A smattering of post-Independence Day thoughts
Our thumbs are a little sore from constantly flicking the lighter as we helped the kids light up the night sky on Independence Day. Oh, who are we kidding? We enjoyed it as much as they did, and the thumbs aren’t so irritated we can’t offer a few upturned for the today’s editorial thoughts.
Independence Day was a brief respite from the seemingly endless fighting in Washington, D.C. and the tweetfest that emerges too frequently from our 45th president. Across the nation, people took part in all-American activities, providing an all-too-quick moment of unity. It’s worth taking a little piece of Independence Day with us to apply to every other day of the year. Not that we expect Americans to suddenly become unified in all things; that wouldn’t be American at all. But at least the day gave us a moment to recognize that we still share a common connection to the American spirit of yesteryear and, hopefully, of tomorrow.
Count this among the effects of domestic violence we would have never thought of: State Rep. Jeff Williams of Springdale sponsored a bill in the last legislative session that authorizes judges to sever an abused person’s cellphone from their abuser’s phone plan. Williams recognized that cellphones have become so much more — a filing cabinet for important papers, a method to pay bills, a strong tool for communication and many other uses people rely on. Now, imagine if someone abusive had control, as far as the phone companies are concerned, of that tool. Even as important as it is, it also can become a conduit for continued endangerment, as abusers can use phones to track down the abused. The bill is now Act 577, allowing a judge to issue an order that severs the contractual relationship through the phone company between the abused and an alleged abuser.
Williams’ change is an outstanding law that can help to remove the power an abuser has and provide added protection to those desperately in need of it.
Bentonville is showing some love for residents who enjoy the sport of tennis. The Parks and Recreation Department has hired an engineering firm for $34,000 to design a facility with eight to 12 courts on the northeast corner of Citizens Park. The city will use revenue from impact fees paid by developers of projects around the city and construction is expected in 2018. As many tennis aficionados will attest, it’s not always easy to find an open court in local communities, to the addition will be welcome. The city had 3,253 people who participated in its tennis program in 2016.
In the intense spotlight of a high-profile, policeinvolved killing, it can be difficult for people to understand the role of a jury and how significantly it differs from that of citizens who have strong opinions based on a variety of information not relevant to a criminal case.
A judge in Minnesota who presided over the manslaughter trial of a police officer acquitted in the fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castille recently wrote a letter to the jurors, whose verdict sparked heavy criticism, particularly after release of a dash-cam video of the shooting. In that letter, Judge William Leary III assured jurors they had done their job and explained how their responsibility was far different than that of casual observer. “You were never asked to decide whether racism continues to exist, whether certain members of our community are disproportionately affected by police tactics, or whether police training is ineffective,” he wrote. “You were simply asked to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a crime had been committed.”
It was an unusual step, but one that clearly delineated the duties of jurors and explained how they differ a great deal from the debate over broader community and societal issues. That debate is vital but cannot often be fully expressed or evaluated in the context of a trial that only determines guilt or innocence, not right or wrong.