Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on the concerns, initiatives, responsibilities and resolutions discussed by Go Forward Pine Bluff.

Since the beginning of its existence in 2017, Go Forward Pine Bluff has been the talk of the town, some good and some bad.

Pine Bluff voters in June 2017 approved the five-eighths percent sales tax that drives much of what Go Forward Pine Bluff does. As reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, according to an unofficial ballot count, vote totals were 3,831 for and 1,708 against.

The tax is expected to generate $32 million over its life span of seven years. The business community also pledged an additional $8 million.

The new sales tax took Pine Bluff’s rate to 10%, the highest city tax in Arkansas. The sales tax is estimated to cost Pine Bluff households about $15 a month.

Go Forward Pine Bluff CEO Ryan Watley said the tax, from its inception, was meant to be in place for a minimum of 14 years, but he added that residents would make the ultimate decision.

“It’s our job to continue making sure there is undeniable progress,” he said. “As long as the majority of the citizens’ opinions align with the work that has been done, we will seek another seven years.”

In a May 2017 interview with Arkansas Times magazine, Watley was quoted as saying the group would also apply for $13 million in donations and grants.

In 2019, Watley told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the economic plan for the organization is dependent…

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