City & Local Reform
It turns out that you can fight town hall. Here’s how we’re standing up for local citizens and winning.
Mayors from around the state rallied recently at the Capitol to protest the Legislature's proposed 10 percent income tax cut. The cities get 15 percent of all state income tax revenues and so the resultant "cut" in revenue to the cities would be disastrous, they claimed.
According to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, they could no longer ensure the safety of residents without all the expected state-shared revenues. Police and fire departments would have to take major cuts if the cities weren't "held harmless" from the consequences of the income tax cut.
With Phoenix's prodigious growth come concerns as well as opportunities. Prominent among observers of the region's path of development is the attitude that this growth has come at the expense of quality of life and a superior alternative course.
Phoenix may lack many of the desired accoutrements of historic great cities - grand boulevards, a plethora of inspiring architecture, seething bohemian districts - but it does possess one of the most critical assets of all, a growing middle class.
It is here that Phoenix, not the much ballyhooed "cool" cities like Portland, Seattle or San Francisco, shines as an urban beacon.
There's no doubt much to love about living in the Valley and in a state like Arizona. But an ongoing assault on that attitude has been taking place for some time on our airwaves and editorial pages, prompting me to suppose otherwise.
Is Arizona in fact an inherently backwards-looking place, where the policies of the last decade have withered what little chance we have at a thriving economy? Considering the intelligentsia's penchant for spurning everything we have to offer, maybe those of us who enjoy it here have it all wrong, merely living in a fool's paradise.
Phoenix, AZ-In a policy paper released today, Goldwater Institute economist Robert Franciosi concludes that Arizona's rapid growth over the past decade has had largely positive effects on the state's economy. His findings contradict the views of many industrial policy advocates, who have expressed concern over the state's growth pattern and proposed what Franciosi calls "a sweeping agenda for activist government."
In 1989, public transit advocates argued that Valtrans was the only system that could prevent the Valley of the Sun from turning into a traffic-choked, smog-shrouded "Carmageddon."
Put together after two years, 200 public meetings, and the expenditure of $7 million, Valtrans was an ambitious plan. A 30-year, half-cent increase in the sales tax would raise $8.4 billion to pay for 103 miles of rail transit, 1,500 new buses, a commuter rail line between Chandler and Phoenix, more freeways, and various other projects.
Residents and public officials in urban areas around the world are concerned about traffic congestion and air pollution. Of the two problems, traffic congestion is the more intractable, because improved vehicle technologies are already having a dramatic effect on improving air quality.
The National Park Service (NPS) has spent years designing and redesigning transportation plans for Grand Canyon National Park. The current state of these plans calls for a light rail system to be used to shuttle visitors into and out of the park. The stated goal of the transit system is "to provide more convenient access to the park than is now experienced." The premise is that the quality of the visitors' experience is currently being degraded not only by increasing congestion, but by the mere presence of the internal combustion engine.
Steve McQueen, the actor, once said that he would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth. This is a typically American attitude toward cities. This distaste of the city environment, the cramped spaces, the crowds, the pollution and the noise goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson who dreamt of a nation founded on yeomen farmers. Although there aren't many farmers today, the dream lives on in many families who wish to live in their own, single, detached home.
Over the past twenty years, governments all over the world have transferred the responsibility for providing services out of their hands and into the private sector. One of the pioneers in this movement has been the city of Phoenix, Arizona. However, instead of dismantling the public agency providing the service and hiring a private contractor, the city allows the public agency to bid for the contract as well. Phoenix estimates the competitive process has saved it over $30 million since 1979.