Ballot Initiatives Commentary From Councilman Tony Geiger

Council member Tony Geiger has submitted to us the following letter on Propositions 472-474.  Carefree Unity believes publication of the included information, including Councilman Geiger’s opinions, is in the public interest:

The Town of Carefree has put out a call for arguments for and against the 3 initiatives that will be on August 2 ballot. 

Prop 472. The initiative is under the guise of “Open Space” and is sponsored by “Carefree Citizens for Responsible Government (CCRG)”.  These are the folks who have been fighting against the buried water reservoir being built on the utility easement off of Tom Darlington.   This piece of infrastructure is critical to getting the 1,000 residents currently served by Cave Creek Water on the Carefree Water Company as well as maintaining adequate water storage for the all customer of the Carefree Water Company.  The initiative claims it is to protect Carefree’ s open space.  The truth is that the main purpose of the initiative if passed by the voters of Carefree, is that it will require that the buried water reservoir currently under construction be torn down, the land restored and the water reservoir rebuilt at a less suitable location. It is estimated this will cost $8,000,000.  Money that the water company does not have and will have to borrow.   These unnecessary costs will be passed on to all customers of the water company in the form of significantly higher water rates.   Keep in mind that the current site was chosen out of 32 sites evaluated and was based on objective engineering criteria.  It was the only one that provided the following benefits:

1)      It allows for gravity operation of the water reservoir.  All of the other 31 sites evaluated required a pump station costing upward of $1,000,000 plus ongoing electrical, operational, maintenance and replacement costs. 
These extra costs will be reflected directly in higher utility rates for all Carefree Water Company customers.

2)      It is the only site that has a water line right next to it to allow the reservoir to be filled.  All other sites will require the construction of an expensive water feed line.

3)      It is the only site that has access from a major public road (Tom Darlington).  All other sites will require access from a neighborhood.

The water reservoir being constructed in the utility easement at the Boulders site will be substantially under-ground, with any above ground portions covered over with dirt and re-landscaped with native vegetation.  The access will be from Tom Darlington and that will be a horseshoe shaped drive, fully landscaped and will hide the small service yard from the road.  This portion of the facility will not be visible from the houses in the Boulders. A site rendering is available on the Town website.

Prop 473 is also sponsored by CCRG and is for term limits for the Mayor and Council members.  It would be the most draconian term limits in not just the state of Arizona but possibly the entire country.  Currently the mayor and council serve 2-year terms and can run for as many as they want.  This initiative if passed by the voters of Carefree would limit any individual to a total of two terms, for a total of 4 years of service.  The initiative is retroactive in that terms served prior to this year’s election will count towards the two-term max, after which time the candidate would be BANNED FOR LIFE from ever serving again.  

Note that both Prop 472 and 473 have retroactive provisions.  There is a good chance that both could end up in court if they are passed as there are questions as to the legality of having new laws be retroactive.  Already there are over 20 cities and towns very concerned about the open space initiative as it allows for going back in time to undo previous eminent domain decisions.  This would be a very dangerous precedent. Carefree does not have the resources to end up in court fighting a possibly ill-legal and illconceived flawed law.                                                  

Both of CCRG’s initiatives are a direct response to the water reservoir being sited at the Boulders open space.  The open space initiative was introduced at the time the town was going into the public markets to sell the revenue bonds to fund the project.  It was an attempt to derail the financing.  It did not work. The term limit initiative is an attempt to wipe out the existing council to punish them putting the buried water reservoir in the best location, as determined by objective engineering criteria and the fiduciary standard of most public good with least private harm.

Prop 474 is for reasonable term limits.  Certainly, we can have a debate regarding if term limits are even a good idea for a small town.  At times it has been hard to get enough people to run for office.  While this year that is not the case as there are 11 candidates for 6 council seats and 2 for mayor, historically it has been a struggle.  It has always seemed like a bad idea to excluding experienced people who want to serve their community.   However, this initiative has some very good aspects.  They include:            

1)      Changing from 2-year to 4-year terms.  I have been on council for just over 16 months and I am already in a campaign for re-election.  It is very difficult to get anything done in two years and many new Council members take that long to learn the job and become effective. Keep in mind that at any point if a member of the council is a bad actor they are subject to recall after 6 months in office.

2)      Staggered terms.  This means that every two years half the council will be on the ballot as opposed to our current method where the entire council is up for election every two years. This provides for  a much less volatile structure of the Council andprevents a total wipe out of a council and the loss of all institutional knowledge at one election.  

3)      The initiative allows for two 4-year terms.  This means that an individual can serve as a member of the council or as mayor for 8 years after which they would be required to sit out for a 4 years cycle.  This in line with what the other cities and towns do who have term limits. 

The instructions for submitting arguments for and against the ballot initiatives on the August 2nd ballot are on the town web site.  They must be 300 words or less, there is a $25 fee for publishing and they are due by noon May 4th.

Tony Geiger – Carefree Council Member

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