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Western Free Press

Arizona Proposition 204: No tax rate should be permanent

By Graydon Holt

One of the most outlandish aspects of the Proposition 204 power grab is the permanent increase in the state sales tax rate. It is a poison pill that should sink the initiative on Election Day.

No tax rate should be permanent. Elected officials should always have the authority to set tax rates to meet changing economic conditions and the will of the taxpayers.

The one-cent increase would give Arizona the second highest sales tax in the nation, a sure fire way to gouge family budgets and hurt every business in the state. The regressive sales tax hits low and medium income the hardest. It makes everything consumers buy more expensive.

The Proposition 204 sales tax increase is a shameless exploitation of the genuine financial crisis in 2010 during the darkest days of the recession when state tax revenue went way down. Both taxpayers and lawmakers rallied to increase the sales tax rate by one cent to fund education and other essential services.

Everyone understood that the sales tax increase was temporary. It is set to expire next year. Proposition 204 supporters want to exploit the 2010 crisis, make the tax hike permanent, and take tax policy out of the hands of state lawmakers.

No wonder every business group in the state opposes Proposition 204. Every taxpayer should oppose it too. It is bad tax policy that should be rejected on November 6.

Follow Graydon Holt’s columns at Western Free Press.

Prop 204 a giveaway to the construction industry

By Graydon Holt

You have to hand it to the construction industry companies in Arizona that builds roads and public transit. They found a clever way to grab millions in taxpayer money every year without answering to the state legislators elected to spend public funds.

Vote No on 204

Vote NO on 204!

Proposition 204 is their route to riches. The Proposition would raise at least $1 billion a year by installing a one-cent permanent increase in the state sales tax rate. About $100 million a year would go to the construction industry. The proposition supporters claim that funds for education are somehow linked to jobs, meaning construction jobs.

This is a stretch beyond recognition. Voters all over Arizona must be scratching their heads and asking what in the world roads and light rail have to do with improving student performance in the classroom.The answer, of course, is nothing. Proposition 204 supporters say only that their tax and spend scheme will help the state economy. Well-built and maintained roads and transit certainly help Arizona’s economy. But they should not be linked to education spending.

The construction industry got this sweetheart deal by pledging to help pay for the Proposition 204 campaign. A $100 million a year subsidy paid by taxpayers is a good deal in exchange for a campaign contribution. Voters should cancel the deal and vote no on Proposition 204.

Read other posts by Graydon Holt at Western Free Press

Prop 204 is a grab bag of earmarks and pork projects

By Graydon Holt

It is time to tell the truth and label Proposition 204 the greatest earmark-spending scheme in the history of the state.

We all know that earmarks are end runs around the taxpayers.

Earmark professionals populate legislatures from coast to coast and have long made a comfortable home in the United States Congress. They stash money for their pals and pet projects in huge pieces of legislation knowing that hardly anyone will notice.

After years of abuse, the earmark pros were so fully exposed and embarrassed in Washington; they beat a retreat and pulled back. The full light of day ended the process, at least for now.

Proposition 204 is a shameless use of the earmark technique.

It takes about $1 billion a year in sales tax money and spreads it around to the education bureaucracy and special interests that have nothing to do with education. High on the list is the road construction industry that helped pay for the Proposition 204 campaign.

To lock it down, the proposition says the legislature would have no say in how the education money is spent. So much for the citizens who pay the sales tax. Their elected representatives would be shut out.

This is an earmark to beat all earmarks. Voters won’t fall for it. They will vote no on Proposition 204 on Election Day.

Read other posts by Graydon Holt at Western Free Press

WFP Poll: Who do you want in the AZ-6 race? Kirk Adams, Travis Grantham, Matt Salmon, or Chuck Gray.

Kirk Adams, Travis Grantham, Matt Salmon, and Chuck Gray are running for Arizona’s Congressional District 6’s open seat. Tell us who your favorite is and please follow the link to vote.

WFP: Attack Watch, Obama’s New Campaign Site Created to “Fight Smears,” Becomes Laughing Stock of Internet

Attack Watch, Obama’s new website paid for by Obama for America, has become the laughing stock of conservatives.

What is this site about?

Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird told ABC Newsthat the site’s goal is to offer “resources to fight back” against attacks. Mostly, that means fact checking statements from the likes of GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and conservative commentator Glenn Beck and offering evidence to the contrary. The site is designed in bold red and black colors, and uses statements like “support the truth” and “fight the smears.”

Sadly, President Obama’s team has laid another goose egg. Almost every tweet about the site has ridiculed it. Conservative bloggers and pundits have had a field day poking fun at Obama.

Aside from the poor political strategy of creating a “snitch” site, Victor Davis Hanson points out the obvious “big brother” vibe.

