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First things first

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First things first

A secretive sale of Little Rock park land has been called off, and the Little Rock Board of Directors can now approach the issue by way of the front door, rather than trying to sneak through an unguarded window in back.

Ray Winder Field sits abandoned in War Memorial Park. There's been ample time since the Arkansas Travelers moved out for city officials to deliberate publicly on the best use of the Ray Winder property, including the possibility of selling it.

Instead of this grave deliberation, the city manager invited proposals from outside City Hall (Why should city directors have to make these decisions?), and appointed a special committee to consider them. He acted, he said, after certain “parties” had expressed interest in the property. Three proposals were submitted. Two of them, one for amateur baseball and one for expansion of the zoo, were suitable for park property. The third, allowing the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to buy the land and use it as a parking lot, was audaciously inappropriate. This is the proposal that the special committee embraced, quickly and privately, and recommended to the Board. Happily, the fast-flying train was derailed when the city attorney found legal flaws in the way the matter had been handled.

The proper course for the board now, as Director Brad Cazort has pointed out, is to hold full and frank and open discussions of whether park property should ever be sold — many residents think the city should be buying, not selling — and then adopt a policy, and then take up the matter of the Ray Winder property specifically. In the interest of better government, the Board might  allow the city Parks Commission a voice this time around. The commission was frozen out of the earlier process.

To Mayor Mark Stodola, who aspires to be the strong mayor that Little Rock has lacked, we commend the words of Casey Laman, who mayored long and strong in North Little Rock. Laman used to say that the biggest part of his job was protecting Burns Park. A mayor who allows city park land to be sold for parking lots will not be remembered for strength. He will be remembered.

 

Intolerant, dishonest and discourteous as ever, anti-abortionists have rammed another repressive bill through the legislature, this one proscribing “partial-birth abortion.” “Partial-birth abortion” is a made-up term, so it's unclear exactly what the bill will do, except cause more suffering for women. Professional athletes beat up wives and girlfriends, as well as waitresses and women standing in  check-out lines. Legislators pass laws, a subtler form of abuse.

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