Phoenicians appreciate shade, which is why the Arizona Republic editorial "A Place in the Shade" got me thinking: If so many of us love shade, why is there a shortage?
It turns out planting a tree in Phoenix isn't as easy as it sounds. With 62 zoned districts and 11 commissions overseeing them, anyone who wants to plant a tree faces a jungle of overlapping codes and bureaucracies. Take a look here: Phoenix Laws and Regulations
Trying to understand the law, let alone comply with it, is a herculean task. Chapter 7, Section 703 of the City of Phoenix Zoning Ordinances might apply for some, but not if you're in a historic district or landscaping a hillside. If your home is on a corner lot, there's a whole special section of code just for you. Other codes make it illegal to plant or sell male mulberry or olive trees. And then there are water restrictions and environmental performance standards scattered throughout still more codes.
Some rules are legitimate: Trees shouldn't obscure road signs, for instance. But there is no legitimate reason for such a complicated, indecipherable system. Before heeding the Republic's call for an all-out campaign for shade, Phoenix should weed out arbitrary regulations and produce straightforward guidelines that regular citizens can understand.
When planting a tree is as easy as, well...planting a tree, we might just get a few more of them in the Valley of the Sun.
Property rights proponents are united in their opposition to Tempe's abuse of eminent domain to take private property so a developer can build an enormous retail shopping mall.
In a move that may obfuscate the issues involved in the project, the developer shrewdly hired Tom Liddy as a spokesman, capitalizing on his former affiliation as an Institute for Justice attorney and his marginal role in the Bailey Brake Shop case.
Despite trumpeting his former affiliation in a recent East Valley Tribune op-ed defending the developer, Liddy neither argued in court on behalf of Randy Bailey nor authored any substantive legal briefs in the case. As his consistent mischaracterization of the constitutional standard reveals, Liddy is not an eminent domain lawyer.
Liddy argues that Tempe's project will "benefit" the public because the developer will engage in geotechnical remediation of the land. But such remediation is only necessary to build the shopping mall and not to protect the health or safety of the existing property owners. The constitutional issue is whether the project is a valid "public use." Maricopa County Superior Court judge Kenneth Fields found that the driving force behind this project is private profit. The trial court thus properly ruled that Tempe's project violates the Arizona Constitution's declaration that "private property shall not be taken for private use," a ruling that will be upheld on appeal.
Tim Keller is executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter and an advisor to the Goldwater Institute.
-Liddy: "Ruling Not the Last Word"
-Keller: "The Marketplace Case"
-Institute for Justice: "Tempe Property Owners Score Victory over Eminent Domain Abuse"
-Study: Condemning Condemnation: Alternatives to Eminent Domain
America's higher education system is the best in the world, according to a just-published international survey by the Economist magazine. Of the world's top 20 universities, 17 are in the United States.
The secret to success in the American system is that "there is no system." Instead, there are thousands of universities competing for students and funding, producing an abundance of programs suited to students of any age, interest, and skill level.
According to the survey, "The bargain with the state has turned out to be a pact with the devil" for many European universities. That's because government-funded universities also tend to be government-managed, with the state dictating every aspect of academic life, from whom universities can employ, to what they can teach to whom and for how much. Such centralization crowds out the hallmarks of the U.S. system: competition and innovation.
Consider the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. It is the 19th best university worldwide. As a forthcoming Goldwater Institute report shows, it has achieved that world-class status largely without state subsidies. Less than 10 percent of the University of Michigan's general budget is state subsidized.
As Arizona policymakers consider various reforms to the state's higher education system, they will be well-served to remember that competition is the key to success.
Ordinary citizens can have a difficult time making sense of the political process. The legislature particularly can seem arcane and dense with detail. Voters frequently become apathetic when faced with unraveling a mountain of confusing, competing claims.
But the new Goldwater Institute Legislative Report Card provides a valid yardstick by which to rate legislative performance. The report card scores each legislator's votes on 354 bills to determine whether they "advance the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and the rule of law." Each legislator is then given an overall score and composite scores in four categories: Education, Constitutional Government, Regulation, and Tax and Budget.
The strength of the Legislative Report Card is its emphasis on specific actions rather than on rhetoric. A legislator who claims to be anti-regulation when speaking to business groups, yet finds in every regulatory bill yet another exception to the professed basic principle, deserves to be held accountable.
And now, the envelope please.
Top scorers were Rep. Russell Pearce (R-18), with an A, and Sen. Ron Gould (R-3), with an A-. Fifteen other legislators earned scores in the A range, and 20 legislators earned failing grades.
The Legislative Report Card is what it is-an impersonal assessment of voting records based on the principles of freedom and limited government. For those who don't share these values, the Report Card "reads as well upside down," as one detractor pointed out. Arizonans of all persuasions have a valuable tool to cut through the fog and make sense of the frenzy of activity in the Arizona Legislature.
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