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The Thanksgiving eve open line

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:24 AM PST

Here's an open line. And a batch of headlines for the day before Thanksgiving — Razorback news, tax news, sexual misconduct news.

UPDATE: UA names search committee for new athletic director; also sets game in LR with Ole Miss next year

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:09 AM PST

UPDATE: University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz has
 announced the members of a committee that will help in the search for a new athletic director.

Jeff Long was fired as athletic director last week after almost 10 years on the job and will take a severance deal worth up to $4.6 million through 2022, offset by any earnings in a new job. Steinmetz said there'd been a loss of confidence in Long. His decision followed a closed meeting with the UA Board of Trustees, a majority of whom also wanted to see Long dismissed. The primary reason was the poor performance of the football team under Bret Bielema, in his fifth year and with a losing SEC record under a contract that runs through 2020 and has a multi-million buyout clause negotiated by Long.

The UA release on the committee quotes Steinmetz:

"I sought to assemble a committee representative of the university, spanning past and present in our academics and athletics history, with knowledge and perspective about Arkansas, and, notably an appreciation of the source of pride the Razorbacks are for the state of Arkansas," Steinmetz said. "I have great faith in the approach that each of these advisors will bring to the process and I'd like to thank these folks for their time in this endeavor."

Steinmetz formed the committee in consultation with Julie Cromer Peoples, interim director of athletics. He has indicated he wishes to move the search along as quickly as possible.

Members of the public wishing to contact members of the committee are encouraged to send email to
The members:

Lance Harter, the head coach of the Razorback womens' track and field and cross country teams.

* Ben Hyneman, a Jonesboro banker who's chair of the UA Board of Trustees. Hyneman, sources tell me, was one of Long's last defenders on the Board.

* Gerald Jordan, the faculty athletics representative and associate professor of journalism.  Jordan is black and the supplied biography notes his work in recruitment of minority students at UA.

* Stacy Lewis, a pro golfer and UA graduate.

* Peter MacKeith, dean of architecture at UA. He's called the only UA dean with intercollegiate athletic experience at the Division I level. He was captain of the soccer team at the University of Virginia and later an assistant coach.

* Rick Massey of Little Rock, a lawyer and partner in Westrock Capital Partners among other financial ventures, he's a member of the Razorback Foundation Board of Directors. It's the private nonprofit that raises money for athletics.

* Bill Montgomery of Dallas. A former star quarterback at UA, he's had a career in investing in New York and Dallas and has worked in university fund campaigns.

2018 SEASON NOTE: The UA announced today that the Hogs will play Ole Miss Oct. 13 in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. That's the last contracted game for the Hogs in Little Rock. Jeff Long had angered some members of the UA Board by trying to get out of that last contracted game and play all future home games in Fayetteville, which has more seats and more private suites and the potential to produce $2 million more or so for the treasury than a Little Rock game. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has made it clear, however, that he'd like to see the Hogs continue to play a game in Little Rock every year. No announcement was made beyond filling in the name of the promised SEC opponent for the Little Rock date.

Had Long still been athletic director I think you can bet, had any game been played in Little Rock in 2018, it would have been with Vanderbilt, not a historic rival like Ole Miss.

From the release:

"We look forward to our return to Central Arkansas to take on Ole Miss at War Memorial Stadium in October 2018," Interim Athletics Director Julie Cromer Peoples said. "I know Razorback fans will be excited and ready to cheer on our team in a key Southeastern Conference Western Division matchup. Arkansas and Ole Miss first met on the football field more than a century ago and we look forward to the next chapter in this rivalry, in a venue that has hosted so many important games in this series."

"We are thrilled to have an SEC game back at War Memorial next fall, especially one that pits the Razorbacks against Ole Miss," Arkansas Director of Parks and Tourism Kane Webb said. "Given the tradition and decades-long rivalry the Hogs have had with the Rebels, including some great games in Little Rock, it's a fitting match-up as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the stadium. I look forward to a festive atmosphere, a great turnout, and a great time in the capital city."

"I am both excited and grateful that the leadership of the University of Arkansas has chosen our longtime rival Ole Miss as the game at War Memorial Stadium in 2018," War Memorial Stadium Commission Chairman Kevin Crass said. "As we celebrate the 70th year of the stadium, we need the fans in this part of the state to support the Hogs by assuring a sellout."

A funster suggests Houston Dale Nutt and his attorney, Tom Mars, as honorary captains when the Hogs and Ole Miss square off.

Memphian named as new Little Rock fire chief

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 10:22 AM PST

City Manager Bruce Moore has chosen Delphone Hubbard, a 22-year veteran of the Memphis Fire Department, to be Little Rock fire chief, succeeding Gregory Summers, who retired in August.

