[Source: Arizona Capitol Time.com, Guest Opinion, 2/10/12] – While Arizona has endured one of longest and deepest recessions in American history, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns has stepped forward to be a strong partner with Gov. Jan Brewer and state lawmakers as they sought solutions to reverse our fiscal crisis. Arizona’s 91 cities and towns cut their spending by nearly 30 percent on average. We have responded to this crisis by doing more with less.
Now that our state’s economy is starting to emerge and grow again, cities, large and small, will be absolutely vital to Arizona’s economic recovery and future prosperity. From Tucson to Phoenix to rural towns like Clarkdale — where I’m proud to serve as mayor — Arizona cities and towns have provided healthy economic environments that generate 93 percent of all state sales tax revenues. That business-friendly climate helps drive Arizona forward.
Those dollars enable families to enjoy the most efficient and directly accessible services provided by government — like police and fire protection, safe roads, clean water, parks, senior centers, pools and reliable garbage collection. It sounds like a cliché, but only because it’s true — healthy cities make a healthy Arizona.
The good news is our cities and towns are well positioned to do the heavy lifting. Our state, especially in rural Arizona, is open for business and creating jobs. But we must be careful not to impede our recovery by limiting local control or hurting the quality of life that makes Arizona so attractive to entrepreneurs. Local elected leaders stand on the front lines of business recruitment efforts, and they help create the healthy and profitable business environments that attract new employers. For example, if you search for “Payson economic development” on the Internet, you are directed to the town’s website.
I am excited that both House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Steve Pierce represent rural Arizona. I trust they understand, like I do, that imposing unfunded mandates only hurt our ability to attract and retain high quality jobs. In fact, unnecessary mandates only make us spend taxpayer money on things that don’t benefit the public’s quality of life. The best decisions are the ones made at the local level in response to residents and taxpayers. We deliver the daily services that people count on every day.
Since 1937, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns has stood for the principle that local government is the most efficient, most responsive and most economical way to provide services to our residents. We have never wavered from those principles in good times or bad.
So, as the Legislature goes back to work, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns once again stands ready to partner with our state lawmakers to preserve and protect what matters most to residents in our cities and towns. If we work together, I’m confident we can make this happen.
— Doug Von Gausig is mayor of Clarkdale and president of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.