Opinion

OPINION | GREG HARTON: Random thoughts from a busy week, but the food was delicious

Early deadlines due to the holiday and the prospect of a meal someone else was cooking had my mind scattered last week. I couldn't quite focus on a single issue. Between recording podcasts, writing, interruptions for routine medical procedures (hint: it's not the procedure but the prep that's grueling), the Cher Show at the Walton Arts Center and an out-of-town wedding, spending very much time on any single topic was a luxury.

So if this column feels like random thoughts, it's because it is.

A trip to join family reminded me: Doesn't food taste better when someone else cooks it? That assumes, of course, that the one doing the cooking has some kitchen skills.

In this case, it was my mom and aunt, with contributions from brothers and cousins, who worked so hard to give us a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner. Since I don't usually get to central Arkansas until late Wednesday night for Thanksgiving, they're all generous enough not to expect much from me. They never seem to mind me showing up empty handed. My wife was kind enough to contribute a delicious desert, always appreciated.

Day in and day out, I'm an OK cook. Nobody ends up with food poisoning when I cook, or at least they've never told me so. My wife can whip up a good meal, but tax season (she's a CPA) can throw a kink into her participation. And it seems that since the onset of covid and ever-changing federal tax rules about money doled out during the pandemic, tax season takes up a lot more of the year than it used to. I'm not a fan.

She and I cook when we can, get take-out more often than we should and, occasionally, actually go sit down at a restaurant.

There's an added wrinkle: We're trying to figure out the ol' empty nester situation. With a junior and a freshman at the University of Arkansas, both involved in a fraternity, we're adjusting to our boys needing to spend more time in class (we hope) than with us. I'm proud of them both and they're doing fine at the UA. The freshman lives in a dorm on campus, so referencing back to the earlier discussion, I do from time to time get jealous that he's got someone cooking for him every day. But the U of A dining halls unfortunately won't take students' parents.

Today's editorial inside this section is a discussion about housing and the impact short-term rentals have on Fayetteville and other Northwest Arkansas communities.

I was intrigued the other day when I read about a New York City idea to tackle its housing crisis: Paying homeowners to build apartments in their garages and attics. The New York Times reported that, despite the perception the entire city is tall apartment buildings, lower-density neighborhoods make up more than half of the city.

The tiny, experimental program comes with regulation of rental rates and has income limits for recipients of the funding. The city is trying to demonstrate that new housing can be built "in every neighborhood in the city," the city's deputy mayor said.

Critics say regulations overly burden individual efforts to build so-called "granny flats." As always, there's a tension between promoting housing options and maintaining safe building standards.

With Northwest Arkansas' housing pressures, some land-use accommodations have already been made to promote added housing. More will likely be needed.

Will we ever reach the day when local government has to pay Northwest Arkansas homeowners to create new housing? I certainly hope not. That will mean we're in as much a crisis as New York City. None of us want that.

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