I drove by Sidney Deener school this evening around 8:00 p.m. The aforementioned pro-A&P tax sign (pictured right) was no where to be found.
No word if the sign that was being displayed at Southwest Middle School is still up or not. If someone goes by there, let me know if you spot it.
I know of at least one concerned citizen that read my earlier story about these signs that were apparently on public property and contacted Searcy Public Schools directly. On the eve of this pivotal election, what a great reminder of the power of citizen engagement. You can make a difference; you can hold your government accountable.
If you haven’t voted yet, there is still plenty of time. Arkansas voters, visit http://www.VoterView.org to see where you vote.
I posted last night about the awful Tim Tebow tax sign that has popped up in Searcy. Now a citizen watchdog has submitted this photo of a pro-tax sign in front of Sidney Deener elementary school:
The watchdog also confirms that a sign is being displayed in front of Southwest Middle School as well.
If the signs are on school property, it is unclear at this point whether or not that would be illegal, but as a general rule, it seems to be a no-no to put election signs on public property. At the very least, I think these signs — which clearly imply endorsement of the tax by these schools — are being inappropriately displayed. Public property shouldn’t be used for electioneering and that is a principle that is woven through Arkansas ethics laws. That property belongs to all of us taxpayers, including me. I don’t want it being used to push a tax hike.
If the signs are not on school property, then they are in the right of way, which is a violation of the city code, according to the city of Searcy Code Enforcement’s Mike Cleveland. He made a few candidates move some signs last election cycle because they were “too close to the street,” telling them it was against city law to put signs in the right of way — I wonder if Mr. Cleveland will enforce the law in this case?
I have also personally seen a sign at the entrance of Harding University on Race Street which leads me to believe that the pro-tax workers, in all of their recklessness, are simply sticking signs wherever they want them and not thinking of the legal ramifications.
Cindy Barker of the White County Election Commission tells me that the commission has no jurisdiction over sign placement until election day. She says this issue would likely fall under the purview of the state Board of Education.
Have you heard the good news? About the tax that can heal the sick, raise the dead, and cure all the ills of the city of Searcy? It’s called the “A&P tax.” In fact, this tax is so wonderful, even Tim Tebow supports it! Don’t believe me? Check out this new (misleading and improper) campaign sign in front of Mayflower Foods in Searcy:
That white sandy beach look pretty nice — does that come with an A&P tax too??? Wow!
And not only does Tim Tebow support the tax that comes with bunnies, unicorns, and white sandy beaches, but it will only cost you ONE ONE-HUNDREDTH of a cent! WOW! Is there anything this tax CAN’T DO?
(In case you’re missing the sarcasm, the tax will actually cost 1 cent for every dollar spent on prepared food [including coffee, donuts, popcorn at the movies, etc.] and 3 cents for room rentals including meeting rooms and hotel rooms, but the makers of these signs, whoever they may be, apparently didn’t learn their decimal rules very well. More evidence of the failures of public education.)
So, in summary, the proponents of the A&P tax have now:
- Violated federal law (more info here)
- Used Tim Tebow’s and the University of Florida’s images, presumably without permission, on a campaign ad which certainly raises legal questions
- Blatantly misrepresented the cost of the tax
Not to mention their scare tactics and bullying on social media and elsewhere, accusing fans of responsible governance of being “against the children.” Clearly these people deserve more of our hard-earned money to waste!
But seriously folks, why should we trust these people? They passed the tax with no plans for how to spend it–all they knew was that they “needed it. Now they’re breaking the law (again) in an effort to shove this thing down our throats, despite the fact that we’ve already emphatically rejected it before.
No word on who paid for these signs. However, given that these people are committed to doing everything above board, I’m confident these signs will be listed on their campaign expenditure reports.
Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday.
There will be a story in Wednesday’s edition of the Searcy paper about the pro-A&P tax group putting their fliers in mailboxes without stamps — a violation of federal law. But that’s not the real story. The real story here is that the paper is reporting the incident.
This is a paper that, like many across the country, bends to the left. (If you need any evidence of this, see this hit piece they ran on little ole insignificant me. They even had a piece yesterday outlining how much better the current proposal is than the 2009 proposal.) They also turned a blind eye to the ethics violations of our sitting county judge and endorsed the bypass tax, if I remember correctly. So it is certainly news that they are now turning against the pro-tax crowd. Quite frankly, it’s a great indication that the tax is doomed — a claim support by the paper’s own empirical evidence.
Using their own creative scientific method of hiring college students to conduct research, the paper conducted a poll showing the A&P tax failing by 12-points. They also recently conducted a poll that showed state Rep. Mark Biviano leading his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne (who, incidentally, supports the A&P tax) by 16 points while just days before, Biviano released an internal poll from a well-respected polling firm showing a 26-point lead. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that the tax poll may be off by several points as well, although I can’t say I am completely surprised– they have a history of screwing these things up.
As I have been telling folks for a while, before any polls were conducted, you should not be surprised if the tax is defeated handily and by a larger margin than last time — perhaps by as much as 16-18 points.
The activists on the ground (as opposed to the ones at the paper) know they’re in trouble as well: last week, Alderman Don Raney told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that Searcy needs the tax to help “disabled children” and the elderly. Besides being disgusting, these tactics are clear signs of desperation.
Don’t be surprised if you see the paper run a few more favorable A&P tax pieces between now and the election — they’ll come under a wave of pressure from the city political establishment after tomorrow’s bombshell hits. But even they know the gig is up.
