- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. April 22, 2018.

Back in 1977, in an effort to help Texarkana, Arkansas, keep up with the Texas side, the state Legislature passed the Border City Exemption.

Since Texas residents paid no state income tax, neither would those who lived within the city limits of Texarkana, Arkansas. An additional 1 percent sales tax would be imposed to make up revenue lost to the state.

From time to time, the exemption comes under attack. We recently saw some rumblings.



Back in the fall of 2017, the Legislature’s Economic and Tax Policy Committee heard testimony about the exemption. There were those in favor of getting rid of the break - an economics professor at the University of Central Arkansas who argued in a July op-ed that the exemption should “top of the list” to be eliminated. But others, including our own state Sen. Jimmy Hickey, defended the Border City tax law, saying basically it could kill the city.

And he’s right. While the exemption may not have been as much of a boon as many hoped, it is still vitally important to Texarkana, Arkansas. We hate to imagine what would happen if it were repealed.

Which is why it’s so encouraging that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has made it known he supports the Border City Exemption.

Speaking at a recent Americans for Prosperity event at the state Capitol in Little Rock, the governor said he thinks the exemption is justified based on the state’s economy and should remain.

That’s good news.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. It is comforting though to have the governor on our side. But that doesn’t mean we can rest easy. That’s the nature of politics. We will always have to keep on the lookout for those who would put revenue ahead of the very lifeblood of the city.

___

Southwest Times Record. April 22, 2018.

This past week, Greenwood marked the 50th anniversary of a devastating tornado that left 13 of its residents dead and the town facing millions of dollars in damage. Less than a week before the anniversary, two other towns in our region - Mountainburg and Lavaca - experienced tornadoes of their own. While this year’s tornadoes haven’t brought the same amount of devastation as the one in 1968, it’s important to note one thing that unites them all: community involvement.

What we’ve learned from Mother Nature is that taking precautions are never enough. There’s only so much a town and its citizens can do, even with advancements in weather technology and warnings. What they can do is stick together, even when the outlook is grim, even when there are destroyed homes and flattened trees as far as the eye can see and little to indicate that anything will ever be normal again. Communities must be able to see beyond that and visualize a future that includes marveling at how it was able to overcome major destruction.

Rebuilding Greenwood was no doubt a difficult process, but what’s evident in the reflection 50 years later is the amount of teamwork that went into it. Neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers - it was all hands on deck to get the town up and running again.

In an editorial published in the Greenwood Democrat on April 25, 1968, editor Earl Dodd wrote about just such an idea when he thanked those who offered assistance in the aftermath of the storm.

“From the depths of our despair you have given us hope and the courage to face the difficult days ahead … From the rubble of our once beautiful but now destroyed town you have inspired us - nay, challenged us to literally start from the ground up to plan and rebuild a better and even more beautiful Greenwood.”

There’s no denying that the residents of Greenwood did just that. In the years since the tornado, the town’s population has grown from 2,000 to nearly 10,000, and by all accounts will keep growing. A storm that leveled much of the town could not keep it from being rebuilt into what it is today: A vibrant, growing community. A “New Greenwood” was declared a year after the storm, when City Park became Memorial Park to honor victims of the tornado and residents gathered to mark the anniversary. They rebuilt and moved forward while still holding on to the memories of all that had happened.

Earlier this month, it became clear Mountainburg residents are facing a similar situation. The April 13 tornado hit the area shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, destroyed a handful of structures and damaged many others. Debris was scattered throughout the area, blocking roadways. Volunteers and first responders came out en force almost immediately from not just Mountainburg but also places like Van Buren, Fort Smith and beyond.

“It’s just nice to see our community come together on something like this,” Mountainburg Police Chief Vincent Clamser said last Saturday.

Mountainburg is in the early stages of its cleanup and rebuilding efforts, and while the destruction isn’t close to what Greenwood experienced 50 years ago, any kind of storm damage will have an impact on a community. “We’re going to bounce back and take it one day at a time,” Mountainburg City Clerk Melony McKenzie said that Saturday. “This is day No. 1 after the fact, and we’re just going to take it one day at a time, because we’ve got many days ahead that we’re going to need volunteers, food and things like that.”

