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Hogs to continue at War Memorial 

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Note: The Arkansas Times went to press Tuesday before election results were known.

Hogs to continue at War Memorial

The Razorbacks will continue to play football games at War Memorial Stadium through 2024, according to the terms of a new agreement between the University of Arkansas and the state Department of Parks and Tourism, which controls the stadium. The Hogs will play the University of Missouri Tigers in 2019, 2021 and 2023 unless, the university said, "SEC scheduling necessitates playing another opponent." That game has typically been held the Friday after Thanksgiving. In intervening years, the team will play its Red-White intrasquad game in spring, pending SEC approval. The team will play Ole Miss this Oct. 13 at the stadium.

According to the contract, the state guarantees 47,000 tickets will be sold to Missouri games, with guaranteed revenue rising from $2.1 million to $2.5 million over the six-year period. The stadium gets concessions. It is allowed to sell Coca-Cola products, though the UA is otherwise a "Pepsi campus." The UA controls parking and revenue from it and the state will ask the city to cede control of the War Memorial Golf course for tailgating. The UA will pay the stadium $75,000 for use for the spring games if the off-campus games are approved by the SEC.

Rutledge continues to dodge on petitions

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has denied some 70 proposed ballot initiatives and approved none this election cycle. One of those proposals denied would change the sovereign immunity provision by adding the words "unless authorized by the General Assembly." The group behind the proposal, the Committee to Restore Arkansans' Rights, sued Rutledge in Pulaski County Circuit Court. The suit was later joined by other ballot groups.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen had ordered Rutledge to appear in his courtroom last week, but just before her scheduled appearance, Rutledge requested that the lawsuit be removed to federal court because she said it raised, among other things, a question of violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker had scheduled a hearing on that request for Thursday, May 24.

The question now is whether a removal to federal court essentially would put an end to any petition drives this election cycle. For petitions to be circulated, the attorney general must approve the wording and the proposals must be published by June 6, with petitions due the first week in July.

Alex Gray, an attorney for the plaintiffs, spoke to reporters last week. He said the plaintiffs will fight Rutledge's attempt to remove the case to federal court and predicted it would soon land back in state court. The attorney general's motion to move to a federal venue was an effort to "stonewall," he said.

"This was a procedural move by the attorney general's office. To say it's done in good faith is probably not an accurate statement. This is just an attempt to further delay Arkansans' right to petition for a constitutional amendment," Gray said. "Our claim is that the statute is unconstitutional, but we also claim the AG is acting unconstitutionally in the way she's applying it. I think it's pretty evident she doesn't want to have a hearing, she doesn't want to testify."

Kurrus throws in for mayor's race

Baker Kurrus, the former Little Rock School District superintendent, has announced he will run for mayor. Kurrus, 63, is a lawyer, business consultant and farmer, growing soybeans, rice, trees and other crops on a farm between Hazen and Des Arc. A longtime Little Rock School Board member, he won attention (and appreciation in many quarters) for a year spent as superintendent after the state takeover. He was fired by Education Commissioner Johnny Key for speaking forcefully against the proliferation of charter schools in the district. He also worked for a number of years managing automotive dealerships of the Rockefeller family and was a close adviser to the late Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller.

Kurrus, a Pine Bluff native who moved to Little Rock in 1980, said he'd received encouragement from friends to run and "I just finally decided it is time to step up if you want to help out."

He'll talk more about specifics later. He said his first step would be to pick up the city budget: "It's a great place to start." Yes, he'll talk about schools — the Little Rock District, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and UA Little Rock, all of which face challenges. "It's important for them to survive and thrive and I think the mayor has a role to play on this."

Kurrus spoke of an interest in the "problem-solving process" of government. But he said that wasn't in the context of form of government. Some have talked recently of an interest in changing the current blended city manager/mayor government form. "I'm running for the job that's out there. I think I can be effective in the form of government we have."

State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) and banker Frank Scott are also running. Mayor Mark Stodola has said he would not seek re-election.

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