Favorite

Trust LR with $40 million? 

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola spent an hour with me Monday afternoon to answer questions about the $40 million economic development fund now envisioned for the city's sales tax package.

So far — though it's subject to change — the city is talking about a ¾-cent sales tax increase for operations and a half-cent, to run for eight years, to pay for capital projects.

The sum of those taxes together will still put the city rate below 2 cents on the dollar, less than many other cities in Arkansas.

It will be hard for me not to vote for a sales tax increase. See: A collapsing police station, ancient radio system and police force dozens short of patrol officers; a fire department in need of a new station; no street repair program; underfinanced code enforcement and parks.

But ... I'm suspicious about that $40 million pot for economic development, not very specifically outlined as "job recruitment, workforce training, port expansion and economic development infrastructure."

Job recruitment and workforce training are capital costs? Port expansion might be and Stodola says improvements there could take $25 million, though details are lacking. He wants money to help UAMS and UALR establish a technology park. Infrastructure — sewers, roads, rail lines — is inevitably necessary for major projects. Money also could clear blighted areas for redevelopment or match money from the governor's quick-closing fund.

In short, the message is: The city needs jobs and voters can trust city leaders with doling out their money to attract it. The mayor insists the City Board will have strict control. There will be return-of-investment guidelines. Incentives will be tied to private investments. Companies will be encouraged to enlist workers in Little Rock, not suburban communities. Clawbacks of money on broken promises are mentioned. Unmentioned is an absolute promise of total transparency in spending, but Stodola promised to look into that.

The city has its annual dole to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce to show for how it feels about transparency. It took an all-out tantrum to get the tiniest disclosure from the chamber on where taxpayers' money goes. Surprise. It subsidizes the pay of people who take political positions against the interest of voters — on universal health care, working conditions, public schools.

What's lacking, too, is some indication that the most fortunate in the community are being asked to contribute in a way commensurate with the disproportionate burden a sales tax puts on poor people. Business gets incentives. Taxpayers pay in hopes of being trickled upon. Public-private partnerships too often have been like the Verizon Arena. The public built it with tax money. The private contributions were payments for tax deductible marketing expenses and fancy perks (naming rights and skyboxes).

Stodola says the business community may contribute a pot of money to campaign for the tax. This is small change. Some whopping private investment or major philanthropic stroke (see a philanthropist's gift of a new performing arts hall in Kansas City) would go a long way toward making the struggling taxpayer feel like all really are in this together.

Stodola did say this: Though he remains a defender of the Chamber of Commerce $200,000 welfare payment, he said passage of new operating money wouldn't mean new chamber riches. "It's not my intent to give them any more money," Stodola said. Could I get the guarantors of Little Rock government by the establishment — the at-large and silk-stocking-ward directors — to sign a pledge to that effect?

Favorite

Speaking of Mark Stodola, Little Rock Regional Chamber Of Commerce

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Little Rock's time

    It is time for Little Rock to demonstrate it is the leading city in Arkansas.
    • Feb 19, 2015
  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • The free lunch legislature

    Is it any wonder the Arkansas legislature thinks you can get something for nothing?
    • Feb 26, 2015

Most Shared

  • George H.W. Bush will vote for Hillary. Or will he?

    Politico reports that Kathleen Harrington Kennedy Townsend says former Republican President George H.W. Bush is voting for Hillary Clinton for president. The article quotes a Bush spokesman as declining to confirm or deny.
  • Who's harming women?

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an Arkansas Republican. Thus, like the governor and the Republican-majority legislature, she intends to do everything she can to deny women comprehensive medical care, particularly abortion.
  • New normal

    No two presidential candidates since polling began have run up negatives as massive as those of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who yet won their parties' nominations easily. "What gives?" may be the biggest political mystery in history.
  • Additional rape charges filed against Conway doctor

    Special Prosecutor Jason Barrett has added 11 more victims to two others alleging rape by Dr. Robert Rook of Conway.
  • Big Dam Bridge 100 brings big damn complaint about celebrity rider Hincapie

    The Big Dam Bridge 100 is this weekend and one dedicated biker isn't happy about a celebrity rider, admitted doper George Hincapie.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Who's harming women?

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an Arkansas Republican. Thus, like the governor and the Republican-majority legislature, she intends to do everything she can to deny women comprehensive medical care, particularly abortion.
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Dope, dice, death

    Unless the Arkansas Supreme Court decides otherwise, voters will have six constitutional amendments and one initiated act to consider in the Nov. 8 election.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Medical marijuana? Yes.

    Proponents of competing medical marijuana proposals have begun sniping at each other. Private cultivation and methods of dispensation are among the arguments.
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Medical marijuana? Yes.

    • I have epilepsy seizures . My mama said I have had them since six mths.old…

    • on September 25, 2016
  • Re: Don't blame trigger warnings

    • It would seem pretty much a given that an instructor, even at the university level,…

    • on September 24, 2016
  • Re: Dope, dice, death

    • At this rate a special master will soon be needed to adjudicate the citations handed…

    • on September 24, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation