On point on horseracing
High marks for letter writer Carl Buchanan (Feb. 5) for reminding everyone of the sad truth about horseracing and Oaklawn. The horses involved are pawns in a cruel game. Whether money makes horseracing go round, take a guess. And if you're among those raring to run yourself silly around an oval track while being whipped, get in line, for goshsakes, if you can find one.
Regarding the mantra of a neighbor who wears himself out handicapping that racehorses are well cared for, that ain't no matter. The risk of injury and death is the thing. Jockeys are in the same boat; they ought to have better sense. That the money horseracing revolves around provides an income for a myriad of people, there's always something to do of at least a little social importance, hauling scrap metal included.
Best of all for my part, I move we say goodbye and good riddance to horseracing sooner rather than later, and then hang our heads in shame forevermore. This means you, too. Especially if you throw even a nickel to Oaklawn.
Cotton the TV personality
I can't fathom how we, in Arkansas, continue to elect knuckle-dragging, war-mongering Republicans like Tom Cotton. He's allegedly well educated (Dardanelle to Harvard). Where is the disconnect?
I think he must be like O'Reilly, Maddow or Limbaugh: an entertainer who we mistakenly elected to political office. Who can take him serious?
Lee for president
Why doesn't the state legislature just pass a bill declaring Robert E. Lee to be a former president so we can all celebrate his birthday on President's Day along with the rest of the lot? I'm sure there would be some legal gymnastics to go through but that shouldn't stop the group of acrobats we currently have under the Capitol dome. It really wouldn't be that much of a stretch. After all, Lee was president of some little Division III school someplace in Virginia ... . Go Generals.
Create jobs, save on prisons
The major issue yet to come before the legislature is prison overcrowding. Before voting to spend $100 million to build another prison, and the $30 million-$40 million annual cost to staff it and supply it with groceries, please consider what has caused the crime problem in Arkansas, and possible remedies to reduce it that do not involve building another prison.
I believe that past regulatory and legislative actions are responsible for much of today's crime problems, and repealing or modifying those past decisions may be a less expensive and more effective method of solving much of the problem.
Recent reports show that youth unemployment statewide in Arkansas is around 37 percent. Teens with jobs rarely get into trouble with the law, but those with too much idle time on their hands and no hope for an entry-level job often do. Theft, burglary, gang activity, assault and drug dealing are often the result. Senior citizens are not going into the criminal justice system in record number, the youth of Arkansas are, particularly the black youth.
We didn't have this problem back in the 1970s, but shortsighted changes in regulatory policy, pushed forward by a couple of special interest group lobbying efforts, might be to blame. At one time any teenager could get a part-time job at the neighborhood service station after school and on the weekends pumping gas, washing windshields, doing minor repairs, oil changes, etc., and then came the repeal of fire safety ordinances and self-service fueling came on the scene. Some of those jobs disappeared. Later in the early '80s the beer and convenience store lobby mounted a major effort to repeal the regulation that prohibited the sale of alcohol wherever motor fuels were sold in Arkansas, and this regulation was eliminated as well and beer sales permits began being issued to gas stations in the 35 or so wet counties of Arkansas, but unlike the liquor store permits (which are limited in number by county population) there was no limit placed on the number of beer stores that could be licensed in these wet counties. Since that time somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 beer outlets have been licensed in the wet counties, and most of them will no longer allow anyone on their payroll under the age of 21. As a result, I would guess that the rate of youth unemployment in the wet counties might be double the rate in the dry counties (where employers have no reason not to employ folks under 21). The crime rate in these counties may be producing the majority of the candidates for those badly needed prison beds.
Within 10 years of this repeal of the "no beer in gas stations" regulation, the violent crime rate in Pulaski County got enough national attention that HBO produced the "Bangin' in the Rock" documentary featuring our Pulaski County coroner. If I remember correctly, in one of the scenes a gang-banger remarked, "All we need are jobs!" Yet since that time nothing has been done to create them. Why can't limits be placed on the number of beer outlets in each county? Why are these convenience stores permitted to be operated in dangerous areas of town with only one person on duty, unable to provide any service to disabled motorists as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act? How many more clerks will be shot, workers' children orphaned, or citizens caught interrupting an armed robbery before something is done by the legislature that apparently does not want to ruffle the feathers of the special interest groups causing the problem and not caring a whit about either their employees' or the public's safety?
Voters expect you to come up with solutions, not to just throw money at the problem (particularly when new or higher taxes may be necessary). Are you in favor of job creation? Here is a possible solution over time that will not require any new taxes or higher rates. Two states have banned self-service fueling: Oregon and New Jersey. They have learned that plentiful job opportunities for teens in their communities will pay off in the long run. It is long past time to start ruffling the feathers of the special interest groups that have caused the problem.
North Little Rock