- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. July 23, 2018.

It’s been pretty hot here on the Texas-Arkansas border. Indeed it’s been hot across the region.

We saw temperatures top 100 degrees in the past few days. And according to the National Weather Service the high will stay in the 90s for the next several days. After that? All we can say is that August is coming.

It’s that way across much of the region.

According to a Friday report by The Dallas Morning News, the state of Texas set five new records for electricity use last week alone.

Five records. In one week. That means a lot of air conditioners are going full-blast. We bet many of our readers have their home thermostats set a bit lower than normal, too. And even then, while the bill keeps climbing the temperature doesn’t always fall enough to satisfy everyone in the house.

Local residents aren’t too happy. We have seen frequent posts on social media complaining of sky-high utility bills.

If your utility company offers a level-billing plan, it can help you avoid summer shock by offering a average payment that varies little all year round.

And local electricity provider SWEPCO has some tips to reduce those bills on their website. Among them:

- Make sure your air conditioner filter is clean. Dirty filters drive up costs.

- Set your thermostat on 78 degrees. Yes, that may seem a bit too warm. But you’ll pay about 3 percent more for every degree under 78. And set the temp even higher when away from home for an extended period of time.

- Use portable and ceiling fans.

- Make sure your attic is properly ventilated.

- Keep your outside compressor unit free from shrubs, weeds and debris.

Also, be sure to have your air conditioner serviced and inspected yearly. And you might consider having your insulation checked to see if you have enough. Proper insulation could cut your electricity costs by 20 percent.

It’s hot and likely to get hotter as the weeks pass. But you can do a little to stop cooling costs from burning up your cash.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 24, 2018.

We’d better be careful here. The last time we mentioned the bobwhite quail, we had to run letters from several precincts that informed us, in no uncertain terms, that there is no such thing as a bobwhite quail. And not because of the decreasing numbers of birds in this sometimes Not Natural Enough State. But because, well, there’s no bird called the bobwhite quail, no matter how many times you’ve heard the bobwhite quail called the bobwhite quail.

Some of us wonder if the bobwhite quail is offended by the handle the humans put on it. These days, you never can be sure. Offense seems to be the coin of the realm in many quarters. Maybe the Colinus cristatus or the Colinus virginianus get upset at the word “bobwhite.” Though we doubt the old-timers who used to sit around the porch discussing the many virtues of the bird would care a whit.

The letters we got about our mentioning the bobwhite quail were scarcely the first time we were accused, and convicted, of linguistic malpractice. We’re sentenced for it all the time, if not frog-marched out of the newsroom. Ask the copy editors - who pull their hair out because this column doesn’t use AP style. Not consistently anyway.

Not a bobwhite quail? And buzzards aren’t buzzards, either, but officially vultures. And the country folk don’t know what they’re talking about. And the epic sagas of Homer weren’t written by Homer at all, but by another blind Greek writer of the same name.

Happily, there is no shortage of certified experts, with or without degrees, to correct the uninformed and irresponsible rest of us, much like the dear lady at every card game who corrects everybody else’s pronunciation. Somewhere in her thoroughly Southern, and thoroughly colloquial, letters to friends, Flannery O’Connor mentions a young matron of her acquaintance who reads Uncle Remus stories to her small children but is careful to correct the grammar. Such is some of our correspondence.

But venture! Who wants to watch a football game with only fullbacks running up the middle? Throw it deep! So we will dedicate this editorial to the bobwhite quail. Which surely still exists, no matter the word police. And we will deal with the consequences, and letter writers, tomorrow.

Our man in the Pine Thicket Bureau - columnist and reporter Bryan Hendricks - reported over the weekend that federal funding may be on its way to help restore the bobwhite quail to its proper place. That is, under cabin porches and beside dirt road right-of-ways and all over patched places in pastures throughout Arkansas. It’s been too long—too damn long—since we last heard that bird of a summer evening. Some of us are old enough to remember the kids calling them up during the summer months. The birds would come within a stone’s throw if the caller was good enough.

But the birds have disappeared, mostly. We know a 20-something outdoorsman who, only a year or so ago, took a picture of a bobwhite quail in the wild, and passed it around the camp, asking what the darn thing was. Imagine a full-grown Arkie not knowing. It saddens, no end.

But if a bill wafting its way through Congress is passed, millions of dollars might be spent upgrading the bird’s habitat. And, according to Mr. Hendricks, it wouldn’t cost taxpayers more because existing money would be reallocated from other projects.

We’re not sure what exactly happened to the bobwhite quail in Arkansas. Surely the explosion of feral pigs has something to do with it. One sow could eat a truckload of quail eggs in one sitting. There was a rumor several years back that the corn from deer feeders made the birds sick. But surely the top problem has been the dwindling habitat for quail and the destruction of native grasses. That should be something that can be overcome with a bit of funding and a lot of education. Which made Bryan Hendricks’ column from Sunday more than interesting - it was inspirational.

The bobwhite quail was an important animal in these latitudes for generations. They not only provided meat during the season, but a backing soundtrack to the summers. And kept you on your toes in hikes around the state. (Have you ever heard the sound of a herd of stampeding buffalo and the sound of a covey of quail getting up, unexpectedly, three feet in front of you? Both sounds are similar.) And the time spent with Grandpa showing you how to use that new .410 was an important part of growing up for many an Arkie.

