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
I am not privy to any special information, nor have I conducted any scientific polling on the most recent tax proposal that is before the voters of Searcy, AR. However, I tend to think I have a pretty good read on the pulse of the community, having been very active in defeating the last two taxes that were proposed in Searcy & White County. Therefore, I feel comfortable making a few predictions about tonight’s tax election results.
First of all, I think the results will be fairly close. I would define close as 5-7%. This is just gut instinct, based on the way the last several taxes have gone, and what I am hearing around the community. This can be attributed mostly to the fact that the city held the election 2 weeks before Christmas and faced no organized opposition to this tax. If it had been at another time and there had been an organized Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign, the margins would probably be closer to 10-12%.
Secondly, I think the tax will probably pass. I say this because, yes, the city faced no organized opposition and the vote was 2 weeks before Christmas, but also because they put forward a reasonable proposal, with an automatic sunset clause and very restrictive language regarding how the money can be spent.
As I said in the Democrat-Gazette yesterday, I believe voters, in most cases, would be willing to pay for significant infrastructure improvements if they had more assurance that the money would be spent appropriately. The city seems to be interested in doing this project the right way, and if they are, the voters will likely be willing to go along with it–assuming, of course, that voters actually believe the bypass is a worthy project.
There is, however, one factor in play that could throw a wrench in the city’s plans and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: the proponents’ adoption of the “Vote for Roads & Jobs” slogan.
There has been a serious backlash amongst people in the city at this approach. One adamant supporter of the tax told me just yesterday that he felt this approach ‘insulted my intelligence’ and ‘makes me want to vote against it.’ He agreed that this slogan could significantly hurt the tax’s chances, and planned on voicing his frustration to the mayor. From his perspective, this is a great proposal that would pass on its merits. There is no need for any type of trickery or misleading slogans.
“I just want them to be honest. It’s a tax for infrastructure. Just tell me that. There is too much intellectual dishonesty here for me.” He called me just a few minutes ago to tell me that he voted against the tax today.
I warned the mayor about these tactics during our meeting right after the Searcy City Council passed this tax. I have also railed against this promotion of Obamanomics in our community. I told him that people want honesty and transparency. They crave it. Why the “Vote for Jobs & Roads” committee chose to adopt that name and implement this strategy is beyond me, and it could mean their undoing.
Many businessmen and a few contractors that I have spoken with in the city do not believe this tax will ‘create jobs.’ In fact, the contractors tell me that the job will almost certainly be contracted in Little Rock, and workers will be sent in from outside the county. Now, there is an argument to be made that infrastructure improvements can increase economic development and spur growth many years down the line. However, there remains zero evidence that this tax (or any other) will actually create jobs or growth, as I have previously argued.
Construction of the bypass will not begin for many years, and its completion is even further away. Once it is completed, it will take years to see any real economic benefit.
If the tax passes, despite the “Jobs” tricks, I hope the city will see their victory for what it is–a temporary loan of trust (and treasure) from the taxpayers to the taxers, not a mandate for increased taxes and pet projects in years to come.
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.
I sent Searcy Mayor David Morris an email last Wednesday inquiring about the use of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce building (which is funded in part by our tax dollars) as headquarters for the new pro-tax committee in town.
While I have not heard back from him yet, I know he is incredibly busy, so I am not quite ready to pronounce this a conspiracy. But I do expect an answer so we can clear this up. He has promised the people publicly and privately on several occasions that there will be no city tax dollars going towards the promotion of this tax increase, scheduled for a vote on December 13th. My email included only questions, not accusations.
I will be sending an inquiry to Chamber chairman Buck Layne as well. The sooner they clear this up, the better off they will be politically. The longer these questions go unanswered, the more speculation will continue to build. As of now, they have seen no public opposition to this tax. The best way they can insure that they get their tax and retain the “benefit of the doubt” about this tax from the people is to uphold their promises of transparency.
Today, I received a letter from the Arkansas Ethics Commission regarding a complaint I filed against White County Judge Mike Lincoln for improperly using taxpayer funds to promote a tax increase.
In the letter, which is addressed to the judge, the Commission ruled the following:
On October 28, 2011, you signed a written Offer of Settlement pursuant to which it was agreed that the commission make a finding that you committed a violation of Arkansas Code Ann. § 7-9-409(a)(2) and (a)(3) by spending public funds in excess of $500 to expressly advocate the passage of a ballot measure to fund a Searcy bypass project and failing to report those expenditures.
As part of its disposition of this case, the Commission is hereby issuing you this Public Letter of Caution which is advisory in nature and serves to give clear notice that your actions violated the law. You are advised not to engage in the same activity again.
I received this document from city hall a few weeks ago and I have not gotten around to posting it. The document is an estimate for the work that the City of Searcy wants to do on the ‘arterial roads’ or ‘feeder roads’ for the proposed Searcy bypass.
I was told that the estimate & project would include sidewalks down the new roads, but it looks like the estimate does not include this.
The city referred a tax to the voters at their September meeting. The tax would be 1% on all sales in the city for 15 months. It would raise close to $7 million. The cost of the bypass is only $3 million, but the council & mayor strongly believe that the arterial roads must be improved as well. As you can see in the estimate, the cost of the arterial improvements is around $4 million.
The tax will go before the voters in a special election on December 13th.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., White County Judge Mike Lincoln will be called to testify before the Arkansas Ethics Commission. The commission’s staff attorney has been conducting an investigation since early September.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint that I filed in my capacity as Chairman of Citizens for Responsible Taxation, alleging improper use of taxpayer funds to promote the county’s proposed tax increase. I announced the complaint filing on local radio last month. Specifically, the complaint asks the commission to make a ruling on the hiring of Mr. Jim House to promote the tax increase with taxpayer money & to determine if any promotional materials were produced out of the judge’s office, as stated in the text of Mr. House’s contract.
From what I have been told, the investigation has not turned up any evidence of promotional materials being published out of the courthouse, but the payments to Mr. House are a violation of state law because the expenditures were not reported to the commission & the public. The commission is expected to rule in this manner, likely resulting in a fine.
I will share more information as it becomes available.