Sunday, "A little lemonade goes a long way. The world could use a little more sweetness."
Southwest Times Record, June 17, 2013
Barling Running Out Of Options
Sometimes it seems like Barling just can't catch a break.
The latest disappointment for the town to the east of Fort Smith is learning that a proposed land swap at Chaffee Crossing would bring a giant military building instead of something that might produce some municipal revenue.
In question is a 200-acre swath abutting the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, where the 2007 fire burned old barracks buildings on Arkansas 22. About 75 percent to 80 percent of that land is within Barling city limits.
At a June 3 meeting members of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority heard that the Arkansas National Guard would like to build a $30 million operational readiness training center on the property. In return, the Army is offering 522 acres south of Custer Boulevard along what is known as Donahoe Ridge.
FCRA Director Ivy Owen believes that property has value in industrial uses.
Describing a "significant capital investment" on the 200 acres, Col. Mike Stransky said the training facility could include "a new entry control point and a battle command training center for higher commands, which brings more units to Chaffee."
At that point, Barling City Administrator Mike Tanner seemed to support the swap, according to a report in the June 4 Times Record.
Once Barling leaders had time to digest specifics of the swap, however, they were less happy.
"I thought there was going to be more of an opportunity for us to realize some economic benefits on Barling's side," Mr. Tanner said Wednesday. "We're not going to see any significant benefit."
Barling Director David Brigham put it this way: "This was out of the blue and surprised us. We're not thrilled with it. We'd like to see some revenue-producing developments in that area."
If Barling could leverage that land into something revenue-producing, that could be a benefit to our regional economy.
But the issue with Barling and the FCRA land has always been Barling's lack of leveraging resources. As far as we know, Barling leaders haven't been pounding on Mr. Owen's door demanding him to approve deals they put together to improve their community through Chaffee land. If it hasn't happened yet, it seems unlikely to happen tomorrow.
The Arkansas 59/Arkansas 22 intersection is a natural place for revenue production; indeed, signs at the location tout it as the future home of retail development. Right now drivers smart enough to avoid the Interstate 540 construction zone flood Barling on their way to and from Fort Smith every day of the week. And a new Guard facility that could bring more units to the area would be a boon to any shops and grills there — and to the tax base.
But Barling is in a pickle. IF it had more retail, and IF it had more dining options, and IF those stores and restaurants could sell alcohol, it could be poised for boom.
But it doesn't, and it isn't.
Although Barling voters in November overwhelmingly approved a proposal to allow liquor sales in the city, the election results were voided because a state law requires the whole county to vote on the issue.
When Fort Smith At-Large Director Kevin Settle suggested the larger city might annex parts of Barling, creating islands where alcohol could be sold, Barling replied with a resounding, "table forever."
We still understand the sentiment, but Barling seems to be running out of options. It needs an influx of money, but it has little with which to attract investors. The Chaffee land was to be the ace up Barling's sleeve. Without that card, it's hard to think the city has a winning hand.
Texarkana Gazette, June 18, 2013
Congress should fix Motor Voter Law
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993_popularly called the Motor Voter Law_was designed to get more Americans involved in the electoral process.
Americans. That's important.
The law required states to allow voter registration when citizens applied or renewed their driver's license or when applying for certain social services, such as food stamps or disability.
Citizens. That's another important word.
The federally approved voter registration form required no proof of American citizenship, only that the individual check a box affirming such citizenship under penalty of perjury.
In 2004, Arizona voters approved a law requiring those registering to vote provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers. This included those registering using the form dictated by the Motor Voter Law.
Registration dropped in the state. At least 30,000 were refused initial registration until they provided proof of citizenship. Some did so and were registered. Others did not.
Opponents said the law made it more difficult for elderly and minority voters to register. And as could be expected, the law was challenged in court.
The law was upheld by a federal district court, but overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
So it was on to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision came down Monday.
In a 7-2 vote, the justices sided with the appeals court against the state of Arizona.
Arizona could require such proof on state voter registration forms, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote of the majority, but they could impose any such qualifications on the approved federal registration form required to be used under the Motor Voter Law.
In other words, if you register to vote while getting a driver's license or applying for welfare, states have to provide the approved federal form and no citizenship documentation can be required.
Register anywhere else and states can use their own form and require additional proof of eligibility.
Voter registration should be both simple and secure. There is no requirement that it be effortless, though. Protecting the franchise is essential.
Since Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, it is up to Congress to fix the leak that could jeopardize the integrity of the system. Meanwhile, states must manage as they can within the confines of Monday's court decision.