- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sept. 30, 2014

What’s happening in town?

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? At least if you’re not one of the staffers at city hall who actually had to change all those computer codes to get a stream of automatic, time-delayed police dispatches on Little Rock’s official website.

At last the public will get the public information it’s entitled to. Even with a time delay and other complications necessary to protect cops in the midst of serving and protecting all of us.

Ever since the end of July, when the local police department stopped broadcasting its radio communications, complaints - not to mention lawsuits - have been coming in from folks who want to know about heavy traffic and a lot more troubling problems in their neighborhood, like a serious crime. Or just folks who want to know what’s going on in their town, the way good citizens should. That last category includes the press, which felt blindsided when it could no longer do its job the way a free and vigilant press should.

So a number of different and perfectly legitimate interests had to be considered as city hall scrambled to correct its original mistake, which was to leave the rest of us in the dark about what the cops were up to.

Now a welcome compromise, or at least the beginnings of one, has started to take shape, thanks to all concerned. It’s assuring to see basically reasonable people act reasonably, even if it took an uneasy while. Thanks to all those who took the lead when it came to doing what needed to be done. Some time ago.

Yes, more needs to be done. “I think it’s a good start,” to quote one city director - B. J. Wyrick - who went on to note that there’s still “some action that’s taking place out there, and people are not going to be able to protect themselves.” Another city director, Lance Hines, summed up the new system when he said, “It’s better than what we have” now. But as any newspaperman knows, keeping the public informed is a job, and duty, that’s never finished. Hopeful as this new start is, let’s not confuse it with a finish.

___

Texarkana Gazette, Sept. 28, 2014

Attorney general’s resignation is long overdue

President Barack Obama’s most controversial Cabinet member is on his way out.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced he was stepping down.

One of the longest-serving members of the Obama administration, Holder said he would stay on until his successor was confirmed by the Senate.

Born in the Bronx, Holder joined the Justice Department after graduating law school in 1976 and in 1988 was appointed a federal judge by President Ronald Reagan.

He left the bench in 1993 to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia under President Bill Clinton. He became deputy attorney general in 1997 and served until 2001, when he went into private practice.

He joined the Obama campaign as senior legal advisor in 2007, and after the election, the new president nominated Holder to be attorney general.

His six years in office have been tumultuous, to say the least.

He has drawn fire over Operation Fast and Furious, a Justice Department sting operation that allowed Mexican drug cartels to obtain thousands of firearms. He was later slapped with a Contempt of Congress citation for allegedly stonewalling an investigation into the operation, the first attorney general to be so charged. The Obama administration refused to prosecute, citing executive privilege and Holder’s own agency - the Department of Justice - cleared him of any wrongdoing.

As expected, that did nothing to mollify his critics.

He was also strongly criticized for his comments and actions in regard to sensitive racial incidents, including allegations of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party and the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Some also saw Holder as having little regard for laws that stood in the way of what he wanted to do. His investigation into government leaks led to allegations the Justice Department improperly obtained journalists’ phone records and other data. His opposition to voter ID laws has been challenged as more for partisan political gain than protecting civil rights. And many in the South say Holder overstepped the bounds of his office in continuing to challenge redistricting cases in Texas and Alabama after federal courts ruled against the administration.

Not everyone agrees with the negative assessment, though.

“Holder’s accomplishments have established a historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system. Holder revitalized the Department’s praised Civil Rights Division, protected the rights of the LGBT community, successfully prosecuted terrorists, and fought tirelessly for voting rights, to name a few. He will remain at the Department of Justice until his post is filled,” an unnamed White House source told the Washington Post and other media outlets in an email. Whatever one’s view, Holder’s tenure as AG will be debated for years to come.

In our view, Holder’s resignation has been too long coming. The Fast and Furious debacle and his subsequent lack of cooperation with the congressional investigation was enough to demand his resignation. But there is more. Under Holder, the Justice Department seemed to operate in its own world, with little transparency and less oversight. That’s not good for our democracy.

We can only hope that his successor is confirmed sooner than later and brings a less contentious approach.

___

Southwest Times Record, Sept. 29, 2014

Are you bullish on Fort Smith?

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, says he’s “bullish on Fort Smith,” and he offers compelling support for his position.

Speaking last week to the Times Record editorial board, Rep. Womack described himself as a “fundamentals guy,” and said Fort Smith has all the fundamentals for a great city.

From its scenic beauty to its strategic location, from its river and rail transportation to its highways and airport, from its current “world-class health care” and proposed medical college to its military footprint, the city clearly has its best years ahead of it, he said.

When the Interstate 49 bridge across the Arkansas River is constructed - and he said “when,” not “if” - this area will be “white hot.”

Rep. Womack isn’t pro-Fort Smith by birth. Born in Russellville, raised in Moberly, Mo., the congressman served as mayor of Rogers for 12 years, starting in 1998, according to his House of Representatives biography.

Those were heady years in Rogers, a period of rapid economic growth and congruent development in infrastructure and services. In addition to acting as the city’s CEO, Rep. Womack served as chairman of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, a powerful, valuable alliance in that corner of the state.

We mention these positions to note that Rep. Womack knows what cities on an upward arc look like.

Again, we are reminded that people from outside Fort Smith often see strengths where those who live here see deficiencies. It’s a question of getting above or beyond the problems to see the core strengths that can propel the city forward.

The trick will be to exploit every opportunity to advance, not waiting for bridges or highways or jobs to come, but working every day, every step of the way to grab that future that Rep. Womack sees.

The key is to become as bullish on Fort Smith as the former mayor of Rogers.


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