Been caught stealing
Legislators talk LEARNS at Chamber breakfast; After the storm: FEMA can still help; State tournaments start today, maybe plus headlines and sports.
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Pandemic death count remains 13,115
The state’s Department of Health, on its Covid dashboard, hasn’t been updated since May 3.
The total number of reported dead Arkansans is at 13,115.
There’s now a one-stop shop to learn about vaccination sites and other Covid related information. Click here to learn more.
If you don’t want to get sick and die, there’s some things you can do:
Wear a mask
Upcoming meetings: The Maumelle City Council meets next Monday night.
Mother’s Day is Sunday, plan accordingly.
Events: Next Tuesday, May 16, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., there will be an Open House held at Park on the River (11903 Crystal Hill Road). Feel free to attend and tour the property. The city is seeking the public’s input on how to make this facility better and to determine the future use for this property. Then, on Thursday, May 18, the Maumelle Chamber will be hosting a Business After Hours at Park on the River to showcase the city’s new all-inclusive playground. The event will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. with a presentation around 5:30 p.m. Anyone is welcome to attend this event and get a preview of the new playground that will begin construction later this year. Sponsorship opportunities are available for businesses and individuals if they would like to help with the final fundraising push to add additional amenities to the playground. — CHAD GARDNER
Legislators talk LEARNS at Chamber breakfast
About two dozen were in attendance for Tuesday morning Legislative Breakfast put on by the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce at Park on the River.
The event was co-sponsored by AT&T and Chick-fil-A.
Among those in attendance were student groups from Maumelle High School and Maumelle Charter.
Addressing the group were state Sen. Jane English (North Little Rock) and state Rep. David Ray (Maumelle) and state Rep. Brandon Achor (Maumelle) was scheduled to be there but was unable to attend.
English and Ray covered the high points of this past legislative session along with a Q&A at the end.
Mostly they talked about the LEARNS Act, which is a reform of education in the state, and also the criminal justice act, which, among other things, will build a new 3,000 bed prison in the state.
“We've had massive prison overcrowding at the state level for years,” Ray said. “Our previous governor didn't want to build a prison. And so, that sort of got kicked down the road. So the problem followed down to the local level. … the state overflow has been pushed down into the counties.”
Which, Ray said, caused the county jails to be overcrowded and has required some counties to build new, and larger facilities. That wasn’t the case in Pulaski County though, as local voters rejected a jail expansion.
“County jails were not made to do what state prisons do,” Ray added. “New state prisons have a host of rehabilitative programs that just aren't available in the counties.”
As for the session, English said, “some of it is going to work, some of it is not going to work. But we have to give things an opportunity to try it and try something new because some of these things that we've been doing for all these years haven't worked."
The presence of the high school students, along with their teachers, meant that more of the focus of the breakfast was on LEARNS.
In response to one question, English said, “I think it's scary for the folks who are thinking, the biggest topic seems to be the vouchers or the educational freedom accounts, whatever.”
But, English said, “parents need to have the opportunity to decide what is the best for their kids, whether it's going to the school here in Maumelle, the charter school. You've made that decision. Some parents have chosen to send their children to the charter school. And some parents have chosen to send their kids to the regular school. They're both public schools but people have made those decisions about what they want to do with their children.”
Ray also addressed some of the concerns.
“I'll try to explain some of the pushback,” he said. “But an easy way to think about this education overhaul is in two buckets. Okay. Bucket one is a massive investment into public schools and into the teaching profession writ large. The second bucket are educational reforms.”
He added, “and you have to have both right because if just throwing money at the problem were enough to fix it, all of our problems would have been solved a long time ago. Right? If we could just spend more money and it would all go away. We would solve everything from crabgrass to male pattern baldness. That's just not going to happen.”
Ray noted that under former Gov. Mike Beebe, the average teacher salary was around $29,000 and under Asa Hutchinson, the average salary went to around $36,000. The LEARNS Act makes the starting teacher salary in the state $50,000.
“So massive investment in public education” he said. “To the push back. I would say number one, we have to start somewhere. Number two local districts still have the ability to go in and reward teachers how they feel is appropriate for educational attainment, for years of service, for things like that.”
