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>

Judicial Watch, the Washington, D.C.-based group that describes itself as a conservative watchdog, has taken on all types of government corruption and waste.

Last week the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in the Goldwater Institute’s favor that the First Amendment protected a tattoo business from being shut down by the City of Mesa, Arizona. The Court held that tattooing is a form of protected communication, just like painting or writing. Just as booksellers and art dealers are protected by the First Amendment, so too are tattoo businesses. The decision illustrates that there is often no real distinction between economic liberty and free speech.

Arizona Republic Editorial

For at least 43 years, personal adornment has been deemed constitutionally protected free speech. It goes back to when the U.S. Supreme Court concluded you could wear a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War and the principal couldn't stop you.

Arizona wine consumers soon may be calling up their favorite wineries to order vintages that are currently off-limits. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule in early spring whether to overturn Arizona's monopoly wine distribution system.

Prospective Arizona homebuyers face a double-whammy: escalating prices compounded by skyrocketing fees imposed by voracious local governments.

Chandler recently raised its development impact fees nearly 50 percent, adding nearly $6,000 to the price of a home. Avondale's fees nearly doubled with an $8,000 increase, bringing the total burden to a whopping $18,000 per home.

Even though campaign finance laws interfere with constitutional rights of free speech and association, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the government may impose regulations on financial contributions to campaigns if it has a good enough reason to do so.­ The Court has recognized only one justification for curtailing the right to engage in political activity without governmental interference. ­That justification is combating corruption or the appearance of corruption.

In a pair of reports in 2008-09, the Goldwater Institute documented a very disturbing practice in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: a persistent habit of declaring serious crimes solved and closing cases without serious investigation, much less arrest or identification of suspects.

Two years ago, almost $1.5 billion of Arizona’s total spending was classified under a category called “Other Miscellaneous Operating.” That is, around 5 percent of Arizona’s spending was classified into a meaningless category that should never amount to more than a pittance. “Other Miscellaneous Operating” is meaningless to a manager, it’s meaningless to a taxpayer, and it’s meaningless to a member of the legislature. Last year, another $1.5 billion of spending was classified under “Other Miscellaneous Operating.”

At a restaurant, you expect to see a menu before you order--after all, you're the one paying the bill. The City of Glendale, however, doesn't care to follow that logic. Instead, City officials are refusing to disclose what deals they're cooking up during closed negotiations for the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes, or what will ultimately be put on the table for Glendale residents to eat--and pay for.

There are some decisions our elected officials can make without much public input--like where to purchase office supplies, or renewing an annual business license. Other decisions require multiple public meetings, workshops and discussions, and taking into account many perspectives.