Why I am still a Tortolitan - The Explorer: Editorials

Why I am still a Tortolitan

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Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Some years ago I asked the then Mayor of Oro Valley why they were so hot to annex Rancho Vistoso. City Hall then was a house on Calle Concordia, employees were few, and all those services now so vital were either non-existent or provided by another level of government.

I remarked that OV, with no property tax, was like the line in an old beer ad. "It doesn't' t get any better than this."

Twenty years later, we have the current Mayor of Oro Valley proclaiming the probable need for a property tax to maintain the services added since. Just a reminder, but he was a recent advocate of a $160 million park and promoted the decision by local voters to give developers a major hunk of the sales tax revenue collected at a new shopping center, based on the logic that you can't get a Wal-Mart without a bribe.

Opponents blew that election by attacking Wal-Mart instead of the subsidy. It's a high class Wal-Mart. Most customers wear shoes and appear to bathe regularly. Elitist opponents were wrong about that part, but it didn't really need giving away sales taxes to acquire it. The town's leaders then consisted of folks I'd like to play poker with, but the problem is much bigger than just rube leadership.

Everywhere in America, towns and cities keep expanding services, buildings and employees beyond all common sense. I am constantly amazed by conservative Republicans who want the Feds off our back and the state to keep taxes low who sucker in for more taxes and government control at the local level. Too many support the notion of cookie-cutter towns everywhere with the same excessive roles and payrolls.

It is symbolic that Oro Valley just hosted one institution that contributes greatly to that problem — the Arizona League of Cities and Towns. The Arizona League of Cities and Towns does not exist for the benefit of the people who live in Arizona' s cities and towns. It exists to benefit the people who run Arizona's cities and towns.

We have matrix town governments. All the stuff you just gotta have, almost all of it duplicated at other levels. More jobs for bureaucrats who can move easily between jurisdictions because one size fits all. The pressure is constant to expand, never contract. Only to borrow from Maggie Thatcher, sooner or later you run out of other people's money.

One result is local governments start nickel-diming the real stuff like public safety to take care of the not so real stuff like artsy-craftsy. Check the incredible argument being used against Tucson's Prop 200. It'll cost more money because more cops mean catching more bad guys and that means more costly trials and jail cells. And that would be bad because? It really means resources have already been diverted from primary functions.

A supposed partial relief for this was the imposition of impact fees on new development, which conceded the obvious fact that growth doesn't pay for itself. I supported those once but missed the unintended consequence. Governments began promoting more growth and annexations just to grab the impact fees. Instead of restraining growth it encouraged it, leaving all them new folks to be taken care of.

Additional driving forces for superfluous government are those drawing rations from the jurisdiction. They have a constituency visible to decision-makers. Politicians neglect those who don't continually make demands on them, figuring they care less than activists and lobbyists. That works until taxes or oppressions reach a tipping point and the bums get thrown out, often to be replaced by different ones. That's been the history of OV's politics.

Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 103OAM.

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