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Smart Talk April 28

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The tourism dollar We think we’ve seen some changes in Arkansas tourism advertising of late, with spots asserting that there are things to DO in Arkansas — shop, eat, hear music, etc. This would be in contrast with the historic preference of gorgeous Buffalo River and lake vistas. (Really, once you’ve walked to that famous crag overlooking the Buffalo, then what?) The biggest producer of revenue for the tourism trust fund, a 2 percent sales tax on tourism-related businesses such as hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, gives a pretty good idea of where visitors go. (Many, of course, are business travelers, not strictly tourists.) Consider the top five counties in 2004 collections of the tourism tax, with how that number compared with 2003: Pulaski $2.2 million +13% Garland $925,000 +16% Washington $839,000 +14% Benton $677,000 -11% Carroll $431,000 +4% Worth noting: Those five counties, with more than $5 million in collections, account for more than half the $9.3 million collected statewide. Sparing the rod ?The Rogers School Board voted last week to ban corporal punishment in the schools. It had already been all but discontinued in the district. The Morning News report on the decision said, in fact, that most Northwest Arkansas districts discourage or prohibit corporal punishment. Could that be true? Has the most conservative part of Arkansas forsaken the paddle? If you define Northwest Arkansas as Washington and Benton Counties, the statement turns out to be essentially correct, according to Randy Cox, a Little Rock social worker who has been a tireless advocate for ending corporal punishment. According to his compilation of state Education Department figures: • There were 149 paddlings of the 28,809 students in the eight school districts in Benton County in 2003-2004, or an average of one for every 193 students. (All but five of the paddlings, by the way, were in Gravette and Gentry schools.) • There were 37 paddlings of the 29,401 students in the nine school districts in Washington County in 2003-2004, or one for every 794 students. But kids in surrounding counties should not presume they are equally safe from beatings. According to Cox’s figures: Franklin County educators beat 582 kids in 2003-04, or 1 in 6; Johnson, 542, or 1 in 8; Newton, 135, or 1 in 9; Crawford, 1,101, or 1 in 10; Madison and Carroll, 162 and 262, or 1 in 17, and Boone, 262, or 1 in 23. Assume the position, hill kids. WM3 Day Now there’s a “day” for the West Memphis Three, the young men convicted of killing three West Memphis children in 1993. People who believe the WM3 were wrongly convicted have planned a World Awareness Day for them July 23, with events already scheduled in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles, not to mention Sydney, Australia, and McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Nothing in Arkansas, so far. The coming year is expected to be critical in continuing legal appeals. All proceeds from the awareness day will help the legal defense fund. Check to keep up with the case.

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