Friday, December 13, 2013 - 15:29:00
One hundred years ago, urban planner John Nolen
presented a master plan for the city of Little Rock. The 1913 “Report on a Park System for Little Rock”
envisioned a "city in a park," with a series of green corridors throughout Little Rock, including a riverfront park and the protection of Fourche Creek. The plan wasn’t implemented.
But the ideas Nolen presented are “as relevant today as they were then,” argues Bob Callans
, a Little Rock landscape architect. For years, Callans has pushed for Nolen’s vision to get more recognition and for one idea in particular to be realized. Nolen’s plan saw Capitol Avenue as a ceremonial boulevard and called for an iconic structure at its eastern end to compliment the state Capitol building on the west end. For nearly 30 years, Callans has called for that iconic structure to be some kind of “gateway” to the city, “something you could identify Little Rock with from a distance that, as you come into town, you then actually go through it.”
“It wasn’t the right time,” Callans said, but with everything going on in the River Market and on Main Street, “now is the right time.”
Today — 100 years to the day and in the same building — Callans and the StudioMain
building and landscape architects cooperative announced to a gathering in the rotunda at City Hall the winners of their collaborative Envision Little Rock 2013 Ideas Competition
"It's been a long time coming," Callans told the 30 or so people assembled in the rotunda. He then quoted a line from Nolen's proposal: "A certain complement of fresh air, of open space, of touch with nature, proves in the experience of cities vitally essential for wholesome development." Each of five winning designs took the landscape architect's vision to heart.
The overall professional winner was Fayetteville architect John Krug
, whose "Gateway Twin Towers" features tall curving commas on either side of I-30 that would frame the Capital on the west and a roundabout centered with a sculpture on the east.
The overall amateur award went to two UA third-year architecture students, Adel Vaughn
and Mary Patterson,
for "Silver Spire," which would place a looming, twisting spire in a park just east of Interstate 30 on Capital Avenue as the iconic balance to the Capitol. The aluminum structure would reflect the lights of the city and could be ascended for a view of downtown Little Rock.
A total of 5,800 people participated in a people's vote, choosing Krug's "Gateway" (Envisioning an Icon category), Chris Sheppard's
"Urban Greenway" (Establishing Connections) and Maury Mitchell's
"Agri-city" (The Wild Card). Each won $250. The public voting prizes were funded by the Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 13:14:00
Brad Choate from giving his side of his firing as head of the University of Arkansas Advancement Division. He begins with the whistle-blowing John Diamond, ousted as the UA's top spokesman, after what he says were objections to the UA's resistance to public accountability. Diamond insists he can prove Chancellor David Gearhart supported destruction of material relevant to a recent prosecutorial review that ended with a recommendation for no criminal charges.
Benji Hardy has provided a longer, detailed account of events at Joint Audit Committee this morning when legislators prevented
“I’m shocked. It’s outrageous,“ said John Diamond of the vote this morning by the Joint Audit committee to prevent testimony from being given by Brad Choate and Joy Sharp, the UA Advancement employees who lost their jobs over that Division’s budget deficits. Diamond, who was formerly the UA’s top spokesperson before being fired earlier this year, has said that Chancellor David Gearhart ordered the destruction of documents related to the audit. It was those allegations in a September meeting of the committee that led Chief Legislative Auditor Roger Norman to keep the audit open and refer the matter to the Washington County prosecutor for investigation.
In September, the committee heard extensively from Gearhart and other UA officials, who painted a narrative that pins the blame for financial mismanagement solely on Choate and Sharp. This morning, Choate was supposed to deliver a statement to the committee that presented his side of what happened in the Advancement Division. But legislators — mostly Democrats — voted to suppress that testimony entirely. Because Choate is legally bound by an agreement to not “disparage” Gearhart, Treasurer Jean Schook, or Vice Chancellor Don Pederson, testifying under oath was the only venue in which he could deliver his side of the story. He’s relocated to Austin since leaving Fayetteville and he says he drove to Little Rock to deliver this testimony today.
It’s not clear whether Sharp intended to testify or not; she left as quickly as possible after the meeting acrimoniously concluded. But given her low profile and avoidance of media, it’s all the more upsetting that the committee didn’t afford Sharp the chance to make a statement. The Washington County prosecutor’s report released yesterday gives the impression that Sharp committed no wrongdoing intentionally, but rather that she was overwhelmed by her job and allowed to take the fall for larger oversights.
The legislators permitted only one person to give testimony this morning: John Goodson of the UA Board of Trustees. He said the Board is addressing any lingering issues associated with the Advancement deficits and their fallout. “We have heard you loud and clear,” Goodson reassured the committee. “[The Board] has accepted every single recommendation made by Roger Norman.”
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 10:41:49
Benji Hardy of the Legislative Digest tells me that a hot debate is underway at the Legislative Audit Committee
Sen. Bill Sample
has made a motion, seconded by Sen. Linda Chesterfield,
to accept the University of Arkansas
audit without discussion. Objections are being made.
Who would want to stifle discussion of the UA's financial mess and contradictory testimony about accountability and transparency? The list of suspects begins with UA officialdom, of course.
UPDATE: Motion approved to accept audit without testimony from Brad Choate
, the fired advancement division director, and Joy Sharp
, the former UA employee who took the fall in the mess.
Choate had been expected to take exception to Chancellor David Gearhart's
version of events.
Vote was 21-13. I'll get a roll call.
Sounds like the UA still swings a big stick at the legislature.
