by Max Brantley
A check of the mail turns up items of interest:
* SAVING LIVES: A friend sends a link to a story from Iowa, where the presence of an automated external defibrillator was credited with saving the life of a shopper who'd collapsed in the store. Nationwide, states have moved toward laws to encourage and protect use of the devices in public places. Friends comment: "Hell of a lot more likely to save someone in a church,say, than a handgun, I would wager."
* GROUP HOMES: A reader suggests attention to a Little Rock Planning Commission at 3:30 p.m. today which is scheduled to discuss group homes in residential neighborhoods. The note, in part:
Jack Fryer Jr., as a representative for AROX LLC, has a plan approved by the Planning Commission to house seven (7) drug/alcohol felons at 101 N. Plaza, one block from Park Plaza Mall. 101 N Plaza — at Markham — is a house at the southwest corner of land bordered by McKinley on the east. It has a pool that needs some repair, and sold for $65k. [Fryer is the representative for Oxford House, which would operate the facility.]
Approved by Planning Commission January 10, 2013, after some opposition:
He is apparently confident that the Little Rock Board of Directors will approve this plan, since the location is already published on the Oxford House web site.
...Fryer first attempted acquisition of the former nursing home near the former Julie's Place, and then successfully acquired 102 N. Brookside Dr.
The note laments that the Hillcrest Residents Association hasn't weighed in on the plan (though you'll see fro the link that a number of neighbors opposed the special use permit to expand the permitted number of unrelated occupants in a single-family house from four to seven). The writer further raises a fear that group homes are part of a long-range plan to devalue residential neighborhoods and thus make them ripe for commercial development. That strikes me as a stretch. But Little Rock and other cities are likely to have only more, not fewer, debates about the presence of group homes in residential neighborhoods, particularly with the move to reduce prison populations by moving people to community settings — halfway houses, group homes and the like. Fair housing laws present impediments to arbitrary refusal of rehab homes. But, in this case, the city went farther than it had to go over wishes of residents. The planning staff made the case that it was reasonable before the 6-3 approval vote. The notes are worth a read in this case and as a prelude for the future.
* HELPING COLLEGE KIDS: The University of Texas comes up with a plan to reward students for speedier progress toward degree completion with enhanced scholarships and loan forgiveness. This is the idea driving at least one of the programs for reshaping awards under the (dwindling) Arkansas lottery scholarship program.