Quick takes from the Tribune Editorial Board...
The state’s covert “pass-the-buckism” became more clear last week when the Joint Legislative Budget Committee released the estimates for what lawmakers are trying to extort from municipalities across Arizona to cover for their inability to spend within their means.
As reported by the Tribune’s Blake Herzog, the new state budget has put cities on the hook for nearly $30 million to help fill in the gap in the General Fund. Mesa alone is expected to pay more than $1.7 million.
The Arizona League of Cities and Towns contends the budget panel’s tactics are unconstitutional. The league has a legal team that is meeting with state officials to try to find a solution.
The fact that these conversations have to happen is maddening.
Municipalities should follow the league’s advice — when the bill comes, don’t even think about paying up until this matter is settled, likely through the state courts.
Municipalities have their own budget pains. It is shameful that state lawmakers and Gov. Janet Napolitano have pushed responsibility for their poor decisions onto Arizona’s counties, cities and towns.
The Tribune’s Brian Powell reported Friday that Acting Scottsdale City Auditor Brent Stockwell said his office’s probe of a land valuation wouldn’t be ready until after Tuesday’s election.
Stockwell has known for some time the reason Councilman Jim Lane asked the auditor’s office to look into what may have led to a verdict favoring developer Toll Bros. to the tune of $50 million about land for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Lane is running against incumbent Mayor Mary Manross, one of three council members who were in office when initial decisions about the land took place.
Powell reported Stockwell saying this summer that the report would be ready by mid-August. If Stockwell’s office was having difficulty finishing the report, he should have told the council about it long before deciding this potentially valuable information would have to wait after ballots were cast.
Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman has acknowledged he made a mistake when he used town stationery to ask a judge to be lenient on Raymond Kohan, who was convicted of killing a teenager while driving drunk.
Berman has the same right of any other citizen who knows a defendant or crime victim to help guide a judge’s sentencing. But making a request for mercy on the mayor’s stationery carried the implication that the town government was somehow weighing in on the matter and could have unduly influenced the judge.
In a news release issued after Tribune writer David Biscobing reported on Berman’s letter, the mayor said this was the only time he has written to a judge about a criminal defendant. In hindsight, Berman said, he should have used personal letterhead. We’ll assume Berman was sincere and has learned an important lesson about showing proper restraint in his role as mayor versus being a loyal friend.