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Opposition chugging

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More businesses in the River Market area are making it clear they don’t support an open container ordinance that would allow open-air drinking on President Clinton Avenue.

Already on the record against a bill the city included in its legislative package for the coming General Assembly is Debra Wood of River Market Artspace. Central Arkansas Library System director Bobby Roberts has said he’s not happy that the city didn’t consult with River Market enterprises before expressing support for the idea, and he’d like to see the bill amended to settle questions on cleanup and who could sell alcohol.

Now, Ten Thousand Villages and Connie Fails, operator of the Clinton Museum Store, have joined the opposition. Ten Thousand Villages, a free trade shop, issued a statement saying an entertainment district that allowed street drinking would discourage families and retail shoppers from the district, and Fails seconded it in an e-mail sent to city leaders and others interested in the neighborhood.

The final push

By now you may have heard that Bill Clinton is coming to Arkansas on Friday to rally Democrats to the polls. He will speak at a public event in Jonesboro between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jonesboro was picked because it fits with gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe’s schedule. It doesn’t hurt that it’s an area with a growing Republican vote and where some Democratic base stimulation could help in some hotly contested local legislative races. It’s the only Arkansas stop for Clinton, who’ll be all over the country for Democrats.

D-G ups and downs

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ semi-annual report on readership at American newspapers, most metro newspapers saw their circulation slip dramatically from a year ago, a continuing trend. Examples: 8 percent at the LA Times, 8.8 percent at the Miami Herald. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette managed to avoid similar losses, though its circulation was off slightly, too.

The ABC report found that Monday through Friday average daily circulation at the Democrat-Gazette was down .4 percent — 176,917 copies per day in 2005, compared with 176,172 this year. Average Sunday circulation at the D-G was down 1 percent — 273,408 last year, compared with 270,635 this year.

D-G vice president and general manager Paul Smith attributed the paper’s modest losses to private ownership, led by publisher Walter Hussman. Publicly owned papers, Smith said, have been hurt in recent years by stockholder demands to cut staff, resulting in fewer reporters and less news content. This results in a “cycle” Smith said, in which dwindling news causes circulation and profits to drop further, which in turn causes more stockholder demands for staff cuts. By contrast, Smith said the D-G has the staff to focus on local and state news, which helps keep circulation high.

Elsewhere in Arkansas, Stephens Media papers in Northwest Arkansas recorded small increases — from 37,072 to 37,840 at the Fort Smith Southwest Times Record and from 31,602 to 32,487 at the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.

Kicking in

Judge Lavenski Smith of Little Rock is one of more than two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush who contributed money to key Republican senators or to Bush himself while they were under consideration for their judgeships, according to an article by Salon and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Smith, former U.S. Attorney Thomas Gean of Fort Smith and U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins all contributed to the 2002 re-election campaign of Tim Hutchinson, then a U.S. senator from Arkansas. All contributed after they’d been recommended by Hutchinson and before they were nominated by Bush. Senators have a major role in the selection of U.S. judges and attorneys. Hutchinson was defeated by Mark Pryor. Smith is now a judge on the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis and Cummins is the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Arkansas. Gean served as U.S. attorney for the western district. He has left office.

Smith gave $1,000, the legal maximum, to Hutchinson. Apparently, it was Smith’s first contribution to a candidate for federal office since 1990. Candidates for federal judicial office are not prohibited from making political contributions, although many people think it’s inappropriate. Sitting judges are prohibited from contributing.

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