Both legislators were also asked about the recent lawsuit filed against the LEARNS Act and to the critics during the legislative session that said the lawmakers were moving too fast and that they were just going to end up in court.
Critics like state Sen. Jimmy Hickey (Texarkana) who said exactly that.
“A lawsuit was going to happen anyway. Right. No matter what,” Ray and, “the lawsuit that was filed yesterday. Frankly, I think it's frivolous, that it's gonna get tossed out.”
That lawsuit is over the emergency clause that lawyers contend was improperly done and that LEARNS won’t be in effect until July 1, or 90 days after passage, and not immediately.
“As to the comment that the process is rushed,” Ray said .”Look, I think that the legislative process as a whole is too rushed, not just this bill specifically, all of it. I wish that we had more time … I don't think that [fast process] results in better government for the citizens. … But you know, some of these, some of the complaints about. So I think there are some valid concerns that maybe the legislative process moves too fast. But I think specifically with regard to LEARNS, a lot of what I heard on that point from people, that was an argument used by people who didn't support the bill anyway. Right. So it was sort of a red herring. They wanted to say, hey, no, no, you're moving, you're moving too fast. Don't pass it.”
While the lawsuit has been filed and assigned a Pulaski County Circuit Judge, no trial date has been set.
Been caught stealing
If the Capital Hotel is Little Rock’s “Front Porch,” then the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is very likely its living room, or at least the third floor Cultural Living Room is.
The spacious, airy and light-filled room has floor-to-ceiling windows and a mix of chairs, couches and settees arranged for easy conversation over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
A bar in the corner sells drinks and a small selection of snacks and bakery items. A scattering of gorgeous coffee-table-style art books invite leisurely perusal.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, the room was busy, as performers with "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" greeted the young and young at heart, while the reckless, awaiting an iced coffee order, encouraged Harriet Stephens to take some snacks from the bar countertop.
She, smartly, declined the offer and said that would be “shoplifting.” Maybe, but when your name is on the wall, is it?
The two-comma-donor club has some privileges, after all.
Regardless, Harriet and Warren Stephens went to a couch to wait on their wine, and maybe that’s just a normal Sunday for them. Having been to several dozen museums, it felt a little unusual to see the ones with their names at the top of the benefactor wall, and adorning a gallery, just hanging out.
But that’s what one does in a living room.
As for the museum, there’s always some recency bias, but wow, it really is nice.
The 133,000 square feet of space is smartly configured. The pieces on view include some 700 years old and ones made this decade.
In the "Together" exhibit, there’s a Monet or two, plus works which are much more contemporary. From a Carroll Cloar painting by the door to LaToya Hobbs' large woodblock print, the Arkansas connections are fun to discover. The Art Perch is also a nice spot to linger - or even snap a selfie with Natasha Bowdoin's colorful Spring Song installation.
All together, the AMFA makes for a stunning experience that’s worth repeat visits. Plus, admission is free.
On a more personal note, from someone firmly in the one-comma-household camp, it is actually pretty great the state’s three-comma club is using their resources to enhance the arts.
From Crystal Bridges in Bentonville to the Murphy Arts District in El Dorado to this museum, the thumbprints of the local billionaires are clearly and plainly visible.
And that’s great. Those with generational wealth should do things for the next several generations.
Also, the iced coffee and candied popcorn were pretty good. Looking forward to returning for a spectacular date night dinner at Park Grill and — if anyone with some influence happens to be reading this — Immersive Van Gogh, please and thank you.
Crimes of the Heart this week
The Judy Kohn Tenenbaum Argenta Community Theater will stage a production of Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart this week at ACT II: The Sharon Heflin Performing Arts Education Center.
The show’s run will end May 20 and the first four shows will include dinner as part of the theatre’s dinner theatre program.
Dinner theater shows begin at 6:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees beginning at 2 p.m. Non-dinner shows will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Crimes of the Heart stars Angela Collier, Finley Daniel, Laura Landfair, Jessica Mylonas, Austin Rodgers and Thomas Williams. It is directed by long time ACT associate Laura Grimes.
