Tagged: Economic development

Recap of Monday’s White County Judge’s Debate

Many thanks to citizen reporter & Patriot guest contributor Scott Biddle, who attended last night’s debate & provided these notes.

[Note to the reader: I took these in a hurry, as the debate was happening. They may seem jumbled and confused at points, and I tried to only use quotation marks when I could get down most or all of a direct quote. I have tried to clean them up and make them easier to follow.]

Winston Collier begins at 7:07.

Terms/housekeeping: All were discussed and agreed to by both candidates. Five minutes each for opening remarks. Two minutes per answer followed by 2 minute response followed by 30 second rebuttal. Five questions each. Nobody knows the questions but the moderator. 7.5 minutes each for closing remarks.

Intros finally over after 5 minutes.

Haynie:

Thanks to all. (his microphone isn’t centered on his podium and it seems to be making it a little difficult to hear him)

Lists problems:

  • Inequity of road program
  • Lack of accountability of employees
  • Poor administration
  • County government is a business that needs to be run like a business. Haynie has a background in business, law enforcement, communications, construction make him well suited.
  • Background with heavy equipment makes him more qualified to judge when and whether to fix versus replace equipment.
  • People and employees need to be treated fairly. Open door approach to leadership.
  • FOI act is expected to be followed, records have been “destroyed” and info not provided when he has made FOI requests of the judge’s office.

Lincoln:

  • I’m a blessed man.
  • I’m willing to discuss any issue with anyone at any time.
  • First administrative job was at Judsonia/Riverview.
  • “Government can’t always be run like a business.” Rural water and electric coops.
  • “Government is to serve the people.”
  • “I don’t have any conflicts of interest.”
  • Thank veterans.

Transparency

You’ve publicly stated that transparency is something you’d like to see improved and lack of trust exists. What lack of transparency exists and what would you do to improve it?

Haynie:

  • There are no answers to way tax dollars are spent. No online system for agendas of quorum court, expenditures, upcoming ordinances. He wants everyone to see these things online. Transparency is seeing what’s out there, seeing the truth. Don’t charge people different things for the same thing.

Response from Lincoln:

  • You can request any of these documents at the County Clerk’s office and go to the meetings. Money is all spent after appropriation by JPs. Amendment 55 sets the standard. If you want info, go to the clerk’s office.

Rebuttal by Haynie

  • My idea of transparency is to put it on the web site. Why don’t you want this?
Budget

Significant surplus in general fund. How will you use it if re-elected?

Lincoln:

  • JPs are legislative authority to appropriate money. They are in charge of finances. There are several different funds in the county and many don’t have surplus. Roads fund and Sheriff’s fund don’t have surplus. General fund revenue comes from turnback, millage, etc. We have set aside $1M for bypass and $2M for “special projects”.

Response by Haynie

  • Money from general can be appropriated to road fund. The county can’t keep taking in small gravel roads that haven’t been done the right way from the beginning.

Rebuttal by Lincoln

  • “I believe in progress.” We don’t have all the roads we need.

Roads/Infrastructure

If elected, what would you do, and what facts do you have to support allegations of political favors for Lincoln’s supporters?

  • All should be equal. All charged equally. County records have been FOI’ed and shown that roads are chipsealed by the county that aren’t county roads. They were chipsealed before the tax vote.

Response by Lincoln

  • We do charge $20k per mile, but we don’t charge by cemeteries and we do “state aid” projects. We have only chipsealed county roads, but we have partnered with cities to “help them” (Beebe, Searcy, Rosebud, and others specifically listed)

Rebuttal by Haynie

  • Cities have their own budgets, grants, etc. They should pay for their own road work. I will list specific roads in my closing comments.

Taxes

In 2011, citizens voted down tax. Your office came under scrutiny for the way you handled this. Do you stand by your actions and would you do anything different?

Lincoln:

  • Governor Beebe wanted us to form a strategic plan, and the tax/bypass was part of our strategic plan. Mayor LaForce and I got together and decided we wanted to do this. I proposed a countywide tax to support all of the cities. I stand by the effort and the way we promoted the tax.

Haynie response:

  • I have no problem with the southern bypass. I did have a problem with the north bypass because I don’t see the traffic load to justify it. I’d much rather they spend that money on something like Joy Mountain. How many people are going to have to be injured, lose their lives, etc. before we do something? I wasn’t against the tax, I was against the fact that it was for four times as much as was needed so they could hang a carrot in front of the cities’ noses.

