As you probably know, Little Rock voters are going to the polls today to consider a proposal to pay for up to $73.5 million in renovations to the city's Robinson Center Music Hall.
The proposal in question would dedicate part of the city's existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for the project. The tax had been used for the construction of the Statehouse Convention Center, and those bonds are about to be retired.
Mayor Mark Stodola and the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau have been aggressively campaigning in support of the proposal (to the degree that one blogger has questioned some expenditures).
But others have been vocal about their objection to the idea, including those in the city's restaurant industry. Loca Luna/Red Door owner Mark Abernathy has objected to the idea of using bonds for the project from the start.
Last week, Arkansas Business editorialized in favor of the proposal. Since then, Abernathy has weighed in with his argument against the bond issue in our comments section, and we'd like to repost his opinion below:
I am amazed at the misinformation regarding this. As a spokesman for over 100 of my industry friends, employees and our customers who pay this tax everyday please understand the WE SUPPORT THE REMODEL OF ROBINSON!. However, we have some serious concerns. This tax secures bonds and will expire in @ a year. At that point the city can reduce the tax or spend millions a year on other projects, organizations (the Rep, Marathon, Museums, festivals, Symphony and Ballet) or things in other areas of the city. Given that, re-allocating the entire tax to another very expensive downtown real estate project, for the next 30 years, sure sounds like a new tax to us. This makes little sense. Why? Because we can fund Robinson in a smarter and fairer fashion. Verizon Arena & Dickey Stephens Ballpark were both funded with a 1 year temporary tax and saved millions in interest. If we did that, we could have Robinson plus @ 10 million a year to spend on other things and events. How about funding something in other parts of the city? West Little Rock pays the vast majority of this tax, they could use an entertainment or sports complex. For the last 25 years all of this money has been spent downtown and now it will all be spent downtown for the next 30 years. NLR benefits more than WLR. This Is Really Foolish! We could have Robinson remodeled and have that money free for other projects (in other parts of the city) plus advertising and promotion for the restaurants and hotels, which is what the tax was intended for. We are also concerned that this publication, and the other media, have gone out of their way to keep our viewpoints out of the press. They knew there were viable options and should have shared those. As one of the city's top industries you would think we would get a little more respect. What happened to fair and balanced reporting...oh yeah....money. Please understand, the A & P Commission does not speak for our industry, and never has. The commissioners are picked by the city, not us. They don't care about our customers..but we sure do. Use your head! Have the courage to vote no... the city will come back within a year with a smart, fair plan we can all support.
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