Tagged: White County Bypass

Sneak Peak: White County Judge’s Comments in Tomorrow’s Paper Don’t Add Up

A reporter for the paper called me just a short while ago to ask for comment on the Arkansas Ethics Commission ruling, finding Judge Mike Lincoln in violation of state law.  The article will run tomorrow and it is already available on the paper’s website for those of you who have access.

But the judge’s comments in the article do not quite add up:

  • The judge says he ‘still does not believe he did anything wrong,’ but admits that he broke the law.  I can only interpret that to mean, the judge does not see anything wrong with breaking the law.
  • Lincoln is quoted in the paper as saying, “The only probably cause they had was that I didn’t file the correct report.”  I will assume he meant probable cause, but either way, this statement is also patently false.  Earlier in the article, he admits that he did not file any paperwork until yesterday–more than 2 weeks after the hearing, more than 6 weeks after the election, and more than 7 weeks after this issue had been brought to his attention.  In fact, he admits just a few sentences earlier, “I should have filed the paperwork previously.”  So which one is it?  Did you file the wrong paperwork or no paperwork at all?  The correct answer is no paperwork at all, until yesterday, and this can be confirmed by a quick trip to the Ethics Commission website.

 

The bottom line here folks:  the judge’s office used your money to promote a tax increase–which is technically legal in Arkansas, within certain parameters–but then they lied about it repeatedly and continue to fail to show any remorse for what they have done.  They stepped outside of those parameters and refused to comply after it was repeatedly brought to their attention.  The judge in particular has violated the public trust and now that it has been proven, he continues to deny any wrongdoing.

I hope the voters of White County are paying attention.

Nic Horton

Discussing the Latest Searcy Tax Proposal with Mayor Morris

I previously posted about my visit with Mayor Morris regarding the Searcy budget, reforms that have been implemented and more reforms that are coming.  During that same meeting, we also discussed the road tax that the city council passed last week.

Some of my concerns about the proposal that the council passed:

  • There is no ‘sunrise’ clause & I still believe this is an incredibly bad time to raise taxes. Such a clause would have allowed the economy more time to recover, with the tax not going into effect until January 2013.
  • The issue is going to be placed at a special election two weeks before Christmas which will mean low turnout and extra cost to the taxpayers to produce the election.
  • I am also skeptical that the money will all actually be spent on roads–at least not roads that are directly connected to the bypass.  I told the mayor I trust him, but he does not control the purse strings.  I do not trust the people who do.

The mayor assured me, and the people of Searcy, that he is going to personally oversee that every penny of the road tax money is spent appropriately.  I gave him a few suggestions about how he can convince people he means business about this, including setting up a website “SearcyStreets.com” (or something similar) that will show how every penny is spent.

He also shared my concerns about the special election, but said it is necessary to do this before the first of the year to show a commitment to the highway department, allowing the Searcy project  to move up their project docket.

Regarding my suggestion to delay implementation or ‘sunrise’ the tax, the mayor said he is concerned that the economy will actually be worse in January 2013 than it is now and believes we need to start the arterial projects as soon as possible.

Regarding suggestions he received to call two special elections, one for the bypass and one for the arterial improvements, the mayor said having one election will save the taxpayers money and we need to get started on the arterial projects right away so they can be completed by the time the bypass opens.

Regarding suggestions that the city ‘find the money in the current budget’ to fund the $3 million for the bypass matching funds, the mayor said that would be possible, “if we closed the fire department.”  The city budget is currently just over $14.2 million and he says they need $7 million, not just $3 million, to fund the bypass and the arterial improvements.

I asked the mayor directly if the city has any plans to promote the tax.  He said that he plans to speak publicly in support of the plan, but guaranteed that no city money nor city employees on city time will be used to promote the tax.  

The mayor also said that he fully believes in an open door policy and he is more than willing to sit down face-to-face with any Searcy citizen to discuss this plan or other city issues.

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 

 

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

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

Real Progress for Searcy Requires Real Reforms

Several in the community have asked me to weigh in on the upcoming Searcy city tax increase, including the mayor, who I had a good visit with today.  As I said earlier in the week, I have been somewhat hesitant to do so because I wanted to let the dust settle from the last election that was only a few weeks ago.

Now, on the eve of another special city council meeting—at which, the council intends to pass a tax—I am composing an email to the council & mayor that I will send tomorrow morning.  It will include a list of positive suggestions for putting together an amicable tax proposal.  I will post the email here on The Patriot and it will likely come as a surprise to those in the community who love to label me as “anti-progress.”

Many have suggested that I come out in favor of the tax proposal so I can dispel all of these rumors that I am “against everything.”  To that I say:  there has been no proposal yet, so I am unwilling to take any position without any actual facts.  It is also important to note that being against something does actually mean you are for something as well–it’s just something different than what has been proposed.

But most importantly, I have to say that I am unwilling to support something just to dispel false rumors and false perceptions.  While it is true that I do not want progressivism and I will fight it in every form, I deeply desire real progress and growth for our city.  I always have.  That’s why I do what I do here on The Patriot, that’s why I ran for office, that’s why I formed Citizens for Responsible Taxation

But real progress will require tackling the systemic problems our city has faced for over a decade, not slapping a band-aid on severe wounds while the city bleeds to death.  We need real solutions, real reforms, and an unwavering commitment to real progress.  So next week, I will begin a new series of articles called “Solutions for Searcy,” continuing the work I have been doing since the A&P tax debate and my involvement in local politics began nearly three years ago:  identifying problems & proposing solutions for our city, my hometown, that I wish to see grow & prosper for years to come.

Please, if you have any friends who love to talk about “that agitator, Nic Horton, he just hates this city,” consider emailing them links to the posts.  I suspect they will like my ideas.

Nicholas H.

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

Searcy Tax Will Go Before Voters, Likely December 13th

Several folks have written & called me to ask if the tax that the Searcy Council plans to pass tomorrow night will go before the voters.

Yes, according to state law, the tax must be approved by the people.  

The mayor & another official have told me that the most likely date for the election will be December 13th.

I assume the confusion stems from the A&P debacle last year when the city refused to let the people vote despite being required to do so after being petitioned.  However, the A&P tax is only sales tax in the state of Arkansas that can be passed without the direct approval of the voters.

As a side note:  Our state senator from Searcy, Senator Jonathan Dismang, co-sponsored a bill last session that would have required a vote of the people before an A&P tax could be imposed.

The bill died in committee.

Nicholas H.

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