When the city of Little Rock announced last week that it would install video cameras in the River Market as an anti-crime measure, we wondered if it couldn't install at least one as a pro-life measure — that is, to detect and bring to justice the hordes of red-light runners and illegal turners at the infamous intersection of Markham, Cumberland, La Harpe and Clinton. Thousands of pedestrians, both visitors and Little Rockers, risk death crossing these lawless streets every day. But City Manager Bruce Moore told us that state law prohibits the use of video cameras to catch traffic violators, though many other cities do so quite effectively. We remembered a controversy in 2001 when the city had spoken of putting video cameras at intersections. The suggestion was violently opposed by those who believe that your right to drive however you want outweighs the other guy's right to not be run over. The city abandoned the camera idea. It cannot be revived because in 2005, the legislature approved a bill “to prohibit the use of automated enforcement devices to enforce traffic laws.” The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett. Traffic is not much of a problem at Crossett.
UALR eyes cuts
An article in this week's Times looks at the discontinuation of the urban design program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Other programs are being looked at as well, Dean Deborah Baldwin confirms.
“We're in a state of transition on a number of fronts,” Baldwin said. In her school — of arts, humanities and social sciences — UALR may not be producing enough art history majors and German studies minors to satisfy new “program viability” standards established last year by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
The new standards average graduation rates over three years. Universities may offer whatever majors they wish, but won't get state funding for hours in programs that don't produce the minimum number of graduates.
“If we choose to delete a major,” David Belcher, provost and vice-chancellor at UALR, said, “we will take care of any student in that predicament.” No decision will be made any time soon, he said. The state is not due to respond to school reports until January 2010.
A captain with more than 30 years experience with the Arkansas Department of Correction was fired at the end of April for allegedly stealing tobacco that had been seized from inmates and placed in an evidence locker. According to prison spokesman Dina Tyler, Capt. Larry Johnson, who had a key to the evidence closet, changed the angle of a security camera monitoring the closet, removed the seized tobacco, then gave it to “a few hand-picked inmates to sell to other inmates.” As a captain, Johnson does not have a right to appeal his firing. Tyler said the ADC is cooperating with the State Police on possible criminal charges. In addition, Tyler said another captain resigned in relation to the incident and a sergeant was fired for making false statements during the investigation. The sergeant has appealed.
Death Row smuggling
In another, more recent state prison incident, a visitor to a man on Death Row visitor was reportedly caught “trying to bring in 48 tattoo needles, a box cutter, a pocket knife and a pair of large tweezers, which had been honed to extremely sharp points and concealed in a ball point pen casing.” Tyler said the knife and box cutter were on the visitor's key ring, while the tattoo needles were hidden inside a Doritos bag, “which had obviously been tampered with.”
According to Tyler, “The visitor claimed she just forgot about the knife and the box cutter and that she grabbed the pointed tweezers by mistake. She also claimed she had taken the Doritos bag out a vending machine in the entry building [but] that particular kind of Doritos was not for sale in any of the machines.” This attempted breach of security has also been reported to the State Police for a criminal investigation. Tyler said she will release the name of the visitor if she is charged.
Prepping for battle
State Rep. Dan Greenberg of Little Rock used an “Arkansas Tea Party” gathering this week to announce, as expected, that he'll seek term-limited Democratic Sen. Shane Broadway's Senate seat in 2010. The district covers parts of western Pulaski and Saline Counties. Former state Rep. Jeremy Hutchinson of Little Rock and former Republican Party Chair Dennis “What we need is another 9/11” Milligan of Bryant also are considering a GOP race. Term-limited State Rep. Dawn Creekmore, a Democrat, is expected to move a few miles from her current home into the district to run. Also lurking is former state Rep. Dwight Fite of Benton, who's said if he does run it will not be as a Democrat as before, but as a Republican or independent. The good news: All but one of them will lose.