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SUBSIDIES: Supreme Court ruling victory for taxpayers
The Arizona Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the $97.4 million subsidy from the city of Phoenix to the CityNorth shopping mall was an important victory for everyone concerned about taxpayer money giveaways.
Going forward, our local governments will no longer be able to pay private developers millions or billions of dollars to complete their projects when free-market funding fails to appear, in exchange for vague promises that might never materialize. Doing so violates the gift clause of the state Constitution, which prohibits the use of public funds for private purposes.
The court said these payments to private parties can be constitutional only if they satisfy two requirements. First, they must serve a public purpose, which has been interpreted leniently by courts and is fairly easy to satisfy. Second — and here is the critical protection against governmental waste — the government must not overpay for what it gets. When the government fails to gather competitive proposals for a particular project, the court said, it is more likely that the government has paid too much.
The government cannot justify outlandish expenditures by pointing to indirect benefits such as increased tax revenues or public safety, which might result from any particular project. It’s all about the fair market value of what is actually purchased.
In reality, CityNorth only promised 200 public parking spaces for this price. That’s a hefty $487,000 per parking space. CityNorth was not required to generate a penny of tax revenue for the city, even though this is how the city justified its enormous investment.
The Supreme Court used plain common sense in ruling against these practices and came down in favor of taxpayers.
More information about this can be found at http://goldwaterinstitute.org/case/67.
EMILY MONTGOMERY, TEMPE
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YOUTH VIOLENCE: We must work to stop it
We must get our heads out of the sand and ask ourselves the tough question about why there is so much youth violence in our society — and actually be willing to be honest with the answer.
We have been bombarded with the terrible images of the recent rash of incidents of youth violence. Students in a third-grade class making plans to hit, duct tape and kidnap their teacher. Teens luring a cheerleader classmate to a home and beating her repeatedly while a camera rolls. A high school student throwing a metal chair at another classmate, knocking the victim unconscious. A high school student beating another student to death in a fight.
More appalling than these acts themselves seems to be the general lack of outrage over them!
What we need to do is analyze the root cause and investigate solutions.
As a country, we spend billions of dollars annually on anti-violence, anti-drug, anti-bullying and anti-suicide programs, yet the incidents not only continue, they appear to be getting worse in severity and frequency and occurring in increasingly younger children.
We have to focus on preventing it in the first place. Today’s youth are coming into society — into life — equipped with inadequate social skills and character development that would help them understand that this kind of behavior is simply not OK.
“It’s all about me!” is the mantra of many of our youth today, and the behavior we see splattered all over the Internet is the result.
Due to these problems in today’s world, the time has arrived for revising the basic approach to the fundamentals of learning to revolve around the four R’s — respect, responsibility, right from wrong and reality — and avoiding some of the ineffective P’s that get in the way — power, punishment and prison.
DR. CHARLES JACKARD, GILBERT
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LOST DUTCHMAN STATE PARK: Closing facility to save pennies makes no sense
As an avid hiker who frequently enjoys the beauty that the Superstition Mountains affords, I read the news of the closing of the Lost Dutchman State Park with disappointment. As a citizen of Arizona and a businessman, I also read it with a certain measure of disbelief.
According to the article (Tribune, Jan. 27), this park is covering nearly 97 percent of its operating costs through park use fees. But, in order to save $9,000 annually, the state is prepared to bear the expense of “moth-balling” the park’s facilities, plus suffer the depreciation of the property through deferred maintenance and the inevitable vandalism. Meanwhile, should the state ever wish to reopen the park when the economy improves, I suspect that the small amount of savings realized now will be spent many times over to restore the park’s facilities to their present condition.
This decision will potentially put people out of work, adding to the state’s growing unemployment burden. It will likely cause a decline in revenue for vendors and contractors who service this park. It will eliminate revenue from visitors and campers whose use of the park and travel to the area bolster the local economy. Revenues lost are dollars not spent, further dampening our hurting economy.
It seems inconceivable that the park’s budget couldn’t be trimmed by 3 to 4 percent in order to make it “carry its own weight” through the fees it generates. And now that the need has been made known, I suspect that a number of people who enjoy the park would volunteer a day or two throughout the year to help offset the park’s operational costs. I know I would.
On a noneconomic note, this closure will also deprive local residents of healthy, inexpensive, family-friendly recreation during a time when other recreational activities may be beyond their means.
STEVE WINGER, MESA
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GOVERNMENT DEBT: We must curb growing problem
When Republican President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the national debt was right at $1 trillion. Virtually, it went up to $2.7 trillion during 1981–1989 and was run up by Republican President George H.W. Bush. It was $5.7 trillion in 2001, and President George W. Bush ran up more debt — just under $4.9 trillion during his eight years.
The national debt stood at $10.6 trillion the day President Barack Obama took office in 2009. During the budget year with Obama’s additional $1.56 trillion, the growing national debt has reached a record $12.35 trillion — the largest in U.S. history.
Now, because of Obama’s hefty fiscal 2011 budget plan — $3.83 trillion dollars — and his announced projected spending spree, the government’s debt will surge to more than $25 trillion over the next decade.
Obama’s unsustainable round of spending adds urgency in the upcoming November election to showing resolve in dealing with the need to curb spiraling budget deficits and the rising national debt.
JACK SALLEY, MESA