Cities throughout the valley are considering ordinances that will require fire sprinklers in new residential homes. It's no surprise that the leading proponents of such mandates are fire-sprinkler business owners.
As a recent Goldwater Institute report pointed out, vested business interests often use government regulations to impose dubious safety regulations that are more about enriching themselves than protecting the public. Accordingly, any requirements that infringe on private property rights should be closely scrutinized.
Besides, if this proposal is really about saving lives, why limit it to new homes? What about requiring fire-proof building materials or even fire-proof furniture? But for many first-time home buyers, the additional costs of fire sprinklers and other government-imposed regulations may prevent them from purchasing their own home.
Once we accept the premise that the government can do whatever it wants to protect people from themselves, where will it end? Prohibiting candles and gas stoves? Prohibiting residential swimming pools? Before imposing costly regulations that infringe on private property rights, other options should be considered. In this case, fire prevention education or smoke alarms may be viable alternatives.
Would consolidating the Kyrene Elementary, Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union High School districts improve graduation rates?
Not likely, according to the latest research from the Manhattan Institute. In fact, study authors found that "decreasing the size of school districts has a substantial and statistically significant positive effect on graduation rates. Conversely, consolidation of school districts into larger units leads to more students dropping out of high school." Specifically, reducing "the average size of a state's school districts by 200 square miles leads to an increase of about 1.7 percentage points in its graduation rate." The average Arizona school district is 277 square miles, exceeding the national median by 17 square miles.
Manhattan Institute scholars note that when it comes to combating high dropout rates,"spending more money per pupil has no distinguishable relationship with changes in graduation rates ... getting more students into caps and gowns requires real reforms to the educational system."
With gas prices inching ever northward and warm summer air hinting at the busy forthcoming driving season, what's a motorist to do?
First, it would be useful to realize that our record-high gas prices are really not at record highs. However much anger we may feel at the gas pump, when we account for inflation, gas prices are not nearly as high as they were for an extended period during the late 1970s. However many dollars we shell out, a dollar now is not worth as much as it was in the past, and thus we pay relatively less now in real terms.
Second, for the Phoenix area anyway, a federally required summer blend, which costs more to produce, will bring our mid-year averages generally higher than the rest of the nation. Fortunately, Governor Napolitano has acknowledged this and has taken on the commendable task of getting the feds to lift that restriction, if only for this year. It's not clear how this will affect prices, since oil is bought and sold in a global market that accounts for information far into the future - changes for this summer may be too late to change the future contracts many oil companies have already procured.
But the spirit is correct. As Mark Brnovich pointed out in an opinion piece last year, this is one of three steps policymakers can take to relieve gas prices. Moreover, removing regulatory burdens will do more for consumers than adding them, as attorney general Terry Goddard promised to do when he swore to take on price gougers.
The Arizona Appeals Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case involving Winchell's Donut franchisee Edward Salib. Mesa officials have repeatedly cited Mr. Salib for violating the city's sign ordinance. His crime involves hanging professionally produced posters in his storefront windows. With the help of the Institute for Justice, he filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
The Mesa ordinance prohibits businesses from covering more than 30 percent of any window area. Officials claim it is designed to promote public safety and protect neighborhood aesthetics. The problem with the rationale is that the ordinance allows windows to be completely covered with blinds or shades and windows can be completely darkened to not allow anyone to see in or out of an establishment.
The sign ordinance is a dangerous restriction on Mr. Salib's right to free speech. Both the Arizona and U.S. Constitutions protect his right to advertise his products in a truthful and professional manner. His shop is located on the corner of Main and Country Club drive - the same intersection where the Institute for Justice fought Mesa's attempt to seize Randy Bailey's brake shop. That case illustrated that an individual can fight city hall. Let's hope Mr. Salib is successful and Mesa officials finally get the message: leave small businesses alone.
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