Reason TV and Prop 104: Phoenix Light Rail Fail

Meet the Thighmaster of urban public policy: Streetcars.

Municipal politicians all across the country have convinced themselves that this costly, clunky hardware can revitalize their flabby downtown economies.

That includes the fearless leaders of America’s capital city. The DC government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade trying to erect a streetcar line in the up-and-coming neighborhood of H Street. The project has been an epic disaster, perfectly demonstrating how ill-suited streetcars are to modern urban life.

Video Produced by Rob Montz, who also hosts. Camera by Todd Krainin. Graphics by Jason Keisling and Meredith Bragg.

Thanks to ReasonTV.

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Facts about Phoenix Prop 104:

  • $31.5 BILLION Proposal
  • Tax will last 35 YEARS
  • $6.66 BILLION for Light Rail
  • 41.2 Miles of new rail
  • $161 MILLION per mile of light rail
  • Entire proposal could purchase 2.2 MILLION SmartCars
  • Will shrink available funds that could be used for education, hiring or teachers
  • Mayor and Council created a $10,000 exemption to appease big business from paying full tax rate
  • Majority of Pro-Prop 104 money is from construction and developers who will benefit from contracts to build light rail corridors.
  • Current light rail is losing 53% on farebox recovery
  • Valley Metro places emphasis on increasing ridership by backing off and not enforcing payment
  • Less than 1% of Phoenix population rides light rail
  • Vast majority of riders are students, government employees, homeless, destitute or under the influence (subsidized or non-paying riders).

Sal DiCiccio: Phoenix Light Rail Will Take Money Away From Education

Recently, I appeared in an interview by the Legal Broadcast Network in which I discuss the Phoenix light rail fiasco. I’d like to share a portion of that interview so Phoenicians can understand what’s at stake in the August election and the enormity of this boondoggle.

The cost to build one mile of freeway is about $56 Million. Compare that to the cost to build one mile of light rail. As staff revealed, Phoenix taxpayers would spend $161 MILLION per mile for this monstrosity. That is almost three times the cost to move far fewer people than what a freeway moves.

And if you look at the number of users who actually use light rail, it’s about one half of one percent of our population. Putting that in perspective, its equivalent to the amount of people who drive down the street in front of your home.

For this $31.5 BILLION proposal, the City of Phoenix could buy 2.2 Million Smart Cars! That is every man, woman and child who could use one of these eco-friendly cars.

Remember, the same people who brought us the downtown Sheraton Hotel at a total loss of $130 Million, now want us to pay for another massive taxpayer $31.5 BILLION boondoggle.

At a time when we need more money going into our education system this takes money away from that priority. Every dollar going into this $161 Million/mile train system is a dollar not going to our children’s education.

Taken for a Ride – No on Prop 104

Taken for a Ride - NO on 104
Committee to educate public on $31,500,000,000 Phoenix Transportation Plan
(Phoenix, AZ) — Today, the Taken for a Ride – No on Prop 104 committee publicly announced its formation to oppose the $31,500,000,000 sales tax (Transaction Privilege Tax) that will be put before voters on August 25, 2015.  The sales tax, which was approved to go before voters by Mayor Greg Stanton and several city council members, is calculated to give Phoenix, Arizona one of the highest sales tax rates in the United States.

Explaining why he is chairing the “No” committee, United States Army Veteran Matthew Kenney said, “When I returned from the battlefields in the Middle East, my hometown of Phoenix led the country in kidnapping and poverty.”  Kenney said he was staggered to learn, “At a time when my commute times are below the national average, Phoenix’s murder, robbery, assault and overall crime rates were on the rise (latest 2012 statistics).  Phoenix leaders have lost their focus – it’s about badges not buses — they are getting it wrong.”

Once touted as one of the “best-run” cities in the country, Phoenix, Arizona has seen a troubling decline since the new Mayor was sworn in, in 2011.   In discussing Phoenix’s rapid decline, Taken for a Ride Consultant, Mike Noble said,  “Phoenix was most recently a city in the black and now finds itself trying to tax itself out of the red. No society in the history of the world has taxed itself into prosperity regardless of the types of jobs you intend to create.”

