LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Violence and taxes: two of the main topics of discussion for the Little Rock Board of Directors special session called Tuesday night.
Directors were asked to tackle Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.’s Rebuild the Rock sales tax initiative for the second time, a proposal that has been in the works for more than a year.
City leaders made their thoughts known on the plan, which sends funds to areas like “quality of life”, public safety, and the Little Rock Zoo.
But directors had concerns as to where exactly the money was headed. Director B.J. Wyrick said she was missing the “nuts and bolts” of the proposal, and other leaders agreed.
Another concern was the lack of board involvement with the proposal’s creation, a worry for a few board members when compared to the previous Capital tax passed in 2011.
City directors ended up speaking for three and a half hours on the sales tax, diving into detail and sharing their concerns with the proposal for one of the first times since its introduction in March.
The debate turned emotional at times. Director Joan Adcock ended up walking out of the meeting after disagreeing with the mayor over the accurate number of openings at LRPD, and city leaders often disagreed on comparing the current sales tax proposal to the last increase in 2011.
Vice Mayor Lance Hines began the discussion by responding to Director Antwan Phillip’s comments from last week.
Phillips had asked board members why they refused to discuss the measure, which was answered with silence.
Hines responded Tuesday night that “our silence should have been deafening” to supporters of the tax.
One of his major concerns was the allotment of the funding, saying while he supports programs that return to parks and recreation, tax funding should not go to capital projects such as initiatives at the Zoo.
Other board members identified two project areas that they feel should get priority – infrastructure and public safety. Directors Doris Wright, Wyrick, and Kathy Webb all mentioned their concern for infrastructure and road conditions and felt more money should have been allocated.
Hines, Director Dean Kumpuris, and Director Joan Adcock all mentioned public safety, and asked that more funding goes to community development efforts and the COPP program to curb youth violence.
This issue of youth violence was discussed in detail at Tuesday’s meeting, both by directors and citizens during public comments.
The meeting marks the first board gathering since Sunday’s quadruple shooting at Cheatham Park. Kimberly Allens, Devontay Allens’ mother, shared her thoughts surrounding the violence, saying, “it needs to stop. It’s getting worse and worse”.
She asked that community programs be developed and parks in the East End improved as part of the sales tax initiative. Dawn Jeffries also spoke during the citizen’s comments, calling out board members for their “inaction” in dealing with the violence.
Board members used the meeting to ask that the mayor amend his sales tax proposal to prioritize other areas such as safety.
Scott, Jr. responded that he was glad city leaders were finally sharing their worries and that all concerns would be considered. He added that changes may be made to the proposal by next week’s meeting.
City leaders are now scheduled to discuss the measure for the last time and vote to forward the proposal at May 4th’s scheduled meeting. If passed by the city board, it will head to voters in a special called election this summer.