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Make registering to vote easier

By Gary Phillips

While right-wingers push to pass laws requiring photo IDs for people to vote, we should introduce a law that automatically registers everyone 18 and older who has an Arkansas photo ID (Driver's License or Non-Drive ID). Those who get driver's licenses prior to 18 would, on their 18th birthday, be automatically registered to vote. The technology is there to make this a reality. All that is lacking is the political will. Of course there are those who will not ever vote, but at least this method removes an impediment to true representative democracy.

Gary Phillips is the chair of the Mississippi County Democratic Central Committee.

Build an iconic performing arts center

By Philip Mann

Little Rock needs an iconic performing arts center that would serve as a hub for creative and innovative talents from our great state and a magnet to expand our ability to draw top talents in all fields to Arkansas. 

I imagine a building, possibly on the riverfront, with a performance hall for live symphony, opera, ballet and a myriad of other productions. It would also house a smaller venue for recitals, an experimental space for innovative projects and office and rehearsal spaces for the center's resident arts organizations.

The center would provide a high quality acoustic space where great artists from Arkansas and around the world could be heard at their best. Arkansas has a great symphony orchestra, and building it a performance hall with world-class acoustics would be like giving a talented musician a great instrument. It could also be the impetus for a return of full-scale opera and ballet to downtown Little Rock. Its heart would be a hall where fans and artists of every genre, from an Ozark folk or bluegrass band to a gospel chorus, could experience the joy of an intimate, acoustic concert experience.

The center would be a bustling hive for arts education, offering activities for young Arkansans to expand their horizons and potential, hosting everything from youth orchestras, to music lessons, to ballet lessons and rehearsals, to studio opera projects, to university and student productions, to any number of things that have yet to be imagined.

Incredible possibilities for collaborations and original projects would result from the close interaction of local artists and organizations as a product of their physical proximity to each other.

As a new Arkansan, I have been amazed and heartened by the quality of our key performing arts organizations, and I can think of no better way to advance our community and attract creative capital for the future of our state than to build them a home.

Philip Mann is the music director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

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