City & Local Reform
It turns out that you can fight town hall. Here’s how we’re standing up for local citizens and winning.
The Arizona Governor’s office is up for grabs and lots of people seem to want it. As someone who enjoys suing politicians but doesn’t aspire to be one, I offer the following platform for candidates to confront the challenges and opportunities facing our state—namely, the three E’s:
On Sept. 11, 2007, Phoenix voters were asked to approve an 11 percent increase on the general sales tax that, it was promised, would result in 500 more police and firefighters. On Tuesday, the Phoenix City Council voted to impose a five-year, 2-cent sales tax on food purchased from grocery stores – to save the jobs of 500 police and firefighters. Media reports say Phoenix officials intend to use the food tax revenues to stop staffing cuts announced in January for the police and fire departments.
On March 9, Scottsdale and Tempe voters will decide whether to approve a two percentage point increase in their cities’ tax on hotel room rentals. In both cities, hotel associations seem united in support of the measures. The Surprise city council already approved its own bed tax increase earlier this month. It, too, was supported by the city’s hotel association.
Adapt and overcome. This is part of a Marine Corps mantra born of a resource scarcity the service suffered when its equipment consisted mostly of hand-me-downs from the Army. This is exactly the kind of can-do spirit that we need from government officials today.
The Arizona economy has lost more than 300,000 jobs. Tax revenues have plummeted at every level. We cannot afford to continue funding government at its former levels. Unfortunately, officials with the City of Phoenix have demonstrated an unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances.
Last week, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1398, which mandates that local governments enforce their “coordination rights” against federal agencies. This new law enlists Arizona cities, counties and special districts in the fight against an overreaching federal government.
What’s the big secret in Sandy Springs, Georgia? This town of 83,000 furnishes Cadillac-level services on a budget of $1,996 per person. Sandy Springs provides its residents deluxe amenities like a rapid-response center for citizen complaints about city services, live Internet viewing of photos taken by traffic enforcement cameras, and a tennis complex that features 24 lighted courts.
A recent Arizona Republic series revealed how some government employees are abusing Arizona’s pension systems by artificially boosting their salaries to collect a bigger pension, or by “double-dipping” – working while collecting retirement. That has strained Arizona’s pension funds. Unfortunately, even eliminating these abuses would still leave Arizona’s pension systems deeply in the red by more than $50 billion.