Quote of the Week
"When we start having bridges collapse and people killed, then we'll start funding highways."
— Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) talking about what it would take for the Arkansas Legislature to raise revenue for highway improvement during a panel discussion at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's Arkansas Rural Development Conference, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. During the recent legislative session, Douglas failed to get approval for a bill that would have referred to the ballot a vote on a 6.5 percent sales tax on fuel prices to pay for a bond issue to raise money for highways.
A fire that began before midnight Monday destroyed Cotham's, the venerable mercantile store-turned-restaurant in the farming community of Scott.
The cause wasn't known at press time. The 100-year-old business has been famous in its recent history, since the mid-1980s, for hubcap-sized burgers and fried catfish, served amid the shelving and bric-a-brac of a country store. The restaurant inspired a city version of the restaurant near the Capitol.
Lawsuit filed over prisoner's death in private prison
A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed last week in the 2015 death of Michael Sabbie, a prisoner in the for-profit Bi-State Justice Center in Texarkana.
Sabbie, who was jailed on a misdemeanor domestic threatening charge in Texarkana, Ark., died after complaining repeatedly to jailers that he was having difficulty breathing. Criminal investigations resulted in no charges.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Texarkana, Texas.
The case has drawn attention for reasons that include operation of the bi-state facility by the private LaSalle Corrections. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed interest in expanding use of private correctional management companies, reversing Obama administration policy.
Despite a record that detailed medical problems, the lawsuit alleges a variety of shortcomings in the handling of Sabbie, including a failure to make minimum checks on him.
New ABC director
Governor Hutchinson announced last week that he had named Mary Robin Casteel as interim director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
It was only the day before that resignations from the ABC were announced of Director Bud Roberts and the agency's two attorneys, Casteel and Milt Lueken.
Lueken, 73, said it was simply time for him to retire after 28 years, but he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette what the Arkansas Times been told by another ABC source: that the governor had asked for Roberts' resignation. The governor's press aide repeatedly denied this. Before the announcement of her appointment, the Times had asked Casteel if she'd return to the agency if asked and she indicated she wasn't sure, though she insisted she'd been thinking about a move to private practice for a long time. She said she'd had no problems with Roberts' leadership, a potential factor cited by another source.
Casteel has been pivotal in developing regulations the agency will use in overseeing the new medical marijuana law. Her resignation had been set to take effect June 16.
Huck leaves Fox
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is departing Fox for Trinity Broadcasting, where he'll have an hourlong weekly talk show filmed in Nashville, Tenn. TBN describes itself as the world's largest Christian network.
Presumably, we'll still get some bass-playing and Huck will continue his guided tours to the Holy Land. He was playing "Sweet Home Alabama" in Jerusalem just the other day.
The Tennessean says Huck will film in a new studio on Lower Broadway, along the city's honky-tonk strip. He's said he feels more attuned to Nashville values than New York and sought to have the show produced there.