Marshals Museum tax committee formed, former New York police boss praises museum

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,756 views 

Rendering of aerial view of the planned U.S. Marshals Museum in downtown Fort Smith.

Howard Safir, a former associate director of the U.S. Marshals Service during the Reagan presidency, said the long-awaited U.S. Marshals Museum under construction in Fort Smith will recognize the Marshals Service as “an organization that is better at manhunting than any organization in the world.”

Safir, along with wife Carol, made a brief visit to Fort Smith on Friday (Jan. 25) to tour museum construction. He told Talk Business & Politics during an impromptu interview the museum will educate visitors about the unique and historic nature of the service.

“Every single warrant that is issued by a federal court, no matter what it says the crime is, is to the U.S. Marshals from the court. So, we’re the guys,” Safir said, adding later, “The museum is all about recognizing that we save lives, we save property, we save money, and we save liberty. We’re the oldest law enforcement agency in the United States.”

Construction began in July 2018 on the roughly $50 million U.S. Marshals Museum in downtown Fort Smith along the Arkansas River. It is scheduled to open in September 2019. Museum budget figures place the total project cost at around $49.266 million. Fort Smith was selected in 2007 to be home for the national museum.

Safir first joined the U.S. Marshals Service in 1978 and in 1984 was named associate director for operations. He also served as New York Fire Department Commissioner (1994-1996), and New York Police Commissioner (1996-2000). Safir, along with former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, was one of several guest speakers during the November 2013 museum cornerstone event in Fort Smith.

Howard Safir, a former associate director of the U.S. Marshals Service, is pictured during a November 2013 cornerstone event for the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith.

The museum will also pay tribute to those who serve and have served in the service, Safir said.

“They [Marshals] are going to feel proud that they make a difference. And that’s what the museum is all about.”

Part of realizing that pride hinges upon approval by Fort Smith voters of a one-time, one-cent sales tax. The Fort Smith Board of Directors in December approved an ordinance for a March 12 election. The ordinance governing the special election for the sales tax requires that the tax is imposed for only nine months. The museum foundation will pay the city’s cost of the special election.

The sales tax will raise the remaining $17 million needed to complete the museum. Revenue from the sales tax will complete the museum’s capital needs, the museum states on its website, where they also note that museum officials will not ask for a tax extension.

The “Building the Future Committee” was filed Jan. 10 with the Arkansas Ethics Commission to campaign for the tax. Jim Dunn, president of the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation, will serve as committee president and Bob Hornberger is listed as treasurer. Other committee members listed were: Patrick Weeks, president of the U.S. Marshals Museum; Alice Alt, USMM vice president of development; Jennifer Seaton-Rambo; Robert A. Young III; Doug Babb; Jim Spears; Rusty Myers; Fred Williams; and Philip Merry.

No group has yet filed to oppose the tax.

A local-option ballot question committee is formed when a group receives contributions or spends more than $500 to advocate for or against a local ballot issue.

A financial report was not included with the Jan. 10 filing, but the group has 15 days to report finances following the month in which it collected or spent more than $500. The group also has to file a pre-election report no later than seven days before March 12, and a financial report within 30 days after the election.