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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

July 23, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

The Jonesboro Sun. July 21, 2019.

Sometimes the old ways are best.

Instead of paying for a new bus the old school way — with a paper check — the Nettleton School Board had to pay an additional $55,000 for a $112,686 school bus, pushing the price tag up to $167,686.

Last year, Nettleton Public Schools purchased a new bus from Midwest Bus Sales. The district paid for the bus by electronic transfer, per Midwest Bus Sales’ request, but the company never received payment.

“A Midwest representative emailed the district’s transportation director an invoice for the bus. The following day, a hacker posed as the Midwest representation, sent another email to the district’s transportation director requesting that payment be made by wire transfer,” Attorney Rebecca Worsham explained in an email Friday.

The district’s transportation director contacted the Midwest representative by text message requesting the wire transfer information. The Midwest representative emailed the transportation director the correct banking information, which was an authentic email.

“Approximately two hours, the district’s transportation director receives another email from the Midwest rep’s email address that stated the previous email contained the incorrect banking information and provided different bank account information,” Worsham wrote.

“The district was unaware there was an issue until 60 days after the bus had been delivered,” Nettleton Superintendent James Dunivan said. “If we had not settled and had to go to court, even though we were in the right and our system was not the system that was hacked, it would have cost us more to go to court.”

Dunivan said Nettleton School District contacted local law enforcement, and the district attorney’s office encouraged Midwest bus to contact its local law enforcement.

The Sun also attempted to contact Midwest Bus Sales on Thursday and Friday, but did not receive a reply from the company.

In the bus company’s defense, they probably think the district got a sweetheart deal — a new bus at half price.

But the truth is, the school district wound up financing a private company’s incompetence with public tax dollars.

“Cybertheft is something that is becoming a problem,” Dunivan said. “If someone were to ask why didn’t your insurance cover it, there is not a policy that would cover it. This is such a new area, very few places offer that type of insurance.”

Dunivan said neither First Community Bank nor Chase Bank was held liable.

“Our local bank did everything possible to try to help us,” he said.

“The district decided to settle due to the costs of litigation. Since this matter was brought in Kansas, our firm had to contract with a local attorney in Kansas to be on the case with us, which adds an additional litigation expense,” Worsham explained in her email.

“If the matter went to trial, the district would have additional travel/lodging expenses because the trial would be held in Kansas City. Therefore, it made more economic sense to settle due to the potential costs of litigation and also to avoid disruption to school operations,” she said.

The process by which Nettleton school officials disburse district funds, and the amount of money individual administrators are allowed to spend, probably needs to be reexamined in light of this incident. The policy on electronic disbursements definitely should be reconsidered. If there isn’t a policy in place, there needs to be.

Hopefully there is a lesson learned by school officials, and not just in the Nettleton School District — trust, but verify, especially before emailing $112,000 to anyone.

Dunivan and the Nettleton School Board members Lennie Hogan, Mark Belk, Harry Harvey, Donnie Hauge and James Adair paid $55,000 for that tutorial in cybercrime.

Maybe they will take their jobs as keepers of the school district’s purse strings more judiciously in the future — and they should definitely dust off the district’s checkbook.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 23, 2019.

It’s always wholly a pleasure to read Sunday’s column in the Sports section by our pine thicket bureau chief, Bryan Hendricks. In this state, there’s always something going on in the hunting and fishing department.

As the heat wave abates — unusual for this time of year — our thoughts turn to fall. And to getting outdoors again.

Bryan Hendricks reports that this week the Game and Fish Commission should vote on new rules concerning furbearers — those animals that, once upon a time, were shot and trapped for their pelts.

These days, not a whole lot of people are dressing up in furs. Furs have mostly gone the way of bell-bottoms. Folks either have decided not to kill foxes and minks for their skins, or decided not to wear them because some activist might yell at them in a restaurant. Either way, the business of trapping ain’t what it used to be.

So the numbers of furbearers are on the rise.

That’s good, if you’d like your woods to be full of skunks, raccoons and possums. That’s bad if you’d like more turkey and quail.

Furbearers, like feral pigs, sure do enjoy a good nest of quail eggs. And a turkey chick would be an outstanding dinner.

The new regulations, if approved, would “liberalize” the “taking” of coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bobcats and other woodland critters. Yes, euphemism exists, even at deer camp. What we’re talking about is killing more of certain species so they don’t eat so many more preferable species.

And most hunters and landowners would be fine with that.

