Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
We’re going to keep this Riff Raff thing short and sweet in an effort to use this space to encourage Fort Smithians to be less short and more sweet with each other.
Especially as it relates to this 1% prepared tax issue. Specifically, as it relates.
The tax, which should have been enacted by ordinance or considered by voters more than 10 years ago, will help fund the operations and marketing of the Fort Smith Convention Center. Fort Smith voters will have a say on the tax on Nov. 8.
There has been much drama surrounding the proposed 1% prepared food tax, with about 99% of said drama being of the unnecessary variety.
On the pro-tax side, passions have caused folks to suggest the tax will generate a significant, if not magical, economic boost to the tourism industry. It will not. Several in the pro-tax crowd are quick to suggest that anyone opposed to the tax hates progress and is a CAVEr (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). Silly and untrue. Pro-tax folks have chastised certain web publications for giving too much emphasis to the statements of the anti-tax crowd.
On the anti-tax side, passions have caused folks to suggest the tax will all but kill the regional economy and its restaurant industry. It will not. Tremendous corruption and/or nefarious mismanagement within city government have created the need for the tax, according to the fervent anti-tax leaders. Mean-spirited and untrue. Anti-tax leaders also have spent time calling advertisers of certain web publications demanding that they no longer support said publication.
While these two sides rant at each other like spoiled children fighting over toys in the sandbox, many in the great majority of Fort Smith citizens who save their screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth for Razorback football games, are beginning to wonder if we’ve collectively lost our capacity for rational dialogue. By the way, these majority of Fort Smith folks watching the silliness in the sandbox have never rejected a sales tax in the three decades since the state legislature gave cities the authority to levy taxes.
But because the city and the Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission have been hamfisted in the request for a favorable vote on the 1% prepared food tax, and those opposed to the tax have demagogued the issue to a bloody pulp, it will be a surprise if the tax is approved — which may be the ultimate strategy of those against the tax.
In a Hail Mary attempt to bring ourselves back to some perspective on the issue, let’s work through the following Q&A.
Q: This is just a 1% restaurant tax, right?
Q: If a person pays for a $10 prepared food meal, the tax will be to an extra dime, right?
Q: Will city government collapse, lawlessness ensue and house fires rage unchecked if the tax fails?
Q: Will the restaurant industry collapse if the tax is approved?
Q: Is there a way to vote on this issue without rewarding the pro-taxers and the anti-taxers?
A: Unfortunately, no.
Q: Do most cities with a convention center have a restaurant tax?
Q: Is it fair to say the 1% prepared food tax is really a simple question of: “Do we fund our convention center operations and marketing like most other cities, or do we go another route?”?
Q: Is is true that other local cities like Alma, Greenwood, Ozark and Van Buren enacted a 1% prepared food tax without all the drama that has accompanied the question in Fort Smith?
Q: Then why are a handful of folks on both sides acting like we’re voting on installing a dictator, bringing back Prohibition or instituting a Passover-style plan to kill the first born in certain families?
A: Because we’ve lost perspective — which is what happens in communities with weak leadership, or a leadership vacuum.
Q: As a city, are we suffering a collective anxiety attack on something as simple as a 1% prepared food tax?
Q: Instead of fluoride in our drinking water, should we instead mix in a little Xanax?
A: Good idea.