Labor Day is a nice slow day to ease back into the blogging routine.
The mailbox is mostly empty this morning. But Wendell Griffen, the circuit judge who wears a political activist hat as a Baptist minister, is on hand with a statement opposing the city of Little Rock’s special election proposal next week to continue (with a slight reduction) the long-standing property tax millage for street and drainage work.
Griffen is roused by work of the ad hoc committee supporting the tax. He continues the message of other advocates of inner city Little Rock that it is unfair to spread the spending evenly by ward when needs in the older parts of town are so much greater.
It’s a tough argument that I’ve followed from afar these last couple of weeks. The one-man, one-dollar approach is undeniably the politically expedient way to get this tax approved, particularly given the higher voting patterns in the better neighborhoods that will disproportionately benefit. (Note that these neighborhoods include many that didn’t pay their fair share for extension of infrastructure in the city’s westward annexation expansion.) Mayor Mark Stodola and others have also been guilty of misleading rhetoric. A flat millage tax is NOT a progressive tax. It disproportionately burdens the poor owners of property who pay a larger share of their available income on property taxes. It is NOT true that developers have contributed much by way of money to past infrastructure work. Yes, they build driveways and many lesser streets, but the big collector streets, the fire stations, police stations, parks, sewer and water demand and alll the rest build a rapidly accruing bill for all. And the notion that property tax wealth is heavily concentrated out west overlooks huge tax bills on the center city, particularly downtown.
No matter. I find myself today leaning strongly toward a vote FOR the property tax continuation. It would be devastating to the city to lose this historic source of steady and somewhat elastic support at the end of this year. I can lament some of the political cynicism at work in the campaign, but I can’t overlook the consequences of refusing continuation of the levy. The tax vote doesn’t bind the ward spending plan for all time, for one thing. Voter referendums ARE possible, too.