In the midst of all that was happening locally last week, I didn’t have time to extend congratulations to the people of Fort Smith for successfully petitioning for a vote and consequently defeating an A&P tax in their community last week. As we had to do in Searcy, the citizens in Fort Smith had to file a lawsuit against the city in order to retain their right to vote on the A&P proposal.
However, despite the fact that the tax failed overwhelmingly, 63-37%, the people of Fort Smith best stand on guard–this is only the beginning in their fight against the A&P disciples. This comment from Jeff Smith, chairman of “Forward Fort Smith” who advocated for the tax, should tell Fort Smith voters all they need to know about what is coming next:
“Even though we lost the first battle, we won’t stop fighting the war for Fort Smith’s future,” Smith said.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that we fought the A&P monster for almost a full year here in Searcy before ultimately winning a lawsuit, retaining our right to vote, and defeating the tax by 10-points in April 2010. So I have a special appreciation for the effort and commitment it takes to defeat such a machine.
The people of Fort Smith’s struggles also remind me of the need for comprehensive reforms of the A&P statute. Why should citizens continue to have to petition, file lawsuits, and run costly campaigns against A&P taxes in Arkansas? This is the only municipal tax in the state that can be imposed with the direct consent of the people. There was an effort to make some real reforms last legislative session. Unfortunately, the Arkansas Municipal League and other powerful lobbyist groups killed the bill before it reached the floor, but this is a fight worth continuing. The people of Arkansas deserve more direct control over their government–especially at the local level.
Sincere congratulations to Eddie York and the people of Fort Smith for keeping your city government in check.