I am not privy to any special information, nor have I conducted any scientific polling on the most recent tax proposal that is before the voters of Searcy, AR. However, I tend to think I have a pretty good read on the pulse of the community, having been very active in defeating the last two taxes that were proposed in Searcy & White County. Therefore, I feel comfortable making a few predictions about tonight’s tax election results.
First of all, I think the results will be fairly close. I would define close as 5-7%. This is just gut instinct, based on the way the last several taxes have gone, and what I am hearing around the community. This can be attributed mostly to the fact that the city held the election 2 weeks before Christmas and faced no organized opposition to this tax. If it had been at another time and there had been an organized Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign, the margins would probably be closer to 10-12%.
Secondly, I think the tax will probably pass. I say this because, yes, the city faced no organized opposition and the vote was 2 weeks before Christmas, but also because they put forward a reasonable proposal, with an automatic sunset clause and very restrictive language regarding how the money can be spent.
As I said in the Democrat-Gazette yesterday, I believe voters, in most cases, would be willing to pay for significant infrastructure improvements if they had more assurance that the money would be spent appropriately. The city seems to be interested in doing this project the right way, and if they are, the voters will likely be willing to go along with it–assuming, of course, that voters actually believe the bypass is a worthy project.
There is, however, one factor in play that could throw a wrench in the city’s plans and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: the proponents’ adoption of the “Vote for Roads & Jobs” slogan.
There has been a serious backlash amongst people in the city at this approach. One adamant supporter of the tax told me just yesterday that he felt this approach ‘insulted my intelligence’ and ‘makes me want to vote against it.’ He agreed that this slogan could significantly hurt the tax’s chances, and planned on voicing his frustration to the mayor. From his perspective, this is a great proposal that would pass on its merits. There is no need for any type of trickery or misleading slogans.
“I just want them to be honest. It’s a tax for infrastructure. Just tell me that. There is too much intellectual dishonesty here for me.” He called me just a few minutes ago to tell me that he voted against the tax today.
I warned the mayor about these tactics during our meeting right after the Searcy City Council passed this tax. I have also railed against this promotion of Obamanomics in our community. I told him that people want honesty and transparency. They crave it. Why the “Vote for Jobs & Roads” committee chose to adopt that name and implement this strategy is beyond me, and it could mean their undoing.
Many businessmen and a few contractors that I have spoken with in the city do not believe this tax will ‘create jobs.’ In fact, the contractors tell me that the job will almost certainly be contracted in Little Rock, and workers will be sent in from outside the county. Now, there is an argument to be made that infrastructure improvements can increase economic development and spur growth many years down the line. However, there remains zero evidence that this tax (or any other) will actually create jobs or growth, as I have previously argued.
Construction of the bypass will not begin for many years, and its completion is even further away. Once it is completed, it will take years to see any real economic benefit.
If the tax passes, despite the “Jobs” tricks, I hope the city will see their victory for what it is–a temporary loan of trust (and treasure) from the taxpayers to the taxers, not a mandate for increased taxes and pet projects in years to come.