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Hot Springs Village – Leeming Final Blog

Cheryl’s note: It is the end of an era. Frank sent out the following email today announcing his retirement. It is with much sadness that we publish his last blog.

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Virus cases spike in state; local active numbers remain unchanged; this will be our final blog

The number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas increased by 969 today, Gov. Asa Hutchinson reported at his daily briefing.  It was the highest one-day total since Aug. 8.

In the Hot Springs Village 71909 zip code, the number of active cases remained at 30, the same as last week, according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI).  There have been 132 total cases in the zip code, including 26 at Teen Challenge back in April.

Here’s a look at the latest numbers released today (a chart showing new cases in the state is at the bottom of this report):

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This will be my final blog

We’ve been “communicating” in the Village for 26 years.  It began when I became a member of the old POA standing Communications & Publications Committee, working with its chair and later POA director Alice English.  One of our jobs was publishing a tabloid newspaper for property owners which later became The Advocate.

Soon after I became chair of the committee, I was fired and the committee abolished after the committee conducted a survey of all members of POA committees.  The survey found members were very unhappy with how the POA board was treating its committees.  The board wasn’t happy when we published the information.

In 2005 I went to work for the Hot Springs Village Voice, became its editor, and communicated through a weekly column until I was fired in 2008 for not agreeing to an advertiser’s demands that we not publish a critical news story.

This blog began in 2012 when I was elected to the board.  The goal was to email reports on what the directors and the POA were doing.

We shifted over to delivering the blog by Mailchimp in 2017 because sending 300 emails at a time became too cumbersome.

Things have certainly grown since we began.  The last blog we sent out was opened 6,396 times by the wonderful folks we have been delighted to correspond with.

My only regret about “retiring” is it comes at a time when there is chaos at the Voice, a primary source of information in our community.  The paper posted this note today on the internet:

“Until further notice, the Hot Springs Village Voice office will be closed to the public. Please call 501 627-6397 for assistance with news, bills, payments, circulation, or advertising.”

Calls today to some on the staff went nowhere.  Staff email addresses have been canceled.

Many of the staff have been let go by Gannett, the paper’s huge conglomerate owner, as it consolidates many of the paper’s functions.  There’s no telling what the Voice will look like when it appears next week.

One thing is certain: Local news coverage – the heart and soul of any newspaper – will be reduced.  For folks trying to follow what’s going on in the Village, this will pose a new challenge.  For those inclined to operate in the shadows, this will offer new opportunities.

There are a number of other “platforms” folks are using today – Cheryl and Joe Dowden’s websites, Nextdoor, Facebook among them.  Others are likely to sprout up.

Keeping up with what’s going on in a community as diverse as ours is for the young (or younger). It’s a lot of work and something you must stay after.

Those in power sometimes don’t always like seeing reports of what they do (or don’t do). If they don’t grasp how the give and take is part of the process of government, they may retaliate by trying to shut things down.  This hurts everyone.

Over the last quarter-century, I’ve loved hearing what Villagers have to say.  This is a community of extraordinary, bright people.  Most care a lot about where we live. Leaders who ignore this and try to go their own way soon find they are taking a perilous route.

Another truth: The Village is blessed with very talented and good people working at the POA.  They make our community what it is.  Support them.

So it’s time to say farewell.  Joyce and I will be moving in a couple of months to a smaller home (our third in the Village) because A-G-E is making it harder to keep up with things. Joyce slipped and fell on the driveway yesterday bringing in the mail, banging up her knees, ankles, and elbows.

So it’s time to slow down, read some good books, listen to good music and smell the roses.  Stay safe.

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By Frank Leeming, September 3, 2020

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