Tagged: Belinda Laforce

Why I Can’t Support White County Judge Lincoln

The good folks here at The Arkansas Patriot asked me to write a column giving my opinion on the judge’s race in White County. I agreed, and this is the result.

Before we go too far, let me state all of the following for the record: I voted for Michael Lincoln in 2006 and again in 2008.

When his opponent in 2006 complained about losing, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Citizen defending Judge Lincoln. I am in no way opposed to the man personally, but he began making policy related decisions in 2009 that were questionable at best and contemptible in some instances, and in 2010 I voted against him.

Let’s look at some of the policy decisions that Judge Lincoln has made:

In 2009 & 2010, Judge Lincoln supported Belinda LaForce’s efforts to impose an A&P tax and A&P commission on the city of Searcy without voter approval. Judge Lincoln has recently complained about city taxes being terrible because county residents pay them while only the city gets to spend the money. This is a different tune than the one he sang just two short years ago.

Judge Lincoln’s support of a tax in the city of Searcy was so strong that when a very peaceful TEA party protest was held at the courthouse square in Searcy on April 5, 2010 (attended by our current Lieutenant Governor as well as several other candidates for statewide offices), Judge Lincoln called both the Searcy police and the White County Sheriff’s office and attempted to convince them to remove the protestors. Continue reading

Grading the White County Judge’s Debate

I attended the debate Monday night between Judge Michael Lincoln and his opponent, businessman Bill Haynie. There were lots of people in the crowd (I would estimate it as being in the hundreds), and the event itself was well run. I took lots of notes (five and a half pages type written). With that being said, I thought I’d share my impressions and hand out some letter grades.

The Crowd:

The crowd was polite and attentive. It was larger than I expected and was full of folks who were clearly interested in the process. Several individuals had signs protesting against Randall Homsley of Higginson and wanting to know why the county prosecutor wasn’t doing anything about his alleged misbehavior. It’s great to see people getting involved in the process.

Overall grade: A (if the crowd had been larger I’d have given them an A+)

 

The Debate itself:

The debate was in a fair format and even started (almost) on time. The moderator did a good job of keeping things moving, and on the one occasion when the candidates got off topic (Judge Lincoln continuing the discussion of question five instead of answering question six), he got them back on topic smoothly and quickly enough. Question ten seemed open ended and unnecessary (and a waste of an opportunity) as both candidates essentially had the opportunity to address the “biggest problem facing the county” in their opening and closing statements. It would have been nice to see something else there.

Overall grade: B

 

Judge Lincoln:

Judge Lincoln repeatedly hammered home the concept of road improvements and bridge improvements that have occurred on his watch. His opening statement, his closing statement, and his responses to at least four of the ten questions discussed roads and bridges. He attempted to deflect attention from the OEM scandal by declaring that because “we have nothing missing from the county” we have no theft. He stated that complete restitution had been made and that this absolves the party involved from any wrongdoing. He was also asked specifically if he would do anything differently with regards to his promotion of the countywide sales tax before the election last fall. His response was twofold. The first part was to imply that the tax election was actually brought about by actions of governor Mike Beebe and former Searcy mayor Belinda LaForce. His second answer was that he stood by all of his actions and wouldn’t do anything differently.

In my opinion, the biggest flaw in any of Judge Lincoln’s positions was his assertion that the current system of county government has “so much accountability” and transparency that it is a “beautiful system”. He asserts that any citizen of the county can go to quorum court meetings (what percentage of the county’s approximately 80,000 residents could fit into their meeting room?) and that any citizen can go to the clerk’s office and request to see any document.

Overall grade: C (he met expectations and performed adequately)

 

Bill Haynie:

Mr. Haynie also repeatedly discussed roads and bridges, touting equitable treatment for all citizens in the paving program. He emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in county government more than his opponent did, and cited specific instances where FOI requests were met with responses indicating that the records requested had been destroyed accidentally. He made several excellent points regarding the need to post all agendas, budgets, expenditures, and upcoming ordinances online and free to the public and stating that if elected he would do so.

When Judge Lincoln said (regarding the allegations of employee misbehavior) “Thank God we live in a country where it is innocent until proven guilty”, Mr. Haynie missed out on the opportunity to point out that our government employees should be held to a higher standard of behavior in their official capacities, not the lowest standard of behavior available.

