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Good week: City of Little Rock

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It was a good week for...

THE CITY OF LITTLE ROCK. The two proposals for a total of a penny sales tax increase passed with the nearly identical percentages of 54 percent for and 46 percent against. Analysis of voting precincts reveals that prosperous people from oldline neighborhoods like the Heights and Hillcrest almost single-handedly outvoted lower income people in South Little Rock. In a news conference the day after the election, Mayor Stodola said he was making "solemn commitment to stand true to our word" about how the new tax dollars would be spent and was "committed to transparency." He repeated that he would appoint a citizens' committee to oversee the expenditures and "provide an extra layer of trust" for citizens.

FALL. The high last Friday in Little Rock was 64 and a record. That would be one of our favorite records — a record low high, against the previous coolest high for the date (in 1949) of 68.

CINEPHILES. The Little Rock Film Festival announced a promising schedule for its new monthly Argenta Film Series, where national and international directors and actors will screen and discuss films. It's one of several new initiatives the popular LRFF is undertaking (more on page 54).

It was a bad week for...

ERNIE PASSAILAIGUE. The embattled lottery director resigned without explanation on Monday. Passailaigue had been credited with a speedy startup of a lottery that met revenue targets for the college scholarship program, but he was also bedeviled by a variety of operational issues, including his high pay ($324,000), comp time extended to him and other high-paid lottery officials, high-dollar contracts and punitive IRS fines of near $100,000. Julie Baldridge, who had been chief spokesman for the lottery, will serve as interim director while the commission searches for a permanent replacement.

DENNY ALTES. How about a little influence peddling? Altes, a Fort Smith Republican state representative, called the state Court of Appeals chief deputy and told her he was a legislator and would "hold somebody's budget up" if the state's unemployment benefit system wasn't "fixed," according to a Democrat-Gazette article. Altes' son's business has an unemployment benefit contest pending before the state Court of Appeals.

THE STATE'S UNEMPLOYED. Arkansas's unemployment rate in August was 8.3 percent, up from 8.2 percent the month before and ever closer to the national rate of 9.1 percent.

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