Yet go onto the new (“Paid for by Obama for America”) AttackWatch.com website. It reads and looks like some sort of Stasi file (“file” is their vocabulary, not mine). It asks readers to inform them of criticism of Obama. The format is, I guess by intent, supposed to resemble a government intelligence dossier (“Attack files”), with its blaring black and red headers: “Attack” /”Attackers” (followed by names and pictures of the supposed bad guys)/”Attack Type” /(“public statements”) followed by check off boxes like “Have your seen or heard this attack?” “Yes/No”. It reminds me of of living in 1973 dictatorial Greece, when we all kept silent about the Colonels upon entering the apartment building, lest the government-paid concierge write something down not nice in her black book.

Apparently no one in the administration learned from the spooky tone of the now defunct Journolist. That obtuseness begs the question, what is it with these extra-journalistic efforts to intimidate critics, as if the 2012 campaign will be based around deterrence: e.g., as if: “Beware: if you criticize Barack Obama, your name and picture will appear on our “Attack File”. We are watching you, so you watch out!”

So creepier still is the request to snoop around and collect evidence for what the Roman emperors and French monarchs used to call maiestas/Lèse-majesté—supposed crimes against the head of state, by circulating criticism of his authority that might lessen his proper sense of majesty. Indeed, on AttackWatch.com there is a special pop-up window that is reminiscent of Crimestoppers.com that supposedly will help form some sort of a clearing house: “Your email”/”content of attack or link”/”Attack type”, “Attach” with a link “Report” that pops up yet another window.

But back to poking fun, Ezra Dulis makes a hilarious parody video.

The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Flock paints a clearer picture of why this is a poor political strategy.

While the initiative is reminiscent of a similar online effort launched during the 2008 campaign, called Fight the Smears, the intimidating design and language of the new site seems to be what’s causing a bigger ruckus.

Fight the Smears looked and felt far less scary, quoting Obama at the top of its page in a classic hope-change statement: “What you won’t hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon — that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge but enemies to demonize.”

Attack Watch, on the other hand, uses the shorter tag­line, “Get the Truth. Fight the Smears.”

It’s safe to say that in its 24 hours of existence, Attack Watch has already backfired, becoming a tool for conservatives to use against Obama 2012. A tweet by conservative author Brad Thor summed up the critics’s argument: “Wow, not only are Obama & Co. incredibly thin-skinned, they’re paranoid.”

Paranoid? You think? Already the conservative odd makers are betting when Obama’s people will pull the site.

President Obama is in emergency mode. Nevada and New York’s special elections were a GOP sweep. Particularly in New York’s 9th District, where a Republican has not held the seat since 1922 and where Democrats have previously won by 20 points. Even in Nevada, the Republican outperformed expectations and did surprisingly well. Even Nate Silver says, the 2010 Republican wave has not ended.

“In other words, the four special elections, taken as a whole, suggest that Democrats may still be locked in a 2010-type political environment. Democrats might not lose many more seats in the House if that were the case, since most of their vulnerable targets have already been picked off, but it would limit their potential for any gains. And it could produce dire results for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, where they have twice as many seats up for re-election.”

The best exit quote of the night from NY-09’s Republican victory.

“I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats — and I hate to say this, I voted Republican,” said Linda Goldberg, 61, after casting her ballot in Queens. “I need to send a message to the president that he’s not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.”

Doom. What will a desperate President do next?

The post and its comments can be seen at Western Free Press.

Western Free Press Poll: Who won the MSNBC Politico GOP Presidential Debate


Reuters Reports:

“Kenneth Melson, who has been acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has been under fire and admitted mistakes in the sting operation meant to try to crack down on the flow of weapons to violent drug gangs.

He will be reassigned to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy as an adviser on forensic science, the Justice Department said. The U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Todd Jones, will serve as acting ATF director.

In further fallout from the operation, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, has resigned and the lead prosecutor on that case in the office has been reassigned, according to an administration official.

Another administration official said this is a chance for a “fresh start given everything they’ve gone through lately” at ATF.

The operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious,” has spawned congressional and internal Justice Department probes and put the Obama administration on the defensive about whether dangerous weapons were knowingly allowed to cross the border.”


Unions Strike Again: Vandalize Messmer Preparatory Catholic in Wisconsin

Following up on our previous report on union violence, a Milwaukee Catholic school comes under attack.

As reported by the Maclver Institute:

“Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, and the students and staff at Messmer Preparatory Catholic School were all targets of an obnoxious protest on Friday, August 26, 2011.

From this report by the MacIver News Service, it is clear the protesters (Union members, socialists, MPS officals, liberal activists) could learn a lot by emulating the behavior of the children inside the school.”

Share this video with your friends and educate them on union violence.

Phoenix Union Intimidation: It Can Happen Here


A new video from Progress Project was shown at Western Free Press. The video highlights the stalking, intimidation, and eventual shooting of non-union business owner John King. Do you think this could happen in Phoenix?


Please visit Western Free Press for more information

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:



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.

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