He also declined to point out that Judge Lincoln’s assertion that he wouldn’t do anything different with regards to the tax election meant that Judge Lincoln was willing to repeatedly violate the law (as stated by the Arkansas Ethics Commission) in pursuit of a proven losing strategy.

Overall grade: B- (he did better than his opponent but missed multiple clear opportunities to go after his opponent’s missteps)

 

Scott Biddle is formerly chairman of Searcy Friends of the Voters & a guest contributor to The Arkansas Patriot.

Introducing: Patriot Talk

It’s finally here: the moment you’ve all been waiting for, but you just didn’t know it.

The Arkansas Patriot is proud to introduce our latest project titled Patriot Talk.  This is a new series that will feature 5-6 minute videos analyzing current events & politics.

The first video is featured below.  We hope you enjoy.

 

Nic Horton

Searcy Police Chief to Challenge State Representative Biviano

I have known about this for weeks, but I didn’t want to report it until it was somewhat official.  Now that is has appeared in Searcy’s fine paper of record, we can discuss it.  Searcy police chief Kyle Osborne will be challenging incumbent state representative Mark Biviano for House District 46.

The chief stopped by my house a few weeks ago to discuss a string of burglaries in the neighborhood that I had raised concerns about and I had a chance to ask him if he was indeed planning to run for state representative.  He declined to answer my question, saying he was not allowed to discuss politics while on duty, but would get back with me after the first of the year in order to answer my questions (this was just before Christmas).  In other words, “I’m running.”

This development will likely count out former Searcy mayor Belinda Laforce who had given every indication that she would run, but after reading my analysis back in the fall, I suspect that the Democrat powers-that-be determined that she could not win–(sorry about that, Rep. Biviano…I shouldn’t have scared her off).  So Osborne will run instead, after being heavily recruited by Governor Beebe.

The paper reported last week that Osborne will be retiring from SPD in December of this year.

Haven’t heard back from the chief yet about when we can get together, but I do plan on doing a full interview/candidate profile when he gets back to me.  So stay tuned for that.

I suspect Osborne will run an old-fashioned Democrat campaign, meaning the governor will do most of his fundraising and stumping, they’ll put up a lot of signs, and expect a smooth ride to victory.  However, Biviano is going to be a formidable candidate.

Despite the fact that he only narrowly beat incumbent Monty Betts (D) last year, Biviano has made a name for himself in Little Rock, championing the defeat of Obamacare implementation in the state–a large thorn in the governor’s side, no doubt.  And let’s be honest, Osborne is no Betts.  He’s not nearly as well known (or liked) and now Biviano is the incumbent.

Expect Biviano to run a very aggressive grassroots campaign, and Osborne will probably not be able to compete with that, particularly in a year that Obama is on the ballot and the state GOP remains intent on tying every state Democrat to Obamacare.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of work has been done in the last 2 years to dismantle the political establishment in White County.  The people have clearly taken back their voice.  They will decide this race, not the governor or any establishment.

Nic Horton

Discussing the Latest Searcy Tax Proposal with Mayor Morris

I previously posted about my visit with Mayor Morris regarding the Searcy budget, reforms that have been implemented and more reforms that are coming.  During that same meeting, we also discussed the road tax that the city council passed last week.

Some of my concerns about the proposal that the council passed:

  • There is no ‘sunrise’ clause & I still believe this is an incredibly bad time to raise taxes. Such a clause would have allowed the economy more time to recover, with the tax not going into effect until January 2013.
  • The issue is going to be placed at a special election two weeks before Christmas which will mean low turnout and extra cost to the taxpayers to produce the election.
  • I am also skeptical that the money will all actually be spent on roads–at least not roads that are directly connected to the bypass.  I told the mayor I trust him, but he does not control the purse strings.  I do not trust the people who do.

The mayor assured me, and the people of Searcy, that he is going to personally oversee that every penny of the road tax money is spent appropriately.  I gave him a few suggestions about how he can convince people he means business about this, including setting up a website “SearcyStreets.com” (or something similar) that will show how every penny is spent.

He also shared my concerns about the special election, but said it is necessary to do this before the first of the year to show a commitment to the highway department, allowing the Searcy project  to move up their project docket.

Regarding my suggestion to delay implementation or ‘sunrise’ the tax, the mayor said he is concerned that the economy will actually be worse in January 2013 than it is now and believes we need to start the arterial projects as soon as possible.