Lincoln rebuttal:

  • My opponent said “no new taxes” during the county tax election but didn’t oppose Searcy’s city tax.

Personnel

April 1st Citizen story talked about personnel changes you would make if elected, what personnel changes would you make and why?

Haynie:

  • I plan on keeping every county employee employed except for one. There is no need to sugar coat it, hide it, or lie about it. I have in my hands a report by the Arkansas State Police. In the 144 pages of report, the Arkansas State Police classified it as Theft of Property and turned it over to the county attorney for possible prosecution.

Lincoln response:

  • Thank God we live in a country where it is innocent until proven guilty. We have “nothing missing from the county”, so we have no theft. No charges were filed. “Aren’t we entitled to correct our mistakes?” Why did Mr. Haynie go to the State Police when he was given information about this?

Haynie rebuttal:

  • If this were a mistake, why would they make full restitution of $7,000 two years after the fact and only after it was brought to the attention of the media and the State Police? I went to the state police because when a citizen is told of a crime being committed, they should go to the police.

Gas exploration

Over the past few years, the gas industry changed things. Discuss positive and negative impact and what you’ll do to address that.

Lincoln:

  • Restitution was only $30, not $7,000. (Haynie says “Lowes”) moderator says “stay on topic”. We have many jobs and roads because of natural gas industry when the economy was suffering. Gas price has dropped, so gas drilling is down.

Haynie response:

  • You can’t make natural gas prices go up unless you have a cold winter up north. I don’t foresee the prices going any higher. I don’t want us to keep depending on natural gas to make our County better.

Lincoln rebuttal:

  • It’s a matter of supply and demand. We need other economic development.

Conflicts of Interest?

You are owner of Haynie Utility Construction and the Judge says he has no other interests and conflicts. Can you run your business and county, or will there be conflicts?

Haynie:

  • We very seldom work with the public. We often do work for cities/churches for no charge. We are a utility construction company and we set poles, run cables, gas distribution lines. We did a lot of work for Chesapeake, but if I am elected, I think it is a conflict of interest if I do any work with any gas company, and I won’t do any work for them.

Lincoln response:

  • Having been a judge for 3 terms, I would find it challenging to have another job and be judge. With all these responsibilities, meetings, mayors, fire departments, I don’t see how anyone could have any outside interests. Would Mr. Haynie not do any work with those companies anywhere?

Haynie rebuttal:

  • No, I will not do any work for any gas company. Is it a conflict for JPs to work with gas companies? (judge is allowed to reply to this direct question and says that is not a conflict for JPs to work with gas companies)

Veterans Services

What has your administration done for veterans, and what would you do better?

Lincoln:

  • 10 percent of the population of our county is veterans. 8,000 and growing. I have hired a VA officer. We acquired a veterans clinic in Searcy.

Haynie response:

  • These people are true heroes. There is money for folks like this, and we will do whatever it takes.

Lincoln rebuttal:

  • I think we agree 100 percent. Whatever we need to do for our veterans, we’ll do.

Personal Health Issues

Share with us information regarding current health and ability to perform tasks if elected.

Haynie:

  • Before 2007, I had severe headaches and it was discovered I had a non-malignant tumor. I had surgery and they successfully removed 90% of the tumor. They didn’t go any further because of the possibility of causing a stroke. The headaches came back, and they found a problem with the superorbital nerve. It is fine now with treatment.

Lincoln response:

  • On January 12, 2010 I had a stroke, and I have no left peripheral vision in both eyes. It has made me unable to drive, but I can get anywhere I want any time I want. I was conducting quorum court a week after the stroke. I watch my health and what I eat. I am fine.

Haynie rebuttal:

  • Neither of us is using health as a campaign issue.

Problems facing the county

What is the biggest problem facing the county, and what will you do to overcome it?

Lincoln:

  • I am interested in the future of White County. The issues are economic development and infrastructure. The tax would have addressed that, but we still have to work on it now. Several one lane wooden bridges have been replaced by two lane concrete bridges, and we are continuing to do that. Infrastructure is improving our road system. When the quorum court gives me that extra money, they trust me to be fair and “spread it around” the county as appropriate.

Haynie response:

  • Number one thing I hear about when I talk to people around the county is roads and bridges. I’m not going to say the judge is all wrong, but we differ on how things should be done. I’ll address some specific things in my closing comments.

