Since it's a slow Sunday, I think I'll share a letter to the editor that commments on a letter by former state Rep. Robert Johnston and my column last week about the city of Little Rock's determination to send sales tax pennies of struggling city resdients and visitors to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Nearly alone among city budget items, the Chamber will suffer no cut in its $200,000 subsidy from the city in 2010. City employees will be fired. Service will be cut. But dough will flow unabated to the chamber.
The money goes to economic development efforts. There is no accountability. The required audit and quarterly reports in the city contract with the Chamber provide only a barebones look at the spending. I called the Chamber for more details. My call was not returned. My FOI to the city has so far provided no details on chamber spending of city tax dollars, beyond the general information that city taxpayers pay about 30 percent of the development team's budget in ways we are not allowed to see. Taxpayers are, at a minimum, indirectly subsidizing the anti-worker political agenda of the Chamber with their tax dollars.
The latest letter:
A hearty second to Robert Johnston's suggestion in this week's Letters column. Though it's hard to think of anything more important for a municipality's economic well-being than an adequate supply of clean, fresh water for domestic, commercial, and industrial use, we have yet to hear so much as a peep out of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce about protecting the quality of the water in Lake Maumelle. Evidently the reason for the Chamber's silence is that influential members of the Chamber are making a killing on real estate in the Lake Maumelle watershed and would prefer cold, hard, cash in their personal bank accounts to safe drinking water for our city at reasonable cost. So much for the Chamber's effectiveness at achieving even what it claims to do.
UPDATE: A local environmentalist adds a disturbing and related dimension to the LR Chamber's efforts to gouge money for their private, anti-worker agenda out of taxpayers and customers of public utilities. It is now getting subsidies from water ratepayers. His note.
Last Thursday the Central Arkansas Water Commission approved handing over $25,000 a year for the next four years to the Chamber. And what do CAW customers get for their $100,000? The Chamber will pass on to prospective industries and businesses CAW printed materials and videos. The Chamber will also advise CAW if they are helping recruit industries and businesses whose water use may substantially impact the CAW system. The Chamber will act as a go-between if prospective businesses or industries need to meet.
The vote was 4-2 in favor of the 4-year agreement with Roby Robertson and Anthony (Tony) Kendall voting no (Adrienne Bradley was absent from the meeting).