PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

January 28, 2013

'The Breeze' petition to appear on May ballot

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Come May, registered Port Arthur voters will have the chance to decide if they want to spend their tax dollars for entertainment-related projects.

Voters will see a proposition on the May election ballot that would allow the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation to use its sales tax proceeds to fund entertainment projects, such as sports or recycling facilities and public parks.

“The Breeze” radio station, a Port Arthur-based, low power FM station, submitted a petition to the city secretary Dec. 21 to have a proposition placed on the May ballot, asking voters if they would want to use tax proceeds for entertainment purposes. The station collected more than the required 1,400 signatures needed to get a proposition on the ballot, and the city secretary had 30 days to verify the petition.

Sherri Bellard, city secretary, verified the signatures by Jan. 20 and found 1,436 of the 1,516 signatures submitted belonged to registered Port Arthur voters. The Port Arthur City Council approved the petition at its Jan. 22 meeting, ensuring a place for the proposition on the May ballot.

Currently, the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation is funded through sales tax revenue, called the 4A Sales and Use Tax. This type of tax, under Texas law, was intended to attract manufacturing and industrial development, according to TexasAhead.org, a website dedicated to providing Texas municipalities with economic resources.

Through the 4A sales tax, EDCs can purchase land, buildings or equipment related to certain industrial jobs; fund the repairs for targeted infrastructure; and pay for the maintenance and operating costs associated with projects, according to Texas Ahead. And that’s just a few ways EDCs can allocate their funds.

But with this proposition on the ballot, voters could decide if the EDC could fund similar expenditures related to entertainment projects, such as a new facility for “The Breeze.”

The radio station would not be the only entity that could benefit from this petition, though. Other projects could be funded through what is called the “4B tax,” as well.

A 4B sales tax also is used to fund EDCs. Any project eligible under the 4A sales tax could be funded through the 4B tax in addition to other projects, like those that would improve residents’ quality of life, according to Texas Ahead. Some examples of possible 4B projects include sports facilities, public parks, recycling facilities, demolition of standing structures and infrastructure improvements related to these projects.

The petition created by “The Breeze” would only allocate EDC funds for entertainment-related projects, and only $400,000 could be spent on those projects per year from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2015, according to the proposition.

Still, “The Breeze” could not receive funds from the EDC unless the EDC board of directors voted to approve its request, said Floyd Batiste, CEO of the EDC, earlier this month. And that could not happen until after the proposition was passed by Port Arthur voters.

It’s a gray area, Batiste said of the proposition. The law is vague, requiring 4B projects to improve people’s “quality of life” — something subjective and highly immeasurable. The board of directors would conduct a “fact-finding investigation” to see if “The Breeze” would do just that before it could fund the radio station’s requested project.

“It’s a community effort, and those who want it should help support it,” said Stephen Mosely, executive director of “The Breeze,” of the radio station, which reaches folks worldwide online despite its low power frequency that broadcasts a 3.5-mile radius from downtown Port Arthur.

The station trains children and teenagers who are interested in the field of broadcast while also showcasing local talent, Mosely said. It has served as a platform for the public to express its views, and with the help of the EDC, it could once again become a stable, self-sufficient station, he said.

If not, the last broadcast of “The Breeze” would be Dec. 31.

Mosely went around the city himself to get people to sign the petition and ended up with more than 3,000 signatures, he said. But not all of those people were registered to vote in Port Arthur.

Right now, “The Breeze” (KSAP 96.9 LPFM) operates out of a slender shelter that spans about 900 square feet on 5th Street. It is across the road from the Moody Harris Funeral Home.

Trouble started for “The Breeze” in 2008 when the city evicted the radio station from City Hall. After that, the station went off the air for more than 10 months before it found another location.

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum