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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

March 20, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. March 18, 2018.

Saturday ended the annual spotlight on open government and access to public information called Sunshine Week.

And something very important happened during this year’s event.

A federal judge ruled the public has a right to view surveillance video showing what happened outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during the terrible tragedy that claimed 17 lives last month.

The video is of special interest to many since it shows the actions of Deputy Scot Peterson, who was armed and assigned to the school but who never entered the building to engage the shooter.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has tried to keep the video out of the public eye, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation. The school board agreed.

We, like most of the media, did not. Nor did the judge, who didn’t find the arguments for keeping the video away from the nosy press and public to be compelling. The video was released last Thursday.

Many have wondered what the sheriff’s office and school were trying to hide. As it turns out there’s really nothing in the video they should have been worried about. Their opposition was an all-too-common overreaction where government agencies “circle the wagons.” Blocking the video looked worse than anything on the tape could have.

The judge’s decision was a win for open government and the public’s right to know. It was also a win for the sheriff and school, whether they know it or not.

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Southwest Times Record. March 18, 2018.

Should a millage rate increase get the approval of Fort Smith’s voters in May, the city’s schools will get their badly needed upgrades. For local residents, that means the first millage increase in more than 30 years; for the school district, that means higher-quality facilities, improved safety and more progress for its students. We support the millage increase and all that it will mean for Fort Smith.

Funding from the millage hike would be earmarked for new gyms, ninth-grade centers and storm shelters for both Northside and Southside high schools; safety and security upgrades districtwide; creation of a career and technology center; and building upgrades at several schools, among other things. Each of these things aligns with what the district hoped to achieve through its Vision 2023 strategic plan.

We believe the district is due all of these things and hope local residents agree — not just parents, but all members of the community. Yes, our pocketbooks will take a hit, but it’s a rather modest one considering the good things that will come of it. The district is asking for a millage increase of 5.558 mills, which would put the rate at 42.058 mills. Each new mill will generate about $1,450,000, based on a 95 percent collection rate. As explained by Terry Morawski, the district’s chief operations officer, the tax increase would cost a resident who owns $100,000 in real estate value an estimated $9.26 more per month.

That’s a small price for what school upgrades will do for the community. Technology upgrades mean better learning opportunities for our students and make the district more attractive to incoming teachers, as well as families considering a move to Fort Smith. Security upgrades are essential. New gyms mean better conditions for those using them, whether it’s for sports or other events like school assemblies or academic and fine-arts events, as well as opportunities to host state tournaments (which bring in visitors and their tax dollars to the area). Building upgrades and the addition of ninth-grade centers mean grades can be realigned to free up space at the elementary schools and lower the number of kids who have to go to elementary schools outside of their neighborhoods. Upgrades as a whole put Fort Smith in better alignment with what other districts in the region have done.

The millage recommendation came from a citizens committee that worked to create a list of priorities for Fort Smith Schools. The list was trimmed in order to trim the millage increase going before voters. (The proposed increase was 6.888.) All seven school board members voted in support of bringing the millage increase to voters.

Fort Smith’s current millage rate — 36.5 — is one of the lowest in the region and is the lowest in the county. Bringing the rate up to 42.058 puts Fort Smith more in line with millages in Greenwood (40.6), Lavaca (41.9) and Mansfield (40.01).

Fort Smith’s voters have a chance to make a real difference in the future of our school district. We must ask ourselves whether the extra tax dollars are worth what will be gained from them. We believe they are, both for the students and teachers who will benefit, but also for the community as a whole. We believe what’s being asked for is reasonable. The improvements to the facilities will last for years, meaning it’s unlikely another millage increase will be sought anytime soon. After more than 30 years at the same millage rate, now’s the time to act. School upgrades are long overdue and will only mean good things for our students and our community.

___

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. March 20, 2018.

Sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat, irritability. And you can’t even blame a politician.

According to the Five-Day Pollen Allergy Forecast for Little Rock (at pollen.com), Thursday and Friday will introduce the greatest amount of misery-causing allergens into the atmosphere of central Arkansas. Even people without seasonal allergies can experience reactions because there is such a large quantity of fine, powdery airborne irritant, mostly coming from pine and oak trees, floating around.

According to the website livescience.com, colds and allergies share symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and congestion. Colds usually come with coughing and a sore throat. Itchy eyes are more likely with seasonal allergies. Colds tend to occur in the winter, and take several days to show up after exposure to a virus. Seasonal allergy symptoms occur immediately after exposure to pollen. Colds last three to 14 days. Allergy symptoms stick around as long as the pollen or other allergen causing them is in play. Allergies seldom cause body aches. Colds do.

How to fight back against pollen: Resist the temptation to air out the house and car on gorgeous sunny days; keep windows and doors closed. Rinse your face and hands after spending time outdoors. Avoid lounging around outside on warm, windy days. Rain, although sometimes chill-inducing and ill-timed, comes in handy in clearing pollen from the air.

Allergy experts recommend taking antihistamines in combination with nasal sprays to help with congestion. Might as well stock up; they’ll probably be needed for the rest of the month.

Not to ruin the day or anything, but tree pollen will soon give way to grass pollen that will stick around through, oh, June or so. Then, in the fall, there’s the arrival of ragweed and its weedy pals--all loaded with pollen, and spoiling for a fight. Strength.

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