Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Taxpayers have right to register opinion on Coyotes with City of Glendale

There are some decisions our elected officials can make without much public input--like where to purchase office supplies, or renewing an annual business license. Other decisions require multiple public meetings, workshops and discussions, and taking into account many perspectives.

arenaYou can probably guess which type of decision the multi-million dollar Coyotes professional hockey team is for Glendale. City officials have worked around the clock for months to negotiate $20 million in annual taxpayer subsidies and the fate of the City's $180 million hockey arena, where the Coyotes play.

With the team in bankruptcy, the City has twice come out in favor of one new owner over another. But it has never invited public comment.

Glendale rejected a generous offer from Jim Balsillie without any public meeting, workshop, or study released to compare the alternatives. The Council also snubbed Jerry Moyes, a Glendale resident and the team's current owner who likely has important information to offer. Mike Bidwill, CEO of the Arizona Cardinals football team located in Glendale, opposed one of the City's preferred deals, as did a retailer near the hockey arena. The Goldwater Institute represented Glendale taxpayers in the team's bankruptcy proceeding to register their opinion against owners who require a City subsidy. And the only poll on the issue indicates that 75 percent of Glendale taxpayers do not want to subsidize a new team owner.

Glendale business people and taxpayers should not have to resort to media outlets and legal wrangling to voice their opinions about City issues. It is the responsibility of their elected officials to ask and to listen.

It's not too late for Glendale officials to do the right thing. Coyotes ownership is still in limbo, and the bankruptcy judge could rule any day. Officials should make it a top priority to solicit public comments. That's what democracy is all about.
Carrie Ann Sitren is an attorney with the Goldwater Institute.

No comments: