by Max Brantley
Mayor Mark Stodola wrested $600,000 out of the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission yesterday to shore up the city's general operating account.
The real news is that Stodola clearly believes that tapping A&P for general operation (the approved allocation of the money to limited purposes allowed by law is just a subterfuge for the subsidy) is going to be a regular thing.
You need not be a defender or admirer of A&P to understand what bad policy this is. Like the state law or not, it established hamburger taxing, tourism promoting, convention seeking agencies like A&P as independent bodies. They are not mere auxiliaries of general city government.
Straightening out LR city government is not a matter of squeezing more money out of the hamburger tax. It's about cutting costs or raising revenue, the latter ideally by the elasticity provided by growth and not by tax increases. Unfortunately real growth has been lacking in these parts.
What about costs? Has the strong mayor been worth $165,000? We clearly don't need three district courts, at least two of which don't operate full-time. An instant half-million could be saved by shutting down the environmental court and letting the current criminal division also handle that civil work, as it did without trouble for years. The newly elected judge of the environmental court, Mark Leverett, apparently believes it to be a part-time job, given that he's interested in hanging onto part-time legal work in Sherwood when he takes office.
There's much, much more. The city needs to do a searching examination of all the do-good quasi-public social service programs it finances. Do they produce results? Or do they merely serve as jobs for the connected and related?
In short, patching a strapped city -- where some 190 jobs stand vacant, including many in vital sectors such as police and code enforcement -- with tourism money is only a short-sighted and short-run solution.