Lincoln rebuttal:

  • It appears I’m in for a lot of surprises in the closing statement, and I won’t have a chance to respond. Ask me about those surprises later.
Closing Statements

Lincoln closing statement:

  • County government is the best governmental process in existence.
  • There is “so much accountability” in county government. Amendment 55 has set up a “beautiful system”. I am honored to be a part of that system.
  • I believe my record speaks for itself. Go out and see the bridges we’ve replaced.
  • We’ve continued to chipseal what the weather and our funds have allowed us to do. JPs have looked at ways to do special projects.
  • We are considering putting in a new 911 dispatch center near Law Enforcement Center. It would be state of the art. High Tech.
  • We’ve assisted all the cities in doing their roads.
  • The state police and my office found no charges to Lowes that the county paid for Jenkins.

Haynie closing statement:

  • True, the county was not out any money over OEM thing. This was because it was all paid back after two years when the story broke. I’ve got Lowe’s receipts with White County OEM account and Tamara Jenkins name on them for her home improvements.
  • If elected I will be: fair, equal, and consistent with all county residents; full-time judge.
  • I will bring true transparency to county government. Agendas, budgets, and expenditures will be available online for free. It’s your money, you have the right to know how it is being spent.
  • I will create fair and equal chipseal system. All roads will meet same standards, like under 99-9 that was repealed when judge Lincoln took office. Morris School road has been done 1.4 miles, not the .5 miles we authorized paying for.
  • The county should buy towers and radios for EMS folks instead of holding fundraisers.
  • I will hold county employees accountable for their actions.

Side note: Four people are holding signs complaining about corruption in Higginson (pertaining to Randall Homsley) and why Prosecuting Attorney Chris Raff won’t prosecute.

Editor’s note: We will have more analysis of the debate this afternoon.

Anti-Gas Tax Rally Thursday on Arkansas Capitol Steps

I received a news release from the folks over at Stop The Gas Tax AR, a group that has formed to oppose Sheffield Nelson‘s severance tax hike.

The release announces a rally this Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on the state capitol steps to “let Arkansans know what’s really at stake here:  jobs, future business development, and continued economic growth in our communities.”

The rally is said to feature Arkansas mayors, county leaders, gas producers, and royalty owners.

Isn’t it interesting that the Municipal League, who is always calling for ‘more economic development,’ is now supporting this massive tax hike which will cripple job growth & hurt Arkansans who own gas royalties.  Perhaps their agenda isn’t really economic development.  Perhaps it’s raising taxes & growing government?  Just a thought. (I seem to remember some nut-job raising this point before, a few months ago)

Thankfully there are a group of chambers of commerce from around the state, including Searcy’s, that have banded together to oppose the tax hike.  Rich Moellers of the Morrilton Chamber said it pretty well in this interview:

The Natural Gas Severance Tax Act proposed by Mr. Nelson would erase the industry’s margins and result in good companies moving operations to other parts of the country where they can make money and provide jobs. This bill is a jobs-killer.

The County Judge’s Association of Arkansas has also voted to oppose the increase.

You can join Stop The Gas Tax on Facebook & Twitter.

 

Nic Horton

Deranged Editorial Calls Searcy Tax Passage “Mandate for Progress,” A.K.A. More Taxes

As promised, here is a follow-up story on the wonderful editorial that the Searcy paper ran this past Sunday.

After ripping off my pre-election analysis and making some incredibly insightful post-election predictions, they admit that their post-election predictions were incorrect…and they’ve NEVER BEEN HAPPIER TO ADMIT IT!  Never ever!

We were wrong, and have never been happier to admit it.

Searcy voters passed a 1-percent tax increase this past week, but in reality did much more. By a 7-to-3 margin, voters demanded that Searcy move forward and become the progressive community that the current competitive economic climate demands. Our community has been stuck in a vicious cycle of defeating taxes for the sake of defeating taxes, while scoffing at the long-term economic rewards that would benefit everyone. Those who have said infrastructure creates jobs have been derided, despite clear examples of this being true.

On Tuesday, voters said, “Enough.”

Don’t you find it odd that in the same article, the paper admits that they expected the tax to barely pass, but by the end of the article, the margin was a MANDATE for progress (which is code for ‘more taxes in the future’)?  That would be like going on NFL Live and predicting that the Patriots will barely beat Tebow and the Broncos before the game, because the Broncos are a pretty talented team.  But after the game, you come back on air, NEVER HAPPIER TO ADMIT that you were wrong, and say that the Broncos are actually awful because they got beat handily, the Patriots will run away with the rest of their games, and no one can hold a candle to their talent.  In fact, their victory is a mandate for Patriot victories in the future…(okay, it’s not a perfect analogy, but you get my point)

I’d like to know, voters of Searcy:  Did you DEMAND that Searcy become a ‘progressive community?’  Or did you vote for some road improvements?  Because I am pretty sure you have rejected attempts to make Searcy ‘progressive,’ like when you voted down the A&P tax in 2010 by a 10-point margin.  And I was pretty sure that this tax was just about road improvements…right?

