Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers
Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers
The Associated Press
Sep. 04, 2018
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Southwest Times Record. Sept. 2, 2018.
Fort Smith has a problem. Too many dogs and cats are being taken to local shelters (specifically, the HOPE Humane Society), and now those facilities are bursting at the seams.
Without real laws on pet ownership, that won't change. Discussion among city leaders must take place soon in order to begin steps toward a solution to a local problem that's been described as reaching its "breaking point." Matching gifts and donations won't stop the influx of animals into the shelter, which began operating with a no-kill philosophy in 2016. Animals will continue to be brought to the facility, even when the money and supplies run out. Many people involved with the shelter recognize this and have pleaded for the city to begin the steps toward fixing the problem. Without discussions soon, the shelter will remain overloaded.
As Raina Rogers, HOPE Humane Society interim executive director, put it, "We need about five more buildings, but it won't matter because they'll just keep coming." In other words, no amount of space will help shelters as long as animals are allowed to continue to breed freely.
Other areas in the United States are having the opposite problem — too few animals are available for adoption. The HOPE Humane Society has even been transporting animals to other parts of the country so dogs and cats can find new homes elsewhere. Late last year, HOPE transport staff began coordinating with shelters in Oregon, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri to transport local animals to find them with homes.
The question is, what are these areas doing right? The answer appears to be spay-and-neuter laws that require pet owners to be responsible for their animals. It's something we encourage Fort Smith leaders, including the Fort Smith Animal Advisory Board, to study. We believe the situation is dire, which means it's time to get tough. Pet sterilization requirements may be the answer. Currently, according to Fort Smith municipal code, only rabbits and vicious animals must be spayed or neutered, under certain circumstances.
Fort Smith's Animal Services Advisory Council, created partially to ensure public access to low-cost spaying and neutering services, has not met recently as it has an open position that must be filled by a veterinarian. Getting that panel up and running again may be the best first step in working toward the city's animal overpopulation issue.
HOPE Humane Society board member Storm Nolan cites a lack of "personal responsibility" among pet owners as the primary reason for local pet overpopulation but also says sterilization laws are essential. It can be tough on pet owners who can't afford to spay or neuter their pets, but affordable options often are available, including through the HOPE Humane Society and through programs like Kitties and Kanines in Fort Smith. The cost to sterilize a pet certainly would be less expensive than dealing with a litter of unwanted pets. (We're also thinking of horror stories involving animals being dumped, including recently at the humane society, where workers recently rescued a litter of kittens from a plastic storage bin, which someone placed at the facility's door. The kittens barely survived.)
Locally, Greenwood is a good example of how pet laws can be successful. Greenwood's animal control/code enforcement officer reports that since January 2017, the number of animals registered with the city has "increased tenfold." While Greenwood doesn't require a pet to be spayed or neutered, the cost to register a pet is based on whether the pet has been sterilized.
"Anything you can do to put this in place, it's worth the trouble," Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow said recently of his city's rule that encourages spaying and neutering of pets.
We recognize the overpopulation of pets at local shelters is not an issue that can be fixed overnight. But steps to address the problem need to be taken, and that begins with discussion. We hope local officials will put themselves in a position to make those discussions happen. Any further delay means the problem will continue to escalate. We are in favor of keeping the HOPE Humane Society as a no-kill shelter, and we hope that's a viable option going forward. For now, it's time to recognize the dire situation local pet shelters are in and take steps toward finding a real solution.
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 4, 2018.
Documents that formed the basis for the Fayetteville School Board's firing of Superintendent Matthew Wendt, beyond their vulgarity and abusive nature, demonstrate at least a couple of things about the man.
He showed incredibly poor judgment.
He deserved to be fired solely on the basis of pursuing and engaging in an extramarital sexual relationship with a person on the staff he was hired to lead.
And he couldn't have possibly maintained the kind of focus on educational excellence the board, students, faculty, staff and the community should be able to expect of the person in charge of the local school district.
The most jaw-dropping information that could be printed in a family newspaper were just in the numbers. According to phone records, Wendt and the employee with whom he engaged in a months-long affair exchanged nearly 12,500 text messages and 936 cellphone calls between September and March.
For middle schoolers, that may not sound like much. But for a grown man and woman with families and professional responsibilities, it's astounding. In his first full year as president, Donald Trump tweeted only 2,568 times.
As the reporting on Wendt story has noted, the number of contacts averages out to about 74 text messages a day, six calls and nearly an hour on the phone daily.
