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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

October 31, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. Oct. 28, 2017.

America’s national parks are some of our countries greatest treasures.

The attract millions of visitors each year. But now it looks like those numbers could go down somewhat.

That’s because the National Park Service is proposing to sharply increase the entrance fees to some of the county’s most popular parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon and 14 others.

Right now the fees run around $25 to $30 per car or motorcycle.

The proposed new fees would rise to $70 per car, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person for pedestrians or those on bicycles during the peak summer season.

The $80 annual pass to all national parks will remain the same.

The NPS says the higher fees are needed for maintenance and repairs due to the wear and tear from more than 300 million annual visitors. They also point out that most national parks are free to enjoy and won’t be affected by the new fee schedule at the most heavily trafficked parks.

We understand the need for more money, especially since the Department of the Interior — parent of the NPS — is facing a proposed budget cut of about 12 percent in 2018.

But increasing the fees so sharply will put America’s most storied parks out of reach for some citizens. At the very least it will strain many already tight budgets.

Wages for the middle class and working poor in the U.S. aren’t rising appreciably but the cost of living keeps going up. All over the land Americans are being asked to do more with less. But whenever government at any level needs money, its burdens the people more with hikes in various taxes or fees.

The NPS should live within its means without sharply raising fees on those who really own these parks — the American people. And Congress should take a good hard look at the budget and come up with money to take care of these great public lands that benefit all citizens. Maybe they could start by cutting their pet projects, the ones that benefit far fewer Americans and serve mainly to garner votes.

Or they could pass a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that would direct $500 million a year from government royalties on oil and gas production to the NPS.

Using our natural resources to pay for upkeep on natural treasures. That sounds a lot better to us than reaching into the pockets of already-overburdened Americans.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Oct. 28, 2017.

The future of Little Sugar Creek and the dam that creates Bella Vista Lake aren’t necessarily any clearer, but recent developments appear likely to hold back contentious debate while a study evaluates different paths Bentonville might take.

“A step in the right direction” is the way Greg Van Horn put it. He’s a member of a group called the Friends of Little Sugar Creek that has advocated for removal of the 1918 dam and restoration of the creek’s free flow.

The Bentonville City Council recently accepted a $98,960 grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The money will be used to hire Ecological Design Group and the Watershed Resource Conservation Center, for $29,250 and $63,960, respectively, to create a master plan for the 148-acre Bella Vista Lake Park, including plans for the future of the dam and creek.

The dam is, officially, in a state of failure, according to state dam safety officials. The dam has been topped by water during flooding several times. Little Sugar Creek feeds the lake, which for decades has been a favorite recreational site for some people. For some, keeping a lake is part of a nostalgic look back to good times when the area was in better condition.

From a federal government perspective, funding is focused on removing the failed dam and replacing it with new construction. Any plan that doesn’t do that would, in all likelihood, have to rely on other funding.

The city of Bentonville, which owns the property, earlier planned to proceed with replacement of the earthen dam, but vocal critics of the plan urged the city to consider getting rid of the structure altogether. Now, it appears the city will consider stream restoration and the potential of creating a “side channel” lake so that all sides can walk away having achieved at least part of the solution they sought.

All three options remain, but the study will be delivered to the City Council in about nine months to help provide information for a decision.

There have been times when it seemed the folks involved in this debate needed to go jump in the water to cool off, but they all deserve credit for embracing the possibilities of compromise. We’re not about to pretend the implementation of a study will suddenly resolve all differences, but it should give stakeholders a common collection of information from which to hold future conversations. If there is a way to preserve the recreational opportunities important to many while also restoring the creek to a natural setting, that seems like a win for everyone.

Once again, Bentonville, Bella Vista and area residents are benefiting from the generosity of the Waltons, whose money has time and time again provided the resources necessary to create options where it seemed options might be limited.

Hopefully, the study will help restore not just a better way to handle the water flowing in Little Sugar Creek but also to temper the clash between city officials and supporters of stream restoration. If done well, this project could turn an damaged and unattractive dam into a chance to renew the park’s status as an outstanding recreational amenity.


Pine Bluff Commercial. Oct. 29, 2017.

While election commissions aren’t usually newsworthy — unless there’s an election coming up or going on — our own county’s commission has made the news many times over the past few months.

We are grateful that the commission has finally agreed on an election coordinator, because we’re not sure how much more back and forth bickering we could have taken on the issue.

After initially rejecting Efrem Elliott for the election coordinator’s position, the election commission later voted to accept the former state representative and current Gould police chief for the job.

Elliott was appointed by Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilson IV.

Circuit Judge Robert Wyatt, who earlier this year ruled that the commission could not prevent a coordinator from having access to the county election office or having the tools he needs to do his job, left up to the commission whether or not they would use the services of that coordinator.

The issue came up after Wilkins selected former coordinator Will Fox prior to the Go Forward Pine Bluff special tax election. Election commissioners Mike Adam and Stuart “Stu” Soffer refused to use Fox, prompting the lawsuit filed by Wilkins.

Even though he voted to approve Elliott as the election coordinator, Soffer still got in a few last-minute jabs at him by expressing concern over Elliott’s position as Gould police chief.

He can’t “be in two places at the same time,” Soffer surmised.

Soffer additionally pointed out that no other election coordinator has held a full-time job.

While Soffer is retired, election commissioners Cynthia Sims and Mike Adam both have jobs. Adam owns a cycle and marine shop, and Sims works at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

We point this out because we are certain that Elliott’s full-time job won’t hinder his performance as election commissioner. There are plenty of other people who hold full-time jobs and still serve on commissions, boards and the like.

We believe that Soffer is picking nits on the issue, because he won’t fully accept anyone as election coordinator unless he hires that person himself. Don’t get us wrong, you won’t find a more knowledgeable person on election law than Soffer. He knows his job and has always performed it well.

But it’s time to let the personal politics go and work with Elliott on the upcoming elections in 2018. There is a lot at stake for the candidates, our community and our nation. We are certain that all of the involved parties can come together to provide a smooth election process.

Elliott is more than qualified to serve as election coordinator, and he we have the utmost faith in him. We just hope that all the drama surrounding the election commission has finally died down.

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