The Friday Wire: Mortal politicians and happy workers

The mortal side of politicians, improved traffic at the Fort Smith Regional Airport, the push to build a new jail in Crawford County, and bad bridges are part of the April 25 Friday Wire for the Fort Smith region.

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 ...

Happy workers
A recent Gallup poll exploring workplace satisfaction has ranked Fort Smith as the fifth most content workforce in the United States, while the Northwest Arkansas workforce failed to rank.

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.

A call for city vision
On the 125th anniversary of Oklahoma City's founding, its former Mayor Kirk Humphreys was in Fort Smith to speak to the city Board of Directors about what his city did to transform from a place that was boring and dead after 5 p.m. to a city that is now among the fastest growing in America.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$15.5 million: Estimated cost for new 58,000-square-foot visual arts building planned for the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. The university recently held a groundbreaking for the project.

9.14%: Increase in first quarter 2014 enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport compared to the first quarter of 2013.

3%: Gain in Van Buren hospitality tax collections for the first two months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax.

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 push
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
"I'm on probation again until August of this year. The letter (from the state) says they're going to ask me to shut it down. If not, they'll file a complaint with the attorney general and it's basically suing Crawford County. Can it happen? Go ask (former) Sheriff (Mike) Allen. Sheriff Allen was brought before Judge Medlock and Judge Medlock said if you go over 64 beds, I'm going to put you in jail."
– Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown about the need to approve a countywide sales tax increase to build a new $19 million jail

"It's certainly against the nature to release it back into the wild, so to speak, understanding that the proposed use is to keep it as such. But when you have the city park land, it's unusual for a city to give up park land just to convey it back to somebody."
– Assistant Fort Smith Administrator Jeff Dingman about a request by the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority to give the McClure amphitheater back to the authority

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