- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record, Oct. 30, 2016

By all means, go vote

It has been easy during the last many months of presidential campaigning to become discouraged with the tone and content of political discourse in the United States.

That is no reason to sit out the election. You can change your world directly by voting - all the way to the bottom of the ballot.

To be sure the president of the United States can take actions that affect us all - sign treaties, nominate Supreme Court judges, send troops into combat. And of course the members of our federal delegation, our senators and representatives in Washington, have their duties in enacting laws and providing oversight as part of our system of checks and balances.

But for most of us in our day-to-day lives it is the so-call down ballot races that most directly affect us.

It is the city director or alderman in your hometown and your county judge who can get your streets paved and your bridges repaired. It is the sheriff who manages the local jail. It is the justice of the peace who can ensure that your hard-earned sales tax dollars go to something valuable for the commonweal.

We seem more attuned to it this year, but in every presidential election there are partisan extremists and people who swear they just can’t pick between the choices offered by the major parties.

In every election cycle people talk about the lack of relevance of the Democratic and Republican parties. They talk about third parties and about no parties and about taking the party back - whatever that may mean.

But in the end, the country with the oldest written constitution still in use also has a long history of transferring power peacefully because people like you vote. Those people like you who vote can do so because other people like you died to guarantee it. Man or woman, white or black, young or old, you have the right to vote according to this old, amazing document, this Constitution, because someone died to make it so.

So don’t kid yourself with talk about poor choices and your inability to make a difference. Even if those things were true - and we do not believe they are - they do not excuse your absence from the polls.

You owe it to your country, to your community, to your neighbors and children, to those people who died, for heaven’s sake, you owe it to yourself. Go vote.

Go vote.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nov. 1, 2016

Deadly hesitation

The fatal Oct. 4 shooting of 26-year-old Zachary Sutton by two Springdale police officers was tragic. It wasn’t the first time they had pulled over Sutton, who was riding a scooter. One of the officers can be heard on video of the incident explaining why. “I’ve told you three times I know for sure in less than 10 days. You can’t be driving any motorized vehicle, man. Your license is suspended for DWI,” one officer tells Sutton.

In seconds, the “routine” traffic stop turns into a life-and-death moment. Sutton draws a handgun and fires toward the officers. He runs.

This is the moment critics of some officer-involved shootings suggest the officers should aim to wound. It seems they’ve watched too many old westerns in which the good guy shoots, then (ding!) the bad guy’s gun flies out of his hand. It’s a ludicrous expectation. Hitting anything in such adrenaline-inducing moments is difficult. Consider this: The two officers, faced with a man who fired on them and presented a threat to the community, fired 12 bullets in just seconds. Sutton died of a single gunshot wound.

Washington County Prosecutor Matt Durrett, using information gathered by Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigators, said on Oct. 18 he considered the officers’ actions justified.

For those who cared about Sutton, our condolences. His death is a horrible outcome.

But we’re glad those officers were able to go home that night.

If anyone has ever wondered why officers need to always be on guard, watch the video of Zachary Sutton’s life-ending behavior. Why draw the weapon? What made the potential for death an acceptable risk? Why was Sutton traveling with a handgun in his waistband? We’ll never know what other violence was avoided because these officers were out protecting the community they serve.

Does one “good” shooting excuse other officer-involved shootings with more dubious justifications? Not at all. A shooting is either justified according to law and departmental policy or it’s not. Every shooting needs a thorough, independent review and bad shootings must lead to charges and, sometimes, reforms. But officers also deserve a benefit of a doubt in the court of public opinion until all the information has been evaluated. Too much in recent years we’ve seen a rush to judgment and demands for firings and prosecutions based on nothing but raw emotion.

A female Chicago officer was savagely beaten, to unconsciousness, in early October. She didn’t draw her weapon although she feared for her life. Why? Because she was afraid of the media attention and criticism for her family and her agency if she shot her attacker.

How many officers should communities be willing to lose to such hesitation in the midst of violence? None should be the answer.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nov. 1, 2016

Clean it up

Little Rock’s mayor Mark Stodola called it “one of the most beautiful places in the entire state,” which is saying a lot about a state abounding in beautiful places. And you could see this one if only you peer past the debris and detritus that line both sides of this much abused part of our natural heritage. All the gunk then settles down to the murky bottom of Fourche Creek.

The Friends of Fourche Creek, a consortium of local nature lovers, do more than talk. They contribute their labor to doing what they can to clean up the mess that careless man has made of the creek. To quote one of them, “As bad as this still is, it’s not even close to what it was.” All the while she was in the process of doing what she could to clear away floating pieces of Styrofoam and other litter that came her way.

You name it and it’s doubtless all there in a creek that has become the town dump instead of what it could be. This patch of urban wetland takes up some 1,800 acres. The old cypress trees still rise above the polluted creek like a majestic reminder of what it was and, who knows, might be again thanks to those volunteers who put their man-hours where their mouth is.

But it’s enough to make a grown man cry, the stuff that those who just don’t care have left for others to discover in its now murky depths. Including old mattresses, portable potties, worn-out sofas, an abandoned 16-foot speedboat … you name it if you can even bear to think about it.

Hey, it’s only nature we’re abusing - and what could be our children’s and grandchildren’s natural heritage. How does all this stuff get there besides through man’s thoughtlessness? Every heavy rainfall sends it racing through the city’s storm drains and down into poor Fourche Creek, which eventually carries a lot of it into the Arkansas River. Nature is a proud but unforgiving mistress, recording every thing, missing none of the evidence of its abuse. And yet it endures and may even thrive despite everything.

Stephen O’Neal, a biologist with the state’s Game and Fish Commission, notes that the creek plays host to various species of salamander even if they’re endangered by all the pollution. “There’s animals out there that people just have no idea about because they don’t even know that this is here,” he says. “It’s actually a living, vibrant ecology system, fully functional with fish and macro-invertebrates and turtles. It’s got everything that you would have in some of the wildest parts of Arkansas.” Including a natural predator named Man.

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