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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: For transparency

by Mike Masterson | June 15, 2021 at 3:01 a.m.

Lock away the computers and hide your pets, city fathers. Fort Smith's bulldog barrister Joey McCutchen is back in search of transparency.

This time he's filed not one suit, mind you, but two against his city: one for failing to turn over public records in accordance with the state's FOIA, and the other seeking a declaratory judgment that Fort Smith violated state law by removing the historical flag display and bronze markers from its Riverfront Park.

It would be nice if every Arkansas community had a McCutchen and law partners Chip Sexton and Stephen Napurano to fight the good fight in the public interest. But alas.

McCutchen's FOIA lawsuit stems from an formal request for public information sent to City Administrator Carl Geffken, deputy Administrator Jeff Dingman and City Attorney Jerry Canfield (who's bound to be growing weary of McCutchen's FOIA actions by now) seeking all emails sent or received by the city's Board of Directors and administrators since May 1, 2020.

"The city thumbed its nose at our request for the contents of this email group," McCutchen said. "As citizens we need to ensure our city is not discussing public business and making decisions without giving notice to the public, as it did by non-transparently removing flags from Riverfront Park."

His argument proved effective with Sebastian County Circuit Judge Gunner DeLay, who ruled the other day that the city must relinquish a year's worth of the group's emails.

As for his other lawsuit, McCutchen said he was seeking to compel the city to immediately replace the flags and markers and enjoin future violations. "Removal of the historical flag display and bronze markers identifying each flag was done without public transparency or input from Fort Smith citizens. Fort Smith history is important and must be protected and preserved. The city has made it abundantly clear they are not going to replace the historic flags and bronze markers and are not going to voluntarily comply with the Arkansas Capitol and Historic Monument Protection Act."

Also in response to the city's recent proposal to replace the historic monument with a U.S. military flag display, McCutchen said, while commending them for wanting to honor our veterans and troops by raising U.S. military flags, "they cannot do so by unlawfully displacing another historical flag display."

All-important chompers

We humans take so much for granted that sometimes I wonder how we ever maintain appreciation for things we need to maintain quality of life, like our teeth.

Yet, as the years tick away and we begin to lose increasing numbers of chompers, it becomes much easier to gain appreciation for simply being able to devour a steak or chew apples.

I have fewer than half of my natural 32 teeth remaining at this stage, having had several replaced with implants by my dentist, Dr. Derrick Johnson in Bentonville.

They are expensive. But, believe me, when you reach your 70s, the ability to still chew food becomes one of life's remaining pleasures.

A study from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and University College London reports that older adults in England with more remaining natural teeth also retained an improved ability to perform everyday tasks. Published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, the study analyzed data from 5,631 adults between 50 and 70 years old.

The research team specifically investigated causal effect of tooth loss on someone's ability to carry out daily activities. After considering factors such as participants' socioeconomic status and poor general health, they discovered a link between tooth loss and such capabilities.

Participants were asked how many natural teeth they'd retained, with older adults usually having lost up to 32 natural teeth over time. Then, using data collected in 2014-2015, the researchers measured the effects of tooth loss on people's ability to continue with daily activities.

Senior author Professor Georgios Tsakos explained: "We know from previous studies that tooth loss is associated with reduced functional capacity, but this study is the first to provide evidence about the causal effect of tooth loss on the instrumental activities of daily living among older adults in England. And this effect is considerable."

It's not reassuring to add this finding to the list of reasons none of us should grow old. I can hope implants count as at least 70 percent of natural teeth when it comes to my activities. Even at that, I'm probably still better off having the yard mowed by a neighborhood kid and considering Meals on Wheels. I'll hang on to the cell phone.

True snail mail

If your free "Rhythms of Life" CD of 14 timeless columns hasn't arrived, USPS says it's taking longer than usual. Thanks to those who've ordered yours for a $5 postage and handling fee (and especially those nice folks who included a few unexpected extra dollars.) Want one? Write to 1002 West Bunn Ave., Harrison, Ark., 72601.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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