And when did we give the paper unilateral authority to declare a tax increase as ‘progress’ anyway?

This notion that we have been ‘defeating taxes for the sake of defeating taxes’ is an affront to the intelligence of every Searcy and White County voter.  As I have documented thoroughly over the past few weeks, this most recent tax was vastly different than the past taxes that have been proposed.  Previous taxes lacked transparency, definite sunsets, etc.  To say that those taxes were defeated ‘for the sake of defeat’ is outrageous, insulting, and simply untrue. Continue reading

‘Obamanomics’ is Not the Answer for Arkansas Cities, Counties

A story in today’s paper summarizes a panel discussion that was hosted by the Searcy Rotary Club on Tuesday.  The panel was made up of three local bankers and the topic was our local economy (Searcy and the greater White County area).  The comments reported in the story demonstrate a mentality that has taken deep root in our community and or country as a whole over the last several years:  “government creates jobs.”  

Now, I have not come out publicly in favor or opposition of this tax.  I can see merits on both sides of the issue.  But rest assured, if I decide to vote for the tax, it will not be because I believe I am voting ‘for jobs,’ as the proponents’ signs assert.  I have been watching this debate unfold and staying relatively quiet about it, but these claims deserve to be analyzed.

Folks: Government does not create jobs.  Taxes do not create jobs.  Bypasses do not create jobs.  And if voters really believed this theory, don’t you think they would be tripping over themselves to go vote for higher taxes? (Hint: they’re not)

To anyone who thinks that government spending or taxation creates jobs, I encourage you to look at the results of the Obama administration’s economic policies over the last 3 years.  A stimulus package of $800 billion, full of infrastructure spending, that was promised to keep unemployment below 8%, has failed miserably.  Almost three years after its passage, we are still feeling the negative effects as job growth is nonexistent and unemployment remains at 9%.

So now we have a group of politicians and bankers in Searcy/White County (and across Arkansas) who think that raising taxes–pulling more money out of the private sector and putting it into government–is the only way we can get our community growing again.

Here is a sampling of some of the statements in the article:

  • “We need to keep our infrastructure moving forward and the best way to do that is to vote yes for the highway connector.”
  • “Some of the opponents of the tax think that the reason the bankers are supporting that tax is because the banks will get all of the money, and that’s just not true,” he said. “We have to be visionaries because this tax supports where we work and where we live.”
  • “There is still construction going on and there are still businesses coming into town,” he said. “There are still people that want to live in Searcy.” (so why do we need a tax to encourage growth that is already happening?)
  • “I’m not a big believer in taxes, but the return on this initial investment is like a 401K match on steroids. I think this bypass will help Searcy become a town of choice for Little Rock commuters.”

I could nitpick these statements, but I think they speak for themselves.

There have been public comments made about this project by elected officials whom I trust, but I think they severely miss the point on this issue.  Taking $15 million out of the economy and giving some of it back to contractors (who many believe will be from out of town) and putting a lot of it in asphalt will not create anything except a road.  You’re taking from Peter and giving to Paul.  You are rearranging money in the local economy, and actually sending some of it out of the local economy.  This is a net of zero, or more realistically, a loss for the private sector.

Now, there is no doubt that strong infrastructure is an important part of economic development, and I believe this project will encourage growth in the city, but it is not going to create anything by itself.  It must be coupled with a real plan for economic development other than ‘let’s raise taxes!,’ that would include aggressively recruiting industries, facilitating relationships with site consultants, etc.  Also, being located relatively close to an interstate, a river, or a large metropolitan area are key factors for sustained growth.  But this idea that Searcy can ‘become Conway’ or ‘become an industrial powerhouse through tax increases’ is just silly.  Searcy is not Conway and it never will be.  We are a very different landscape and its past time we start being honest about that. (I am going to follow up with more on this later this week)

At the end of the day, passing a tax increase during a recession for any reason is not going to stimulate anything.  I understand that using the label “JOBS JOBS JOBS” is going to be popular during a time when everyone wants to be employed, and 10% of Americans are not.  But just because the Arkansas Municipal League says that raising taxes is the only way we can grow our local economies does not mean it is true.  I reject that assertion on its face.

