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Friday, February 17, 2012

The line is open

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 4:13 PM

LOOKING UP: A D-G editorial this morning said Main Street was really making strides until they started talking about a vets center at 10th and Main. A letter writer takes his own tour and finds scenes like this. Even the Newsmart is shut.
  • LOOKING UP: A D-G editorial this morning said Main Street was really making strides until they started talking about a vets' center at 10th and Main. A letter writer takes his own tour and finds scenes like this. Even the Newsmart is shut.

Over to you. Final thoughts:

* SEX OFFENDER ARRESTED IN MISSING TEEN CASE: KTHV has a report on the arrest of a suspect in the case of a missing 16-year-old Van Buren girl. The suspect is a level three sex offender. Authorities think the two arranged to meet on a social media site. UPDATE: A body, as yet unidentified, has been found during the search for missing teen. CORRECTION: This report has now been amended to say officers think a cadaver dog has "alerted" to a body.

* MORE NEWSPAPER CUTS: Some subscribers to the Northwest Arkansas newspaper combine are facing a chilly walk to a box for a newspaper in the future. To cut costs, the Democrat-Gazette/Stephens Media combine will end "porching" of newspapers and go to motor route delivery. I presume that means in a mailbox-type receptacle on the curb or road.

* RICK CRAWFORD EXPOSED: The U.S. Rep. from Jonesboro has been hung out to dry by the Washington Post for caving on the payroll tax cut extension. He'd opposed it, but has now caved because of his political vulnerability to a Democratic challenger. Crawford mewls about partisan gridlock (created by his party). The Post comments:

That’s telling stuff: Crawford’s claim that his constituents are angry at Congress for failing to break through the gridlock — and that this is why House Republicans need to signal a willingness to compromise — suggests again that the public is concluding that Republicans are the ones to blame for allowing the tax hike creep ever closer to reality.’

* MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Congratulations to Mike Halterman of Fayetteville, named by The Advocate magazine as one of 40 GLBT people under 40 making a difference in the U.S. Halterman, 26, a Florida native, started Out on the Town magazine in September 2010, a glossy GLBT magazine that now serves a regional audience (and is available in Little Rock.) Readers supported his nomination by citing his groundbreaking business in conservative Northwest Arkansas. (Fayetteville, of course, is a free city in the region.) He'll be featured in The Advocate's May issue, out in late April.

* A TOUR OF LITTLE ROCK'S MAIN STREET: I received today an unsigned editorial in the form of a letter written to House VA Committee Chair Jeff Miller, who'll be in Little Rock next week to lend aid and comfort to Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's effort to block location of a veterans day service center (which is not only for homeless vets) in an abandoned car dealership at 10th and Main. The writer responds to the hysterical Democrat-Gazette editorial today, also written in the form of a letter to Miller. The D-G pleaded for Miller to, in essence, stop drunken homeless bum vets from ruining the supposed revival of Main Street. The street — "once a disaster zone, one boarded up building after another" — has "made great strides," said the apparently blind editorialist. The letter follows and — after that — a good letter from a downtown resident (signed) on the same subject:

Dear Mr Chairman Miller

Before we start our driving tour of Main Street let me pre-explain a few things. We’re going to focus on 10th and Main, but also seek the bigger picture.

We’ll drive from 1st/Markham to 25th/ Roosevelt. Main goes on another 10 or so blocks but you won’t want to see that. It goes into the ghetto.

We also won’t turn right on Roosevelt because it also turns into the ghetto. One ghetto is like any other.

You will be shocked to be told that Main Street used to HAVE BOARDED UP BUILDINGS. I should say MORE boarded up buildings for there are a few dozen now, but there used to be more. We solved that problem. We tore them down. They are now empty lots.

There are lots more empty, unoccupied buildings, but not boarded up.

Main Street in the 1950s was vibrant, alive, dynamic, lots of shopping, eating, offices.
Til the 1990s we had a marvelous eating place near Capitol and Main — D&D Café.

We had major department stores — Penny's, Cohn's, Blass, Pfeifer's. Then we had the Main St. Mall. Stephens investment bank used to be on the corner of 5th and Main, before they moved closer to the Old State House. Where Bill Clinton had a couple of announcements. Bill Clinton. You remember him? Slick Willy some of us call him. Tee hee.

Stability on Main is demonstrated by Bennett’s, Mr. Cools and the Newsmart liquor store. All have been there for decades. Still do booming business. You can get your racing form, pint of vodka or quart of malt and porno magazines at the latter. [Editor's note: Correction. The Newsmart is closed. Chairman Miller will have to get his 40 of malt somewhere else. The sign says closed for "renovations," but the interior is bare and no work is underway.]

As we drive south out of what used to be called the Central Business District you will see some vacant buildings on the left/ east — where there used to be Cook Jeep Auto Repair.

