Tagged: Mary Ann Arnett

Searcy Alderman Admits to Monitoring “Hispanic Garage Sales”

Alderman Arnett, braving the weather to warn Searcians about the city’s dangerously low tax rates

From The Arkansas Project:

How well I remember my days as a candidate!  Alderman Arnett kept a busy schedule putting eyebrow-raising posts on her Facebook campaign page about her funeral, and bragging about how many neighborhoods she walked while regularly parking in the handicapped parking space at city hall.  Working so hard for the people of Searcy, even campaigning for local tax increases on top of her regular duties, this driven public servant has been forced to catch up on sleep by napping through city council meetings! (VIDEO)

Many aldermen just want to make city government work better.  But that’s not enough for Alderman Mary Ann Arnett.  Her agenda:  stamp out the extraordinary dangers of unregulated yard sales.  Well, not all yard sales – just the ones run by dark-skinned people.  Don’t believe me?  Well, I can reproduce email just as well as the next blogger.  Here’s her request to Searcy code enforcement personnel, dated June 2, 2009:

Visit The Arkansas Project for Arnett’s full comments.

City of Searcy Releases Informal Food & Lodging Tax Revenue Projections

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.

City of Searcy Leaves Request Unfilled for 17 Days & Counting

On February 21, I emailed the mayor a request for the minutes of last month’s city council and ask that he forward it to the city clerk, since she had not responded to another FOI request I made 3 days previous.  He forwarded her my request, and she responded the next day, (copying the city attorney, peculiarly), saying she did not receive my original request, but my second request was not able to be filled right away.

From her email, which is public record:

You subsequently requested a copy of the minutes of the February 14 council meeting.  I have not yet prepared a draft of the minutes, but will do so in advance of the March 8 agenda meeting as time permits. The Council will take action to approve or amend/adopt the minutes at its regular March meeting on March 13.

I responded:

The draft minutes/working minutes will be adequate.  I assume you do have a draft that you took during the meeting or do you make the draft from a recording?  I am not familiar with this process.  Please send me whatever you can as soon as possible.

I received no answer to that email.

Well, today is March 8th and, you guessed it: I have not received any minutes. 

I have delayed writing this post out of respect for the mayor, but good grief.  It’s been nearly three weeks now.

Think about this folks: we live in a city in which the city council meetings are not recorded, the city budget is not published online, and we apparently cannot easily access the minutes of what is happening in our own city council’s meetings! 

Transparency isn’t difficult, unless there is something to hide, but it is essential.  Publishing these minutes or at least making them easily accessible should be the bare minimum of what this city is doing to remain accountable to the people.

On a related note, last week I received an email from my alderman and former opponent for city council in 2010, Mary Ann Arnett:

Nicholas, I assure you that the current council is transparent and nothing improper  is going on.

I am not sure where this comment came from, seeing I had not alleged any wrongdoing or impropriety.  Perhaps she knows something we don’t?

Kind of reminded me of when people tell me they’re “honest to a fault” (a phrase she also used during the campaign), when you’ve never accused them of being dishonest.  That’s usually a good sign that they cannot be trusted–they know they’re dishonest, so they have to overcompensate for it by convincing you otherwise.  I responded and told her we must have very different definitions of the word ‘transparent.’

I don’t really suspect the city is hiding anything (in this particular situation), but it’s a matter of principle at this point.  Why can’t an average citizen have a record of what is happening in their own little hometown of 20,000 people?  

I’d like to find out what is going on.  Release the minutes.

Nic Horton

Early Voting on Searcy Tax One Week Away

Early voting on the Searcy bypass tax begins next Tuesday, December 6th.  It will be held at the White County Clerk’s Office, 315 N. Spruce Street in Searcy.

Below is an example of the proponents’ literature that is being distributed.  It was taken from Mary Ann Arnett‘s Facebook page, a Searcy alderman. (I just want to point that out in case she runs for re-election and, I don’t know, says she never supported a tax increase)

Apparently this tax is going to create jobs–who could be against that?

