Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
As is customary, the staff and readers have contributed names to an (incomplete) roster of those who helped make Arkansas what it was in 2008, for better or worse.
MIKE HUCKABEE. Because Mitt Romney dropped out, the former governor finished second by most unofficial tallies in the race for the Republican nomination. He enjoyed evangelical and flat-taxer support. He parlayed the run into a good-selling book, a show on Fox News and ABC radio and lots of talk about a 2012 candidacy.
ANIMAL PEOPLE. Our hearts went out daily to the growing cadre of animal rescuers who took in lame and homeless creatures, some more lovable than others. Animal rights activists, too (state Sen. Sue Madison deserves a particular mention), seemed moving at last toward meaningful animal cruelty legislation, despite the continuing resistance from the Arkansas Farm Bureau.
The FAMILY COUNCIL. Its grassroots organization put on the ballot and helped pass a mean and family-damaging law to keep children out of homes of unmarried couples. The measure, aimed at punishing gays, passed by a 57-43 margin, smaller than the usual anti-gay vote. Depressing as the outcome was, it gave some hope that times are changing. The Farm Bureau threw its weight behind this and other punishing social issues, thanks probably to the conservative religious leanings of its outgoing President Stanley Reed of Marianna, who's been talking about seeking elective office or the presidency of the University of Arkansas. No thanks, Stanley.
The ACLU. It continued its sometimes unappreciated toil for the disfranchised, including by preparing a lawsuit to overturn the Family Council's discriminatory Act 1.
STATE REP. KATHY WEBB. Many readers nominated the Little Rock legislator for her work against Act 1, for activism in global warming and for generally well-informed and vigorous toil on any number of tough issues.
GOV. MIKE BEEBE. The governor continued to earn points for careful leadership. By comparison with the last 10 years, he was enlightened and progressive. He declined to take an important role, but he did oppose the state lottery and Act 1. He husbanded state resources and worked to build an industrial job center in alternative energy.
GINGER BEEBE. She has made the Governor's Mansion the public's house again and earned praise for bringing a friendly face to untold public works, including mental health issues.
TODD TURNER. The Arkadelphia lawyer tirelessly and methodically sued the usurious payday lenders of Arkansas, a project that was rewarded with landmark court victories.
JANE KRUTZ. A reader nominated the 83-year-old retired Little Rock businesswoman for her volunteerism, including her stints as a fund-raiser on AETN.
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN. She became an important swing vote on many issues and, if she sometimes disappointed liberal Democrats with her moderation, her occasional strength on social issues was better than Republican alternatives have ever offered.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK MAYOR PAT HAYS. He has a thin skin and a disdain for legal niceties. But he was re-elected to what will be a record tenure and downtown is dotted with development for which Hays can rightly take much credit. His free hand with welfare to would-be developers and abuse of the state Tax Increment Finance law, of course, play a factor.
CRIMINALS. Their unspeakably brutal acts in two cases dominated headlines this year. Bill Gwatney, the auto dealer who had become a popular and effective leader of the state Democratic Party, was gunned down at party headquarters by a man who died at the end of a police chase, taking with him the motivation for his crime. Anne Pressly, a rising morning anchor for KATV, was fatally beaten in her Heights home. People who loved and admired them were left only with loss and unanswered “whys?”
LU HARDIN. He's been a runner-up here before for the huge growth the University of Central Arkansas enjoyed under his presidency. This year was the flipside — a near unending series of headlines about questionable bonuses to Hardin, a campus overextended by his easy way with money in enrollment building and, finally, his resignation.
SHEFFIELD NELSON. The former gas company executive pressed for an increase in the gas severance tax so the state would get some benefit from the drilling boom in the Fayetteville Shale. Nelson's activism pushed Gov. Mike Beebe into finally advocating a tax increase. The product was less than it should have been, but a heckuva lot better than the pittance that gas producers had been paying. Thank Sheffield.
KORTO MOMULU. The Mabelvale fashion designer was a big hit nationwide and a runner-up in the popular “Project Runway” fashion show.
The WIND. The boom in the wind energy generation business proved a boon to Arkansas, with the location of major industries to make equipment.
FACTORY WORKERS. They were headline makers in good and bad ways. Major industrial layoffs in Fort Smith, mass job losses in the poultry industry and other closures dominated headlines as the nation's industrial base continued to erode.
DAVID GEARHART. The new chancellor of the University of Arkansas put a friendlier, more accessible face in the office of the state's flagship university.
CASEY DICK. The Razorback quarterback had an up-and-down career at Arkansas, and heading into his last game, he found himself benched in favor of his younger brother, of all people. But he came off the bench to lead the Razorback offense effectively, and the last pass he'll ever throw went for a game-winning touchdown against LSU in the final seconds of play. Now he's a legend.
ALICE WALTON. The Wal-Mart heiress continued to make known the famous works she's bought for a grand new museum of American art she's building at Bentonville.
MICHELLE DUGGAR. She gave birth to her 18th child, forcing a name change for the Duggar Family's cable television show, from “Seventeen Kids and Counting” to “Eighteen Kids and Counting.” Husband Jim Bob Duggar was the proud father, again.
TONY ALAMO. The notorious evangelist — some say “cult leader” — attracted both media attention and criminal charges.
RED WOLVES. The new name of Arkansas State University athletic teams made its debut. Fans seemed to accept the vanishing of the Indians.