Newspapers pay their professional pundits — usually not much, which is fitting — but some of the best ideas in the paper come from those who write for free. In the letters-to-the-editor column of the Little Rock daily, Don Short of Farmington has submitted an ingenious plan for ending this miserable war in Iraq.
The war continues only because so few Americans are personally touched by it, Short notes. (Indeed, President Bush has encouraged Americans not to sacrifice for the war, but to live it up — spend more money, use more gasoline, club more seals.) Spread the pain of the war over a larger base, stop confining it to those relatively few families whose children die in the all-volunteer army, and the public's attitude will change, Short says. “Maybe a good first step would be to cancel all televised sports events until all American soldiers are out of Iraq. If that doesn't work, we could close the liquor stores, then cancel the stock car races. … I bet we'd be out of Iraq in under a month.” Probably so, and if pockets of pro-war sentiment remained, we could confiscate the cell phones, and ban bottled water. It's foolproof — and needs to be, under this administration. Short could be considered for a Nobel Prize, if he doesn't have one already.
Urged on by a normally level-headed mayor whose judgment seems temporarily impaired (at least we hope it's temporary) the North Little Rock City Council has approved the creation of four tax increment financing districts within a downtown area that is already being redeveloped without TIFs. The intent of the TIF law is to promote blighted areas. These new NLR TIFs are legally vulnerable, and that's not the only problem.
The Council disregarded the objection of the North Little Rock School Board. TIFs allow property-tax revenue to be diverted from the public schools to pay off bonds sold to finance redevelopment. The School Board said in a resolution, “With present facility needs and constantly increasing costs, including utility rates, salaries, fuel and supplies, we cannot afford to sacrifice any funding dedicated to the students of our district.” The Board added, “Further, we do not feel that the proposed TIF districts meet the burden of proof that must be applied to a TIF.” Surely someone will pursue the legal issue in court.
The City Council's vote was 6-2. Aldermen Debi Ross and Cary Gaines wisely dissented. Those who promote TIFs for economic development, including NLR Mayor Patrick Hays, like to believe they're thinking big, but taking money from the schools is thinking small.