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Report: New builds dominate home sales in Northwest Arkansas – Talk Business & Politics

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Report: New builds dominate home sales in Northwest Arkansas – Talk Business & Politics


Arvest Bank has published the latest Skyline Reports on residential and multifamily real estate in Northwest Arkansas for the latter half of 2023. The bank sponsors the biannual reports completed by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

In the residential sector, home sales saw a 2.1% decline in the final six months compared to the same period in 2022 and a significant drop of 22.5% compared to the latter half of 2021. Notably, new construction homes accounted for 39.9% of all homes sold, the highest percentage since the inception of the Skyline Report in 2004.

“The increasingly high percentage of new builds indicates a couple of market trends,” said CBER Director Mervin Jebaraj, the lead researcher for the Skyline Report. “One is that current homeowners are less likely to make an in-market move because of higher interest rates, as most people don’t want to replace a 3.5% mortgage with one at 7.0% or higher.

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“Secondly, many new home developers offer assistance by paying points that reduce a loan’s interest rate. Some homebuilders might also be helping buyers with other incentives like including appliance packages with new homes.”

A result of that trend is that inventories of existing homes for sale have risen. Two years ago, at the end of 2021, there were 584 homes for sale in the MLS database. That number increased to 1,618 at the end of 2022 and 2,119 at the end of last year, representing a 263% increase.

Jebaraj also discussed the need for regional coordination regarding rezoning along the U.S. Highway 71B corridor.

“With all four major cities in the region having mayoral elections later this year, I hope we use the opportunity to seek public support for re-imagining the 71B corridor to allow transit-oriented denser housing growth closer to the city centers,” he said. ‘As the region continues to grow population, a coordinated approach to redevelopment among the four big cities would go a long way towards solving many of the housing issues and disruptions from unplanned growth we are experiencing.”

MULTIFAMILY
In the multifamily market, the region’s overall vacancy rate rose from 2.2% a year ago to 3.1% due to 10 new apartment complexes with almost 1,700 new units entering the market. Even with the influx of new rental units, the cost of renting continued to climb, with the average lease rate moving above $1,000 per month for the first time.

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“While the multifamily vacancy rate increased, it is still very low nationally,” Jebaraj said. “And with so many new complexes entering the rental market toward the end of the year, it takes some time for new properties to get leased up. I suspect that the vacancy rate today is lower than it was at the end of the year.”

“It is obvious that higher mortgage interest rates are having an impact on the housing market in Northwest Arkansas,” said Gene Gates, executive vice president and loan manager with Arvest Bank in Fayetteville. “At the same time, the region continues to grow in population, and we continue to see a healthy market to help customers with mortgages. We are also working with apartment developers to secure the funding they need.”

For a PDF of the residential report, click here.

For a PDF of the multifamily report, click here.

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Transfer DT expected to visit Hogs later in the week | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Transfer DT expected to visit Hogs later in the week | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


Arkansas is expected to host another transfer defensive tackle on Friday for an official visit. 

He’s expected to leave Fayetteville on Saturday. 

Texas Southern defensive tackle Elinus Noel III, 6-2, 330 pounds, received an offer from Arkansas last Thursday and has others from Baylor, Kansas State, Maryland, Arizona State and Temple.

He announced he was entering the NCAA transfer portal on April 16. 

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He recorded 52 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a junior in 10 games last year. He signed with Nichols State as a senior at John Curtis High School in New Orleans in 2021. 

Noel had 18 tackles and 2 tackles for loss as a freshman for the Colonels in 2021. He recorded 35 tackles and 3 tackles for loss in 2022 before training to Texas Southern. 



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Ex-publisher: ‘Eyes and ears’ for Trump | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Ex-publisher: ‘Eyes and ears’ for Trump | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


NEW YORK — A veteran tabloid publisher testified Tuesday that he pledged to be Donald Trump’s “eyes and ears” during his 2016 presidential campaign, recounting how he promised the then-candidate that he would help suppress harmful stories and even arranged to purchase the silence of a doorman.

The testimony from David Pecker was designed to bolster the prosecution’s premise of a decades-long friendship between Trump and the former publisher of the National Enquirer that culminated in an agreement to give the candidate’s lawyer a heads-up on negative tips and stories so they could be quashed.

The effort to suppress unflattering information was designed to illegally influence the election, prosecutors have alleged in the first trial of a former American president and the first of four criminal cases against Trump to reach a jury.

Pecker is the first witness against Trump, who faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments meant to prevent harmful stories from surfacing in the final days of the 2016 campaign.

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With Trump sitting just feet away in the courtroom, Pecker detailed his intimate, behind-the-scenes involvement in Trump’s rise from political novice to the Republican nomination and the White House. He explained how he and the National Enquirer parlayed rumor-mongering into splashy tabloid stories that smeared Trump’s opponents and, just as crucially, leveraged his connections to suppress seamy stories about Trump, including a porn actor’s claim of an extramarital sexual encounter a decade earlier.

