- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. Nov. 13, 2017.

Free metered parking is coming to downtown Fort Smith for the month of December. With ever-changing competition for your Christmas shopping dollars, it’s nice to see our local downtown businesses get a bit of an advantage this time of year. Whether it’s enough of an advantage to consider free parking at other times is an issue that’s worth considering.

Parking at downtown Fort Smith parking meters will be free from Dec. 1 until Jan. 5 following the Board of Directors’ recent vote. And while saving 25 or 50 cents here and there may not sounds like much, it sends a signal from city officials to shoppers that the best place to spend their holiday dollars is right here at home.

Last year, the free parking initiative resulted in about $4,000 in lost revenue, which City Administrator Carl Geffken called a modest loss that can be covered by the fund balance. Lost revenue, however, may translate to more shopping and tourism dollars downtown. Certainly the businesses there will benefit. And according to a survey conducted in early 2017, many downtown businesses did see an increase in sales last December, when parking was free, compared with the previous December, when it was not.

Certainly, free parking would be an encouragement for shoppers to stay local at any time of year, not just in December. The survey conducted earlier this year shows a majority of downtown business owners are in favor of eliminating parking meters and allow for free but limited parking. This month, resident Melissa Woodall, who runs a downtown business, told the Board of Directors, “I would really like to see the parking meters turned off every month of the year, but for now, December is a good start.”

Recent reports indicate the cost of maintaining the meters is more than the revenue the meters make for the city, with the bulk of parking revenue coming from the downtown deck. Currently, there is talk of raising the meter parking rates from 25 cents for 30 minutes, up from 25 cents for one hour, as well as doubling parking fines. The city will hold off on this decision until after the first of the year to allow more time to work with the Central Business Improvement District and other downtown development groups on the issue.

We think downtown business owners are correct. Rethinking the metered parking policy, whether by offering a grace period after parking expires or perhaps not enforcing fines during lunchtime, would offer folks an incentive to come downtown, whether it be for eating, shopping or just exploring. Perhaps offering other periods of free parking, such as during the summer months, or something like “free parking Fridays,” is an option to explore. We can help but think that would add even more appeal to Fort Smith’s downtown.

We understand that parking meters serve a purpose - to keep people from leaving their cars in the same spot all day, which prevents visitors from finding a spot of their own. There are concerns about people abusing the free parking by staying in the spots all day when the intent is to help businesses. Meters are a necessary evil.

But if we want to encourage shopping and visiting in Fort Smith’s downtown, we should do so all year long, not just in December. We love the idea of free parking downtown and feel it can only encourage more visitors to our city.

We are glad to see the city doing its part in joining with the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “Shop Local” campaign, which kicks into gear ahead of the Christmas shopping season. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, they say, but a free place to park may be the next best thing, at least for businesses and shoppers in downtown Fort Smith.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Nov. 14, 2017.

It seems the two-party system is alive and well now that the political pendulum has swung back again, this time much to the Democrats’ delight and the Republicans’ despair. They tell a story about an old farmer up in Kansas who emerged from his cyclone shelter after a storm had swept away everything in sight—the house, the crops, even the topsoil, leaving behind nothing but dust and debris. And he burst out laughing. “Pa!” cried his son, “Why are you laughing? Everything’s gone.” ”Why, son,” the old man replied, “I’m laughing at the completeness of it.”

The whole country seemed in an insurgent mood in this year’s elections, and maybe the no longer Grand Old Party should join it. For the natives have grown restless, yet again, and it showed in the election returns this month. And who can blame voters for throwing caution to the ever-shifting winds and going with their impulses? For the country now has a nominally Republican president in Donald Trump, who acts as if he were a political party of one whose tweets reveal a deeply shallow character. He sounds anything but presidential. As he flits from subject to subject and continent to continent, an observer can only wonder at his abundance of energy and absence of judgment.

In the best of all possible Republican worlds, the country would have a president who combined Ronald Reagan’s old-time conservative religion and populist allure. Now, this president offers his country and party both in fits and starts, unable to settle on just one dependable approach to politics. While the Democrats seem to have the opposite problem. They may have an appealing mix of promises to offer the American public just now, but no single leader, no presidential hopeful to lead their headless party.

And so Democrats wander among the ruins their opposition has left strewn about, picking up the spoils of their transient victory. To the victor belong the spoils, but what are those spoils worth if that victor doesn’t know quite what to do with them?

American politics remains a great circus with many more than three rings - a fascinating spectacle to watch. But is it any way to govern? Let’s just say our politics lack definition at the moment. For when someone says he’s a Democrat or a Republican, what does that mean? Your guess is as good as ours, Dear Reader, and probably a lot better. Our politics lack the ideological clarity of the European brand, thank goodness, for there is such a thing as following ideology right over the nearest cliff. But that doesn’t mean ours are any more intelligible.

American politics remains a great circus, but there is no ringmaster in sight. Which party one is inclined to root for is no simple matter of economic determinism but a complex admixture of family history, geographical roots, and maybe just impulse. When a European visitor to this country was told her hostess’ father was a Republican, she asked if that meant he was a captain of industry, owner of a small business, a reactionary type, or all or none of the above. Our visitor could only snort in response to the assumption that her own father was a Republican. “My father,” she haughtily declared, “is a royalist.”

They are fragile things, words and politics, which can shift from left to right and back again at a moment’s notice. But there’s often less to these dramatic shifts than meets the eye. There’s no need to follow the news every day; to be sure, it’ll just repeat itself in time. At the moment, everything is in flux. And there’s no sense in assuming it has to make sense here and now. If you missed a late development, there’s no point in regretting it. For it will be repeated soon enough.

So to the winners of this season’s elections our congratulations and to the losers our condolences. But no sweat. This merry-go-round will be swinging back around soon enough.

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Texarkana Gazette. Nov. 14, 2017.

Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic were the staples of a good education in the old days. We should add a “hickory stick” was used as an incentive for learning.

Those days are long gone. Now students are taught a variety of subjects beyond the basics, including history, politics, higher mathematics, science and computer technology.

It’s all considered part of the complete education needed to prepare people for college and then for life in the real world.

But for years one particular fact of life every adult must face has been neglected - personal finance.

A lot of young people today have no idea how to balance a checkbook - something they should know even if they pay everything by debit card.

And speaking of cards, a lot have little understanding of credit or interest rates. That’s one reason so many get in trouble with credit cards offered by issuers eager to get them hooked early.

Budgeting? Taxes? The importance of starting to save early for retirement? Total mysteries to most of them.

That’s going to change in Arkansas, though.

Thanks to the Personal Finance and Job Readiness Act passed this year by the Legislature, all high school students will be taught personal finance beyond currently required general economics classes.

Starting with the class of 2021, financial literacy will be worked into the curriculum at all high schools across the state, including right here in Texarkana. That’s important in a state where credit scores are among the lowest in the nation.

We hope it helps. Of course, the lures of easy credit and immediate gratification is strong. And retirement does indeed seem a long way away when you are in your teens and twenties. But at least they will have a better understanding of personal financial responsibility than even a lot of adults.

After that, it’s up to them.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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