Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Arkansas Increases Minimum Wage

When Arkansas enacted legislation recently increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.25 per hour, it seemed everyone I talked with had an opinion of the benefits or the negative repercussions of such a move.

I’m going to pass along some of the comments, but first some facts:

Some of our neighboring states, namely Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, have done nothing to increase the minimum wage in their states above the Federal minimum of $5.15. Other neighbors – Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi - don’t even have a minimum wage law. Kansas is the only state below the Federal minimum – a miniscule $2.65.

About half the states have minimum wage rates the same as the Federal rate. The state of Washington is currently the highest at $7.63 and that amount will increase periodically because it is pegged to inflation. Most of California is set at $6.75 but in the San Francisco area, it is $8.50. Minnesota is $6.15, Illinois $6.50, Massachusetts and New York are $6.75, and Oregon $7.50. The other states have rates between Washington’s and the Federal rate of $5.15.

Now for a sampling of the conflicting comments:

“Increasing the minimum wage will increase inflation and unemployment.”

“This will help the poorest paid workers in our state.”

“This will help the economy by giving workers more disposable income.”

“It will be harder for young people to find a job.”

Arkansas’ $1.10 increase becomes effective October 1, 2006. Only time will prove the whether the effects of this increase are beneficial or detrimental.

Click Comments below to let us know your thoughts.

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What is Infrastructure Anyhow? Effects of Growth on NW Arkansas

Hardly a day goes by that a new sign doesn’t appear somewhere in Washington or Benton County proclaiming that a new subdivision will soon appear on former agricultural land. Land costs have escalated so much that most new subdivisions will automatically be high density.

What does that mean to you and me? It means further stretching of the infrastructure in an area that until a few years ago was rural. Everyone agrees the population of Washington and Benton counties is growing so fast the infrastructure can’t keep up.

What do you think of when you hear the word infrastructure? Most people say traffic or transportation, and public schools. The daily commute to work and back home keeps traffic congestion on everyone’s mind but the list of needs is much longer and more complicated than that.

High-density subdivisions generally have small yards. Where will the children and adults play and exercise? Parks, recreation and open space will be needed.

More schools will have to be built and staffed. More school buses will be on the roads, not to mention the amazing number of parents who drive their children to school in the morning and reverse the procedure in the afternoon. It’s not unusual now to see streets and even highways blocked by vehicles waiting in line to drive onto the school grounds to pick up their child.

Water must be available. Beaver Water District currently has authority to use up to 120 million gallons of water a day from Beaver Lake. At what point does that amount become insufficient?

Increased population equals more sewage. Rural areas are generally not connected to a municipal sewer. When homes were being built on an acre or more of land, septic tanks were a viable solution. High-density subdivisions in rural areas have to take a different approach. Decentralized systems are replacing the traditional septic tank, serving hundreds of homes with one on-site system rather than one septic tank per home. My concern is the future. Who will maintain these systems when the developer has moved on and the homeowner hasn’t even thought about where his sewage goes?

We all want adequate police protection. As the population increases, more officers must be hired and trained. Increased staff will be required back at the station. Overcrowded courts and jails will have to be expanded.

Unincorporated areas usually have volunteer fire departments. Personnel have been trained to fight brush and grass fires and may be called upon occasionally to fight a structure fire.

A high-density subdivision alters the scenario. Consider this: a home is on fire and a call goes out to 911. The volunteers must first rush to the station to get the equipment before they can get to the fire. When they arrive, they are faced with a structure burning that has other homes close by on two sides. Depending on the wind factor, they may even have to protect homes across or down the road. Is there an adequate water supply available to fight the fire? Does the subdivision have hydrants? Does the fire department have the training and equipment to combat such a situation?

Libraries are often taken for granted but contribute greatly to our way of life. Free libraries are as American as apple pie and I, for one, would not want to think about a lack of excellent libraries. More people means more resources will be needed to meet demand. Buildings, employees, books, computers, audio/visual materials – all will need to expand.

The list of infrastructure requirements is almost endless. People are drawn to Northwest Arkansas for the quality of life here but the crush of people is threatening that very quality. The equation is simple: more residents = increased need for infrastructure = additional funding needed. Where is it coming from?

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Immigration Reform Protests and NW Arkansas

The massive demonstrations by Hispanics throughout the nation on the issue of immigration reform are a demonstration that this growing segment of the population may finally be coming of age politically. There have been immigration reform bills in the past, but the public outpouring by the Hispanic community has never been so great. There were no protests here in NW Arkansas, but the effect of the protests may eventually be felt here.

Immigration of people from other nations and cultures are what has made the US a great and dynamic nation, and although laws are necessary, I don't think they should be racist and restrictive. As the granddaughter of immigrants from Finland and Sweden, I have experienced first hand how people from other nations make our own nation stronger. The strong work ethic and emphasis on education made the northeastern Minnesota area where I grew up a dynamic community of many cultures where education was prized. Our public schools there were far superior to those in other parts of the state until the mining boom there dissipated in the past 25 years or so. The desire to assimilate spurred the new citizens to raise their children to surpass their own educational and professional achievements and contribute to their communities in a positive manner. The original arrivals could not speak English when they arrived and most worked at menial jobs. Their children all spoke English, worked at better jobs than their parents had, and many encouraged their children, in turn, to obtain college educations to become professionals.

In the past, various ethnic groups have provided massive migrations to our shores. Many of these groups were discriminated against when they first arrived, but now they have become part of the fabric of our nation. The Irish and Italians who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century are typical of this pattern. Many of the Irish became policemen in the Eastern cities where they settled. And in NW Arkansas the Italians who settled here have created traditions which continue to enrich the area culture and economy (for example, the Tontitown Grape Festival, restaurants, and home-grown industries), even as their children and grandchildren have assimilated and prospered.

For northwest Arkansas, the continued development of the area depends on immigrants. Our area is in a new initial phase of the typical immigration pattern for newly arrived groups. There are increasing numbers of Asians and Pacific Islanders as well as Hispanics moving to the area. Many of the latter are first generation arrivals who don't speak much English. Some are illegal. But their children all attend our public schools and enrich the cultural environment, enhancing the world view of the native Arkansan children. With time these families will assimilate, just as previous generations have done. And our area will be richer for their presence.

The economy of our area also depends on these new arrivals. Much of the new construction of area housing, as well as factory jobs, is made possible by these new arrivals. Many builders now prefer Hispanic crews--they work hard and they take pride in their work, creating beautiful homes for residents and others who are relocating here because of Wal-mart and other major businesses in the area. Many of these new immigrants also work in jobs--for example, in the poultry plants--that local people do not want. They pay taxes and pay into the social security system, helping to assure that when baby boomers and even their children retire, there will be money for the system to be able to pay social security benefits. Without them, our area would not be the driving economic engine that it is.

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