Direct democracy goes well with liquor
Appropriate that this weirdly wet summer might birth the amendment that ends dry counties in Arkansas. Last week, the secretary of state's office announced that the organization Let Arkansas Decide had turned in enough signatures to place before voters an item to allow retail alcohol sales in all counties statewide: over 87,000 verified so far, with others being counted.
Arkansas is one of the few remaining states with a significant number of dry counties. Earlier this summer, local petitions to end the alcohol ban in Faulkner and Craighead counties failed to gather the requisite number of signatures, but no matter: If voters approve on Nov. 4, this statewide vote would supersede those efforts. That sounds like the End Times to certain evangelical teetotalers and the big county line liquor stores that currently sop up all the weekend beer business from thirsty students from ASU, UCA and Hendrix (among tens of thousands of other dry county Arkansans). To most of the rest of us, it just sounds like modernity.
Seems like the news lately is filled with stories of law enforcement misusing its authority in ways big and small. There's the Mayflower officer who falsely accused a local woman, Melissa Brown, of skimming items from relief supplies she'd gathered for the town's tornado victims, which may or may not have been related to the fact that Brown was once romantically involved with the cop's son. Brown spent a night in jail and had her truck impounded before the charges were dropped; the officer was fired.
Then there's Jonesboro, where now-former police Chief Mike Yates took to Facebook to post a series of defamatory comments about police beat reporter Sunshine Crump of the Jonesboro Sun, including the memorable line, "dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the 'clean end.'" Of the paper itself, Yates wrote, "I intend to help that ship sink ... torpedoes away!" Crump quit her job, saying she felt intimidated by the comments, and the paper called for Yates to be fired. The mayor of Jonesboro suspended Yates for 30 days without pay and ordered the chief to apologize to the Sun; instead, Yates resigned last week (sans apology). Crump returned to work soon after.
The National Bar Association, a group of black lawyers and judges, is targeting Little Rock and 24 other cities around the country in search of evidence of disproportionate use of force against unarmed black and Latino individuals. The group is requesting police records of misconduct and brutality, and will submit its findings to the U.S. Justice Department.
This is why we can't have nice things
The sculpture garden in Riverfront Park was ripped off yet again, with $30,000 worth of art stolen by thieves — including a portion of one bronze piece called "Conversation With Myself" that's been taken twice before in 2010 and 2012. Over the weekend, however, a couple out for a walk by the river found the sculptures lying in bags in the park. Was their return prompted by a guilty conscience? An unexpectedly disinterested pawnbroker? Or was the whole thing a piece of subtly incisive aesthetic commentary? We'll never know.
The eternal hot button
Last Friday, anti-abortion activists held a rally at the state Capitol to pressure U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor into supporting a federal law to prohibit abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Arkansas passed a 20-week ban in 2013, over the objections of Gov. Mike Beebe, who pointed out (rightly) that the bill runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court. As a Christian and a Southern Democrat in a neck-and-neck race, the abortion issue puts Pryor in an especially tough position — but it's a moot point, as the federal bill is going nowhere.