May 8, 2012 by Richard Drake
Question: Washington County voters, on May 22, will decide whether or not to establish a quarter cent sales tax that would provide $7.5 million annually for Ozark Regional Transit. Do you support passing this measure? Why or why not.
By Richard Drake
As I write this, I am sitting in western Oklahoma, which, on a clear day, is sort of like seeing Northwest Arkansas in a funhouse mirror.
This city does not encourage recycling, and sidewalks – oh, I still haven’t seen one of those yet, and I have been here a little over a week. There is no public access television, no volunteer citizen committees to advise local governments and no public transportation.
It may be a city, but it doesn’t appear to be a community.
It is Social Darwinism at its finest, and I can’t wait to come home. It is, however, the perfect place to ponder this question.
I wouldn’t want to live in a city which lacks any of the above. To find oneself in such a place, which seemingly feels no need for any of them, boggles the mind. To paraphrase a quote from those great musical philosophers, The Animals, “I gotta get out of his place.”
It does, though, provide me with a sense of perspective, to imagine Northwest Arkansas without any of the above, or local governments feeling the need to in provide them.
I have read arguments on both sides of this issue, including the claims made by some that a “special interest” had been misleading the public about the need for the tax. It has been unclear in all of the hoopla whether the “special interest” is ORT, or those who ride the buses, and just how firm their links might actually be to the United Nations, which some seem to fear.
In the beginning, there were those who opposed the very idea of a bus service altogether, believing that a “voucher” system for taxis would be adequate for those who truly needed the transportation.
The simple truth of the matter is that we need more buses and more routes added in our area. We can’t pretend otherwise. If the additional funds will enable Ozark Regional Transit to do just that, more power to them.
It is an undeniable fact that more people are riding buses in America, leaving aside Northwest Arkansas. The expected increase in demand alone makes for a good argument in favor of the tax. And to add routes at night, or in parts of our area only reachable by car?
That is real progress.
Some have a knee-jerk reaction to any sort of tax proposal at all, no matter what the money goes for. It is how they are hard-wired. I’m not sure how to deal with that particular special interest group.
But bus service is one of those things that makes us civilized, I think, along with libraries and fire departments and police forces.
I have read sneering comments in newspapers about the “special interests” who ride buses, almost as though hey are a subset of humanity, not really belonging with the rest of us, as if they have their own culture, their own not-quite-standing-on-their-own two -feet way of looking at life. A class of people to be both pitied and scorned at the same time.
That’s not who I see when I ride buses – and I ride buses a lot. True, they are UA buses, but I know many of the ORT riders. Perhaps those who have such a cavalier attitude about the “special interests” who ride buses and the service they provide should get on a few buses, and then they would be a little more qualified to pass judgment.