Strolling with the oldies
Just in time for an autumn stroll, Oakland Fraternal Cemeteries in east Little Rock has a new walking tour that uses modern technology to bring visitors the history behind some of the more famous residents of the seven-cemetery complex. Visitors can pick up a map of the cemeteries from the sexton's office, dial a number on their cell phone, and hear a recorded tour guide tell about 80 influential figures who are buried there.
Started during the Civil War, the Oakland Fraternal Cemeteries now contain more than 32,000 graves, and some of the city's most elaborate Victorian grave markers. The recordings include interviews with descendants. Oakland promotions director Lakresha Diaz said some of the stories include the owner of what was once the largest illegal gambling house in Central Arkansas, numerous politicians and the notorious Tom Slaughter, a prison escapee, murderer and thief who was so infamous that after he was killed in 1921, 5,000 people showed up to view his body and souvenir hunters chipped away a good portion of his headstone.
Opposition continues to land swap
The North Little Rock City Council last week, with Mayor Pat Hays breaking a tie, approved a swap of four city land parcels for the old Rye Furniture property. Hays hopes to see private developers build a hotel there and he'd have the city build a parking deck with school tax money, parking fees and as yet unidentified other sources.
Approval of the deal didn't end Wyndham Hotel owner Frank Fletcher's opposition. He doesn't want to see the city subsidize a parking deck for a next-door neighbor and told columnist Max Brantley recently that he might mount a referendum campaign to overturn the deal. After the vote, he said in an e-mail: "The time we would sponsor a referendum would be if the city voted to spend city money to build a parking deck for a private developer." Fletcher said he didn't expect the hotel plan to come together and "the developers simply got the City to take a dead building off their hands in exchange for 4 good parcels of land they will develop one at a time or sell to other developers."
Eyeless in the sky
The Hope School District has spent $540,000 in federal stimulus money to put surveillance cameras in most classrooms for added safety and security. Superintendent Kenneth Muldrew admitted, however, that nobody is likely to be monitoring the cameras very often, rendering them largely valueless for immediate safety concerns. As yet, no word on whether Hope students will object to increased monitoring on a civil liberties basis. At one school in England (where use of surveillance cameras is ubiquitous) students staged a walkout until the cameras were removed.