Regarding suggestions he received to call two special elections, one for the bypass and one for the arterial improvements, the mayor said having one election will save the taxpayers money and we need to get started on the arterial projects right away so they can be completed by the time the bypass opens.

Regarding suggestions that the city ‘find the money in the current budget’ to fund the $3 million for the bypass matching funds, the mayor said that would be possible, “if we closed the fire department.”  The city budget is currently just over $14.2 million and he says they need $7 million, not just $3 million, to fund the bypass and the arterial improvements.

I asked the mayor directly if the city has any plans to promote the tax.  He said that he plans to speak publicly in support of the plan, but guaranteed that no city money nor city employees on city time will be used to promote the tax.  

The mayor also said that he fully believes in an open door policy and he is more than willing to sit down face-to-face with any Searcy citizen to discuss this plan or other city issues.

Nicholas Horton

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.  Contact The Patriot at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com 

 

Discussing the Searcy Budget with Mayor Morris

As I mentioned on my Twitter account, I had a good visit with Searcy Mayor David Morris on Friday morning.  We spent about two hours discussing the tax proposal and the city budget.

Here are some facts that he shared with me:

  • The 2012 budgeting process starts Monday (yesterday) and will be passed in November or December.
  • The budget “cushion”–which he defined as projected revenues minus projected spending–was about 3%-4% for 2011.
  • The mayor wants a 10% budget cushion and promises to achieve this by the end of his first term.
  • Over the past 3 years, the city has been financing a lot of capital:
  1. 15 new police cars in 2009
  2. 5 police cars in 2010
  3. 1 fire engine, priced at $490,000 with approximately 1.7% interest.  This will take 6 years to pay off.
  • They also bought 5 police cars this year, but they were paid in cash.
  • Morris says that the plans for financing these vehicles were put into place by the previous leadership and, in the case of the fire engine, could not be stopped.
  • He promised that he would not finance any more vehicles while he his mayor.
  • Morris also said that the city reduced its employees by ‘3 or 4’ this year and will continue reduce the number of city employees in 2012.
  • The mayor showed me receipts from various city departments, and demonstrated the oversight process that he has implemented, which includes reviewing every receipt of every expense and requiring initials from department heads as well.

As we have been discussing, it is time for real reforms in Searcy government and I am glad to see that Mayor Morris has already started implementing some changes that will help get us where we want to be as a city.  There is still a lot to be done, but these are steps in the right direction.  In tough economic times, everyone has to tighten their belts, and city government is no exception.

I asked the mayor what it will take to have the entire city budget published online.  He said he supports this idea and hopes to accomplish this in the near future, but he is still getting settled in and trying to sort out some of the residual budgetary problems.

I will make a separate post shortly about my discussion with the mayor regarding the upcoming special tax election.

Nicholas Horton

House District 50 Race Shaping Up: Laforce for State Representative?

Sources close to the local Democrat county committee confirm that former Searcy mayor Belinda Laforce intends to challenge Mark Biviano (R) for Arkansas House District 50.

Laforce has recently reemerged, appearing at several community events. This has led to much speculation about her next political step. Many had assumed (and hoped) that her 20-point defeat in last year’s mayoral run-off election would end her involvement in local politics. However, her increased visibility of late, including her new position as chairman of the White County Democrats, has gotten the rumor mill churning.

Many believed White County Election Commission Chairman Winston Collier might throw his hat in the ring, but it appears Laforce will be the party’s pick, rumored to have been recruited by Governor Beebe himself.

Rep. Biviano unseated incumbent representative Monty Betts (D) in 2010 by only 108 votes.

However, Biviano compiled quite a conservative voting record in the Arkansas House before this year’s general session ended, including co-sponsorship of HB 1387 that would have lowered the income tax rate for individuals, trusts, and estates.

His record will serve as quite a contrast to Laforce’s dictatorial record as mayor that included three tax increase proposals, one of which was an A&P tax that was pushed through under Laforce’s direction and led to a prolonged legal battle. The tax was ultimately defeated by voters at the conclusion of the lawsuit against Laforce and the city of Searcy.

Also of note: Laforce has not received much more than 40% of the vote in a general election since her initial election in 2002. In 2006, she lost the general election (against two opponents) by 70 votes and went on to win the runoff by only 17 votes.

I will have more numbers & analysis of this race later this week.

Nicholas Horton

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. Contact The Patriot at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com