Moore, who interviewed two finalists, said Hubbard was dedicated to fire safety and community involvement. The other finalist was Brian Dunn, fire chief in San Angelo, Texas.

Hubbard rose through the ranks, serving since 2016 as division chief. Along the way, his service included time as an emergency medical technician.

Little Rock dentist sues over his arrest

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 10:03 AM PST

KARK/Fox 16 reports that Dr. Jose Turcios, a Little Rock dentist acquitted of a charge that he'd molested a teen patient, has sued police officers who participated in his investigation and arrest.

Turcios, represented by Mike Laux, says one investigator was married to a dentist, giving him a conflict of interest, and two other investigators who were in a relationship and later married fabricated evidence so they could spend more time together. He said aspects of the investigation were mishandled and he'd suffered economically from an unjustified arrest.

Here's the full complaint, which names several Little Rock officers and state investigators, among others. Trucios was charged with kissing and fondling a 14-year-old patient who'd been given nitrous oxide during a dental procedure.

Laux has sued over events involving at least one defendant before — Tabitha McCrillis Carter, a defendant in a lawsuit over the fatal shooting of Eugene Ellison by Little Rock police working as private security at an apartment complex. Carter was at the scene but didn't fire the fatal shot.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: No thanks for your Thanksgiving shtick

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 08:54 AM PST

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump's press secretary, is getting tabbed a hectoring bully (just like her boss) after her Thanksgiving week shtick. In a performance often dripping with disdain, she demanded that reporters give thanks for something before being allowed to ask her a question.

The New Yorker covers the episode. In summary:

The President of the United States is a bully who makes a mockery of his office, democratic institutions, and the English language. So is his press secretary. On Monday, during the last briefing before the Thanksgiving holiday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders treated the White House press pool the way a sadistic teen-ager would treat a group of third graders. The journalists, for the most part, went along with it.
Dana Milbank also ripped Sanders with a reworking of the old "I'm-thankful-for" meme so beloved by newspapers. For starters:

I prefer to share my thoughts of gratitude with my family at the Thanksgiving table, rather than when commanded to by a Trump mouthpiece. But maybe Sanders was onto something with her infantilizing of the press corps. Maybe in this week of Thanksgiving, we all should speak about what we are grateful for in public life. I'll star

Sarah, I am thankful for the checks and balances the Founders put in place, for they are what stand between us and despotism when a demagogic president's instincts would take us there. And I am profoundly grateful to the many men and women who, often at great personal cost and risk, have stood up to the authoritarian in the White House. President Trump has done much damage, particularly to our international standing and our civil culture, but it would be so much worse without these profiles in courage.I prefer to share my thoughts of gratitude with my family at the Thanksgiving table, rather than when commanded to by a Trump mouthpiece. But maybe Sanders was onto something with her infantilizing of the press corps. Maybe in this week of Thanksgiving, we all should speak about what we are grateful for in public life. I'll start.

He went on to praise James Comey, Robert Mueller, Angela Merkel, Sally Yates, Jeff Flakes, Bob Corker and various standouts in the Trump resistance.

Trolling for questions for our weekly podcast

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 08:16 AM PST

Lindsey Millar and I will record the Arkansas Times' weekly podcast this afternoon and post it shortly after it's done. This week, we're soliciting questions from readers/listeners.

You can send questions to our Facebook page post; or attach them as a comment to this post or send them by e-mail to

Any that we don't handle on the podcast I'll endeavor to answer on the blog. Any topic is welcome.

UA chancellor hits Senate tax proposal for impact on graduate students

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 07:07 AM PST

Joseph Steinmetz, chancellor of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has issued a statement emphasizing the "devasting" effect of pending Senate tax legislation on graduate students.

He complimented some elements of tax reform. But:

I do wish to caution, however, about the devastating effects treating graduate student waivers as taxable income will have for our current 1,581 University of Arkansas graduate students receiving a tuition waiver, future UA students and the University of Arkansas as the land-grant flagship institution for our State of Arkansas.

Without being hyperbolic, a tax on our graduate students will place graduate education out of the reach of many of our students — these are students who are working to assist faculty with their research endeavors as well as a valuable teaching role for the education of undergraduate students. In short, this tax will make us uncompetitive for graduate students given the anticipated way universities with more resources than us will pivot to address this issue.

Many universities will bear the brunt of this tax by increasing tuition to offset the impact and maintain an ability to recruit graduate students. At the University of Arkansas, increasing tuition will hurt those who need it most and create a dynamic where only the very wealthy will be able to afford graduate education, which I don't believe is anyone's intention. On our campus, some $5.3 million in tax burden will be placed squarely on the shoulders of students, who will be forced to use up to one-third of their stipends to pay their tax bills.

In practical terms, for example, the $15,000 an out-of-state UA graduate student might typically earn on a yearly basis becomes $43,000 for tax purposes due to the waiver on the $28,000 tuition that student typically receives based on our cost of attendance. Even with increased standard deductions this yields a substantial tax increase over what graduate students pay under the current law. Needless to say, a tax increase of this magnitude would be devastating for graduate students at the University of Arkansas. Many current graduate students would not be able to take a loss of this magnitude to their already modest stipends, which we are desperately trying to raise already and are intended to cover their basic expenses such as food and lodging.
Higher education isn't highly valued in the Trump administration. Now if those grad students were flying corporate jets to class, they might have a champion in the White House.

Former Death Row inmate Tim Howard approved for parole

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 06:24 AM PST

Mara Leveritt tells me she's been told by people working on the case that the state Parole Board voted yesterday to parole Tim Howard, who's been imprisoned since 1997, some of that time on Death Row, for the slayings of a Little River County couple, Shannon and Brian Day, and attempted murder of their child.

The Parole Board denied Howard's release two years ago, though his resentencing to 38 years in a retrial of the case ordered by the state Supreme Court made him immediately parole eligible. The judge in the original case and prosecutor continued to argue for his incarceration. Howard has maintained his innocence and has had an unblemished prison record.

Leveritt detailed some of the ins and outs of the legal aspects of the case here.

I hope to elaborate on this later today, such as details on release. He's listed as a low-risk inmate at the Varner Unit.

UPDATE: A Parole Board spokesman said the Parole Board, at a meeting Monday, voted 5-0 to grant parole to Howard. He can't be released until approval of his parole plan. Several conditions were placed on parole., including an employment plan, periodic drug testing, no association with victim or relatives, maximum supervision for the remainder of his probation by the Department of Community Correction, a curfew if he is not at work, school or church and community service work if he is not employed. He also may not return to Sevier or Little River County.

30 Crossing bubbles up at City Board meeting

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 06:10 AM PST

The state highway department's heavy-handed tactics to speed its plan to widen the city-splitting concrete Interstate 30 gulch through the heart of Little Rock is drawing some attention from the Little Rock City Board.

At a board agenda meeting Tuesday, there was mention of a potential future resolution objecting to the so-called Arkansas Department of Transportation's announcement from Director Scott Bennett that it would not fund some federally aided projects in Central Arkansas until Metroplan changes some wording in its transportation plan to explicitly approve wider freeways. The resolution could be considered at the next City Board meeting.

Metroplan believes the wording change isn't required for release of federal highway money. Also, critics of the action contend a delay on the change in wording is NOT delaying the so-called 30 Crossing project, which would pour almost a billion dollars worth of concrete downtown.  An environmental assessment for the project is not completed and when it is released, it must be followed by a public comment period. What's more, there's a good chance that someone will challenge the sufficiency of the environmental assessment and seek a more detailed environmental impact statement. In short, a change of wording to clearly approve more lanes of freeway downtown isn't needed right now.

Can a majority of the City Board be mustered to express unhappiness with the effort by highway officials to hold highway projects hostage to fast-track the gulch? Sadly, some  directors have made it clear that whatever the road building lobby wants (aka thechamber of commerce), they are for, even if it contributes to  ongoing city problems (neighborhood decay, suburban flight, cops that don't want to live in the city they serve, etc.)

Fayetteville City Council fills vacancy by appointment of Kyle Smith, leader of For Fayetteville

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 05:52 AM PST

The Fayetteville City Council decided last night to fill a vacancy by appointment rather than a special election.

Alan Long resigned with more than three years remaining on his four-year term in a seat representing Ward 4. The vote for appointment over election was 4-2, with Mayor Lioneld Jordan casting the necessary fifth vote for approval. And then he again cast the necessary fifth vote to name Kyle Smith, a high school teacher, to the vacancy from seven people who'd sought the job.

I'm relying on the Fayetteville Flyer's detailed minutes of the meeting, which included the references of a stellar lineup of people wanting to serve. Kyle Smith, a frequent attendee at Council meetings, was a drafter and campaigner for the city's non-discrimination ordinance, for those interested in that ongoing legal controversy. He's president of For Fayetteville, the group formed to support the ordinance.

The cost of a special election and a delay of several months in filling the seat if an election were held were points made by those favoring appointment. The length of the vacancy was cited as a reason for an election.