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The Insider Jan. 27 

Midtown inaction It’s hard not to notice the distinct lack of construction activity at the northeast corner of Markham and University. Dallas-based Strode Property Company initially said they’d have an open-air shopping center open by this summer on the site, complete with a Pottery Barn. They’re not returning our calls, but word on the street is that Strode may be having problems securing tenants. (Not surprising, given that at least two other planned shopping centers — also pre-construction at this point — are out there wooing similar potential tenants.) A city planning official confirms that Strode hasn’t applied for building permits. Scott Smith, spokesman for contractor CDI, says they’re not sure what the holdup is. Hospital collections ACORN is upset over the debt collection policies of St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center and has asked for a meeting with St. Vincent officials to discuss new collection policies and the forgiving of debts owed by low- and moderate-income people. In a letter to Stephen Mansfield, president and CEO of St. Vincent, ACORN said, “We are alarmed by the large volume of lawsuits filed by your organization every week to collect money from under-insured, low-income citizens in Central Arkansas.” A spokesman for St. Vincent said the problem cited by ACORN was industry-specific, not just a St. Vincent problem. She said that St. Vincent was discussing the matter with the Arkansas Hospital Association and that “we will respond as an industry.” Classroom cred Historians have raised their eyebrows at some of the requirements listed in the ad seeking applicants for a new director of the state History Commission. Dr. John Ferguson recently retired reluctantly from the post after more than 40 years at work. Two points noted: 1) The applicant “must have a propensity to relate to state legislature.” 2) “The person selected must have been granted a doctoral degree in the field of history by a duly accredited institution of higher education, or the commission may select a person who, as determined by the commission, has the equivalent of a doctoral degree. “ Our emphasis. Will the wiggle room on a doctoral degree allow the selection of a politically connected director? That concern may be prompted by the fact that at least one current commissioner, Bob Black, an OBU graduate, Baptist preacher and high school history teacher, was once interested in the job. Black, however, told us during the controversy over Ferguson’s departure that he’d decided his position left him with a conflict in seeking the post.
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