Pecker traced the origins of their relationship to a 1980s meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla..

“I would call him Donald,” Pecker recalled, adding that he had “a great relationship with Mr. Trump over the years” and that he had launched a magazine with him called “Trump Style.”

Pecker described a symbiotic relationship between Trump and the National Enquirer during the former president’s turn as a reality television host on “The Apprentice.” Trump would leak details of the show to the magazine, which in turn would run stories on the contestants.

Their ties were solidified during a pivotal August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower involving Trump, his lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen, and another aide, Hope Hicks, in which Pecker was asked what he and the publications he led could do for the campaign.

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Pecker said he volunteered to publish positive stories about Trump and negative stories about his opponents. But that wasn’t all, he said, telling jurors how he told Trump: “I will be your eyes and ears.”

“I said that anything I hear in the marketplace, if I hear anything negative about yourself, or if I hear about women selling stories, I would notify Michael Cohen,” so that the rights could be purchased and the stories could be killed.

“So they would not get published?” asked prosecutor Joshua Steinglass.

“So they would not get published,” Pecker replied.

Cohen, Pecker explained, would feed him information about Trump’s Republican primary opponents, and The National Enquirer would sometimes “embellish” them.

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The tabloid, for example, ran stories about Trump’s primary opponents, including Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The prosecutors illustrated the point for jurors, posting several lurid headlines on screens: “Donald Trump Blasts Ted Cruz’s Dad for Photo with J.F.K. Assassin,”https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2024/apr/24/ex-publisher-eyes-and-ears-for-trump/”Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson left Sponge in Patient’s Brain!” and, in a moment of ironic foreshadowing, “Ted Cruz Shamed by Porn Star.”

At the Trump Tower meeting, Pecker said, he had indicated that he expected many women “would come out to try to sell their stories” about Trump, because he was known as “the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful women.”

Trump was not, in fact, a bachelor. He had married his third and current wife, Melania Trump, in 2005.

COHEN’S ROLE

Pecker painted Cohen as a shadow editor of the National Enquirer’s pro-Trump coverage, directing the tabloid to go after whichever Republican candidate was gaining momentum.

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“I would receive a call from Michael Cohen, and he would direct me and direct Dylan Howard which candidate and which direction we should go,” Pecker said, referring to the tabloid’s then-editor.

Pecker said he underscored to Howard that the agreement with the Trump operation was “highly, highly confidential.” He said he wanted the tabloid’s bureau chiefs to be on the lookout for any stories involving Trump and said he wanted them to verify the stories before alerting Cohen.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges including one count of causing an unlawful campaign contribution and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution related to his role in the hush money payments. He also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and making false statements to a bank.

He was once a confidant of Trump’s but is now expected to be a star government witness, and routinely posts profane broadsides against Trump on social media.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to make attacks on Cohen’s credibility a foundation of their defense, but in opening with Pecker, prosecutors hoped to focus attention on a witness with a less volatile backstory. Besides maintaining that Trump is innocent, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told jurors that Cohen cannot be trusted and has “an obsession with getting Trump.”

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GAG ORDER HEARING

Pecker’s testimony Tuesday came after a hearing earlier in the day in which prosecutors urged Judge Juan M. Merchan to hold Trump in contempt and fine him $1,000 for each of 10 social media posts that they say violated an earlier gag order.

Prosecutors argued that the trial is threatened by Trump’s repeated attacks on witnesses and jurors, mostly launched on social media and his campaign website. They urged Merchan to hold Trump in contempt over what they said were 11 violations of a gag order that bars the former president from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff, as well as their relatives.

When Blanche claimed that the former president was trying to comply with the order, Merchan replied, “You’re losing all credibility with the court.”

The gag-order hearing, held with the jury out of the courtroom, demonstrated a jarring reality for Trump as he seeks to reclaim the White House while under indictment: His political reflexes, and the norm-busting ethos that has defined the Trump era, often clash with the letter of the law.

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Witnesses in the case “rightly fear” being subjected to the former president’s “vitriol,” a prosecutor, Christopher Conroy, told the judge. He rattled off statements that Manhattan prosecutors believe crossed the line, including calling Cohen and porn actor Stormy Daniels “sleaze bags” and reposting an attack on the jury pool. That happened the night before a juror who had already been seated asked to be excused.

“What happened here was exactly what this order was meant to prevent, and the defendant doesn’t care,” Conroy said.

Blanche argued that Trump’s posts were not personal and did not violate the order, because he was simply responding to “a barrage of political attacks.”

But Merchan implored Blanche to stick to the facts and the law.

Merchan did not immediately rule, but he seemed skeptical of defense arguments that Trump was merely responding in his posts to others’ attacks and had been trying to comply with the order.

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CATCH AND KILL

Prosecutors allege that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 race through a practice known in the tabloid industry as “catch-and-kill” — catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it and then killing it through agreements that prevent the paid person from telling the story to anyone else.

