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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

December 19, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. Dec. 17, 2017

The recent discovery that the Fort Smith Board of Directors actually does not have enough votes to approve a $100 annual business fee offers the city an opportunity to step back momentarily and re-examine the situation. Directors already have approved raising franchise fees to the maximum allowed by the state. Adding a business fee on top of that would be bad timing, and we suggest giving residents and businesses time to adjust before piling on more expenses.

The new year is approaching, and with it comes higher costs for consumers in other places, whether it’s health care, insurance or taxes. And although the franchise fee increase may not mean a rate increase for consumers (at least not yet), there’s a good chance it will. That’s a lot to ask of residents who already face higher costs thanks to recent sewer-rate increases. Adding in another business fee, whether or not it’s passed to consumers, feels like bad timing, regardless of the amount.

City Administrator Carl Geffken says he’ll bring the business fee ordinance back before the board for another vote. By most indications, the business fee does not have enough support from directors to pass. (Five votes are needed, according the state law; the first reading of the ordinance passed in a 4-3 vote, meaning it actually failed.) We believe the right thing to do is to drop it for now.

The franchise fee increase is expected to bring in around $550,000 a year for the city. We’re all for that and understand that the city needs those funds for things like city employee raises and badly needed equipment for the police and sanitation department. The almost $500,000 the business fee was expected to raise is enticing, but business owners shouldn’t have to take it on as an additional expense so soon after local residents have been asked to pay extra from the franchise fee increase, not to mention the sewer-rate increase, which was approved in 2015. Fort Smith businesses already have to obtain business licenses and renew them each year, but there has not been a fee to do so since 1994.

For it to be officially adopted and go into effect, the franchise fee ordinance must still be read at one more public meeting, when directors may change their votes. If approved, gas and electric companies will have to pay the city 4.25 percent of their gross sales and Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. will have to pay 4.25 percent of the local exchange access line charges to the city, an increase from 4 percent.

A spokesman for Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corp. said any costs to the company are ultimately passed along to consumers, which means rates could increase, although that is not definite. But residents are still feeling the effects of the sewer rate increase that is helping to pay the federal mandate requiring the city to make an estimated $480 million worth of upgrades to the city’s sewer system over a 12-year period. The city will ask for more time to get those upgrades made, but the $480 million price tag won’t change.

The vote in favor of implementing the franchise fee increase was 4-3, with director Don Hutchings saying, “What are we doing here? This is just unbelievable,” while lamenting that the city might be out of touch with its residents. But other directors pointed out that the city has made funding city employee raises and police upgrades a top spending priority for 2018, and those funds have to come from somewhere.

Fees are a necessary evil as this community works to progress and evolve. And while we wish that wasn’t the case, we understand the city directors’ desire raise the franchise fee and generate more money for the general fund. Residents may balk at the increase, but for the city of Fort Smith, it makes sense. But let’s give some time for adjustment so it doesn’t appear that the city is nickel and diming its businesses and residents at every turn. Timing is everything. We urge the city to back off the plan and revisit it at a more appropriate time.


Texarkana Gazette. Dec. 18, 2017.

It was 174 years ago that the Christmas celebration as we know it was more or less born.

No, we are not speaking of the Christ child who is the reason for the season. We refer instead to the traditions and customs by which we in the English-speaking world mark that day. They largely come from a single work of literature. A remarkable and much loved volume first published in December of 1843.

It’s a tale of holiday redemption that has been translated into every known language and filmed dozens of times in motion picture and television adaptations. And it’s a work that gave the world perhaps the most universally known character in all of literature — a London financier and skinflint who is able to find the true spirit of Christmas.

A charming old soul by the name of Ebeneezer Scrooge.

The celebrated British author Charles Dickens wrote the book originally called “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” as a quick way to pay off some debts. But the slim tale proved extremely popular, selling a then-remarkable 6,000 copies in the first week. It has never been out of print since.

What Dickens could never have foreseen was the cultural impact his work would have. He wove commentary on poverty and want, cruelty and the class system into the story, as he so frequently did. But it was his simple message of Christmas that brought real and lasting change to the world.

Christmas had fallen on hard times in England, where dour Protestant leaders discouraged celebrations on the grounds that the holiday had become too materialistic, and was not much celebrated in the United States at all. The themes of Dickens’ book — redemption, forgiveness, charity, family, feasts and good cheer — struck a chord with the people of England and America is widely seen as reviving the celebration of Christmas in both lands and fixing in our minds how a proper Christmas is to be enjoyed.

There have been other influences on Christmas over the years, of course. But none so lasting as that of Dickens, Scrooge and company.

The tale of the three ghosts and miraculous transformation of an old miser into a merry gentleman indeed has ensured the Christmas spirit lives with all of us right up to today.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dec. 19, 2017.

It’s been denounced as trickle-down economics, but at least since the late great Ronald Reagan’s time, it’s worked again and again. First pour-down economics re-ignited the moribund economy that the hapless Jimmy Carter left the country when he departed the White House at the beginning of the 1980s to make way for the Great Communicator. Presidential leadership can make all the difference first to the country’s spirit, then its economy. Al Smith may have inspired the phrase the Happy Warrior, but it was Ronald Reagan who embodied it, just as Franklin Roosevelt had done in an earlier time.

Great presidents make a great difference. They don’t just lift the economy, but the whole nation’s image of itself. Their eloquence is contagious, their pessimism all too tangible. So that when Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation there was nothing to fear but fear itself, Americans in general strode forward confidently into a future that hadn’t seemed as promising since the Roaring Twenties. When Herbert Hoover sat glum and forbidding next to Franklin Roosevelt on his way to the latter’s inauguration as president of the United States, he sent a sad signal to all those watching.

What kind of signal does the current president of the United States send its people? Is it a message mainly about himself rather than America’s prospects? His self-infatuation is self-evident, but does it seek to empower only himself rather than the nation?

Our current president doesn’t so much speak as tweet. He’s a puzzlement. He definitely has the courage of his convictions, for he can stun the world when he tosses aside half a century or more of mealy-mouthed neutrality between right and wrong mislabeled as the Mideast Peace Process. Other presidents have promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; he’s doing so. And enraging those who would let loose the dogs of war throughout that part of the world. Yet the president forges ahead for no better reason than it’s the right thing to do.

So it is with this president’s tax bill. He seems determined to rewrite the country’s tax code despite all the doomsayers who warn that (a) it can’t be done, (b) it shouldn’t be done, (c) it won’t be done and (d) all of the above. Readers of Arkansas’ Newspaper can decide for themselves whether he is brave or just foolhardy as he goes where few presidents have gone before.

The improbable thought occurs that our president believes not only in himself but in his own policies. Whom the gods would destroy, it has been well said, they put in charge of the Mideast peace process. Not since Harry Truman, whose self-effacing manner was quite the opposite of Mr. Trump’s, has this country had a president so full of surprises. And some of them, it seems, may come as a surprise to the president himself. The only thing for sure about this presidency may be that nothing about it is for sure.

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