Letters

But will it even help?

Finished reading the Robert Steinbuch column on the Arkansas Government Disclosure Act of 2024. Sounds great in principle, yet back-room deals will endure. Legislator nor lobbyist will suffer loneliness. Inevitably, $200 bourbon will flow, and cigar smoke swirl, self-restraint be damned. I regret to say this truth: There are legislators enthusiastically attempting to outmaneuver God.

Full disclosure will amount to what disclosers choose to disclose. The disclosed transparent information will be spun, vacillate between opinion and fact, and left wide open to more than one interpretation. Social media disinformation and skillful manipulation of related FOIA issues will blast louder than a stack of Marshall amps at an Iron Maiden concert.

If this measure is adopted, the legislative mutations emerging from this well-meaning idea will be copious and more bewildering than a C++ programming language how-to book. I am undecided if the act is an antidote or populist nostrum.

RONALD ALEXANDER

Little Rock

On being transparent

There's certainly a difference between being transparent and being inscrutable, and from what been reported and published so far, the lead pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church is inscrutable.

Hence Lead Pastor Steven Smith's belated response to allegations of a former assistant director of the children's ministry, who is accused of sexual abuse of a young girl in 2015, that he was supposedly aware of the allegation and failed to disclose it to church members. It was in 2018 that Smith knew of the allegation. However, it wasn't until December of 2023 that he informed church members, after it was reported in this newspaper, thus being inscrutable at best.

Then last Sunday, Immanuel Baptist Church approved a vote of confidence in favor of Pastor Smith. The tally of the 61 Deacon Board members was 26 votes of confidence, 18 of no confidence, and 17 members who did not vote one way or the other. Slim margin any way you look at it. Several members quit the week before votes were cast; I'd surmise if those who quit stayed on until the vote, the results would have been different.

It has also been reported that an estimated 200 church-goers out of an estimated 925 regular attendees have left the church, perhaps because they were dissatisfied with decisions the paid church staff has chosen or the lack of transparency by the lead pastor. This lack of transparency reminds me of the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" where Toto pulled back the curtains on the Wizard, only to reveal someone at the control board. Could that be Greg Crain, the Deacon chairman, calling the shots? Crain is seemingly running interference for Smith and the congregation after refusing a request by the deacons and Smith's critics to address this lack of transparency.

Something is not adding up. I predict more members will leave the congregation and find a new church home elsewhere. Where does it stop? Does that mean it could be eventually the end of Immanuel Baptist Church? No, of course not, it is too rich in its history to be abandoned by this latest fiasco, as I deem it. It will survive this if changes are made.

RANDAL BERRY

Little Rock

Educational options

I want to thank the donors to the Philanthropic Investment in Arkansas Kids (PIAK) scholarship program. Because of you, I see a night and day difference in my child, now in an educational environment that meets his needs.

Those needs include being diagnosed with autism and ADHD. It is hard for him to focus on tasks without reminders of those tasks. He also needs help with speech and fine motor skills like writing.

Previously, he was being sent home daily due to disruptive behavior. In therapy, he didn't have these issues, but his school would not allow me or his therapists to assist or even observe in class, nor was he assigned a paraprofessional to keep him on track.

With help from the scholarship, I was able to place him in a school where he's now able to be in a classroom and stay focused on assigned tasks and complete them. He even gets ahead of the class sometimes in their work, and I do not receive reports of disruptive behavior.

I have had to make financial sacrifices, as all parents do for their children. It's been tight, but we are able to manage, thanks to the PIAK scholarship.

As the voice of my child, I know I must advocate for him. Each child is different in how they learn and progress. I appreciate those who understand that a parent can recognize what's best for their child's learning and who support programs that improve parents' access to options.

BARBARA TABOR

Conway

Covid is still with us

On Feb. 1, your paper included an article titled "Arkansas flu deaths up 5 to 29 for season." This article goes on to discuss more details about the flu season. Buried in the very last paragraph, the article said the Health Department also noted 31 covid-related deaths reported over the previous week, raising the total since Jan. 1, 2023, to 699.

I'm curious why the covid news is not at least as important as the flu news to be in the headline. The death count is larger.

My husband and I experienced covid just last month. It is very real. We were thankful to have had all available immunizations, so we did not end up in the hospital. People need to be made aware that the disease is still with us.

MICHELLE MANN

Little Rock

Made very good point

Good letter from Ken Day of Springdale last Friday. We apparently have to choose between two men almost as old as I am (and that's pretty old) to lead our country for another four years, when they will grow even older.

But his point is well taken: Joe Biden will surround himself with well-qualified people. Trump will surround himself with "yes" men and women and fire them when they disagree. Very good point.

BEVERLY CANNADY

Bella Vista

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