City & Local Reform

It turns out that you can fight town hall. Here’s how we’re standing up for local citizens and winning.

<p>It turns out that you can fight town hall. Here’s how we’re standing up for local citizens and winning. </p>

In the game Monopoly,  players buy properties and trade with each other to build their empires.  Imagine if the Monopoly City Hall arbitrarily decided that your “St. Charles Place” should be razed to make way for “Park Place II”?  That’s the type of gamesmanship common in eminent domain cases. 

City of Phoenix officials are cheering on Phoenix’s bond election, hoping to push it to electoral success. Mayor Phil Gordon calls the March 14 election “the day we boldly define our future.” Bold indeed.  Boldly irresponsible.

Bonding always costs more than advertised. Phoenix wants to issue $878 million worth of bonds’"a.k.a. go into debt’"to fund various projects. But according to city estimates, residents will have to pay an additional $1 billion in interest alone, putting the real cost of the package at $1.8 billion.    

"Sprawl" is a dirty word in Phoenix these days. According to one Arizona Republic columnist, "Limiting sprawl and turning development back into our cities would go far to addressing a host of ills, including balkanization and destructive competition."

Who knew a garden could be so controversial? In Gilbert, citizens are complaining about Daniel Lee Thompson's organic garden. Thompson is proud of his garden because he maintains it without pesticides, but his neighbors aren't so enthusiastic.

The garden, which includes large lettuce, cornstalks, and turnip greens, is in his front yard. Neighbors have complained that it's an eyesore and smells badly. 

In the children's book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, children witness a series of increasingly bizarre events, including seeing a flock of sheep walk by in their sleep. Those who have repeatedly read the book to children will remember the line "By the light of the moon, by the light of a star, they walked all night from near to far."

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?

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

On July 13, blogger Greg Patterson remarked that Arizona Republic business page columnist Jon Talton's articles have a running theme: "Phoenix is a wasteland without true leadership, light rail or biotech, but Denver and San Diego are totally cool because there are plenty of grunge opportunities for the creative people and by the way, don't go to Wal-Mart because your job will be shipped to China."

As if on cue, Talton wrote the following compare and contrast on San Diego and Phoenix July 21:

Why are so many choosing the suburbs?

High property taxes in Phoenix may be one answer. Phoenix residents bear the highest property tax rates of any city in Maricopa County-five percent higher than the next highest, Glendale, and exactly twice the rate in Surprise. It shouldn't be a surprise that people choose to buy homes where it costs less.

Despite its already high property taxes, Phoenix is asking for more. An upcoming spring vote would let the city issue bonds worth $750 million. The bonds will be repaid with future property taxes.

Mesa spends $2.5 million to run two city-owned golf courses. At the same time, city employees are being asked to forgo cost-of-living adjustments for the next two years to help stave off a looming budget deficit. While glittering greens may look great in brochures and nicely complement the other 19 golf courses in Mesa, a round on the municipal back nine is cold comfort to employees facing de facto pay cuts.