Archives for August 2011

Gas Wars: Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment or Citizens Against American Business Competition

“QuikTrip officials have said they are not experienced campaigners because they have never had a gas-station issue end up on a ballot.”Arizona Republic

Who doesn’t like QuikTrip?  Cheap gas.  Tasty drinks.  Well, apparently a local Chevron franchise owner working with local political consultant Jason Rose feels otherwise.

 

 

Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment is a political action committee financed by Takhar Associates Investment Group. The Takhar family owns the investment group and conveniently owns a trailer park and Chevron gas station at McDowell Road and 44th Street, just a .5 mile jaunt south of the QuikTrip proposed for the northwest corner of 44th Street and Palm Lane.

 

Political action committee names are always very humorous, often concealing their true motivations behind puff language and creative acronyms. Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment sounds like it would comprise of concerned Phoenix citizens opposed to some sinister land plot. One would have to look behind the name to see that this group’s true motivations boil down to passing a ballot proposition that would eliminate the threat of a business competitor.

“The Takhars have said they aren’t afraid of competition. They are focused on the cost of land. They said they paid more than $3.5 million for the trailer-park and gas-station properties in the east Phoenix neighborhood, but that QuikTrip is buying property for much less because the land on Palm Lane is zoned for homes, not businesses.”

In a statement to CBS 5 News, owner Rajinder K. Takhar said: “It (Prop 2) changes the rules for a massive corporation to hurt our small businesses and those of the single family neighborhoods in the area. Liquor, gas and convenience stores should go on commercially planned land not in the middle of single family neighborhoods, especially in a part of Phoenix that has 10 gas stations within a mile.”

The Takhars claim it is not about competition at all but an unfair price advantage in land. How is that any better? If land were truly a viable residential option, why has it remained vacant for over 20 years?  It is not about a “concern” for the “neighborhood” but instead about eliminating American business competition, the single force that allows the free market to operate properly. I thought the rule was the best product wins? According to Takhar family, that’s balderdash.

 

 

A ‘Yes’ vote on Proposition 2 would approve the rezoning of property located at the southwest corner of 44th Street and Palm Lane, currently zoned as residential, to permit a gas station and convenience store. A ‘No’ vote would leave that parcel as residential only.  A copy of Proposition 2 can be viewed here.

According to Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesman for QuikTrip:

“In 50 years of doing business we have never seen this before where you do all your due diligence, we made 13, 14, 15 changes to accommodate some of the concerns out there, and we have never had a competitor come in and spend this kind of money.”

Opponents of Proposition 2 would like to present this struggle as a “David vs. Goliath” type effort.  Fighting a multi-billion dollar corporation looking to locate a business in their quaint neighborhood.  According to Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment:

“An out-of-state corporation, out-of-state property owner and influential lobbyist convinced the Phoenix City Council to change the rules and allow a liquor, gas and convenience store, operating 24hours per day, 7 days a week, to go into the middle of an East Phoenix neighborhood, on land that was long-planned for residential.”

But who are the REAL opponents?

According to the Arizona Republic:

In its statement of organization, the PAC said it got a $51,500 loan from Enterprise Bank and Trust late last year.

About $50,000 of the loan covered the residents’ fees for Summit Consulting Group, which gathered more than the 9,798 signatures the residents needed for a voter referendum to fight the QuikTrip.

Summit Consulting is a professional consulting firm that manages campaigns and political candidates including running the YES on Proposition 1 (Home Rule) campaign, to contracts with candidates such as Claude Mattox and Matt Salmon.  Jason Rose is arguably the biggest PR name in the Valley, and his services come with a hefty price tag.  Further, the $50,000 loan comes from the Takhar Associates Investment Group, an LLC owned by Rajinder Takhar.  Rajinder is the wife of Gurvinder Takhar, who illegally sold the Chevron station to his wife when he was convicted of tax evasion in 2002.

Apparently, the gas business has been very, very good to the Takhar’s, who own a $1.5 million dollar home in Moon Valley.  There is no doubt that they are aware of the fact that a new QT will affect their business and hurt their current profit margins as the closest gas station near the 202 freeway.

The most recent campaign filings for NO on Prop 2 at the Phoenix City Clerk Department show the loan came from Takhar Associates Investment Group, a Glendale limited-liability company whose owner, Rajinder Takhar, lives in Paradise Valley.  Again, these are the same Takhars who own and operate the Chevron at 44th Street and McDowell.

The Takhars also suggest their opposition to Prop 2 is a matter of concerns over congestion and public safety, trying to rally the neighborhood around the cause. As anyone who lives in the area or routinely drives by the proposed location knows, the area is already congested and the site has been nothing more than a vacant dirt lot for over 20 years.  The home directly across from the proposed QT site routinely has six plus cars parked in the driveway and the street including numerous cabs.  If there were ever a case to be made for an HOA, this is it.  Further, the Chevron located at 44th Street and McDowell trying to force QuikTrip out of the neighborhood is sadly a magnet for transients, taggers, meth addicts and bus stop hooligans.

A Clean Freak car wash already exists 100 yards to the south of the proposed site and a Costco exists another 100 yards to the north.  The idea that this area is exclusively residential is a stretch.  The addition of a new QuikTrip, which will provide a well-lit 24-hour business with new jobs and improve an already blighted property, should be considered a welcome addition to the area. The Phoenix City Council, along with the Planning Village and Planning and Zoning Committees, already approved the development of this property by QuikTrip.

 

Opponents of Proposition 2 recently claimed in a mailer that “a recent Arizona State University study found convenience stores such as Circle K and QuikTrips generate large numbers of calls about crime.”  Wouldn’t the same logic apply to the Takhars Chevron station?  However, in all fairness, the inclusion of QuikTrip in the mailer is not accurate.  The ASU study actually concluded that Circle K’s “comprised more than half of all police calls to convenience stores in Mesa, Glendale and Tempe in 2010, although the chain makes up no more than a third of convenience stores in each of the cities.”

Further, let’s look at the QuikTrip business model.  QuikTrip operates the “Safe Place” program, which is a national nonprofit organization that provides safety for troubled or threatened youth.

According to QT’s website:

Since 1991, QuikTrip has been a designated SafePlace, where runaways and at-risk youth can come in off the street, receive food and drink, and wait for a volunteer from a SafePlace agency partner to connect them with professional help or a place to stay until their situation is resolved.

More on the Safe Place program can be found here.  More on QT’s community involvement can be viewed here.

Need more proof? In February, QuikTrip was named one of the 100 Best Places to Work by Fortune magazine. It was QuikTrip’s fifth consecutive year on the list.

According to CSDecisions.com:

What’s even more impressive is that the honor comes at a time when gas prices are among the highest they have ever been, and competition from supermarkets and hypermarts is as fierce as ever.

Finally, as anyone who frequents QTs can easily recognize, the convenience stores are frequented by law enforcement.  It is my understanding that many QTs provide free coffee and even free food for police officers.  The Phoenix Police Department utilizes the QT station located at 16th Street and Highland as a police substation, routinely using the back parking lot as a mobile DUI-testing and booking station.  In Edwardsville, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, I am personally aware of two QuikTrips that provide space in the back of their properties for police substations because the main police department station is located on the other side of town.

Does this sound like a bad addition to a neighborhood that struggles with crime?

Gurvinder Singh Takhar, the original owner of the Chevron station, apparently is no saint either, having been involved in a nasty family altercation that resulted in domestic violence charges and costly litigation.  Takhar also spent time in jail for tax evasion. Court records show he served five months in prison in 2002 and paid $40,000 in fines after he was convicted of felony attempted tax evasion. Phoenix police records show Gurvinder later was denied a liquor license for the AM/PM gas station in Phoenix that is now the Chevron operating under his wife’s name.

Takhar is also politically connected.  Takhar hosted a fundraiser for Peggy Neely at his lavish home back in 2010.  Neely opposes Proposition 2, along with the other candidates for Mayor.

The opposition to Proposition 2 from the mayoral candidates is likely due to the fact that NAILEM, the largest neighborhood group in the City of Phoenix, opposes the proposition.  A sure fire way to lose a large chunk of votes in a low turnout election in the City of Phoenix is to offend neighborhood groups.

There is nothing wrong with a community rallying together and putting forth a referendum to oppose zoning changes made at City Hall.  It is the purest form of democracy and the right of the community at the heart of this struggle.  In fact, it is believed that this is the first time a referendum will ever appear on a Phoenix City ballot.

However, in the same breath, this effort must also be viewed for what it truly is: one well-financed business owner using the political process and high priced consultants to put another private company out of business.

For more information, visit:

http://yesonquiktrip.com/

http://prop2stinks.com/

This piece  can be seen at Western Free Press with original comments here.

Western Free Press is dedicated to generating public dialogue on Arizona’s most important issues and figures.

Goldwater Institute Releases Annual Legislative Grades

PHOENIX – The Goldwater Institute’s annual Legislative Report Card was released today, taking into account 375 votes during the first session of Arizona’s fiftieth legislature.

Now in its ninth year, the report card is a citizen-friendly tool for evaluating state legislators’ votes and their impact on individual liberty.

“Engaged citizens make for good governments,” said Nick Dranias, director of the Institute’s Center for Constitutional Government. “That’s why tools like the report card are so important. We’re helping voters understand their legislators’ performance against a simple, important standard: whether they are restraining or advancing freedom.”

375 votes taken by the Legislature were classified into one of four categories: education, constitutional government, regulations, and tax and budget. Each bill was then further assessed on its impact, with bills receiving “high impact,” “moderate impact,” and “incremental impact” designations.

The House of Representatives averaged a slightly higher score than last year, with a House average of 53%. The  Senate average of 56% was unchanged from last year. Unlike past report cards, no legislator received an overall score of A or higher. Individual report cards for each of the 90 members were also compiled and are available online.

The top scorer in the Senate was Ron Gould. In the House, the top scorer was Judy Burges.

Among the freshman class, nine legislators received an A-, while 12 received an F or F-.

The report card also compared citizen-funded candidates and government-funded candidates. As in past years, the data shows no connection between the source of campaign financing and scores received.

The full report card is available here and individual lawmaker scores can be viewed here. The online database is searchable by legislator name, voting district or ZIP code.

The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog that develops innovative, principled solutions to issues facing the states. Learn more at www.goldwaterinstitute.org.

ADDITIONAL

MATERIALS:
• Infographic: Biggest score gains and losses among incumbents
• Infographic: How the freshman class fared
The full report

Rep Flake: Congress wants to have its cake and eat it too

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 24, 2011
CONTACT: Genevieve Frye Rozansky

So Just How Broke Are We?

Mesa, Arizona – Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona’s Sixth District, today illustrated the size and scope of the growing national debt.

On Saturday, reality TV darling Kim Kardashian tied the knot with New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries in a lavish and costly event. The wedding cake alone, which served more than 400 guests, is said to have cost approximately $20,000.

The U.S. is so broke that based on the cost of Kardashian’s main dessert and the number of cake pieces it contained, our debt of $14.4 trillion could buy enough cake to feed 288 billion people.

“When it comes to solving our debt crisis, Congress wants to have its cake and eat it too,” said Flake.

Along with Senators McCain and Rubio, Congressman Flake introduced H.R. 634, the Debt Buy-Down Act, which allows taxpayers to designate up to 10 percent of their federal income tax liability to reduce the national debt. The bill then requires Congress to reduce federal spending by that amount. More information on the Debt Buy-Down Act can be found here.

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Hayden Police Chief Antcliff keeps job after Rios attempts to have him fired

A few weeks ago, we carried a post about Pinal County Supervisor, Pete Rios getting busted speeding. He tried to pull a “well officer don’t you know who I am?” but ended up getting a ticket anyway. That led to some politically incestuous dealings resulting in the police chief of the small rural town of Hayden having his job put on the line.

Earlier tonight, the mayor and council met to discuss the fate of Chief Monty Antcliff who was represented by local attorney, Chris DeRose.

Here is some media coverage by the ABC affiliate out of Tucson, KGUN-9, and a call-in by Sheriff Paul Babeu to the Mike Broomhead show this afternoon:

Mike Broomhead interview with Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Pete Rios is no stranger to threatening people who challenge him. As we noted in the earlier post, Rios threatened to punch fellow blogger Greg Patterson for exposing the scam he had going on his reimbursement for mileage to a property Rios owns but does not actually communte to. All I have to say is that it’s a good thing Sheriff Babeu didn’t pull him over that night!

 

Congressman Flake Applauds Permanent End of Fairness Doctrine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 23, 2011
CONTACT: Genevieve Frye Rozansky

Federal Government Should Not Be in the Business of Regulating Speech

Mesa, Arizona – Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona’s Sixth District, today praised the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to permanently eliminate the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

“The federal government should not be in the business of regulating speech,” said Flake. “By permanently eliminating the so-called Fairness Doctrine, we’ll ensure that markets, not the government, will continue to dictate what people hear over the airwaves.” 

