Monday, September 24, 2007

Say What? Recent Phoenix election results far from mandate

by Clint Bolick, The Goldwater Institute

This month's propositions to hike Phoenix's sales tax and hang on to home-rule powers won a resounding majority-of the tiny fraction who voted. According to the Arizona Republic, a paltry 17 percent of the Phoenix electorate voted, down 15 percent from four years ago, in the election for mayor, city council members, and ballot propositions.

Mayor Phil Gordon, who championed the sales tax hike and was re-elected easily, called the vote an expression of community support for "an energetic agenda." Or, perhaps voters are apathetic and cynical, as suggested by the rejection of a measure to increase salaries for the mayor and council.

Even though the tax hike was backed by two-thirds of those who actually voted, a whopping 88.5 percent of Phoenix voters either opposed it or stayed home. Not exactly a mandate.

Local governments often put spending measures on off-year ballots, when special interest groups are motivated to come out but few regular voters pay attention. Thankfully the Legislature put a stop to this, requiring in the future that some spending measures appear on the regular November ballot.

But as Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb has urged, fiscal watchdog groups need to make a greater priority of taking on spending measures at the local level. As I argued in my book, Leviathan: The Growth of Local Government and the Erosion of Liberty, big government has spread from Washington, D.C. to the suburbs. Protecting our rights and our wallets requires citizen vigilance at the local level.

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