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>

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.

Avondale is the latest municipality to consider acquiring art by plunder rather than purchase. A proposed ordinance, modeled after laws in other Arizona cities, would require developers to pay one percent of the project construction costs, up to $100,000, into a public art fund. Alternatively, the developer can contribute art of commensurate value.

Art is great. That's why millions of Americans contribute voluntarily to art museums.

The City of Phoenix decided a vibrant arts district would be a nifty idea to revitalize its downtown core. Too often, cities are tempted to achieve such a goal by taxpayer subsidies, eminent domain, tax hikes, or draconian zoning requirements. Instead, Phoenix decided to try a different approach --deregulation.

How do you close a $35 million budget gap? Perhaps the better question is why that hole was dug in the first place. One answer for the City of Glendale is hockey. In fiscal year 2012, the city added $20 million (up from only $1.2 million the year before) to its operating budget for the Arena, where the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team plays. The NHL has been demanding financial support from the city since 2009, when the team filed for bankruptcy.

By Stephen Slivinski, Byron Schlomach, and Nick Dranias

Arizonans, through their state and local governments, are in debt to the tune of $66.5 billion. That’s over $10,000 for every man, woman, and child in the state. To put that in perspective, the average person’s income in Arizona is less than $36,000 per year.

Whenever local bureaucrats or special-interest groups want to neutralize conservative legislators, one of their most-potent weapons is two words: “local control.”