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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

December 18, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. Dec. 17, 2018.

The Fort Smith Police Department is shooting straight with a new video series called “Fort Smith Crime Watch.”

Professionally and tastefully done, with a snappy introduction by new Public Information Officer Aric Mitchell, the video reaches out on many levels and indicates a subtle shift that could be just the right tweak in community relations. All indications are this series has the potential to not just help keep drug-addled thieves at bay with educational tips for citizens, but also break down some mental barriers that keep the police from strengthening partnerships with the community.

If the next episodes of “Fort Smith Crime Watch” are done as well as the first (on how to avoid vehicle break-ins), we look forward to many more of them. The first one can be found at the FSPD’s Facebook page.

Led by Chief Nathaniel Clark, the police department has shown it can rise above some of the most challenging circumstances. For years, crime has been on the increase. Budgets have decreased. National perceptions are shaky. For many people, no doubt, there has been an “us against them” mentality bolstered by police shootings aired regularly on TV. Following the events in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, it looked like a civil war was on the move.

In July 2016, Dallas police were ambushed by snipers. Tragic, racially charged events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina, echo the environment our police deal with daily. Throw in a heavy dose of drug-driven crime and you get a combustible atmosphere where a routine traffic stop can turn into a shootout.

Thankfully, embarrassing racial incidents in Fort Smith have been limited. There was a federal lawsuit earlier this year where a black man sued the city over a now-retired white Fort Smith police officer’s apparent use of excessive force. And a poor choice in words that showed a lack of sensitivity to racial relations at the police station was the main reason the former Fort Smith police chief resigned.

Clark — even though he is the first African-American police chief for Fort Smith — won’t let that designation stand alone. And from day one, he has worked to be engaged with the Fort Smith community. We highly value and respect that. Clark has also put himself out on a limb with city directors to change the structure of the department for better public service, and the culture of a department that has suffered from a lack of diversity.

The new video series is great, but it can also be seen as a more visible spectrum of the lightwave that is being shined through this new prism brought by Clark. When we only see the police behind the glass of a cruiser in their dark sunglasses, they are removed and subject to generalizations.

It’s easy to forget that although Fort Smith police wear dark blue suits and Kevlar, underneath it all, they are as human as the rest of us. But, they have signed up to take on the riskier “sheepdog” role in our society. As Mitchell notes in his introduction to the series, the police are “emphasizing a guardian mindset, where they are collaborating with the community they serve to create a livable, safe and vibrant city.”

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Texarkana Gazette. Dec. 17, 2018.

Arkansas is bending over backward to make it easier for those receiving Medicaid to comply with the state’s work requirements.

The new law, which took effect in June, requires just 80 hours a month of work, education or community service for able-bodied adults between the ages of ages 30 to 49 — and only if they don’t have dependent children. Next year the new rules apply to those between 19 to 29 years of age as well. Recipients are required they report compliance online. Nothing too strenuous in the law, in our view.

But around 12,000 Arkansans have lost Medicaid coverage because they failed to meet the new requirements.

Critics blame the state, saying it’s difficult for recipients to comply when many don’t have access to the internet at home. They also fault the state for limiting hours the reporting website operates and failing to adequately make the new requirements known to lower income families.

Well, Arkansas listened. And beginning this week recipients will be able to report the hours they put in looking for work, attending classes or doing volunteer work by telephone.

The Department of Human Services is also launching a widespread education program to make sure every recipient knows about the new option. They will use social media and work with local schools and colleges as well as community organizations to get the word out.

We suspect that won’t satisfy everyone. Some are just opposed to any work requirement for government benefits. But in our view following the law and reporting compliance are small prices to pay for taxpayer-funded health care. Arkansas is doing what it can. Now it’s up to recipients to do something for themselves.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dec. 18, 2018.

It was a balmy fall Sunday when a living piece of history came to visit Arkansas — cartoon history. This particular man had his hand in many cartoons through the years including “Scooby-Doo,” ″The Smurfs,” ″The Jetsons,” ″The Flintstones,” ″Rugrats” and more. His work history spans more than 50 years, and it’s a colorful one at that.

The cartoonist hails from the Land Down Under, though in his retirement Phoenix has become home. He told us he likes it hot. Well, more power to him. His name is Ron Campbell, and one of his biggest claims to fame is his work on a trippy little movie that came out in 1968 called “Yellow Submarine,” which followed animated versions of the Beatles traveling through space in a yellow submarine.

Ah, those were the days, our friends, those were the days. When cartoons were drawn. Not generated by a computer.

We got to meet Mr. Campbell when he showed up at the Fellow Human art gallery in Bentonville. He sat with a bag of peanut brittle, some papers and a paint set as he autographed large posters that contained many of the cartoon characters that he’d animated over the last half-century. He spoke with a soft Australian accent as he recounted various tales from his storybook of life.

For those familiar with cartoon history, you might have heard of a legendary company called Hanna-Barbera (responsible for classics like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound). The company asked Mr. Campbell to leave Australia and come over to Hollywood and make cartoons. He obliged and became a California resident.

In Australia, Mr. Campbell said several animators were self-taught after analyzing American films. This included himself. But what Mr. Campbell could do, he said, was put together cartoon movies, something not many others could. Some cartoonists might be good at animating water, others could storyboard like no tomorrow, but Mr. Campbell? He was an animator jack-of-all-trades.

The animator told us his favorite project throughout his career was “Big Blue Marble,” a cartoon he produced that went on to be viewed in more than 100 countries. And, despite popular culture trends today, the Australian did not enjoy working on superhero shows like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” He said those storylines just weren’t his favorite. Yes, the story does matter even in cartoons.

In 2008, Mr. Campbell laid down his pencil. The last project he said he worked on was a cartoon movie called “Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show.” It aired on Cartoon Network in 2009 and wrapped up a popular animated series by the same name.

Mr. Campbell told us some aspiring animators came to visit him on Sunday, announcing their intent to walk a path he once traveled. The cartoonist said most of the aspiring animators came to him wanting to draw with pen and paper as he once did. But he informed them pretty much all animation is now done digitally, with drawing tablets and computers.

The Australian lamented current digital animation techniques, remarking if he was to come of age in today’s world of computer animation he probably wouldn’t have entered the field at all. Cartoons today are too mechanical in their movement, he said. Mr. Campbell said he was drawn to cartoons as a child thinking they were made with real animals but later learning he could draw them himself. And that was the magic to push him into the animation career.

Now out of the game, Mr. Campbell spends his time drawing and painting cartoon characters he once made move on your television screen. He also travels around the country and does pop-up art shows, selling his work. We’ve been fans of Mr. Campbell’s work for a long time and didn’t even know it. And it turns out, the man likes his newspapers. Which makes sense. Newspapers have cornered the market on Dilbert, Diamond Lil, Garfield and Blondie.

Throughout his cartoonist days, Mr. Campbell filled various roles in storyboarding, animation director and more. With a long career to look back on, he certainly has a library of work to be proud of. If you somehow haven’t seen his work, we’d suggest starting with a 1969 classic called “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” You just can’t go wrong with Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby, traveling around in the Mystery Machine solving . . . well, mysteries.

Mr. Campbell, thanks for visiting our neck of the woods, and thanks for helping to make so many great cartoons we’ve laughed at through the years and continue to enjoy. Didn’t Scooby make a Christmas special?

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