Monday, April 04, 2011

Tucson City Council Election is Important

Corruption in Government

I am amazed by the mistakes made by those in governance that might be construed as corruption by the less forgiving or possibly the more discerning.

The focus of government has been a bit wider than our founders had envisioned, leaving the people with less rights than the our original countrymen with all those free resources. Population pressure has reduced our property rights to a travesty defined by HOAS, zoning laws and ordinances. Apparently, monies collected by the government goes to keep the municipal necessities like police, water, fire, health and keeping the roads open. These departments in some cases have grown beyond the basic functions not defined by the Arizona Constitution or city charters.

During boom times, these excess functions were easily funded yet commitments were not sunset or phased out in case of an economic downturn. The debt load for Tucson ballooned to $1,200,000,000 due and payable through 2035. Tax collections are down, yet the borrowing proposals are still seriously considered.

Is excessive borrowing and spending corruption? This is a red flag, a warning of the follies of letting short term politicians indebt taxpayers. Some projects are built like the downtown fire station, a beautiful functional building. Other projects are planned and graded and never built, yet the debt remains. Other projects are not worth the money spent but the debt remains. Of course, there is no money for other projects because of the huge debt service owed. A few short term politicians tied up a huge chunk of Tucson's prosperity for years to come with little to show for it except a few well padded moneylenders, consultants and developers. Parking lots stand empty while they feverishly build more parking garages.

The sad thing about this is that Tucson actually needs a new museum to add to the tourist attractions. The ineptness and corruption ripped off the citizens. A funding instrument called a Certificate of Participation is available to borrow huge sums without the annoyance of a bond election. The City of Tucson has over $200,000,000 in COPS and the money is long gone but the debt lingers. I think the Arizona Legislature should institute a ban on these COPS, because it subverts the intent of the bond election law. Another problem is the 'bundling' used by the RTA to pass a blanket bond issue featuring wildly unpopular pork items sandwiched in with vote getting proposals. I suggest that each proposal be voted on in turn, but the bulk of these projects can be done by private enterprise rather than keeping an army of roadbuilders on the payroll all the time. Since the RTA is short of money, we need to revote on the proposals, one at a time. The RTA also stated in election literature that they were responsible for moving utilities for all RTA projects, but now they want the city to pay for that very expensive work when the city is bankrupt. We can be taxed twice for the same work, evidently.

An investigation into bidding practices, cost overruns, and the chain of command leading to disbursements of funding must be undertaken. Vicious cost overruns are what sunk so many of the Rio Nuevo projects, where accountability was lax. What happened to performance bonds? Don't contractors sign to perform a job for a defined amount? How much chance did actual bidders have of landing contracts if they bid actual cost plus a profit?

There's a skunk under the porch, folks. I am waiting for Attorney General Tom Horne to smell it.

I think the skunk had skunklets. Tucson Water is already in debt for almost half a billion dollars, yet spending for the streetcar demands a rate hike for the users, who will pay $10,000,000 to move water lines for a streetcar. The RTA is millions in the hole, yet plans to borrow funds to meet deadlines are actually being considered, which would cost about $40,000,000 in interest, paid out of sales taxes. The roads would get none of this interest money. What a waste. Why not prorate the spending? Of course the favored contractors don't want this slower, smaller feed into their coffers. So hire smaller contractors on shorter term contracts. What is the hurry? The taxpayers cannot afford more debt.

I think the problem goes beyond power and influence into the realm of what can be done to assist the City of Tucson to get through this recession that remains in effect despite what the economic pundits say. The cronyism, patronage and outrageous financial commissions and debt load have made Tucson into a difficult place to do business.

A Tea Party Anyone?