Community group opposes LR sales tax | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Community group opposes LR sales tax

Posted By on Sat, Aug 20, 2011 at 6:37 AM

Arkansas Community Organizations, the grass-roots group, has written a letter opposing the proposed Little Rock one-cent sales tax increase.

ACO, the successor to Acorn, says it is not anti-tax and says it recognizes the city's need for additional money, but said the penny proposal (the city currently has a half-cent tax) is too much during a recession.

The full letter is on the jump. But I note an objection to the $38 million economic development slush fund in the tax proposal, most for a thoroughly undetailed research park that mirrors efforts elsewhere, including in Arkansas, with a record of limited success.

Most of us never heard of the proposed “Research Park” until it became part of the tax package. We were even more surprised when we found out that this project has a board that will make the decisions on how our money is spent. Many residents have expressed concern that the “Research Park” will disrupt established neighborhoods and displace residents. We remember urban renewal, the building of I-630 and the destruction of neighborhoods in the name of progress.

Yes, I, too, was surprised (outraged is a better word) to learn that a group of business community and chamber of commerce insiders had been named without public input or notice to oversee money that taxpayers had not yet even voted. It's a group with scant diversity and includes those who've been peddling the idea. It is not confidence building in city accountability.

Dear Mayor Stodola and City Directors:

Members of Arkansas Community Organizations have attended the hearings sponsored by the City of Little Rock, met with city officials and held our own internal meetings. It is after a lot of thought and deliberation that we have come to the conclusion that we cannot support the Little Rock sales tax proposal on the ballot on September 13.

We are not an anti-tax organization. We believe that the city may need revenue to overcome a possible deficit next year and that city services could be improved with added revenue. We would be willing to support a small tax increase to accomplish these goals. The proposal on the ballot in September, however, is too expensive and inappropriate during a major recession. Times are tough for us. You are asking for too much.

Unemployment in our neighborhoods is high. This sales tax proposal would be a boon to contractors and other business interests, but would offer few opportunities for employment for people from our neighborhoods. The city has no policies in place that give Little Rock citizens the first shot at applying for jobs that are created by city tax dollars. And there are no city policies that guarantee these jobs will pay living wages and benefits. City funds have been used to expand the port and to provide incentives for businesses to locate there, yet only 31% of the people employed by businesses in the port live in Little Rock. We need to change our economic development strategy so that Little Rock taxpayers receive the maximum benefit.

Most of us never heard of the proposed “Research Park” until it became part of the tax package. We were even more surprised when we found out that this project has a board that will make the decisions on how our money is spent. Many residents have expressed concern that the “Research Park” will disrupt established neighborhoods and displace residents. We remember urban renewal, the building of I-630 and the destruction of neighborhoods in the name of progress.

City government cannot move forward with the same policies and structures in place. The trust deficit facing City Hall is far greater than any revenue shortfall. Our city cannot advance until all neighborhoods advance and have an equal voice in governance. We cannot support a major revenue increase without major reforms in the governance structure, growth policy and economic development strategies

Sincerely,


On behalf of Arkansas Community Organizations
Lawanda Pendleton Donna Massey
2320 S. Chester 1410 S Tyler
Little Rock, AR 72206 Little Rock, AR 72204

Robert Micheal Daugherty Gloria Smith
2101 S Martin 1712 Tulane
Little Rock, AR 72204 Little Rock, AR 72204

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