Tagged: A&P Commission

2011 City of Searcy Budget Available Here

Thanks to a local watchdog group, “Searcy Citizens for a Responsible Mayor,” constituents can now download the 2011 budget online.

I am glad that the people of Searcy finally have the opportunity to see how their money is being spent without having to wait for days & pay for their own copies of the city budget.

Incidentally, posting the city budget online was one of many of my transparency proposals during my 2010 campaign for city council.  Of course the incumbent officials said this was impractical, too expensive, etc., so the work has been left to good citizens who want to hold their representatives accountable.

Thanks to their work, the voters now have access to their city’s finances–at least for this year.

Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot & former Searcy City Council candidate.  In his spare time, he volunteers for various political causes.  Contact Nicholas at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com & follow him on Twitter.

Advertisements

Proposed Bill Would Amend A&P Statute to Require Approval of Electorate

Arkansas state senators Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home) & Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) have filed a bill to alter the state’s Advertising & Promotion Tax statute.

The bill, SB 180, amends the existing statute & requires counties or cities to refer the tax to the voters.

The current statute allows counties & municipalities in Arkansas to impose taxes on prepared food & lodging by a simple majority vote without direct consent of the electorate. This is the only such statute in the state—all other sales taxes must be specifically approved by the voters.

Therefore, the A&P has become a common target for local lawmakers in otherwise conservative cities (like Searcy) who are looking to expand their budgets or in fiscally bloated cities who cannot get a tax approved by the electorate.

[Readers likely remember the A&P fiasco in Searcy that spanned nearly 15 months (February 2009-April 2010) & was thoroughly chronicled by this site.]

The A&P structure has long been the golden goose of the powerful lobby Municipal League & establishment politicians anxious to hand out lucrative & influential A&P Commission appointments to their closest friends. Past reform efforts, led by Senator Key, have failed. This will not be an easy battle.

However, the landscape of Little Rock has shifted significantly, with a much larger Republican minority in the House & Senate as well as a Republican Lieutenant Governor who is more than willing to use his bully pulpit when necessary.

With no meaningful insights or predictions to offer at this time, I can tell you that there has been strong support for reform expressed in the past by House Republican giants Allen Kerr & Ed Garner, a hopeful sign that the bill may make some progress in the House—assuming it gets out of committee & out of the Senate.

Hopefully the lobbies involved & lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can see that this proposal truly is a win for everyone. Putting the A&P to a vote will provide for easier passage by giving voters more confidence in the structure itself.  It is also a victory for an electorate that rarely gains any mechanisms for accountability.

Throughout the A&P campaign & my own personal campaign for city council, I found that voters overwhelmingly inherently distrust the A&P system. This is perhaps more closely tied to the appointment process, rampant corruption across the state, etc. But the inability to vote is within itself an affront to most voters and is seen for what it is—an underhanded effort to subvert the democratic process.

The bill has been sent to the Senate Committee on Revenue & Taxation. Senator Dismang also tells me there is another bill coming soon that will create a repeal mechanism for constituents. I will keep you posted on further developments.

Editor’s note: Both Senator Key & Senator Dismang have worked in the past to improve the A&P structure & have made commitments to their constituents to continue those efforts during this session. Your hard work does not go unnoticed. Thank you for your efforts to make government more accountable.

Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot & former Searcy City Council candidate. In his spare time, he volunteers with various political campaigns & writes for The Liberty Bell. Contact Nicholas at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com & follow him on Twitter.

Demozette Says Searcy Parks & Rec Will Receive Excess A&P Tax Funds

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported yesterday that the Searcy Parks & Recreation Department will receive the excess money from the A&P Tax fund after the refund process is complete.  This was part of the A&P Tax refund ordinance that the city council passed last week.

On June 22nd, the Searcy Council passed an ordinance, upon its third reading, to offer refunds of the money to citizens who have their original receipts.

The tax was implemented on July 1, 2009, despite the submission of petitions for referendum by concerned citizens.  This was in violation of the state constitution, which calls for the “abeyance” of a tax upon submission of petitions.  After a lengthy legal battle, a judge ruled that the city’s defense (an ordinance from the 1930s, limiting the petition deadline to 30 days–the petitions in this situation were turned in past that alleged deadline) was invalid.  Therefore, the city had no legal right to deny the petitions & their failure to hold the tax in abeyance led to an illegal exaction of funds.

Per state law, refunds of illegally extracted funds must be offered for refund.  While the majority of the council & mayor have maintained that the money was not illegally exacted, issuing refunds with legally exacted money would be illegal in itself.

Refunds begin on July 23rd and will be issued for 180 days.

The current balance of A&P funds is approximately $450,000.

____________________________________________________________________

The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly.  The editor can be reached at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.

Searcy Mayor Changes Course, Commends Nutter For Appointments

Carl,

Thank you for your willingness to serve on this A & P Refunding Committee.  When I’ve requested you to serve on Council Committees in the past your schedule seemed to prohibit your participation.  I’m glad to see you could find the time.

I disagree with your statement regarding the city’s unwillingness to listen to citizen input, as the City held a public hearing for that specific purpose, as well as hearing from constituents on an individual basis.

