Pine Bluff community marches to the polls as early voting opens for sales tax increase

Pine Bluff community marches to the polls for early voting

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) - Early voting for a five-eighth cent sales tax began today in Pine Bluff. This seven-year initiative brought out a large crowd to downtown who all marched to the polls together in hopes of progression.

The plan, led by Go Forward Pine Bluff, hopes to make the city financially self-sufficient.

Last year, 100 residents reported they met and held monthly meetings to develop this plan, resulting in 27 unbiased recommendations for revitalization.

“We are voting to approve the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative,” said Jerry Williams, one of many community members out rallying today.

Pine Bluff residents, new and old, said they want to see the city disprove stereotypes plaguing the area.

“My memories are of a big, positive, bustling downtown. I would love to see that again,” said Joy Blackenship, Executive Director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development.

Voters in support of the seven-year sales tax increase showed up and showed out. People could be seen dancing with signs and chanting in unison on the corner of South Main Street.

Go Forward Pine Bluff hopes the initiative will get the city moving in the right direction

“We want people to start their businesses here, to raise their families here, to launch the next season of innovation and solar. All of those wonderful things that are out there in the world, we want people to do that here in Pine Bluff,” said Angela White-Smith.

The plan includes 27 recommendations to support new infrastructure, education, economic development, and quality of life.

“We have a four-year college and a two-year college in our city. We can train people, but we can't retain them,” Williams said.

The group estimates the completion of those recommendations will cost about $50 million over seven years.

They hope to seek those dollars through creation of a Partners in Progress Program with business enterprises in the community to generate about $7 million, another $12 million through donations and grants, and with the potential passing of this sales tax, an estimated $15.67 per household per month.

“A good bid of our quality of life is going to be centered around our downtown,” said Blackenship.

“To people on the fence, I'd just say take a chance,” White-Smith added.

Several city council members aren't in favor of the increase and fear promises could be misleading. But despite the opposition, supporters marched together with signs in hand and unity in the air.

“We're going to put all we have into this to make sure it passes. But if it doesn't, then we'll go on to the next step. What the next step is, I don't know because we're not planning on this not passing,” Williams said.

City Alderman Bruce Lockett worries that basic city needs will have to be taken care of before these initiatives can go forward. He suggests a more specific timeline be put in place about who will do what and when.

Early voting for the five-eighth cent sales tax will last through June 12 at the Jefferson County Courthouse and voting begins on Tuesday, June 13.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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