In a 2016 meeting, then-Justice of the Peace Barry Moehring stated "we need to remember we are Bentonville, Arkansas, and we need a building that is leading edge."
Now, County Judge Moehring is bringing that leading-edge impact piece for the Bentonville square to a vote of the people to try to get it taxpayer funded. A special election has been called for March 12 to increase sales taxes countywide to help pay the $30 million-plus price tag for the square's newest monument.
“Speaking of Arkansas”
Visit nwaonline.com/podcast to listen to an edition of “Speaking of Arkansas” featuring Benton County Judge Barry Moehring as he explains his reasons for advocating a new facility to house the county’s courts system.
This is not how things should be. Moehring was elected to serve the people of Benton County, not just Bentonville. A new courthouse needs to meet the needs of people from Bella Vista and Gateway to Siloam Springs and Lowell and everywhere between, not just the wants of people with influence from Bentonville.
Currently there are three courtrooms in our historic courthouse, a situation that is far from ideal in a building designed nearly a century ago to house only one. Two more courtrooms are in separate buildings in downtown Bentonville. Another one is part of the juvenile facility. While the current situation is working and can continue to do so, it is not working well. An argument can be made that a new facility is needed. Just not the facility that is proposed.
The Benton County Libertarian Party designed a building that would consolidate all the downtown courts into a single secure building. That design would be two stories smaller than the current proposal from the judge, and cost half as much with no need for a tax increase. That was completely dismissed though, as the Quorum Court prefers a building grand and large so it will make the people feel small in the presence of their government.
The proposed tax itself is a sales tax increase. Sales taxes are "regressive" taxes that disproportionately impact the poor and working class. They increase the costs of food, clothing, home repairs, utilities -- everything we buy. We already have a sales tax that is one of the highest in the nation. In some places it will end up at or even over 10 percent -- more than even God requests. This is not the direction we should be going. Benton County has long been considered a "conservative" one. We should be finding ways to cut taxes, not increase them. The all-Republican Quorum Court and county judge disagree, instead proposing higher taxes to pay for irresponsible and reckless spending.
The circuit courts are one of the things our county government is required to provide. Also required is public safety for the county and public roads as well. In an effort to protect reserve funds to build the extravagant new courthouse, the budget for fire department vehicles has been cut in half.
Judge Moehring has repeatedly claimed the county can't afford to pave more roads, despite turning back road department funds. The Quorum Court is pitching the tax increase despite giving millions in tax abatements to companies like Simmons.
Why are the taxpayers being asked to pick up the tab for this unnecessary and irresponsible spending? It's our own fault. We're not paying attention. This tax increase could have been on the ballot back in November, saving tens of thousands of dollars. It was deliberately delayed for a low-turnout special election because the Quorum Court knew it would be much easier to pass that way. They know we aren't paying attention. The Quorum Court meets on the fourth Thursday of every month, and are not broadcast nor recorded. Typically no more than one or two members of the public attend. No one is holding our elected servants accountable. We are getting the bad government we deserve.
We are stuck with the current judge for the next four years, and with the justices of the peace for two. There is, however, still time to fix some of this. On March 12, remember to go out and vote 'no" on the tax increase. Make your voices heard. Force our government to come up with another plan that better serves us. Start showing up to the meetings. Let them know we're watching and will hold them accountable.
I hope to see you there.
Commentary on 02/08/2019
Print Headline: Benton County doesn't need Taj Mahal facility for courts