The following article was submitted to the Jonesboro Sun newspaper and printed Dec 13, 2012  page 4.  This has been a concern of mine for a long time,  I kept records of all the businesses that came and went and on many other things.  In the beginning I had no idea all this tied in with Agenda 21 but now know this revitalization of Downtown Jonesboro is a central component of Agenda 21 and is happening everywhere.  Jonesboro Downtown has applied for "Main Street" status just like other cities across the nation.  I have left the documentation I used for the article at the end of this document for your information. I hope  you will check it out.

 

    'Revitalized' downtown better for developers than taxpayers

            How many times have you heard about the successful revitalization of "downtown" Jonesboro? There have been at least 20 stories combined between the Jonesboro Sun, KAIT8, and Occasions Magazine, in the past eight years, touting the amazing success of the Downtown Jonesboro "revitalization".

 

            When 66 downtown businesses have come and gone  from the area in nine years, can the revitalization of "downtown" really be called a success?

 

            These stories mainly focused on the two short blocks (200 & 300 Main) and the corresponding blocks on Church and Union. Words like "booming", "revitalization", "thriving", "bustling", "growth", and "wow factor" were used to describe the transformation from a "ghost town" to what it is now. These words are used in news articles by  business or property owners in this area who have a vested interest in convincing us that the area is thriving.

 

            First, to convince the public that "downtown" is revitalized, advocates of Downtown Jonesboro must convince citizens that the area was a "ghost town" with almost no business traffic. However, in the 13 years (1990 to 2003) before "revitalization" began in 2003, there was an average of 25 businesses in the 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street, 23 of which were retail shops. Does that sound like a "ghost town"?

 

THE RETAIL STORY

 

            During the first four years of "revitalization",  2004-2008, the average number of businesses, including retail, was about 29, which is an increase of four businesses. These four additions were attorneys’ offices and loft apartments.

 

            What about growth the next four years between 2009 and the present, was there any? In 2011 twelve businesses either closed or moved from this area. Just this year the turnover was ten businesses closing or moving and eight opening, resulting in a net loss of two businesses.

 

            More telling, however, is the difference in the number of retail shops. There were 28 retail shops in 1993 and 27 in 1995, long before the "revitalization" effort began. During the first five years of "revitalization" the actual drop in retail shops went from 25 in 2004 to a mere five by August of 2009 - a loss of 80% of the retail shops in just five short years.

 

            THE RESTAURANT FALLACY

            Some say, "but look at all of the new restaurants on Main Street, doesn’t that mean success? Since the beginning of "revitalization" in 2003, twenty eating establishments were launched. Sounds great. However, only eight of those remain in business in this area. One has moved across town and the other eleven have closed their doors.

 

         Others may say, "But what about all the beautiful buildings on Main Street, doesn’t that prove revitalization has been successful?" Do new buildings mean success? If that were the case then a failing business would only need to build a new building to become financially sound.

 

            Then consider the fact mentioned above that 66 businesses closed or moved from this area in the nine years since 2003. That is one business, on average, closing or leaving this area about every seven weeks.

 

            Finally, to the dollars and sense of the matter. The City of Jonesboro has spent in the vicinity of $1,855,000 in an effort to improve this area. That is money taken from all taxpayers and channeled into this area  that makes money for a very few businesses. As so often happens, the taxpayers pay again and get very little for their money.

 

            And what is there to show for all of the hype, hoopla and tax dollars? Some nice looking buildings with practically no retail shops and not a single additional business but with a great deal more crime. Calls for police to the three block downtown Main Street area (359 calls in 2011) was three times higher for the same area in 2005 (101 calls). And in 2011 there were also more than three times the number of calls for police from Downtown than in a similar three block business area on Southwest Drive that is truly thriving without being revitalized.

 

            Yet to this day "revitalization" is being touted as an amazing success. Even as recently as November 11, the Jonesboro Sun ran an article titled Booming downtown gets busier. This article again simply quoted those who have a vested interest in having the public believe that this area really has been revitalized. However, it appears the only thing that has really been revived is some developers wallets.

 

              For example, one property owner quoted in the article owns a restaurant on Main and some property on Union. This same businessman was also the Chairman of the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission (A&P) that gave Downtown Jonesboro Association  $35,000 this year (and another $70,000 promised for next two years) from the 3% hotel tax that A&P receives and distributes.

 

            This property owner is also a leader in the Downtown Jonesboro Association (DJA), an association for which the Jonesboro Vision 2030 draft promises to "Establish a long-term, dedicated funding source for the downtown organization," and sets out the guidelines for setting up this non-profit association. Does anyone else see conflict of interest here? How many other organizations would love to have this type of support for their vested interests.

 

            Yet "Jonesboro Vision 2030", the 700 page report developed by paid consultants to study the Jonesboro downtown area determined that Downtown revitalization plans did not work, saying, "Like many cities of its size, Jonesboro has experienced past attempts to revitalize its Downtown. And, as has also been experienced by cities in this country, those attempts did not yield the desired results."

 

            However, the same people are still planning to spend even more millions to further "revitalize" downtown. All the puff pieces are just deceptive "marketing tools" designed to prop up their plans and save their investments - investments for a few people, particularly people with an interest in the alcohol trade.

