NWA editorial: Thursday's thumbs

Voting, volleyball and valuing feedback

Posted: November 2, 2017 at 1 a.m.

We tossed up a thumb for something the other day and our hand shook, not because of nervousness or due to an unwelcome malady of the body. No, it was because the chilly and damp weather has come along and we haven't yet dug out our gloves from whichever drawer we stuffed them into as spring sprung just a few short months ago.

The good news is the cold weather won't keep us from our appointed rounds with Thursday's thumbs. Even mittens acknowledge the unique importance of the thumb, grouping the four other fingers together in one fabric enclosure while respecting the thumb with it's own independent appendage. It's as if glove manufacturers know instinctively the thumb will be needed in both praise and criticism, a la Arthur Fonzarelli in what seemed to be such happier days for some Americans.

Give’em a thumb

Want to give some brief feedback on news? Someone who deserves a pat on the back? An idea that needs a dose of common sense? Recommend a “Thursday thumb” by calling Greg Harton at (479) 872-5026 or by email at gharton@nwadg.com.

Cold, wet, dry or hot, let's turn our attention to this week's digital comments:

[THUMBS UP] After a lot of discussion and angst about the high costs to Benton County, justices of the peace finally voted last week to equip its election commission with 475 new voting machines, 65 ballot counters and 150 printers, all of which is a vital investment in the democratic process. The expense -- $2,352,000 -- was certainly worthy of discussion, but a growing county that attracts transplant residents from all over the nation owes its residents a modern, reliable and convenient voting process. Members of the Quorum Court decided to finance the costs over five years at a low interest rate. Nobody will regret the decision to modernize the county's voting operation.

[THUMBS UP] Hot Springs was the site for lots of thrills last weekend as high school volleyball teams competed for state championships. In the largest classification, Fayetteville earned the 7A title for the third time in as many years. That's an outstanding achievement. Kudos also go out to Greenwood in 6A, Shiloh Christian in 4A and, in 3A, Paris, which also claimed a third consecutive title. Football and basketball get a lot of the fan attention and the glory, but these athletes are equally deserving of praise for their efforts and their achievements.

[THUMBS UP] Officials with the University of Arkansas System were wise to assure faculty members on its campuses who recently learned of proposed policy changes for tenured faculty that the measure won't be voted on at a board of trustees meeting set Nov. 8-9 in Little Rock. Clearly, the "policy update" has unnerved some who worry it's too vague and could affect academic freedom that's often viewed as hallowed ground in educational institutions. Giving faculty time to evaluate the changes and comment on them is the fair approach.

[THUMBS DOWN] It's a shame the Republican push to accomplish some kind of tax reform has created uncertainty for more than 55 million Americans over retirement planning. President Trump has said (or tweeted) that there will be no changes to 401(k) plans, the popular creation that allows people to set aside money now and defer paying taxes on it until it's withdrawn after retirement. U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs says he would anticipate a lot of push back if 401(k) plans were changed. Other lawmakers have demurred, saying they want to wait until the full tax reform package is revealed. Sen. John Boozman said it's valuable to have "all options on the table" for now. Here's the best option: Leave 401(k) plans alone, and stop unnerving the Americans all this tax reform is supposedly designed to be helping.

[THUMBS UP] The Fayetteville Senior Activity and Wellness Center is expanding its kitchen, and thus its Meals on Wheels program, with a $245,000 Community Development Block Grant and a $25,000 Walmart Foundation grant. Nearly 200 seniors in the city receive Meals on Wheels and another 60 to 100 eat at the center. Yolanda Fields, community resources director, perhaps said it best: "We're all going to get to that stage of our lives. We need to be thinking about the folks who are already there, and what we want in place when we get there." Anyone looking for an effort worthy of their philanthropic support (money and time) can find it in their local Meals on Wheels programs.

[THUMBS UP] The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission has acquired more than 500 acres in the last year for the protection of bats, considered an endangered mammal. The lands are in Independence and Marion counties, but such bat-saving efforts, including construction of bat houses, are important all over. Each bat eats thousands of insects every night, playing a role in protecting gardens and crops and reducing the need for pesticides. Plus, any enemy of the mosquito is a friend of ours. Bat populations have decreased significantly as a result of disease and loss of places to roost and protect their young. We appreciate the work of conservation organizations helping to protect wildlife and keep our ecosystems in balance.

Commentary on 11/02/2017