Dinner choices include stuffed chicken, pork loin or sauteed eggplant along with risotto, vegetables, salad and desert. Dinner also includes your choice of red or white wine.
For tickets, please go to www.argentacommunitytheater.org/tickets or call John Broadwater at 501-353-1443.
After the storm: FEMA can still help
Arkansans who have already applied for FEMA disaster assistance for the March 31 EF3 tornado that hit Pulaski and Lonoke counties must let FEMA know about any insurance settlements or denials you receive.
FEMA’s Individual Assistance program may cover damage that your insurance does not, public information officer Thomas G. Kempton in an email.
“Disaster assistance can help with rental assistance, temporary housing, home repair and replacement, personal property losses and other disaster-related needs not covered by insurance.”
Kempton added, “homeowners and renters may be eligible for assistance.”
Providing FEMA your insurance documentation can move your application forward to determine eligibility.
By law, FEMA cannot provide funding to individuals or households for losses covered by insurance or any other source. However, if you filed an insurance claim and have disaster-related needs that still need to be addressed, FEMA may consider you for its Other Needs Assistance program or refer you to an agency that can help.
Remember when you file a claim with your insurance agent or company, find out what your policy covers and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work you have done to repair your home.
Use FEMA grants properly
In another press release, Kempton said, those “ who receive federal disaster assistance for the severe storms and tornadoes that occurred March 31, to use the money for its intended purpose and to keep all receipts.
Disaster assistance is intended to help survivors pay for basic expenses caused by the disaster. A letter explaining what the payment is to be used for arrives within a day or two of the check or direct deposit payment.
Approved uses for grants include:
Repairs to make a home livable
Rental assistance to temporarily pay for a place to stay
Repair or replacement of a disaster-damaged essential vehicle
Medical care for an injury caused by the disaster
Replacing clothing, occupational tools and educational materials
Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster.
Disaster grants should not be used for travel, entertainment, regular living expenses or any discretionary expenses not related to the disaster. If applicants spend the payment on anything other than the purpose for which it is intended, they may be denied future disaster assistance. In some cases, FEMA may ask that the money be returned.
Those receiving assistance are urged to keep receipts for their disaster spending for three years to document the money was used to meet disaster-related expenses. If you receive an insurance settlement to cover the same expenses, you must reimburse FEMA. Audits are conducted to confirm funds were spent properly.
After you apply for disaster assistance, FEMA may call you to obtain, verify or share information. These calls may come from unfamiliar area codes or phone numbers.
FEMA representatives are reaching out to survivors of the March 31 severe storms and tornadoes that have applied for disaster assistance. Representatives may call for a variety of reasons such as issues with applications (missing documents, insurance settlement paperwork, etc.), follow-up on access and functional needs and/or to schedule inspections at the address where the damage was reported.
If you receive a call from someone stating they are a FEMA representative, but you are skeptical, do not give out any information. Call 800-621-3362 to verify the call is legitimate.
If you suspect fraud, call the toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or visit justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
If you live in Cross, Lonoke or Pulaski counties and haven’t yet applied for FEMA assistance you may still complete an application.
The fastest and easiest way to apply is by visiting disasterassistance.gov/.
If it is not possible to apply in person or online, you can call 800-621-3362.
Disaster survivors rebuilding and repairing homes after the March 31 severe storms and tornadoes can visit Cantrell Ace Hardware in Little Rock to speak with FEMA Hazard Mitigation Outreach Specialists about your damage and discuss how best to repair your homes.
FEMA staff will be available now to May 20 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday at Cantrell Ace Hardware, 2600 Cantrell Road, Little Rock.
Calls regarding the tornado and relief efforts: 501-906-5014
Calls regarding individuals or groups wanting to volunteer: 501-791-8500
Click here for online help.
