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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

March 26, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. March 26, 2019.

About 360,000 Arkansans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to help meet their food needs.

That’s a lot of folks. And a lot of money.

Legislation in the Arkansas House of Representatives would have helped make sure those food stamps, as the program is more commonly known, went to ensuring good nutrition, as they were intended.

Would have.

The bill to ban SNAP recipients from using the program’s benefits to purchase soft drinks, energy drinks and junk food failed Monday. The vote was 31-29.

This was the second time the House tried to get a handle on what food stamps could buy. They passed such a bill two years ago but it went nowhere in the state Senate.

Even if the ban had passed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, would have had to sign off on it. And that’s not likely, even though an agency report from 2017 admits 23 cents of every food-stamp dollar goes to candy, desserts, snack food and soft drinks. Congress even looked into restricting purchases that year, but the idea went nowhere.

Advocates for the poor shout that restricting what can be bought — with tax money, remember — is discriminatory. And, of course, giant agribusiness and the snack food industry have lobbyists who are no strangers to Congress and the USDA. So there’s not a lot of incentive on the federal level to rein in such spending. We know many readers get upset when they go to the grocery and see junk purchased with SNAP benefits. It’s a waste of their hard-earned tax dollars. But it looks like they will just have to put up with it for the foreseeable future. And continue to foot the bill.

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. March 26, 2019.

Government services aren’t free. Residents either pay for them through their taxes or through fees they pay on a regular basis. It’s never fun to dish out money for basic services, like water, sewer and trash services, but at least with those fees, residents get a direct service in return.

Most of the time, the costs for such services are predictable. They fluctuate a bit based on use, but over time homeowners and renters get a basic idea of what it’s going to cost for drinking, flushing and having the garbage hauled away.

In Fort Smith, though, customers in recent months have torn open their water bills to discover eye-popping figures. One woman reported an amount more than 10 times her normal bill. If she’s like most Arkansans, we don’t just have a big pile of cash lying around to pay such astounding and unexpected amounts.

The situation was enough that Fort Smith Mayor George McGill recently called out his city’s own managerial shortcomings. As customers were adversely affected by a changeover in software and metering devices, the calls flooded into City Hall. McGill said the situation was the latest example of mismanagement within city government that erodes the trust of city residents.

“Simply put, I’m not happy and I know I’m speaking on behalf of many, many people of Fort Smith,” McGill said at the end of a recent meeting of city directors.

Residents have been frustrated with their experience in working with the city to resolve their issues, McGill said.

We hear all the time that you can’t fight City Hall. But we’ve seen plenty of examples through the years that you and your neighbors sure can. Fort Smith residents can make a difference in the way their city functions by staying vocal and getting involved in leadership and influence. That might mean showing up at city meetings. That might mean running for office. That might mean bending the ears of public officials at every opportunity.

A failure in a new system or an error in billing can happen anywhere. What really matters is whether the residents feel the people at City Hall are on their side in resolving the problems as best they can. Fort Smith has more work to do.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. March 26, 2019.

Let it be known that a time of reckoning has come for the public menace known as Bradford pear. A bounty has been placed on the invasive tree, and it will no longer be tolerated — at least in Fayetteville’s city limits.

You might recognize this suspect from the smell alone. Apparently it’s such a bad funk that not even Fayetteville wants it. The tree may be using an alias, something fancy like pyrus calleryana. But don’t fall for it.

The crime? Aggravated assault (on allergies). People from Conway to Gravette have been attacked by this tree’s pollen. But enough is enough. The only people who have benefited from the presence of Bradford pears are the makers of Kleenex and Benadryl.

Fayetteville announced that if people will go out to their yards and cut down the Bradford pear (or hire someone to do it), the city will provide them will a less annoying (and invasive) tree.

From the city’s urban forester John Scott: “Of course we love trees. It’s not a common thing for me, as an urban forester, to encourage people to remove trees. But these are problem species out-competing our native species.”

The problem with Bradfords is they quickly take over an area and don’t create a beneficial habitat for wildlife or vegetation, said Jennifer Ogle with the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association. They also don’t grow edible fruit. They can’t take the weight of ice. And this time of year they stink to high heaven and clog up noses for miles around.

The city will replace the trees with, well, pretty much whatever you like. There’s about 100 different kinds of trees available that won’t cause Bradford pear problems.

If all this works as planned, Mr. Scott said other invasive species could be next:

“We’re coming for you,” he announced to the papers.

Maybe he should put together a posse.

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