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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

July 9, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 9, 2019.

Soon enough, Bambi and extended family might not have it as good, at least in Little Rock. Right now, the deer, if not the antelope, play anywhere they want, traffic or no traffic. And dine where they want. And, at the most, they might have to listen to a little lap dog tearing up the porch while they graze on the potted plants or tomato garden. Deer don’t even leave a 10% tip.

The number of whitetail deer living in the city limits is growing, and the city board might have the best answer: a controlled hunt.

On July 16, the state’s Game & Fish Commission will present a couple of plans on a controlled hunt, and city directors will have options. What might not be an option: doing nothing.

“You just need to recognize there’s a problem,” said city director Dean Kumpuris. “We have to get it down to a maintainable number of deer here.”

The problem isn’t just that deer eat where they want without paying, like the mob. If folks wanted to keep deer out of their side-yard mustard greens, there are neat sprays sold at the farmers’ market that will drive them off. The bigger problem is that they tend to run through traffic. Especially in the fall when bucks are chasing does, a deer, a female deer. Anybody who’s lived in rural Arkansas has stories about run-ins with deer, and we don’t mean figuratively. The things can cause damage, even deadly damage. Then there are other problems associated with a large deer herd, such as disease-carrying ticks and the damage to well-manicured lawns.

Good-hearted folks who feed these storybook critters — they are indeed beautiful — only worsen the problem.

Several cities in Arkansas have tried controlled hunts in the past. There is even a way to designate a city as a deer camp, so that city officials can decide who hunts, how long, and where. We vaguely remember Eureka Springs trying this out several years ago. Our considered editorial opinion: The Game & Fish Commission should be in charge, somehow. The experts there have proven over the (many) years that they know how to handle wildlife management. Our trust in them is marrow deep. We believe they could provide the parameters and hunters would provide the discretion.

Ah, and there might be the rub. Or the scrape.

We imagine that folks in Little Rock’s greener subdivisions don’t want wounded deer stumbling through their backyards and into their children’s pools. But although something like that is always possible — even today, after a run-in with a car — we imagine that scenario would be rare. Why? Because we know bow hunters.

Anybody who’s spent any time at a deer club knows the story: The archers who get to the camp a month early spot a large buck, but it was behind a bush so he couldn’t get a clear shot. Or the doe was trotting along, and never stopped broad-sides, so he let it pass. Or his crossbow range is 30 steps, and this deer was a few steps too far. Archers seem to be the most careful of hunters. They get one shot a day, if that, so they make it count.

Also, as an Extra Added Bonus, city residents still not convinced should understand this: There is ample precedent for such hunts. Anybody with doubts about safety or general aesthetics can call somebody in one of the other cities in Arkansas that have such hunts. The director of Russellville’s animal shelter says hunters in his city follow an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. “I guarantee most people don’t know we have an urban deer hunting program,” he said.

Any hunter in Little Rock would have to get the permission of the land owner before hunting on private property. The city can declare parks off-limits. City directors might even prefer the scenario of enrolling in the state’s Urban Deer Hunt Program, which requires hunters to complete an education course, a shooting proficiency exam and attend an orientation.

Nobody is re-inventing the crossbow here. For years, other cities have issued permits for these hunts to maintain a balance between deer herds and that other troublesome species, homo sapiens.

Deer can’t be evicted. They have to be driven away, or put away. Without action, this problem is only going to get worse. Thankfully, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who’d volunteer to help solve it, plus pay for hunting licenses. If the city directors will only allow them.

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 9, 2019.

As they have been many times in the past two decades, hopes are high among leaders at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport that a better road for driving there is going to happen sooner rather than later.

After decades of false starts and debate about where to put a new airport, the facility many reference by its three-digit federal identifier — XNA — was finally built in the 1990s near Highfill in rural Benton County. Why build it there out among the cows? Because it wouldn’t be very wise to put an airport in a developed area, where obstacles to safe flying already exist. An airport designed to meet the region’s needs for decades to come needed to be out in the open, an easy place for airline pilots to find and land.

Drake Field in Fayetteville, which served as the region’s commercial airline hub before XNA opened, got the job done, but the mountains to the north and south made flying into it a little daring sometimes. And the nearby West Fork of the White River from time to time contributed to foggy conditions no pilot relishes flying into.

Drake Field was easy to get to by car, but challenging at times to fly into or out of. XNA, on the other hand, is a delight for the pilots, but getting there by car leaves a bit to be desired.

The paths to get to XNA have, believe it or not, gotten better over the years — two lane highways in most cases still, but widened by a few feet to make the driving experience less difficult. But they can still be a bit unnerving at night, with dark stretches and a few zigzag turns mixed in.

For years, airport officials hoped to build a controlled-access highway directly to the airport — so exclusively designed for the airport’s customers that some referred to it as a “long driveway” to the airport.

That never made much sense, a fact demonstrated by the difficulty airport officials have had through the years getting the project, shall we say, to take off.

Now, airport officials’ are pinning their hopes on a new approach, one that acknowledges the airport isn’t an island in need of a connection to the mainland, but more of a major contributor to the need for a road that serves other residents and businesses in the area.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation, already involved in the environmental study needed for the road, has said it will design the new road as well. That, according to airport officials, could speed up the process of getting the road done.

With the state’s involvement, any future road would be less a “driveway” and more of a road serving a healthy swath of Benton County, particularly access to the county’s western side.

Naturally, with a facility like an airport, there’s some bureaucracy involved. Questions remain about whether the Federal Aviation Administration will provide funding assistance for a highway not specifically designed as a road to the airport. Hopefully, the agency’s bean counters can figure out a win-win situation of having the state involved and getting the road built -- achieving the goal of everyone involved.

Air travelers certainly appreciate a safe and efficient airport, but one of the biggest hassles those travelers face — besides the security line — is the automobile journey to the airport. Making that simpler and safer is a worthwhile project of the airport, the state and the FAA.

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Texarkana Gazette. July 9, 2019.

When President Donald Trump compared Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as “Alfred E. Neuman,” many older readers probably chuckled.

Unfortunately, a lot of younger folks — including Buttigieg himself — asked, “who?”

Alfred E. Neuman was once as recognizable a figure as Ronald McDonald, James Bond or even President Trump himself. The grinning, gap-toothed mascot for MAD Magazine was the symbol for all that was simple — and subversive.

MAD was hugely popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Its brand of silliness and satire made it a favorite with fans from young to old.

The magazine — sole survivor of publisher Bill Gaines’ empire of horror and crime comic books in the 1950s — captured the times perfectly. It sent up everything and everybody. There were few, if any, sacred cows in MAD’s world.

Some of the finest comic writers and artists of the time made sure every skewer hit home.

But times change. Demographics change. Tastes change. And methods of media consumption change. After more than 60 years, MAD as we knew it is fading away. Owner DC Comics announced the magazine will stop publishing original material in August, restrict retail sales to comic book stores and subscriptions, and fill the pages with reprints. There is talk that new material might come out in special editions, but who knows?

MAD leaves a long legacy of laughter. And in today’s world that’s something sorely needed. We’re sorry to see it go.

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