By the numbers
1 fatality in North Little Rock
37 homes destroyed in North Little Rock
600 plus homes in North Little Rock sustained damage
1,500 loads and counting of debris hauled away by Crowder Gulf
100 structures were destroyed in Little Rock
538 structures had extreme damage
Source: FEMA and the American Red Cross
Tornado relief number for North Little Rock residents, 501-906-5014
High School sports: State tournaments start today, maybe
UPDATE: Weather, in fact, has scrambled the state tournament schedule this morning. Soccer appears to be the only sport not impacted but online brackets from the AAA have been updated. Also of note, all of today’s Class 6A softball games have been moved to Benton with delayed starts. Any tournament sites that get rained out will be pushed back a day with semifinals on Sunday.
On paper, the spring sports state tournaments are scheduled to begin today with teams from Maumelle, Maumelle Charter, Central Arkansas Christian and North Little Rock all set to participate.
Scheduled is key here as it assumes the weather will cooperate but a quick glance at the forecast gives every indication that heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected most of the day today.
With some sports, soccer in particular, rain isn’t much of an issue but lightning and thunderstorms on Thor’s Day is fitting, it isn’t great for athletes.
Also, important to remember, start times are mostly approximate as with any tournament, games can run long and push back start times.
So, with all that in mind, below is the schedule broken down by sport. Games and matches will continue through the week with semifinals set to start on Saturday. State championships will be held next week in Conway. Again, weather permitting.
6A at Cabot | Bracket
Rogers Heritage vs. North Little Rock, 10 a.m.
5A at Marion | Bracket
Maumelle vs. Sheridan, 5:30 p.m.
3A at Lincoln/Farmington | Bracket
Central Arkansas Christian vs. Melbourne, 5:30 p.m. (At Farmington)
6A at Benton | Bracket
North Little Rock vs. Fort Smith Northside 6:30 p.m.
5A at Marion | Bracket
Sheridan vs. Maumelle, 12:30 p.m.
5A At NEA | Bracket
Hot Springs Lakeside vs. Maumelle, Noon (at Paragould)
3A At Bergman | Bracket
Central Arkansas Christian vs. Eureka Springs, 11 a.m. (at Weichert Realty Field)
Maumelle Charter vs. Decatur, 7 p.m. (at Equity Bank Field)
6A At Fort Smith | Bracket
Rogers vs. North Little Rock, 4 p.m. (A Fort Smith Northside)
5A At NEA | Bracket
Hot Springs Lakeside vs. Maumelle, 2 p.m. (at Greene Co. Tech)
3A At Bergman | Bracket
Life Way Christian vs. Maumelle Charter, 9 a.m. (at FedEx Field)
Central Arkansas Christian vs. Decatur, 5 p.m. (at Equity Bank Field)
Baseball at Dickey-Stephens this week
Home stand against Northwest Arkansas
Today, 6:35 p.m.
$3 Thursday: Enjoy $3 Beer Garden Tickets and Concessions deals, including Hot Dogs, Soft Drinks, Red Bull, Cotton Candy, and a Select Canned Beer & Seltzer! | Presented By Red Bull
Noche de Diamantes: Your Travs will take the field as the Diamantes de Arkansas in salute of Hispanic Heritage! | Presented By Modelo Especial
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Fireworks: Presented By Arkansas State Parks
501 Night & Jersey Auction, presented By Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
Faith & Family Night: The perfect night for a church group outing! Come enjoy a pre-game talk with former MLB star Darryl Strawberry, who will also be available for an hour during the game to take photos with fans. (No autographs will be allowed.)
Kids Run the Bases, presented By Museum of Discovery
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
Pre-Game Brunch Buffet: Get a special Brunch ticket that comes with a Field Reserved seat! Perfect for Mother’s Day and moms who also love baseball. Buffet will include select breakfast foods, juice, coffee, and soft drinks. (Alcohol will be available for purchase separately.) Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. | Presented By Picnic Brunch
Kids Run the Bases, presented By Museum of Discovery
Operation: Military Appreciation: Service Members get $3 off General Admission and Field Reserved tickets by presenting a Military ID (only available at DSP Box Office) | Presented By Mid-South Ford Dealers
Family Sunday: Get $2 General Admission tickets by presenting a physical or digital church bulletin and only available at the Box Office.
Road Trip: May 16 - May 21 at Wichita