Congressman Harry Mitchell (AZ-5) has always been a fan of Maricopa County’s light rail. In fact, he feels so strongly about the controversial above-ground trolley system that he requested a$90 million earmarkfor it when he first got to Congress in 2007. Next year he requested almost$92 million, and for FY 2010 that earmark request jumped to$96.9 million.
A lot of real estate investment companies in Arizona are anxious for light rail to expand as rapidly as possible, not just to increase property values near the new destinations, but also to profit from leasing their investment property to the city for the construction. One such company, MCC Property Investments, did just that - selling the rights to their land to the city of Phoenix for construction of light rail in 2007. No doubt once the decision to expand is made, companies like MCC Property Investments will do quite well.
That’s not all. Just a few months ago, Harry Mitchell also requested an earmark for$6.5 millionfor the Tempe South Corridor study. As Congressman Mitchell explained: “The Tempe South corridor study has evaluated a range of high-capacity transit technologies, including bus rapid transit, commuter rail, light rail transit and modern streetcar, and potential north-south alignments, including Mill Avenue/Kyrene Road, Rural Road and McClintock Drive.”
We have to do better than this. Even granting Mitchell the argument that these earmarks are absolutely wonderful for the district, that the light rail system will be a huge boon to the Phoenix metro area despite all the (justified) criticism, there is simply no excuse for Mitchell refusing to sell his stake in this company once he got to Congress. Cutting your own pay is a nice gesture Congressman, but how about refusing to use the earmarking process to make some money on the side?