So. Little Rock city government is going to show that it's putting jillions in new sales tax revenue to good use on capital projects.
How will it symbolically do this?
It has invited reporters to see the very first project that's going to receive money. Ta da — improvements to a drainage ditch at Beechwood and Club Road. If you don't know, this is within a Tiger Woods drive of the Country Club of Little Rock on one of the most expensive residential streets in the city. That's sure where I'd start symbolically spending my Happy Meal and utility bill pennies. The city has been working on plans by public works and the parks to fix up the ditch and open space there in a way commensurate with the leafy upper crust neighborhood.
The city Wastewater Utility has already paid $190,000 to settle a lawsuit over a home that had to be torn down there because of a storm drain collapse. There was some dispute over whether the city or a private developer was at fault.
City Manager Bruce Moore adds, in response to my snark, that the City Board has also put a sidewalk construction plan in motion, a citywide effort. And he said the Beechwood and Club Road project is a "much needed drainage improvement." There might be some other spots in similar situation, it has been reported.
Jon Honeywell of Public Works said the project would cost $146,956. (See drawing on jump.) A contractor wil build an open concrete channel that will be fenced and then surrounded by shrubs. The city, which now owns the lot, also will sod the lot and maintain it. It will not be a park as such. Honeywell said in the cases of such public property, neighborhood groups sometimes undertake voluntary projects for additional beautification.
I've also asked about a news release assertion that spending of the capital money will be "completely transparent and open to all Little Rock residents." I'd question that characterization of the $22 million being sent to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce-controlled Technology Park Authority, intent on expropriating residences for an office building somewhere between UAMS and UALR. Consultants are being chosen without RFPs; the chamber boss says he's the only person able to release public documents and is not always available; the chamber boss makes other administrative decisions outside of ready view; three of the seven board members have direct ties to the chamber and other members come from institutions in consultation in private with the chamber about this project for years; the chamber has refused to detail how it spends a $200,000 annual tax subsidy; the chamber refuses to reveal how it spent money on the campaign for the tax that produced this capital money; and so on. This public accountability also included a prohibition on public comments at a recent authority board meeting.
Words on news releases are cheap. Actions speak louder.
But .... when you think about it. The sales tax wouldn't have passed without overwhelming voter support in a tiny handful of precincts, several of them covering this very neighborhood. So there is a method in this madness. The poor parts of town rejected the tax. Experiences like this might help explain their reluctance.
The city announcement:
What: 1st Project Funded by 3/8 Cent Capital Investment Kicks Off
When: Thursday, May 24, 2012 – 11:00 a.m.
Where: Corner of Beechwood & Club Streets
Little Rock residents will see their tax dollars at work when the first project funded by the new sales tax increase recently approved will begin on Thursday, May 24th.
“Thanks to the citizens of our City we can move forward with capital investments such as this that will improve our quality of life for generations to come,” said City Manager Bruce Moore.
This project is a part of the 3/8 cent portion of the tax that will go towards streets, sidewalks and drainage - as well as building new fire and police stations and putting into place a new public safety communications system.
This piece of the sales tax will sunset after ten years. Thanks to the newly formed LR CENT committee - the manner in which those tax dollars will be spent will be completely transparent and accessible to all Little Rock residents. The LR CENT committee co-chairs will be there to help unveil the first of many signs that will go up at work sites funded by the sales tax. Members of the City of Little Rock’s Board of Directors, key staff members and concerned neighbors will also be on hand at the event which begins at 11:00 a.m.