In what many are calling a generational tax, Proposition 104’s language is very unclear according to election observers and legal scholars who are considering challenges.  Mike Noble said, “Hiding $31 Billion from taxpayers reminds me of underhanded politics– Politician’s generally rue the day that they try to slip one by the taxpayers.”

Matthew Kenny added, “Phoenicians and small business owners will have to shoulder a 31.5 billion dollar tax burden and the mayor cut a deal with big business excluding purchases above $10,000 from the proposed new tax, where is my deal Mr. Mayor?”
Chairman, Matthew Kenney concluded, “31 billion dollars will buy every man, woman and child living in Phoenix Arizona today, a smart car…. Out of the goodness of Phoenix taxpayer’s hearts, we could also purchase a smart car for every man woman and child who lives in Tucson Arizona.  This is just bad policy, we should vote no on Prop 104.”

Matthew Kenney served 6 years as an infantry officer in the United States Army and fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.  Matthew resides in Phoenix, is married to his lovely wife, Brittany, father to his daughter Eden and they expecting one more addition to the family in several months.

Costs and Tax Increase are a Train Wreck for Phoenix Transportation Plan

MBQF

Sticker Shock Drives Phoenicians Opinions Over Proposed Light Rail Expansion – Voters Favor Other Public Priorities

(Phoenix, AZ) — MBQF, a public opinion survey consulting firm, announced today the results of a recent public opinion survey conducted on March 5, 2015.  Although the results from the automated telephonic survey show likely Phoenix City voters give initial grudging support toward a light rail and transportation expansion plan – Phoenix voters quickly reverse course once educated about the potential costs and a tax increase.  Voters appear to remain skeptical over light rail for other priorities.

In the most recent automated telephonic survey of 580 likely Phoenix City voters, the survey calculates a 4.04% theoretical margin of error, plus or minus in percentage points, 95% of the time.  54.4% of respondents were women while 45.6% were men.

Almost two-thirds of respondents believe their tax-money should be prioritized elsewhere when asked,  “NOW, do you feel the city of Phoenix should prioritize transportation and spend $33 Billion dollars over the next 35 years that includes a proposed light rail expansion or do you believe the $33 billion dollars could be best spent in other areas such as education, public safety, police and fire, and health and disability services.”

Press 1 if you believe that the light rail and transportation is the best investment    34.83%

Press 2 if you believe that the money would be best used for other public needs      65.17%

Michael Noble concluded, “When 2/3 of voters agree on a spending issue, policy makers ought to take heed.  They are the type of numbers that are usually followed by a voter initiative.”
For more information about this survey, or a summary of topline data and wording, please contact MBQF Consulting. The margin of error for this survey is +/-4.04%.

Script

Hello, we are doing a brief survey on current issues within the City of Phoenix.  Some elected officials are considering spending tax dollars on transportation and we would like to ask your thoughts on these important issues.  Your name was selected at random and your responses are completely confidential.

1. Are you aware that the City of Phoenix has proposed spending $33 billion dollars over the next 35 years to triple the ridership of the current light rail and expand the transportation system?

Press 1 if you are aware     71.9%
Press 2 if you have never heard of it      22.24%
Press 3 if you are unsure    5.86%

2. Supporters of this potential light rail expansion argue that the plan would also expand bus services and improve or fix the city’s aging street system. Do you agree or disagree with these priorities?

Press 1 if you agree        53.79%
Press 2 if you disagree    46.21%

3. Are you aware that if the proposed light rail transportation expansion is approved it would increase Phoenix sales taxes by 15% and cost $161 Million per mile to build and operate? Would this information make you more likely or less likely to support the transportation expansion?

Press 1 for More Likely                  26.72%
Press 2 for Less Likely                   63.45%
Press 3 if it makes no difference     9.83%

4. NOW, do you feel the city of Phoenix should prioritize transportation and spend $33 Billion dollars over the next 35 years that includes a proposed light rail expansion or do you believe the $33 billion dollars could be best spent in other areas such as education, public safety, police and fire, and health and disability services.

Press 1 if you believe that the light rail and transportation is the best investment    34.83%
Press 2 if you believe that the money would be best used for other public needs    65.17%

5. If you were running the City of Phoenix, please tell me what you personally believe is the most important public priority as a taxpayer.   Would you invest tax dollars in Public Safety, Education, Disability services, expansion of the light rail or improvement of freeways/roads?

Press 1 for Public Safety   18.97%
Press 2 for Education        33.97%
Press 3 for Disability services   4.14%
Press 4 for expansion of the light rail    13.28%
Press 5 for repairing and improving current freeways and roads    19.48%
Press 6 if you are unsure   10.17%

6.  Leading the charge for the light rail transportation expansion is current Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, while the primary opponent of the light rail transportation expansion is Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio. Based on this, whose leadership do you most trust with your tax money?

Press 1 for Greg Stanton      35.17%
Press 2 for Sal DiCiccio        37.59%
Press 3 if you have no opinion at this time      27.24%

7.  Press 1 if you are Male          45.6%
Press 2 if you are Female      54.4%

Thank you for your time.

“The bus stops here!” Tempe Council’s culture of compliance

By Matthew Papke (Reposted from freeTempe.com)

Monday a transportation crisis was averted in Tempe Arizona.  Throughout the previous week and leading up to the first day back to school many parents were faced with the unease of not knowing how their children would get to class. Could this have been avoided? What led to this near disaster?

7_28_08_school_bus

A Bad Deal
In November of 2012 the Tempe City Council voted unanimously and without pubic debate to move Tempe’s bus services management contract from Veolia to Regional Transportation Planning Agency (RTPA). In January the new transit agreement was signed without a minimum bus service requirement. This under sight is the reason for the near devastating Monday so many parents would have been affected by.

Culture of Compliance
Unlike our kitchen tables or work places, the Tempe City Council does not offer much in the way of discussion or debate. Speedily or perhaps hurriedly decisions are often voted on with super majorities in favor of almost every single measure that comes before the council. The RTPA contract was likely not read or fully understood by the Council for if it was it certainly would have had a clause to ensure minimum service requirements for our residents. It would seem they spent millions of your Tempe Tax dollars in minutes without READING THE FINE PRINT.

Council member Joel Navarro has been quoted as saying he was “Livid” at the lack of a minimum service requirement in the Tempe transit contract. “This is killing people,” Tempe City Councilman Joel Navarro said Friday. “We have tons of kids who take the buses to school. It can’t go to Monday.” The article went further on to state. “Navarro is livid that Tempe and Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority officials put out a bid for a transit contract that did not require the company to provide minimum bus service.”

While NAVARRO’s fervor is welcomed, we should remind him that on November 15th, 2012 Council members Navarro along with Robin Arredondo-Savage, Onnie Shekerjian, Shana Ellis and Corey Woods, all voted in favor of moving the management of Tempe’s transit needs from Tempe to a regional resource the Planning (RTPA), this vote occurred without any debate on November 15th, 2012 AND COSTS TEMPE RESIDENTS OVER $10 MILLION A YEAR.

In January Shana Ellis was quoted saying “Tempe’s priority is to provide connectivity to our residents, students and regional visitors while we also protect and enhance our transit network.” I wonder if she knew at the time the transit contract did not contain a minimum service requirement.

The Bus stops here!
Had the council been brave or knowledgeable enough to ask then what they were asking yesterday, in the middle of a crisis, Then perhaps the entire “HOW AM I GOING TO GET MY KIDS TO SCHOOL” fiasco could have been averted.

Matthew Papke is a graduate of Corona del Sol, a Marine and current resident of Tempe Arizona. Matthew is also a filed candidate for Tempe City Council 2014. Please send any questions or comments to Matt@freetempe.com

Maricopa GOP Chair Rallies LD Censures

To all Arizona County and LD Republican Committee Chairmen -
Below is the front page article of the July 15 Arizona Capitol Times. I want to express my appreciation to those courageous and principled County and LD Republican Committees who have already conducted votes of “censure” and/or “no confidence.”
Jan Brewer, the legislators and their crony capitalist friends that support ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion have betrayed Americans, Arizona Republicans and the Republican Party Platform.  Their lack of ethics, integrity and egregious acts are motivated by only two things – greed and the lust for power – at the expense of hard working tax paying Americans.
The law was expected to cost $898 billion over the first decade when the bill was first passed, but this year the Congressional Budget Office revised that estimate to $1.85 trillion.  Money that will have to be borrowed from the Chinese or printed in the backroom of the Federal Reserve.  Latest polls indicate a majority of Americans are opposed to ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion with an overwhelming majority of Republicans in opposition.
During the past six months, we did everything we could to make a solid argument against ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion, we tried to reason with these people and even tried to make them see the light.  Unfortunately, our lobbying efforts fell on deaf ears and without success.
During one of Ronald Reagan’s difficult political battles he said,
               “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
I’m asking all the County and LD Republican Committees to make these people feel the heat by passing public censures for their actions.  They are elitists who think what they have done should be forgiven. They are mistaken.  We are not going to be able to defeat all of them, but we can defeat a majority of them in the 2014 Primary Election.
You can go to “MCRC Briefs” and get examples of public censures that have already been passed.  http://briefs.maricopagop.org/  Just type “censure” in the search field on the left.
Warmest regards,
 A. J. LaFaro
Chairman, Maricopa County Republican Committee
P.S.  Please encourage all of your PCs to keep up their daily efforts in getting petition signatures for www.urapc.org  Getting ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion on the November 2014 ballot will be historic for Arizona’s grassroots conservatives.

Arizona sales-tax hike gets shiv on shady iPad contest promoted on Facebook, Twitter

Below is the complaint letter submitted to Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett earlier this week by Tom Jenney of Americans for Prosperity Arizona challenging the legality of initiative petitions turned in by the “Quality Education & Jobs” campaign based on signatures gathered by ‘volunteers’ with the promise of winning an iPad — thereby calling into question any and all of these petitions not disclosing that they were collected by a paid circulator. In the grand scheme of things this complaint likely reveals a small violation that will probably not invalidate enough petitions to drop their signature tally below the number required to earn a spot on November’s ballot.  However, this pattern and practice also reveals another instance where the troubled “Quality Education & Jobs” campaign has played fast-and-loose with the rules regarding gathering signatures… all in service to “The Children”… and government unions and brazen special interests who stand to reap hundreds of millions in government contracts. No wonder it has been thrown off the ballot. Let’s hope an activist judge doesn’t disregard the black-letter of the law and force this massive tax increase onto November’s ballot.  

BONUS: Click here to listen to the initial reaction from top “Quality Education & Jobs” campaign officials (Chairwoman Ann-Eve Petersen, Associated General Contractors honcho David Martin, consultant Joe Yuhas and others) upon learning their campaign’s 290,000 petition signatures are invalid.

June 25, 2012

The Honorable Ken Bennett
Arizona Secretary of State
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2888

Dear Secretary Bennett,

On behalf of the 70,000 taxpayers in this state who are members of our organization, the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity wishes to bring to your prompt attention an important matter regarding the potential failure by one or more ballot initiative organizers to fully and properly disclose their use of paid signature petition circulators. 

I-16-2012 has filed for inclusion on the November ballot and signature petitions have been circulated by its initiative supporters for qualification.  This initiative, commonly referred to as “Quality Education and Jobs,” has already submitted petitions to your office for certification.

Based upon the enclosed information, we believe that circulators have been compensated and incentivized with the promise of future compensation for collecting a specific number of signatures on behalf of the initiative.  We believe that repeated solicitations over Facebook and Twitter accounts maintained by initiative organizers, as well as at least one email sent by organizers or on their behalf, clearly demonstrate that the collection of fifteen (15) petition signatures were directly exchanged for “a brand new iPad 3” by at least two individuals.

A.R.S. § 19-118 defines a paid circulator as “…a person who receives monetary or other compensation that is based on the number of signatures obtained on a petition or on the number of petitions circulated that contain signatures.”  Those who satisfy the criteria of paid circulators are required to disclose their paid circulator status by noting the same on the petition.     

Organizers of I-16-2012 have apparently twice awarded an iPad 3, valued at $499, to certain individuals on or about May 11 and June 1.  Although the solicitations characterize the circulators as “volunteers,” the nature of those awards qualifies them as paid circulators by law.

