Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Normally I take political ads with a grain of salt. However, one recent ad labeling Mike Beebe as “outrageously liberal” is outrageously false. I learned later that this and other false and misleading ads were paid for by the Coalition for Arkansas’ Future, a right-wing group funded by the Republican Party.
For 20 years, Beebe represented one of the most genuinely conservative districts in the Arkansas Senate. His home district includes Searcy in White County as well as famously conservative Harding University. No outrageous liberals there. In none of his five races for the Senate or his 2002 race for attorney general did Beebe have a single opponent — liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. That speaks extremely well of his acceptance by the voters of Arkansas. This is hardly the political resume of an outrageous liberal.
The truth is that Mike Beebe is a progressive/populist Democrat in Arkansas’s best political tradition, as well as being a solid fiscal conservative. Beebe will fight for the little guy, but won’t tax and spend us into the poorhouse. Beebe has the temperament, qualifications and experience to be an extremely effective and successful governor for all Arkansans.
On the other hand, Asa Hutchinson offers instead his resume as a former congressman, high-ranking federal bureaucrat and Washington insider and lobbyist. In effect, Asa is saying, “I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help you.” Given the current sad and sorry state of affairs in Congress and the federal government, the choice between Beebe and Hutchinson should be obvious and very easy for Arkansas voters.
Mike Beebe has spent his professional and political career working hard for and serving the people of Arkansas. He is the most qualified candidate for governor in my lifetime.
Louis “Bucky” Jones Jr.
River Market drinking
In April of 2005, I wrote a letter you kindly published in the Times regarding the proposed entertainment district bill (Senate Bill 1174) that would allow entertainment districts in the state, thereby allowing public drinking/open containers in designated areas. As the owner of one of the only remaining retail businesses in the River Market District, I had enormous concerns about the bill’s passage and its potential affect on the area, should city leaders have allowed the River Market to become such a district.
As you know, the bill passed and was vetoed by the governor. The Senate then voted to override his veto, but the House did not vote on the override. Yesterday there was a meeting of the River Market District Neighborhood Association. While I was not able to attend the meeting, I was later given notes or “talking points” outlining reasons for bringing this idea to the legislature again.
I am deeply saddened to know that anyone would allow such a law and potentially devastate an area that residents, business leaders, city leaders, and a host of others have worked so hard to rehabilitate over the last 10 years. In the talking points presented at the meeting, it was mentioned that “public safety would not be compromised” and this bill “is important to Arkansas tourism and convention business.” For those believing this nonsense, I would invite them to spend a few days with me at my gallery, dealing with the problems that exist here. I can’t think of any other high-profile business areas in Little Rock where retailers must have police cell numbers on speed dial to curb potential problems before they can happen. Today, without the bill, beer cans, bottles, and trash are already a constant problem, and people getting sick outside storefronts is already quite common. Most recently, my neighbors at Ten Thousand Villages opened their doors on a Sunday afternoon to the remains of a fight that had taken place outside their door the night before. Employees spent business time cleaning up blood and trash from their doors, windows, and entryway, so they could open for business. These problems never existed when the area was on the rise to be a retail district. Is this really what we want people to see when they come to Little Rock for the first time? The people attracted to Little Rock are not coming here to visit another Beale Street or Bourbon Street. These folks are scholars, business leaders, presidential historians, and students. What sense does it make to turn the River Market into an open container entertainment district? Absolutely none.
As for the quote taken from the talking points saying the bill is important to Arkansas tourism and convention business, I am appalled to think that after living in Washington, D.C., for 10 years and moving back to Little Rock and watching the area blossom into a mecca that could one day rival Atlanta after its explosion in redevelopment following Jimmy Carter’s presidency, city leaders believe that public alcohol consumption is needed to lure people to our beautiful state. What about using the things that we’ve invested our hearts and souls into for the last 10 years — the Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International, the River Market/Farmer’s Market, the Central Arkansas Library System, Historic Arkansas Museum, and 2nd Friday Art Night, a venue my gallery proudly participates in, among others. Instead of bringing people to the River Market with the enticement of a beer so they can sit in the middle of the street and drink, why not attract them here with our wonderful galleries and cultural opportunities that I and many others have worked tirelessly to provide for the residents and visitors to Little Rock?
Daily, I hear the complaints from visitors to Little Rock who are not privy to the public relations campaigns that paint a rosy picture of the River Market. They want to know where they can shop, where they can see more art galleries and museums, and where they can go to learn more about our state and its people. They didn’t come here to drink, they came here to experience the great things our city and state have to offer. I perceive the local support for the entertainment district bill as a lack of appropriate vision for the River Market District. For visitors coming here to see our city, the River Market is, realistically, the snapshot image they will see of Little Rock. To take that small segment and turn it into a bar-hopping entertainment district is, in my opinion, a travesty for the River Market and for Little Rock. We can be so much better than that, and I believe we owe it to these people to show them the best we have to offer, not the worst. If an entertainment district bill passes, I hope city leaders will take a stand and say no to the River Market becoming such a district.
Debra S. Wood, owner
River Market ArtSpace
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