A group calling itself the Arkansas Tea Party has issued a news release opposing the penny sales tax increase on the ballot in North Little Rock Nov. 8.
Too much fat, particularly in the economic development realm, and not enough discussion or information about specifics, a Tea Party statement says.
Putting aside the question of whether this statement represents one or 100 or 1,000 people — and putting aside that it’s from the Tea Party, generally enough for a reflexive contrary opinion on my part — I confess that the statement raises some valid points.
This has been a hurryup, under-discussed affair — by design. It probably doesn’t matter. North Little Rock, though a blue collar town, has always been friendly to the regressive sales tax. They like the mayor, too. If he says it’s good, most people tend to think it’s good. But giving even a good mayor a $20 million checking account for economic development, with no promise on how it’s to be spent or meaningful oversight? This makes the Little Rock chamber of commerce controlled economic development slush fund look like a model of inclusive, responsible governance.
Mayor Pat Hays might buy some land for a future state fair site. Or he might buy some for an office park, doing with tax money what private enterprise should do. Or he might parcel it out to developer friends to build a parking deck for a hotel in competition with private operators who paid their own way. Who knows? Voters don’t, and that’s a problem. The State Fair relocation idea — apart from being a net zero for the county as a whole — is most likely a pipe dream unless the federal government suddenly steps up with $100 million to build the new facilities that would be required. The land is the least of the cost. There will also be highway connections to consider.
Tea Party finds an acorn, but, as in Little Rock, some obvious flaws don’t necessarily dictate defeat of the measure with money for some worthy uses — police, fire, streets. Which is what Mayor Hays — and Mayor Stodola before him — is counting on.