While recent local newspaper articles have focused on potholes, budgetary shortfalls and exploring a new revenue source for Little Rock, a national Sunday television program recently highlighted a new coalition formed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Democrat Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, and Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York known as Building America's Future that would seem to have direct relevance to our local situation. Specifically, it's not just potholes that need attention as a result of last month's winter storm and cold weather, it's a whole host of infrastructure needs in our community including but not limited to streets, drainage, sidewalks and traffic control items that have lacked adequate attention for years due to a shortage of funds.
An attempt was made in 2003 to begin addressing these needs with a five year half cent sales tax to raise $100 million to be dedicated exclusively to at least start fixing the known infrastructure problems estimated at the time to cost $500 million to repair. Unfortunately, that tax failed even though it had the full support of the business community, all local newspapers and the City Board of Directors. Fast forward seven years and many of those same needs still exist, notwithstanding the $59 million funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act recently announced by the mayor's office, which becomes a perfect example of what Building America's Future is all about.
In regard to the latest move to raise the "city sales tax" to at least be on par with many other communities in Central Arkansas and the state, an argument that was first made in the city's budget and tax meetings of 2002, no one can dispute the fact that our parks and zoo need funds, but I sincerely hope that substantive infrastructure improvements will not be left out of either this year's discussions or the final proposal, as way too much time has already passed for something major to be done to ours. That is the essential message of "Building America's Future" which could easily be translated into "Building Little Rock's Future", in my view.