It's Thursday and another chance to fire off a few up or down thumbs about some of news developments in our neck of the woods and elsewhere:
[THUMBS UP] The official word has arrived: Fort Smith's Ebbing Air National Guard Base will be the home of the Air Force's Foreign Military Sales mission and a training squadron for the Republic of Singapore's F-16 fleet, as well as F-16 and F-35 training for nations such as Poland and Finland. The city has been waiting expectantly while the military goes through its processes to formally declare the site, but the wait is over. Beyond the excitement of a military installation adding a new mission, the decisions will also mean hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact to the area annually as hundreds of military personnel and their families move to the Fort Smith area. It's a big moment resulting from collaboration -- the state, Sebastian County and Fort Smith, for example, put millions of dollars toward a 1,300-foot extension of a runway at the Fort Smith Regional Airport, where Ebbing shares the aviation facilities. The decision is a big win for the River Valley and all of Arkansas, and for this state's support of the U.S. military.
[THUMBS DOWN] It's unfortunate -- and that word doesn't do it justice -- that Tyson Foods made the decision to close a poultry processing plan in Van Buren. It's natural for businesses to, as they say, "optimize" their operations, but the reality is the decision will impact hundreds of people within the community. The Van Buren plant employs about 1,000 people. The ripple effects will be felt throughout the area.
[THUMBS UP] It's certainly intriguing news that University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek has announced plans to renovate the 30-year-old Bud Walton Arena, home of Razorback basketball games. It may seem counterintuitive, but Yurachek made the case for actually shrinking the capacity of the arena by renovating some spaces to offer more of what's called "premium" seating. In other words, the plan would have the UA make more money even with a diminished seating capacity. Let's hope adding premium amenities doesn't have the effect of putting tickets out of reach of regular fans by making seats mostly accessible to corporate interests. That's may be a recipe for more income, but doesn't always put people in the seats. And having people in the seats is critical. Perhaps the best part of the potential changes is turning the arena into more of a multipurpose facility that can host concerts and other nonsports events. That would be a great amenity for Northwest Arkansas.
[THUMBS DOWN] Northwest Arkansas Community College's leadership in recent years has become enamored with the supposed benefits of building up an athletic department, moving away from some of the concerns of its founders that an athletic program at a two-year campus would distract from the college's primary academic purpose. So far, it's men's and women's cross country, with more likely to follow. This week, the college's board of trustees approved charging every student $4 per credit hour to help sustain an athletic program. Congratulations, NWACC students. You're now subsidizing an athletic department, whether you want to or not.
[THUMBS UP] It's still too early to say whether the Environmental Protection Agency will get it right, but we're glad to hear the agency announce its plans for the first federal limits on "forever chemicals" that have made their way into waterways and water supplies for decades. The plan, according to The Associated Press, would limit toxic PFAS chemicals to the lowest level that tests can detect. PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a group of compounds that are widespread, dangerous and expensive to remove from water. They don't degrade in the environment and are linked to a broad range of health issues, including low birthweight and kidney cancer. No doubt all of this will cost taxpayers money, but let's also hope the companies responsible for creating this issue will have to face up to the damage they've caused. Advocates for clean water and the environment celebrated the recent announcement. The chemical industry gnashed its teeth, mostly fretting about compliance costs.
[THUMBS UP] Quote of the day: "President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable." Those words come from Mike Pence, former vice president of the United States under President Donald Trump. He also had this in a speech admittedly designed in part to carry a humorous punch: ""I read that some of those classified documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president's Bible. Which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there."
[THUMBS DOWN] It's called progress, and we appreciate it. But it's also sad to see familiar locations give way. That's what happened in Fayetteville this week as the old Mr. Burger location at North Street and Gregg Avenue became a pile of rubble. Plenty of college students, local residents and Razorback fans hold fond memories of meals at what was a unique structure.
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 [email protected]