Scottsdale recently wisely rejected a quarter-million dollars in stimulus money. That may sound like a bad idea at first blush; why not take money if it's free? But city officials understand that stimulus spending is not free and threatens to replace local priorities with policies dictated by Washington.
Federal grants have strings attached. In this case, the money would not flow unless Scottsdale purchased a mobile police surveillance tower. Not only was there no need for the tower; purchasing it would have locked-in future city spending to maintain it.
Accepting stimulus money threatens dependency on future federal grants and obligates the city to accept the strings attached to them. This is a cycle that responsible local government officials must break.
Scottsdale has well served its citizens, but too many cities lack its foresight. When confronted with the lure of easy federal money, most cities succumb to financial pressures.
That's why the Goldwater Institute recently published A New Charter for American Cities: 10 Rights to Restrain Government and Protect Freedom. It urges citizens to use the local initiative process to prohibit cities, counties and towns from accepting federal grants and Washington's agenda that comes attached.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute's Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.
Goldwater Institute: A New Charter for American Cities: 10 Rights to Restrain Government and Protect Freedom
Goldwater Institute: Arizona's Struggle for Sovereignty: The Consequences of Federal Mandates
Arizona Republic: Scottsdale turns down stimulus funds