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Working for Public Transit

Letters by environmental advocate Dr. Art Hobson and Sierra Club president Michelle Halsell

Dear Environmental Advocates,

We have a tremendous opportunity to advance environmental sustainability in Washington County.  The Washington County Quorum Court voted to put the 1/4 cent sales tax to expand public transit on the May 22 ballot.  We have about 65 days to get out the vote and pass this tax. 


There will be two important meetings next week.


1) Tuesday, March 20, 5 pm to 7 pm at the Fayetteville Public Library.  This is a campaign strategy meeting. We are encouraging both the social service agencies and environmental groups to meet together to map out strategy, form committees, and recruit volunteers for specific activities such as phone banking, fund raising, and distributing materials at Farmer's Markets.

2) Wednesday, March 21, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at First United Methodist Church in Springdale.  This is the next Finance Committee Meeting. If you are skilled at fund raising and you'd like to assist in raising money to fund the campaign, please plan to attend.

I've tried to reach everyone that I could think of including Omni, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association, Green Drinks, Arkansas Interfaith Power & Light, Green Economy Group, Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks.  If I have missed anyone, PLEASE forward this email to them. 

It is going to take ALL of us working together to pass this 1/4 cent tax and deliver a more just, equitable, and environmentally responsible transportation system for our community.  Washington County can lead the way for the entire region!

Forward!  Michele Halsell

Here (absolutely free of charge!) are a couple of thoughts about the "Transit Group Eyes Funding Bill" article in the NWA Times yesterday.    :-)  

There is no way that this bill "nullifies one of the core arguments initially used by backers of the …tax."  The Times never should have said that.  This bill is tentative.  More importantly, it's only for two years, after which funding stops unless the bill is renewed.  And, as you point out in the article, it requires matching--for which we'll need the new tax.  ORT cannot rely on the feds or on the NWARPC or on the RMA for funding.  ORT needs an independent source.  

The most important item for me was the table of what the tax will buy:  22 fixed routes (up from 6), 39 buses (up from 8), and full-time service except midnight-6 am.  Of course, I'd seen these figures before, but we all need to see them frequently.  The present service is helpful and well-managed, but it's done on a shoestring budget and is grossly inadequate.  To me, it's unbelievable that there are only 6 fixed routes, 8 buses, and weekday-only service throughout NW Arkansas.  Going to 22 routes, 39 buses, and nearly full-time service still seems minimal to me.  Opponents look at this as a huge upward jump in funding, but really the new funding will be minimal in providing adequate service.  

Cheers - Art Hobson



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