For Cities, a 20-Year Roadmap to Prosperity and Freedom

By Nick Dranias

At least one Arizona city understands that the key to economic growth is more freedom and lower costs levied on businesses.

The City of El Mirage recently announced that it was abandoning “impact fees” – regulatory hurdles that hold a developer’s property rights hostage. The fees are supposed to cover the cost of the impact that new development has on city infrastructure. But in reality, they’re a surtax on economic growth that is often used to fund unnecessary luxuries like public art and theatres.

El Mirage has set a great example, but one isolated reform won’t prevent El Mirage or any other city in the U.S. from slipping back into bad habits once the good times return. Local governments still need a long-term plan for embracing freedom and prosperity-friendly policies in good times and bad.

Fortunately, a new bill sponsored by Senator Lori Klein promises to fulfill that need in Arizona.

Based on the Goldwater Institute’s research in A New Charter for America’s Cities, Senator Klein is sponsoring SB1064, which would give cities the power to adopt a “Local Liberty Charter.” Any city adopting the charter would embrace a 20-year plan for economic growth based on individual freedom and responsibility, including a prohibition on subsidies to private businesses, an end to excessive regulations, competitive contracting of services other than public safety, and the limitation of local spending to population and inflation growth.

Even if only a handful of cities adopted the charters, the contrast between them and others would eventually produce a stark difference in prosperity. Moreover, the inevitable success of what Senator Barry Goldwater called “freedom’s model” would be a crucial force in persuading cities to choose freedom.

Learn more:

Arizona Republic: “El Mirage showing that it’s ‘pro-growth'”

Arizona State Senate: Senate Bill 1064

Goldwater Institute: A New Charter for American Cities

Rep. Schweikert to Host ‘Help for Homeowners Event’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 16, 2011
CONTACT: Rachel Semmel

Scottsdale, Ariz. – Congressman David Schweikert will host an event next month to assist homeowners with foreclosure and home ownership issues and concerns. This event is in partnership with the Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Task Force.

Constituents in Arizona’s 5th District are invited to come and speak to Rep. Schweikert, discuss loan modifications issues, and find other reliable home ownership resources. Lenders such as Wells Fargo, Chase, GMAC, Bank of America, and PNC will also be present to address constituent concerns. Counseling will be on a first-come, first-served basis. A copy of the event invitation is attached.

HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS EVENT:
When: Saturday, October 15, 2011
Time: 8:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Granite Reef Senior Center
1700 N. Granite Reed Road, Scottsdale, 85257 (map)

 

BREAKING NEWS: Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Church in Yuma!

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of religious liberty for an Arizona church today. In 2007, the city of Yuma had unlawfully denied the church a permit to use its building for worship. Attorneys for Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defense Fund worked together to defend the church’s rights in court.

“Churches should not be treated unfavorably just because they are religious, and that is what the city of Yuma had done here,” said CAP Legal Counsel Deborah Sheasby. “Because of this ruling, government officials will not be able to discriminate against churches and single them out for negative treatment in how they use their property. We are excited about this victory for churches and religious freedom.”

In this case, the church purchased a building in downtown Yuma in 2007, but the city denied its permit saying that a church did not “fit in” with the city’s plans for the area. The church filed a lawsuit based on the Constitution and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), both of which prohibit the government from discriminating against religious organizations. A lower court ruled against the church, but today the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling explains that cities may not treat churches less favorably than non-religious groups. The city’s zoning ordinance “expressly treats religious organizations on a less than equal basis,” the court wrote. “The Yuma City Code’s exclusion of religious organizations is not reasonably well adapted to the zoning criteria it is purported to serve. And it therefore violates the equal terms provision of RLUIPA.”

In 2010, Center for Arizona Policy worked to pass a bill that clarifies Arizona law to better protect churches from the type of discrimination faced by the church in Yuma. That bill was signed and went into effect in July 2010.

Sheasby commended today’s court ruling, saying, “Today’s legal victory reinforces that Arizona churches have a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment to use their property to gather for worship. This is great news for Arizona churches!”

For more information, visit www.azpolicy.org.

Show Me the Money… And I’ll Show You Someone Who Opposes Probate Court Reform!

