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Smart Talk, Jan. 28 

Concealed weapons, greasy burgers, better schools.

Concealed weaponry on the rise

The State Police, in explaining to legislators its budget difficulties last week, said it had been stretched by a massive increase in applications for permits to carry concealed weapons. Spokesman Bill Sadler said the database of permit holders had grown from 56,000 at the start of 2009 to more than 80,000. The big boost came at the first of the year, when the legislature was debating legislation to end public access to the list of permit holders. The State Police needed extra help to keep up with the paperwork. It's now settled down to about 2,000 new and renewal permits per month.

Get ‘em while they're hot

Like the greasy burgers at The Box at 17th and Main? Better grab one soon before they're gone. The Capitol Zoning District Commission is scheduled this week to consider an application to build a USA Drug on the site. Planners say the drug chain has done a better job of meeting neighborhood design desires than a previous effort by Walgreens and many expect the application to be approved. No word yet on whether The Box operators may find a new place to park their well-seasoned griddle.

Improving LR schools

A community-based strategic planning commission last week adopted consultants' recommendations to improve Little Rock School District academic performance. The group was headed by former state Sen. Jim Argue and Terence Bolden. The recommendations were adopted without dissent, though UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson created some behind-the-scenes buzz before the meeting with a memo. Anderson said he didn't think the commission should ask the School Board to mandate the specific recommendations. He said the district, and others, had suffered from micromanagement over the years and administrators should have flexibility.

Anderson also recommended that the School Board take the public position that, if after five years the district has not succeeded in substantially achieving test score improvement, that the district “ask the state to step in and replace the existing, traditional governance model for school districts with something different — a fresh start with the benefit of a clean slate.” He said he believed the district would rise to the challenge “if not tied down by a thousand strings.”

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