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>

Phoenix-According to new Census Bureau figures, Maricopa County grew faster than any other county in the nation during the fifteen months from April 2000 to July 2001. While some see this growth as a cause for alarm, Goldwater Institute economist Robert Franciosi believes that Maricopa's vigorous growth is a reflection of its high quality of life.

Mesa will argue in court that a legal challenge to the fees it charges developers to help build city museums and preserve archaeological finds is past the point it can be repealed.

The Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, representing the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court in September, after Mesa increased the amount it charges developers to build houses and commercial buildings in the city.

The impact fee averages about $8,300 for the average single-family home.

The freedom of property owners to decide their own fate and to reap the fruit or bitter harvest of their labors is under a subtle but direct assault in the East Valley.

Consider this litany of stories from the Tribune this year:

The Tempe City Council responds to protests from that citys northern residents and turns down a use permit for a tattoo parlor because of the perception that such a business would be bad for the neighborhood.

Oro Valley's Town Council has decided to put anto issuing sales tax-sharing retail development incentives, though existing incentive agreements won't be affected.

Economic development incentives for retail "don't make sense," said Councilman Barry Gillaspie at an Aug. 14 public meeting. "I don't believe governments should be tampering in the private sector like that."

Oro Valley collected nearly 82 percent less sales-tax revenue than originally projected from two retail developments granted tax-sharing incentives by the town, figures show.

Two Oro Valley retail centers subject to those economic development agreements are open for business Oracle Crossings and Steam Pump Village and so far neither has met developers' original sales-tax forecasts.

As cities and towns across the state grapple with their own growing pains, Oro Valley recently decided to change how it attracts businesses, particularly retail establishments.

Across the state indeed across the country municipalities often attempt to lure retail outlets by offering them and developers perks and incentives.

In the past few years, voters in Oro Valley and local officials, have opted to sweeten development deals by sharing percentages of sales tax revenues with developers that promise to bring retail centers to the town.

Mesa is hopping mad over a lawsuit attacking a fee it collects for arts and cultural programs.

"This doesn't go well toward open communication and dialogue," City Manager Chris Brady said after the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix conservative think tank, announced it was suing Mesa over its cultural impact fees.

As the stakes get higher, a couple of new fronts may be opening in the fight against municipal tax-giveaways.

The assumption had been that Phoenix had topped the charts with a $100 million sales tax rebate to CityNorth. Surprise, however, has blown way past that mark with a $240 million rebate to Westcor.

Scottsdale's plan to offer employees up to 11 percent raises next year is a driving force behind city projections that show spending increases will far outpace revenue and population growth in the coming years.

The proposed 2007-08 budget is expected to be approved by the City Council today, with two council members likely voting against the $1.4 billion spending plan because of the 6 percent across-the-board cost-of-living raises that when combined with

5 percent merit raises push the salary increases into double digits.

Well, cities, the party is officially over. Goodbye to taking when you don't like the look of the development on the corner or you think a newer, fresher building might bring in more revenue. It's not that city planners and elected officials can't still be visionary in their quest to see their municipalities develop in the best possible way, they just can't force someone to sell out in order to implement the vision.

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