New regs would allow for hunting coyotes year-round. Hunting dates will be expanded for other furbearers. No bag limits for skunks. (Why would there be a bag limit for skunks?) And some wanton waste regulations will be removed. After all, who wants to eat a possum?

From Sunday’s column by Bryan Hendricks:

“For the Game and Fish Commission, it is a logical evolution to shift the management emphasis away from fur harvest to sport. Landowners invest a lot of time, effort and money to create turkey and quail habitat, but they have long complained about the over-abundance of predators. They believe that their efforts only create more turkey and quail for predators to eat. They don’t see substantially more turkeys and quail, but they see substantially more predators.”

We’ve heard that, too.

The Game and Fish Commission has taken the handcuffs off landowners as far as feral hogs are concerned, and that’s a good thing. Although we doubt the number of pigs tearing up this state has decreased much, at least they aren’t running through our kitchens. Yet.

If, one day in the future, the number of possums and raccoons becomes critical, the Game and Fish Commission can always reverse its decision. Right now, furbearers have become nuisances. In fact, we can’t remember the last time we saw a killdeer.

Arkansans should have a marrow-deep trust in the Game and Fish Commission. Except for a little bump in 2010 when it tried some funny things with state’s FOI law, when was the last time this particular agency took a misstep? The people there have managed the deer herd and turkey flock back to not just respectable numbers, but abundance. They can be trusted to make these kinds of decisions.

Now, about those feral hogs ....

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 23, 2019.

What happens when you light a fuse?

It is fairly sensible to expect a reaction when that spark reaches the opposite end of the fuse.

What happens when a city allows the sale of fireworks within its boundaries?

Fireworks will be shot, in daylight. After dark. After the neighbors are in bed. When the already skittish dog is out taking care of business.

Arm a community with firecrackers, smoke bombs, whistling missiles, Roman candles, bottle rockets and other explosives that can rightly be referred to as aerial bombardments and its residents are bound to put them to use. This is not an unforeseeable outcome of fireworks sales.

But Springdale leaders are frustrated, and we’re sure they share that reaction with city leaders all over the state. It turns out people aren’t following local ordinances when it comes to shooting off fireworks. These ordinances, generally speaking, set the boundaries for annual fireworks celebrations surrounding Independence Day. Chief among those limitations are the days and times within which people can go nuts, spending as much money as they want sending their cash up in flames.

In Springdale, residents can legally shoot off fireworks from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 1-4 on private property when someone 21 years old or older supervises anyone under 16.

And people aren’t paying any attention to the laws.

Well, we’re sure there are some straight arrows who dutifully respect their neighbors and restrict their activities. Those are the kinds of great neighbors to have, so appreciate them. But fireworks do not respect neighborhood boundaries. The noise from them can travel long distances, their percussive effects strong enough to disrupt people’s lives in every direction.

What is a city to do?

In a recent discussion at Springdale City Hall, there was this idea: Since people aren’t obeying city ordinances, perhaps the city should amend the ordinance in response to people complaining.

How does that work? We’re sure there is some outstanding legal expertise in the city, but what magical regulatory words and phrases can be strung together that will suddenly make late-night fuse-lighters toe the line? Changing a law that people aren’t following will just give them new laws to ignore.

Springdale Police Chief Mike Peters said enforcement of the city’s laws regarding fireworks is difficult, and we believe him. The people who know the laws but ignore them often shoot off their fireworks and disappear before police arrive, he said. Others who are ignorant of the laws are apologetic when confronted and immediately cease their violations, making it a bit pointless to write them up. They, after all, are no longer the problem.

Certainly, if a city is going to have a law setting the times residents can shoot off fireworks, there has to be enforcement of those laws to the extent possible. Still, it should come as no surprise that police officers appear to be chasing their tails in the effort. First, fireworks are hard to pinpoint. Second, shooters can disappear fast.

Once cities years ago agreed to allow the sale of fireworks within their borders, they established the foundations of nuisance fireworks, which are defined as any fireworks someone else is shooting off. The cities lit the fuse to this frustrating situation.

We’re not arguing against the sale of fireworks at all. But for those few days in July, the only response that’s going to ease residents’ frustrations is to change their expectations. Within cities that allow the sale and deployment of fireworks, there’s not going to be such a thing as a quiet Fourth of July or, for that matter, quiet days leading up to it.

Expecting that is like wishing for a quiet lunch on Dickson Street during Bikes, Blues & BBQ.

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