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>

If you’re wondering how the state of Arizona is spending your money, you can now go online and find out. Thanks to a new law that required the state to build a transparency website, openbooks.az.gov came online last week, and offers a treasure trove of information.

After months of secret negotiations, the city finally released a $197 million proposal in December 2010 to pay the Phoenix Coyotes to keep playing at the city-owned hockey arena. A few days later, the Glendale City Council voted 5-2 to approve the deal. Or did it?

The City of Glendale, Ariz. is planning to borrow $100 million so it can send a check for that amount to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer to help him buy the Phoenix Coyotes. That type of transaction is exactly what the Gift Clause of the Arizona Constitution was designed to prevent: furnishing public debt or providing public funds to a private individual or corporation for personal gain.

The Town of Quartzsite, Ariz., recently used unlawful restrictions to limit the choices of voters in a town council recall election. Quartzsite Ordinance 09-15 prohibits otherwise qualified candidates from running for council if they owe the town money. This might sound like a good idea – who would oppose a ban on debtors running their town? But in reality, this ordinance has been used to insulate the seats of current council members and prevent potential opponents from running for office.

It’s a familiar story: a sports team convinces a city to issue millions in bonds, with promises that parking revenues will be sufficient to pay back the debt. Parking prices increase, while the lots fill to only 60 percent capacity even on game day.

Trust but verify. That's how Ronald Reagan described his philosophy of dealing with the Soviet Union on nuclear arms reductions. It should also be our philosophy when it comes to how government spends our money.

As taxpayers we are required to send our money to various levels of government through a plethora of taxes and we are asked to trust that the money is spent wisely and in our common interest.

As Ronald Reagan famously noted, Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States. Why is it, then, that every year we see more proposed government regulations that make it harder for small businesses to open and operate?

Weirdness seems to be taking over the minds of normally sane people when candidates including Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney claim to believe that agricultural subsidies are necessary for food security. Are markets so wildly inefficient that unless government pays the farmers, they will quit producing food and well all go hungry?

Did the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office recent use of Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) funds to send staff members to Honduras violate the law-enforcement purposes to which such funds are limited?

Did the sheriffs highly publicized saturation patrolscomprised of nearly 200 deputies and posse memberstrespass the jurisdiction of the Phoenix Police Department? The feud between the Sheriffs Office and local police departments, bereft of coordination or agreement over priorities, threatens to devolve into law enforcement anarchy.

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