Monday, March 15, 2010

Editorial: Congress lawsuit matter of sense

The editorial follows up on Friday's story by Paula about a dust devil in Congress between the school district and four people who've demanded to see lots of documents and speak at board meetings, two of whom are mother and daughter.

Clearly there are two sides to this story. What concerns me about the news story and the editorial is that they seem to be based entirely on a press release from the Goldwater Institute, which is not only an extreme partisan organization, but is legally representing the people who've been bugging the district.

I'm not saying it's impossible for GI to be giving out the straight dope, but since there are no other news sources (including the Republic, which parrots the same release), we can't know any more about it than what GI wants us to know.

There's an important clue in Paula's story: The GI lawyer says, "If the lawsuit goes forward and the district gets an injunction, it could completely negate the public records law, negate the First Amendment right to free speech and eliminate public participation for fear of being sued." This is legal poppycock -- the injunction would be sharply limited, against specific people in response to specific behavior. By framing it this way, GI is setting up the idea that there can be no limits to citizen demands on government entities, including harassment. GI's kill-government history shows that it loves to see bureaucratic wheels grinding to a halt (outside the military and police apparatus, of course).

It could also be that the district board is being run by a few hotheads who can't stand people calling them to account. A lot of details in the story don't add up. But without a clear account from the other side, we're left to guess.

Given that the unnamed Courier editor saw fit to run with Goldwater and no new information, I'd probably bet that the story is largely BS and the school board has a reasonable complaint. Watch for a followup story on how the judge rules.

Governor's chief of staff to Cattle Growers: AZ's woes should sound familiar

From all reports I've heard, Eileen Klein is a smart cookie, one who is probably completely aware that her show for the cattlemen was all smoke and mirrors.

In mirror mode, she evoked St. Reagan to justify her boss' support for the sales tax hike, and blamed Gov Napolitano for allowing "the government to grow as large as possible," as Heidi describes it. Perhaps Ms Klein forgot that both houses of the Legislature were controlled by Republicans for both Janet's terms and most of living memory, and the Governor does not allocate the state budget. That's the Legislature's responsibility.

In smoke mode, Ms Klein talks about how California's finances were a "house of cards, a Ponzi scheme" necessitating new taxes, setting that in direct parallel to Arizona today, but we hear no mention of how the structural weaknesses in Arizona's financial policy that led us to this pass can or should change to be more dependable and stable.

Let's not forget that the Gov has declared for reelection, so this was an early campaign speech to an influential chunk of her base. Ms Brewer may be telling the truth, but clearly she has no ideas for correcting the problem. In other words, if Jan gets everything she wants, it could all come down exactly the same way in another five years.

Shorter Klein: We got it really wrong in the past, so we should keep doing that.

We need a much more serious approach than picking the pockets of poor folk to patch a system that has proved catastrophically deficient. Sensible structural change means moving away from sales taxes as the primary revenue source, away from construction as the primary industry, and toward real property taxes, as we have a more settled population and more established businesses in one of the most attractive environments for living and working in the western hemisphere. We have to move forcefully toward renewable energy and sustainable industry, and away from dependence on retailing and extractive industry. We have to spread the tax base to raise revenues and improve fairness. That's the sort of ideas I'll be looking for from this year's crop of candidates.