A collection of recent editorials by Arkansas newspapers:
Texarkana Gazette, April 12, 2015
It was just over two weeks ago that Texarkana, Arkansas, City Manager Harold Boldt announced that he would step down at the end of June.
The announcement came the same day the Texarkana, Arkansas, Board of Directors announced a settlement in the lawsuit by former City Clerk Patti Scott Grey related to her termination just over a year ago. The lawsuit named the city, Boldt and four board members including incumbent Directors Laney Harris and Sue Johnson. The settlement figure was $220,000.
After the news of Boldt's pending retirement broke, some in the community decided that there was no reason for Boldt to remain on the job until June 30 and plenty of reason for him to leave sooner. Much sooner.
Last week, they got their wish.
At Monday's city Board of Directors meeting, Boldt agreed to vacate his position immediately, though he will still be paid until June 30.
We think that was a wise choice. We may have some qualms about what is essentially a "paid vacation," but it was time for the city manager to go and the city to begin the search for a replacement.
For quite some time, the Arkansas-side city government has been in a state of turmoil. Now there is a chance to rebuild trust with the public and among city officials.
Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell is providing sound leadership. And city board members_with a couple of exceptions_seem to be reasonable, open to compromise and willing to do what is needed to get the city in shape.
Choosing a new city manager will be a big part of that.
On Friday, the board named Dr. Kenny Haskin, the city's economic development director, as interim city manager.
We are sure he will do a fine job until a permanent city manager is named.
In a story published Thursday, the mayor said she wants to hire a professional headhunting firm to find the city manager, ideally one without local ties, one who would presumably be free of undue influence from any particular individual or groups with the city.
We think that's a wise idea.
And we think it would be a wise idea for the city to cast its net far and wide for the best possible candidates. (Of course, that's what they said last time this job was open, and look what happened.)
Looking at both sides of the state line, there have been times when the pool was shallow indeed and the final choice seemed, to some, to have been preordained.
That's not good.
This is an opportunity, and it's up to the mayor and city board to make the most of it. We wish them the best of success.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 14, 2015
Let freedom ring
Hear those bells? They're ringing across the state on this, the 150th anniversary of Arkansas' ratification of the 13th Amendment, the one that abolished slavery. Not that a reconstructed Arkansas had much of a choice if it wished to rejoin the Union, for ratifying the anti-slavery amendment was a requirement for Arkansas' regaining our rights and representation as a sovereign state. So we ratified it. To great fanfare--which is now being repeated on the anniversary of that happy occasion. Bells will begin ringing all over the state at one this afternoon--on the steps of the state Capitol, at schools and libraries, churches and college campuses . . . . Oh, sweet sound of liberty.
Listen, too, for the undertoll of mourning to the bells' celebratory chords, the sad minor key shadowing every major, triumphant note. For the same day this state's legislature ratified the amendment--April 14, 1865--the Great Emancipator himself would be struck down by mad John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre in Washington. They mix--liberty and tyranny, celebration and mourning.
History is not simple or simply told, and neither is the saga of Emancipation, which is not a matter of a single proclamation but a continuing process. It goes on, or doesn't, till this day--and beyond. Emancipation is a long, long trail a-windin', often enough through desolate wilderness and daunting wasteland.
Today's lesson from Scripture: When the children of Israel were at last delivered from Egyptian bondage, they did not find themselves back in some Garden of Eden, or even in the Promised Land, but wandering in a wilderness, one it would take them a 40-year journey to traverse--till the old generation of slaves had died off. Together with its longing for the fleshpots of Egypt and recurrent flirtations with false gods. And a brave new generation would take its place. That is what emancipation is: not an event but a journey. One that continues even to this day, Reconstruction after Reconstruction with others yet to come. We have only begun to be free. And to awaken to what liberty means, and what it demands of us.
But we do awaken. Did you notice that story almost buried inside Sunday's paper on Page 8A? ("Standardized school tests/called civil-rights matter") It seems a whole slew of civil-rights organizations, the kind that used to claim giving the same standardized tests to all schoolchildren without exception was unfair, have changed their tune. They used to say kids who are poor or stuck in racially isolated neighborhoods couldn't possibly compete with middle-class kids on the same tests. So standards should be watered down for them. George W. Bush had a phrase for that approach--"the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Happily, spokesmen for major civil-rights organizations have abandoned that folly, and now demand that the same academic standards apply to all. Despite the current push to cut back on testing. To quote Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, who joined some 20 civil-rights groups the other day to oppose any move to weaken the tests: "Removing the requirement for annual testing," she noted, "would be a devastating step backward, for it is very hard to make sure our education system is serving every child well when we don't have reliable, comparable achievement data on every child every year."
Ending the requirement that every child be tested every year in math and reading, as some in Congress and out would like to do, would be a mistake--a big mistake.
But there are those who would still like to lower standards instead of raising them. Here, for example, is Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing: "People are sick of the overkill of test volume and the consequences, ridiculous things like rating art teachers based on the reading test scores in their schools." Why, sure. Everybody knows artists don't need to read, right?
Or listen to Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. The focus on testing math and reading, he says, has squeezed out courses in science, history and the arts from schools in poor neighborhoods. If so, there's a better response than giving up standardized tests in math and reading: Add them for subjects like science, history and the arts, too.
Emancipation should mean raising standards for the next generation, not lowering them. Let freedom ring--and with freedom comes responsibility. Or should.
Harrison Daily Times, April 15, 2015
What does it mean to live long and prosper?
It's worth thinking about as the baby boom generation heads into retirement and as their parents head into the final stages of life. More and more, people are bombarded with advice on how to stay healthy and vital. Often, it involves eating some sort of food (such as kale or berries) and not eating another kind of food (such as cake or bacon).
Also, exercise. Lots and lots of exercise.
But maybe you should look at the example of Gertrude Weaver, who died April 6 at the age of 116. For less than a week, the Camden resident held the title of the world's oldest person.
Weaver was active; her family said she attended "wheelchair dances" at her nursing home until last year. She had regular manicures and went to church with her son. But she wasn't a dedicated long-distance runner, and she probably wasn't devoted to an all-natural, organic diet.
She told the Associated Press last year that there were three reasons she had lived so long: "Trusting in the Lord, hard work and loving everybody."
"You have to follow God. Don't follow anyone else," she added. "Be obedient and follow the laws and don't worry about anything."
Her words, homespun as they sound, reflect an understanding of health that's elusive but important. Being healthy isn't just about eating your vegetables and taking brisk walks. Indeed, being the sort of person who eats vegetables and takes walks probably means you don't need their benefits to begin with.
What's most important, perhaps, is one's attitude and outlook on the world.
Through her faith, Weaver had found a way to square herself with the world. Life throws enough challenges at people to disrupt the most stringent exercise regimen. The belief and community found in church plays a vital role for many. And for Weaver, they led to an almost Zen outlook.
When it comes to your own well-being, what matters is less what you eat and how you exercise and more what you think and who you know. Are you positive and relaxed about the future? Are you surrounded by people who love and care for you?
As Gertrude Weaver knew, those are the most important questions of all.