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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. March 4, 2017.

Back in 2009, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels quietly tried to ban the works of historian Howard Zinn from Indiana public schools.

Zinn, who died in 2010, was a political science professor at Boston University. His books, particularly 1980’s “A People’s History of the United States” have been lauded by some for giving voice to areas of our nation’s story that have been overlooked, decried by others who see his writings as radical, even anti-American.

Zinn has written extensively on the struggles of minorities, women and the working class, which he contends have been exploited over our country’s history by the moneyed and political elite. He also self-identified as “something of an anarchist, something of a socialist. Maybe a democratic socialist.” That didn’t win him any fans among conservatives.

Daniels’ emails on Zinn and his books were uncovered by The Associated Press in 2013. They caused quite a stir. Daniels, who by then was president of Purdue University, was roundly criticized and accuses of attempted censorship.

The Zinn Education Project, set up to promote the teaching of people’s history, was delighted, however. Sales of Zinn’s books skyrocketed as the public rushed to see what all the fuss was about. The foundation invited other states to go for a ban, saying it would only serve to introduce Zinn’s work to more and more people.

They may get their wish.

This week Arkansas State Rep. Kim Hendren, a Republican from the far northwest portion of the state, introduced a bill banning all of Zinn’s works from public and charter schools. The bill is now before the House Committee on Education, where hopefully more reasonable heads will prevail and it will die before it gets any more notice.

It doesn’t matter what one thinks of Zinn. We don’t particularly like or agree with his ideas about the nation and our shared history. But the idea of singling him out for a ban strikes us as more anti-American than anything Zinn ever put down on paper. Zinn’s books may send the wrong message to students, but the message Hendren’s bill would send is far worse.

Plus, we agree with the Zinn Education Project_the controversy would only serve to promote their mission. In other words, the bill, if passed, would backfire. Big time.

We don’t want to see Zinn taught in Arkansas schools. But we don’t want to see censorship promoted as a viable way to settle disagreements over ideology either.

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Southwest Times Record. March 5, 2017.

Trust. Honesty. Communication.

These qualities are essential in any sort of good relationship, and that’s especially true in relations between law enforcement and the community it is tasked with protecting.

We applaud Fort Smith Police Chief Nathaniel Clark’s efforts to connect with the community. During a recent “Coffee with the Chief,” he opened up conversations with the public and was ready to listen.

Juvenile crime was the issue mentioned most during the event.

“We were all kids at one time,” said Sharia Thomas during the public event. “Let’s develop a bond of trust. If we can’t trust the teachers, the preachers and the police, who can we trust? Once that bond of trust is there, everything else will fall into place.”

How very true. And Chief Clark seems to understand this and be doing what he can to reach out to the community.

Fort Smith’s new police chief said when he began the position in January that he wanted to listen to the community.

“What I want to do is and what I’ve been encouraging my staff to do is make daily deposits into the community’s bank,” he said at the time, while citing “transparency, treating the community as equal partners, being honest.”

It’s commendable that our police chief wants to spend time discussing issues with the public. He has followed through on the promise he made when he first came in to the job. We hope this effort continues, as we believe real results can occur when real conversation takes place.

As he said during his swearing-in ceremony last month, “I pledge to listen to you. Not just your ideas, but your concerns.”

Juvenile crime was mentioned most last week during “Coffee with the Chief,” but some recent area gang activity also has sparked concern around the community. Chief Clark comes to Fort Smith with experience in this area, having established a gang unit at his former police department in Albany, Georgia.

The key is the sharing of information, Chief Clark said in January. Keeping everyone, from local law enforcement to the public, in the loop is a vital part of the Fort Smith Police Department’s plan. Sounds like a good plan to us, whether we’re talking about gang activity, juvenile crime or something else.

Police-involved shootings in the past few years have created some mistrust among citizens and police in other cities, perhaps even in the Fort Smith area. That’s understandable. Residents and members of law enforcement must live and work together in the same community. Trust is essential in a good community-police relationship. Citizens should feel comfortable speaking with a member of law enforcement, whether it’s an officer or the police chief himself.

Chief Clark made it clear from the beginning that he planned to make community relations his priority, and so far, he’s done that. We feel Chief Clark came to Fort Smith with positive energy, and we hope that energy infects everyone in our community.

We love seeing efforts by area police to interact with residents, whether it’s an officer reading to an elementary class at a local school or taking part in a little “hoop therapy” with some kids, as officer Dylan Gray did recently at Belle Point School. Establishing a great rapport with our youngest residents lays a good foundation of trust and respect between police and the community.

A good relationship is a two-way street. Police must show respect toward citizens they are protecting, and residents must make an effort to do the same toward officers. Police and residents should not stay in separate corners. We’re all in this together.

We offer a “thank you” to Chief Clark and his officers for working hard to connect with the community. We hope public events like “Coffee with the Chief” will continue, and we encourage area residents to make an effort to participate. Continue to express your concerns, whether it’s during a public event or privately to the department. Be the extra eyes and ears the department needs; we’re sure it will be appreciated.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. March 7, 2017.

“I would pledge to veto any bills that would weaken the Freedom of Information laws in this state. It is something that must be maintained with constant vigilance.” – Asa Hutchinson in 2006

“I think all of the bills that I’ve seen thus far are designed for a specific purpose that makes sense. But I appreciate the press pointing out if there is too broad of an exemption that needs to be narrowed.” – Gov. Hutchinson, last week

In that case, the governor will love this:

If one of these bills targeting the state’s Freedom of Information Act is passed, specifically Senate Bill 373, then anybody in the government who wanted to hide public information could just run it by the ol’ legal office. And bingo! Attorney-client privilege. And the public is kept from seeing public records.

And that’s just one bill that the experts say will gut the state’s shining example of an FOI law. Another bill over in the House (HB1622) is supposed to extend the time a government agency has to come up with the paperwork, from three days to … whenever the state’s bureaucracy feels like it.

Back when he was Citizen Hutchinson looking for a certain state job, the governor said all the right things about the FOIA. Now that it’s important, he seems to be hedging.

It reminds us of the time during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviets sent the Kennedys an even-tempered communiqué about the whole disaster-in-the-making. As the Kennedys were thinking on the Soviets’ reasonable missive, another cable came through that was much more upsetting, nervous and potentially dangerous. What to do?

They ignored the second cable and answered the first, and stayed cool.

Maybe the state of Arkansas, and all of its people who still believe in its motto – Regnat populous – should take the governor at his word. Specifically the words he used in 2006. And ignore the second cable. Surely We the People can still trust Asa Hutchinson to veto any effort by our betters in the Legislature to weaken the FOIA. Arkansas’ freedom of information law has been an example to follow for other states since 1967 when Winthrop Rockefeller & Reform Co. were guiding the state. It’s served the state well.

If these attacks on the FOIA get to his desk, well, Governor, that’s why James Madison invented the veto.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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