Open government's books - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Open government's books

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Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004 6:42 pm | Updated: 5:48 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

With the Arizona Legislature poised to put the Valley's $17.1 billion 20-year transportation plan on the May ballot, the public needs and deserves guarantees that the money will be well spent.

One way is to make sure that if one transportation mode is performing poorly, tax dollars are shifted to more cost-effective modes.

Another is to make sure the every single land-purchase deal is one the up-and-up. This is especially important due to the huge sums that will be spent to purchase land for freeways and light-rail lines. The public has every right to expect that parcels are purchased because they are on the best transportation route — not because the owners have political connections — and that purchase prices are fair — not inflated.

But in Arizona, all the tax-paying public can get are assurances, not guarantees. As Maricopa County Assessor Kevin Ross points out elsewhere on these pages, government agencies are exempt from an important disclosure requirement that private land purchasers must fulfill.

While parties in a private land transaction must file an affidavit of sale with the state disclosing details of the transaction, the state itself can keep sale details under wraps. Given the vast amounts of money that will be spent on land purchases for the transportation system over the next 20 years, that's an invitation for mischief. At the very least it fosters suspicions of funny business.

Before the public is asked to vote on the transportation plan, the Legislature needs to change the law to ensure full disclosure of all land transactions.

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