It’s no big secret that I have big issues with this whole ‘vote for jobs’ tactic.  Effective?  Maybe.  Dishonest?  In my opinion, yes.

To find out why, check out my November 9th post.

And don’t forget to vote.

Nic Horton

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

Tweet-cap of Tonight’s Searcy Council Meeting

As a summary, here are my tweets from tonight’s special Searcy City Council meeting.  Tweets are in reverse chronological order:
  • Mayor reminds attendees about Oct. 4 public meeting with AR highway commission to discuss south route. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Mayor reiterating that no one wants a tax right now…asks council to go out and sell the tax to the people. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Ordinance for special election passes unanimously. I did not hear a date announced. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Council votes unanimously to attach emergency clause. #arpx #scc #fb
  • Council votes unanimously to pass the tax ordinance. #arpx #scc #fb
  • Council motions and moves unanimously to not read full text of the ordinance. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Council votes unanimously to amend ordinance to include 1% tax for 15 months. #fb #arpx #SCC
  • Attorney suggests suspending the rules and not reading ordinance. I want to hear what is in it. #arpx #SCC
  • The council has made it clear they want all or nothing. #arpx #SCC
  • That option received zero discussion. #arpx #SCC
  • The mayor informed the council & attorney that there another structural option for the ordinance, allowing delayed implementation. #fb #SCC
  • Mr. Brewer says this is “one of the best things we could ever do for #Searcy.” #arpx #SCC
  • Cothern, whose ward includes both arterial roads, supports a package deal. #arpx #SCC
  • Mr. Brewer says this is NOT a bypass, that is a misnomer. Echoes Raney that we need full package. #arpx #scc
  • Alderman Raney says we need to present a “package deal” to the voters, including arterial funding. #arpx #SCC #searcy #fb
  • Mayor says we need to fund arterial roads and bypass with one ordinance. #arpx #SCC #searcy #fb
  • Mayor speaking to my suggestions now. Says economy could get worse and we should start collections now. #arpx #SCC
  • Mr. Brewer says costs aren’t going to go down between now and the beginning of construction. May cost more. #arpx #SCC #searcy
  • Mayor Morris asks if work can be done for less and still be safe. engineer isn’t sure. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Engineer says the number could go up. #arpx #SCC
  • Contrary to my suggestion, the city attorney has drafted this proposal as a general use tax, not capital improvement tax. #arpx #SCC
  • Second estimate says $2million. #arpx #SCC
  • City engineer now says $5m just for Main Street. Says the estimate is high. #arpx #scc #fb
  • City engineer says the estimates do not include sidewalks. #SCC #arpx #fb #searcy
  • Still wondering why the former mayor is here…#arpx #SCC
  • Mr. Dixon is here. Resolution passes 8-0. #arpx #SCC
  • Resolution says the city will not support using Holmes or Collins Roads for the bypass route. #arpx #SCC
  • Resolution says the bypass will “promote job growth and economic development.” #Obamanomics #arpx #SCC
  • City attorney reading a resolution in support of the levying of a #tax. #arpx #SCC #searcy
  • Attendees not provided with a copy of the tax ordinance. #arpx #SCC
  • Mayor Morris says “this is a terrible time for a tax. No time is good for a tax.” #SCC #arpx
  • Mayor Morris thanking the council for listening to the people on Tuesday night. I agree, it was quite a rare occurrence. #arpx #SCC
  • Alderman Dixon is absent thus far. #scc #arpx
  • Meeting in order. Using hashtag #SCC. #arpx #searcy
  • Chamber chairman Layne & Jim House are here as well. #searcy #SCC #arpx
  • Former mayor Laforce is here. #interesting #Searcy #Fb
Nic 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

Three Positive Proposals for Searcy’s Tax Ordinance

As promised, here is a verbatim copy of my email that I just sent off to the Searcy mayor & city council:

“Mr. Mayor,

I enjoyed our visit yesterday about funding options for the bypass project.  My hope is that the council will comb through the budget & put together a plan that will find the necessary $3 million over the next 3 years’ budgets.  I do not recall the city ever passing on a $500,000 or $1 million firetruck whenever it has been proposed suddenly.  My point is, they always seem to find the money when they really want to.  So I tend to think that the city could find $3 million for this bypass project over the next 3 years and present that plan to the highway commission before years end.

