Friday, June 09, 2006
In Oklahoma, two large Indian casinos are literally within five minutes of downtown Ft. Smith. Drive through the parking lot of either casino at any time of day or night and look at the license plates; Arkansas plates are everywhere. It is my understanding (as yet to be verified) that both casinos have a shuttle to and from Fort Smith.
If the casino plan is successful, the tax dollars Arkansas could garner would not be going to Oklahoma, but to Arkansas projects such as roads, education, recreation parks, and hiring more officers to name a few items. The recent failed tax increase to build a new city municipal building and sports complex could be remedied by the increased taxes from the activities of tourists coming to Fort Smith to gamble and see the sights.
The jobs created by a casino in Ft. Smith would be good paying and are estimated to be near 700 or more. Other jobs would be created in the service of the casino (i.e.. food, repair, landscaping, etc.). All of these jobs create a larger tax base that would limit the need for tax increases to repair roads or fix the state's school problems. While these jobs would not appear until the casino is completed, the construction jobs would be immediate.
I would not be in support of a casino in Ft. Smith if there were not already the two casinos in such close proximity. Not supporting it in light of this is economic suicide. Ft. Smith will be in dire need of these funds in the coming years. Where else do the people of Ft. Smith expect to find this money? Taxes? The citizens just voted down two tax increases. This is a way to grow the tax base.
The argument that a casino will be detrimental to the poor does not wash with casinos already so close and transportation readily available. The argument that gambling addictions will rise can be put aside by requiring any casino built must provide access to assistance for gambling addiction. Both of these arguments were used in Mississippi and Louisiana and were proven to be false predictions. There is no reason to believe that Ft. Smith would be any different.
Simply put, the overwhelming majority of reasons against having a casino in Fort Smith are offset by the proximity of the casinos in Oklahoma. Crime, poverty, and immorality are already here to the extent that any other casino would bring in. Life may be worth living in Fort Smith, but now it can be affordable, too.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The US Senate rejected an amendment that would have banned all marriages except between a man and a woman, if it had gone through the entire process. The Senate fell short of the needed 60 votes to require an up-or-down vote which would then require 67 votes for passage.
That it fell short of the 67 is not news; few expected passage. That it fell short of the 60 to require the up-or-down vote is not surprising, but it is telling. What can we glean from our elected officials on this vote?
- Perennial Presidential candidate, John McCain, stated, "Most Americans are not yet convinced that their elected representatives or the judiciary are likely to expand decisively the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples." McCain also stated on Tuesday, 6/6/06, that he is not a supporter of the amendment. Sen. McCain is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency. Does he believe that such statements will endear himself to the conservative base of the Republican Party? Did he not learn anything from his comments in 2000 about the religious conservatives after it cost him momentum in that election? This will be heavy fodder for McCain opponents in 2008.
- Sen. Edward "Teddy" Kennedy stated, "The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution." No surprise there. This coming from the resident sink-or-swim Senator. The surprise is the response from Sen. Orrin Hatch who replied, "Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?" Well, yes. That is exactly what Sen. Kennedy is implying and the sooner the senate Republicans learn this game the better they will do in the coming election.
- Republican Senators voting against this amendment: Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Sununu of New Hampshire. No real surprise there with the possible exception of Sununu. Where the surprise comes in is in the Democrats that voted for the amendment: Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Imagine that, Senator Robert "Grand Dragon" Byrd on the side of Republicans and the American majority.
- It would be nice to see where the three Senators that did not vote stood on the issue. Then again, by not voting they sort of tipped their hands. These Senators were Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and John Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
How many of you contacted your Senators on this issue? Even though it was a losing cause, the Sniper contacted Sen. Blanche Lincoln to urge her to vote for the amendment. The contact e-mail contained references to her statement that Arkansas did not need an amendment for same-sex marriage. It went on to remind her that the election on that amendment showed how overwhelmingly out of touch she was with her constituents.
One has to wonder where our current crop of candidates, Democrat and Republican alike, stand on this issue. We know from the last Senate campaign where Jim Holt stands.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Jobs in Arkansas pay very little in comparison to surrounding states for identical jobs. Couple that with the fact that, other than a handful of specialized jobs, most jobs in Arkansas are in the agriculture, service, or industrial sectors. There is animous towards those jobs, but they do not pay what a college grad can require in other states.
What Arkansas needs to look into is diversifying the job base. Rather than bringing just manufacturing jobs to Arkansas, let's look at bringing technology jobs, refinery jobs, and a variety of other types of jobs into the state. To do this, we need to seriously look at the tax structure. Higher paying jobs will not move to this state with rates as high as they are, therefore the rates must be cut at the state and local levels.
To often our leaders have tried to raise taxes to pay for projects, when long term planning and growing the local economies would pay for most, if not all, of the projects. For instance, Fort Smith needs a new municipal building and they want to build a riverfront ballpark. Both items would be great for the growth of Fort Smith. However, the voters said no on raising taxes to pay for those two items. If city administrators had planned in advance for these structures, without relying on tax increases, the growth rate of the Fort Smith area could have been much greater, thereby widening the tax base and reducing the need for higher taxes.
Simply by looking north, to the Fayettevile/Springdale/Bentonville area, leaders can see the growth rate of that area and compare it to their own growth rate. Why does Northwest Arkansas grow so rapidly in comparison to Fort Smith? Leadership that looks to diversify the economy and keep tax rates as low as possible. The entire state can and should learn from this example.
There is no reason why Arkansas should not land such companies as Nortel, Dell, or Hundai. With the two proposed interstate highways going through Arkansas, warehouses will supply more jobs. Build container ports along the Arkansas River and a variety of jobs will come along. Bring companies such as Exxon/Mobil, Shell, or BP into regions that are close to highway access and whole new communities will arise around them. These companies employ large numbers of people and create wider tax bases for the state and communities.
Forward think can bring this growth about. Leaders that want to maintain control of their own little fiefdoms will continually work against such growth. The people of Arkansas need to wake up and pay attention to who is trying to maintain control and who is looking to expand Arkansas' opportunities. The coming election will provide that opportunity for growth.