Government in secret 

Early this week, the Little Rock City Hall website mentioned that the City Board agenda Tuesday would include a report from a “new revenues” task force. This was a surprise to many city hall watchers and even several members of the city board.

What task force? What report?

Turns out Mayor Jim Dailey appointed Directors Michael Keck and Willie Hinton to co-chair this task force several months ago, without public announcement. The task force met a number of times (without Hinton, who’s been ill, otherwise the unannounced meetings would have been illegal).

A member of the task force said that Keck had told members “it would be best not to discuss” the meetings in public. The member also said the task force took no votes as the unannounced meetings rolled along. Re secrecy and democracy: Keck says, in an e-mail responding to our Arkansas Blog (www.arkansasblog.com) post on the subject, that anybody could have attended the meetings at City Hall and that a vote was taken at the last meeting, when not all members were present.

This secretive task force — lacking representatives from the New Party, or similar activists, but heavy on Heights and West Little Rock people — has suggested a sales tax increase of up to a half-cent to shore up the city budget, with an emphasis on “public safety.” This is only a task force option for a future election, but it’s an influential starting point and critics must now play defense.

Public safety is important. The city committed in 1990 to paying its share of a consolidated county jail operation. The undermanned jail is some evidence that the city has fallen short. If competition from a city tax proposal for multiple uses torpedoes a likely county tax proposal for the jail, however, public safety won’t be the winner.

Keck’s group also has a proposal — on which the task force split — to tax poor people’s groceries by an eighth of a cent to produce a $25 million slush fund over five years to bribe companies to locate in Little Rock. These corporate welfare funds (“economic development” is the bidnessman’s preferred euphemism) are proliferating like a venereal disease across Arkansas. Businesses gladly accept the handouts, naturally. But only the marginal ones actually make decisions on such relatively trivial amounts. Businesses that add value to a community locate where work force, education, quality of life, natural resources and transportation dictate. Can we bribe itinerant timeshare call centers to locate here? Probably.

Keck has also announced he’s ready to restart the Tax Increment Finance discussion. In comments on our blog, he swears he has no interest in using TIFs to help old political supporters who’d like to receive school tax money to improve West Little Rock streets adjacent to their land. Nor, he says, does he approve TIF use elsewhere in Arkansas (to subsidize shopping centers and movie theaters).

Still, opening the door to the transfer of school tax money to subsidize private business isn’t the worst way to start a campaign for mayor in the business community. Keck insists his task force work has no connection to his potential mayoral bid. From what we know so far, it doesn’t recommend it. Perhaps if the full report weren’t still a secret at press time — even as Keck insisted there was nothing secret about his task force — we’d have a different opinion.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Bangin' in LR

    About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, with the Power Ultra Lounge downtown jammed for a rap show by Finese2Tymes (Ricky Hampton of Memphis), gunfire broke out. Before it was over, 25 people had been wounded by gunfire and three others injured in the rush for safety.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


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 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Pay attention

    • Adawson's comments attribute the plight of black people in the United States to the War…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Heather Wilson, blacks have NOT been prevented from pursuing the skilled trades as a result…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • Gee, so you were there when Jesus spoke - how old you must be. First-person…

    • on July 22, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation