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The Friday Wire: Mortal politicians and orange barrels

The mortal side of politicians, more orange barrels for Northwest Arkansas, big money for a Wal-Mart exec and bad bridges are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for April 25.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• Political perspective

During these election cycles when the mere mention of a political issue can ruin a family reunion or Sunday School class and send angry words flying between even the kindest of folks, we forget that those who step out to run for office and put their name on the ballot are breathing, feeling humans.

Or, as Shakespeare might have noted if he were a politician: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?”

An aortic dissection, a medical issue new to many of us, served – or should have served – as a reminder that the person who may have asked for your vote is mortal. The emergency surgery this week on U.S. Sen. John Boozman (of Rogers by way of Fort Smith and Northside High School and Razorback football) to repair an aortic dissection turned out good for Boozman. As of Thursday (April 24), he was doing remarkably well.

A statement from his Senate office included this paragraph: “His family, who continues to be with him at the hospital, has indicated that doctors are amazed at how quickly Boozman is recovering from the surgery. As he continues to regain strength, Boozman has been conversational with family for long stretches of the day and walking frequently with the aid of medical staff.”

We should know that Boozman’s condition and the emergency surgery performed earlier this week are anything but trivial, routine and easy. The Mayo Clinic notes that a tear in the inner layer of the aorta “is a serious condition,” and that “aortic dissection is often fatal.”

Kudos to the doctors and nurses and other staff who worked on Boozman and continue to work with him, and we hope the good Senator’s recovery will continue to trend as it has in the first few days.

ICYMI
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...

Road work to intensify in NWA
With a population on the brink of 500,000, Benton and Washington counties grew beyond their infrastructure long ago. More than a dozen major road projects are underway in Benton County, which means the growing pains will exist for a few more years.

Traffic patterns
First quarter 2014 commercial airline enplanements are up 5.36% and 9.1%, respectively, in Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith, but down more than 6% in Little Rock.

NWA home values on the rise
The biggest investment most families make is their home, but the past few years it’s been painful to look at neighboring home sales prices, especially for homeowners who purchased in the past decade. And that’s true even in the strong economy of Northwest Arkansas.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$4.31 million: Amount of sales tax collections in the April reports from the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale. The amount was up 8.61% compared to the same period in 2013.

$25.592 million: Total compensation for Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon in fiscal 2014, with $23 million of that including stock awards linked to future financial performance.

$60 million: Estimate on the cost of Interstate 49 (aka I-540) widening projects set for 2015 through Benton County.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
Bad bridges
More than 63,000 bridges across the United States are in urgent need of repair, with most of the aging, structurally compromised structures part of the interstate highway system, an analysis of recent federal data has found. The report, released on Thursday (April 24) by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, warned that the dangerous bridges are used some 250 million times a day by trucks, school buses, passenger cars and other vehicles.

Minimum wage pushes around the nation
A wave of efforts to raise the minimum wage at the state and local level will run through November, when voters in eight states could consider ballot measures to raise hourly rates higher than the current $7.25 federal rate.

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WORD ON THE WIRE
“One thing we have learned is that consumers don’t mind shopping at multiple stores for what they perceive are the best values. Consumers have a need to feel smart, by cherry picking values they feel they are doing the best they can for their families. We also know that consumers are willing to take advice from complete strangers via social media.”
– Mickey Mericle, vice president for global consumer insight at Wal-Mart, speaking about constantly changing consumer expectations

“The U.S. has seen 200 airlines come and go and we are now down to four major carriers and just a handful of start-up discount carriers (discount airlines). There are hundreds of airports nationwide doing the same things we are in attempts to get service into their individual markets. We are taking an all-inclusive approach to lure new service into XNA.”
– Kelly Johnson, director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, about ongoing efforts by airport officials to recruit a discount carrier

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