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Serving homeless

by and


A recent letter to the editor criticized the location of a breakfast center for the hungry and homeless in a storefront at 1307 W. Markham St.

The basic argument was that it should be in the neighborhood of the volunteers, not in the Salvation Army/Train Station neighborhood. The basic answer is that services for the hungry need to be where the hungry are. A second answer is that the West Markham address is much more commercial and institutional than residential.

A second complaint was that the hungry are not “down-on-their-luck…looking for an honest job” but “crackheads, schizophrenics and psychotics…turned loose on the streets without medication.” From several years of face-to-face conversations and breaking bread with the hungry, I observe that 98 percent are not crackheads and are “looking for an honest job.” While a very small percentage of those have mental problems, getting them food and medication is more humane than chasing them away.

There was a third comment about a young son and “common decency.” One of the organizers of the Helping Hands for the Hungry and Homeless took her young granddaughter down to observe and mingle with the hungry as a learning exercise about compassion and decency. The young girl said she learned that hungry people were nice people.

Most of the world’s religions and cultures have some subscription to the grand idea: Feed the hungry/help the needy/love your neighbor — of all flavors and capabilities. The 30 or so volunteers are practicing that. The hungry appreciate this. Many are practicing helping each other.
Concerned and caring neighbors (and others) are welcome to drop into 1307 W. Markham any weekday morning 8-8:30. They will meet some delightful and interesting people. They might learn something.
Robert Johnston
Little Rock

The West Memphis Three

Like Jason Baldwin [Letters, March 30], I found strange Gov. Mike Huckabee’s comment that suggested he’d received no questions from Arkansans about the case of the West Memphis Three, convicted in the slayings of three children. There are thousands of people here in Arkansas disturbed and concerned about the case. If he will give the time and place he would like to meet us, we will all be there with our questions.

The governor went on to state that he hasn’t seen any evidence “that hasn’t already been checked out by the proper authorities.” Any person with nominal critical thinking skills has to ask, “What evidence?” Governor Huckabee’s false or questionable presupposition is that there was evidence. And that raises the most alarming question of all. How could these three young men have been convicted without it?

The Innocence Project, founded in 1992, is a non-profit legal clinic and criminal justice resource center working to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and prevent wrongful convictions. It has helped exonerate 159 wrongly convicted prisoners across the country. The goal is to walk innocent people like Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jesse Misskelley out of prison. These are good men, probably better men than “the proper authorities” who put them there. DNA tests will prove that Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley were not the scary, evil agents of Satan they were portrayed by police, prosecutors, and the media in this case. The Arkansas criminal justice system was — and that is terrifying to contemplate.
Lanette Grate

Tax problem

So, has anyone else out there tried to pay their personal property taxes with any other computer than a Windows machine, and only a Windows machine running Internet Explorer 6?

It doesn’t work. Even Firefox, on Windows, doesn’t work. What that means is that your local government, by proxy, has decided to tell you that in order to pay your property taxes [on-line], you have to own a certain computer and run a certain piece of software. In the 21st century? Are you kidding me?

Linux users? Mac users? You’re out of luck. You don’t count. Hell, their e-mail response system even limits the number of characters you can use to ask them a question or send them a suggestion. Don’t ask too much, or they’ll cut you off: “Yes, we’d like your opinion, but in 500 characters or less, including spaces.” Better only have a short opinion or question.

These public servants — elected officials — made a choice to endorse a specific company’s products. I’m amazed; even the federal government makes its websites standards-compliant. The state of Arkansas’s website even works just fine.

I’m not usually one to complain like this, but I even sent an e-mail to Debra Buckner, Pulaski County treasurer, asking if there might be an upgrade that would include us, the lowly outsiders.
I didn’t get a response. Even one less than 500 characters.
Matthew Jones
Little Rock

McCord on immigrants

It was very disheartening to read Robert McCord’s article “Stemming the Tide,” March 30, in response to the recent immigration debate. I was left with one question. Has Mr. McCord ever known a so-called “illegal immigrant”? I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of undocumented Latino immigrants and the majority of them have been upstanding people who are contributing to our society. I have been inspired by their stories, their work ethic and their ability to persevere in difficult circumstances. I have volunteered in many health clinics and emergency rooms and have yet to see any overflowing due to immigrants — in fact they are often terrified to go for fear they may be turned in.

What most people don’t realize is that immigrants in general, including those who are undocumented, add a tremendous amount to our culture and economy. Many undocumented workers do indeed pay taxes, using false Social Security numbers, which just means the government gets to keep their refunds. More often than not, they are performing jobs that no American wants to do. The majority of undocumented workers come here in search of a better life, not to sell narcotics or “raise hell.” They come because they feel they have no other option to provide for their families. Would each of us not do the same?
Katherine Palm-Cruz
Little Rock

The undocumented would enter legally if they could. The truth is that the existing immigration laws provide little opportunity for Mexicans and other Latinos to secure a legal visa.

I don’t know of a plethora of colleges educating the undocumented over poor Americans. And yes, the undocumented do use hospitals and emergency rooms for primary care. So do over 45 million poor Americans who cannot afford health care.

Why exactly is it that the issue of immigration in Arkansas keeps coming down to Mexicans? True, there’s a lot of Latinos here, but they aren’t all Mexican and the immigrant community is not all Latino. Robert McCord states that Mexicans are selling drugs and “raising hell.” Some may be; so are members of every racial and ethnic group in this country.

The vast majority of immigrants are hard-working community members contributing positively to our society. They’re taxpayers and consumers. They believe that their contributions will earn them an opportunity to be a citizen, just like the immigrant communities before them.
Randi M. Romo
Little Rock

For testing

All too frequently I read in your paper various complaints about standardized testing and how it is not a good measure of how well our kids are being educated. Your paper seems dead set against merit pay for teachers based on how well their students perform on standardized tests, but you definitely want teachers to be better compensated.

I have also read in your paper how poor Arkansas schools are. Your writers rail against the quality of education in our schools, complain that our kids cannot compete because of that lack of quality, and that the future of our state is at stake. Something must be done, more money must be spent, the schools must be improved.

You may be able to see the punch line coming...
School performance data is based on information gathered from standardized tests. Since your paper doesn’t like standardized tests, and holds that they don’t provide good data about how well kids are educated or how well teachers perform, then the complaints your paper makes about the quality of education are defined by your own position as unfounded.

What makes this both entertaining and sad is that your paper makes the basic logical error of assuming the conclusion while destroying its own argument.

Perhaps your editorial board might consider what education means, what objective standards of educational achievement might look like and how we, as a society, might measure our children’s progress toward those standards in a meaningful, objective way. I would almost bet that the result of such consideration would look an awful lot like standardized tests.
Mark Evins

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