Survivors of the Greenwood tornado gathered April 19 for an event marking the anniversary and presented by the Greenwood Democrat. During a panel discussion led by Democrat Editor Dustin Graham, residents were able to reflect on the events of 50 years ago and relive the rebuilding process. For many, it was an opportunity to marvel at just how far the community has come in the time since the tornado.

“We could have easily just gone away,” Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow said. “Greenwood could have just as easily have been literally blown off the map, and it almost was, but people, the people you saw … people that worked and had no thought of leaving, the only thought they had was to rebuild, to continue what they had been doing and to make Greenwood bigger and better as it is today.”

A documentary about the tornado, “Four Minutes in April,” featuring survivors telling their personal stories, made its debut at the gathering.

The 50-year anniversary should be seen less as a celebration of the city’s comeback and more as the power of community togetherness, for without that, there would be little to celebrate. Tornadoes are a sobering reminder of Mother Nature’s power and ability to change lives. They’re also a reminder of what a community can do when it works together to move beyond damage and destruction.

Visit greenwoodtornado.com to view the documentary and order a copy of the Democrat’s commemorative magazine, “Voices From The Storm.”

___

Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. April 24, 2018.

Throughout Northwest Arkansas’ cities and rural areas, there’s a constant flow that’s as much a part of the region’s culture as its entrepreneurial spirit, its porcine attachment and its affection for these hills and valleys comprising the Ozarks.

Is it water? No, although creeks, streams and rivers are important pieces of the region’s ecological vitality.

Is it money? No, although this corner of Arkansas is blessed in that regard compared to some parts of the state.

Is it population? Not directly, even though folks have been coming to this area steadily for decades.

The flow we’re focused on today is part of everyday living on the Ozark Plateau.

It’s trash.

We are a trash-generating people living in an era of mass-marketed products, many of which are disposable or have short-duration shelf lives. We haul our trash to the curb — hopefully with a robust effort to recycle or reuse as many materials as possible - and watch it hauled away in a truck.

Problem solved, right?

Not really. That’s just the beginning, because our waste doesn’t just evaporate. It has to reside someplace for a long, long time, and for many years now, that someplace has been in Tontitown. That’s where Waste Management operates what a few years back they named the Eco-Vista Landfill. Sounds almost like a resort get-away, doesn’t it?

Names can be deceiving, though. The landfill is the final resting place of our garbage, and from time to time, the landfill’s owner along with local and state regulators must face the reality: People’s trash-producing ways aren’t going away, so preparations must be made to give their byproduct a forever home.

Waste Management has asked the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for all the necessary permissions to expand the 109 acres it uses within a 609-acre area it owns to bury household garbage and, separately, construction debris, which the region generates plenty of. The expansion would add 72 acres to the operation, creating a longer lifetime for the spot where Northwest Arkansas buries its waste.

The Boston Mountain Solid Waste District recently hosted a meeting in Springdale to get feedback about the Eco-Vista situation. According to district officials, the site will fill up within about 5½ years unless something is done. The requested expansion would cover the region’s projected needs until 2049.

Perhaps more than any other time, such requests to the state and local regulatory agencies represent an opportunity for a conversation about how Waste Management is doing. But if the question is whether Northwest Arkansas ought to expand the landfill, the answer really has to be “yes,” doesn’t it?

Certainly, there are always other options, such as hauling Northwest Arkansas trash farther distances to places with capacity to handle the volume. But should residents and businesses pay what would likely be a costly premium to do that? And one can convincingly argue that our region has a responsibility to manage its trash within its own geography.

That can be one of the prime motivators for Northwest Arkansas leaders to do as much as humanly possible to reduce the flow of trash to the landfill. And if we don’t take care of business in that regard, we really should have to deal with the results right here in our own backyard.

Northwest Arkansas can use more leadership - from government and from the business community - when it comes to reducing the trash we generate and recycling whatever can be.

Fayetteville is one of the more serious towns on the issue of diverting waste from landfills, and a representative spoke up the other evening. The city wants to make sure as much as possible is done to slow the amount of trash going to the landfill.

Our waste has to go somewhere, but we humans still have a lot to discover about how we package things, how we can reduce wasteful tendencies, and how we can live up to higher standards when it comes to our consumption.

Is now a time for a vigorous conversation about how we manage the region’s waste? Yes, but the fact is, that’s always true.

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