Favorite

DOGin' the VA 

VA 2nd and Ringo
  • The existing VA drop-in center at 2nd and Ringo

With the Republican primary occupying most of the national news cycle and the state fiscal session, despite Minority Leader John Burris' best efforts, a bore, maybe Paul Greenberg and co. grew restless and simply couldn't hold the bile inside anymore. How else to explain the Democrat-Gazette editorial page's hysterical opposition to the Department of Veteran Affairs plans to open an expanded veterans service center on Main Street? That the D-G opposes the VA's plan to serve veterans, including homeless veterans, at a former auto shop on 10th and Main streets isn't especially surprising; the paper's editorial page is usually on the wrong side of an issue. That it's directed a level of vitriol at the VA once reserved for the Clintons strikes me as worth noting.

Critics of the VA's plan, including Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, argue that the VA didn't consult with the city or neighborhood groups before signing a lease on the Main Street property. As the Times has reported, the VA advertised its interest in a new location for eight days in July and the property owner's realtor said he advised the city prior to the November sale. No matter, the D-G has sussed out the real insult — insidious federal overreach. "Naturally the plan to plunk down this clinic where it could do the most harm was undertaken without the informed consent of local people or full consultation with local government," a Feb. 7 editorial argued. "The VA just published a notice informing its subjects what was coming. Now we're all supposed to fall in and follow orders. Jawohl!" In case it's been a while since you watched the History Channel ("all Nazis, all the time!"), the allusion in that last word is meant to suggest that the Department of Veteran Affairs is behaving like fascist Germany. Better yet, the editorial also praised city hall for a proposed ordinance that would put the zoning of a wide range of businesses and organizations, including the VA, under city purview. Because bureaucracy is OK when it does what we want it to.

The notion of the "harm" the clinic would inflict on the neighborhood in the above quote reflects the D-G's most risible charge: that the VA center would "help kill Main Street." That line also comes from the Feb. 7 editorial, which additionally argues that the VA's plans were coming "just as Main Street was getting its groove back." The D-G expands along that line in a Feb. 17 editorial: "It hasn't been too long since Main Street was something of a disaster zone, one boarded-up building after another, a picture of slowly spreading neglect ... But old Main has made great strides since those not-so-long-ago years. There are signs of hope, enterprise and investment up and down the street now. Because good people put their money and energy where their hopes were."

A picture of a vibrant Main Street from 1958 accompanied the Feb. 17 editorial.

Evidently, the D-G editorialists haven't walked down Main Street since then. Aside from the state Department of Human Services office, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the two hardware stores that provide an antidote to big-box land, Bennett's military supply, a combination wig shop/two-suits-for-the-price-of-one store and a video rental store that specializes in porn, ain't much happening on Main Street. The jazz cafe that was supposed to be at the vanguard of reviving the street has apparently closed after being served an eviction notice from its landlord and not paying taxes. Maybe a new cigar bar can fill its place.

It's true; good people are at work at reviving Main Street. But north of the interstate, they don't have much to show for it. On the south side, Main Street's revival is well underway. Perhaps so as not to confuse it with the north stretch of the street, area leaders have branded it SoMa. Last Saturday, I stopped by an open house at the Oxford American's new home in the former Juanita's location. If the OA can secure funding for its vision of turning the space into a restaurant/venue that regularly hosts nationally known artists, it could be the driver of Main Street revitalization. So it was heartening to hear OA publisher Warwick Sabin say that in a recent grant proposal he'd included a special section about how the magazine wants to exist within the neighborhood, not see it gentrified. That, to me, sounds like a prescription for Main Street to get its groove back.

A previous version of this column incorrectly said the VA gave notice to the Little Rock Homeless Commission in April. That commission, officially known as the Mayor's Commission on Homeless Services, has not functioned in some time, but a variety of city officials have been aware of the VA's search for a new location as far back as 2007.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • Supreme Court hears arguments in case that led to stays for two Arkansas death row inmates

    The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an appeal yesterday that asks the court to rule that indigent criminal defendants are entitled to an independent expert witness. The case, McWilliams v. Dunn, goes back to the 1984 capital murder conviction of James McWilliams, who raped and murdered a woman in Tuscaloosa, Ala., during a robbery. But the high court's decision will also directly affect the fates of Don Davis and Bruce Ward, Arkansas death row prisoners who were slated to die this month, but given a reprieve by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which issued a stay in each execution, pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McWilliams in June.
    • Apr 25, 2017
  • The Jack Jones, Marcel Williams execution thread

    The Arkansas Department of Correction is planning for the first double execution in the U.S. in 16 years tonight. Jack Jones, 52,  and Marcell Williams, 46, are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They would be the second and third prisoners put to death as part of a hurried schedule Governor Hutchinson set in advance of the state's supply of one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol expiring on April 30.
    • Apr 24, 2017
  • The return of Tom Petty to Verizon

    I caught Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers last time they were at Verizon Arena, back in 2012, but missed last night's show. Judging from social media, it sounds like I missed out.
    • Apr 24, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Latest in Media

  • UA cozy with D-G columnist

    An interesting element of the ongoing story of budget problems in the University of Arkansas Advancement Division has been a divide in outlook in the pages of the state's dominant news medium, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
    • Nov 21, 2013
  • Democrat-Gazette covers one of its own in story of reporter Cathy Frye's rescue

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's reports on the rescue of its reporter Cathy Frye, who was missing for days in the hot scrubby desert that is Big Bend Ranch State Park, are gripping.
    • Oct 10, 2013
  • Hodge shares his OA vision

    Roger Hodge, the new editor of Oxford American magazine, talked about his rise at Harper's, his writing philosophy and his plans for the OA before a full crowd last Wednesday at the Clinton School.
    • Sep 26, 2012
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Art bull

    • Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…

    • on April 24, 2017
  • Re: Art bull

    • the nice thing about art is that it is what it is, but what it…

    • on April 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation