City & Local Reform
It turns out that you can fight town hall. Here’s how we’re standing up for local citizens and winning.
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.
The City of Scottsdale wants to pass a new zoning law that prohibits check-cashing stores from being located near each other or near "sensitive uses." But this is not just a minor zoning issue. It is most fundamentally a deprivation of property rights-and an illustration of why the fight for property rights in Arizona did not end with the passage of Proposition 207 in 2006.
In 2005, Maricopa County spun-off its hospital system to a newly-created special health care district. With the stroke of an accountant's pen, the county shifted what was then $400 million in annual spending off its books and onto those of the new special district. Maricopa County quickly took advantage of that new-found money with hundreds of millions in fresh spending. Meanwhile, the County's newborn special district toddled along, levying more than $40 million in new property taxes and spending more than $400 million in its first fiscal year.
In economically troubling times when governments are faced with crushing budget deficits and massive layoffs, you can count on Phoenix and other cities to get their priorities right. Which means that one vital service that surely is not on the list of cuts is government-owned golf courses.
In the face of a plummeting economy, huge budget deficits, and massive layoffs, the City of Mesa has decided to give more than $80 million in subsidies to two developers to build a luxury hotel, resort, and convention center at the Mesa Proving Grounds.
Like most Arizona cities, Phoenix is in desperate financial shape, faced with severe cuts in essential public services. But somehow it found the money to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a private law firm to appeal the CityNorth decision to the Arizona Supreme Court--which, if it "wins," will cost the taxpayers $97.4 million in subsidies to the developer. No wonder the City is in such a financial mess.