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Smart Talk April 13

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Holy history
Local preservation activists may fight the planned teardown of a former convent and community center across the street from St. Bartholomew’s church in Little Rock’s Central High School neighborhood.

Paul Dodds, who lives nearby, found out that the Catholic Diocese, which owns the property, wants to raze it. In an effort to save the building, he did some historical research and discovered it was dedicated in November 1925 as a convent and was later used as a school building and a community center. It served a parish that was founded in 1906 to “bring the colored population of Little Rock into the true fold of the Master,” according to the “History of Catholicity in Arkansas.” Dodds said the Central Little Rock Historic District Survey notes the structure is part of a church complex that “contributes to the historic and architectural fabric of the West End,” and he believes it has significance as an African-American landmark.

Mark Stodola, president of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, says the building is a “prime candidate” for consideration for this year’s list of “Most Endangered” historic buildings in the state. He intends to write a letter to the head of the diocese, Bishop J. Peter Sartain, urging him to reconsider his decision.

Dennis Lee, the chancellor for administrative affairs at the diocese, said, “There is not a definite timeline for when that building will be razed. But there have been decisions made that it’s in such a condition that financially it’s not good stewardship to put more money into that building.”

The one got away
The timing was ironic: On April 4, Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Homeland Security Department, was arrested in Maryland for allegedly trying to seduce a 14-year-old girl over the Internet. He was snared by a cop posing as a minor. That same day, one of Doyle’s former bosses at Homeland Security, Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson, issued a news release urging the Arkansas legislature to complete action (never in doubt anyway) on bills to get tough on sexual predators. Said Hutchinson’s news release: “While serving the Department of Homeland Security, Hutchinson oversaw one of the nation’s most intensive crackdowns on child predators, Internet child pornographers and human trafficking of children for purposes of sexual slavery. ‘Operation Predator’ as the crackdown was dubbed, was hailed nationwide ….” Probably even by press secretary Doyle.

P.S. It later developed that the former head of “Operation Predator” was arrested for exposing himself to a young girl.

The NLR Travelers
Hometown fans might not see it unless they show up early, but there’s been a slight change to the logo on the Arkansas Travelers’ new batting practice jerseys — but judging from some comments on the Times’ and other local blogs, it’s not going down well with everyone.

The new jerseys have an “N” sewn above the “LR” emblem on the chest and sleeve. It’s a nod to the location of the Travelers’ future home, General Manager Bill Valentine said.

“Somebody puts up $32 million, they deserve some recognition,” he said, referring to the sales tax increase North Little Rock voters approved to pay for the new ballpark.

But why make the change this year, when the Travs are still at Ray Winder Field in Little Rock? The team buys batting practice jerseys every three years, and this year was the one. Next year, when the team replaces its road jerseys — which also sport the “LR” logo — the “N” will be added there too.

Valentine said he’s been “absolutely inundated” with calls asking about the new “N,” but he’s “amazed” that people would be offended by the change.

“We’re still the Arkansas Travelers,” he said. “The reason we have ‘LR’ on the jersey is to designate where we are. When we move we will be in North Little Rock.”

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