The mayor has passed along these figures that show how much the last A&P tax (which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters at the polls) brought in during its tenure:
August 8, 2012
To: Members of the City Council
From: David Morris
I have asked our City Clerk/Treasurer to furnish me with the amount of the collection of the former advertising and promotion (A&P) tax, that was collected in Searcy in 2009. As you know, the former A&P tax was one percent (1%) on prepared food and three percent (3%) on lodging. The tax was collected for approximately five and a half (5 ½) months.
The actual collections for the five (5) full months were as follows:
July 2009 $79,287.48
August 2009 $79,550.03
September 2009 $82,519.80
October 2009 $84,861.82
November 2009 $78,527.80
The average of these five (5) months of full collections is $80,949.39 per month. Assuming that monthly average continued, the annual revenue generated would have been $971,392.68.
While there have been some private rumblings for some time, Alderman Don Raney has now made it publicly known that he intends to propose yet another tax increase to the Searcy city council at the August meeting.
In Raney’s letter, he identifies two concerns that were raised about the last A&P proposal: 1. The issue was not placed at a general election & 2. The funds were to be overseen by an unelected commission rather than elected public officials.
(Mr. Raney is partially correct. There were objections raised about the tax being placed at a special election, but I never heard anyone demand it be placed at the general election, but simply at a regular election–primary or general election. But I digress.)
I fear that Mr. Raney thinks these two compromises on the part of the city will ease the concerns of everyone who opposed the A&P tax the first time–and for some former opponents, that may be true. But the problems with an A&P tax are fundamental.
For instance, is it ethical for our city to slap tourists with an extra 3% when they come to our city? Should they bear the cost for our amenities? And is this sound tax policy? (by the way, that 3% would also apply to groups that rent rooms for meetings in town, perhaps including Kiwanis, Lions, church groups, etc.)
Shouldn’t an “A&P tax” go towards “advertising and promotion?”
Should we be raising taxes on food?
Doesn’t this tax disproportionality effect the poor?
Do parks improvements really take precedence over infrastructure and public safety?
What level of taxation can our city sustain? Can we really keep raising taxes every time someone wants a new project and expect real growth?
Our economy is still floundering–what impact would this tax have on consumers who are tightening their belts even more?
I think these are questions that deserve answers. I’m looking forward to having a conversation with you–Searcy voters, people of White County, and activists from around the state that have seen the disastrous effects of A&P taxes and big government in your cities.
I have little doubt the A&P proposal will have any difficulty making it through the city council, so the debate is imminent.
(To our dear Searcy leaders: Sorry, I know you thought this blog was defunct. And while it is true that I have been, and will continue to be, primarily occupied with my work at The Arkansas Project, I will be taking time to weigh in on this tax debate as much as possible. I may not be leading the charge this time, but I will make my voice heard and the people will be given the facts about this proposal.)
Now that I’ve provided some factual information about the structure of the proposed “bypass tax” in White County, I think it is important to present some of the arguments/agendas at work in this debate. From my perspective, there are a few schools of thought.
First, it is important to clarify that there are really two debates happening here–and the local governments have successfully muddled them into one large cesspool in order to advance their agenda.
The two issues at hand: 1. Do we want/need a bypass? And 2. Do we want/need a tax to pay for it?
Some are claiming that it would be irresponsible to not pass the tax and build the bypass because we would be “missing out on an opportunity to receive ‘free money’ from the state.” This is logic truly lost on me. There is no such thing as free money. Not only will the money come with countless strings attached, it is our money to begin with.
Furthermore, we should not allow any amount of bribery or persuasion from the state or federal government to dictate how we conduct our business here at the local level. If we do not have the money for this project, we should not do it. And raising taxes so we can get “free money” is reckless and irresponsible.
Those in city governments across the county see this tax as an opportunity to stuff their city’s coffers. Remember, half of the projected revenue from the tax (approximately $9 million) will be redistributed to the cities on a per capita basis. More free money!
Then there are the rumors are floating around the city of Searcy that their additional $3 million in revenue will be used to set up an aquatic center fund. I can’t verify this and city officials will deny it, but it’s out there. The local newspaper is now reporting that the Searcy City Council will formally declare their support for the tax. They just can’t help themselves. They know they cannot get a tax passed on their own–voters in Searcy have voted down tax increases twice in recent years–so they’ve convinced the county to do their bidding for them. Are Searcy politicians using the county government (and taxpayers) to advance their tax-hiking agenda?
Haven’t the people of Searcy made it clear that they don’t want to pay higher taxes? And aren’t these the same politicians who supported the A&P Tax because it was a “participatory tax, not a tax on everything?” Breaking news: the bypass tax is a tax on everything.
Another school of thought is declaring that this bypass “will be GREAT for businesses!” But since when is raising taxes good for businesses? And as for the merits of the bypass, I can see where it will create potential for future economic growth as Searcy expands, but right now, our businesses are struggling. After all, we are in a serious recession. Is this a reasonable time to even consider raising taxes? I think not.
Just a few weeks ago, Yarnell’s closed its doors and put several hundred employees out of work. Is this really the time to start diverting traffic away from our businesses? Or a prudent time to suck $18 million out of our local economy?
There are arguments that can be made for and against the bypass–there is validity in both sides of this issue. But how can we possibly consider raising taxes to do it? These politicians love taxes and they seem to think they have been elected to raise them.
The appetite of government is insatiable. Bureaucrats will never stop asking for more money from taxpayers–will we stop giving it?
Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot & former Searcy City Council candidate. He owns & operates Horton’s Lawn Care in Searcy. In his spare time, he volunteers for various political causes. Contact Nicholas at firstname.lastname@example.org & follow him on Twitter.