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Riverfest calls it quits

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Quote of the week

"I think it would not be the right path for us to repeal Obamacare without laying out a path forward. I think when we repeal Obamacare, we need to have the solution in place moving forward. ... I do not think we can just repeal Obamacare and say we'll give the answer two years from now."

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton in January on MSNBC. On Tuesday, the day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded that a Senate bid to repeal and replace Obamacare would not be successful, Cotton said on the "Hugh Hewitt Show" on radio that he would vote for repeal — to take effect in two years — without a replacement. Cotton, who was one of the 12 Republicans who met in secret to craft the Senate repeal-and-replace bill, had refused to make public his position on the bill.

Cotton targets legal immigration

More from Cotton: He's working with President Trump aide Stephen Miller on legislation to slash legal immigration to the United States, Politico reports. Later this summer, Cotton and Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) plan to introduce a law that would, by 2027, cut the number of legal immigrants entering the country by half. Around 1 million immigrants enter the country annually. "Sen. Cotton knows that being more deliberate about who we let into our country will raise working-class wages, which is why an overwhelming majority of Americans support it. He and Sen. Perdue are working with President Trump to fix our immigration system so that instead of undercutting American workers, it will support them and their livelihoods," said Caroline Rabbitt, a Cotton spokeswoman told Politico.

Riverfest calls it quits

The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced Tuesday that the festival has been suspended indefinitely. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June, but this year's rain-soaked festival lost almost $300,000. At its height, the festival drew 250,000 people to Riverfront Park in Little Rock. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers' fees for the decision. 

"The industry has just changed," DeAnna Korte, the nonprofit festival's longtime executive director, said. When Snoop Dogg headlined the festival in 2012, his rate was $75,000, Korte said. In advance of this year's festival, the rapper wanted upward of $300,000. Riverfest's budget this year for some 30 bands was $850,000. Streaming music's massive cut into album sales revenue has contributed to skyrocketing performer costs, Korte said. 

Korte said she expected people to question the festival's decision to move from Memorial Day weekend to early June and to move away from nostalgia acts. That transition came in 2016, following a $200,000 loss in 2015 and significant losses the four previous years. In 2016, Riverfest spun off the family-friendly Springfest and made Riverfest a music-only event with a lineup that included Chris Stapleton, Juicy J, Grace Potter and The Flaming Lips — at an increased ticket price.

Riverfest broke even in 2016. "We felt like the changes we made were heading in the right direction," Korte said. Advanced tickets were selling better than last year's before a bad weather forecast came out, Korte said. 

Deseg saga continues

The prospect of a dramatic conclusion to school desegregation issues in Pulaski County emerged Friday and then blew up 72 hours later.

A joint motion asking for a delay in the trial was filed in a pending lawsuit over racial discrimination in the quality of facilities in the Little Rock School District. The motion, joined by attorneys for the Pulaski County Special School District (not a party in the case), said talks were underway on a settlement of remaining issues in both the Little Rock case and the separate PCSSD desegregation case by lawyers including John Walker for black families and Allen Roberts of Camden, representing the Pulaski district.

A settlement would end all school litigation. But it would also clear the way for the state Board of Education to consider something it has favored: a change in boundary lines in the PCSSD to a district south of the Arkansas River combined with Little Rock, and some different alignment north of the river ranging from three to five districts where Pulaski, North Little Rock and Jacksonville now exist as separate districts.

This brought unhappiness to a boil on the PCSSD board and a special meeting at press time about suggesting that Superintendent Jerry Guess no longer employ Allen Roberts. That, in turn, might prompt Guess to reconsider his own role as superintendent. He wrote the school board Monday saying he sensed a loss of confidence and said he and Roberts were prepared to depart if that was the case.

The Pulaski district has regained local control, passed a construction tax, fixed finances and undertaken a major construction program under Guess, with Roberts' help, and made progress on getting out of the desegregation lawsuit. But that isn't good enough for some school board members, particularly those loathe to find themselves hooked up with the majority black Little Rock School District.

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