In this case, that included a $130,000 payment to Daniels to silence her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter that Trump denies. Prosecutors also described other arrangements, including one that paid a former Playboy model $150,000 to suppress claims of a nearly yearlong affair with the married Trump, which Trump also denies.

In another instance, Pecker recounted a $30,000 payment from the National Enquirer to a Trump Tower doorman for the rights to a rumor that Trump had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower. The tabloid concluded the story was not true, and the woman and Trump have denied the allegations.

As Pecker described receiving the tip in court, Trump shook his head.

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Pecker said upon hearing the rumor, he immediately called Cohen, who said it was “absolutely not true” but that he would look into whether the people involved had indeed worked for Trump’s company.

“I made the decision to purchase the story because of the potential embarrassment it had to the campaign and to Mr. Trump,” Pecker said.

In response to the prosecutor’s question about who he understood the boss to be, Pecker replied: “Donald Trump.”

Explaining why he decided to have the National Enquirer foot the bill, Pecker testified: “This was going to be a very big story. I believe it was important that this story be removed from the marketplace.”

If he published the story, Pecker said, it would be “probably the biggest sale of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley.”

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Jurors viewed an internal Enquirer email and invoice describing the payments to the doorman to kill his story. One document describes the funds coming from the publication’s “corporate” account. An invoice references an “immediate” $30,000 bank transfer payment for “‘Trump’s non-published story.”

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker, Jake Offenhartz and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press; and by Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

    Former President Donald Trump waits for the start of proceedings in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump appears in Manhattan criminal court on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in New York. (Curtis Means/DailyMail.com via AP, Pool)
 
 
  photo  Former president Donald Trump, left, watches as David Pecker answers questions on the witness stand, far right, from assistant district attorney Joshua Steingless, in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
 
 
  photo  Defense attorney Todd Blanche, at podium, makes arguments challenging the contempt charges to Judge Juan Merchan , Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
 
 
  photo  Judge Juan Merchan presides over Donald Trump’s trial in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
 
 
  photo  Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump walks in Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump speaks upon arriving at Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)
 
 
  photo  Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while he walks, as his criminal trial over charges that he allegedly falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 continues, at Manhattan state court in New York, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former president Donald Trump waits for the start of proceedings in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. Before testimony resumes Tuesday, the judge will hold a hearing on prosecutors’ request to sanction and fine Trump over social media posts they say violate a gag order prohibiting him from attacking key witnesses. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)
 
 



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Arkansas School for the Blind and Arkansas School for the Deaf voted to name Nicole Walsh as superintendent | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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Arkansas School for the Blind and Arkansas School for the Deaf voted to name Nicole Walsh as superintendent | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


Nicole Walsh, a veteran educator who holds certifications in kindergarten through 12th grade hard of hearing and visual impairment, has been hired as superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Deaf.

The Board of Trustees for the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Arkansas School for the Deaf voted to name Walsh as superintendent Tuesday night. The governor’s office issued a news release about the hiring.

Officials, including the Arkansas governor, cited Walsh’s experience as a teacher and administrator in deaf education as a reason for her hiring. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Walsh “the perfect candidate to lead the Arkansas School for the Deaf.”

“All Arkansas students deserve a quality education in an environment tailored to their needs,” the governor said in a statement Tuesday evening, “and I know Nicole will help us fulfill that commitment. She will also be a key partner in our effort to improve the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired as we make long-delayed investments in these critical institutions.”

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Walsh’s hiring follows a news conference in February when she publicly announced plans for a new “state-of-the-art facility” on the site of the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Arkansas School for the Deaf.

In that announcement, she described the effort — which began late last year when she and state lawmakers toured the schools — as part of a “comprehensive plan” for the campuses that she said would bring changes that were “long overdue.”

Walsh has worked as the Exceptional Student Education coordinator for deaf/hard of hearing and visual impairment for the Florida Virtual School K-12, since 2023, according to the Arkansas governor’s office.

She coordinates services and evaluations for deaf/hard of hearing and visually impaired students statewide to ensure services meet state and federal compliance laws. She also works with agencies that provide services to students.

Since 2021, she has also developed training and instruction materials for teachers of deaf/hard of hearing students and provided guidance to the Florida Department of Education.

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Arkansas Education Secretary Jacob Oliva, who used to work in Florida, cited Walsh’s teaching background as a reason why she is a good fit for the Arkansas job, calling her “the perfect person for this role.”

Robert Fagan, the board chairman, said the school’s governing body interviewed 10 candidates.

“However, Ms. Walsh’s education philosophy and qualifications positioned her as the front runner,” he said in a statement.

“There is much work to be done to improve student learning and facilities,” Walsh said in a statement that she would collaborate with experts at both schools and the Arkansas Department of Education.

She has worked for Volusia County Schools in Florida, the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, the Woodland Park School District in Colorado, and Flagler County, Fla., school system

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She is a graduate of Flagler College, in St. Augustine, Fla., where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Education and Elementary Education in 2010. She received a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in 2021 from the American College of Education, an online college based in Indianapolis, Ind.



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