Unless you're Oscar the Grouch, most people agree garbage is, well garbage, and they want it removed as soon as possible. Cities usually charge either a flat rate or use property taxes to pay for trash collection. But this is a one-size-fits-all method of billing. Why should an elderly woman living alone and generating far less trash pay the same for trash collection as an apartment full of college students?
Thankfully, the market has a ready-made solution: prices. Gilbert will become the third Arizona community to offer a "pay-as-you-throw" program. Households producing less trash can now opt for a 65-gallon can to replace the previously standard 90-plus-gallon can and save a dollar on their monthly fee. It's a start.
Introducing variable pricing allows people to choose the best option for their needs, a determination only they can make. In this way, it avoids the over-use problem of single-rate schemes. If there is only one price for trash collection, the incentive is to throw away as much as possible. Recent studies estimate introducing a price mechanism reduces garbage collected by over 16 percent annually. It also encourages recycling, reuse, and reduction.
The next improvement to Gilbert's plan would be to privatize trash collection, freeing the city of administering this service altogether. It makes economic sense to pay more to throw away more. Gilbert has taken a good first step.
- Arizona Republic: "Small bin, small bill for trash"
-Reason Public Policy Institute: "Variable-Rate or 'Pay-as-you-throw' Waste Management"
-Property and Environment Research Center: "Trash: Pay-as-you-throw"
Roughly 350 Tombstone students have been waiting more than a year to move from their historic, but crowded, 83-year-old high school into their new school. The new Tombstone High School remains closed indefinitely because, as school superintendent J. Ronald Hennings admits, "We just can't get kids to it."
Even after spending $7 million, and going $600,000 over budget, Tombstone school and district officials still need one more thing: a new road that leads to the school. And, of course, lots more money to build it.
As it is, Arizona taxpayers have spent the equivalent of $20,000 per Tombstone High School student for an empty building.
If school facilities and related construction projects continue to be funded this way, Tombstone High School students won't be the only ones on a road to nowhere.
Enrollment in the state's public schools will exceed one million students in just four years. According to the Arizona Department of Education, average capital and debt service funding now exceeds $2,000 per student, ranking the state among the highest in the country.
A sensible solution is to make full use of existing capacity. There are an estimated 26,000 available seats in Arizona private schools right now. Average tuition is $4,600-roads included.
- Arizona Republic: "No students attend Tombstone school"
-Goldwater Institute: "Survey of Arizona Private Schools: Tuition, Testing and Curricula"
-National Center for Education Statistics: Projections of Education Statistics to 2014
-Arizona Department of Education: State Totals in Superintendent's Annual Financial Report Fiscal Year 2003-2004
Can restrictions on freedom of speech be lifted? Two cases just added to the U.S. Supreme Court docket may signal the start.
The outcome in either of the two cases could affect Arizona's Clean Elections Act.
The first case, Randall v. Sorrell, concerns a Vermont law that set an extremely low limit on how much money citizens could contribute to candidates and limited the amount of money candidates could spend on their campaigns.
The second case, Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, is a challenge to the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act. In this case, the Act prohibited a non-profit group from running certain advertisements shortly before federal elections. The Court will decide whether such restrictions on non-profit, grassroots groups are constitutional.
Either case before the Court could renew support for constitutional challenges to Arizona's Clean Elections Act, which also restricts speech by deterring private citizens and independent groups from spending money on speech regarding publicly financed candidates lest it be automatically matched by the state. If the Vermont challenge succeeds, the Court will have reaffirmed the importance of money in expressing political views, and declared that expenditure limits are invalid under the Constitution. If the Wisconsin challenge succeeds, the constitutional strength of independent grassroots speech will be improved.
A victory in either case would be a significant step toward restoring the fundamental importance of allowing unfettered political speech, and could signal the beginning of the end for Arizona's Clean Elections program.
- Arizona Republic: "Court takes up vote funding"
-James Madison Center for Free Speech: Randall v. Sorrell
-James Madison Center for Free Speech: Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC
-Goldwater Institute: Is Cleanliness Political Godliness?
The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) related an insightful anecdote in his book Miles to Go. Senator Moynihan asked Laura D'Andrea Tyson of the Clinton administration for two supportive studies to justify the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on a favored program. Moynihan received two studies the following day, but after reading them, noted that both studies actually concluded similar programs had failed to produce any type of measurable results. In response, Moynihan sent the following letter to Tyson:
I write you at such length for what I believe to be an important purpose. In the last six months I have been repeatedly impressed by the numbers of members of the Clinton administration who have assured me with great vigor that something or other is known in an area of social policy which, to the best of my understanding, is not known at all. This seems to me perilous. It is quite possible to live with uncertainty, with the possibility, even the likelihood that one is wrong. But beware of certainty where none exists. Ideological certainty easily degenerates into an insistence upon ignorance.
The great strength of the political conservatives at this time (and for a generation) is that they are open to the thought that matters are complex. Liberals have got into a reflexive pattern of denying this. I had hoped twelve years in the wilderness might have changed this; it may be it has only reinforced it. If this is so, current revival of liberalism will be brief and inconsequential.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Arizona politics is not immune to such ideological certainty. Jon Talton of the Arizona Republic, for example, used his Sunday column to describe the school choice corporate scholarship tax credit that passed the Arizona legislature with bipartisan support as "right-wing utopianism."
Having actually read the school choice literature, I will pose the Moynihan challenge. If within the week Mr. Talton can provide two control-group studies of the attitudes of parents who have actually used one of the private school choice programs showing something less than substantial improvement in satisfaction with their child's school, I will happily buy him a steak dinner at a downtown restaurant of his choice. I can produce a large number of studies that demonstrate the opposite, but two will do the trick for Mr. Talton.
Alternatively, I invite Mr. Talton to produce two control-group studies of any of the nation's school choice programs that show students learn significantly less after exercising choice. Again, I can produce a large number of studies from scholars at Harvard, Stanford, and Georgetown concluding that students learn significantly more in school choice programs, but a mere two studies showing the opposite will win the bet for Mr. Talton.
Mr. Talton has the opportunity to eat steak while making me eat crow. I look forward to a response.
Recent Facebook Activity
Communities Putting Prevention to Work, or Communities Participating in Pork Wars?
Uncle Sam thinks he knows what’s right for your health, and he’s using your hard-earned money to teach you that lesson. Two years ago, the Goldwater Institute reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave Pima County, Arizona nearly $16 million through its Communities Putting Prevention to Work program to reduce obesity and promote healthy lifestyles. Our friends at Cause of Action, a watchdog organization that reports on government waste, have released a report detailing how Pima and other counties have been spending your tax money.Read More >>
Cheaters Revenge Meets the New World Order
What does poisoning a goldfish to get revenge on a cheating spouse have to do with the President’s power to make treaties? The constitutionally correct answer is: Nothing at all. Unfortunately, that’s not how the Obama Administration sees it. The Administration is claiming power to get into a domestic dispute under the authority of a chemical weapons treaty. And it is aggressively advancing the proposition that Congress’s power is essentially unlimited when based on the treaty power.Read More >>
In the Economic Horserace, Government is a Terrible Gambler
Recently the very fashionable turned out to bet on their favorites in the Kentucky Derby. But betting on horseraces – economic horseraces – has been all the rage in legislatures across the country for decades. Unfortunately, legislators are more like problem gamblers than successful high-dollar poker stars.Read More >>