UPDATE: The stench increases from this heavy-handed move by the UA to stymie discussion of its shortcomings. The UA did itself no favors by working to silence Brad Choate. Democrats, who made up a significant portion of the vote to cut off debate, did themselves no favors. I'm no fan of the likes of the bullying Sen. Bryan King, Rep. Kim Hammer
or Rep. Nate Bell,
but they were on the side of the angels this morning in seeking to provide a forum for the rest of the story on the UA financial disaster. Chesterfield told Benji Hardy this wasn't the purview of the audit committee. What? Not getting both sides of a story to which it had already given Chancellor David Gearhart
much time? Rep. Charlie Collins
was among the Republicans who went in the tank for the UA, which is in his hometown. Remember this when he campaigns on a high integrity platform.
Choate told reporters afterward that the move was a "whitewash." As has been reported previously, his separation from the University of Arkansas, which included several months of severance pay at $340,000 per annum, included his agreement not to speak critically about the university except in limited official places, such as before the audit committee. That venue has now been closed to him. His statements to the Fayetteville prosecutor should be open to inspection. I called Deputy Prosecutor David Bercaw
about that. He's out of the office today, it so happens.
UPDATE: Bercaw says he's iced in at his West Fork home. He said he'll provide a copy of Choate's statement to me as soon as he can get to the office. But that might not be until Monday. Choate also told Benji Hardy that he thought the audit itself had shortcomings, but said he was reluctant to say more because of his agreement not to "disparage" the UA or Gearhart in public comments. Soon, I hope to have a letter provided to Audit director Roger Norman
by John Diamond,
the fired university spokesman who's contended Gearhart ordered document destruction.
Here's the roll call.
It was not a strict party line division. Republican Sens. Jonathan Dismang, Eddie Joe Williams and Johnny Key
were among those Republicans voting for the motion to prevent additional testimony. Democrat Greg Leding
, another Fayetteville resident serving the hometown university officialdom, also voted to stifle Choate. Some progressive he is.
PS — Benji Hardy said one of the weirdest elements of today's successful effort to silence Brad Choate was Sen. Bill Sample's vociferous push for the silencing. He even resisted a debate on his motion to accept the audit without further testimony. A reader notes, for the record only, that Sample heads a pest control company that does business with the University of Arkansas, about $4,200 worth in 2012 according to the state online checkbook.
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Friday, December 13, 2013 - 09:12:00
FINAL SHOW AT DOWNTOWN MUSIC HALL
8 p.m. Downtown Music Hall.
Over the last 20 years or so, I've seen venues come and go. Ask anyone who has ever put his or her own ass on the line to make a great show happen and that person will undoubtedly testify that it is a fickle, nerve-wracking, even cruel business. But for every shady promoter who rips off bands or fans, there are exponentially more who are just true-blue music lovers at heart who saw a need and tried to fulfill it.
And so it is that another Arkansas venue will be closing its doors. Downtown Music Hall
has, for the better part of a decade, provided a home to the area's metal, hardcore, hip-hop and dance scenes. It's a shame that it's closing, but I really believe the odds are good that owner Samantha Allen will be back before long to continue booking shows and doing what she loves. This final night at Downtown Music will, quite appropriately, be one that'll have heads banging and eardrums ringing.
The lineup is Seahag, Napalm Christ, Iron Tongue, Crankbait
and Jungle Juice
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:59:00
KINGSDOWN TOYS FOR TOTS CHRISTMAS PARTY
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $5 and a toy or $10.
Man, outside of the realm of utter tragedy there's just not a whole lot that's sadder than the thought of a little boy or girl not getting a Christmas present. How many bow-tied, wrapping-paper covered packages did you tear through as a kid without a second thought? Can you imagine not getting a single one just because things are tough for your folks and they straight-up can't afford it? That's why Toys For Tots exists, to try to make sure that every child has something to look forward to on Christmas.
The guys in Kingsdown
have done a Toys For Tots benefit for the last five years. So make sure and bring a new, unwrapped toy or, heck, bring two or three. If it could make one little kid's Christmas a little happier it'd be worth it. Plus there's the rock music for you to enjoy, which will include Kingsdown, natch, as well as Stereo Down
, students from the House of Melody
music school in Sherwood and Nashville rockers Advocate
. It's an all-ages show.
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:48:00
10 p.m. Juanita's. $25 adv., $28 day of.
Though she's still definitely young at 25, singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves
is nonetheless a veteran performer, having been onstage and writing songs since she was in grade school. She was a contestant on "Nashville Star," and while she didn't win, it did open doors for her, including an opening spot on tour with Lady Antebellum and a deal with Mercury Records.
On her debut single, "Merry Go 'Round," Musgraves sketches a picture of small-town life that's miles away from the sort of small-town hagiography so many contemporary country performers indulge in. In the narrator's hometown, "Mama's hooked on Mary Kay / Brother's hooked on Mary Jane / And Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down." The song offers other sharp observations about how the small-town life isn't necessarily all that healthy.
The title of the album — "Same Trailer, Different Park" — is also a sly riff on this theme. Elsewhere on the album, specifically the follow-up single "Blowin' Smoke" and the double-standard debunking "Follow Your Arrow," she continues to cast a skeptical eye on the world of everyday middle America. She certainly seems to have good instincts not only for pop-country songwriting, but also for distinguishing herself in a crowded field of other up-and-comers.
Opening this show will be John & Jacob
and Rodge Arnold
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