PART ONE

1. Publicly Paid Lobbyists AKA Legislative Liaisons:  These folks move about from legislative office to office, wearing the cloak of the courts.  Invoking their bosses “The Supremes”, not to be confused with Diana, Mary and Florence, they are never denied access. They work on the public dole but in the case of probate reform, are anything but publicly minded.

Speaking in committee last week they gushed over SB1499 as the answer to all the courts woes.  Unfortunately, after the testimony of the multiple citizens who waited for hours to testify, 1499 was lambasted as ineffective, failed to come close to meeting the serious needs of the public, and ultimately described by Sen. Linda Gray as nothing more than a vehicle to amend in hopes of offering true reform.

The next day in the House, same story, different verse.  SB1499 is great, HB2424 is an intrusion of the legislature into the courts and should not pass.  Then the PEOPLE spoke.  It passed.

DRAT!  Good thing for these folks that they work for the pay-check fairy, AKA the government, and do not have to worry about how the money to pay them is provided.  Someone should tell them…”You know those folks who just stood in line for over an hour to register on the kiosk, then waited another couple of hours to testify, then came back to do it again the next day, taking time off of their jobs to be heard.  THEY PAY THE TAXES THAT PAY YOUR SALARY. AND PAY, AND PAY, AND PAY! THEY ARE THE REASON THE COURTS EXIST.”  That may be a new tune to The Supremes!  

2. Court Ordered Fiduciaries AKA bottom feeders…OK, not all of them: Assigned to care for those the courts deemed incapacitated, it is a darn good gig.  It’s a well paying “Job For Life”, and by life, I mean the life of the latest victim…um..er…client or until said client runs out of money, whichever comes first.  And if you think the re-stocking fee on returned merchandise at the local big box store is bad, try saying “Thanks, but no thanks” to the court’s choice of fiduciary.  If things aren’t right and you have hopes of getting a replacement, you better be ready to pay big time! 

They will defend their appointment and the right to keep your account (that is what you really are, an account) in court with THEIR high-priced lawyers and ….TA-DA—YOU PAY FOR IT!  Yep, you pay for their lawyer to tell the court why you should not be allowed to get another fiduciary.  No worries, it should only run you a few hundred thousand for their bill.  That’s part of the beauty of SB1499, it cements the stranglehold the courts and fiduciaries have over your future making it even harder to escape their grips.  HB2424, the bill written to respond to the outrageous but true accounts of current probate practice would allow the change once a year without the burden of proof being put on the “account”, or the entity formerly known as a private citizen with rights.   

AH HECK, what’s a few bedsores or broken hips, might as well stay with them.  Even if they are sucking you dry to open your mail, by the time you fight the B-ST-R-S in court, you will be broke anyway.  Either way sooner or later, you’re in the state system.  For this you saved all those years?  Maybe blowing it at the Casino wasn’t such a bad idea after all!

STAY TUNED FOR PART II: Activist Judges and Millionaire Attorneys…

THE COURTS vs. THE PEOPLE Round 1: THE PEOPLE!

The Arizona State Legislature was busy as bills had to be heard in their chamber of origin by the end of the week. Among them, the competing versions of attempts at probate reform. 

DAY ONE: SB1499 sponsored by Sen. Adam Driggs, R-LD11, the product of the court committee on probate reform.  The committee, made up entirely of judges, attorneys and fiduciaries and without even one public member, was charged with “reform” after the press began to report the travesty of justice experienced by many who have entered the hallowed halls of the courts.  Sen. Driggs said in testimony that “85% of cases go well, but we only hear about the 15% that don’t.”

An observer in the audience had this to say,

85% compliance is good if you are among the 85%.  But if our murder rate was 15% would they find that acceptable?”

Jon Kitchel said in testimony,

SB 1499 is full of feel-good language but does very little to improve the system.”  

Kitchel, identified himself before the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Human Services as an attorney who “does not represent fiduciaries but works for wards”. 

Amy Love, lobbyist for the courts, spoke to the merits of the bill and was followed by Justice Ann Timmer who expounded on certain aspects.  They were followed by Susan Bitter-Smith, lobbyist for the Elder Law attorney group and Jay Polk who support the bill. 

Then the people spoke. And spoke.  And spoke. 

Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters, and Kitchel spoke in opposition.  The reality of the courts played out before the committee that seemed very confused at the completely different perceptions portrayed between the court spokespersons and the people who actually have lived through the process.

  • Admittance of hearsay as sufficient evidence to keep a family in a costly legal battle for almost 2 years without an evidentiary hearing or an investigative report.
  • Court ordered physician evaluations when an existing evaluation exists, multiple doctors surveyed before a singular finding of incapacitation is rendered, with that evaluation used for the purpose of the court.
  • Refusal of the court to uphold established directives.  Legal Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney, and other legal directives are discarded with the courts inserting paid, private fiduciaries instead at the cost of millions to estates.
  • Extreme cost of restoring one’s rights or to request a change of fiduciary. The fiduciary may use the funds from the ward’s estate to maintain and defend their position.
  • Detrimental care of wards under a fiduciary when families are legally restricted from contact with the ward.  

The final speaker shook the committee and the crowded, standing room only audience.  Clair Di Pardo was named guardian in her mother’s directives, only to be dismissed by the court and replaced by Sun Valley Group (SVG).  Ms. Di Pardo showed photos of her mother just prior to being placed in a care home at the order of SVG. Restricted from visiting her mother because of her objections to the placement, four months went by without seeing her mother.  When she did, what she found was horrifying.  Showing photos of her mother’s condition to the committee, an inches large stage four bed sore that had invaded tissue to the bone and another on her heel that was turning black with no antibiotics are pain medicine being given in the care home.  Septic and dying, she had to be hospitalized to recover.  The cost of this care, $500,000.

In attempting to have her mother released from the court, she has had 9 judges or commissioners in 31 months.  

Members questioned Ms. Di Pardo then requested Judge Timmer return.  Clearly confused as to how the system could allow such a condition to occur, Sen. Gray asked the judge to explain.  Judge Timmer said she was aware of the case and gave some explanations such as judicial rotation.      

Then the vote…To a person the committee agreed the bill was insufficient and did not go far enough, stated the information they had heard from the public was compelling and demanded further review of need, and requested input from the public for the future of the bill to be successful in meeting that need.  The bill passed with only Sen. Landrum-Taylor voting no due to her belief the bill was seriously flawed in meeting the needs of the court and to protect the public.

DAY TWO: HB2424, the product of a cooperative effort of legislators, private citizens, attorneys for wards, and input from the courts and other stakeholders.  Sponsored by Rep. David Smith, R-LD7, this bill is opposed by those that support the Senate bill.

Amy Love, on behalf of the court, asked the committee to stop this bill and support the Senate bill.

The testimony of citizens, all impacted by the current implementation of the law, proceeded.  Many of the same issues were raised as in the Senate committee, however people spoke in support of HB2424 and to the remedies it provides.

The final speaker was Brad Lund.  The grandson of Walt Disney, at the age of 40 he is fighting to avoid being placed under the care of a guardian after a disgruntled distant family member filed the action with the courts.  He stated his battle has gone on for 16 months, no evidence of need has ever been offered, hearsay is the only evidence ever submitted to the court, no court investigation has ever been filed, and to date no doctor has ever declared him to incapacitated.  When asked by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Eddie Farnsworth about the cost of his legal defense, Mr. Lund answered, “Over a million dollars.”

Farnsworth concluded as he voted referencing the courts objections,

We do not make laws for the people who do the right thing but for those that don’t.  There are bad actors in this process and we need to protect the people from the abuses we have heard today.”      

The bill passed the House with 8 “Ayes” and 1 “Present” by Rep. Tom Chabin.

House Bill 2534 and Senate Bill 1136: PAChyderm Coalition opposes unlimited casino gambling

by Don Goldwater

The PAChyderm Coalition has been a consistent opponent of unlimited casino gambling in our state and a consistent advocate for private property rights.  We want to make it abundantly clear that we have not and will not waver from those fundamental positions, regardless of outside influences within or without the Party.  In this case, a red herring has been inserted into the argument trying to bridge a gulf too wide by connecting these two issues as if one conflicts with the other.

House Bill 2534 and Senate Bill 1136 are clearly structured to support the above positions.  The argument that passage of these bills will somehow reduce private property rights is simply false.  These Bills consist of five simple sentences written in unambiguous, layman language.  Let’s go to the core of the issue by looking at the specific language:

A.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this article:

1.  A city or town located in a county with a population of more than three hundred fifty thousand persons may annex any territory within an area that is surrounded by the city or town or that is bordered by the city or town on at least three sides if the landowner has submitted a request to the federal government to take ownership of the territory or hold the territory in trust.

2.  The annexation of territory pursuant to this section is valid if approved by a majority vote of the governing body of the city or town.  The annexation becomes immediately operative if it is approved by at least two-thirds of the governing body of the city or town.

B.  For the purposes of this section, “submitted a request to the federal government” means the landowner has made an application to the federal government as required by a specific federal statute or regulation.

Unfortunately, the position taken by Rep. Farnsworth goes against states rights and Arizona’s right to self determination and supports federal supremacy (Department of Interior) that have chosen to subvert the will of Arizonans who approved Prop. 202 in 2002 and to subvert the Gila River Land Replacement Act signed President Ronald Reagan.

The property rights this bill addresses are special rights that are not available to any other property owner in our state.  None of us can convert private land into a sovereign nation and then build a casino in violation of the IGRA and the Gila River Replacement Act.  The foundation of these acts go specifically to preventing the placement of Las Vegas style Casino gambling within a city.  Of utmost importance is the fact that twenty three tribes signed the Indian Gaming Compact and only one tribe has used surreptitious means to violate the rules they gave their oath to support.

If the Tohono O’Odham Tribe is successful in their action to violate the Compact, you can be sure that Las Vegas style gaming casinos will appear down the street from a school near you, thanks to future actions by one of the other 22 tribes that up-to-now have honored the Compact, but will feel justified in following the above unlawful actions.

The PAChyderm Coalition strongly urges you to contact your state senator and state representatives and respectfully advocate for their support for this important legislation.  If you do not know the direct line for your legislator, you can call the Capitol Switchboard, 602-926-5999, and ask for them by name.  The e-mail address uses the following format:  the initial of their first name followed by their last name followed by @azleg.gov.

COURT ORDERED THEFT: Expect to be outraged!

THE SAD TRUTH ABOUT ARIZONA PROBATE COURT

For most Americans, the concept that the government could take control of your life, seize for redistribution all of your assets, and deprive you of the comfort of family and friends while doing so is beyond a Kafkaesque notion. The court ordered control of lives, destruction of families, elimination of personal wealth, and the complete disregard for individual directives is happening.  These are not isolated cases of bad people, mismanaged funds, or folks with duplicitous intent looking to surreptitiously get rich quick off of Grannies life savings…there are many cases of full blown, court ordered removal of Constitutional rights, personal directives being ignored, families drug though years of legal wrangling based on hearsay without the benefit of evidence, and nothing short of legal thievery.  The families fight back at great personal cost and suffer at the hands of the courts in ways most citizens would never believe…until you see it for yourself. 

There is a storm building of moral outrage.  Families being torn apart, lives shattered, and the best laid plans of loving and caring spouses, parents, and children being ignored.  The collusion that is taking place between the courts/judges, the fiduciary agents, and probate attorneys could make organized crime syndicates look weak in comparison.

This coming storm is not to be ignored.  Here is one story…the first of many.

Arizona Lawmakers Have 100 Things to be Thankful For

PHOENIX – As members of Arizona’s 50th Legislature prepare for their first session in January 2011, the Goldwater Institute offers an abundance of recommendations to save money, improve education and advance freedom in our state with 100 Ideas for 100 Days.

“The answer to the riddle of Arizona’s budget deficit is getting government to focus on core functions,” said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute.

All year long, Goldwater Institute policy analysts identify and research practical solutions to problems facing Arizona. 100 Ideas for 100 Days brings these solutions together in one publication that lawmakers can keep at their desks and refer to often. The public can gauge the Legislature’s success next year by watching to see how many of these 100 Ideas become law.

Topics in 100 Ideas for 100 Days are organized by the traditional names of legislative committees. Ideas that would help to reduce excessive spending are noted with a Money $aver sign. Every suggestion in 100 Ideas can be enacted independently of the others.

The ideas mentioned include:

• No. 13. Create a system of state contributions to Education Savings Accounts for special needs and foster care students.
• No. 35. Pass a resolution calling on Congress to convene a convention for proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require approval from a majority of the states to increase the federal debt.
• No. 44. Ask voters to approve a state constitutional amendment giving the Treasurer authority to certify budgets as balanced.

Each of the 100 ideas provides a link to more information about the idea or contact information for a Goldwater Institute analyst who can provide additional details.

The Goldwater Institute has been publishing 100 Ideas for 100 Days each year since 2006. Dozens of past ideas have been introduced as bills and signed into law, including suggestions to make government more transparent, to expand school choice options, and to protect private property.

Click here to read 100 Ideas for 100 Days. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog that develops innovative, principled solutions to issues facing the states and whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.

A Violation of Due Process?

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors appears to be facing significant resentment from the men and women of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department. About two years ago, in an effort to control cost, the County arbitrarily limited overtime on a quarterly basis. When that limit is met, the County forces deputies to work overtime for unpaid compensation, which is essentially time off. However, the County appears to be illegally making money in the process.

 The legal perspective is quite interesting. Once a Deputy has worked overtime, the County incurs an accounting liability for the value of the overtime worked. The Deputy has an inherent interest in this value as a property value. It is the Deputy’s property.

 When the County placed an arbitrary limit on the overtime the Sheriff’s Office could work, it replaced overtime payment with unpaid “comp time.”  However, the County also stated that the Deputy had to take “comp” time off first before vacation time. As a result of the accumulated “comp” time, the Deputy was unable to access his vacation time.

 So we have a case of the County Government arbitrarily restricting overtime payment for work received from the Deputy. In addition, the County forces the Deputy to accept unpaid “comp” time in return for overtime worked.

 Unfortunately, the PCSO is understaffed due to hiring restrictions placed on it by the County. The understaffing creates a situation where the PCSO is forced to work overtime to meet minimum staffing levels that prevent the deputy from using up previously earned “comp” time. Some beats go unmanned due to understaffing. Because the Deputy cannot use up his earned “comp” time, the County prohibits him/her from using earned vacation time. At the end of the County’s Fiscal Year, any unused vacation is erased off the books.

 The Deputy has a property interest in his/her earned vacation time. The County recognizes this property interest as a liability to the County: they owe the Deputy the value of the vacation earned. When the County unilaterally took the earned vacation away from the Deputy, the County deprived the Deputy of his property interest without due process of law (5th and 14th Amendments) at a minimum.

 On what authority can the County deprive a Deputy of property rights obtained through honest labor? On what authority can the County manipulate internal policy to force its Deputies to not only work for “free” (unpaid “comp” time) but also sacrifice their earned vacation time (vested property right) due to the County’s own manipulation of policy?

 This issue has been referred by the Board of Supervisors to a work group to meet in October. This will be an interesting meeting as the two Democrat Supervisors do not like the Republican Sheriff. This issue is not only a morale and safety issue for the deputies but a potential legal issue for the County Supervisors.

Crackdowns on pool parties and mural painting show governments have plenty of money to spare

by Nick Dranias

Goldwater Institute

Many local governments in Arizona want us to believe they have gone to extreme lengths to tighten their budget belts. But when you hear that Tucson is using its sign laws to squelch artistic murals on the historic Rialto Theater because the murals aren’t purely for artistic purposes—they also promote shows at the theater—your realize budgets can’t be that bare. Then there are the pool cops of Maricopa County, who are aiming to shut down weekend pool parties used by Phoenix-area resorts to boost their business during this recession.

Any government that can waste resources on such measures has too many idle hands on the payroll. The fact that local governments can’t recognize this shows that streamlining budgets requires more than a commitment to saving money. It requires a guiding philosophy of limited government.

In many cases, cities and counties cannot focus limited resources on core functions because they cannot identify what functions are core. Laws against genuine public nuisances have no higher standing than crack downs on wall murals and bans on resort pool parties where guests might eat or drink too close to the water. Resources are stretched because government officials are using them to perform needless and often abusive tasks.

Fortunately, local governments can look right at the Arizona Constitution for guidance on identifying core functions: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

Officials who accept this basic principle of limited government are unlikely to prosecute  businesses for such offenses as painting wall murals on their own property that also advertise their business and planning some outdoor fun to attract more customers. No function of government is a core function if it has nothing to do with protecting and maintaining individual rights.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is Director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.