By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
Benton is one of America’s “10 Best Cities for Conservatives” because of its conservative voting record, its lifestyle habits and because its House member is Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark.,, according to the website Livability.com.
The website recently listed the 10 best cities for liberals, conservatives and centrists. Benton was the only Arkansas city to make any of the lists.
The website says it used city, county and congressional district data. It also considered election records, a city’s congressional representative’s leanings, and political self-reporting by residents. It also looked at how shopping habits relate to political affiliation.
For Benton, the website noted that Saline County has voted Republican in presidential elections since supporting President Clinton in 1996. Mitt Romney won 70 percent of the vote in 2012. It said Griffin “is a Republican who leans far to the right on most social and financial issues.”
The site said the city’s residents are likely to drive a Buick, read “Good Housekeeping,” watch “The Bachelorette,” shop at Sam’s Club, and dine at Chic-fil-A – which is ironic because the closet Chic-fil-A is in the city’s neighbor and high school football rival, Bryant.
While Benton may be conservative, it’s shown itself to be willing to tax itself for various community projects in recent years. Mayor David Mattingly said that when he came into office in 2010, Benton’s 1.5 percent sales tax was the lowest of the state’s 50 largest communities. In November 2011, voters approved a bond issue financed by the city’s 1.5 percent advertising and promotion tax to build the Benton Event Center. In its first 13 months, the center has attracted 71,000 visitors, Mattingly said.
Then last November, Benton voters agreed by wide margins to continue the city’s 1.5 percent sales tax while adding a half-cent sales tax to pay for public safety improvements and another half cent to build the Riverside Park community center.
“I have spoken with and built consensus on a whole series of subjects with Republicans, Democrats and Tea Party people in the room together and individually, and my approach has always been, if you give someone a place at the table, even though you might not agree, they can’t say you never, ever gave them a place at the table,” Mattingly said.
Seven of the top 10 conservative cities were in SEC country, with the other three in Texas, Oklahoma and Utah. Alabaster, Ala., topped the list. None were big cities.
The best cities for liberals were more familiar. Berkeley, Calif., was number one, while Boulder, Colo., was number four. Spokane Valley, Wash., was the best city for centrists.
Here’s a link to the site.