We therefore request that your office immediately investigate this matter to determine whether the actions of the “Quality Education and Jobs” initiative organizers constitute a violation of A.R.S. § 19-118 and to take any and all necessary action. 

Furthermore, please accept this letter as a formal complaint with regard to the possibility that the “Quality Education and Jobs” initiative organizers may have circulated petitions using ballot language that differed from the official initiative language.  Given the discrepancies uncovered by the Arizona Tax Research Association (please refer to the attached article from the June 22, 2012 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times), we believe that the organizers of the “Quality Education and Jobs” initiative acted in violation of A.R.S. § 19-112, which requires that petition signature sheets be attached “at all times during circulation to a full and correct copy of the title and text of the measure or constitutional amendment proposed or referred by the petition.”

Thank you very much for your consideration of these matters, and for taking the time and effort to provide written responses to these complaints.

For Liberty,

Tom Jenney
Arizona Director
Americans for Prosperity

Washington Should Let Highway Dollars Make a U-turn and Head Home to States

By Stephen Slivinski

The U.S. Congress has been deadlocked for about three years over re-authorizing the federal highway program. During that time, they have passed temporary extensions of the program. The ninth extension expires at the end of this month.

While Congress idles and lets the program just roll along, year after year, we miss out on debate over whether the current system is working and what the alternatives are.

What happens now is that state governments collect fuel taxes and send the money to the federal government. Then the feds put all the money into a pot and distribute it, mostly by formula, back to the states. The problem is, due to bureaucratic overhead, pork project earmarks, obsessions with funding projects like high-speed rail, and certain demographic and geographic realities, not all the money that a state sends to Washington may come back to pay for road upkeep and construction. And the dollars that do find their way home often have federal strings attached. (Remember the federal 55-mile-per-hour speed limit?)

Arizona has been on the losing end of this for a while. As a “donor” state, we routinely pay more in fuel taxes than we receive back from the federal government.

Rep. Jeff Flake has introduced a bill to require that all states receive back at least 95 percent of the money they pay into the federal highway trust fund. It’s a good step, and one that should be seen as a move toward fundamental reform of the system. But the best thing to do would be to guarantee that each state gets 100% of the fuel tax revenue it collects. And the only way to do that is to eliminate the federal highway system as we know it and instead let states control their highway programs and set their own tax rates and revenue needs accordingly.

As cars become more fuel efficient, how much fuel a driver purchases is becoming a less reliable way to gauge how much driving someone is doing and, subsequently, how much wear and tear they are inflicting on state roads. States need to be able to freely experiment with innovations like open road tolling, which are a better way of aligning the costs and benefits of road use.

That sort of experimentation is limited as long as Washington controls the money.

Stephen Slivinski is senior economist for the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Stateline: While Congress Stalls, States Worry about Highway Funds

Rep. Jeff Flake: Announcement of Passage of Flake Resolution in House

Cato Institute: Liberating the Roads

Congressman Flake Applauds Passage of Motion to Instruct on the Highway Bill

Flake Motion Insists on Provision in Highway Bill Guaranteeing States Receive a Higher Percentage of their Own Gas Tax Dollars Back From the Federal Government

Washington, D.C. – Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona’s Sixth District, today offered a motion to instruct conferees on H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II. The motion passed by a vote of 259 – 154.

Many states, like Arizona, are donor states, meaning that they have historically contributed more to the Highway Trust Fund than they received back in the form of federal transportation funding. While non-binding, the motion instructs House conferees to insist on a provision in the final H.R. 4348 conference report guaranteeing all states the minimum rate of return of 95-percent on highway bill funding. Current law sets the rate of return at 92 percent. The language proposed in the motion would not increase the overall cost of H.R. 4348, it would affect only how transportation bill funding is distributed.

“While it would be preferable to give states greater control over their transportation dollars, the least Congress can do is ensure that donor states get a fairer return on the gas tax dollars they send to D.C.,” said Flake.

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Rep. Vic Williams on Cell Phone Usage While Driving

Arizona State Representative Vic Williams spoke with CBS 5 in response to the NTSB’s recommendation to ban all electronic devices while driving. Representative Williams serves as the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

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