Free man

We reported last week in the Insider on the ticket received by Rod Bryan for disorderly conduct. Bryan, the musician and independent candidate for governor in 2006, was cited by Little Rock police for disorderly conduct. A cop screeched to a halt and ticketed him after Bryan shouted at the cop to turn on his warning lights as two patrol cars zipped past the bicycling Bryan on Seventh Street.

Rest of the story: Bryan went to court last Thursday to defend himself. He was going to act as his own attorney. The judge informed him that the prosecutor’s office had decided not to prosecute. Nobody even bothered to show up in court to tell Bryan. They were embarrassed to show their faces on this trumped-up charge, probably. The police report said Bryan was cited for exhibiting “dislike” of how cops chose to do their jobs.

Bryan admitted he was a little disappointed he didn’t get his full day in court. He took a day off from his job at Boulevard Bread in the River Market to make the court appearance.

For civility

It drew little press attention, but we’ve heard several favorable remarks about University of Arkansas President B. Alan Sugg’s remarks at commencement exercises May 12 at Fayetteville.

He spoke not about tried-and-true graduation topics but “our national conversation,” which he said, especially in entertainment, music and commentary, had become “increasingly coarse, violent and, at times, just plain mean.” He was moved to speak on the subject by radio commentator Don Imus’ infamous racially hostile remarks about women basketball players at Rutgers. He quoted comments on that episode by the Arkansas-born author Maya Angelou, who he noted found an opportunity to talk, human to human.

Said Sugg, “In my view, Dr. Angelou’s perspectives offer us all an avenue to elevate the level and the quality of our relationships with each other — communications of honesty, of integrity, of dignity, of understanding. How meaningful it would be if we took much greater care to show our sense of respect to each other…to recognize the positive power of words…and to eliminate the improper cynicism and coarseness of the negative path.”

Words to remember, graduates. As somebody once said, your future is ahead of you.

Developer subsidy takes a licking

When the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that tax increment finance districts couldn’t capitalize on the state-required minimum school property tax, it took the air out of the tax increment finance movement.

In a TIF district, after new development occurs, the higher tax revenue on the new construction doesn’t go to schools, cities, counties and other agencies with property taxes. Instead, it subsidizes the private development.

The state sets a minimum school property tax of 25 mills. Without it, TIF districts don’t produce enough money to provide much subsidy.

Take Jonesboro, where a TIF district was established to do $7 million worth of drainage improvements for the new Turtle Creek Mall developed by Belz-Burrow. Without the 25 school mills, only 6.1 mills in county property tax levies are left to produce an “increment” to subsidize that work. About $18.5 million worth of new mall property went on the tax rolls this year, according to County Assessor Eddie Thomas. Had the Supreme Court not put the school tax off limits, it would have produced about $114,000 this year to pay off the drainage improvement bonds. Now, it will produce only about $22,000. The developer will have to cover the difference.

The mall is expected to result in $100 million worth of new construction. Had the original plan to capture school taxes for construction subsidies been successful, it would have diverted, at build-out, about $500,000 a year from schools to the developer’s benefit. You can see why school officials opposed the TIF law. TIF districts were on the drawing boards all over Arkansas before the Supreme Court ruling came down.

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