No government handout for American Legion - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

No government handout for American Legion

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Posted: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:49 pm | Updated: 12:45 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: An American Legion post in Queen Creek is again asking local taxpayers to essentially donate several acres in a planned town park for the location of the group's first headquarters.

An American Legion post in Queen Creek is again asking local taxpayers to essentially donate several acres in a planned town park for the location of the group's first headquarters. These honorable veterans have marshaled considerable support for their cause and have prepared a better collection of arguments to make their request sound reasonable and noble.

But a fundamental issue remains that prompted us to object to this proposal in January 2008 - publicly owned property should not be handed over on a long-term basis to a private organization that exists first and foremost to serve the needs of its own members.

As Tribune writer Amanda Keim reported Sunday, the growing Duane Ellsworth Post 129 has been looking since 2006 for someone to provide land at little or no cost for construction of a permanent building. At times, post members have appeared baffled that Queen Creek - or any community for that matter - would hesitate to provide such a subsidy.

But we previously noted on the pages a serious concern that American Legion buildings are privately operated with the right to bar the doors to nonmembers and uninvited guests.

Reflecting wisdom gained from its previous efforts, the American Legion post is now seeking a long-term lease, not a permanent transfer of ownership. Post leaders also are emphasizing the many charitable activities that members provide, and they argue the American Legion could do even more for the community with a real home.

However, past experience suggests American Legion veterans offer so much because they are good-natured people who sincerely wanted to help their neighbors and not because they expect payment in return.

It's likely that if Queen Creek taxpayers had known such charity came with future conditions attached, they would have expected to assert some control (through town officials) over the nature of the volunteer work that the post performed. We hope American Legion members would recognize the inherent dangers in transferring even a modicum of their post's current independence into government hands.

We remain convinced East Valley residents want to honor the American Legion and will voluntarily provide the private resources necessary, if the post properly focuses on that course instead of waiting for government to come to its rescue.

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