Quote of the Week
"I'm troubled by the statements that have been made by Donald Trump in terms of women in past decades. I am not following the current discussions that closely ... . I think we do have two candidates that are both flawed and the American public just has to evaluate it. My evaluation is on the big picture items: on where our economy goes, where we are in fighting ISIS, in terms of the Supreme Court."
— Governor Hutchinson at a press conference last week, responding to questions about the infamous 2005 video of the Republican presidential nominee boasting about his sexual assault of women.
Two ballot questions moot
The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled two proposed constitutional amendments ineligible for consideration on Election Day. The ballot titles of Issue 4, which would have capped damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits, and Issue 5, which would have allowed three new casinos in the state, both failed to adequately inform voters about certain critical points, the court said. (Both questions will remain on ballots — which have already been printed — but votes will not be counted.) However, the justices rejected a challenge brought against Issue 6, an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana; it's now in the hands of voters. As of the time of this writing, the court had yet to decide on a challenge to Issue 7, an initiated act that would also legalize medical marijuana.
Justice comes for Boeckmann
Former District Judge Joseph Boeckmann of Wynne was indicted Oct. 5 on 21 federal counts of wire fraud, bribery, travel act violations and witness tampering stemming from the judge's use of his position to obtain "personal services, sexual contact and the opportunity to view and to photograph in compromising positions persons who appeared before him," according to the indictment. Boeckmann resigned in May amid a state judicial conduct investigation into his practice of allegedly lessening or dismissing sentences in exchange for sexual favors from young male defendants in Cross County who were charged with misdemeanors or traffic violations. He is in custody at the Pulaski County Jail.
LR schools bracing for closures
Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore appeared before the state Board of Education to present his plan to cut $15.3 million from the district's budget next academic year, the largest chunk of which will come from closing as many as four school campuses. The schools will be identified by a committee of parents and district staff in the coming months, Poore said. He also floated the possibility of holding an election in 2017 to ask voters for an extension of the current millage rate.
The foster care surge
Between January 2015 and today, the number of kids in Arkansas's foster care system swelled from under 4,000 to almost 5,100 — an unprecedented figure. Why? The Arkansas Times last week obtained an internal report from the state's Division of Children and Family Services that attempted to answer that question. DCFS commissioned the previously unreleased report from an independent consulting firm, Hornby Zeller Associates, but the agency said it disagreed with HZA's key findings and is now working on its own report. Chief among HZA's conclusions: The state is sometimes too quick to take children into custody, due in part to systemic problems at DCFS (including sky-high employee turnover) and in part to overly aggressive action by some juvenile judges.
A tough old bridge
The old Broadway Bridge is finally gone, but not without a fight. First, explosives failed to bring down its steel arches as planned on Tuesday morning, so tugboats pulled down the crippled structure with cables that afternoon. On Saturday, controlled blasts around the bridge's three remaining concrete arches left one standing; crews had to turn to a pneumatic ram to knock it into the river. Not bad for a "structurally unsound" 93-year-old bridge.
A tough old senator
Former U.S. Sen. David Pryor was hospitalized at Fayetteville's Washington Regional Medical Center after suffering a stroke last week. His family says Pryor, 82, is recovering well. That's thanks in part to the presence of two doctors at Washington Regional who happen to be experts in advanced stroke care and performing minimally invasive neurosurgery, Drs. Mayshan and Mahan Ghiassi (they're brothers).