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Fighting hunger

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I was glad to read the Feb. 2 letter from Debra Alich, director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, who wrote in response to Dale Ingram’s excellent cover story on the anniversary of the Elaine food riots. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is the new kid on the block in anti-hunger work here; its members are the six food banks in the state that are part of the national organization called America’s Second Harvest. As executive director of the older Arkansas Hunger Coalition, I applaud AHRA for joining the fight.

However, since the field of hunger relief is only slightly less murky than the problem of hunger itself, let me clarify: the Arkansas Hunger Coalition is a statewide association of food banks, food pantries, gleaning organizations, government nutrition programs, soup kitchens, shelters, community gardeners, nutritionists, and community activists. Since 1994, when we formed as a nonprofit organization, we’ve been working to alleviate hunger through public education, advocacy and membership support. We receive some private donations, but our operating budget to date has come from federal Community Food and Nutrition funds — administered and overseen by the state Office of Community Services and the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association. Like a lot of other modest, worthy, un-sexy programs around the country, the Community Food and Nutrition program has been zeroed out in both the just-finalized 2006 federal budget and the newly proposed 2007 budget. We hope to continue the coalition’s activities with help from other sources.

Given the dwindling resources for this kind of activity, and the likelihood that cutbacks in human services will throw more families into distress, we’ll need as many organizations devoted to hunger relief as are willing to roll up their sleeves and get busy. So welcome, AHRA. Our work’s cut out for us.
Hope Coulter, Executive Director
Arkansas Hunger Coalition

Tax inequity
The average property tax on the owner of a home in Arkansas is one dollar per square foot of floor space. The average tax paid by big land developers on vacant and undeveloped land in western Pulaski County is less than 50 cents an acre, even while the price of vacant land out there ranges from $8,000 to $20,000 an acre.

Can there be any clearer inequity than that?

The U.S. Constitution protects all of us from unequal treatment under the law. As these figures prove, Amendment 59 to the state Constitution flouts that protection for the owners of homes and businesses in Arkansas.

Given the resulting exposure of water users in Central Arkansas to the enormous costs that will arise from the acquisition of the grossly undertaxed land in the Lake Maumelle watershed, the Central Arkansas Water utility has an obligation to challenge Amendment 59 in court on the ground that it denies equal treatment.

A fair court would strike down the law creating such injustices and also, I think, require the big real estate developers like Deltic Timber Corp. to either pay back taxes for 10 years based on the real market value of the land or else sell it to the water company at prices they certified that the land was worth when they went to the courthouse each year to value it for tax purposes.
Frank Lambright
Little Rock

Ozarks rock
The article by Jim Kelton, “Ozarks Rock,” in the Jan. 26 issue was excellent and much appreciated by many of us who were up there during the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Though I was disappointed with no mention of James Harvey “Mouse” Hockersmith (who introduced many a white boy to blues music, which he dearly loved) or outstanding rockers Billy Lafferty and Johnny Roberts, I have to say that I was more than pleased that Dayton Stratton got so much well-deserved ink.

Dayton was quite a man and those of us who are privileged to have fond memories of him and the Rockwood Club that he ran do appreciate the article. On a personal note, my best friend landed in jail one night (DUI) and it was up to me to bail him out. Dayton gave me (loaned it, actually, on a handshake) ) the night’s “take” from the Rockwood (in a cigar box, mostly singles) and I was able to get my buddy out in time to meet his girlfriend who was flying in to be with us for graduation. Dayton would be happy to know that those two are still together today. Good article. Invoked a lot of very good memories. Thanks.
Bill Brady
Little Rock

Best restaurants
In most cases, the public voted in your annual restaurant contest for establishments that are the best.

However, the pizza category, won by Damgoode Pies, left me a little cold. Do they serve apple, cherry and peach pies? Do they serve pizza with fruit?

My favorite pizza is made and served at Iriana’s. The cafe is packed at lunchtime like sardines and people come back every day. I know they didn’t get enough votes to be mentioned, but I know a certain fellow in your office who unequivocally, without any reservation, loves and eats only Iriana’s pizza.
Santo Formica

(Editor’s note: The editor will eat other pizzas, but it’s true that he prefers Iriana’s.)

When Jesus walked this earth, he left specific instructions to collect no treasure, to give our money to the poor and to love our enemies by treating them well. If our country has a treasury, thank someone other than Jesus. If our country has a lot of money, give it to the poor all over the world, because Jesus referred to the community as this world and beyond. If there are rich people in America, a camel can pass through the eye of a needle before Americans can trust the words of Jesus with their lives. It is much easier to acquire treasure than it is to achieve peace. No one trusts Jesus enough to extend a sincere olive branch to Osama, bring him to the U.S. and treat Osama the way Jesus instructed.

If the Apostle Paul is correct in Romans 13, the leaders of our country must be obeyed. In a democracy, the people are the leaders. Presidents and governors will receive power as they see fit. It is extreme blasphemy for a politician to claim his power is distributed by God.
Gene Mason

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