The school board, of course, didn't fire Wendt because of his dexterity and tenacity on a smartphone keyboard. All those text messages fill in the details of a sensational scandal, but the superintendent deserved to be fired the moment he decided to turn toward his staff as an outlet for conduct unbecoming a professional. Even if he'd been the kindest, most compassionate guy in those texts, he should have been fired. And the texts definitely demonstrate that his behaviors reflected neither of those qualities.
This newspaper had to go to court to protect the public's right to examine the record behind Wendt's firing. It has long been established in Arkansas law that, in most cases, the public deserves access to records that reflect why a public official or employee was fired. It gives the public a way to evaluate what kind of oversight was involved and whether they believe authorities — in this case, the school board — performed their jobs satisfactorily. It continues to be our perspective the school board could have concluded Wendt's case far more quickly, but in the end, they reached the right decision.
It's vital the right of the public to review such scenarios should, in most cases, be protected by government agencies and the courts. There's already enough effort among government officials to hide information. For example, it's standard operating procedure in some agencies that public employees or officials are encouraged not to write down information that might be damaging or embarrassing. Once it's written down, the public can request it.
Obtaining records does not always provide the full story, but it undoubtedly helps those interested evaluate whether what they've been told matches up to the documented record. That's valuable information when it comes to monitoring government action.
But back to Wendt, whose professional life at the helm of Fayetteville Public Schools began to fall apart when the employee with whom he had struck up a romantic relationship filed a sexual harassment complaint in March. The texts show he threatened to call a school board meeting for discussion of how she dressed at work. He offered to use his position to get her a teaching job. He demanded she stay out of his professional life.
Professional? Maybe that's what's so frustrating about all this. Wendt appeared to be an outstanding superintendent, a great fit in Fayetteville. But he crossed a professional line that demanded his firing and his personal choices in terms of behaviors raise serious questions about character, too.
Wendt's lawyer, once the documents were released, said the district did nothing to authenticate a lot of the information. "Dr. Wendt has been victimized by very one-sided releases in this without people stopping to think there is another side of the story."
The documents show there are plenty of sides to the story, but none of them give Wendt room to play the victim. For whatever damage there is to his professional life, the person responsible is looking back at him in the mirror.
Wendt has sued his former paramour, claiming she's responsible for the loss of his job and his inability to get a new one. Playing the victim again. Or maybe he's just wanting to send one final, vindictive message in this ugly episode.
The good news is the school district's new year has started. The School Board showed wisdom in hiring Dr. John L Colbert, a 43-year veteran of the school district, to replace Wendt. He's a known commodity who has provided some healing for faculty and staff who themselves felt betrayed by Wendt's behaviors. The district moves on, focused on its educational mission.
At 64 years old, Colbert probably isn't a long-term appointment, but hopefully he can be the steadying influence the school district needs and give the school board time to figure out how to find a great superintendent for the future.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Sept. 4, 2018.
What a mess. Untangling who are the bad guys in Syria, who are the worse guys in Syria, which ones we should root for and perhaps even help on the down-low, keeps getting muddled.
Of course there's the al-Assad regime, may its days be limited. Because of that dictator's war on his own people, 400,000 people have died throughout the country, and more than 5 million sent running. Then there are the militants holding down the Idlib region of the country and fighting the regime. Only many of them belong to an outfit called al-Qaida. You might have heard of it.
Now the Russians say they want to "liberate" Idlib, which brings to mind the way they "liberated" Poland in 1944. Last week, the UN led a negotiation between several parties, only to have the al-Qaida militants arrest the other side when they sat down.
Besides Russia, there are two other countries who consider themselves "guarantors" of the peace process:
Turkey and Iran.
The president of Turkey, for example, says he's in talks with the Russians and Iranians to avoid a humanitarian calamity in Idlib. And you know how concerned this latest dictator of the Turks is when it comes to treating people right. The UN is trying to evacuate, but the papers say there's no place to evacuate to. Meanwhile, the Russians prep for their offensive.
So is there any hope?
The answer is yes, for a few Syrians. Thanks to some folks at an outfit right here in Arkansas.
The Wisdom House Project has been in the news lately. It's a school for young orphans in Idlib. Our neighbors in Little Rock and Conway work directly with the Syrian Emergency Task Force to send supplies to those kids and to a women's center in the same area. Any money donated goes to school supplies and other basics.
The Wisdom House Project doesn't have any heavy armored brigades. So it's not going to stop a Russian attack. What it can do is bring a little normalcy to a handful of families going through a civil war that's anything but civil.
Anybody can help. There's a website: thewisdomhouseproject.com .
There's always an Arkansas connection. And we're sure that for several dozen small children and women on the other side of the planet, they're proud to have one.