I'm attending a meeting of the Little Rock Rotary Club to see my friend Denver Peacock become president of one of the nation's oldest and largest civic clubs. Peacock, a public relations executive who's never lacking for ideas, has big plans for the club during the next year.

A large crowd is on hand at the Clinton Presidential Center. There are light bulbs at each table and signs that say "Illuminate the Rock." The reason quickly becomes evident.

Peacock, who helped with dedication ceremonies for the Big Dam Bridge over the Arkansas River and the pedestrian bridge here at the Clinton Center, wants the Rotary Club to take the lead in raising the money necessary to light the Broadway Bridge. Given Peacock's tenacity, I have no doubt the fundraising goal will be met.

In April 2013, Entergy Arkansas announced that it was donating $2 million to help light the Junction Bridge, Main Street Bridge and Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. Hugh McDonald, Entergy Arkansas' CEO at the time, called it a "transformational project." The donation was made to mark the company's 100th anniversary.

Philips Lighting--which earlier lit the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and Empire State Building--was hired. The system allows numerous colors to be programmed for events. When fast-growing Simmons Bank purchased the former Acxiom Building in the River Market District, George Makris, the bank's chairman, saw to it that the building was lighted in a way that could be coordinated with the three bridges.

The Broadway Bridge wasn't included in the original Entergy donation because it was about to be torn down and rebuilt. Thanks to the foresight of former Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, the new Broadway Bridge is by far the most distinctive of the bridges connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock. It deserves to be lighted.

Lighting another bridge will add to the renewed sense of momentum in downtown Little Rock. There are reasons for such momentum. Two of the tallest downtown buildings have new owners who plan to make millions of dollars in improvements. A dental school and veterinary school are on the drawing board. A city commission is focused on improving the Capitol Avenue corridor.

In my Aug. 28 column, I outlined reasons to be bullish on Little Rock. Yet as I sit here and listen to Peacock outline his plans, I can't help but think about the sense of malaise that has overcome some residents. With Arkansas now solidly in the Republican column, none of the statewide races are in doubt this fall. The most interesting race is the one for mayor of Little Rock.

As I've often noted, Arkansas won't achieve its potential until its largest city prospers. The booming northwest Arkansas economy can't carry an entire state. A lot of Little Rock residents feel their city is falling short of its potential. They look at increased murder rates, the number of people who blatantly ignore traffic laws, the graffiti epidemic that has scarred the city, the trash along major roadways that isn't picked up and the grass that isn't mowed.

I can relate somewhat to this feeling of malaise even though I'm blessed to live in a safe neighborhood. Each day as I drive west on Cantrell Road, I must deal with those who are speeding and running lights with impunity because the Little Rock Police Department does next to nothing to enforce traffic laws. It feels dangerous.

I'm also among those who have had mail stolen. You question your place of residence when you live in a city where you can't even put mail safely into a U.S. Postal Service blue collection box. I realize this is a federal issue and not the fault of Mayor Frank Scott Jr., but it adds to the perception that I live in a place that's out of control. And, as they say in politics, perception is reality.

That perception is doing Scott, who's in his first term and has multiple opponents, no favors. In most cases, police officers have a sense of who the troublemakers--from those who make the drive home feel dangerous to those committing violent crimes--are. They just don't have the manpower or proper leadership to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, I hear countless Little Rock residents saying things along these lines: "We're no longer going to let a small group of idiots control what people think of our city."

The easiest way for them to take action is to vote for change in November. While Peacock is working to illuminate the city, Scott should have come out with an initiative to "Clean Up the Rock." Such a plan would have included an intense focus on filling LRPD vacancies. It would have included an effort to enforce traffic laws. It would have put officers on foot downtown to deal with aggressive panhandlers.

The effort would have assigned the city's part-time summer help to picking up trash and removing graffiti. How a city looks is important.

Trust me, that "small group of idiots" would have gotten the message. Scott can still address these issues, but it's getting late.

Little Rock television stations do the capital city no favors. In their search for a fresh lead story for late local newscasts, they often take the easy way out and start with a crime story. In a rural state, the Little Rock television market covers the majority of counties. People across the state get the impression that the city is more dangerous than it actually is. They're scared.

Rural Arkansans thus stop coming to Little Rock to shop, eat out and obtain medical care. They do that in places like Conway or Jonesboro. As I said, perception is reality.

Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.


QOSHE - Illuminating a city - Rex Nelson
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Illuminating a city

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07.09.2022


I'm attending a meeting of the Little Rock Rotary Club to see my friend Denver Peacock become president of one of the nation's oldest and largest civic clubs. Peacock, a public relations executive who's never lacking for ideas, has big plans for the club during the next year.

A large crowd is on hand at the Clinton Presidential Center. There are light bulbs at each table and signs that say "Illuminate the Rock." The reason quickly becomes evident.

Peacock, who helped with dedication ceremonies for the Big Dam Bridge over the Arkansas River and the pedestrian bridge here at the Clinton Center, wants the Rotary Club to take the lead in raising the money necessary to light the Broadway Bridge. Given Peacock's tenacity, I have no doubt the fundraising goal will be met.

In April 2013, Entergy Arkansas announced that it was donating $2 million to help light the Junction Bridge, Main Street Bridge and Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. Hugh McDonald, Entergy Arkansas' CEO at the time, called it a "transformational project." The donation was made to mark the company's 100th anniversary.

Philips Lighting--which earlier lit the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and Empire State Building--was hired. The system allows numerous colors to be programmed for events. When fast-growing Simmons Bank purchased the former Acxiom Building in the River Market District, George Makris, the bank's chairman, saw to it that the........

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