It is refreshing to see that you have willingly included non-City of Searcy residents to be on this committee, knowing that you have resisted similar situations in the past regarding other standing committees of the City.

I am looking forward to hearing the recommendations of the committee when presented to the full Council for their consideration.  I am confident the eight elected city council members will make a fair and reasonable decision whether to accept or deny in full or in part.

If any of the listed individuals you have mentioned decline to serve, I might have some suggestions for inclusion.

Since you are willing to entertain suggestions, I would suggest that the committee meet, as soon as possible, to insure a speedy resolution and the taxpayers can expect to see the refund prior to the close of 2010

Your Mayor,

Mayor Belinda LaForce

blaforce@cityofsearcy.org

City of Searcy

401 West Arch Avenue

Searcy, AR 72143

(501) 268-2483 PH

(501) 279-1050 FAX

_____________________________________________________________________

The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly.  The editor can be reached at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.

Laforce Does Not Recognize Nutter–Must Have Been the Tie.

This video clearly shows the type of bickering that is impeding true progress in this city.

Here the mayor is clearly seen denying an alderman a right to even pose a question during last night’s city council meeting.  Just imagine how bad things would be if the city was still under a partisan system (the non-partisan resolution passed last year by the council was designed to heal all of the party-invoked wounds and disagreement on the council):

___________________________________________________________________

The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly.  The editor can be reached at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.


Searcy Friends of the Voters: “If Pro-Taxers Had Spoken the Truth, Tax Would Have Failed in Landslide.”

Letter to the Editor

The people spoke. The Searcy Friends of the Voters are pleased that so many of our fellow citizens exercised their right to vote (a right we fought hard to protect when the city tried to deny it). The results are in, and now the mayor wants to investigate to determine whether “misinformation” played any role in the outcome.

Let me save the mayor the trouble: misinformation played a HUGE role in the outcome – if the pro-tax crowd had spoken the truth the tax would have gone down in a landslide.

For the last week or two leading up to the election, the pro-tax folks kept claiming that our statements were lies. We acquired a document they were circulating (I received this from a citizen who received it from alderman Mary Ann Arnett – one of the pro-tax people) which alleges to refute our claims. I will now list the pro-tax claims of our “untruths” and cite the facts in our final word on the topic.

Pro-tax folks said “Nothing that has been done [by the city] has been or was illegal.”

  • Judge Tom Hughes ruled on September 30th that for the previous 3 months the city had been enforcing an ordinance that didn’t exist. This means that they were violating several state laws pertaining to public referendum. It also means they were violating Section 1-7 of Searcy’s code of ordinances which says the following: “It shall be unlawful for any person to change or amend by additions or deletions, any part or portion of this Code, or to insert or delete pages, or portions thereof, or to alter or tamper with such Code in any manner whatsoever except by Ordinance of the City Council, which shall cause the law of the City of Searcy, Arkansas, to be misrepresented thereby.”
  • Arkansas code 7-9-111 states the following: “The date of any special election shall be set in accordance with § 7-5-103(b) but in no event more than one hundred twenty (120) calendar days after the date of certification of sufficiency by the municipal clerk.” Our petitions were certified as sufficient on July 10, 2009 which meant that this law (combined with Arkansas code 7-5-103 which required the election to be held on the second Tuesday of a month) required that the election be held no later than October 13, 2009.
  • The city council voted on June 9th, 2009 to take specific actions with regards to the A&P commission after being provided an Attorney General opinion which specifically stated that taking such actions would violate the state constitution.
  • The city council started collecting the tax 50 days after the passage of the ordinance. Arkansas code 14-55-203 states “The effective dates for ordinances of a general or permanent nature and other local measures of a general or permanent nature of cities of the first class, cities of the second class, and incorporated towns shall be upon publication or posting as is otherwise required by law, but not before ninety-one (91) days after passage by the governing body of the city or town.”
  • The city council refused to hold the ordinance “in abeyance” as required by Article 5 of the state constitution which states “[a]ny measure referred to the people by referendum petition shall remain in abeyance until such vote is taken.” Continue reading

The People Spoke: Searcy A&P Tax Rejected.

While the debate will rage on, the election on the Searcy A&P Tax is over.

Results of the Searcy A&P Tax election are as follows:

  • 1,574 Against
  • 1,331 For

FOX-16 was in town to cover the events.  See their coverage here.

Also, Harding’s “The Link” covered the picketing at City Hall and the voting.

There is much to be said about the events of the last 15 months.  But we will withhold analysis until the dust settles.

What is important to remember from today is that The People spoke.

Regardless of the outcome, The People won because their rights were restored and their judgment prevailed.  The People would have won if the tax and they win now that the tax failed.  Their wishes are what the Searcy Friends of the Voters and others fought to defend.  City Hall did everything within their power (and even outside their authority) to keep the voters from being heard, but ultimately, the people prevailed.

The People win because The People were heard.

Many thanks to all of the freedom-lovers who fought hard for The People’s right to vote on this issue.

____________________________________________________________________

The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly.  The editor can be reached at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.