Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas
Food stamps important to Arkansas
While Congress participates in the nation's least entertaining yet most problematic slap fight in history, impoverished citizens of the Natural State and Arkansan food pantries are gearing up for what could be the worst season in decades. Accessibility and affordability of food, and nutritious food at that, has already had a significant impact on the Arkansas Delta, which seems to steadily be regarded as the forgotten part of our state. Although problems surrounding poverty are numerous and complex in the eastern and southeastern portions of Arkansas there is at least one minor solution to help alleviate the problem: food stamps. Food stamps are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and have been a feature point of American farm bills for decades. Approximately one-fifth of Arkansans receive food stamps. In the Delta this number is closer to a third, including over half of the region's children. Furthermore, two out of three counties in the Delta are considered "food deserts" in which residents of the county are so far removed from access to supermarkets that they are almost dependent on diets consisting of fast food and items from gas stations.
Unfortunately for these residents, the current farm bill debate not only appears stagnant, but it seems that both sides of the aisle are calling for spending reduction in the SNAP program. To choose the lesser of two evils should definitely steer one to oppose the plans of Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle), who seems not to care about his fellow Arkansans. While the Democratic-controlled Senate is proposing a $4.1 billion reduction in the program over the next decade, Tom Cotton and his merry band of House Republicans are calling for a cut 10 times that size. This constituency must make their voices heard so that this region of Arkansas, as well as many other impoverished areas of the state, is not forgotten yet again.
Lottery should give more to scholarships
As a current student at the University of Arkansas, I know how difficult it can be to pay for tuition, books, and fees, despite the fortune of being born into a solid middle-class family. Imagine being a recent high school graduate who lives as 22 percent of all Arkansans do — under the poverty line. This is the grim reality for many entering college freshmen. The difficult and very real question they have to face is "how will I pay for college?" Most people would agree that education is the greatest equalizer of all and that a college degree provides an opportunity to rise above socio-economic boundaries. However, as college tuition has increased, the Academic Challenge Scholarship, funded largely by the state lottery, has decreased. The scholarship initially provided $5,000 per year to each qualified Arkansas student attending a four-year university. For the 2013-14 school year, the scholarship only provides $2,000 to first-year students, with an increase of $1,000 each year thereafter. These cuts are extremely discouraging to poor students relying on this scholarship to fund their education. What is more disheartening is that these cuts could have been prevented. In April, a bill went before an Arkansas House Rules Committee to mandate that 25 percent of lottery proceeds be designated for the scholarship program. The bill failed in committee. In Arkansas, approximately 20 percent of lottery proceeds are used for scholarships, less than most other states with lotteries. This is wrong. Our investment in education must come first.
From the web
In response to last week's cover story, "The time is nigh for Razorback football and basketball to reemerge from the cellar":
College athletics at UA have to be a major drag on finances to participate in the SEC. Yes, SEC games do draw big attendances but with teams like UA has had in the past few years folks here in AR can't be too happy about spending the money that they do to see humiliation after humiliation. Fact is that the program is weak, coaching and leadership is weak which means that the blue chip players are going elsewhere to have a chance at a possible NFL career or whatever future being an athlete at a winning school allows. Paying a no-name coach from an established program $5M to come to Fayetteville is insane. No scientist, no physician, no anybody in this state makes $5M a year (unless your name is Stephens) so WTF? Time for this state to consider making its name by economic output, business development, academic excellence or some real world measure of what people can achieve.
You're welcome to your thought, but the numbers suggest otherwise. U of A is one of a few schools in the nation, not to mention the conference, where the athletic department consistently contributes a positive cash flow to the university. Two dismal football seasons, bad as they may be, are unlikely to disrupt that trend over the long term.
I'm happy to debate the relative virtues and vices of paying coaches such salaries, but calling Bielema a no-name coach is flatly a misrepresentation of the facts. He came to Arkansas after three consecutive berths in the Rose Bowl. No one coaches a winning program in a major conference to consecutive BCS bowl games while remaining a no-name. The fact that you didn't know who he was is abundantly clear, but your ignorance isn't necessarily representative of the whole of college football.
A small state like Arkansas can only be helped by the type of exposure a successful athletic program can offer. Likewise, a lifting of the veil of ignorance along with a diminution of unrealistic expectations for cheap and easy success — whether athletic, educational, or economic — would take us a great deal farther than most people think. Unfortunately, we've got plenty who don't know what they don't know (or, more often than not of late, either happy in their ignorance or simply unwilling to acknowledge it), and those people are by and large the ones doing the most to hold back the progress of this state.
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