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2011: The Current State of the Middle East Presented by Dr. Steven Carol

Presented by Dr. Steven Carol

 Date: Tuesday, Aug 23rd, 2011
Time: 6:30-8:30 PM
Location: Via Linda Senior Center
Address: 10440 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale (map)

Refreshments served

Cost: $10 per person

 Please register/RSVP on our website or RSVP on our Facebook page or email

honey@arizonamainstreamproject.org

As the first decade of the 21st century nears an end, the Middle East is a region with multiple conflicts that impact the world, and particularly the United States. With Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, civil wars raging in Iraq, Sudan, and Yemen, Christians embattled across the region, with Israel in existential peril and its survival being questioned, and radical Islam sweeping beyond the region, it is imperative, as Americans, that we have a knowledge and understanding of this region. Historian, author, and radio personality, Dr. Steven Carol can shed light on these issues and answer questions that arise. His books can be purchased at the seminar.

Congressman Trent Franks, Arizona GOP Fundraiser – This Friday!

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission op-ed by Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 22, 2011
CONTACT: Mike Philipsen

By State Senator Andy Biggs

When Arizonans voted to create the Independent Redistricting Commission in 2000, they likely expected they would get fair and transparent redistricting of legislative and congressional districts. Seeing how the current IRC led by Colleen Mathis is spinning out of control, even the IRC’s most rabid supporters must be disappointed.

The wobbly performance of the IRC began when Ms. Mathis sided with the Democrats and refused to let the Republicans on the IRC choose their own attorney! It continued when Ms. Mathis and the two Democrats on the IRC chose Strategic Telemetry to draw the maps of the new districts. Strategic Telemetry’s stated purpose is to elect “progressive” candidates. It’s understandable that people question that such a partisan firm will be able to put politics aside and draw fair districts.

That controversial decision was set up by the incompetent Commissioner José Herrera and Ms. Mathis. Herrera admitted publicly that he fudged the scores deliberately high for Strategic Telemetry. The fact that Strategic Telemetry was the most expensive bidder should have disqualified ST immediately. Instead, ST was allowed to lower its bid. The new bid was a smokescreen, however, because the IRC had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for ST’s special software and office space, which competing bidders already had.

Failure to adhere to the normal public bidding process and being co-opted by the Democrats has accelerated the erratic behavior of Chairman Mathis. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is investigating allegations Mathis violated open meeting laws. Mathis and Herrera say they will not cooperate with the investigation. Instead, they have hired two attorneys with taxpayer money to defend them in this investigation.

Additionally, I have sent a statutory request for information to the IRC but have been ignored. Since the original request more than a month ago I have made two additional requests and still haven’t received the requested information. Between thumbing their noses at the Attorney General and stonewalling the requests for information from the Legislature, it has the feel of a blatant cover-up.

If Ms. Mathis is unwilling to act in an “independent and impartial fashion”, as required by the Arizona Constitution, she should be removed. The bidding process for Strategic Telemetry needs to be reviewed to see if state laws were broken. Mathis and Herrera need to come clean on whether they violated open meeting laws. Mathis needs to order her attorneys to respond immediately to my request for information.

Arizonans approved the IRC believing we would have a fair and transparent redistricting process. Ms. Mathis and her Democratic cronies have proven to be obstructionist, unfair, and obstinate in their duties. It seems that Ms. Mathis and Commissioner Herrera have failed in their constitutional duties to uphold “public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process.” Therefore they should be removed in the manner that the voters insisted should be a safeguard to the process of redistricting.

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Jennifer Wright Signs 10-Point Contract With Phoenicians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 22, 2011
CONTACT: Ami Francisco

PHOENIX, AZ (August 22) – Phoenix mayoral candidate Jennifer Wright unveiled today her ten-point contract with Phoenicians putting taxpayers first in city governance and eliminating the influence of special interests in City Hall.

“Jennifer is truly a citizen candidate with no questionable ties to lobbyists, developers, unions, or other special interests groups that rob tax dollars for pet projects,” stated Ami Francisco, Wright’s campaign manager. “For once, we have a candidate that is not interested in personal gain, but in restoring prosperity for Phoenicians.”

Under to the Wright Contract, Wright has committed to eliminate the food tax while safeguarding essential services, end the practicing of subsidizing big business at the expense of small, remove burdensome barriers to business growth and development, and end sanctuary city policies.

“As Mayor, I will make decisions based on what is right for Phoenix and right for the taxpayers,” declared Wright. “For far too long, city leaders have put personal self-interests first costing taxpayers in the form of a regressive food tax, exorbitant water rates, and diminished services.”

