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Web-surfing Clinton Avenue

Progress is being made to provide free wireless Internet service in the River Market neighborhood.

The Arkansas Young Professionals Network is in talks with Aristotle about providing free Wi-Fi services to the River Market pavilions, Riverfront Park and eventually all of the commercial district along President Clinton Avenue and a couple of blocks of Markham Street to the Peabody Hotel.

Phase one would make the River Market pavilions, the Riverfest Amphitheatre and the surrounding park “hot,” or Wi-Fi friendly. This phase could be completed at the end of July if everything falls into place, said Aristotle president Elizabeth Bowles. According to Bowles, the company is awaiting electrical hook-ups and other technical support that the city must supply before her team can begin attaching antennas on rooftops and poles to spread the wireless signal. Once installed, the system would provide Internet connectivity to anyone equipped with a laptop and wireless card. Aristotle installed an Internet hot spot in April in Dickey-Stephens Park, home of the Arkansas Travelers.

Based on a tentative three-year contract, AYPN would foot the $195-per-month bill for the circuit, installation and maintenance of the first phase. AYPN spokesperson William Porterfield said that the group has not yet agreed to contractual terms with Aristotle and that while AYPN hopes to bring this “signature project” into fruition, the group still must decide if it can afford to do so.

Phase two, which Bowles said could be completed in October, would see the network expanded to include the park area behind the Peabody and near a rail bridge that is being converted for pedestrian use. The final phase is the length of the Clinton Avenue commercial strip. Each phase would mean an increase in the monthly cost.

A tree grows in LR

Let there be greenery. That could be the motto of the Little Rock Urban Forestry Division. It has a program to offer grants of up to $2,500 for neighborhood and property owner associations and nonprofits to plant trees this fall on city easements, in parks and on other ground controlled by the city. The city also has a small tree farm with nearly 500 trees ready for harvest for replanting. You must match grants with cash or volunteer time, supplies and additional landscaping. Call Parks and Recreation at 371-4770 and ask for forester Peter Rausch.

Drug folly continues

More evidence that the “war on drugs” isn’t working, despite the monstrous sums spent on it, comes from the Drug Policy Education Group, headquartered in Fayetteville. Using new data provided by the Arkansas Crime Information Center, DPEG found that the number of reported drug arrests in Arkansas increased from 13,377 in 2003 to 14,745 in 2004 and 15,039 in 2005. If the drug war were being won, the number of arrests would be falling, not rising, of course.

(The number of arrests would be even higher were it not that 14 counties and more than 30 cities didn’t report drug arrests in 2005. Most of these counties and cities are lightly populated, and their reports would not greatly affect the total. But counties like Pope and cities like Hot Springs, Russellville, Malvern, Clarksville and Alma are big enough that their data would be significant.)

Marijuana accounts for the largest group of drug arrests, by far – 6,264, or 42 percent, in 2005.

According to DPEG, “At least 40 percent of tax dollars supporting law enforcement and judicial systems in Arkansas are being spent on minor marijuana possession of less than one ounce.”

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