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The Insider, Oct. 4 

Mall wrecking ball

Fox 16 grabbed an interview with Jim Strode of the Strode Property Group about its acquisition of the failed University Mall. Strode bought the land from Arkansas families and also terminated the mall lease with the Simon Property Group, clearing the way for redevelopment.

The final few tenants have until Oct. 27 to vacate, but Strode said he expected all tenants to be out sooner and that demolition would begin immediately. The new lifestyle center to be known as Park Avenue may include a Target. Strode also told Fox 16 he was interested in multi-family residences, and we hear local developers are hoping to partner with Strode on office development in the area, perhaps for health-related offices.

The property sale hadn't turned up in county records at press time. That will disclose the land sale price, but not the terms of the termination of the Simon lease.

Feeling better

County Judge Buddy Villines reports that he's feeling better these days thanks to adjustment to medication he's taking for a heart condition and consequently feeling more optimistic about making a race for re-election next year. We'd reported earlier that he was contemplating an end to public service, in part because of health problems.

Villines said he'd still have to talk to friends and family and evaluate his energy level after a hospitalization scheduled later this month to correct an irregular heart rhythm.

Rumors and innuendo

We can't tell you it's true, but we can tell you this political gossip is going around. At a minimum, its repetition reflects continuing mixed emotions among Democratic Party regulars toward Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The rumor is that former Sen. Bill Gwatney, who's been vigorous as the new chairman of the state Democratic Party, might run for lieutenant governor in 2010 against incumbent Halter. That could set him up for a run to succeed Gov. Mike Beebe in 2014. All highly speculative, but …

Candor from Huck

A lengthy and warm profile of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in the current New Republic is notable for a rare admission of a shortcoming by the former governor. The article noted Huckabee's love for comparisons, sometimes biting ones, as when he compared tough Arkansas news reporters to disgraced journalists Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair. Said the article:

“Now, asked about this comparison, Huckabee says it illustrates his greatest fault: ‘You'll see it — one of the things that gets me in trouble is my love of metaphors. I use hyperbole in the course of trying to paint a word picture. I pay a dear price for it.'”

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