Many of you have written, inquiring about the results of the A&P tax in Searcy. In short, it was a rear-kicking:
That’s a margin of about 14% (I predicted a larger defeat than the last go around, which was 10%, and said the margin could be as much as 16-18 points).
(Sorry for being so slow to the party here — I was up until early Wednesday morning doing live election coverage for The Arkansas Project and have been quite busy since, prepping for the upcoming general assembly and traveling for work)
I’ll have more analysis of the tax election in the coming days, but let me just say here now, as I told the folks on Newstalk 99.1 FM on Tuesday night:
I hope the city gets the message. I hope they can finally realize that the people of Searcy do not want the A&P tax — not now, not ever.
I’ve been saying this for years — they have called me crazy, accused me of being “against the children,” blah blah blah. But guess what? I’m right. The people of Searcy have affirmed this once again. Unfortunately, as I predicted on the radio, the fight is probably not over. The hosts were shocked by this statement — “This is a settled issue,” the said. But, the very next morning, Alderman Don Raney apparently left the door open to another run at the tax in his post-election interview with the local paper.
I’m not trying to be a sore winner. For whatever reason, there is a fairly large faction in this city that now thinks that the city is now doomed and their children’s futures are doomed because higher taxes have not been forced upon the people of Searcy. Scarily, they seem to think my fiscal conservatism poses a greater threat to threat to their children’s’ future than Obama does. If you hold these viewpoints, please seek psychiatric help immediately.
But here’s the really scary part: A failed city council candidate with a WordPress account is now more in touch with the people of Searcy than the 8 city alderman, who voted for the tax, and the mayor.
This is a problem that needs a solution. A serious disconnect exists between the people of Searcy and their “leaders.” It’s (past) time to start working to bridge this divide.
More analysis (and perhaps a few samples of recent hate mail) to come!
Nic Horton, Editor
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.
Greg Niblock, the local attorney who represented the people against the city of Searcy when they were illegally denied their right to vote on the 2010 A&P tax, has launched a new radio ad against the latest A&P tax proposal. Niblock is also a candidate for Justice of the Peace in White County and pledges to fight tax increases if elected to the quorum court:
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.
In his latest campaign expenditure report, Searcy police chief and candidate for state representative Kyle Osborne reported a $400 expense for “rent.” The address given leads to an apartment complex in Searcy.
State ethics laws regarding the use of campaign funds for explicitly personal reasons are fairly clear — it’s a no no. However, the ethics commission reserves the right to determine whether or not expenses are for “personal use” or for campaign use.
The following paragraph is included in the ethics commission’s guidelines for campaign expenditures under Section 209, “Personal Expenses – Prohibited Uses:”
(c) Mortgage, Rent and Utility Payments – This includes any payments with respect to a personal residence of the candidate or his or her family, even if a portion of the residence is used by the campaign. It does not include (i) payments made by a candidate with respect to other buildings or offices or office space used solely for campaign purposes, such as the campaign’s headquarters, even if the candidate owns the space used, so long as the space is not the candidate’s personal residence and the campaign pays a fair market value for use of the space;
My interpretation of this law is fairly simple: campaign funds can be used for rent as long as the space is used exclusively for campaign purposes. If any part of the space is used for personal residence or purposes, campaign funds cannot be used.
I called the ethics commission and requested some clarification on these guidelines. They said my interpretation was more or less correct and that there are some circumstances in which using campaign funds for rent could be permissible, so long as the funds were not used for personal use. The determination as to whether or not an expenditure is for “personal use” or “campaign use” is an interpretation the Arkansas Ethics Commission reserves the right to make, per Section 210.
One possible explanation for the expense listed on Osborne’s report is that the apartment is being used to house campaign workers. Osborne has hired the Markham Group (he paid them $3,800 last month) out of Little Rock to run his campaign. Perhaps he is paying for an apartment for them to sleep in and stage their campaign out of. This would be somewhat of a gray area and the ethics commission would have to make a ruling about whether or not this qualified as “personal use” or “campaign use.”
If the funds were being used for a campaign office or for official campaign purposes, we might expect to see the expenses recur on Osborne’s monthly filings — he has been campaigning and reporting campaign expenses for several months. But we do not. Unless I am missing something, this rent expense is only shown on the September report.
Last night, I witnessed the Searcy debate between incumbent Rep. Mark Biviano and his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne. If the voters make a choice based on the candidates’ performances, Osborne is in serious trouble.
In his opening statement, Osborne began by saying he’s running for state representative because he has 30 years of law enforcement experience and “we need a little law enforcement in Little Rock.” He continued by saying he wants to go to the legislature to “serve alongside our hometown boy Mike Beebe.” You know, the Governor Beebe that’s running around the state calling for “civility” while telling Republicans to “shut their mouths” and accusing AFP of “trashing Arkansas.”
He also repeated the tired talking point that “Arkansas is 5th in education” (again, this claim has been fully debunked here at The Arkansas Project). Osborne also said he wanted to help Beebe finish eliminating the grocery tax and that, as police chief, “I’ve done everything I could to double the training budget for the city police.”
Biviano began by asking the moderator if the altitude had been properly adjusted in the room before the debate: “You’ve gotta love Al Gore,” he quipped. He then began the substantive portion of his remarks by saying he was running for reelection to give his children better opportunities. He said that,
“To be an effective legislator, you have to want to serve. We have too many rubber stamp legislators.”
As for his platform, Biviano espoused his belief in lower taxes, education reform, and a business-friendly regulatory climate. Citing the statistic that Arkansas has lost 30,000 private sector jobs in the last 5 years, he ended his remarks by saying, “It’s time for Arkansas to do better.”
Read the full story from The Arkansas Project.