Searcy Mayor David Morris & White County Judge Mike Lincoln apparently both stated in the local paper a few months ago that they support Issue 1 or the ‘Highway Tax’* that will be on the ballot in November. The half cent tax* increase was referred to voters by the state legislature during last year’s regular session.
A tax on fuel…what a great idea! A tax hike on everything? What a great idea!*
Morris reportedly said that street improvements are his ‘biggest concern’ and said the additional revenue that the city would receive as turnback would be ‘welcomed.’
I find this particularly interesting, given that Searcy voters approved a 1% tax increase in December 2011, specifically for road improvements, and the mayor did publicly & privately promise not to call for any further tax increases until this new tax expires. The tax went into effect on April 1 of this year.
Then we have Mike “Never-met-a-tax-I-didn’t-like” Lincoln who told the paper that we “desperately needs additional funds for highways.” Lincoln also said, “if we want improvements, we are going to have to pay for them.”
This is a line he used repeatedly during his campaign to raise taxes on White County taxpayers by 1% last September. The implication behind this comment is sincerely insulting to the people of White County. Of course, if we want to improve our infrastructure, we will have to pay for it. But ‘paying for it’ and raising taxes to pay for it are two entirely different things, Judge Lincoln.
Voters should also remember that the judge cut $1.5 million from this year’s county road budget, while the county sits on millions of dollars in CDs and other accounts. He uses many straw-man arguments like, “Well, we don’t have enough money in the road fund,” leading voters to believe that only money in the road fund can be used for infrastructure improvements, but this is simply not true.
The fact is: White County government, during Judge Lincoln’s time in office, has enjoyed its highest revenues in history. Our problems in White County do not originate from a lack of revenue. They stem from a lack of leadership.
UPDATE: A delightful Lincoln supporter & serial commenter on this blog has said that the diesel tax will no longer be on the Arkansas ballot in 2012. I have read some discussion in the news about this, but I have not seen anything definitive. Many sites are still reporting that the issue will be on the ballot, including Ballotpedia (whom I cited earlier in this post). They have the ballot question’s status listed as “on the ballot.” TaxRates.com reported on the vote just over a week ago, citing a poll that was conducted on the issue in late March of this year.
I am looking into this and will keep you posted. Whether or not the issue will be on the ballot this year is immaterial to my point in this article. Judge Lincoln wants higher taxes, despite county revenues being higher than ever. And this point is not dependent upon this particular tax issue. He has supported multiple other taxes during his time in office, and I will be outlining those as well.
*This part of the story was edited for clarification.
I received a tip on Saturday afternoon that White County Judge Mike Lincoln was using the “White County Cleanup”–a time for county residents to bring garbage to the county fairgrounds and have it disposed of, at the expense of the taxpayers–as a campaign event. I arrived at the event to find this sign in front of the gate, on public property:
Here is a zoomed-in look at the figures you see in the background. In yellow is OEM Director Tamara Jenkins, the judge’s favorite county employee who used taxpayer money to purchase Thanksgiving dinner for her family, a heat pump, and a couple of trailers. Mike Lincoln is pictured leaning down, apparently looking at the truck’s tires. And Jenkins’ assistant is laying down in the back of the truck. I am not sure who the young lady is. There is also an older gentleman sitting down in the lawn chair next to Jenkins:
Here is another photo. At the far left you can see a sign that says “White County Cleanup ENTRANCE–>”
Here’s a zoomed in look at that photo. This was after the judge noticed my presence on county property and began yelling at me. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but he began charging at me and so to avoid conflict, I left. His shirt features his campaign logo. You can see him front and center, facing the camera:
So what does the law say about using public property/publicly-funded items for campaign use? Well, let’s just say Judge Lincoln has several questions to answer.
1. Was the judge using publicly-funded property for campaigning?
(e) No public servant shall use for campaign purposes any item of personal property provided with public funds. “Campaign purposes” refers to the campaign of a candidate for public office and not efforts to support or oppose a ballot measure.
See the Suburban with the hatch popped? And the truck with the lights on top? Both county vehicles, paid for by you. Being used for campaign purposes.
2. Were the two county employees pictured here asked to attend the event and were they being paid by the taxpayers? We can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly a question worth asking.
Again, from the Commission:
(c) No public servant shall coerce by threats or otherwise any public employee into devoting time or labor toward the campaign of any candidate for office or for the nomination to any office. 
(f) No person shall assess any public employee for any political purpose whatever or coerce by threats or otherwise any public employee into making a subscription or contribution for any political purpose.
I think the words “or otherwise” in Section (c) are problematic for the judge here. Were the employees asked to attend? Were they being paid?
Also, in Section (f), “No person shall assess any public employee for any political purpose whatever.” The judge can say that this was not a “political” or campaign event, but by putting up a sign & wearing a campaign t-shirt, didn’t he make it one?
3. There is a clear double standard in Judge Lincoln displaying his sign on public property. I remember just a few short years ago when we had a rally on the courthouse lawn. Someone attending the event asked the judge if they could display campaign signs. He said yes, and then once they put them up, he went ballistic. He even went so far as to call the police and tried to have the whole event shutdown. He said, “I”m the keeper of the county grounds! You can’t do this!”
Well judge, you may be the keeper of the county grounds, but that doesn’t excuse you from unethical activities. You were probably right back in 2010 to not let the demonstrators post their signs on public property. So do you still agree that this is an unethical practice? If you do, then why would you do it? Would you allow your opponent to do it? Or do these special provisions only apply to yourself and those you support?
Keep in mind, this is a judge who has already been charged with a violation by the Arkansas Ethics Commission for breaking the law, but he said he ‘still didn’t think he did anything wrong’ after the ruling was handed down.
