SIERRA VISTA -- When the city of Phoenix decided to give nearly $100 million subsidy to a Chicago-based mall developer, it wasn't just inappropriate, it was unconstitutional, said Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Goldwater Institute.
Bolick and other officials from the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix visited Sierra Vista on Wednesday to share their current work and hear about local concerns at the Windemere Hotel and Conference Center.
Barry Goldwater Jr., a member of the Goldwater Institute Board, introduced the mission held by the 20 year-old institute. The nonprofit, nonpartisan, research organization supports the principles held by its namesake, former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, of limited constitutional government, individual rights and economic freedom.
Most Arizonans don't know who their local representatives are, from members of their school board to the planning and zoning board, and that's one reason the institute serves as a government watchdog, said Darcy Olsen, the institutes president and CEO.
While the Goldwater Institutes research is often at the request of elected officials and individuals, its research on education of children in foster care resulted in the passage of school vouchers for children in foster care systems, disabled children and other students in Arizona, she said.
Transportation, family rights and the costs of college have been the subjects of their recent policy reports.
Some local concerns about water rights and school spending also were mentioned at the event.
Olsen said those are issues the institute plans to address.
In the past year, the institute opened the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation to defend constitutional rights.
The Arizona Constitution prohibits earmarks, government monopolies and government borrowing more than $350,000 but those limitations aren't never heard of today, Bolick said.
Unless they're tested in court, its as if they don't exist, he said.
The institutes first case to allow charter schools choice in their curriculums was settled out of court with the Arizona Department of Education.
The organizations current cases involve cultural impact fees for developers in Mesa and the right of one business owner to open a tattoo studio in Tempe.
They are also appealing a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling on a corporate subsidy for the development of CityNorth, a shopping center in North Phoenix. Such subsidies are unconstitutional and unfair to other businesses, Bolick said. All business should be on an even level with favorable regulatory climate and lower taxes, he said.