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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Morning roundup — a bridge, school reform, departed friends

Posted By on Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 6:30 AM

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The Clinton family walked the new pedestrian bridge when it opened Sept. 30, 2011
  • Brian Chilson
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The Clinton family walked the new pedestrian bridge when it opened Sept. 30, 2011

A few odds and ends:

* A BRIDGE TO FITNESS: Skip Rutherford sent a Twitter this morning noting that the pedestrian bridge by the Clinton Library, fashioned from an abandoned railroad bridge, opened a year ago. I can testify to his mention of its popularity. I've taken to including a bridge crossing on occasional 30-minute walks from my office at Markham and Scott during the lunch hour. Lots of company on the bridge. Great views upriver and down. I spot a different familiar name each time in the list of donors inscribed on the concrete path. The walk through the library park itself, and the new trail around the wetlands area, isn't bad either. Recommended.

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* ANOTHER WALTON SCHOOL TENTACLE: I was forwarded an e-mail from Laurie Lee (nee Masterson and the leading figure in a fight against books in Fayetteville school libraries with content she deemed inappropriate). She's now employed in the Billionaire Boys Club effort to take over public education in Arkansas with charter schools, school "choice" (even if it leads to massive resegregation), teacher union vilification and all the rest. She's touting coming public meetings by a group called A+ Arkansas (not to be confused with several other more benign groups that have used a similar name). Her group is funded by the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation, one of several lobbying/influence/interest groups powered by Walton/Stephens/Murphy/Hussman money and influence to push their political agenda through the Arkansas legislature. It employs former state Board of Education member Luke Gordy as its point lobbyist. .

* UALR MOVES TO DORMS FOR FRESHMEN: I'm still awaiting fuller response from UALR, but multiple sources confirm that the campus is looking hard at, and may have made, a decision to require incoming freshmen of "traditional age" to live in campus housing. Many other state college campuses have similar rules. UALR for years had no dorms at all, because of efforts by others in the UA system to hold back its development. This change, while lifting the campus to something akin to parity with others, doesn't come without risk. Some think it could take away a recruiting advantage for UALR — living at home while attending college. Might the requirement encourage students to choose other commuting options, including Pulaski Tech or UCA? The idea arises from a comprehensive study by a consultant on recruitment

* FAREWELL FRIENDS: A note of personal privilege. The obituaries this morning noted the death of Ivy Bea Lackey, 88. No reason you should know Mrs. Lackey. But over 20 years or so, until her health began failing, she was a good and faithful phone friend. I can attest, as her obituary did, that she was devoted to the Democratic Party, her native Cave City and her grandson. You could have added Bill Clinton's name to that list. He had no more dogged defender during bruising election battles and the Whitewater drama than Ivy Bea Lackey. When the signs renaming Markham Street for the president went up, she had her photo made with me standing in front of one of the new signs. Her love of politics was well-suited to another passion, Geyer Springs Baptist Church, its political intrigues another favorite topic of conversation. She often compared notes with Flo Cato, another frequent caller and famed letter writer. I treasure associations such as these, the felicitous fallout of a career in newspapers.

Farewell, too, to another remarkable and indomitable woman, Dell Leveritt of North Little Rock, who died last week at 92. She was a school teacher with an inquisitive mind that remained acute to the end, even as other parts began giving out. She was the mother of my boss and friend, Alan Leveritt. The independence and persistence with which she lived her life were imprinted on him in starting and sustaining a small publishing company against long odds. You should hope, by the way, for a son so devoted. There will be a memorial service for her at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Park Hill Presbyterian Church.

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