The agenda meeting for the Little Rock City Board this week includes a resolution for the city to pay the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce $300,000 again this year for “economic development consulting services.”
This was the money spent unconstitutionally by the city for years until the Arkansas Supreme Court put an end to the practice in a taxpayer lawsuit. This brought a legislature-proposed constitutional amendment, approved by voters, to legalize taxpayer subsidies of chambers of commerce because the practice had become epidemic around the state. Why should the highway construction lobby have to pay the cost of the chamber of commerce lobbyists when they can get city taxpayers to do it?
The court found that this payment was consulting in name only. The chambers do what they’ve always done, simply with a taxpayer subsidy to do it.
City taxpayers get no specific accounting of how the money is spent.
We do know the money pays salaries of chamber employees who:
* Worked for the takeover of the city school district, now suffering continuing body blows from Walton-funded attacks in the form of proliferating charter schools.
* Support the huge concrete freeway gulch through the heart of the city.
* Oppose democratic mayor-council form of government, because corporate interests control most outcomes through at-large director elections influenced by their big money.
* Support the amendment that will make it — on account of damage limits and attorney fee limits — difficult if not impossible to sue for medical malpractice, nursing home abuse
* Support socialized government, in which city sales tax money finances a real estate play otherwise known as the technology park that put $11 million in the pockets of the richest man in Little Rock through the purchase of some his office buildings.
* Oppose control of private property use by landowners, at least when the owner is the Quapaw Tribe and the land is near the Little Rock Port. The chamber’s effort to hamstring the tribe is about preventing the Quapaws, ancestral owners of the land, from developing a casino on the property. Why opposition? Because it would compete with the Hot Springs casino operated by a chamber of commerce financial sponsor, the Oaklawn Jockey Club.
The resolution on handing out $300,000 in tax on poor folks’ hamburgers to pay fat salaries for chamber lobbyists is on the “consent agenda.” It is noncontroversial, in other words, at least on the corporate-controlled City Board.
PS: A footnote on my link to Democrat-Gazette story this morning about the need for still more budget cuts in the Little Rock School District on account of an enrollment decline linked to proliferating charter schools, with hundreds of more charter seats coming next year: The Walton lobbyist who attacks LRSD daily has been boasting that the percentage of poor kids in the district is dropping, which he sees an argument against those who criticize charters for taking middle-class kids out of the schools. It’s demonstrably BS. Superintendent Michael Poore says poor parents haven’t been filling out the forms for free lunches because they’ve been offered as a matter of course at schools where all the kids come from low-income backgrounds.
The Walton assault continues unabated. In addition to supporting some 1,200 new charter seats for lower grades in two schools to open next year, it is pushing the growth of eStem High School on the UA-Little Rock campus from 400 to 1,200 students. The high school has been a disaster for the university. Pickup and drop-off traffic, an overtaxed food facility (college students who’ve bought food plans can’t get fed), lack of additional classroom space, library pressure and rambunctious 15-year-olds running around among 26-year-old graduate students have created a situation the UA-Little Rock Faculty Senate has unanimously suggested is a problem. Waltons care? Think again. What they care about is deconstructing the Little Rock School District by any means possible. It will build trails, cooking schools and other amenities up in Northwest Arkansas.