by Max Brantley
The line is open. Closing out:
* MORE HANDOUTS TO THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: I've started receiving an advance copy of the Little Rock City Board agenda for the coming weeks, which is distributed on Fridays. You just never know when you might get early word of a new outrage.
Such as today.
This is another way to subsidize operations of the Chamber of Commerce. A lawsuit currently challenges the $200,000 sent by the city every year to the Chamber as an unconstitutional appropriation to a private organization. Is this devised as some sort of end-around that challenge? Is there really no one else capable of marketing the region? Would it be too much to ask, precisely, how the $100,000 is to be spent? Will there be an itemized accounting? The city has refused to make the Chamber provide an itemized accounting on the $200,000 it already gets, though I finally was able to wring out of them that the money helps pay the salaries of chamber lobbyists, among others. The Chamber generally hates accountability. It raised the money for the city's half-billion sales tax increase and battled through the state Ethics Commission not to reveal how the money was specifically spent. A new state law will prevent that kind of subterfuge in the future. The chamber still got its $20 million for the tech park pipe dream.
Other regional governments contribute to this organization, housed at the Chamber of Commerce. Your tax dollars are working to support people who lobby for tax cuts for the wealthy, against adequate workers compensation, against universal health care, against damage lawsuits and similar "economic development" strategies.
I don't expect much city board discussion. The money has already been budgeted. Love this ordinance language, which kind of applies to the general waiver city officials give over anything the chamber wants:
Because of the unique nature of the Metro Little Rock Alliance, as it is operated in conjunction with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the City finds that it is impractical and unfeasible to purchase some services through formal competitive bidding and, therefore, waives the requirement of such bidding.
Why not simply propose this:
As, FILL IN THE BLANK, is operated by the Regional Chamber of Commerce, the city finds it impractical and unfeasible to do anything but what the Chamber wants and competitive bidding is waived.
PS — I explored this when this item first appeared on the city budget and got where I usually get when I ask the city for accountability on chamber of commerce handouts — nowhere.
PPS — I just notice the board also plans to waive competitive bids and go ahead with another $200,000 payment to the Chamber of Commerce, positive of a good result in the pending lawsuit, I guess. We shall see. Again this is for "economic development marketing services." Again it subsidized chamber corporate lobbyists who work against the interests of working people in this city over and over. And contrary to the intent of the state Constitution. Call it contracted "services" or not, you'll play hell getting a definitive accounting of what they do for it. This is aimed at giving ex post facto legality to actions dating back to Jan. 1. You think maybe some flaws have been found in the past bidding procedures on this giveaway?