But bobwhite quail? What are we to do with the nomenclature?

Allow us to propose a reasonable compromise: Our certified biologists and uncertified letter writers would remain free to call the bobwhite quail anything they like. And with their kind permission (or even without) their never humble servants here at Arkansas’ Newspaper will continue to use the common terms and common language of this small, wonderfully in-between but never indefinite state. And continue to use words and phrases like buzzard, nutria rat, squirrel dog, king snake (for a dozen varieties) … .

And bobwhite quail. Let the letter wars begin.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 24, 2018.

Is tonight’s (Tuesday night’s) special Fayetteville City Council meeting really about the mayor’s signature on a document, or a more fundamental disagreement over how public housing is provided for low-income individuals and families?

Mayor Lioneld Jordan took the rare step, at least in terms of his nearly decade-old administration, of calling a special meeting of the City Council. Doing so on the matter of public housing is certainly unprecedented. The Fayetteville Housing Authority operates public housing units at Hillcrest Towers near the library, Morgan Manor near Walker Park, Lewis Plaza near Ramay Junior High and Willow Heights.

What’s the point?

In March 2017, however, the Housing Authority Board agreed to sell Willow Heights, built in the 1970s on about 5 acres overlooking downtown, for $1.25 million to a developer. It would cease to be public housing. The authority’s plan would, over time, move about 100 Willow Heights tenants to its Morgan Manor property once Morgan Manor is expanded by 58 units.

The Housing Authority Board is a public body responsible for administering federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funding for public housing and rental assistance. Despite the board’s public nature, most of the time local attendance demonstrates a sad reality: Public housing isn’t usually high on the list of concerns for most Fayetteville residents, business owners and politicians.

Word spread about the Willow Heights plans, however. And it has sparked resistance. Critics, including one the City Council appointed last year to the authority’s board, have called for the Housing Authority to fix, rather than sell, Willow Heights. They’ve also complained that moving those tenants to Morgan Manor would concentrate poverty.

Housing Authority officials, unused to the bright public spotlight, have seemed frustrated latecomers have complicated their years of thankless work. One board member suggested most Housing Authority boards in Arkansas don’t allow public comment. He may be right, but that’s hardly a convincing argument as to why Fayetteville’s should devote time and energy to rejecting it.

So, yes, tensions exist, to a degree because this Housing Authority Board - and such boards across the country - is trying to make public housing work within a federal funding system that the president and Congress have woefully underfunded for decades. That’s not a just a Trump thing. It goes back years. The nation’s leaders have put public housing on a slow starvation diet.

Headed into tonight’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall, it’s worthwhile to realize the goal for all the local folks is the same - improved public housing for those in need. The disagreement arises as to the path toward that goal.

Jordan said he called tonight’s meeting largely because he felt the Housing Authority Board hasn’t appeared welcoming to concerns from the public, including tenants, at recent meetings. Every year, the mayor signs off on the Housing Authority’s annual and five-year funding plans for submission to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year, however, Jordan and the City Council have delayed that to create an opportunity for comments from residents, the public, the Housing Authority board and the City Council.

“I may not agree with everybody, but they’ve got a right to speak their mind in a public meeting,” Jordan said Monday. “We’ve got to have this dialogue.”

Jordan acknowledged Monday he’ll sign off on the Housing Authority plans and won’t put federal maintenance funding for public housing in jeopardy. So what’s the point of all this? Jordan and the City Council will play the role of sounding board, potentially to provide some feedback to Housing and Urban Development about the future of public housing in Fayetteville.

Let’s be realistic, though: Unless someone whips out a checkbook tonight and offers to cover millions of dollars in overdue maintenance and rehabilitation, the Housing Authority’s problems won’t be solved. The $281,425 in annual federal funding for maintenance sought for each of the next five years is inadequate to maintain, much less rehabilitate, places like Willow Heights and Lewis Plaza that are slowly falling apart.

The Housing Authority has had to reduce the number of units available at Lewis, for example, because conditions in six units became too poor for them to be rented.

The federal government has more or less ensured that traditional public housing will eventually disappear. That’s where the Fayetteville Housing Authority’s grand plan, developed over the last several years, comes into play: Sell off crumbling assets and use a funding mechanism developed under the Obama administration. It’s called the Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, program. It provides public housing authorities a way to access private funding for public housing, often through the use of tax credits.

Critics nationally call it the privatization of public housing. Our bet is, if all things were even, the Fayetteville Housing Authority would be just fine restoring Willow Heights and its other properties to acceptable conditions. The federal government has made that an almost impossible task within the Housing Authority funding framework.

RAD program concerns are really at the heart of Fayetteville’s debate about the local facilities, but is the local City Council and mayor in a position to solve such issues that extend into the federal bureaucracy? With public housing on a forced starvation diet, is local government going to try to come to the rescue? Can it afford to?

Be prepared for a lot of talk tonight, a lot of concerns. But a lack of money is what ails the Fayetteville Housing Authority properties and stands as a barrier to just fixing them all up.

We’ll be astonished if anyone solves that tonight. But ideas have to start someplace, and it’s clear a little more conversation among all the parties can help if everyone opens themselves up to the discussion.

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