Some for the thumbs
The week’s ups and downs
Now that 7 Hills Homeless Center has gotten on a better footing with a plan for the future, its chief executive officer recently announced his decision to move onto something new. Who can blame him? It’s a demanding job. Billy Rader has done yeoman’s work in getting the organization back on its feet. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but the foundation he’s helped shore up will make that work less difficult.
Pundit and conservative provocateur Ann Coulter made the news again (she must have another book coming out soon). This time, she got into a Twitter war with Delta Airlines over the fact that on a recent flight she was moved from a seat on the aisle — which she paid an extra $30 to get — to a window seat. According to Delta, it was human error and everyone’s sorry and Coulter got her money back. However, according to Coulter’s Twitter feed, the Delta personnel she dealt with were akin to sadistic prison guards who worked for the worst airline on the planet. We get being frustrated when a business doesn’t deliver what it promised. And we also get Coulter makes her living by playing the snide, obnoxious, insulting jerk with a pretty face. There must be some branding value in meeting those expectations in every human interaction. But those Delta ticket agents and flight attendants aren’t the well-paid liberal talking heads she loves to skewer on TV. They’re just doing their jobs. Somebody made a mistake, and a minor one at that. It’s not like they dragged her off the plane or canceled her flight. Get a grip, Ann. Not every problem requires a shrill rant.
Bill Bradley got an early retirement gift Saturday night at the Washington Regional Medical Center gala in Fayetteville. The fundraiser doubled as a going-away party for Bradley, the soon-to-be retired WRMC chief executive. His family, friends, co-workers and colleagues offered their best wishes to the leader who managed the hospital’s tremendous growth over the past 13 years. But most people talked first about Bradley’s high character and vision, and how much they’d miss him when he steps down in November. The accolades are well-earned and the community is better off as a result of his hard work.
Several times in recent weeks, the newspaper reported on public school students from across the region taking time out of their summer vacations to, well, go to school. Sort of. Different kinds of programs in Springdale and Rogers stressed the importance of literacy through encouraging kids to read and write even though the school building is closed. Those are only two of dozens of examples of dedicated teachers and concerned parents working together to keep kids engaged during the summer. Even if it’s summer time, professionals teachers don’t stop doing their jobs. They just keep looking for ways to open pathways to success for the children who count on them. Someone once said education is the silver bullet for poverty and hopelessness. These teachers, and many others, are hitting the bull’s eye even when the kids aren’t in school.
A disappointing story in the newspaper last week indicated that a handful of elected school board positions the region had no one had signed up to run. All were in smaller communities in the area. We often hear that schools are the lifeblood of small towns, yet those are the places where it seems the most difficult to find people to run for positions like school board. In many communities, the only time there are contested school board races are in the midst of controversy or some other unpleasantness. And then the elections are often colored by axe-grinding and singleissue candidacies. If schools are so important (and they are) then more civic-minded people should be interested in taking a turn at serving.
Congratulations to Padma Viswanathan, a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville associate professor who was recently named winner of the Porter Prize, given annually to an Arkansas writer whose work deserves special recognition. Her work includes the novels “The Ever After of Ashwin Rao” and “The Toss of a Lemon.” The prize was created to honor Ben Kimpel, a longtime UA professor of English, who in turn asked that the award be named for his mother, Gladys Crane Kimpel Porter. Past winners include novelist Donald Harington and journalist Roy Reed. That’s a long way to go to say that Viswanathan’s name is now on a very impressive list of Arkansas authors.
When it comes to finding ways to reach people whose choices have landed them in jail, almost every idea should be on the table. You never know what will click with some people and help them find a straighter, better path. Last week’s story about New Leash on Life, a pet therapy program for female inmates in the Benton County Jail, might have hit upon one of those magic connections. Dogs from local shelters are brought into the jail to interact with the inmates, who are responsible for their care while there. The program is designed to improve accountability and morale among inmates. And it has the added benefit of giving purpose to the lives of the dogs, who might otherwise be confined to a shelter cage, or worse.