 

            The 700 page "Jonesboro Vision 2030" draft (not yet voted on by the city council) that has similar language as the United Nations Agenda 21, includes plans to revitalize several other areas of Jonesboro. If the unelected city planners responsible for the "Jonesboro Visions 2030" draft have their way, citizens of Jonesboro may be asked to support taxes greater than the hamburger tax that A&P proposed - a tax that our Mayor rightfully opposed.

 

To view the data used for this article visit our website at  http://www.arfamilycoalition.org/downtownjonesboro.html and see below.

 

PACKET AND WEB PAGE INCLUDES

1. Stories touting downtown revitalization and growth.

2. List of businesses on 200 300 blocks of Main from 1990 to 2009.

3. List of businesses that have left "downtown" from early 2004 to December 2012.

4. List of businesses from Jonesboro City Directory on 200 & 300 blocks of Main from 1990 - 2004.

5. Copies of pages from Jonesboro City Directory documenting businesses in item # 4 above.

6. List of restaurants that have been established and those that have closed or moved.

7. List of businesses opening and those closing or moving in 2012 or late 2011.

8. Documentation of police calls from Office of Crime Analysis and Criminal Intelligence, Jonesboro Police Department.

9. Documentation of Jonesboro Vision 2030 information:

 

            Jonesboro Vision 2030 Economic Development Strategic Plan, page 50 at this link: http://www.jonesboro.org/CPAC/Documents/StrategicPlan_%202012.pdf  "Establish a long-term, dedicated funding source for the downtown organization,"

 

            "Like many cities of its size, Jonesboro has experienced past attempts to revitalize its Downtown. And, as has also been experienced by cities in this country, those attempts did not yield the desired results. Jonesboro is not alone in this regard. In fact, it should be recognized that many cities nationwide are 'in the same boat'. Past attempts at Downtown revitalization have been made and the desired results not always achieved." Jonesboro Vision 2030, Page 45 of Chapter 10 at this link: http://www.jonesboro.org/CPAC/Documents/2030/Chapter%2010%20Physical%20Development%20Element.pdf

 

10. A& P Gave $105,000 (increments of $35,000 a year to Downtown)

 

            "Also Thursday, commissioners voted on a preliminary 2013 budget, which includes $35,000 for the Downtown Jonesboro Association’s Main Street program (the second of a three-year commitment); $18,370 for the Downtown Jonesboro BBQ Festival; $7,500 for the Johnny Cash Music Festival; and miscellaneous management and advertisement costs. Total budgeted expenditures are $100,000, leaving $400,000 for debt service. Jonesboro Sun, "Commission proposes 1-percent 'hamburger tax," November 26, 2012 (This is while Bill Hurt was still Chair of A & P.)

 

            "A&P funding comes from the city...tate law allows cities of Jonesboro’s size to levy taxes up to 3 percent on both hotels and prepared foods. The city increased its hotel tax from 1 percent to 3 in 2007." Jonesboro Sun "Commission proposes 1-percent 'hamburger tax' November 16, 2012.

 

11. Bill Hurt is the businessman referenced in the article in connection with money given by A&P.

 

            "Downtown is really exploding, and I like to say I have been here to see it all...Arnold said. Customers of the two restaurants won’t have to worry about finding a place to park when they visit. The valet service will take care of that and bring their vehicles back when they are finished dining. Allen said Bill Hurt owns some property on Union Street that is secure and can accommodate vehicles for the service." Jonesboro Sun, Nov. 11, 2012. (Note that Bill Hurt also owns Omar’s on Main Street. And Bill Hurt was one of the main speakers and discussed money from A&P at the Jonesboro Downtown Celebration in September of 2012. I  have it on video.)

 

12. The City plans to revitalize several other areas:

            "WHEREAS, the City of Jonesboro Grants Department will allocate FY 2013 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in such a manner that priority is given to activities that benefit low to moderate income families, eliminate slum and blight, and revitalize impoverished neighborhoods;" page 13 of 2013 Action Plan at this link:

http://jonesboro.legistar.com/gateway.aspx?M=F&ID=aac7fa08-26b9-4471-9483-e102ed650f10.pdf

 

            "Revitalize Washington and Monroe Avenue Corridors as a Specialty Lodging and Work-Live District", Jonesboro Vision 2030, Chapter 11, page 35 at this link: http://www.jonesboro.org/CPAC/Documents/2030/Chapter%2011%20-%20%20Housing%20Element.pdf

 

            "As part of HUD’s overall plan to revitalize areas of concentrated poverty, the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants are intended to help transform distressed and at risk public or assisted housing, and their surrounding neighborhoods into sustainable..." Jonesboro Vision 2030 page 67 at this link: http://www.jonesboro.org/CPAC/Documents/2030/Chapter%2011%20-%20%20Housing%20Element.pdf

 

13. Perrin opposed the hamburger tax that A & P advocated.

            "I would respectfully ask that the commission reconsider your current request for 1% tax on prepared food. I hope that you understand my position," Perrin is quoted as saying.

http://www.kait8.com/story/20132196/jonesboro-mayor-reacts-to-proposed-tax-increase.

The Sun also had a story on it.

 

 

Bob Hester

 

Posted December 14, 2012