IT WAS A GOOD WEEK FOR …
WETLANDS. Thanks to the discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods, a plan is underway to pay farmers to convert farmland back to hardwood and wetland use to protect the bird’s habitat.
WOODPECKERS. Even expert doubters now believe the nearly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker lives in Arkansas woods. What’s more, audio tapes suggest there may be a pair of them.
PORK. None dare call $2.6 billion in federal highway money for Arkansas by such a loaded term, of course, even if the sum does include millions to improve street access to Wal-Mart world headquarters in Bentonville. The projects approved by Congress include a Bella Vista bypass, a new interstate route in southern Arkansas and the beginning of a fix for the I-430/630 bottleneck in Little Rock.
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE. Congress approved $5.1 million to build a new visitor center in time for the 50th anniversary of the school crisis in 2007.
MATH. More Arkansas students — more than half, in fact — are scoring at proficient levels on algebra and geometry exams.
SURPLUSES. Fiscal officers predict more than $165 million in state surpluses over the next two years. (Don’t let the zeroes fool you. If every dollar were spent on school building needs, on top of what has already been appropriated, the state would still be $2 billion short of meeting needs identified by construction experts.)
IT WAS A BAD WEEK FOR …
IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT. They gave no notice to other authorities before rounding up 119 illegal poultry workers in Arkadelphia and shipping them to Mexico. Too bad for dozens of the workers’ children, who were left in the unexpected care of churches and others.
FRANK BROYLES. The UA athletic director begged for an extralegal tax exemption for car dealers who loan new cars to coaching staffs around the state, including a staggering 55 loaners in Hogland alone.
Sen. Jonathan Dismang ran into opposition but still passed his bill to add UAMS, the State Hospital and college athletic events and venues as exceptions to legislation signed yesterday to expand where qualified concealed carry permit holders may take weapons. The NRA will fight the changes in the House.
Hog fans just can't quit blaming the refs for the NCAA men's basketball tournament loss to North Carolina. Now the Arkansas Senate has gotten in on the act, with this resolution introduced by Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram and getting bipartisan co-sponsorship from that brutish and short sandlot roundball player, Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.
IndieWire breaks news long whispered downtown — a more ambitious successor to the Little Rock Film Festival is in the works, with backing from writer/director Jeff Nichols, a Little Rock native. His "Loving" has won wide acclaim recently.