Six candidates are vying to be Phoenix’s next mayor. Of those, three have been on the City Council over the past decade and created the problems we are facing, while another candidate spent the past decade demanding taxpayer dollars for his clients.

Wright is the only candidate that not only has no questionable ties, but also has the skills to examine onerous regulations and complex budgets to get businesses back to work and eliminate wasteful spending.

“Unlike my opponents who created the problems Phoenix is facing, I commit to work for Phoenicians first, not special or self-serving interests,” proclaimed Wright.

Wright’s Ten-Point Contract is detailed below:

The Wright Contract with Phoenicians:

As mayor, I commit to the citizens of Phoenix do the following:

  1. Repeal the food tax, and to reject any and all tax increases proposals;
  2. Safeguard essential city services, never using them as pawns in order to garner support for tax increases;
  3. End corporate welfare by standing against proposals that give unfair advantage to one business over another using taxpayer money;
  4. Eliminate city roadblocks to small business growth and development and retool the Development Services Department to help shepherd businesses through the city process, not stand as a barrier;
  5. Put taxpayers and citizens first, not special or entrenched interests, including rejecting demands from unions and lobbyists that go against what is best for Phoenicians;
  6. Eliminate sanctuary city policies that put not only citizens at risk, but also law enforcement;
  7. Use facts and data to make decisions, not emotion and rhetoric, and include diverse opinions to develop innovative solutions to the city’s complex problems;
  8. Implement internet-based open-book accounting methods that allow all Phoenicians to see how taxpayer money is obtained and spent;
  9. Move Phoenix elections to coincide with state and national elections to both reduce costs and increase citizen involvement and move Council meetings to the evenings while also televising and streaming them on the internet;
  10. Assure that all city contracts, including union contracts, are in the best interests of the taxpayers.

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Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox caught using county employees for personal corvette

A m e r i c a n  P o s t – G a z e t t e

Distributed by C O M M O N  S E N S E , in Arizona

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Corrupt County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox so used to improper behavior she doesn’t think twice about it
Has government workers check her personal corvette’s tires

This is the well-off Democrat County Supervisor who is so disadvantaged as a minority that she gets to operate an exclusive franchise for minority-owned businesses at Phoenix Sky Harbor. Built-in customers, doesn’t even need to do any marketing! Must be nice! Meanwhile, she drives around town in a red corvette. We hear it is a 2006 corvette, which prices out to $43,000 on bluebook.com. Poor Mary Rose, it’s so unfair for her to be criticized. Reminds us how it is so unfair that corrupt Supervisor Don Stapley complained publicly that he can’t afford to upgrade his wife’s 700 series BMW to a brand-new Lexus because of the cost of defending himself from prosecution. A 700 series BMW isn’t good enough for his wife, she must have a brand-new Lexus. He has successfully thwarted the prosecution by filing bar complaints against the prosecutors, smart guy, bet his wife has her brand-new Lexus now! Just for fun, we priced out an older 2005 700 series BMW on bluebook.com. $26,000. Since Don Stapley drives a hybrid, we figure his wife probably wants one too. A 2010 Lexus LS600H costs $104,000. Must be nice!  Email us if you see her driving it.

 

Now County Manager David Smith, the Supervisors’ own hatchet man, is investigating the incident. What a joke. This sick cronyism must stop. It is sickening that these corrupt Supervisors are able to get the prosecutor prosecuted instead of themselves, while they drive around in luxury sports cars and continue to abuse the taxpayers. If you were a government employee, would you expect the county to help you with problems with your personal car? How many other county employees take their cars by the county garage for assistance? We bet it is close to 0. ENOUGH!

 

Here are some details from the Arizona Republic article:  

 

Maricopa County officials are reviewing allegations that County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox improperly used the county’s Equipment Services Department to work on her personal vehicle.

 

The review began after one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies spotted Wilcox and her personal vehicle in the county garage and snapped a photo.

Wilcox told The Arizona Republic she needed air for a flat tire. She called the Sheriff’s Office’s allegation vindictive.

Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Pearce was putting gas in his county vehicle in early August when he saw Wilcox pull up to the county’s Equipment Services facility in a red Corvette. A mechanic employed by the county checked the air pressure in her tire.

Pearce, the son of state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, reported the incident to his supervisor, Deputy Chief Paul Chagolla, and included a photo of Wilcox that Pearce took with his cellphone.

Chagolla, formerly Arpaio’s spokesman, took the complaint through his chain of command. The matter will be further reviewed by County Manager David Smith.

 
  

 

 

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