by Max Brantley
The group opposing the Little Rock $500 million sales tax increase gathered a small crowd yesterday to hear Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen outline reasons to oppose the tax, particularly the portion that wraps some police and fire expenditures around a $38 million economic development slush fund. The slush fund will be spent in a manner devised by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce (often in secret) and much will be overseen by an appointed group dominated by Chamber interests. There's no reason to think they'll be any more open and accountable than the chamber is now in spending a $200,000 annual taxpayer welfare payment.
Here's Griffen's bullet-point presentation on reasons to oppose the tax, including the research park authority's ability to condemn midtown houses for an office building.
For background, Griffen includes the Chamber of Commerce template that the city is following as directed and also the first financial report filed by the campaign for the tax. The report details the business domination of the support group, particularly real estate interests. They've been rewarded by Mayor Mark Stodola's fervent criticism of development impact fees in recent days.
The financial report also fails to disclose specifics of how the campaign money is being spent. I've filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission over this. If the state ethics law allows funneling all issue campaign money through a third-party conduit to remove identifying traces of expenditures, our ethics law needs changing — and quickly.