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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

November 19, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Nov. 18, 2018.

Fresh off a re-election victory, Gov. Asa Hutchinson met with lawmakers last week to present his next budget, and there was a lot to like. This governor’s pragmatic approach to our state’s economy looks on track to keep Arkansas moving forward over the next four years and beyond. And as budget talks advance, most Arkies would like to hear more about one thing in particular: roads, roads, roads.

As Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) has explained to the press a couple of times, our roads are losing out on money because a good chunk of that funding comes from a fuel tax. And as cars get more fuel-efficient, and with people spending less at the pump, the amount of money going to our roads decreases. Combine that with the fact that some of our roads are seeing more traffic than ever before, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

What’s more, everyone in our state government, from lawmakers to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, knows highway funding has been an issue for quite some time. But how fix it? Does the state increase the fuel tax? Does the state dedicate new revenue that’ll come in from online sales tax to highway funding? The Ledge will have to figure it all out when it meets next year.

But just because Asa Hutchinson is pragmatic doesn’t mean he’s not visionary. (Pragmatic doesn’t mean boring.) The governor wants to increase the minimum teacher salary to $36,000 over the next four years. Combine that with some merit-based incentives and Little Rock’s waivers from the Full Teacher Employment law, and public education has a bright future.

Then there’s the savings. Gov. Hutchinson wants to ensure the state is setting aside enough money for long-term savings and rainy day funds. Both of these are necessary when planning for the future and any crisis spending that might become necessary. It never hurts to have just-in-case money, as Mama called it.

Asa Hutchinson couldn’t let the moment go by without mentioning cost-cutting. Which has to be music to taxpaying ears.

Here’s to conservative budgeting and keeping our state’s economy going strong. Oh, and of course, that road funding.

___

Southwest Times Record. Nov. 18, 2018.

As with any modern city, room for improvement lies in many areas of Fort Smith.

Walkability, animal control, stormwater drainage and transparency in government are just a few. But one detail in particular has become an area in need of some adjustment following a double zoning request for the same property: Zoning change notification.

The western corner of South 46th Street and Rogers Avenue, a hillside field next to St. Scholastica Monastery, has become the center of attention after a 4-3 vote by the Fort Smith Board of Directors on an appeal by nearby property owners who opposed the city Planning Commission’s Oct. 9 decision to put in a Casey’s General Store.

It turns out there were two different zoning requests going on at the same time, which understandably created some confusion. One zoning request at the corner of 46th and Rogers was for residential-to-commercial. Another zoning request, on adjacent St. Scholastica land, was just a little farther up 46th Street to change a Planned Zoning District to residential.

The property owners on Free Ferry Circle who are in objection to the Casey’s General Store on the corner of 46th and Rogers were not within the 300 feet required for notification. But several of the property owners found out through the grapevine what was going on down the street in time to make the Oct. 9 Planning Commission meeting and voice their concerns.

While we sympathize with the property owners that a convenience store and gas station likely will be taking the place of a beautiful, tree-line piece of property, we also understand the position that not only are the sisters at St. Scholastica paying for a new $5 million new monastery to replace the 95-year-old goliath they no longer can afford to live in, but there are also only a few gas stations between the Oklahoma line and Barling on Garrison and Rogers Avenue: Six in fact, counting the stations at Sam’s Club and Murphy’s USA at Walmart.

The FlashMarket/Citgo that Casey’s General Store would be next to at 46th and Rogers is also not known for its stellar appearance.

While some property owners would like to see the St. Scholastica land purchased by the city to be saved as a park, it is unlikely the city can afford it considering all of its legal troubles and the nature of Rogers Avenue being a main artery for the city. It would be very nice to see the city show dedication for consistent sidewalks on this main road, though.

To possibly keep from having this kind of confusion again in the future, we recommend an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance. When two or more different zoning requests on adjacent property are being requested by either one or more parties, all property owners within 300 feet of both zoning requests are notified.

Brenda Andrews, senior planner with the Fort Smith Planning Department, said the department has made dozens of amendments to the UDO since it was adopted in 2009 because they not only strive to make it user friendly, but also effective.

We commend the city in its willingness to adopt change when needed. Now let’s talk about those sidewalks.

___

Texarkana Gazette. Nov. 19, 2018.

Some folks here in the Texarkana area — and across the nation — consider seat belts a royal pain.

They’re confining. They wrinkle clothing. They make it hard to get something out of your pocket while driving. You may drive into a river and get trapped in your car and drown.

We’ve heard them all.

The fact is seat belts save lives. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, wearing seat belts increases the chance of surviving a serious crash by about 45 percent in automobiles and 60 percent in a pickup truck. And statistics compiled by James Madison University show seats belts cut the risk of highway injury by 50 percent and death by 60 to 70 percent. They also show that a person is 25 times more likely to be killed by being thrown from a car or truck than by remaining in the vehicle

But still millions of Americans don’t buckle up. That includes many who will be traveling the highways this week for Thanksgiving.

Be aware. State and local police agencies will be on the lookout as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

That includes the Texarkana area.

“Tragically, over half of the people who died in a fatal traffic crash during Thanksgiving 2016 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. This year, we’ll be out in full force to ensure drivers and passengers alike are buckled up as they travel to their Thanksgiving destinations. Those disobeying the law will be pulled over and ticketed,” Miller County Sheriff Jackie Runion said in a press release last week announcing his department’s participation in the campaign.

Let that be a warning. Refuse to wear a seat belt and you will face a fine and court costs. That’s if you’re lucky. In an accident the price you pay could be much, much higher.

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