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Oct. 18, Smart Talk 

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Racial voting patterns

Little Rock has now had two elections in quick succession with racially identifiable voting patterns. One was the race for increasing mayoral powers. It was overwhelmingly approved in white neighborhoods; universally disfavored in black neighborhoods. Then came the Zone 2 Little Rock School Board runoff. A black candidate carried nearly all black votes; the white candidate picked up nearly all white votes.

We hear rumblings that these facts could appear in another forum before long. There's talk of a lawsuit to allow the continued election of three Little Rock Board of Directors members at large, rather than by wards. Minorities have long believed this board election structure was meant to dilute minority voting strength. So far, courts haven't looked kindly on the notion that there's a racial dimension to votes for those at-large seats, in part because some blacks have been elected in years past. Whites hold all at-large seats now. Somebody might be ready to test the system again. We've long favored all-ward elections as a more democratic system regardless.

At last, a paper with Good News

A Bible group's project to spread Scriptures through daily newspapers is coming to Little Rock. The International Bible Society-Send the Light organization is trying to raise more than $160,000 in its “CityReachers” project to insert 82,000 copies of a New Testament that includes information and photos about Central Arkansas into the Dec. 30 issue of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Central High, Alltel Arena and the Little Rock skyline will be among the familiar images on the cover. The project has been underway for several years. A similar distribution in 2004 in Colorado Springs, the Bible group's home, caused some controversy, according to a New York Times article at the time. Some non-Christians objected to being proselytized through their newspaper. Bible inserts also are planned Dec. 30 in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A society spokesman told a trade publication that the idea shouldn't be controversial. He noted it's income for newspapers and added, “It's like inserting a sample of Tide or Quaker Oats — not that I'm comparing God's Word to Tide.”

Surf's up

Friends, the future is now. By the time you read this, you should be able to plunk down pretty much anywhere in the River Market or Riverfront Park, open your laptop, and happily surf the web. Within weeks, plans are for the Internet access “cloud” to stretch all the way from the Broadway Bridge to the Clinton Library, including businesses and shops along President Clinton Avenue.

Thanks to technology by Little Rock-based Internet provider Aristotle and funding arranged by the Arkansas Young Professionals Network, a River Market District Wi-Fi system is scheduled to go hot Oct. 18. In a nutshell, it means no-strings-attached web browsing for anyone in the River Market who has access to a computer equipped with a wireless card.

Elizabeth Bowles, president of Aristotle, said the company already has a subscriber-only wireless broadband system in place, currently serving over 200 customers in the downtown Little Rock area, the I-630 corridor, Shannon Hills and Scott. Starting in July, Aristotle technicians installed three antennas in the River Market area (and are in the process of installing another at the Clinton Library), which convert the existing Aristotle signal from subscriber-only to open access.

Bowles said the plan to include the Clinton Library and President Clinton Avenue under the Wi-Fi cloud has been delayed by electrical work that had to be completed to support the system there.

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