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>

Months after the housing bubble burst in 2007, Arizona passed a state budget that many knew was out of balance the day it was passed. By summer of 2007, there was even talk of having a special session to fix the situation.

From Phoenix to Pima County, politicians and public-sector unions routinely agree to put union representatives on the government payroll, paying them millions of taxpayer dollars exclusively for union work, renewing these agreements year after year.

Arizona may be a right-to-work state, but a new investigation by the Goldwater Institute shows that public-employee unions still wield outsized influence on elected officials—and they are using that power to feather their own nests.

Phoenix taxpayers spend millions of dollars to pay full salary and benefits for city employees to work exclusively for labor unions, a Goldwater Institute investigation found.

Collective bargaining agreements with seven labor organizations require the city to pay union officers and provide members with thousands of additional hours to conduct union business instead of doing their government jobs.

A government that operates behind closed doors cannot be the government of a free people. The Goldwater Institute has prompted several reforms shining light into the inner workings of government, including the nation’s most comprehensive online database of line-by-line government spending and restrictions on politicians using tax money for self-promotion. Our regular watchdog reports are helping citizens hold their elected officials accountable.

PHOENIX -- In July 2007, Attorney Clint Bolick, litigation director for the Goldwater Institutes Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, filed a lawsuit on behalf of six small business owners against the city of Phoenix for entering into an agreement with the Thomas J. Klutznick Company to build 3,180 parking spaces at the developers CityNorth retail center in north Phoenix, in exchange for $97.4 million in taxpayer subsidies, claiming it violated the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution.

When most people think of hot-button political issues, they probably don't think of interior decorators. But California is the latest battleground in a national war that has raged across numerous states, not to mention The Wall Street Journals editorial page and George Wills columns.

Gov. Janet Napolitano has a strange idea of how to deal with the state's expected huge revenue shortfalls this year and next year.

Granted she did say in her State of the State address this week that she planned to ask state departments to reduce spending to help deal with an estimated $1 billion shortfall in tax revenues this year - one-tenth of Arizona's $10.6 billion budget. That's a wise fiscal step, if it is truly implemented.

CityNorth will be a 144-acre complex of hotels, shops, restaurants, department stores, outdoor spaces, residences and parking garages. It is in the heart of Desert Ridge, the master-planned community surrounding the corner of Deer Valley Road and Tatum Boulevard, north of Loop 101.

Not only will CityNorth be large - by comparison, Kierland Commons covers 38 acres, and Desert Ridge Marketplace has 110 acres - it will be exclusive, with five-star hotels and retailers such as Nordstrom.

PHOENIX -- Tucson continues to spend more public money on state lobbyists than the larger city of Phoenix at least on paper.

Tucson spent $239,880 on lobbyists and gifts to lawmakers in 2006, a drop from the $275,585 it spent in 2005, according to the most recent numbers reported by the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.

City officials say the money is paying off in the form of favorable legislation and a larger share of state revenue for things like Downtown redevelopment and transportation.

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