But I am also realistic and I realize that, given the public comments made by the majority of the council, the council intends to pass a tax tonight.  While I still think this is an unconscionable time to consider raising taxes, it seems inevitable, so I appreciate your desire, Mr. Mayor, to make the proposal as amicable to everyone as possible.

Here is what I would like to see in a tax proposal:

  • Sunrise & Sunset.  I know the council has promised to sunset the tax–I hope this will be a real sunset, an automatic sunset in the language of the ordinance–but I additionally propose a sunrise clause.  Under this plan, the council would pass the tax and place the issue at a special election this year, but the tax would not go into effect until January 2013.  This would give the economy more time to improve and it would show that the council is sensitive to the real economic pain that people are feeling right now.  It will also give the highway commission the commitment they are asking for now.

I know when we spoke yesterday, Mr. Mayor, there was some question about whether or not this sunrise concept could be implemented without violating state law.

According to 26-75-207, Section D, which covers rules for municipal sales & use taxes for capital improvements, the tax can be implemented in this way:

“(2) The effective date of the ordinance or petition delayed under subdivision (d)(1) of this section shall:

      (A) Be scheduled on the first day of the first month of a calendar quarter; and

      (B) Not be delayed for more than thirty-six (36) months after the date the ordinance or petition would be effective under § 26-75-209(1)(D)(ii).

      A.C.A. § 26-75-207

The full text can be read here: http://law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/2010/title-26/subtitle-6/chapter-75/subchapter-2/26-75-207/

I assume the tax that is forthcoming will be a sales & use tax for capital improvement, rather than a general sales tax, since this tax is for the purposes of capital improvements.  If the council is serious about using the money only for infrastructure, this capital improvement structure is more than suitable and will allow for delayed implementation of the tax.  I think this sound policy that will allow the economy more time to recover but also show the highway commission the ‘commitment’ they are asking for.

  • Take only what you need.  I do think that, politically, it would be best served for the council to ask for the $3 million for the bypass now and come back and ask for the additional money for the arterial roads later, but this seems to be off the table and I expect the council will ask for the full amount now.  In that case, I do not expect to see a proposal that is projected to bring in more than $6-$8 million, more than enough for the arterial improvements.
  • Earmark every penny.  When I say every penny, I mean all of them.  The council should be more than willing to put together a plan that prioritizes how the money should be spent.  Main street should be first, then Davis drive.  Excess money at that point should be used for sidewalks down these streets.  If those projects are completed, other roads which touch the bypass should be improved.  Not Country Club Road or Golf Course Drive–only roads that are truly arteries to the bypass.  All of this should be spelled out specifically in the ordinance, including street names and sequential order of construction, so there is no confusion or Searcy voters can be assured that the money will be spent in the right way.

I also dislike & distrust this entire idea of ‘special elections.’  I think they are a misuse of taxpayer money and usually a backdoor into something that the people do not like.  However, I can see that the highway department has convinced the city that this is an urgent issue that ‘must be addressed now.’  While I still disagree and that idea contradicts other public comments that the highway commission has made, I will concede that point for now.

I am sure this email comes as quite a surprise to some of the council members who think I am “against everything” or that I “hate Searcy, hate progress.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What I desire is real progress, and real progress requires transparency & openness with the voters.  I know you agree, Mr. Mayor, and I can see that you have already taken steps to make the city more responsive to the people.  I hope the council will follow your lead & enact my 3 proposals that I have mentioned here.  If they do, they will not only get this tax, but they can begin to repair the large breach of trust that has formed over the last several years between the people and their government–a breach that truly is keeping us from real progress.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to seeing you tonight at the meeting.

Sincerely,

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