The Friday Wire: A legal loss and medical school plans

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 99 views 

The passing of esteemed lawyer Eddie Christian Sr., the potential for a medical school in Fort Smith and learning the rules when running for elected office are part of the Dec. 20 Friday Wire for the Fort Smith region.

• A potential big deal
The folks at the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation dropped some big news this week about their plans to land a osteopathy medical school in Fort Smith. Priming the financial pump for the proposed project would be Some of the revenue from the 2009 purchase of Fort Smith-based Sparks Health System. If built, the medical school could generate an up to $100 million a year economic impact.

Several hurdles face the project, but none appear too high. Barring any procedural or financial surprises, such a school could see its first group of students by the fall of 2015.

It sure would be nice to see such a school – with up to 600 students once fully operational – locate somewhere in downtown Fort Smith.

• Learn the rules
One of the frustrating aspects of covering Arkansas politics is watching candidates for legislative or local seats get in trouble with simple financial reporting rules and other aspects of running for office. Arkansas’ rules are not complicated, but each year several candidates around the state find a way to color outside the lines, so to speak.

To help with that process, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is planning to hold a “So You Want to Get Elected” workshop on Jan. 24-25. Among the speakers are former Arkansas House Speaker Shane Broadway, Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, UAFS Political Science Professor Williams Yamkam and Clint Reed, a partner at Impact Management Group in Little Rock.

When it comes to following basic election rules in Arkansas, ignorance is no excuse.

Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it …

• Foundation seeks to build medical school in Fort Smith
Some of the revenue from the 2009 purchase of Fort Smith-based Sparks Health System could be used to help build and operate a medical school in Fort Smith and generate an up to $100 million a year economic impact.

• Van Buren pay raises
Employees and elected officials in the city of Van Buren will take home a larger pay check next year after the Van Buren City Council formally approved the city's fiscal year 2014 budget and a separate ordinance dealing with elected officials' salaries.

• Tourism award nominees
The nominees for the 2014 Henry Awards have been announced, with several cities and groups from the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas making the list.

45: The number of years Eddie Christian Sr. practiced law in Fort Smith. Christian, a Fort Smith-based attorney known in wide legal circles as one of the best defense attorneys in the nation, died following a fight with cancer. He was 72.

$10.9 million: The approved budget of the Ben Geren Aquatics Center, nearly $3 million over original estimates presented to Fort Smith voters when they went to the polls in May 2012 to approve funding the city's $4 million half of the project.

$44,000: The total amount of misspending allegedly committed by Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, R-Ark., according to an Ethics Commission report released Wednesday (Dec. 18). Darr told reporters as he left a hearing on the matter in Little Rock that he would not resign from the state's No. 2 Constitutional office.

40%: Percentage of Arkansas business leaders in the inaugural Talk Business “Business Leaders Confidence Survey" who expect significant or slight employee hiring. 35% see no change, while 24% expect a slight decline in headcount.

• What will Wal-Mart do with Phil Robertson?
The big box giant is responsible for about 50% of this year’s incredible $400 million in Duck Dynasty-related retail sales, with Phil Robertson’s mug (along with his bearded relatives) gracing its bestselling t-shirt in both men’s and women’s apparel. Some Walmart stores in the south feature entire aisles devoted to the Louisiana duck hunters, selling everything from bedding to prayer devotionals adorned with their trademark camouflage and folksy catchphrases.

• Why Al Jazeera America Doesn’t Care About Its Low Ratings
In the five months since its August 2013 debut, Al Jazeera America has already lost more than half the viewers of its notoriously low-rated predecessor, Current TV. The network’s ratings crested at a measly 18,000 average daily viewers and have since fallen to just 13,000, a number the media has gleefully and repeatedly pointed out as pathetic.

"Write it off as a campaign expense. That's what I would do. And (finding out) how to account for and how to find the information about your campaign financing would be worth that $125."
– Fort Smith City Director Keith Lau, speaking about how a "How to" workshop such as the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith's upcoming "So You Want to Get Elected" would be beneficial to any interested person thinking about entering the political arena.

"My performance is based on actual accomplishments. We have a strategic plan with specific objectives that we are judged by, particularly me. So at the end of the year, if we met those, then I request a bonus based on meeting those objectives."
– Ivy Owen, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, explaining why he had requested a $25,000 bonus

“By and large, they (bank customers) are optimistic, but everybody seems to be guarded somewhat. It is improving, but we all know of the issues out there for 2014 that remain unsettled and uncertain. No one is going to throw a party, but what we are hearing is encouraging.”
Joe Edwards, president of Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank, about what bank customers are saying about their economic expectations for 2014