by Max Brantley
Claudia Lauer, the Democrat-Gazette's energetic City Hall reporter, ran to ground quickly and thoroughly yesterday the story behind a pop-up Facebook page lamenting a developing plan for the city and the Central Arkansas Library System to build a parking deck in Riverfront Park. The photo above, from the webpage, has the parking lot behind a row of trees just to the west (right) of the River Market pavilion. The lot is graveled and sits behind the row of commercial buildings on Clinton Avenue.
You may have noticed the definitiveness of my headline against all the assurances in the article from city officials that many layers of review and approval would be required; that things are just in the talking stage; that this is all tentative; etc.
To which I say: Hah!
Library Director Bobby Roberts wants a parking deck. He's discovered obstacles to his plan to build a deck on a surface lot across the street from the main library. City Director Dean Kumpuris, godfather of the River Market District, is telling people a deck is going to be built on the existing parking lot.
If these two guys want a deck on the parking lot, a deck is going to be built on the parking lot.
This is off-topic, except that it's more good City Hall reporting from Lauer, this time on the failure of city sales tax revenue to grow at a 2 percent rate as expected. It's hardly growing at all this year.
The article contains some troubling comments from high city officials. City Manager Bruce Moore seems confident that a 2 percent growth rate over 10 years will be achieved because growth in future years will outstrip the 2 percent rate and make up for down performance now. Based on what crystal ball? Has anybody really analyzed whether revenues are down here as a result of lingering recessionary pressures? Or have retail sales migrated to growing suburban cities and the Internet in sufficient amounts to damage Little Rock's base? Also, the city of Little Rock hasn't been growing much. If population doesn't grow, sales aren't likely to grow much either.
Then came Finance Director Sarah Lenehan, who explained that the city lagged behind the state because the sales tax on big ticket purchases, particularly car sales, is capped for the city sales tax, but not the state sales tax. That's always been the case. The projection in city revenue growth took that into account. Or should have. The cap is meaningless in terms of shortfalls. State sales tax growth hasn't been all that robust, by the way — only up about 2 percent.