Tom Henry

Newsroom Editor


No más: blood from a turnip!

Friday, April 28, 2017

I surrender! My hands are up in the air and I quit. Checkmate! No más! You'll find my wallet on the ground. When you get all you can out of there, the only thing I have left is my arm, my leg and ...well I suppose I can sell my blood. Maybe we can get blood out of a turnip. That is simply the cost of living in Blytheville, Mississippi County, Arkansas.

I am defeated, but don't think for a minute that I am happy about it! In fact I am quite angry. Before I go any further though, I want to make sure that we are crystal clear, my complaints go toward numerous city council members, numerous Blytheville mayors, numerous school board members, numerous justices of the peace, numerous Blytheville chiefs of police and the truckload of numerous nearly criminal bureaucrats and freeloaders that we have been forced to bailout and feed over the years. So not just those in place now.

There may be some simple minded people in this area, but don't for a second think that I am one of them when it comes to the tax and spend (and little invest) strategies exhibited over the years. I get it the police and fire departments need raises. I get it we need all the resources that we can bring to bear to fight the unacceptable amount of crime that we live with every day. I get it the men on the blue (and red) line are the "good guys." And they really are.

I get it that we need tornado sirens that operate. I get it that we need a justice center that we can house our law enforcement heroes in. I get it that we have to stop being a training ground for new officers and stop the revolving door as they leave for other departments that pay more. I get it that the downtown city hall/police department building is old and now unsafe.

But get this - why is it that way? Why do the pay raises need to be 40-60 percent raises on the higher-ranking officers? The reason is because the building was not taken care of and the pay raises were not addressed as they needed to be. They were allowed to fall down and fall behind. The shrinking police force (number of slots) was allowed to be cut...and cut...and cut.

There is a real and justified mistrust of how any and all tax money is spent. Why? Because our city leaders have and still do, pitch a tax for one thing and then move things around in the budget to do as they please. As an example, our city fathers once said that if a tax were passed, then a new fire department would be built. Where is it? In fact, one has closed rather than one built.

We were told that if a parks and recreation tax was passed it would supplement current parks spending, but what happened was spending was cut and the only reason that those tax's funds haven't been directly diverted is because they legally can't.

We were told that we have failing infrastructure (and we do), but then the definition of infrastructure is changed to an unreasonable definition and monies were not spent to improve our police department building, our sewer lines or our streets. They were spent on things that are attached to them like computers and equipment.

Don't tell me that the police department building is too old to have been maintained; there are many old buildings in the state, much older that have been maintained. The problem is, and I have written about this before, infrastructure is not sexy. New tinted window take home police cars with GPS and fancy striping and onboard computers are!

Listen, we do not have the population or tax base to do all the things we used to do and we certainly can't keep up with the Jonesboros, Conways, and Springdales. We also can't take two years to study and then wait and then kick the can down the road to the next council before making a cut.

Oh, I also see how you make one budget in December/January, but then regularly go back and make major changes to that budget come February or March. Deep cuts are needed. We cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect a different result.

Do we need to get police salaries up to state average? Yes. Do we need adequate facilities for law enforcement? Yes. Do we need our city government to actually do exactly what they say they are going to do? Heck yes.

No people have ever taxed their way into prosperity and if you, our elected officials, believe that WE can then you are ignorant of math, economics and reality. So...

I surrender. I'll support you on the "Public Safety Tax" that is so broad that in definition that a brand new, fully rigged truck with tinted windows and fancy stripping with onboard computers and GPS can drive through it, but mark my words - it is time for our city leaders to do what they must to cut the overall expenses of this city AND invest in our infrastructure.

Public safety is not merely a sound bite, an advertising campaign or a cosmetic change. It’s about having a safe community, where all basic needs such as water, sewer, police and fire protection, housing, adequate education, decent job opportunities and at least basic medical services exist equally for every citizen.

One last thing, though I am pledging not to fight this tax, I am not happy that we are in effect, being held hostage and forced to pay yet another tax because of the long-term mismanagement of numerous city councils. Adequate building maintenance and competitive wages must be a continual part of every budget and there must be a strategic plan to pay for them without always creating an emergency to justify yet another tax.