And a judge who is pictured here with Tamara Jenkins, who misused hundreds of taxpayer dollars, who he consequently rewarded with the purchase of a $320,000 building at the all-time high price of $590,000!
And he is still defending her nobility. So don’t expect any remorse from him after this incident.
And don’t think this is the first or only time that Judge Lincoln has used public property to promote his campaign.
I contacted State Senator Jonathan Dismang yesterday evening after learning of Governor Beebe’s unhinged comments about the Searcy bypass project.
The senator tells me he is confident that the trucker tax exemption will not effect the project:
I have talked to 3 commissioners and the director who have all repeatedly indicated that our project will not be impacted by the funding shortage created by the trucker tax exemption.
The director he’s referring to is the director of the Arkansas Highway Department, if I understood correctly. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.
In my estimation, this is further evidence that Governor Beebe is simply playing a sick political game & using a sensitive issue in his hometown to take cheap shots at Dismang. Truly ironic comments from a governor who has repeatedly spoken out against “DC politics,” and said this last fall:
“You elect people to work together to solve the problem. And you may not agree on every issue and you may not get your way on every issue. And while I’m not suggesting that you prostitute your principles, I am suggesting that you act like adults and that you try to resolve our nation’s problems…
“If the people in Washington, D.C., would take a lesson from the people in Arkansas, we could solve a lot of these problems a lot earlier.”
Seems to me that the people in DC are acting like the folks in Arkansas and that is the problem. Perhaps the governor should take his own advice and start acting like an adult.
Well, a story in today’s Searcy paper is raising some eyebrows: Governor Beebe now says he “won’t push” for the Searcy bypass project.
This comes after Judge Lincoln told voters last week that Beebe played a role in crafting his failed tax plan to fund White County’s portion of the project. According to Lincoln, “Governor Beebe wanted us to form a strategic plan, and the tax/bypass was part of our strategic plan.”
So what gives?
From the story:
“I’m obviously for the Searcy bypass project, but I’m not going to ask the highway department to spend money they don’t have. If they don’t have the money, they’ll have to make adjustments.”
He went on to say, he really should stay out of it because it’s not really any of his business, but he’s involving himself anyway:
“I’m not in any position to rank all the highways in the state of Arkansas. That’s what the highway commission is for. Obviously, I have a little prejudice in favor of Searcy because that’s where I’m from, but I still have to govern the whole state.”
And while staying out of it, Governor Beebe added:
“It’s really sad. It’s sad for Searcy. It’s sad for any projects around the state.”
So, to summarize: He’s going to stay out of it because he’s not really in any position to rank the projects, but he fully supports the project, but he’s not going to add any pressure to the commission to do the project, but he does have prejudice in favor of Searcy, and he’s going to stay out of it, but it’s really sad for Searcy.
And believe it or not, this is all those evil Republicans’ fault because they blocked the trucker tax exemption repeal! Specifically, the governor says it was Searcy’s Senator Jonathan Dismang’s fault. How convenient, seeing as how one of Beebe’s friends is running against Dismang this year.
Two entities deserve to be scolded for this joke of a political move. First of all, the governor. What the heck, dude? Jerking your hometown around like this? You’re using a local hot potato issue and holding it over the heads of Searcy citizens to bully votes out of Senator Dismang and/or to punish him. Of course this is nothing new–politicians have playing these games for years. But this is a reach, even for you and besides, I thought you were against DC politics?
Governor Beebe admits himself he has no control over this issue, and he should probably stay out of it, so he should do it. All indications from the state–except from the governor himself, of course–are that the project will go forward. He is beating a dead horse, and a controversial one at that. This is politics at its worst.
Secondly, shame on our beloved Searcy paper. They continue to sing right along with the Democrats’ narrative. They are accepting Governor Beebe’s premise that the project remains in peril because of conservative efforts to stabilize the state budget and framing these issues in such a manner that reflect poorly on Senator Dismang. They want to continue the work that they started against me and other local conservatives last fall: ”Evil, heartless conservatives are the ones who are holding this bypass project back. Conservatives are the ones holding back ‘progress.’”
What the paper is doing is shameless. They’re giving Governor Beebe a pass on provably false statements so they can continue to advance the narrative that conservatism hurts progress.
If I had made the same types of false statements that the governor made, I would be ridiculed and mocked, disparaged as a ‘local conspiracy theorist.’ But the paper doesn’t question the governor because his comments advance their agenda of silencing conservative voices & distorting the truth.
I’m not sure who is singing the lead, but there’s no disputing that the paper and Governor Beebe are singing the same song.
I have contacted Senator Dismang for comment, as well as Searcy city officials. We’ll keep you posted.
Someone reminded me that I left everyone hanging on a story I posted earlier this month (after the passage of the Searcy bypass tax, which has now been proclaimed as a ‘mandate’ for more taxes in Searcy…go figure). Apologies for the delay, but I really couldn’t care less about politics during the holidays. Anyway, I promised to tell you more about a brief conversation I had with Mayor Morris at the courthouse on election night.
It was a short conversation, but the mayor invited me to come back by city hall and visit with him after the first of the year about his agenda going forward (I say ‘back’ because I previously met with him in September of this year to talk about the city budget, bypass tax, etc.).
I also took the opportunity to ask the mayor if he had given any more thought to my suggestion that the city setup a website to track the collections & spending of every penny of the bypass tax money. The mayor told me,
We are going to do that. We are going to put it all online.
So, now it’s on the record and I am very anxious see this project take off when the collections start in April. This is a great way to instate some transparency in city operations and create some trust between the taxed and the taxers.
I am looking forward to meeting with the mayor after the first of the year. Perhaps we can do some video interviews.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a merry Christmas. Enjoy this next weekend of holidays and get some rest. We have a lot of work to do in 2012.