Favorite

DOGin' the VA 

VA 2nd and Ringo
  • The existing VA drop-in center at 2nd and Ringo

With the Republican primary occupying most of the national news cycle and the state fiscal session, despite Minority Leader John Burris' best efforts, a bore, maybe Paul Greenberg and co. grew restless and simply couldn't hold the bile inside anymore. How else to explain the Democrat-Gazette editorial page's hysterical opposition to the Department of Veteran Affairs plans to open an expanded veterans service center on Main Street? That the D-G opposes the VA's plan to serve veterans, including homeless veterans, at a former auto shop on 10th and Main streets isn't especially surprising; the paper's editorial page is usually on the wrong side of an issue. That it's directed a level of vitriol at the VA once reserved for the Clintons strikes me as worth noting.

Critics of the VA's plan, including Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, argue that the VA didn't consult with the city or neighborhood groups before signing a lease on the Main Street property. As the Times has reported, the VA advertised its interest in a new location for eight days in July and the property owner's realtor said he advised the city prior to the November sale. No matter, the D-G has sussed out the real insult — insidious federal overreach. "Naturally the plan to plunk down this clinic where it could do the most harm was undertaken without the informed consent of local people or full consultation with local government," a Feb. 7 editorial argued. "The VA just published a notice informing its subjects what was coming. Now we're all supposed to fall in and follow orders. Jawohl!" In case it's been a while since you watched the History Channel ("all Nazis, all the time!"), the allusion in that last word is meant to suggest that the Department of Veteran Affairs is behaving like fascist Germany. Better yet, the editorial also praised city hall for a proposed ordinance that would put the zoning of a wide range of businesses and organizations, including the VA, under city purview. Because bureaucracy is OK when it does what we want it to.

The notion of the "harm" the clinic would inflict on the neighborhood in the above quote reflects the D-G's most risible charge: that the VA center would "help kill Main Street." That line also comes from the Feb. 7 editorial, which additionally argues that the VA's plans were coming "just as Main Street was getting its groove back." The D-G expands along that line in a Feb. 17 editorial: "It hasn't been too long since Main Street was something of a disaster zone, one boarded-up building after another, a picture of slowly spreading neglect ... But old Main has made great strides since those not-so-long-ago years. There are signs of hope, enterprise and investment up and down the street now. Because good people put their money and energy where their hopes were."

A picture of a vibrant Main Street from 1958 accompanied the Feb. 17 editorial.

Evidently, the D-G editorialists haven't walked down Main Street since then. Aside from the state Department of Human Services office, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the two hardware stores that provide an antidote to big-box land, Bennett's military supply, a combination wig shop/two-suits-for-the-price-of-one store and a video rental store that specializes in porn, ain't much happening on Main Street. The jazz cafe that was supposed to be at the vanguard of reviving the street has apparently closed after being served an eviction notice from its landlord and not paying taxes. Maybe a new cigar bar can fill its place.

It's true; good people are at work at reviving Main Street. But north of the interstate, they don't have much to show for it. On the south side, Main Street's revival is well underway. Perhaps so as not to confuse it with the north stretch of the street, area leaders have branded it SoMa. Last Saturday, I stopped by an open house at the Oxford American's new home in the former Juanita's location. If the OA can secure funding for its vision of turning the space into a restaurant/venue that regularly hosts nationally known artists, it could be the driver of Main Street revitalization. So it was heartening to hear OA publisher Warwick Sabin say that in a recent grant proposal he'd included a special section about how the magazine wants to exist within the neighborhood, not see it gentrified. That, to me, sounds like a prescription for Main Street to get its groove back.

A previous version of this column incorrectly said the VA gave notice to the Little Rock Homeless Commission in April. That commission, officially known as the Mayor's Commission on Homeless Services, has not functioned in some time, but a variety of city officials have been aware of the VA's search for a new location as far back as 2007.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The First Amendment, Yo Edition

    The latest in the legal fight to stop a law that would prevent Planned Parenthood from performing abortions in Arkansas, the cancellation of a rap show in Little Rock and its First Amendment implications, a stunning investigative report on drug court defendants being forced to work for free for Arkansas poultry companies and bellicose Tom Cotton — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Oct 13, 2017
  • Come with the Arkansas Times to the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

    After several years of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro hosting benefit concerts to raise money for the restoration of Johnny Cash's boyhood home, this year the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival debuts in Dyess just outside the Cash homeplace. And of course the Arkansas Times is chartering a bus to be there. The lineup is spectacular: Kris Kristofferson (one of the greatest songwriters of all-time easily), Rosanne Cash, Joanne Cash and Tommy Cash and Buddy Jewel.
    • Oct 13, 2017
  • Arkansas State Fair opens the midway

    and much more.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Media

  • UA cozy with D-G columnist

    An interesting element of the ongoing story of budget problems in the University of Arkansas Advancement Division has been a divide in outlook in the pages of the state's dominant news medium, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
    • Nov 21, 2013
  • Democrat-Gazette covers one of its own in story of reporter Cathy Frye's rescue

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's reports on the rescue of its reporter Cathy Frye, who was missing for days in the hot scrubby desert that is Big Bend Ranch State Park, are gripping.
    • Oct 10, 2013
  • Hodge shares his OA vision

    Roger Hodge, the new editor of Oxford American magazine, talked about his rise at Harper's, his writing philosophy and his plans for the OA before a full crowd last Wednesday at the Clinton School.
    • Sep 26, 2012
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Cotton to CIA?

    Political junkies without a real election to overanalyze fill the void with "what if?" scenarios. With the State Fair underway, consider this column a helping of cotton candy for such readers.
  • The casting couch

    Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The casting couch

    • sigh............ I would argue that the idea of 'freedom from fear' is part of the…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • As to the AR Chamber of Commerce-DO NOT FORGET it supports passage of SJR8, which…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • Freedom from fear is a human right.

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation