Tagged: Steve Sterling

Update: Political Sign Removed From Searcy School Grounds

The aforementioned A&P tax sign

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.

Nic Horton

Are Searcy Public Schools Endorsing the A&P Tax?

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.

Anyone requesting more information about the propriety of these signs can contact the Arkansas Department of Education here. I would also recommend contacting the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

My Predictions for the Searcy Bypass Tax

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.

Nic Horton

It’s Tax Election Day in Searcy

Today is decision day on a new 1% tax for Searcy to fund road improvements and a new bypass around the city of Searcy.  Early voting has been underway for the last 6 business days at the county clerk’s office, but today voters should report to their local Searcy precincts for a chance to have their voices heard on the tax.

Voters in Searcy can vote at the following locations:

Ward 1:  Downtown Church of Christ

Ward 2:  West Race Baptist Church

Ward 3:  Carmichael Center

Ward 4:  First Assembly of God

The polls should be open until 7 p.m.

 

Nic Horton

Estimate for Searcy Bypass Arterial Road Improvements

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.

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  

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

Full Text of Searcy Bypass Tax Ordinance & Resolution

Here are the three measures that were passed at last Thursday night’s special meeting of the Searcy City Council:

  1. Ordinance 2011-29,  levying a 1% tax on all sales in the city of Searcy for 15 months.
  2. Ordinance 2011-30, which calls for a special election on the tax, to be held on December 13th, 2011.
  3. Resolution 2011-11, which expresses the city council’s support for the tax & the bypass project.

As you can see, the tax ordinance does incorporate some of the suggestions made here on The Patriot.

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