If we were to drive east and west on 9th you would see a commercial area for several blocks that has existed for decades, all the way to I-30 to the east and beyond Broadway to the west. 9th west of Broadway used to be the Negro Business District, but those 20 or so buildings have all been torn down. The abandoned butcher, liquor store and barber shop on E. 9th aren’t too bad.They are not really boarded up, although a few of the few residences are.

Standing at the intersection of 10th and Main we can see a hardware store that has been there 100 years and one that has been there for a decade or so. Also a liquor store and some more abandoned buildings.

If we were to turn west at 10th. We would drive by an AA clinic and into a commercial district. If we were to turn east on 10th we would in 4 blocks run into the Arts Center and MacArthur Park, on the way passing Scott and Cumberland which for one block north and south from 10th have a few houses, mainly apartments, along with offices and parking lots. The total number of residences within two blocks of 10th and Main is few.

Crossing I-630 at 11th we are into a commercial district with several vacant buildings, some boarded up, some not and, yes, some welcome signs of life at bakeries and restaurants and shops. Residences don’t pick up until about 18th. Then only a few, mainly apartments til 25th.

25th/ Roosevelt was probably named after the Democrat FDR rather than the Republican Teddy, but we can pretend the opposite. I’m not sure you GOPers want to claim it.

We won’t be inspecting the City Homeless Day Resource Center site at 3000 Confederate because it is too far from our starting point — about 3 miles — and it goes through a bad part of town, with lots of liquor stores, dollar stores, service stations, payday lending stores. Also 3000 Confederate is very near the Fourche Bottoms, Granite Mountain, and the railroad tracks. Well on the way to Sweet Home. Nuff said

We also won't be driving by the VA Hospital, on I-630 near Fair Park, about 6 miles west — from 3000 Confederate.

You will be meeting with Mayor Stodola. Why don’t you ask him about the Mayors’ Commision on the Homeless. That is ‘mayors’ in the plural because NLR and LR created it together about 7 years ago. You might ask him about the VA rep on that Commission, Estelle Morris, who faithfully attended for the 5 or so years the Commission functioned. She could not continue meeting regularly with the City rep when the Commission became inoperable about 2 years ago, due in large part to inadequate attention and support from the City of Little Rock and its Homeless Coordinator.

We editorial writers are expert in so many matters that it is hard to keep them straight. We certainly know more about veterans and the homeless than the VA or the AR Homeless Coalition.

I hope this is helpful. Ready to go? Buckle your seat belt. Oh, you’d rather take a Black Hawk Helicopter? Do this tour at midnight? OK. Should we notify the neighborhood? Usually, that's not considered necessary in this neighborhood.

Yours truly,

Inky Wretch.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

I welcome you, Chairman Miller of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs. I understand that you are coming for a visit soon. Let me tell you about the homeless in my neighborhood. Yes, the homeless are already entrenched Downtown as they are in all metropolitan areas. They come Downtown because there is a concentration of services downtown (medical, public transportation, libraries, parks, and safety with lit streets and police presence). The services for the homeless, therefore, need to be where the homeless actually “reside.” They don’t reside in West Little Rock, Mr. Chairman. To move Downtown and complain about the homeless is like moving to Florida and complaining about all the retired people.

Although opponents of the Vet Center clinic rattle the chains of free enterprise and ridicule government bureaucracy, their first strategy to keep the clinic from moving to our neighborhood is to use government in order to block the clinic through rezoning. It appears that we want to have it both ways. As a bureaucrat, we will shun you if you don’t do what we want but revere you if you do!

The Downtown Neighborhood Associations have indeed worked hard to rejuvenate Main Street. We had some help, however. Although some neighbors have publically chastised you and the VA for its “palpable distain for local government,” the City website says that we’re happily spending federal dollars from the following:

• U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;
• U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
• U.S. Department of Justice;
• U.S. Department of Commerce;
• U.S. Department of Labor;
• U.S. Department of Interior;
• U. S. Department of Energy;
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
• Arkansas Department of Health;
• Arkansas Employment Security Division;
• Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism;
• Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department;
• Arkansas Department of Heritage

Thanks for that, should we fail to mention it.

By the way, I can find no empirical data to suggest that property values decline when homeless services are in the immediate proximity. In fact, in Austin, the Four Seasons, expensive condos and commercial as well as residential properties within half a mile of a huge complex for homeless services. The same can be said for Santa Monica, California. Some of my neighbors may argue that the homeless on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica distract from the beautiful retail establishments, but check out the price per square to rent one and you’ll see that the presence of the homeless has not detracted from property value.

Aside from the practical (financial) debate about this project, one must sometimes make decisions based on what is right. The VA runs a very tight ship (please go visit while you’re here) in the existing Day Treatment program. As a representative of the government that sent these men and women off to war (some without body armor), you should be proud that such a fine program exists to assist them. It provides mental health services, job readiness and assistance with permanent housing. To qualify for these services, the vets have to follow a set of rules and be good citizens. As citizens and as veterans of our armed services, we owe them no less than to welcome them into our community.

I do.

Patty Miller-Marshall
1400 S. Broadway
Little Rock, AR 72202

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