Having video-recorded the only two public forums that I know of (GGGG and HSVTP) about the June 28 Special Election featuring speakers both FOR and AGAINST the ballot measure, having moderated the Hot Springs Village TEA Party forum at Charlie’s Pizza Pub on June 7, and having been asked to share information about pros and cons of the ballot measure, I have herein attempted to share the major arguments FOR and AGAINST.
*If the listing of PROS and CONS does not include one important to you, please add it via the comments section.
Thanks, Clay Herrmann
- It has been about a decade since the previously planned bypass extension was stopped, and this ballot measure is currently the only option on the table to get the bypass extended to the Highway 5/7 Junction. (If all goes well, projections are that AHTD could have the proposed 2-lane bypass extension ready for public use by the year 2022 or 2023.)
- After AHTD completes the MLK bypass extension project, much of the current truck traffic on Park Avenue and Gulpha Gorge Road will be able to take the bypass instead, thereby relieving pressure on the downtown Park Avenue/Central Avenue traffic bottleneck.
- The Garland County Sheriff has indicated that the bypass would save lives, reducing average response times for law enforcement for the north part of the county. Ambulance drive times to and from north Garland County to Hot Springs hospitals could also be expected to be reduced, also potentially saving lives.
- In addition to the $30,000,000 Garland County supplemental contribution to AHTD for the 2-lane bypass extension, another $20,000,000 would be for other road improvement projects in Garland County (allocated pro-rata by census population between the unincorporated part of the county and each of the four cities in Garland County).
- The 5/8 of one percent sales tax (0.625) to pay for the bond issue is temporary and forecast to sunset in 5 or 6 years. When the obligations on the bonds authorized by the June 28 ballot measure have been fully paid from the applicable portion of sales tax collections, the temporary 0.625% tax will end.
- The tax, scheduled to begin July 2017, can be viewed as replacing the detention center construction tax which is expected to sunset by the end of 2016. After a six month (more or less) reduction, the sales tax rate would return to the same rate we currently pay … with no increase over our current sales tax rate.
- In anticipation that at some point in time following construction of the MLK bypass extension to the Highway 5/7 junction, there could conceivably be a project approved to widen the 2-lane roadway to a 4-lane divided highway (to match the rest of the bypass), land to be purchased by AHTD for the bypass extension will be of sufficient width for that future possibility.
- If Garland County Voters do not approve this ballot measure, it may be years before AHTD is ready to proceed with another plan that does not require supplemental county funding for extending the bypass to the Highway 5/7 Junction. In addition to 30 million dollars for the bypass, the additional 20 million dollars to be raised in this ballot measure will fund an assortment of local road improvement projects that will not have to wait for completion of the bypass extension.
- Barring unforeseen delays, the proposed (and arguably inadequate) 2-lane bypass extension might be ready for public use as early as the year 2022 or 2023. But historically unanticipated delays seem the rule rather than the exception for government projects. So be prepared to pay taxes patiently, and don’t hold your breath.
- The bypass extension should be done right the first time as a 4-lane divided highway to match the rest of the MLK bypass. The current AHTD plan is for a 50 MPH speed limit on this downgraded bypass extension. With no passing lane you might get stuck behind a log truck going 35 MPH or worse.
- There is never an end to the number of worthy projects and improvements that could benefit society if only taxpayers would cough up more tax money. Arkansas is currently ranked as having the second highest average sales tax of the 50 states! Do we aspire to have the nation’s highest sales tax?
- The total number of votes cast in Special Elections is usually very low with proponents of special elections working hard to get supporters of their ballot measures to show. A majority of even a tiny turnout wins! Voting AGAINST special election ballot measures as a matter of principle can send a message to special election proponents that in the future they should schedule their ballot measures for Primary and General Elections to save taxpayer money and so that decisions will be made when voter turnout is highest.
- “Partnering” with AHTD adding 30 million dollars over and above what Garland County taxpayers already provide AHTD via existing taxes is redundant.
- After defeat of this ballot measure, concerned local officials and community leaders, along with our State Representatives and Senators, and our U.S. Congressmen could aggressively lobby AHTD to put continuation of the previously planned 4-lane bypass to the 5/7 Junction near the front of the list of projects to be worked, in consideration of it being previously halted/delayed approximately 10 years ago on account of the “hot water in a well” issue through no fault of our own. Rather than starting over, the previous 4-lane project requiring no supplemental funding from Garland County should be resumed ahead of more recently planned AHTD projects elsewhere.
- The additional 20 million dollars to be allocated to the cities and unincorporated areas of the county for yet-to-be-determined road projects is a sales gimmick, offering a slice of “taxpayer pie” to electors who otherwise would not care about voting in this special election, or who would otherwise vote AGAINST.
- As the saying goes: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary tax increase.” Examples abound that illustrate the folly of being duped by “temporary” tax increase proposals.
This summary does not assign weight to the itemized Pros & Cons. For example many north Garland County residents may consider that ANY measure that will result in an MLK bypass extension to the Highway 5/7 Junction will trump every possible argument against the June 28th ballot measure. In the mind of an elector (either FOR or AGAINST), a single benefit or detriment standing alone can outweigh a hundred reasons to vote the other way.
Vote FOR or AGAINST the June 28th ballot measure. Early voting starts June 21st. Vote your preference, and remember:
“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”
-click thumbnails to enlarge-
by Clay Herrmann