A new Verizon commercial shows little Susie working her lemonade stand when her father hands her a smart phone with a calculator in it. Susie’s eyes light up. She immediately uses the technology to network friends into a lemonade empire, complete with an office building behind her house.
That is American exceptionalism. With little burden from government, anyone with a good idea, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to serve others in a competitive environment has a chance to succeed.
But not so much in Phoenix or Mesa.
Goldwater intern Megan Teague made some phone calls. In Phoenix, you can’t do business without some sort of permit, and since there is no permit befitting a kid’s lemonade stand, it’s technically illegal to operate one. In Mesa, zoning prevents doing business in a residential area, so lemonade stands are also illegal there. In both cities, kids run stands occasionally, but if a neighbor or street vendor complains, the cities will shut them down. Scottsdale allows some liberty, treating lemonade stands like garage sales.
Phoenix is streamlining its construction permitting, an excellent move in the right direction, but Susie’s empire would nevertheless be still-born here. Permitting is not just a paperwork efficiency issue. Permitting itself can limit opportunity. While the economy recovers and permitting offices are slow, cities should scour their codes and ordinances for regulations and eliminate those that stop entrepreneurs before they can even get started.
Dr. Byron Schlomach is the director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity.
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