Government Accountability

Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.

<p>Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.</p>

What could Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and City Council members have been thinking when they authorized a $100 million tax subsidy for CityNorth, a private development planned for northeast Phoenix?

We may never know, but businesses planning to expand or relocate have become expert at conning government officials into thinking they wont come but for government incentives. The take nationally comes to $50 billion yearly, according to Alan Peters and Peter Fisher of the University of Iowa.

If you wonder when looking at a restaurant menu whether the bacon cheeseburger or the garden salad would be more heart healthy, help from the government may be on the way.

A bill has been introduced in the legislature requiring chain restaurants to list levels of calories, trans fats and sodium for all items on their menus. The theory is that with burgeoning rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the government should mandate that restaurants supply info on what's bad for us.

The British Pop band Naked Eyes was ahead of its time. Its 1983 hit song "Promises, Promises" sums up the Governor's health insurance proposal:

You made me promises, promises
Knowing I'd believe
Promises, promises
You knew you'd never keep.

Governor Napolitano wants to enroll an additional 100,000 children in the states Medicaid program. No one begrudges children accessing health care, but there are better plans in the private sector.

The Oscars are still a month away, so here are a few awards to tide you over. Drum roll, please.­ The winners of the Golden Turkey Award for taxpayer-funded lobbying are the Department of Transportation, Maricopa County, and the City of Tucson.­ In Arizona, these three government bodies are the top-spenders of tax dollars on lobbyists.­ And while they may be winners of the Golden Turkey Award, the losers are Arizona taxpayers.­

One million dollars. That's what the City of Phoenix spends each year just to remove non-recyclables from its recycling barrels. One reason is, as with many government programs, it isn't always simple for consumers to figure out how to play by the book.

Phoenix gladly accepts pop and milk bottles, egg cartons, and foam meat trays. But shampoo bottles, margarine containers, and many plastic plates aren't allowed. In other words, plastics 1, 2, and 6 are in, while plastics 3, 4, and 5 are out. Who knew?

On December 5, 2006, the City of New York banned the use of trans-fats in restaurants. Ironically, many of the experts proclaiming the dangers of trans-fats were the ones who urged us to embrace them as heart-healthy in the 1980's.

This time of the year, its tradition to deck the halls with boughs of holly. But Maricopa County courts have decked the halls another way with stacks upon stacks of files. Taking a welcome step into the digital age, Maricopa County's judiciary is about to embrace the old adage that less is more. Take court files for example.

Arizonans decided 19 ballot propositions this election, the most of any state. That's a lot of direct democracy. Maybe its time to ask how well its working.

Our states founders wanted the people to have direct access to the ballot. They saw it as a fundamental protection against unresponsive government. But if this process provides an occasionally needed corrective, its not the best way to make law.

Sometimes clichés fit.  Take the recent shenanigans at the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for example.  The court decided to put Arizona's voter ID law on hold.  We can't be sure of the court's reasoning, but the plaintiffs spent a lot of time explaining how grueling it is to secure photo identification. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.

This past session, the legislature created or continued more than 25 agencies, regulating everything from private postsecondary education to adult foster care homes. But well-intentioned regulations often make things worse, not better, for consumers. 

Complying with extensive regulation means businesses operate at higher costs, which can translate into higher prices for consumers and fewer jobs for workers.