Quote of the Week:
"The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."
— Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to Hillary Clinton at last week's Democratic presidential debate, defending his fellow candidate against the ongoing inquiry into the personal email server she used while secretary of state. CNN polling shows support for Clinton at 45 percent among Democrats, Sanders at 29 percent.
Public hearing on I-30 widening
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department will hold a public hearing on its $600 million plan to widen Interstate 30 to 10 lanes at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene, 116 S. Pine St., North Little Rock. So far, the idea has gotten a cool reception.
Members of Metroplan's Regional Planning Advisory Council had several questions for program manager Jerry Holder of Garver Engineers at their meeting last week. Primary among them: whether widening the interstate from U.S. Highway 67-167 in North Little Rock to Interstate 530 south of downtown wouldn't simply create bottlenecks on connecting highways and roads elsewhere. A Metroplan engineer commented that the project would require the widening of all of Central Arkansas's freeways to handle increased traffic, at an estimated cost of $4 billion.
Members also expressed concern that the project's new interchange south of the river — which would be the only exit into downtown Little Rock — would dismantle the River Rail trolley line to Heifer International and the Clinton Presidential Center, a $10 million project for which the AHTD would have to repay the federal government.
Supporters of public transportation — which has not been included in the AHTD plan — and downtown cohesiveness have been critical of the design. State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) issued a statement Tuesday saying he believed the project would "degrade the unique culture and economic development potential of the area."
When 3 = 4
The Arkansas Department of Education was forced to do some backtracking last week after it issued a news release that identified a score of 3 on PARCC (the standardized test used by public schools last spring) as being "on track for college and career readiness." However, according to PARCC's own definitions, a score of 3 indicates a student only "approached academic expectations," and a student must score a 4 to actually meet grade-level expectations.
The difference matters because only 28 percent of Arkansas students scored a 4 or above on PARCC, compared with 60 percent who scored a 3 or above. The Education Department chose to emphasize the latter, rosier figure ... until the Washington Post pointed out that Arkansas seemed to be moving its goal posts. An FOI request from the Arkansas Times showed that federal education officials had also expressed their disapproval with Arkansas. Education Commissioner Johnny Key then issued a statement saying that the previous release's characterization of a Level 3 as being on track "was in error."
Justice delayed for Tim Howard
Although a recent retrial resulted in a reduced sentence for Tim Howard, the former death row inmate remains in prison while the state Parole Board defers a decision on his release.
Howard was sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of Brian and Shannon Day and the attempted murder of their son in Little River County, but the trial was marred by evidence of prosecutor misconduct. A retrial this spring found Howard guilty of lesser charges of second-degree murder, and the new jury sentenced him to a total of 38 years in prison. Given the time he's already served, and the fact that he's had a perfect record of behavior behind bars, that should make him immediately parole-eligible in Arkansas — but the parole board is dragging its feet. On Monday, it said it needed another month to gather more information about the case, even though every conceivable fact has already been brought out in court, twice.
Huckabee's primary slide, by the numbers
Mike Huckabee continues to struggle to gain traction in the GOP presidential nominating contest, despite his off-kilter, shock-jock bids for attention. (Last week, he tweeted, "I trust @BernieSanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my Labrador! #DemDebate") Here's the state of affairs in Huck land:
2.8 percent — Huckabee's share of Republican support, according to the polling aggregator website Real Clear Politics.
$1.24 million — The money he raised last quarter, down from $2 million in the first quarter.
7th, 10th — Huckabee's rank among the crowded GOP field, in terms of polling and fundraising, respectively.