Vote of the week
Voters overwhelmingly defeated the Little Rock School District tax proposal to refinance existing bonds and extend 12.4 mills of property tax for 14 years, at a cost that could have approached $1 billion. A total of 7,067 voters, or 65 percent, opposed the tax; 3,938, or 35 percent, supported it. LRSD officials had promised to spend the money on a range of school facility improvements, as well as building a new high school in Southwest Little Rock. Proponents, primarily from the business establishment, outspent opponents 10-1 with a message that the vote was "for the kids." Opponents, energized by the state takeover and removal of the majority black school board, called it a vote for taxation without representation. They and former Superintendent Baker Kurrus questioned long-term financial planning for the district, which faces a continuing loss of students to charter schools.
Quote of the week
"With all due respect, I'm tired of hearing about the Little Rock School District. I've had it, OK?
— State Board of Education member Brett Williamson of El Dorado, speaking during a public comment period at a meeting of the State Board the day after the LRSD millage election, when a number of LRSD supporters asked the board to return the district to local control. The state took over the district two years ago, ostensibly because six of its 48 schools were in academic distress.
Triple homicide in Yell County
Three people were killed in Yell County on May 11. James Bowden, 42, of Dardanelle is in custody after allegedly fatally shooting Rita Miller, 61, and Cierra Miller, 17, in rural Yell County. Bowden is also accused of killing Yell County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Mainhart during a subsequent traffic stop. Bowden later held Haley McHam, 31, hostage for about five hours. Rita and Cierra Miller were McHam's mother and daughter. McHam told KTHV, Channel 11, that Bowden said he killed her mother and daughter and kept her hostage because she did not want to date him anymore. Bowden left the house where he held McHam without resistance about a half-hour after McHam walked out.
Football freebie a violation
Sgt. Michael Gibbons, head of the North Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, accepted a state Ethics Commission finding that acceptance of free trips for cops to Dallas Cowboy football games provided by Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones was a violation of a state ethics law.
The settlement agreement provided neither a punishment nor a warning. It says Gibbons had "good cause" to think the gift was proper because the North Little Rock City Council had passed a resolution deeming the gift government benefits for police service.
State law prohibits gifts worth more than $100 to public servants for doing their jobs. Statutes also prohibit public servants taking anything but government benefits for their work or from using their positions to gain special privileges.
Jones grew up in North Little Rock. Some 120 of 178 officers took the trips, along with family and friends, at a total value of at least $300,000, well more than $100 each.