If you want to vote for the bypass project, vote for it.  More power to you.  But please be informed and do not vote for a tax based on a failed economic theory that more money in the government means more jobs for you.

Again, I have not spoken for or against the proposal, but I think we should have an honest debate, and it is far past time that we had a serious discussion about real economic development in our community.  I want it just as badly as the rest of you.  I just want it to be real.

Nic Horton

Who Else is On the Ghost Committee?

We ran a story earlier about the ghost committee out of White County finally coming forward with some information.

Take a look at this snapshot from their LQC filing:


Whose name is blacked out? And why? Who decided they did not want their name attached to this at the last minute?

I suspect we still have much to learn about this ghost committee.

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

Citizens Group Calls on White County Quorum Court to Freeze “Economic Development” Spending

Calls Promotion of Tax Increase with Taxpayer Money “Immoral” 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 1, 2011

CONTACT:

Nicholas Horton

BypassTaxes@Gmail.com

(501)-827-2184

Searcy, AR – Citizens for Responsible Taxation, a watchdog group in White County that formed to oppose the Searcy Bypass Tax hike, is denouncing the misuse of taxpayer funds regarding the county’s new “Economic Development Liaison.”

“Quite simply, the county judge’s office is using taxpayer money to promote the tax increase proposal.  Voters want it to stop,” CRT Chairman Nicholas Horton said.

“Taxpayers are having their own money used against them and, quite frankly, wasted. These actions to promote the tax increase are unethical & wasteful.  The decision about this tax is up to the people.

Today, we are calling on the White County Quorum Court to intervene & freeze the county judge’s discretionary spending account until after the special election on September 13th.  Voters on both sides of the tax issue agree:  our money should not be spent promoting a political agenda,” said Horton.

For more information, visit BypassTheBypassTax.com or ArkansasPatriot.us

About CRT

Citizens for Responsible Taxation is a watchdog group that formed on July 22nd, 2011 to oppose the White County tax increase proposal set for a vote on September 13th.   For more information about CRT, visit us at BypassTheBypassTax.com, on Twitter @BypassTaxes or on Facebook at “Bypass Taxes on September 13th.”

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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 

Fact Check: Most “Progressive Cities” Do Not Have an “Economic Development Tax”

I posted a story yesterday about Jim House’s radio interview last week where he made a series of outlandish comments, including a claim that we need a permanent economic development tax because

White County has never had a tax for economic development.  Most progressive cities have had one that goes fully to economic development.

Coincidentally, this week’s edition of Arkansas Business  arrived in the mail yesterday and focuses heavily on the tax proposal in Little Rock that is also set for a vote on September 13th.  Among other interesting tidbits, the article lists the cities & counties in Arkansas that have an economic development tax:

Cities:

  • Foreman
  • Murfreesboro
  • Warren
  • Magnolia
  • El Dorado
  • Crossett
  • Monticello
  • Harrisburg
  • Booneville
  • Russellville
  • Clarksville
  • Wynne
  • Newport
  • Marked Tree
  • West Memphis
  • England

Counties:

  • Clark
  • Jefferson
  • Mississippi

Now I am not sure what Mr. House’s definitions of “most” or “progressive cities” are, but I do not see any communities on this list that I consider to be “progressive.”  Also, I do not think that the people of White County are foolish enough to believe that any of these listed cities or counties are models of economic success that we should emulate.  No offense intended towards these communities, but White County & Searcy surpass most of them in terms of high-quality jobs—and we are doing it without an economic development tax.

Just last week, the local paper reported several new jobs that are coming to our county.  Here are some of the headlines:

  • “[Dollar General] Looks to Open in McRae”
  • “Mayor: ‘Walmart Eyeing Beebe’ ”
  • “Harps to Open in Bald Knob”

These are jobs.  This is increased revenue as stores pop up along the edge of the county and bring in new taxpayers from surrounding counties.  And this is all happening without an economic development tax.

The AR Business article includes several other interesting parallels between the debates in White County & Little Rock, including comments from Little Rock’s Chamber director that confirm that the “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality is alive and well across the state, not just in White County.

It’s almost as if these politicians are getting their talking points from somewhere

I encourage you to read the full article for yourself.

Stay informed.

Nicholas Horton, Chairman, Citizens for Responsible Taxation